Braving the Waters with Acts: a commentary review

Guy Prentiss Waters has penned a new commentary on Acts from a conservative Evangelical, Reformed perspective.He is Professor of New Testament at RTS in Jackson and a teaching elder in the PCA and a cessationist. He wrote his Acts commentary for the EP Study Commentary (series edited by John Cirrid). For my part, I am more justice-minded Evangelical nurtured in the faith by Pietism and the charismatic movement. (with a healthy load of Anabaptism thrown in).  But all that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this commentary and read it fruitfully! On  the back cover is a gushing endorsement from D.A. Carson. I like plenty of commentaries and commentators that Carson doesn’t have much use for (N.T. Wright, for example); yet his endorsement says to me a quality and careful reading of the text and that is what I discovered as I braved these Waters.

While Waters writes from a Reformed perspective, quite self consciously, he does not  do so in a sectarian way. He doesn’t spill any ink arguing for the veracity of infant baptism over believers’ baptism. His doctrine of election is not the central feature to this text. Many of his doctrinal distinctives would be felt more sharply  in one of the epistles than in Acts. This is a close reading of Acts with exposition in view. Waters draws out the meaning of the text for the preacher. This is not a technical commentary but a good mid-level commentary (with footnotes to more detailed treatments).

Where Waters’s theological heritage is most evident in the text is in the application section in each subsection (below his comments on the passage). There cites the Westminster Larger Catechism and John Calvin to warn against unfruitful speculation about the future (44). He also goes to pains in places to explain his understanding of redemptive history. His cesassionism means that he is careful to hedge the fence of Holy Writ. What we read in Acts was historical describing a moment in redemptive history. Waters argues that the outpouring of the Spirit evidenced by signs and wonders and tongues is not ‘the normative pattern of Christian experience for all generations (74). This was a unique apostolic age that died with the apostles (39).

I have more charismatic leanings than Waters and think that he overstates his case,  but I applaud his attentiveness to scripture and the words on the page. He has a different theological lens he does illuminate features of the text I would otherwise miss. I also appreciate that while he relegates supernatural manifestations of the Spirit to the distant past, he doesn’t treat this first century church account as ‘merely descriptive and never prescriptive.’ When he reads an evocative account in Acts, such as the life sharing in response to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:42-47, he parses those aspects as he sees as unique to the apostolic-age (signs and wonders in v. 43) and those  aspects that apply to us–namely, devotion to apostolic teaching, life sharing and evangelism (100-101).

On the whole, Waters is balanced and a careful exegete. I found plenty I disagree with, but I think he does a great job through out of capturing the Spirit’s mission in the first century. I give this commentary four stars and plan to use this further as I plan towards Pentecost.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from the publisher via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review.

2 thoughts on “Braving the Waters with Acts: a commentary review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s