Acts joins volumes on Romans and John in The St Andrew's Expositional Commentary series, which transform sermons Sproul preached at St. Andrew's Chapel into book-form.
The style is what we have come to expect and appreciate from Sproul: readable, thoughtful, interesting, engaging. Sproul sprinkles his comments with wide-ranging stories and factoids and reflections. His wide reading and education, and his deep experience, enrich the commentary. Now Sproul takes a bit from ancient history, and then a bit of a word-study, then a side-trip to politics, and then a vignette from his own life and ministry.
However, one would not go to this volume as a commentary proper. Sproul moves too quickly over the text, and his focal points are necessarily selective. For instance, Sproul preaches on Acts 8:37 (152), without mentioning that its genuineness is textually unlikely. So no one will throw out his Bruce or Longenecker or Stott. However, there is edifying devotional material, and perhaps some suggestions for preaching.
There isn't a boring page in the book.
As one would expect, there is plenty of good, corrective theology. On Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit, Sproul says
The reason for the outpouring of the Spirit is not to make us feel spiritual. It is not to give us a spiritual high. It is so that we can do the job that Jesus gave the church to do. (27)On Paul's conversion:
Just minutes before his conversion, all that Paul could think of was what he could do to Christ, but immediately after, all he could think of is what he could do for Christ, which reveals the essence of his radical conversion. (162)On the modern charismatic movement: "My problem with Pentecostalism is that it has too low a view of Pentecost" (198).
On Christianity's exclusivism:
If all religions are equally good, then one stands out as terribly bad, and that is Christianity, because Christianity has no time for pluralism. It sees one way only. Now, that is downright un-American. Sometimes you have to make a decision where your allegiance is going to be—with the secular culture or with the One whom God sent into the world as our Redeemer. (318)There are some unusual bits here and there. Sproul says that the church "for centuries" has called Acts 1:7-8 the "Great Commission," a term I've only heard applied to Matthew 28:18-20 (27). Maybe that's just my more parochial perspective. Again, one raises one's eyebrow at the phrase, "The price tag for forgiveness is repentance" (63), though we understand what Sproul means. Also, virtually Sproul's entire section on Acts 14:19-28 is devoted to politics — separation of church and state, criticism of government, tax-exempt status, flat tax, and also abortion (258-262). Though I basically agreed with with everything Sproul said, at one point I did note in the margin, "What verse are we on?"
A concern, however, arises from the fact that the text is sprinkled with a number of factual errors or inaccuracies. These are misstatements about Hebrew words (41, 338); and Greek words (156, 170, 433), and other things. One depends (I can say from grateful and humbled experience) on pre-readers and editors to catch one's mistakes like this, and one feels Sproul could have been served better in this regard.
I mention this (reluctantly) both for prospective readers, and for our readers who themselves do or will write. There is no doubt that Sproul is a deeply-studied scholar, and the respect he enjoys is well deserved. In this book, all of Sproul's allusions to history, etymology and geography; all his quotations from Calvin, Hume, Luther, Boice, Ramsey, Ovid and others, are undocumented. When such assertions are mixed with statements the reader recognizes to be inaccurate... the effect is that one would not quote any of the other allusions or facts, or use them in a sermon, unless one could verify them oneself. Or perhaps Sproul's status is such that one might say, "Sproul says that Calvin said...." But some of us obsessives like to get our hands on the source itself.
This book, provided me by Crossway for review, was a good read. One looks forward to future volumes in this series, and hopes that the preparation process serves Sproul well. His is a voice that continues to deserve respectful hearing.