“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47).

Klein et al., define theological history as “a narrative of interrelated events from a given place and time, chosen to communicate theological truths.” [1] Like the Gospels, Acts is also a narrative, but unlike the Gospels, which were more bibliographical focusing largely on Jesus, Acts focuses on several key church leaders, particularly Peter and Paul, and how the Holy Spirit empowered these early evangelists to move forward spreading the Gospel. Attributed to Luke, and commonly accepted as a sequel to the Gospel bearing his name, Klein et al. suggest that interpretation revolves around a balanced emphasis on the history, theology, and the adventure of Acts. [2] Duval and Hays acknowledge that determining what is normative and what is descriptive for modern church application is complex; [3] the authors suggest asking basic narrative questions and looking to Luke for direction in differentiating between theology and history. [4] To help readers with differentiating between theology and history, Duvall and Hays recommend paying attention to the author’s intention, identifying distinctions between characters, considering the verse in light of its literary context, and identifying normative passages in view of repeated themes and patterns. [5] The key to interpreting the genre is recognizing the author as both a historian and theologian.

For some Acts 2:42-47 raises the question whether nor not communal living should be normative of the church today. Though the passage seems to advocate for communal living on the surface, neither Acts nor the New Testament supports that as normative. Moreover, the text does just the opposite in verse 46 where Luke writes, “They broke bread in their homes” (NIV), [6] indicating that at least some of the believers left and went to their own homes. Biblical interpretation can be challenging, involving considering a verse or a passage in light of the rest of the book or even in light of the whole Bible, but in this case, the answer is hidden in plain view in the middle of the passage itself. This common oversight really underscores the potential misunderstandings derived by the presuppositions we either knowingly or unknowingly bring to scripture.

I believe that it is possible to read Acts for doctrinal purposes keeping in mind the kind of balanced approach described by the authors noted, and really, this balance is not all that unlike how we should probably approach the rest of Scripture. After all, consider the tremendous impact of the personal witness of believers recorded throughout the book, such as Peter’s speech to the puzzled onlookers at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-13 or Paul’s appearance before Festus in Acts 25:1-22. Acts demonstrates the strength and power of united prayer, such as the shaking of buildings by prayer and praise in Acts 4:31, 16:25-26. Acts portrays the unity that was present among all who put their trust in Jesus as in Acts 1:14, 2:1, 44-46, 4:24, 5:12. I believe that the book of Acts shows us today what a church can do through the power of the Holy Spirit filling and overflowing through the lives of believers.

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[1] William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 2017), 418.

[2] Ibid., 419.

[3] Scott Duval and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word Workbook: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2019), 309.

[4] Ibid., 275-277.

[5]  Ibid., 300-304.

[6] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version.