I began Sunday’s sermon discussing perspective. Perspective is the point of view, an attitude or a way of regarding something. I believe we must have a balanced perspective when we approach the bible and especially the book of Acts. If you are not aware of them there are some wild arguments about the nature of the book of Acts. There are those who would argue that the book of Acts is only prescriptive, that it is giving us instructions as to what we (the church) should do. Others will say that it is descriptive, meaning It is telling us only what God did in that day and time, but it is not prescriptive.”
The stance I take is that it is both, and to argue any other way, I think, becomes foolish and a platform for poor practices in the church. As you read, there will be parts of the book of Acts you can clearly see are prescriptive. There are things the Lord wants us to take from this and apply to our lives. And there will clearly be parts of the book of Acts that are simply letting you know what happened. When reading Acts (and really all the Bible), it is important to ask this question: Is what I am reading telling me how I should live, or is it explaining or describing what is going on in the text? Also be patient and read the narrative as a whole. If you read and isolate one section or event, then prescribe certain conclusions you may read another very similar event that may lead you to different conclusions. For instance, when it comes to conversions several details conflict: while the gift of the Spirit and baptism accompany it, their order can be reversed; it can happen with or without the laying on of hands; it occurs with or without tongues.
Luke is the writer of Acts. It's part two of a story he wrote to a man named Theophilus. What then is Luke’s intent? Is he prescribing or describing. Well, both, but not in a way you might think: "much of Acts is intended by Luke to serve as a model. But the model is not so much in the specifics as in the overall picture." Read Acts in its entirety before you begin to draw out what is prescriptive and descriptive.
Here are a few things to consider to help guide you:
Pray for wisdom. Ask the Lord to reveal to you the truth of His Word.
Remember that all Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is beneficial to us (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Consider the context. Is the surrounding text as a whole trying to relate a history or give an instruction? Is it addressing a unique situation or expounding a general principle?
If the text appears to be prescriptive, are there any other texts in the Scriptures that back up the command, or is this the only place in Scripture where this idea is found? Let Scripture interpret Scripture.
If the text appears to be descriptive, what are the general prescriptive truths that can be drawn from it?