Monday, April 09, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #5 (13-15)

Larkin ActsThis post continues my reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Chapter 13 begins Luke's account of the taking of the gospel throughout the Roman world. Again, it begins with the Spirit's express command to the Antioch church to send out Paul and Barnabas. It concludes a few years later with Paul in Rome and churches planted throughout the Roman empire.. 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.

The Antioch church becomes the base for next step of the Great Commission: the spread of the church to the whole Roman empire. God's call to Paul and Barnabas is communicated by the Spirit to the Antioch church and they send them out to begin the task. Just like in Judea and Samaria, they see tremendous response to the gospel as some Jews and many Gentiles respond in faith, but they also encounter strident opposition and persecution. In Cyprus they receive opposition from the occult. In Pisidian Antioch they get it from the established religion of the Jewish synagogue. Both are overcome by bold scriptural teaching and God's miraculous power. God is accomplishing what He told Paul that he would do when he met him on the Damascus Road.

Antioch, then, becomes a model for the missionary vision and missionary deployment of every church. A church that embodies cultural diversity and has spiritually gifted, sensitive and obedient leaders will release into Christ’s service those so called, earnestly interceding for them and standing in solidarity with them. With more than half the world’s population yet to hear the gospel for the first time, our Lord needs many more Antiochs. Acts 13.1-3

Luke is careful to let us know the necessary interdependence of gospel word and mighty act. He says Sergius Paulus believed, for he was amazed (literally, “struck out of his senses”), not at the miracle but at the teaching about the Lord. With this last little phrase Luke informs us about the proper role of miracle in evangelistic witness. Acts 13.4-12

If we would receive the divinely intended spiritual good from the Old Testament, we must fix our eyes firmly on the fulfillment, Jesus Christ, and ask of each passage of promise, What does it teach us of Christ? What can we learn about the salvation that is appointed for the last day? Acts 13.13-52

Chapter 14 continues the story of the 1st missionary journey highlighting the work in Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. In Iconium the work begins with several miracles followed by proclamation of the gospel. This raised up severe persecution from the Jewish leadership which forced the mission team to move to Lystra. In Lystra Paul heals a lame man which leads the pagan population to believe that Paul and Barnabas were gods and they attempted to sacrifice to them. Paul tries to focus the crowd back on to Jesus, but the mob takes Paul outside the city, stones him and leaves him for dead. Paul is raised and continues to teach in the city. After moving on to Derbe and preaching there the 1st missionary journey concludes with a repeat visit to each of the cities to strengthen faith and appoint leaders. In all these situations the gospel spreads through signs and wonders, bold proclamation of the gospel and the persecution endured by the apostles without compromise or retaliation. 

While Luke gives no evidence that miraculous gifts will necessarily cease with the close of the apostolic age, he does not present them as essential to the church’s advance. When miraculous deeds and gospel proclamation occur together, proclamation is primary...Proclamation—the proper interpretation—is needed to declare the source and purpose of miraculous deeds. What miraculous deeds do accomplish is to manifest the divine power of God’s Word and to authorize the preacher. Acts 14.1-20

An evangelist or church planter who does not make provision for discipleship is like a farmer who harvests well only to see the crop spoil because it is not properly stored. Acts 14:21-28

After the first missionary journey a controversy arises within the church about whether Gentiles must become Jewish proselytes in order to receive salvation. Peter and Paul argue that God's giving of the Spirit to Gentiles based only on a faith response and baptism means that nothing else needs to be added. James adds the biblical basis for this. The church leaders agree that Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to be part of the church. The church is to be ethnically diverse, but unified around devotion to the person of Christ and accomplishing the mission of making disciples of all nations.

James has replaced a proselyte model of Gentile salvation with an eschatological/christocentric one. The Lord has chosen to place his name on Gentiles as Gentiles, without requiring that they surrender their ethnic identity...Christians’ new identity in Christ both supersedes and allows room for their cultural identity. Christians are saved from the error of prejudicial ethnocentrism. What a liberation, to respect and appreciate differences, not using them as weapons of prejudice but at the same time not being imprisoned by them! Acts 15.1-29

James’s proposal, then, teaches us three things about life together in a culturally diverse church. We must say no to any form of cultural imperialism that demands others’ conformity to our cultural standards before we will accept them and their spiritual experience. We must say yes to mutual respect for our differences. And we must live out that respect even to the extent of using our freedom to forgo what is permissible in other circumstances. Acts 15.30-35

No comments: