Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #1 (Intro, 1-2)

Larkin ActsAs we continue reading through the New Testament this year, we begin our reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke and completes the story of what Jesus "began to do" in the incarnation by sending His Spirit to the church to complete his plan to preach "the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations." (Luke 24:47) I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Acts, the church begins with 120 disciples in Jerusalem and ends with Jesus communities planted and trained throughout most of the Roman empire. The message of Jesus Christ, empowered by his Spirit and lived out through his people, becomes an unstoppable force, despite opposition, to accomplish God's plan for these last days.

The twentieth century’s crimes against humanity and the future prospect of doom—whether by limited or not-so-limited nuclear war or by environmental pollution—has turned many postmodern persons into cynical pessimists. The postmodern does not think it’s possible to make sense out of history. But Acts has good news. God is at work in history. He brought his salvation near in Jesus Christ. Now in preparation for his return, he continues to do his work through the church, bringing the saving message to people to the ends of the earth. Acts Introduction,

With this stance the scope of the gospel message’s audience, “all nations,” Jew and Gentile alike, is affirmed, and the dynamic of the mission—“witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)—continues until the King returns. By the time Theophilus reached Acts 28:31, he must surely have known that the gospel message is true and that it was indeed for him and his compatriots (Lk 1:1–4). That same sure knowledge should be ours as well. Acts Introduction

Acts 1 records the preparation of the church before the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. The ascension of Jesus completes his work on earth and is necessary so that he can distribute the Spirit. Though the disciples thought he would immediately establish the final kingdom, he tells them they must wait for the Father's timing. In the meantime, their role would be to be witnesses of what Jesus had done throughout the entire world. The task of the church would be to spread the message of Jesus worldwide and make new disciples from all the peoples of the earth. The group that had been with Jesus throughout his entire ministry would be the base group from which all the church would grow. It was thus necessary to replace Judas as the 12th apostle. With Matthias chosen the church was ready to do its task to take the good news of Jesus to the Jewish nation and then to all the world.

The fact that the Great Commission is the last instruction of the risen, now ascended and imminently returning Lord gives it great weight. He is not mentioning an optional ministry activity for individuals with crosscultural interests and churches with surplus funds. The Great Commission is the primary task the Lord left his church. The church must always be a missionary church; the Christian must always be a world Christian. Acts 1.1-11

Luke concludes by noting that the full complement of the twelve apostles has been restored. By principle, Matthias’s election teaches us that restoration of integrity within the body of Christ is essential to preparation for revival. Wherever sin has created a breach and compromised the church’s integrity, discipline, repentance and restoration must be pursued. Acts 1:15-26

Just as Jesus promised, the present age of the kingdom was inaugurated with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit comes with all the Old Testament picture of a theophany, a manifestation of God's presence. However, now the flame of fire is not a pillar, but tongues divided and resting upon each person, symbolizing the presence of God now residing in individuals instead of a temple structure. Also the Spirit is given to all without regard for social divisions. All (male-female, slave-free, old-young etc.) can live in God's presence and minister to bring others into his presence. Pentecost also undoes the confusion of languages at Babel as everyone can hear the good news in their own language. God will now retake rule over and redeem all the nations as intended in creation.

Peter's sermon focuses on the disciples' witness of the gospel events: the resurrection, ascension and the giving of the Spirit by Jesus. The gospel is the good news that Jesus is Lord as attested by these events. 

Chiastic Outline of Peter's Pentecost Sermon Acts 2.14-47

  • 1. Explanation of Pentecost 14-21
    • 2. Presentation of the Gospel and the Need for it 22-24
      • 3. Quote of Scriptural Proof of Jesus Resurrection from Psalm 16 25-28
        • 4. Scriptural Interpretation of Psalm 16 29-31
  • 5. Gospel Witness: We are witnesses of Jesus' resurrection, ascension and giving of the Spirit! 32-33
        • 4' Scriptural Interpretation of Psalm 101, 34
      • 3' Quote of Scriptural Proof from Psalm 101 34-35
    • 2' Presentation of the Proper Response to Gospel 36-39
  • 1' Response to the Gospel and Results of the Pentecost Event: Establishment of the Church 40-47

Peter emphasizes the need to respond to the gospel with repentance (trusting Jesus and no longer rejecting him) and identification with his people and community. This is exactly what happens as 3000 confess sin and show their allegiance (in what would be a hostile environment) by being baptized. The church is then established with its 4-fold mission of corporate worship, fellowship, care for one another and devotion to learning the teaching of the apostles. The early church was committed to spending time with one another in the presence of God in the power of the Spirit.

This multilingual witness coheres with the universal offer of salvation in the church’s message and its consequent worldwide mission. It also highlights the church’s multicultural character. God affirms people as cultural beings. As many a Bible translator knows, our native language and culture is natural, necessary and welcome to us as the air we breathe. Acts 2.1-13

Peter calls his listeners to know for certain that God has openly avowed Jesus to be Lord and Messiah. Jesus may now rightfully be declared Messiah, since he has done Messiah’s saving work and has been vindicated by God, who raised him from the dead. He may properly be proclaimed Lord in the highest sense of the word, as the respectful designation of the unpronounceable name of God (YHWH). For by his resurrection-exaltation he has demonstrated that he is the ever-living and life-giving God, whom death cannot hold and who pours out the Spirit. Acts 2.14-41

God’s plan is for churches to grow. The challenge for us is, “Will we meet the Scriptural conditions for growth: a dedication to be a learning, caring, fellowshipping, worshipping church?” Will we meet the one essential condition? “As empowering follows petition, so evangelism and Christian unity or community follow Pentecost. The empowering, moreover, is repeatable. So pray!” Acts 2:42-47

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