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Craig Keener: For All Peoples

Craig S. Keener, For All Peoples: A Biblical Theology of Missions in the Gospels and Acts (Baguio City, Philippines: Asia Pacific Theological Seminary Press, 2020), 122 pages, ISBN 9798665145082.

Dr. Craig Keener is a widely recognized New Testament scholar. He is perhaps best known for the biblical commentaries he has written. He has won the respect of believers from many different church traditions. His books are characterized by meticulous research, great detail, and thorough documentation. This current volume is a bit different than most of Keener’s other work. The difference is that this book is short! However, even though it is short it is not lacking in substance.

The book is comprised of: a preface, forward, endorsements, introduction, and five chapters. The chapters, for the most part, are based on lectures Dr. Keener gave in different places in 2002, 2008, and 2009 (page 1). The lectures he gave at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in 2009 were put in article form and were first published in the Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies (pages 1-2). Chapter 5 of the book was also published in the journal but at an earlier date, in 2008. For All Peoples is a compilation of the articles which were published in the journal over ten years ago (pages 1-2).

The first chapter focuses on Matthew 28:18-20, the text that is commonly referred to as “The Great Commission.” The author points out that the one command is to “make disciples” (page 3). He further writes that this mission includes: “going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” (page 3). Keener plainly states that discipleship is not just evangelism (page 14). There must be further instruction or training for those who come to faith in Christ (pages 14-15). He further elaborates on what a disciple of Jesus is to value (pages 16-19). One truth that emerges in this chapter is that the gospel message is meant to be shared cross-culturally.

We cannot be successful in Christ’s mission without His power.

Chapter two gives attention to the commission statement that is found in John’s gospel (John 20:21-22). Keener says that this passage contains three important elements about John’s view of missions “the model of Jesus, the empowerment of the Spirit, and the mission of Jesus’ followers” (page 22). Two themes that have particular relevance to Christians are highlighted in this chapter, they are, “being sent” and “the Holy Spirit.” Believers, like Jesus, are meant to be missional people. God’s intent is that Christians take the initiative and engage the world with God’s message. We are to do so with the help of the Holy Spirit. In this chapter Keener writes about the purifying work of the Spirit and the empowering work of the Spirit (pages 32-39).

The third chapter is given to the missiology of Luke as found in Acts 1 and 2. The author provides a very homiletical outline of the major themes related to Pentecost. He writes about: “The Promise of Pentecost” (pages 48-55), “The Preparation for Pentecost” (pages 55-57), “The Proofs of Pentecost” (pages 57-62), “The Peoples of Pentecost” (pages 62-64), “The Prophecy of Pentecost” (pages 65-67), “The Preaching of Pentecost” (pages 68-69), “The Purpose of Pentecost” (pages 69-72). One point he states plainly near the beginning and end of this chapter is that we cannot be successful in Christ’s mission without His power (page 48, 72).

Believers are meant to be missional people. God’s intent is that Christians take the initiative and engage the world with God’s message.

Chapter four gives attention to the unity that believers have in Christ. In order to bring out this truth Keener draws upon a number of biblical texts. The key passages for this section are Ephesians 2:11-22; Acts 21:27-29; Mark 11:17; and John 4:20-24. In the first century people groups were sometimes separated from each another. In the texts Keener uses we see evidence of Jews who were separated from Gentiles and Jews who are separated from Samaritans. However, these separations which once existed are not to continue, in Christ they are done away with. In Him we are united. The passage in Ephesians 2 clearly brings this out.

The last chapter looks at Acts 16:8-10. Here Keener examines information pertinent to the gospel crossing over from Asia into Europe. Unlike the other chapters, the content of this chapter deals more with historical information from outside the Bible than with the biblical text.

For All Peoples is a valuable contribution to the literature on missional theology.

As is true of his longer works this volume is also thoroughly documented, there are many footnotes in it. There are also an abundance of scriptural references in the first four chapters. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph the last chapter is different in that it draws more on historical information from outside the Bible. I found the last chapter to be the most difficult to read.

Though For All Peoples is brief it has a lot to offer. It is thoroughly biblical and reminds the church, through multiple biblical texts, of its mission. In the foreword, Dr. Wonsuk Ma said that Keener’s chapter on Pentecost (Chapter 3) is important for the whole church (page vii). Pentecostals in particular may gravitate toward this chapter. This book is a valuable contribution to the literature on missional theology.

Reviewed by John Lathrop


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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2020

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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