The Seine River running through Paris

The Seine River running through Paris

Monday, November 13, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Nov 14. Act 4-6

Today's readings are Act 4-6.

Act 4 reveals the anger of the Sadducees at the preaching of the resurrection of Christ. The Sadducees were the dominant political authority on the Sanhedrin and did not believe in resurrection.  As a result, the very first public preaching of the gospel lands the disciples, now apostles (messengers), in trouble with the authorities. This is a harbinger of what is to come and a fulfillment of prophecy (Mt 13:13, John 15). This is also an example of how the world reacts to the gospel. Not only is Christ and the good news rejected, but there are times when persecution and violence will occur. The end result of the arrest and beatings is greater resolve and unity among the apostles.

In Acts 5, unity is clearly on display as the new church practices life as the "body of Christ." They eat together, share their possessions with each other, and the members are pooling their resources. The tragic tale of Ananias and Sapphira is told within the context of the very first example of giving we see in the new church. The lesson is not one of punishment for not giving, but one of punishment for lying about what is given and withholding from God. Ananias and Sapphira were not only guilty of lying, but of not trusting God in their giving. Their penalty may seem harsh to some, but negative perceptions about how they were treated may reveal more about some who have a far too casual approach to God and His holiness rather than what they reveal about His judgment.

Again, we see signs and wonders. The whole region is impacted by the ministry of the church. The result is conversions (Acts 5:15). Yet again, the apostles are arrested. This time, they are miraculously freed from prison. They return to the Temple, resume teaching and are arrested again and beaten. Their deliverance from prison demonstrates God's protection for His messengers. The beatings show the suffering believers will undergo for the sake of the gospel. In this, we see that God's eternal security is guaranteed, but believers may suffer while here on earth.

Structure arises in the new church in Acts 6 because of its growth. The Apostles will devote their time to preaching and praying. The congregation chooses seven men to take care of the immediate, temporal needs of the church. Most reputable Bible scholars believe this to be the model for elders and deacons for the church. The church acts as an organic whole. From the top down, all are engaged in the task of the gospel. They are serving each other and serving the community around them at the same time.

One of the deacons, Stephen is performing signs and wonders. Once again, we see miracles met with persecution and lies resulting in his arrest. The world is hostile to the gospel, even in the face of wonders and compassionate service. We should never assume that our mission field will automatically appreciate our efforts to put God on display in how we live and serve. 

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