3. The Spirit Leads the Disciples in a New DirectionPresentation Transcript
THE SPIRIT LEADS THE DISCIPLES IN NEW DIRECTIONS Biblical Portrait of a Church Missionary by Nature: The Church doesn’t have a mission, but the mission has a Church.
BEFORE PENTECOST (Acts 1): DISAPPOINTMENT AND EXPECTATION
Jesus did not explicitly plan to found a church distinct from Judaism or to establish a full-blown mission to the Gentiles.
Jesus was committed to heralding the imminent in-breaking of the reign of God.
The eventual understanding of mission and church were founded on the vision, person, and mission of Jesus.
The establishment of the 12 apostles, the appointment of Peter as leader, and the command to celebrate a meal in Jesus’ memory provided the initial post-Easter community with a sense of identity and structure.
The disciples returning to Jerusalem after the Ascension expected the return of Jesus to initiate the imminent coming of God’s reign on earth.
They remained in Jerusalem with a sense of emptiness, awkwardness, and expectation.
PENTECOST (Acts 2-5): RECEIVING POWER TO BEAR WITNESS
The disciples experienced a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, but not what they expected.
It was not the second coming of Jesus, but an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples bore witness to the Jews, not to the Gentiles.
The early Christians were held in high esteem and saw themselves in continuity with the faithful to Jewish religious-cultural tradition.
STEPHEN AND THE HELLENISTS (Acts 6-7): JEWISH DISCIPLES PUSHED BEYOND THEIR COMFORT ZONE
The Greek-speaking disciples complained to the Hebrew-speaking disciples that Hellenist widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Steven and six others were appointed by the Christian community to attend this need.
This issue reflects an underlying linguistic, cultural and social diversity among the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.
The Greek-speaking Jewish Christians held a less traditional view of Judaism which allowed them to place the significance of Jesus over Moses. Hebrew-speaking Jews held a more traditional view of Judaism.
Stephen, articulate and wise spoke with power before the Sanhedrin and began a shift away from traditional Judaism.
Stephen claimed Jesus as the Just One, the Lord, as the one means necessary for salvation. This led to his being stoned to death. Like Christ, he forgave his persecutors.
SAMARIA AND THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH (Acts 8): TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH?
Philip was bold enough to preach to the Samaritans.
The crowds that heard Philip and saw his miracles attended closely to what he had to say.
Peter and John went to Samaria to see for themselves. They approved what was happening and laid hands on the newly baptized Samaritans so that they could receive the Holy Spirit.
Philip encounters the Ethiopian reading from the prophet Isaiah. He was the chief treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia.
Philip explains to the Ethiopian the scripture and proceeds to tell him about Jesus. He then baptizes the Ethiopian.
The Ethiopian goes his way rejoicing, back to Ethiopia, to the ends of the earth.
CORNELIUS AND HIS HOUSEHOLD: (Acts 10:1--11:18) PETER AND THE GENTILE MISSION
The conversion of Cornelius and his household is considered the most critical phase of the expansion of God’s people.
Cornelius was a Roman centurion living in Caesarea.
Table fellowship becomes the central issue in the encounter between Peter and Cornelius. This story indicates a turning point for Christianity. Could Jewish Christians share a common mean with Gentile Christians?
The story of the Conversion of Cornelius and his household is also the story of Peter’s conversion. Peter experiences a dramatic reversal in the cultural-religious world. He shares the good news of Jesus Christ who is Lord of all. The Spirit comes down upon all gathered.
Peter’s table fellowship is a symbol and concrete sign of the universal scope of God’s mission.
The world view of Peter and the Jerusalem community was challenged by Jesus’ gospel. The good news demanded repentance and promised new life for all. The circle of believers widens.
ANTIOCH (Acts 11:19-29): MISSION MATURES
Some Hellenists who usually proclaimed the message to Jews went to Antioch where they preached to the Gentiles. A great number believed and were converted to the Lord.
We now find an explicit and intentional mission to the Gentiles, and Jewish and Gentile converts live side by side.
Three elements point to the radical nature of this turn of events:
Use of the term “Lord Jesus” (Kyrios). For the first time the gospel message was presented in terms that moved beyond the pale of Judaism.
Community sent Barnabas (a Hellenist) who confirmed the work of the Lord. He went to Tarsus and brought Paul back to Antioch.
It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians”. The Jesus movement was being identified as a group on its own and not as a sub-group of Judaism.
With an expanding consciousness of mission comes and expanding consciousness of being church.
UNIVERSAL MISSION ( Acts 12-28 ): MISSIONAL AND CHURCH SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS SPREADS
Acts 12-28 represent the early years of development and challenge for the church.
Under the Spirit’s guidance, the community at Antioch sent Barnabas and Paul on Paul’s first missionary journey to Asia Minor. Gentiles responded favorably to the word of God.
Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch to report their success. They consequently journeyed to Jerusalem to give testimony.
At Jerusalem the early Christian church dealt with fundamental issues of the new faith. It was here that the church recognized that Christianity is not restricted to Jewish culture but rather is inclusive of Jews and Gentiles.
Paul continues his mission to the Gentiles (Acts 15 to the end) and concludes that the salvation of God has been transmitted to the Gentiles who heed it (28:28).
A TINY CHURCH WITH A UNIVERSAL MISSION
The mission of God for us and our world took shape in quite a dramatic way.
It was old – a continuation and manifestation of the mission of God that has been present from the beginning of creation and humanity, and of that same mission of the Spirit and of the Word, Jesus Christ.
It is also something new – the Spirit was leading that small early group to continue God’s mission in new and surprising ways.
The disciples now constituted a tiny ekklesia (assembly) with a consciousness that its message that Jesus was the savior of the world was destined for all humanity.
The universal mission of God now had a church.
Equality of the gift of the Spirit denotes equality of salvation, which implies equality among all believers. This equality includes table fellowship, for that is the heart of Christian unity and fellowship.
The church was born out of the loving and redeeming flow of God’s universal mission.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
What was the most interesting new idea that struck you from the survey of the Acts of the Apostles?
Describe the connection between mission and church