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Darrell Bock meshes Luke & Acts in lectures at Midwestern Seminary

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“The Messiah, The Kingdom and The Call to Reach Sinners” was the theme of Darrell Bock’s three messages in the annual Sizemore Lecture series at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Nov. 3-5. Bock, research professor of New Testament and professor of spiritual formation at Dallas Theological Seminary, connected passages through Luke and Acts to emphasize the overarching narrative of the texts.
“We have a tendency to take passages and leave them standing alone,” he said, adding that he did not want to be guilty of such error. In his first lecture, Bock drew a picture of the Messiah as the foundation for the Book of Luke. “It is a way of reassuring Theophilus not merely about the truth of the things associated with Jesus,” Bock said of the book’s introduction, “but to give him a kind of psychological assurance about the truth of the gospel.”
Noting that Luke begins with the birth announcement of Jesus Christ presented in a Jewish style, Bock said, “The initial declaration of who Jesus is in Luke to his mother stresses his messianic and regal role.” However, Bock stressed that Luke and the other Synoptic Gospels tell the story of Jesus “from the earth up,” leading the reader to a slowly dawning realization of who Jesus is in much the same fashion as people today come to know him.
“One of the major themes of Luke-Acts,” Bock said, “is that God is executing a plan that is in conjunction with his promises.” To support this assertion, Bock focused on the hymn of Zechariah following the birth of John the Baptist, noting that in this passage the Messiah fulfilled two promises: first, that he would be the promised Davidite who would fulfill the covenant and represent the completion of the promises to Abraham and, second, he would be light in the midst of darkness.
Bock stressed the importance of the miracles recorded in Luke as a picture of a different reality, advising against getting caught up in proving the factualness of the miracles to the detriment of the lesson they provide. “We will spend so much time defending the fact that they happened that we will forget what it pictures,” Bock said. “The miracles provide a significant picture of Jesus and what his ministry was all about.”
Four miracles in Luke 8 were significant to an understanding of the Messiah’s role, Bock said: the calming of the sea, which showed Jesus’ power over nature; the casting out of the demon, which displayed his power over the spiritual realm; the healing of the hemorrhaging woman, which gave a hint to his power over life and death; and the raising of Jairus’s daughter, which more fully showcased his power over life and death. “These miracles are picturing something,” Bock said. “The power through Christ is stronger than the enemy. If you will trust him, you will have access to that power.”
In his second lecture, Bock focused on “The Promise in the Gospel According to Luke.” That promise, Bock said, is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Citing Luke 3:16, he pointed out that in John the Baptist’s declaration of unworthiness even to untie Jesus’ sandal, meaningful information is relayed about the coming Messiah. “John gives a major clue as to what is special about the Messiah. He will baptize with the Spirit and fire.” This marks the beginning of a new era — the baptism of the Spirit, Bock said.
The coming of the Spirit also fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament until the time of John the Baptist, Bock said, asserting that those living before the time of Christ would have loved to have had the opportunity to experience what believers after Christ now enjoy. “The promise of God is now on offer and the people of God living in the Old Testament would love to be here and have access to what you have access to.”
In Luke 24, Bock stressed the importance of the early church waiting for the promise to come. “Don’t start until you get the enabler,” Bock advised. “The gospel is fundamentally about enablement to live in a way that is honoring to God. He has come and he has died to make us his people who reflect his character.”
Using several passages from the Book of Acts, Bock chronicled the arrival of the Holy Spirit and its effect on believers then and now. “How do I know Jesus Christ is Lord?” he asked. “I know he’s Lord and I also know that he is Christ because he’s distributed the Spirit which God promised would be the mark of the arrival of the Messiah.
“God will be with you forever from the inside out — Christ provides it, the Spirit enables it. The gospel is about the enablement of the power of God to overcome anything Satan may throw in people’s way because he himself has come into our lives, and if we have him, what can be against us?”
In the third session of the Sizemore lecture series, Bock explored the relationship between the church and sinners by looking at Jesus’ responses in five different situations in the Book of Luke. In the first situation, Jesus healed the paralytic, but only after he had forgiven the man’s sin. “He brings the miracle together with the authority,” Bock said. “What you can see will prove what I say is true. His walk says, ‘The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.'”
The calling of Levi set the stage for the second situation in which Jesus dealt with sinners, Bock said. In this instance, Jesus called himself the “Great Physician” and likened sinners to patients needing his care. “The call centers on repentance,” Bock said. “You trust a doctor, which is an expression of faith.” Jesus ate and drank with sinners precisely because they were sick and hadn’t yet come to the doctor, Bock said.
In Luke 7:36, Bock noted the third interaction of Jesus with sinners. The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil had a bad reputation, but Jesus broke common practice of his day and associated with the woman, forgiving her sins. “There’s something about Jesus that told a sinner that I can find forgiveness in what God is offering.”
Bock warned the church against what he called “Jimmy Cagney Theology” — pointing to the sinner, condemning the sin, but offering no hope in the gospel. “The gospel is an invitation, good news, honey to a starved palate, light to dark eyes.”
The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son provide the fourth setting to see Jesus dealing with sinners. “Do we have the vision when we engage in evangelism of the possibility of a sinner finding God and being welcome even though their life — whatever it was before — was a real wreck?”
The fifth situation in which Jesus dealt with sinners was in Luke 19, which tells the story of Zacchaeus. “What drew people to Jesus?” Bock asked. “I suspect it was his heart.”
In closing the lecture series, Bock summarized the essence of the gospel and encouraged Midwesterners to carry the gospel into the world around them. “The gospel is about God setting people apart for him, for his name, for his service — holified.
“Draw on the resources of the Spirit you already have,” Bock counseled. “Consider it a rich privilege that you are engaged in ministry. There is no greater calling in the world. Encourage the saints to draw on the wonderful resources in his riches. Pursue sinners even if some people think it makes you look bad.”
Adding that Jesus didn’t care what people thought about him when he was pursuing sinners, Bock said, “He went for them anyway.”

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  • Stephanie Heading