Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Some Acts 14 Nuggets

There are several nuggets in the last part of Acts 14. For example, 14:17 mentions God’s kindness to all humanity, something John Calvin called God’s “common grace.” God “has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Many Christians will no doubt identify with Acts 14:22: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Thankfully, we will not all face the level of persecution that Paul did. Nevertheless, it is not always easy to make it through this world making the choices God wants us to make. The wrong decisions are often easy decisions in the moment, although not in the long run. Paul’s words here in Acts are a reminder to keep going every time we face another obstacle.

Finally, a side comment in Acts 14:23 gives us confirmation of how much of the earliest church might have been structured. Paul and Barnabas appoint “elders” in every city. Acts seems to be telling us that the church or churches in a city were led by a group of older and wiser individuals. Acts gives us no mention of a single, head leader in each city or even in each house church. From Titus 1:5-7, we see that the word elder and overseer (episkopos, later translated as “bishop”) referred to the same role in the churches of a city.

This leading of the churches in a city by a council of elders follows the Sanhedrin model in Jerusalem. Perhaps also like the Sanhedrin, there were leaders of these groups of elders, although they are not mentioned here. Perhaps as a tip to Paul’s theology, Acts mentions that these elders had placed their faith in the Lord.

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