Thirty Years that Changed the World: The Book of Acts for Today

By Michael Green
Grand Rapids : Eerdmans (2004). 287 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Keith Essex
16.2 (Fall 2005) : 343-344

This volume is the American publication of the 2d edition of a book published in England and originally entitled Acts for Today. That original title captures the thrust of Michael Green’s passion and purpose in writing the book. Green is convinced that Acts is “. . . a book supremely relevant for our time” (5). He states, “I see no reason why, if we are willing to pay the price and follow their example, the gospel they [i.e., the first-century Christians] proclaimed and embodied should not again transform society” (6). T o fulfill his purpose, Green has in this book traced themes of Christian life and service discovered in Acts and examined their relevance to today’s church (5). The author further states, “My prayer for the present book is that it may encourage us to believe that Acts 29 is possible: that the fresh wind of God’s Holy Spirit that launched the infant church is still available, still active, still ready to work in and through us if only we are willing” (9-10).

Before interacting with the main themes of Acts, Green presents two chapters that orient his readers to the book of Acts. He very creatively introduces the culture of the first-century world (11-24) and Luke and his friends (25-41). These chapters show an expositor how the introductory background material of Acts can be communicated effectively to a contemporary audience. The bulk of the book is a presentation of the major themes of Acts, with a particular emphasis on the ministry of the early church empowered by the Holy Spirit (42-267). Green deals with the topics of outreach, lifestyle, message, apologetics, methods, church planting, pastoral care, church life, leadership, hardships, and the Holy Spirit. The book concludes with a summary of the priorities of the early Christians as evidenced in the book of Acts (268-87).

In going through the book, the reader becomes aware that the primary target audience for Green is the laity of the Anglican Church. With great passion, he calls his readers to take the Scripture seriously. The author decries the fact that the central affirmations of the faith are ignored and that in many churches teaching is propounded that is in variance from the Bible. Fundamentalists and Pentecostals should not be despised and written off as uniformed (275). Though appreciating Green’s sincere concern, the readers of this book, especially the laity, need to exercise discernment. Though it has many positive points made about Christ, the gospel, evangelism, and church life, two major cautions are necessary. First, the writer calls his readers to an openness to accept whatever the Holy Spirit is doing in the church today (46). For instance, tongues is a gift that the Lord continues to give to some believers, including Green himself. However, all did not speak in tongues in Acts and it was not the invariable mark of the presence of the Holy Spirit; therefore, today, an openness by those gifted with tongues and those who have not to accept one another should prevail (259). Second, the author contends that the Lord is still doing the same miracles as recorded in Acts, including the raising of the dead (66-67).

Read with appropriate caution, Green’s book can spur the expositor to consider afresh the application of the book of Acts to the contemporary reader.