Journey Through Acts.6

by admin on June 30, 2015

Reflections for 28 June 2015
Acts 15:1-21

Apostles’ conference. This is the center of Acts. Most important decision of early church. All major persons and groups represented Peter/James; Paul/Barnabas; apostles/elders; Antioch/Jerusalem. Here also are the champions of the necessity of circumcision.

Acts 15 looks back and forward. Reaffirms gradual movement of witness from Jerusalem and affirms Pauline mission.

Great issues that had to be confronted. What does it mean to be the people of God in light of Easter and HS presence? What is the meaning of circumcision and Gentles? How do Jews and Gentiles relate? While Peter’s admission of Gentiles (Acts 10) is Ok’d; issue of actually eating with them is unsettled. How do you deal with ritually unclean people? Problem is pressed at the Eucharistic table. (c.f. Gal 2:1-10)

Gentile conversion is joy for church in Samaria, but not so much in Jerusalem.

WHAT?
V1⇒ Glowing report buzz killed by Judean Christians. These men—not necessarily planted by Jerusalem—reject the P/B mission and Gentile salvation.

V2⇒ No small dissension. P/B sent for clarification. Through delegate Barnabas the mother church had officially sanctioned Antioch.

V3⇒ Antioch delegation on way to Jerusalem and found agreement for its position. Dispute at Antioch not just a local problem.

V4⇒ Sent to Jerusalem with willingness to listen and demand mother church to clarify its position. They tell the story of what God had done on the journey and in the interracial church. Upshot circumcision not necessary.

V5⇒ dei used!! They didn’t object to the preaching to Gentiles. This was in accord with Abraham promise=circumcision. Blessing of Messiah cannot be applied without it. Where did God change his mind? Isn’t Antioch offering cheap grace? Wouldn’t Most Jewish Christians be defiled every time they come into contact with Gentiles at Eucharist?
(NB—Gentile reaction as anti-Jewish comes from this)

Vv6-7⇒ Second meeting. Antioch reiterates position.

Vv7b-12⇒ Peter’s speech. Torah is not ground of salvation. There is bare retelling of Cornelius. God is subject of every verb here. These acts of God demonstrate that the absence of circumcision and whole Torah in life of Cornelius did not stop God from granting salvation.

V10⇒ Conclusion. Rhetorical question. Our fathers had all that and still were not saved. It is false to argue otherwise.

V11⇒ Creedal faith of the one true church: Jew and Gentile together. Cornelius is legitimization of Gentile mission without circumcision and Torah. Holy Spirit = gift of purity of heart. Circumcision and Torah = adiaphora.

V10⇒ Why put God to the test? More requirements would be contradiction and modification of God’s will to grant salvation to Gentiles. God’s will clearly demonstrated in the conversion of Gentiles. “Yoke” is positive metaphor (Matthew 11:29) = obligation to be fulfilled. Law not burden but it is unable to be fulfilled perfectly.

V11⇒ Second conclusion. Climax of Peter’s speech. C.f Gal 3:28—no Jew nor Greek.
Everyone’s salvation dependent on the grace of the Lord Jesus. Gentiles become the paradigm of salvation receivers!! In Luke-Acts salvation forgiveness of sins, Holy Spirit, death, resurrection.

V12⇒Peter silences opposition. He refuted circumcision and Torah but the social aspect remain.
P/B give report. Paul is sort of short-shrifted here. James will reference Peter’s speech later. The report is the advancement of salvation.

Vv13-21⇒ James’ speech. High point of chapter and perhaps that of Acts altogether. It articulates the conference decision. Two questions considered: How are Gentile Christians saved? Do we have to eat with them?

V14⇒ James gives his final answer. Citation of Amos agrees with Gentile mission and Peter’s experience. Re: Torah Gentiles need to observe the Law that applies. No need to become proselyte; but obeying applicable law is necessary.

Vv13-15⇒ James = authority. Out of the Gentiles (ethnoi) come the people (laos) of God. This is eschatological deed. Luke’s method is to expand and unfold. Earlier themes deepen step by step; episode by episode. Hermeneutical keys event and experience of Cornelius as new act of God = grants new insight into Scripture.

Vv16-18⇒ Amos 9:11-12. Originally this text expressed hope for restoration of David Kingdom. Qumran used it as foundation for its belief in Messiah who will interpret LAW TO SAVE Israel. James regards the turning of Gentiles to God as its fulfillment. So far—James believing Gentiles part of the people of God. Promise through Amos being fulfilled. Upshot NO separate but equal.

V19⇒ James definitive judgment. Neither in Cornelius conversion not Amos promise does God require Gentiles to become Jews to be part of the one true people of God.

V20⇒ Second decision. Variant of MSS. Upshot three moral rules: abstain from idolatry, fornication, murder. These are three cardinal sins of Gentiles in Jew’s minds. Idol pollution = food sacrificed to idols. Questions meat mkt practices. Best to buy at kosher butcher or be vegan. Unchaste = ritual/cultic. General sexual license of Greek world. Strangled = not kosher.

V21⇒ Neither Law nor Prophets are invalidated (Luke 16:17) but both must be rightly interpreted.

SO WHAT?
• Separate but equal.
• Four injunctions = Christian ethos. There is no soteriological function but establishment of norms which believers live and associate and express unity.
• Eucharist as radical revolutionary act.

NOW WHAT?

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