An Evangelistic Reading of Luke-Acts

As one aspect of exploring evangelism in the New Testament, I have been drawn to reconsider Luke-Acts from the perspective of an evangelistic hermeneutic. A well-established approach to reading Scripture is a so-called missional hermeneutic, an interpretive approach that privileges mission as the key to reading the Scriptures.” Evangelism can be defined as “the proclamation of the gospel.” In my reading of the Biblical text, evangelism is the central aspect of the holistic mission God has summoned his church to participate in—an evangelistic hermeneutic privileges evangelism as a lens for reading Scripture. In simplistic terms, an evangelistic hermeneutic is interested in how the given biblical text is evangelistic, how the given text fits within the Bible as the gospel of God, how it and the participants in the text inform the evangelistic task, and how it speaks the gospel to the world today.

In this paper, I will define what I mean by the evangelistic hermeneutic and apply it Luke-Acts. First, I will argue that Luke-Acts should be read as a single two-part letter in which Luke presents the gospel for its recipient, Theophilus, and the people he represents. I will unpack the implications of this in terms of genre, evangelistic intent, and possibilities for contemporary evangelism. Second, I will argue that it is inadequate to state that salvation or salvation history is the central theme of the writing. Such a reading is too static and fails to recognize that Luke-Acts is a gospel presentation with the intent of securing the salvation of its readers, and as such, it is evangelistic in intent. Third, by linking Acts to Luke, Luke develops Mark’s approach to preaching the gospel, including a narrative of the expansion of the gospel in a given context (the Roman Empire). This approach has implications for the proclamation of the gospel in a given historical situation. I will apply this to my New Zealand context. Finally, I will briefly suggest some other implications of reading Luke-Acts through an evangelistic hermeneutic.

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