Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Interesting Thoughts From Acts

As I've been reading through Acts this go-round, I've noticed some interesting things I thought I'd share with you all:

I began looking carefully at biblical characters and how they are first mentioned. Look at some of these descriptions, all from chapter 16:

  • "A disciple" - Timothy
  • "a worshiper of God" - Lydia
  • "a slave girl with the spirit of divination" - was later freed from that spirit
  • "the jailer... was about to kill himself" - he and all his household were saved
Just interesting the way different people are described... it makes me wonder how I would be described.... what would be the first thing someone said about me, or would I be mentioned at all?

Paul and Silas and other apostles at that time have some interesting phrases that others use to describe what they were doing (evangelizing the known world). Check these out:
  • "These men have turned the world upside down" -17:6
  • "You bring some strange things to our ears" -17:20
  • "This Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods." -19:26
  • "This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere" -21:28
Again, I wonder what would be said of me.

Women play a prominent role in Acts. In nearly every city or location of Paul's journey, women have some part to play in his work and ministry. This book makes a point to highlight not only the men who became believers, but also the women who follow "the Way."
  • "On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate... and sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, ... who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized and her household as well," she urged them to stay in her home. (16:13-15)
  • "Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women." -17:4
  • "Some men joined him and believed, among whom [was]... a woman named Damaris." -17:34
  • Priscilla is mentioned, along with her husband Aquila, as Paul worked alongside this couple in ministry together. She not only works with her husband, but we find her explaining the Scriptures to Apollos because he didn't understand accurately about God. (Chap 18)
  • In the beginning of Chapter 21, we see that wives and children are accompanying the men to the coast to send off Paul. They have such a connection to Paul, after only seven days, that they too (and not just the men) are included in his bon voyage "seeing off".
This kind of inclusion of women in the evangelism plan (16:13-15), ministry (17:4, 24), discipleship (18), and lives (21) of the followers of Christ is not only interesting- it is REVOLUTIONARY. No other 'religion' included women in this way from the beginning. Christianity has, from the beginning, respected and sought out the inclusion of women in evangelism, worship, and discipleship. And in this time period in particular, including women in the very fabric of faith was radical.

This lends even more credibility to the belief that Luke wrote Acts, because in his own gospel, Luke mentions and includes women more than in the other gospels. The book of Acts has women woven throughout.

One more thought... as far as I can tell, women are never included in the descriptions of people who participate and call for the persecution of the apostles. But women are consistently included as persons who minister to the apostles' needs and who hear and receive the words of truth.

One other thing I noticed in this read-through of Acts is that there is not only one clear response of faith. Nearly every time belief is mentioned, an outcome is given, but those outcomes are not always the same. Here are some examples:
  • Chapter 16: Lydia's response of faith is to open up her home to the apostles
  • The jailer's response is to minister to the apostles by washing their wounds and feed them
  • Chapter 17: The Thessalonians who came to faith are generally regarded as having learned their lessons well, as the 2 letters to the Thessalonians are not written to clear up many doctrinal issues, as much as they are to continue teaching deeper things to the Thessalonian believers. These believers only had Paul with them for three Sundays, and yet they seem to have been well discipled during those three weeks.
  • We aren't told of the outcomes of the faith of the Bereans or the people who heard Paul in the Areopagus
  • Chapter 18: The Corinthians had Paul with them for a year and a half, and yet (in stark contrast to the Thessalonians) the letters written to them are written to clear up doctrinal misconceptions, to correct believers who have erred, and to exhort them towards love and forgiveness towards one another. This was a church in crisis after coming to faith.
  • In chapter 19, the people of Ephesus who had believed began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
  • Many Ephesians who had become believers came, "confessing and divulging their practices. A number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all." These followers had a radical awareness of the seriousness of their sin, and they not only confessed their sin- they took steps to ensure that they would not return to their sin!
Just some interesting (to me, at least) observations about this incredible book of the Bible that gives such a rich picture of the beginnings of the Church and the early days of Christian faith.


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