The Authority and Mission of Jesus As Delegated in the Gospel of John

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Recap and Transition

Against the prevailing view that Acts should be connected first and foremost to Luke’s earlier volume as a continuous narrative,1 the canonical approach argues for respecting the church’s ultimate canonical decisions and for discovering and clarifying the hermeneutical implications.2 A.B. Robinson and Robert Wall draw attention to two prime examples of the hermeneutical implications of retaining the final form of the four-fold Gospel rather than joining Luke-Acts.3 They propose that the Third Gospel does not adequately prepare for the leading role Peter performs in the opening chapters of Acts. The Gospel of John narrates Peter’s restoration at the close of his gospel (21:15-17) and thus offers to the reader a better historical, theological transition to his chief role in the beginning chapters of Acts. They further argue that Jesus’ teaching in the Fourth Gospel about the post-Easter role of the Holy Spirit (14-16) best facilitates an introduction to and understanding of the Spirit’s role as the primary character in the book of Acts.4 These examples “suggest the important role that John’s Gospel performs in preparing the reader for the story of Acts. Moreover, what it means to be a ‘witness’ of the risen Jesus (Acts 1:8) is now more fully understood by the reader in the context of John’s Gospel (John 15:26-27; cf. Luke 24:48).”5
Thus, the canonical approach does not regard the strategic role of Acts within the final form of the biblical canon to be an accidental consequence of an arbitrary decision. To read Acts only as a continuation of his first volume and to view the insertion of John’s Gospel as an interruption and as an ecclesiastical mistake in the formation of the final form of the canon may be too quickly dismissive of the possible theological discernment of the early Fathers.6 I am proposing that the reading of Acts in the light of its final canonical position and order may yield significant insight into the logic of God for the continuation of the kingdom of God following the ascension. The words and actions of his Son, as particularly testified to in the Fourth Gospel, may be highly insightful for the theology of the opening scenes of Acts. In his recent work, Martin W. Mittlestadt makes a call for the exploration of the possible benefits of bringing Johannine theology into the canonical conversation with Acts:
Furthermore, given the scholarly dominance on questions surrounding the relationship between the likes of Lukan and Pauline hermeneutics and pneumatologies, whither the Fourth Gospel? How might scholars so focused on the relationship between Lukan and Pauline unity and diversity enlarge the conversation by bringing Johannine theology and practice into the mix?7 Speaking from a rhetorical criticism perspective, Johannes Vorster contends that the “main constituent of the rhetorical situation can be called the ‘problematization,’” defined as “the act by means of which a rhetorical situation is called into existence.”8 The proposal explored in the following chapters is that the ‘problem’ that calls forth the rhetoric of the divine author and, derivatively, the human author of Acts is the ‘problem’ created by the event of the ascension.9 How will the mission to establish the kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus continue postascension and in what form? It is noteworthy that this problem is anticipated by and highlighted in the only recorded question asked by the disciples during the forty days of Jesus’ post-resurrection instruction on the kingdom of God: Oi° me«n ou™n
From a canonical point of view it is proposed that among the four gospels the “problem of the ascension” was most anticipated and most intentionally, directly and comprehensively addressed by Jesus in the second half of the Fourth Gospel. Evidence from the Gospel of John for this proposal will be expounded in the present chapter. Chapter three will assess whether Jesus’ anticipation of and pre-planned response to the “problem” of the ascension is actualized in the opening scenes of Acts. In the final chapter the “problem” created by the ascension as to the extension and continuation of the mission of Jesus in Acts will be viewed and addressed from the broader canonical perspective of the comprehensive four-fold Gospel testimony. In that chapter I will attempt to argue in detail that the reader of Acts who has comprehensively read the four-fold Gospel will readily perceive the striking resemblance of Jesus’ mission, gospel and the concurrent conflict and controversy he provoked to that which characterizes the church’s life and ministry in the narrative of Acts. I will argue in the final chapter from a broader canonical approach that the tri-fold Old Testament missional roles of prophet, priest and king, which Jesus fulfills as the anointed servant (messiaß) in the Gospels, continues to be the theology which drives the author’s literary choices in the narration of the history of the church in Acts. The church’s continuation of Jesus’ tri-fold missional roles in Acts (peri« pa¿ntwn…w—n h¡rxato oJ ΔΔIhsouvß poiei√n te kai« dida¿skein) yields a second primary plot line that permeates the historical narrative of Acts: persecution. It will be argued that these two core elements of theology endemic to canonical history permeate and control the contrapuntal plot movements of the history and literary art of Luke in Acts. This is evident from the beginning of the church’s exercise of authority and tri-fold ministry in the name of Jesus in healing the lame man in Acts 3. What follows in Acts 4 is the first recorded persecution of the church. The church’s response was to frame their experience in canonical perspective, understanding that persecution is a primary theological theme woven throughout the history recorded in the canon (Acts 4:23- 30). The church’s continuation of Jesus’ tri-fold missional roles leads to the ongoing fulfillment in Acts of Jesus’ words: “mnhmoneu/ete touv lo/gou ou∞ e˙gw» ei•pon uJmi√n: oujk e¶stin douvloß mei÷zwn touv kuri÷ou aujtouv. ei˙ e˙me« e˙di÷wxan, kai« uJma◊ß diw¿xousin:” (John 15:20).


The key problem in religious authority is to find the central principle of authority and the pattern through which it expresses itself concretely and practically. Most treaties on religious authority assert that God is the final authority in religion, but this bare assertion does not make its way. Unless the assertion is expressed in a more concrete fashion it becomes mere platitude. A principle of religious authority, along with its pattern designed for its practical and concrete expression and execution, should incorporate all the necessary elements associated with such a complex notion as religious authority.10 The primary concern of this chapter will be the challenge posed in the final two statements in the above quotation, as related to the Gospel of John and the book of Acts.11 Particular interest will be in the delegation or extension of the authority and mission of Jesus as described in the second central section12 of the Fourth Gospel, 13:1 – 20:31, the Book of Glory.13 The Son’s agency/mission will be examined in this section of the Fourth Gospel as ground work for the central inquirythe extension of the Son’s authority and agency/mission in the opening narrative discourses of Acts. I will argue in the following chapters that the challenge of delegating authority to others by Jesus becomes a central plot issue in the opening sections of Acts (e.g. 4:7).

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Part I: The Son’s Agency/Mission and Its Relationship to the Apostles and the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John: Establishing the Historical Redemptive Foundations to Acts Chapters One and Two.


The Son’s agency/mission has been the subject of a multitude of studies.14 Perhaps the most thorough treatment is the recent work by Andreas Köstenberger.15 This excellent study fully develops the various facets of the mission of the Son. The present monograph accepts and seeks to build upon the important work done in the major portion of his study, but would differ from his work in reference to the extension of the Son’s agency. Köstenberger presents the extension of the agency/mission of Jesus as primarily accomplished through the disciples, and then secondarily through the Spirit.16 In contrasting his work with that of McPolin (1969), he states that “it may be better still to subordinate the missions of John and of the Spirit to the missions of Jesus and of the disciples.”17 Thus, while acknowledging the work and mission of the Holy Spirit, his study makes few references to the Spirit’s involvement in the missions of Jesus and the disciples.18 It is the thesis of the present chapter that the mission and authority of the Son is extended through the cooperative (synergistic) work of both the Apostles and the Holy Spirit, while respecting that there is a salvation-historical order that is important to note in Acts.19 This point, well argued for by Hermann Ridderbos, is what I intend to elaborate in this chapter, by demonstrating the historical and theological connection of the Gospel of John to the opening sections of the book of Acts.
That ambivalent character of the New Testament witness finally enables us to understand in what sense it lays claim on our faith. Its claim is not made solely in a secular sense, whereby everything would depend on the personal trustworthiness of the eyewitnesses, a trustworthiness that could only be established on historical grounds. Rather, its claim is made because the Holy Spirit himself bears witness in and by the words of the apostles, so that those who deny the trustworthiness of that witness oppose the Holy Spirit. It is not simply the case that the Spirit sets His seal on the trustworthiness of historical information, so that those who accept the factuality of the content of this witness satisfy its claim to faith. Rather, New Testament witness is fully the witness of the Spirit only because the Spirit himself testifies through this word and convinces men that this word of testimony is the word of life (John 16:8). For that reason, one cannot separate the two components that give the New Testament witness its specific character without destroying the witness itself. One cannot abstract the witness, as though it were simply a report of facts, from its call to put trust in these facts as redemptive facts.20 That the two primary delegated, joint witnesses in the extension of Jesus’ mission and authority are promised and bound together in the Fourth Gospel (especially in 13:1 – 20:31, the Book of Glory) and actualized in the book of Acts is what I will attempt to establish in this chapter. I am proposing the thesis that true apostolic succession is from Jesus to the joint witness of the Apostles and the Holy Spirit, and that witness being inscripturated in the New Testament. I will argue that the church in Acts can only carry on the mission of Jesus as it draws upon and is guided by the authoritative joint witnesses. Without submission to that delegated authority actualized in Acts, the church has no authority and mission.

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction: Thesis, Presuppositions and Methodology 
1.1 Part I: Statement of the Problem and the Thesis
1.1.1 The Background of the Problem
1.1.2 The Canonical Reader and Reader-Response Theory Structuralism, Formalism, and New Criticism Reader-Response and Reception Theory Canonically Defined Reader-Response and Reception Theory The Canonically Defined Interpretive Community The Cross, Reader-Response and Interpretive Community
1.1.3 Statement of the Problem and the Resultant Thesis
1.2 Part II: Epistemological Presuppositions and Methodology
1.2.1 Preliminary Hermeneutical Matters On Reading the Bible for Theology Epistemological Presuppositions and Hermeneutical Humility The Goal of Interpretation: Repentance and Transformation
1.2.2 Foundational Presuppositions and the Methodological Correlates Biblical-Theological Presuppositions The Macro-Genre of the Bible and the Divine Authorship of Scripture The Unity of Scripture: A Biblical-Theological Correlate of  Divine Authorship Scripture Interprets Scripture Testimony or Witness as Epistemologically Basic Point of View and Interpretation
1.2.3 Canonical Criticism and the Hermeneutical Implications for the Present Study Introduction The Canonical Criticism of James Sanders Canon and Authority Lee Martin MacDonald and Canon Canon and the Presupposition of Divine Providence The Canonical Approach and Its Application in the Present Study Acts as Canonical Bridge
CHAPTER TWO: The Authority and Mission of Jesus As Delegated in the Gospel of John: The Theological, Canonical and Historical Background For Reading and Understanding Acts
2.1 Recap and transition
2.2 Introduction
2.3 Part I: The Son’s Agency/Mission and Its Relationship to the Apostles and the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John: Establishing the Historical-Redemptive Foundations to Acts Chapters One and Two
2.4 Part II: The Delegation of the Authority, Revelation and Mission of Jesus to the Disciples and the Holy Spirit
2.5 Part III: The Theological, Historical Integration of the  Narrative Discourses of Acts Chapters One and Two: The Pre-Ascension ‘Theo-logic’ and Promises of Jesus Realized
CHAPTER THREE: The Theological and Historical Integration of the Narrative Discourses of Acts 1 – 2: The Pre-Ascension Theology and Promises of Jesus Realized
3.1 THe John-Acts Connection: Acts Chapters One and Two
3.2 Act I: Acts 1:1-11 The Ascension, the Inaugurating Event of Jesus’ Continued Ministry On Earth in His New Body, the Church.
CHAPTER FOUR: Act 1 (Acts 1:1-11) The Ascension of Jesus: The Transition In the Continuation of Jesus Ministry
4.1 Chapter Objective
4.2 The Ascension as Transition
4.3 The Continuation of Jesus’ Prophetic, Priestly, and  Kingly Servant Roles in Acts in the new “Body of Christ,” the Church
4.4 Summary
CHAPTER FIVE: Summary and Conclusions
5.1 Summary of the Dissertation
5.2 Conclusion

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