Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Acts, Jealousy & Honor (part 1)

Now the high priest rose up, and all those with him (that is, the religious party of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. – Acts 5:17  (NET)

The Book of Acts tells a wonderful story.  The opening chapters, especially, are fast-paced and action-packed, detailing the movement of the Spirit of the Creator God and the way in which the kingdom of that God (as revealed in Jesus) came to be manifested on earth and began to spread, bringing new and renewed creation in its inspirational wake.  In chapter one, the disciples are given a promise by Jesus, they watch Him ascend, they return to Jerusalem, and appoint another man to take the place of Judas. 

Chapter two begins in the same breath, as Pentecost brings with it the reversal of the language confusion of the tower of Babel, with people from many nations able to exclaim “we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great deeds God has done!” (Acts 2:11b)  With an ironic nod to the story of the ill-fated tower and the astonishment and confusion that no doubt took place when the languages were confounded, Luke writes “All were astounded and greatly confused, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (2:12)  It is upon this occasion that Peter delivers what is looked to as the first “sermon” of the church (post earthly life of Jesus), explaining the coming of the Spirit and the kingdom, saying “let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (2:36). 

What was an immediate effect of the announcement of the advent of the kingdom of the Creator God, as it was ensconced within the proclamation of Jesus’ Resurrection?  The author writes: “Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles.  All who believed were together and held everything in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need” (2:43-45).  This was a significant mark of the worshipers of Jesus, and this significances leads to a repetition in the fourth chapter, where one can read “The group of those who believed were one of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common.  With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all” (4:32-33). 

What was the testimony to the Resurrection and the kingdom it portended?  What was the evidence of the great grace?  The next verse provides the answer: “For there was no one needy among them, because those who were owners of land or houses were selling them and bringing the proceeds from the sales and placing them at the apostles’ feet” (4:34-35a).  What was the purpose and result of this testifying, grace-evidencing and manifesting activity?  “The proceeds were distributed to each, as anyone had need” (4:35).  The apostles didn’t simply sit on the proceeds or allow the proceeds to pile up, going un-used.  They were distributed to each, as anyone had need.  It is key to note that the sharing of goods led to needs of the people being met---the needs of the people being met.    

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