Journey Through Acts.5

by admin on June 30, 2015

Reflections for21 June 2015
Acts 13:1-3; 44-52

So what do we know so far? Barnabas teams up with Saul; Holy Spirit works independently to what and how people think; astounding results happen—more and more come to faith; at Antioch an entirely new species of human organization is born: racially diverse philanthropic mission minded group.

Today a new adventure of the Holy Spirit emerges from the first interracial church. What a timely topic given the heartbreak in Charleston. Prior to this it was itinerant preachers /evangelists fanning out from Jerusalem as persecution broke out. Today we have the first instance of a worship community sending our leaders and calling then “apostles.” (14:4)

This missionary journey recorded in chapter 13 will go to Asia Minor—Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Quick review: sermons preached, miracle happen, riots ensue, and disciples won, success and crisis. Sets the stage for the church convention in Acts 15.

Vv1-3⇒ Commission of Saul and Barnabas. Remembers: Antioch is cosmopolitan urban center. The congregation there reflects that fact—remarkable diversity of people named.

Prophet interpreted the purpose of God and the will of the exalted Lord in the context of particular situations and questions.

Teacher gave inspired interpretation of Scripture; transmitted and interpreted the Tradition.

Cast of characters: Barnabas we know; Symeon Niger. Is he Simon of Cyrene, the father of Rufus and Alexander in Mark 15:21? Romans 16:13 Greet Rufus eminent in the Lord and his mother.

Manaen is Menachem: he was a member of Herod’s court. Big shot. Then bringing up the rear is Saul. Note that he is last on the list, perhaps an afterthought. It makes Barnabas the leader.

V2⇒ Set apart for me—decision for further mission has already been made by God and now the community has to concur with it. Church doesn’t act without prophetic direction; but that directive would have been mere words without the community implementation. Fasting and praying are two basic postures of the church’s sensitivity to the will of the Holy Spirit. There must have been a significant time lapse.

V3⇒ Laid hands and sent them off. Now these two become apostles. Now for the first time a congregation inspired by the Holy Spirit sends out its own delegates. Mission is to Cyprus and Antioch Pisidia.

Vv44-52⇒ Conclusion to that mission trip.
44—A—Whole city gathers together
45—B—three fold reaction of unbelieving Jews: jealousy, contradiction, reviling.
46-47—C—Response of Barnabas and Saul: Word to Jews first; their rejection = Gentiles hear; framed in terms of “God commands light to Gentiles.”
48—D—Two fold result: Gentiles glad; those ordained to eternal life believed.
49—A—Word spreads to surrounding territory.
50—B—three fold reaction of unbelieving Jews: incite riot; stir up persecution; kick out B /P
51—C—Response of B/P
52—D—two fold result: disciples filled with joy and Holy Spirit.

Vv44-45⇒Now all of a sudden there is an influx of Gentles. = end of religious status quo. Objection to the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection as fulfillment of promise to David and resultant consequences that everyone receive the forgiveness of sin through Jesus and becomes a member of God’s people.

Vv46-47⇒ By own decision the Jewish congregation excludes itself—and by extension, themselves as a whole. This same pattern happens in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome. But more than Jewish rejection, Gentile mission is grounded in Christ’s command: I have set you to be alight. C.f. Luke 2:32. This is an act of obedience to God.

Vv48-52⇒ Reactions of Gentiles, Jews, missionaries and disciples. Eternal life = effect of Christ’s resurrection on believers. Note the paradox: Faith = existential decision, so is unbelief. Faith = gift and election of God. Upshot—we cannot say we come to faith because of our spiritual high achievement. Now there is suffering. Shaking off the dust= opposition is abandoned to the judgment of God. C.f. Luke 9:5, 10-11.

1. A growing and expanding idea of apostle. First thought: modeled after 12 disciples of Jesus. They present Christ’s claim on all Israel and are connected to Jerusalem. Pentecost in Acts 2 makes disciples Apostles. At Antioch (last week’s discussion) Apostles expanded to mean Holy Spirit filled missionaries, commissioned by Holy Spirit through church at worship to proclaim the Message to those how had not heard it.

For Luke Apostles = the 12 who would guarantee the identity of the resurrected Christ with the earthly Jesus and therefore represent the tradition concerning his word/deeds. (Acts 1:21-26). Now Luke is also aware that some people regarded Saul/Paul as an apostle—namely himself—so he appropriates that usage. Apostles are people sent out with a mission. Think of Robert Duvall movie of same name. Apostles preach, teach, persuade, engage, and face reactions: positive and hostile, suffer externally and internally, keep eye on prize, many times reach martyrdom.
What is your apostolic mission?

2. Setting apart. Corroborating God’s decision making. How does this happen? Fasting and prayer, assuming that whole community does this not just one or two individuals. Why? So that one single voice will not prevail. Experience tells me that the shrillest and authoritative voice of spiritual high achievers is likely to prevail if the whole community is not focused on prayer and fasting. These are the two basic postures of discerning God’s will. NB—this is not a time sensitive issue. It takes time. One way of decision making is precluded: majority voting.

Alongside this is the ritual of laying on of hands. Not ordination but commissioning. A sort of physical act of laying good will, hope and blessing onto another. The one getting the head laid upon takes a risk of not getting hit in the head. There is an underpinning of trust. And the one doing the laying on of hand, there is the passing of authority and approval, not of the person only but of the greater mission.

3. Paradox of faith. Existential decision to believe or not. Faith as gift. You know how these two positions have been held in opposition to each other, particularly since the protestant Reformation on the 16trh century. Is it possible for them to be held in tension and seen as two side of same coin? The father of the boy with seizures says to Jesus: Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief. (Mark 9:24) How is faith/belief, trust a gift? How is it an existential decision/process?


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