Looking both backward and forward, Luke summarizes the outward condition and the inner health of the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria. In a reverse parallelism, Luke begins and ends with the qualitative and quantitative outward circumstances: peace and growth (Lk 1:79; 2:14; 19:42; Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 6:1, 7; 12:24). This is a foretaste of what heirs of the messianic kingdom will one day enjoy (Jer 3:16; 23:3; 33:6; Ezek 37:26). In between Luke notes the characteristics of inner health that make this possible: godliness and Spirit-empowered encouragement. Peace has come primarily through the conversion of the chief persecutor and through changing political realities in the Empire (Williams 1985:164), but Luke also points to the strengthening the church has experienced (compare Acts 20:32). The church's growth is due in no small part to the Christians' godliness, living in the fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit also has a role, empowering the preaching that encouraged (paraklesis, meaning "exhortation," Schneider 1980-1982:2:41; not comfort or protection after persecution, as Haenchen 1971:333) unbelievers to come to Christ.
Is the Christian church for real? When it fits the description of Acts 9:31, the watching world has evidence that the church is authentic and its message true.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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