I am beginning a series of blog posts on Acts of the Apostles. They will be a series of reflections as I seek to draw some lessons from the biblical text and apply them to the contemporary ‘mission scene.’ You may agree with the points I make – but equally you may want to question some of the things I write. This is healthy and I welcome your comments and feedback.
Other better scholars will (no doubt) offer different perspectives, but I am approaching the text primarily as a missiological narrative rather than as doctrinal or historical accounts. Acts is an account of the spread and growth of the early church, from ‘Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). There are four main actors throughout the text: Jesus (1:1) and the Holy Spirit (1:8), the ‘Word of God’ and the Christian community. Off stage – in the wings directing everything – is the Father. The director and actors work in collaboration throughout the text as the story unfolds.
For us as twenty-first century followers of Jesus I suggest the key learning point is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and ourselves. We need to find ways to deepen our partnership with the Holy Spirit and to act in collaboration with the Spirit. Over the coming months these blog posts will explore this relationship and together we will become better equipped to discern what ‘seems good to us and the Holy Spirit’ (15:28).
BUT there are caveats. This ‘arriving at consensus with the Holy Spirit’ is not a form of democracy guided only by human reason and argument. Of course, debate is part of the process, but – as we will see – so is silence, prayer, worship, fasting, studying God’s word, as well as direct interventions from the Spirit. There is no ‘one size fits all.’ Different occasions within Acts illustrate the various ways in which God guided the disciples which suggests that there is not a simple model of church structure that we should naively seek to replicate. Expressions of church varied in Acts and have done throughout the last two thousand years. But the values of the Kingdom of God as taught by Jesus and applied by the apostles do still stand.
It is those values that we need to translate in our post-modern contexts.
One final point before directly exploring the text. Acts reveals a group of people who were made to feel extremely uncomfortable. The disciples were challenged and changed on an ongoing basis: Pentecost is the start of a process, not the end goal. Much of Acts (and the epistles) is focused upon the crossing of cultural and ethnic boundaries, primarily seen in the tensions between the first Jewish followers of Jesus and the inclusion of Gentiles into the church. This was deeply troubling to the early church as it remains to us today.
The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.