Journey Through Acts.7

by admin on July 8, 2015

Reflections for 5 July 2015
Acts 16:6-34

Up to verse 6 Paul has been following the mission plans originally proposed to and approved by the Jerusalem church—headquarters. Now he is on his own and totally dependent on guidance of the Holy Spirit. His plan for further mission in Asia comes to naught. Now he turns north through Phrygia and Galatia.

While we don’t know how far Paul and Barnabas ventured into Galatian region nor how long we can safely assume that they evangelized, taught and began new communities. All the time Holy Spirit. His plan for further mission in Asia comes to naught. Now he is pushing them westward. Troas was difficult to reach directly.

What is important for Luke are the prohibitions issued by Holy Spirit. His plan for further mission in Asia comes to naught. Now he. Paul’s new venture guided by God (v10), Jesus (v7), Holy Spirit. His plan for further mission in Asia comes to naught. Now he (v6). Divine interventions prevail against intention of missionaries. C.f. Acts 10. These divine prohibitions highlight the positive directive at Troas that points to Europe. Directive to go to Macedonia I not vague but very definite.

NB. In Hellenistic literature visions and revelations through dreams frequently occur before a hero reached an important decision. C.f. Old Testament!! Thus Paul can conclude this decision just isn’t of his own making.

The sea journey moves the narrative into “we.” There are 12 sea journeys in Acts, but only 3 tell it in First person plural to Europe, Jerusalem, and Rome with each new phase in Paul’s activity opens.

16:11-17:15⇒ Paul’s work in Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea. Contact first made in synagogue; difficulties encountered which force missionaries to leave; communities of faith established. Also, individuals whose lives are changed and encounter with Roman legal system. Also—public officials sketched as brutal, incompetent, cowardly bureaucrats foreboding of things to come. In present text there are three people whose lives were radically changed, they are strikingly different one woman who was respectable citizen; slave girl; jailer who asks the prevailing religious question: what must I do to be saved?

Philippi. Settled by Roman veterans after Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius in 42BC. Then Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra and Octavian settled Antony’s soldiers here little Italy in Macedonia. Here was a Roman colony modeled on Rome’s constitution with autonomy and freedom from taxation with magistrates and police.

Vv13-15⇒ River Gangites. Probably no synagogue: needed 10 men! Only women are reported present. God reaches out through words of his faithful servants. Thus faith is personal decision and act of God. Lydia’s house becomes first Christian community in Philippi. This church was Paul’s favorite.

Vv16-18⇒ Slave girl was exploited. She was Pythoness the snake who guarded the oracle at Delphi and killed by Apollo. Her proclamation was rooted in demon possession. Her exorcism in line with Jesus inaugural in Luke 4: release to captives, liberty to oppressed.

V19-24⇒ Instead of acclamation there is acrimony. Accusation is cover up for the real issues—exploitation of a person through quasi-religious commercialism. Typical Roman anti-Semitism also present. Representatives of law and order succumb to mob rule.

When the Gospel impinges on profit motive the Gentiles react in anger. Here and in 19:24-27 they camouflaged their financial interest under the cloak of patriotism and patriotic religion.
Foreign cults were tolerated as long as they didn’t cause civil disturbance or were immoral. Old republican rule of no foreign cults for Roman citizens no longer enforced.

Vv25-34⇒ Prison becomes place of witness. V26: c.f. Peter in chains (Acts 5:19) God’s purpose not thwarted by Roman injustice.

Vv27-30⇒ The real miracle is jailer’s conversion. Calling for lights in ironic Paul was called to be light to Gentiles. Individual salvation is prominent in Acts.

Vv31-34⇒ Lord Jesus, not Paul. Jesus is Lord (1Cor 12:3; Romans 10:9) presupposes resurrection. Jailer comes to faith through preaching of word (hearing), followed by baptism, then help and hospitality. Note the flow chart. Through help and hospitality the brother/sister hood of community becomes visible.

Mealtime is eschatological—foretaste of feast to come. Every mean in Luke-Acts has sacramental overtones.

SO WHAT?
1. Bigger story in operation here than just a travelogue: closed door/open window. What P/B bring to this is a personal religious experience within cosmic frame of redemption that includes the defeat of demonic powers. This is the “help” asked for by the Macedonian man in Paul’s dream.

2. Mission move from “they” to “we”

3. Christianity addresses culture head-on with Lordship of Jesus Christ.

4. Christianity challenges cultural norms: social economic, political, racial, gender

5. Hospitality hallmark of living this out.

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