Monday, April 16, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #6 (16-18.22)

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..Chapters 16-18 record Paul’s 2nd missionary journey. On this journey Paul and his mission team expand their church planting ministry, based on explicit instructions from the Holy Spirit, into Europe. 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.

Paul's 2nd missionary journey begins in 15.36 and continues to 18.22. Sadly, it begins with a schism between Paul and Barnabas over allowing John Mark to rejoin their team. Barnabas takes John Mark and goes to Cyprus, while Paul adds Silas to his team. In Lystra Paul adds Timothy as well. Paul first revisits the churches he planted and delivers the verdict of the Jerusalem council. Timothy's circumcision can be seen as a response to that decision as it would maintain good relationships with their Jewish audience. Luke emphasizes in this section the Spirit's direct leading in having the team go west into Macedonia rather than east into Asia. Paul connects with people in Philippi through a gathering of Jewish women. Again Luke emphasizes the work of the Spirit in the conversion of Lydia and establishment of the 1st church in Philippi in her house, the exorcism of the girl with the python spirit and the miraculous freeing of Paul from prison. We also can be sure of the Spirit's leading and power to save and change lives as we listen to Him and speak and act boldly for Jesus.

How does God guide his church to the right place for mission? There will be “closed” as well as “open doors.” There will be guidance addressed to individuals as well as to the entire team. There will be guidance via circumstances, sometimes extraordinary, as well as through the use of reason in evaluating circumstances in the light of God’s Word. And specific guidance will come only to those who are already on the road, living out their general obedience to the Great Commission. Acts 16.1-10

The jailer and his household are the quintessential converts. They come to faith through hearing the Word, confess that faith in baptism, experience the eschatological joy of their new vertical relationship, and live out their new life of grace through physical help and hospitality in their horizontal relationships. Acts 16.11.35

This concluding scene yields some valuable principles for guiding Christians in their relations with the state. Paul’s insistence that justice be done encourages Christians to appeal to their legal rights as protection against unjust treatment by non-Christians. The fact that Paul’s request was granted gives us confidence that the state can be reasonable and correct its mistakes. Paul’s innocence of the charges establishes the pattern that Christians are not to be troublemakers; when we do suffer at the hands of state power, it should be as innocent victims of those with questionable motives. Acts 16.35-40

The second missionary journey continues in 17.1-18.22 with visits to Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth with a brief visit to Ephesus before Paul and the missionary team return to their sending church in Antioch. In each of these visits Paul continues his strategy of approaching the synagogue first and making contact through it with the "God-fearers" and then Gentiles. There is a believing response in each place followed by persecution from the Jewish leadership. Each time the persecution drives Paul from one city the gospel message spreads further through the Roman empire. Paul's message in a Jewish context is that their scriptures predict a suffering and resurrected messiah, Jesus life, character and message fit that profile, therefore Jesus is the messiah. In the Gentile context in Athens he connects with their culture, emphasizes the unity of humanity and that there is one God who does not need anything from humans but wants spiritual worship. In both contexts he then emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus as the evidence for the truth of his message and the need for allegiance to Jesus and his message. This will be the basis of God's judgment of humanity. Luke also emphasizes the legality of what they are doing (Gallio's decision), the inevitability of persecution and the need to endure it without reprisal, but also the inevitability of the success of God's kingdom.

To be a believer means having not only noble character that commits itself to the message but also a courageous soul that commits itself to the messenger—and to all who are part of the body of Christ (Acts 16:15, 33–34; 17:4, 7). Acts 17.1-15

The resurrection is, then, the linchpin for both potential ways of applying the death and resurrection of the Christ to one’s eternal destiny. It establishes both the warning of judgment and the promise of salvation blessings...we will be following Paul’s example and spend our energies wisely if we try to help moderns wrestle with the presuppositions that prevent them from even entertaining the possibility of a resurrection, rather than trying to prove its historicity within a modern scientific framework. Acts 17.16-34

Here Paul and we learn that personal desires and divine guidance so interact that all our planning will be implemented only if it is part of God’s sovereign design. This makes us at once more flexible and more confident as we face our future, and more thankful as we reflect on our past. Acts 18.1-22

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