Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Church Leadership: An Apostle in Town 3

Leadership in the Early Church
1. Leadership Before Christ
Chapter 2: An Apostle in Town
1. In around the year AD50, a believer named Paul arrived in Corinth. Up to this point, the only Christians we know in the city are Priscilla and Aquila. However, it is certainly possible that they had won some others in the synagogue to the understanding that Jesus was the Christ.

In come Paul and Silas. Very shortly, Timothy would also arrive back from Thessalonica. Paul did not evangelize in stealth mode. No doubt he soon took the opportunity during Sabbath worship to speak about Jesus.

Our knowledge of synagogue worship at this time is limited--the destruction of the temple in AD70 probably moved synagogue practice toward some standardization. Nevertheless, from the New Testament we can infer that many Jews did gather on the Sabbath to hear Scripture and a word of exhortation. When Paul came to Antioch in Pisidia, they offered an opportunity to speak to him (Acts 13:15). The fact that Paul is able to find a worship gathering at Philippi suggests that there was a normal time for this reading. Since women are present outside the city by a river (Acts 16:13), it seems more likely to be early on Saturday morning than after dark Friday night. [1]

We do not know how many Sabbaths it took before Paul felt unwelcome in the synagogue at Corinth. It seems clear that many of the Jews in the city believed because both of the synagogue leaders when Paul was there believed. In the first year Paul was there (AD50-51), Crispus was synagogue leader and a believer. In the second year Paul was there, Sosthenes was synagogue leader and a believer (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1).

However, it seems that Paul eventually removes himself from the synagogue--or at least shifts the focus of his mission outside its walls. It seems likely that other believing Jews, perhaps most, continued to participate in synagogue worship. But now that Gentiles were believing, we see the rise of the house assembly, the house church. The house church, rather than the synagogue, becomes the center of worship.

2. Paul was an apostle (1 Cor. 9:1). He was not one of the twelve. Acts 1:13 gives Luke's list of twelve apostles: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas (not Iscariot). Matthias is chosen to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:26). The names are slightly different in Matthew and Mark. Mark has Thaddeus instead of the second Judas. John mentions a Nathanael.

It is common for people to think that Paul should have been Judas' replacement, but we should note that he did not fit the criterion of Acts 1:21-22. According to Peter's criteria, you had to have been with Jesus from the time of his baptism through the resurrection to be what we might call a "first order" apostle, one of the Twelve (e.g., Matt. 10:2). This criterion sparks all sorts of thoughts and questions.

Our first observation is that Jesus had more than twelve followers. While it is common to align Judas with Thaddeus and Bartholomew with Nathanael, none of the biblical texts actually say anything along these lines. We also know that many women followed Jesus (Luke 8:2-3; 23:27, 55; 24:10). They are almost the only ones who have the courage to stand at the cross (John 19:25-26).

The number twelve is significant because it implies the restoration of Israel. It seemed less important who the exact twelve were, at least on the edges. Apparently there were both men and women who were disciples, followers of Jesus, who traveled with Jesus during his earthly ministry. Matthias was one of them. Mary Magdalene was one of them.

Paul was not one of these. He not know Jesus during his earthly ministry. He was not one of those to whom Jesus appeared immediately after his resurrection. It was probably three years after the resurrection before Paul believed. Paul was not a "first tier" apostle. In most of the instances where the book of Acts refers to the apostles, Paul is clearly not one of them (e.g., Acts 15:4).

[1] The Sabbath began at sundown on Friday and went till sundown on Saturday.

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