Monday, June 26, 2017

Paul Novel 4.2: Down to Jerusalem

Continued from last week. Previous chapters now archived
So after a few weeks back in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were ready to go up to Jerusalem to share what God had done in Cyprus and Galatia. They had kept their eyes out for a Gentile convert who was full of the Holy Spirit and who embodied good news for the whole world, not just Jews. It did not take long for them to agree on Titus. In fact they both thought of him independently of each other. They took this fact as a sign that the Holy Spirit was behind the idea.

Titus was a young man, almost eighteen. Paul saw in him not only a good example of what God was doing among the Gentiles, but a potential replacement for John Mark on their next missionary journey. Titus' parents had been God-fearers in the synagogue, and they had believed in Jesus the Christ the very first time they heard about him. [1]

Baptism quickly became the central ritual for a Gentile becoming part of God's people. And so Titus' father had his whole household baptized, including Titus. It was not long before Titus himself had fully embraced his new family in Christ. [2]

It was over a two week journey south to Jerusalem, but by now Paul and Barnabas were well used to such travel. On the other hand, Titus had never been outside the city of Antioch. He was a very serious young man, and very responsible. In just the weeks Paul had known him, he had won Paul's complete confidence.

Peter greeted Barnabas warmly when they arrived. James, the half-brother of Jesus, was a little more formal. John Mark had that hesitancy around Paul that betrayed a little sense of guilt for having talked about someone behind their back...

[1] We do not know the details of Titus' background. It is reasonable to assume that he was a relatively young man. Although he is never mentioned in Acts, he is with Paul and Barnabas in Antioch around the year 49 (See Galatians 2). So either they picked him up in Galatia, perhaps as a replacement for John Mark, or he was a convert from Antioch.

[2] Acts may give us a somewhat idealized picture of the early church, so it is not entirely certain how quickly baptism became a universal practice among Jesus-followers. Paul seems rather casual about it in 1 Corinthians 1:14-16. We can imagine that baptism was very important for Apollos at Corinth, since he was a follower of the teachings of John the Baptist long before he became a Jesus follower (cf. Acts 18:25).

In other words, it is entirely plausible that baptism was a whole lot more central to Apollos' teaching than it was for Paul at this point.

Acts suggests that Gentile converts may have baptized their whole households (cf. Acts 16:15, 34). This is what we would expect in a group culture. As Western individualists, we find it hard to believe that a parent would have made such a decision for a child, but this is exactly what we would expect of the ancient Mediterranean world.

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