Book Review: “Acts” by Guy Prentiss Waters

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The book of Acts, for me, has double the benefits. I love both biblical studies and history, which makes Acts applicable for my understanding of the Scriptures, but it also gives supreme insights concerning how the Church was birthed and expanded. For these reasons, and others, I was more than pleased to have the chance to offer a review of Acts by Guy Prentiss Waters.

In all, there are 614 pages, which is a substantial read if you are to read it in its entirety. But I would say this is neither too short, nor too large, when comparing it to other commentaries and when considering whether or not Waters’ book provided a substantial enough treatment. Many commentaries, including those on Acts, are voluminous in their introductory material alone (e.g., purpose, authorship, date). Waters’ commentary is quite brief, totaling about 11 pages. Now, if a higher-critical introduction to Acts is what you are looking for, then this book is probably not going to be suitable. But at the same time, his concise arguments are actually quite helpful. Waters’ focus is on the text, and secondarily on application, making this volume especially helpful for pastors and expositors.

Another preliminary note of significance is that “this commentary is Reformed in its orientation” (page 9). This does not mean that a non-Reformed expositor will find this work unhelpful, far from it, I believe. And in case one is wondering about the oft-debated chapter on Pentecost (chapter 2), Waters is a cessationist. On this point, I might add, Waters makes a very good case for his position, so if this is something you are interested in looking into, I would commend Waters for his solid treatment.

One of the most beneficial aspects of this book, in my opinion, is that Waters includes not just exegesis, but also application within each portion of Scripture being studied. Some commentaries are strictly one or the other, but I think that Waters’ combination can lead one to both intellectual comprehension (which is necessary) and vibrant Christlikeness (which is also needed). For most preachers and teachers, applying exegesis to “real life” can often be a disaster, or challenging at the very least. I found this commentary to be very balanced though.

An issue I would bring up in terms of criticism concerns the usage of sources. If you just take a cursory glance of the footnotes, you will see the same 7 or 8 names reappear throughout the commentary (Stott, Johnson, Bock, Bruce, Longenecker, Marshall, and Peterson). Now, this can be a good thing: he provides some of the most helpful quotes from these other sources. But at the same time, it felt like there wasn’t a great deal of variety in terms of secondary sources. In a similar vein, I was actually expecting more historically Reformed sources. Calvin’s mentioned several times, but I had the expectation that there would have been more from him and from others.

Overall, however, I heartily recommend Waters’ commentary on Acts. It is clear and straightforward for those without a knowledge of Greek to dig deep into the text, but thoughtful and carefully written so that one is challenged. It is at a higher reading level than many modern devotionals, but a disciplined reader who may be lost in other commentaries from incessant references to the original language will certainly benefit from it. And for those who have been seminary-trained in biblical studies, I think will find this book helpful as well.

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One thought on “Book Review: “Acts” by Guy Prentiss Waters

  1. Pingback: EP Study Commentary Acts Blog Tour | Cross Focused Reviews

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