I have recently been working through a series on the book of Acts with the church where I am pastoring and this specific commentary has been an excellent companion on the journey. We have been looking at “Being the church God designed” holding as its centre a commitment to remain true to the faith which has been handed down to us.
First of all let me say that Gooding has a very good way of writing. He has a fantastic ability to create flowing narrative while at the same time communicate the essential details and the timeless truths of the passage under investigation. There is good depth to his observations and they help to piece together the story line of the early church.
Another great aspect about this book is the way which it is structured. Gooding breaks his analysis of Acts into six distinct sections pointing to the various movements within Luke’s narrative of early church history. It takes us on a journey from understanding the restoration of all things through Christ to the defence and confirmation of the gospel in the words and mission of Paul all the while recognisning the key theme; Jesus is alive and his word is at work in the power of his spirit to the ends of the earth.
Gooding is also able to connect the world of the early church with the situations which surround the church today. And it is not because he is an amazing social theorist or an expert in anthropology. It is because he knows the good news of Jesus and asserts, correctly, that it is a truth which is unchanged and unchanging, no matter the culture it is proclaimed in. On one level this is just a good lesson in hermeneutics. Summing up the basis of his interpretative framework he states, “Acts carries for us all a powerful unspoken exhortation to examine ourselves honestly to see whether the Christianity we represent and the gospel we preach are uncompromisingly the same as those established by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (p.18)
The only thing which I would say is that there are some points at which there is not enough detail included. However that is just my personal preference. I enjoy having interaction with the original texts.
Overall this is a great tool for looking at what shaped the early church. It is clear and it is methodical. It helps to direct a bigger picture approach, avoiding getting bogged down in the minutiae, to see the word of God going out in the power of the Spirit to the ends of the earth.