Monday, April 23, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #7 (18.23-21.16)

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..18.23-21.16 record Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. Most of this journey is spent in the strategic city of Ephesus and also includes Paul’s follow-up on the work of previous missionary journeys. Paul did not seem to draw a great distinction in his work between preaching and teaching or evangelism and discipleship. Each of these were always part of what he was doing wherever he was.   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.

Luke recounts Paul's 3rd missionary journey in 18.23-21.16. Though the journey begins with Paul revisiting the churches planted previously, this journey focuses on Paul's work in Ephesus. Paul's work includes bold preaching, extended times of teaching (2 years in Ephesus), powerful miracles that confronted occultic Gentile magic and syncretistic Jewish magic, and, as always steadfastness in the face of persecution and suffering. Paul's work produced a powerful response, positively, of repentance and changed lives and, negatively, of public resistance and opposition. We see Paul work through all of these as he listens to the Spirit and moves forward in his vision to take the gospel to Rome.

Today the temptation is still present to syncretize a newfound faith with pre-Christian ways of using “power” to cope with life. Whether it be worship and manipulation of the new power levers of secularization—money, education, science, technology—or the traditional practices of occult magic in their time-honored or New Age form, those who live under Jesus’ lordship must sooner or later come to terms with any compromise in these matters and follow the Ephesian Christians’ example of making a clean break with their “power” past. Acts 18.23-19.22

Demetrius’s appeal to economic, patriotic and religious motives for a defense of paganism against the gospel shows how interrelated are these cultural aspects. Any Christianity worth its salt will be a challenge to the pocketbook, the flag and the shrine. Acts 19.23-41

What principles for Christian worship is Luke teaching us through this narrative? The first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, is when Christians should consistently gather for worship. The sermon, the exposition and application of the Word of God, is an integral part of worship. The Lord’s Supper, the “visible Word,” is just as important as a means of spiritually strengthening the church gathered. Acts 20.1-12

The 3rd missionary journey ends with Paul's calling to return to Jerusalem. On the way he stops at Ephesus to give one last charge to the leaders of that church. Paul urges them to follow the model he gave them of self-sacrificing, spirit-led and empowered, relational ministry. He warned them to guard their congregations from those who would use ministry personal gain or bring in false doctrines of legalism and syncretism. On the way to Jerusalem Paul also meets and fellowships with groups of believers in Caesarea and Tyre. Everywhere he goes he is warned of severe persecution coming in Jerusalem, but stays true to his calling to go there. Paul provides an excellent example of the commitment, humility and willingness to endure required of anyone who would be a minister of the gospel.

For Luke, orthopraxy—in this case the messenger’s character and manner of ministry—is just as important as orthodoxy, the message. One effectively says goodby by reminding those left behind of a model life lived before them. Acts 20.18-38

The fellowship Paul enjoys at many stops on his journey illustrates Barclay’s maxim “The man who is in the family of the Church has friends all over the world.” For Paul “the church has become a countercultural, global network of communities caring for their own subversive missionaries who are now traveling to and fro throughout the Empire.” Acts 21.1-16

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