Journey Through Acts.4

by admin on June 30, 2015

Reflections for 14 June 2014
Acts 11:19-30

Let’s review: Jesus Movement after Jesus. Holy Spirit is primary star—Jesus’ ever presence with disciples/followers; apostles, evangelists, martyrs.

Luke: beginning in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria…to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Persecution is impetus behind spreading of The Message.

Cast of characters Disciples re-constituted with Matthias; Peter; John (threat and boldness); early community shared everything (Ananias and Sapphira); Gamaliel; Hellenists complain; deacons appointed; Stephen; persecution; Philip; Saul’s conversion; Cornelius; Gentiles receive Holy Spirit; Peter reports his findings.

11:18 Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.

Text has two parts/divisions: 19-26; 27-30

Vv19-21⇒Focus on the effect of persecution. Community is scattered. Historically those scattered were Greek speaking Jewish Christians who had been led by Hellenists in 6:1. These early disciples bore fruit via preaching and establishing congregations as far as Phoenicia (Lebanon), Cyprus and Antioch.

V20⇒Not “Greeks” but “Hellenists” people who used Greek language and customs be they Christians. Jews, pagans. Contrasted with “Jews” in v19, Hellenists were pagans. Upshot Antioch was racially diverse urban center. It was 3rd largest city of Empire, next to Rome and Alexandria. 500,000 people. Seleucid capital; then Roman government seat. From Pompey on the Romans lavished public buildings. Here Mark Antony married Cleopatra.

V21⇒ Hand of the Lord Old Testament expression = Holy Spirit. Disciples bore witness to Jesus through preaching; God bears witness through signs and wonders. Luke wants to emphasize that Jesus movement continuation of Old Testament prophetic traditions. Holy Spirit not a new innovation of Jesus people.

V22⇒ News of this “non-authorized” congregation in Antioch reaches back to Jerusalem. That church began to assert its authority in leadership and supervision. They send Barnabas, a Levite, who was introduced into the story back in 4:36-37.

Vv23-24⇒ He was full of Holy Spirit—like Stephen. Good manused only here in Acts. As a Levite he was well acquainted with purity. What Barnabas saw in Antioch was not supposed religious anarchy, but grace of God at work. And he was glad. Greek play on words: Charis and echare.

Barnabas as Son of exhortation (4:36) exhorted Antioch community to remain faithful not to rules, regulations, dietary laws and cultic practices, but to the Lord.

Luke’s narrative presupposes no problems in Antioch between Jewish and Gentiles believers. Barnabas not only approved but actively promoted work in Antioch. The mission here implemented the principle of v18b to the Gentiles God had granted repentance unto life.

Vv25-26⇒ Barnabas invites Saul. He heads for Tarsus, Paul’s home territory. Together they return to Antioch and teach for a whole year. Teach what? Evangelism and Discipleship.

First called Christians Christ no longer title (Messiah) but proper name. Ending “—ian” in Latin and Greek = supporter of _____. In this case: supporter of Christ. “were called” = not a self-designation, but perhaps a nickname, like: Christ’s lackeys. In Acts it is never used by a believer, but it was accepted as a sort of badge of honor. Upshot distinct group either in or apart of synagogue.

Vv27-30⇒ Jesus movement prophetic from get-go. Historically speaking famine was 46-48 AD. Upshot Antioch as satellite of mother Church comes to her aid. “Elders” used first time in Acts here. This anticipates change in leadership. In Acts 15 apostles and elders co-exist; by 21:17 only the elders are mentioned.

• Amazing indeed that Jesus movement which began in rural Galilee and remained rural movement all during Jesus life was able to establish itself in the cosmopolitan setting within a decade of beginning. In urban setting of Antioch that mixed community of Jewish and Gentile Christians came into being which engaged in aggressive mission to Gentiles.

What might be implications for today? The early Church Growth movement of late 20th century being with single purpose of growth: work with homogeneous group. Antioch seems to challenge all that.

• Historical difficulties with Luke’s version of Judean famine.
—no worldwide famine in Claudius reign.
—Famine in Palestine in 46-48 AD.
—Paul recollection in Galatians counters this.

Perhaps the historical “facts” are not as important as the principle that emerges and becomes the fabric of Christian discipleship and community life Spirituality is inseparable from social solidarity. Cf. 2 Cor 8.

• Repentance is highlighted. Genuine repentance is accomplished but a change in one’s relationship with one’s own goods as well as generosity to the poor. No welfare system in place. Recall pagan Romans assessment of early Christians. Implications for today? How can church be the model and teacher of a spirituality of generosity and philanthropy?

• Spirit vs structure. Barnabas and Paul will push the envelope during their ministry into Asia Minor. Acts constantly calls to mind what is the true mission of the church? How does a community organize itself around this idea?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: