Acts: The Christian Standard Commentary: An Interview with Patrick Schreiner

by Brett Fredenberg, Patrick Schreiner August 15, 2022

Patrick Schreiner serves as Associate Professor of New Testament and Biblical Studies at Midwestern Seminary. His latest publication, Acts: The Christian Standard Commentary, focuses on the theological and exegetical concerns of the book of Acts. Throughout the commentary, Schreiner gives careful attention to both the scholarly information and practical applications of this New Testament book.

Of this new commentary, Joseph R. Dodson, Associate Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, said, “As one who has taught courses in Acts, I have lost count as to how many commentaries I have read on the book. Nevertheless, having read this one, I can honestly say that I have a new favorite.”

Alan J. Thompson, Head of the New Testament team at Sydney Missionary and Bible College, also said, “Readers will have their imaginations stirred and their hearts encouraged as they journey with Dr. Schreiner through Luke’s ever-relevant account of the triune God’s saving purposes in the spread of the word to Israel and the nations.”

In a recent interview, Schreiner answered a few questions about his latest publication and the importance of the book of Acts.

BF: What was your approach in writing this commentary on Acts?

PS: There are a lot of good commentaries on Acts so I had to think of how I could make mine unique. Thankfully the series this book is a part of (Christian Standard Series) is concerned with theology and the great tradition. So in my introduction I give my method which includes the following:

First, it is a theological reading. Modern biblical commentaries tend to be primarily concerned with the “natural history” of the biblical text: authorship, history, reception. But these questions do not always address how the text is the word of God for today.

Second, it is a narratival reading. Luke wrote a narrative (diēgēsis) of Jesus and the early church. We must pay close attention to the structure, speeches, and the way Luke decides to frame his story. Luke writes an orderly sequence for Theophilus – one that is carefully structured and put together and communicates a message through form and style.

Third, it is a canonical reading. The narrative of Luke does not begin in Acts 1 nor even Luke 1, but spans from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.

Fourth, it is a historical reading. Luke writes about events eyewitnesses handed down to him and he carefully investigated his sources to come to an accurate understanding of the proceedings.

Fifth, it is a creedal and ecclesial reading. The rule of faith was my compass in the readings of Acts. My aim will not be to push the boundaries of the doctrine of the early church, but to read within them. Doctrinal boundaries do more to enlighten a reading than diminish them. Ultimately, my reading was ecclesial. Acts lays out the story of the early church to encourage the church.

This isn’t your first publication on the book of Acts. What has been most enriching about the time you’ve spent studying this New Testament book?

I loved studying Acts for multiple years. I was encouraged to be reminded that the mission of God will be accomplished despite human failings. It is so evident in Acts that people don’t have it figured out, but God has a plan. I also appreciated seeing how integral Acts is to the New Testament. It stands as a hinge between the life of Jesus in the Gospels and the Epistles. In one way, it continues the story of Jesus, in another way it introduces us to the story of the church. My book on the theology of Acts is basically a summary of my theology of Acts, but the commentary is where you get the text-by-text exegesis.

How would you summarize the theology of the book of Acts?

Proposals for a theological center or theological heart of Acts twist in a variety of directions. Many claim Acts focuses on the Spirit. Others say it is the word, which becomes almost a character in Acts with arms and legs. Other claim it is the church. Others affirm Acts is about the transition from Peter to Paul. More recent proposals focus on the continued work of Jesus. Elements of truth persist in each of these proposals.

But rather than claiming one outdoes the others, it is better to recognize they all relate to one another. For example, one can’t speak about the Spirit according to Acts without putting it in the frame of the risen Christ. One can’t speak of Christ without speaking of the Father’s plan. One can’t speak about the witness of the apostles without relating it to the empowering of the Spirit. This book is most fundamentally about the mission of the triune God.

I chose seven themes to summarize Luke’s main theological aims, though certainly many more could be added: (1) God the Father orchestrates; through (2) Christ, who lives and rules; and (3) through the empowering Spirit; (4) causing the word to multiply; (5) bringing salvation to all; (6) forming the church; which (7) witnesses to the ends of the earth. Luke emphasizes all of these themes in different ways, but my order is purposeful––a Lukan logic exists. The triune God stands at the head because the remaining themes flow from God the Father’s plan, centered on the risen and enthroned Jesus, and the empowerment of the Spirit.

Why is the book of Acts so important for the church today?

Acts is a model, a prototype, an exemplar for the renewal of the church. It gives guidance concerning the founding of the church and its priorities at that point and thus gives guidance for the church in every age. We proclaim the same message, we “do” church in the same way, and we still rely on the same Spirit. While Acts is not a manual for church practices, it is the bedrock from which we must begin our education into God’s mission through the church.

What do you hope pastors and ministry leaders gain from reading through this commentary?

I hope pastors and ministry leaders will see the book of Acts not only as a historical account of what happened in the past but a narrative that we are still a part of. The story of Acts is not finished, it continues with you and me. This is the story of the founding of what is most precious to Jesus: his church. He values this body so much that he was willing to die for her. We likewise must take up our cross and pour out our lives so that others can hear the message of the healing power of Jesus.


Editors Note: Acts: The Christian Standard Commentary will be available for purchase on 09/01/2022.