I had never heard of Matt Mikalatos before requesting this book but the idea of the book of Acts basically retold for today intrigued me. I never thought of Acts as being a tough book to understand or read through but as I read Into the Fray I was reintroduced to the story of Acts through storytelling that grabbed my attention and caused me to think again of how miraculous and amazing the stories written and shared in this book of the Bible actually are. Unfortunately, many times we read over them without a second thought and we do this to our own detriment.
There are many main characters throughout the book of Acts, for instance, Paul, Peter, Barnabas, the Philippian jailer, Lydia, the demon possessed girl, the Ethiopian eunuch and many more. However, the story of Acts is unequivocally the story of how God worked in the early church through the Holy Spirit to draw many people to Himself and cause the church to spread throughout the world like a wildfire. If not for the Holy Spirit, none of what is shared in Acts would have been possible. The church never would have impacted the world as it did and it would have torn itself to shreds from within. How else could the stories shared in Acts have actually happened apart from the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit? It would be impossible.
How does the author go about reaching his objective? Each chapter begins with a retelling of a story in Acts as if it happened today. He does not cover every single story in Acts in this manner because the book would have been well over 700 pages. Instead, he picks 14 stories to share using language from today that does not take away or add anything to the story, but simply retells it from a revised perspective. But why is this even necessary? Could people not just read the book of Acts as it is and be amazed? Yes. This book is not trying to take the place of Acts in the Biblical canon, it is simply retelling stories that many times we read over and have lost the amazement of how miraculous many stories actually are. For example, one story that many people in Christian circles just kind of gloss over is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. This story should produce a fear in people about how seriously God takes things in His church. This couple sold land, and gave money to the church, but apparently were deceptive in their giving and thus they were both killed for it. In Acts 5:11, it says that as a result of Ananias and Sapphira, “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” Imagine if this kind of fear came upon the church today? Imagine how much of an impact it would have on how people interact with each other and how people go about with their daily lives? Unfortunately, we read stories like this and simply believe God just does not deal with people like that anymore and thus the story is just read over without much thought given to it. You also do not hear many sermons on this topic today but imagine if we did?
Simply stated, Matt Mikalatos does a great job with this book and his retelling of some of the stories from Acts. As I read through the book, I found myself challenged in what I thought about God and how He works. Have I been guilty of trying to control how God works? Or have I simply been presenting myself to God to work in whatever manner He chose? While reading through Acts, it is easy to see that even though there were times of disagreement between people in the church, they allowed Him to move in and through them as He saw fit. They did not put restrictions on God as we many times do today. Imagine a church today with the fear of God and mindset of the church in Acts? It would truly be an unstoppable force.
In one of the last chapters, Matt writes the following: “May God grant us the ability to speak the good news we have experienced without embarrassment, with boldness, and with simplicity.” It is a statement I have been challenged to begin praying in my own life. I long to see God work in and through my life as He did in the book of Acts. He is the same God today as He was then and is perfectly capable of doing the same thing today that He did in Acts. I pray that I would not lose the wonder of seeing and desiring God to move in my life in the same way He did in the New Testament.
Disclaimer: In accordance with FTC regulations, I received this book from Baker Books in return for a review of the book.