Of the making of books there is no end (Ecclesiastes 12:12), and in no case does this hold more true than in the publishing of biblical commentaries. Commentaries on books of the Bible are everywhere; they come in all sizes and shapes, and with incredible variety in style, background and approach. I thought it might prove helpful to suggest a number of the better commentaries on the book of Acts – in part because of its amazing emphasis upon Christ, conversion and the New Testament church, and in part due to its place in the New Testament in describing thirty or so years that changed the world. To understand the place and content of the book of Acts is to go a long way to understanding the message of the entire New Testament.
Mention of any book/author is NOT a wholesale endorsement of either the books or the authors mentioned. Let’s begin with 5 or 6 done by members of churches of Christ, given in no particular order.
(1) Original or New Commentary on Acts, J.W. McGarvey (2 slightly different volumes). One can easily see the underlying scholarship in these volumes; McGarvey did his homework well. Although now somewhat dated, his work still merits serious study.
(2) New Testament Commentary on Acts, H. Leo Boles (Gospel Advocate Series). One of the stronger volumes in the Gospel Advocate series, Boles and McGarvey complement each other nicely.
(3) The Acts of the Apostles, Wayne Jackson. Brother Jackson is a master of saying things clearly and concisely. This work is user-friendly and reflects the lifetime of study of a thoughtful and diligent man of God.
(4) Truth For Today Commentary, Acts – Volumes 1 & 2 by David Roper. These are two very fine volumes that will benefit preachers and Bible class teachers, especially if they do not already possess a number of commentaries on Acts. A well-done effort!
(5) Survey of Acts, Jimmy Allen (Volumes 1 & 2 complete in one book). Class notes of brother Allen, who taught Acts for many years at the university level. Helpful.
Now, for a few others that are helpful – again, in no particular order.
(6) New Testament History, by Gareth Reese. A member of the Independent Christian church and long-time professor at Central Christian College, Reese has authored a number of useful commentaries. At 900 plus pages, it is a volume that will be repeatedly consulted during one’s lifetime.
(7) New International Commentary on Acts, F.F. Bruce. Written by a “Dean” of evangelical scholarship from a prior generation, this work remains remarkably useful. Few denominational volumes say as much as well.
(8) Tyndale New Testament Commentary on Acts, I. Howard Marshall. Do not let the typically brief format of this series deceive you; Marshall is far more comprehensive than one might think. Easily one of the best volumes in the Tyndale series.
(9) The Spirit, the Church and the World – The Message of Acts, John Stott. Not a detailed commentary, but a work that is richly suggestive for sermons and for appreciating the “flow” of Acts.
(10) Baker Exegetical Commentary on Acts, by Darrell L. Bock. Bock is a well-known Lucan scholar, and this work, despite some annoying exegetical “passover observances” on the necessity of baptism, contains considerable exegetical help.
(11) Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Acts, by Eckhard J. Schnabel. Designed for preachers and Bible teachers, a strength of the series is the providing of the literary context and structure of each unit of thought.
(12) Acts, An Exegetical Commentary, Craig S. Keener. Not for the feint of heart or wallet, this work consists of 4 massive volumes of over 1000 pages each! Not a first choice for many (likely even most) due to its size, price and lack of user friendliness, it is very strong on historical issues, leaves few stones left uncovered and is fully abreast of the most current denominational scholarship. Just lifting all four volumes helps provide a complete upper body workout!
At the end of the day, commentaries are at best useful tools. They are NOT a substitute for the word of God. Always remember to keep the text of God’s word the main thing!