SECTION ONE. Christianity & the Restoration of All Things (1:1-6:7)

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1 SECTION ONE Christianity & the Restoration of All Things (1:1-6:7)

2 Preliminary Observations 25 The Movements Movement 1: Movement 2: Christ s Program for the Restoration of All Things (1:1-4:4) 33 Opposition to the Program (4:5-6:7) 79

3 SECTION ONE: Christianity & the Restoration of All Things Preliminary Observations Three towering peaks dominate the first section of Acts: the ascension of Christ on the fortieth day (1:9), the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (2:1-4), and the second coming of Christ (1:11; 3:20), inaugurating the great and resplendent Day of the Lord (2:20). An intense glory plays around these lofty summits. The Man, Jesus, has been set free from the pangs of death (2:24), shown the paths of life, and filled with gladness in the presence of God (2:28). Through His resurrection He has brought life and immortality to light for all mankind. He is shown to be the Archégos, the very Author, of life (3:15), the giver of complete salvation to all who trust Him (4:12). The credibility of the Old Testament s messianic program for the restoration of the race, of the planet, of the universe, is now established beyond doubt (1:6; 3:20-21, 24-25). The time is coming (1:6-7; 3:10-21) when the handicapped will no longer park themselves on the steps of the Creator s temple, looking for charity; nature will be restored to perfect health of state and function (3:16). A foretaste of it has already been given (3:1-16). Christ Himself is the cornerstone of a new and fairer universal temple (4:11). Risen and ascended, He has already poured out the epoch-making gift of the Holy Spirit (1:4-5; 2:16-18, 33-36, 38-39). A substantial downpayment on the Old Testament s promises has thus been made. Human history has taken a gigantic step forward towards the full and final payment. Impatient as we may be to survey these towering peaks in detail, it will pay us first to reconnoiter the surrounding landscape. If we are right in thinking that the first section of Acts is brought to its end by the formal summary at 6:7, 1 then the section itself is made up of eight major passages. Classified according to their subject matter, they fall into four pairs. 1. The period between the resurrection and Pentecost is covered by two passages (1:1-14 and 1:15-26). In the first, Christ personally prepares His

4 26 THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS (1:1-6:7) apostles for world-wide witness by demonstrating to them the reality of His resurrection and then by briefing them on the program and timetable for their witness. In the second, the apostles and a group of about one hundred and twenty believers prepare themselves for that witness by arranging the appointment of an extra apostle to take Judas Iscariot s place as a witness to Christ s resurrection (1:22). 2. Next, the stupendous effect of the coming of the Holy Spirit is conveyed by the record of two miracles (2:1-47 and 3:1-4:4): the first, the miraculous speaking of foreign languages by the Christians; the second, the healing of a congenitally lame man. After each miracle Peter explains its significance to the crowd and preaches a sermon; and the number of converts is given. Both miracles, then, witness to Christ, but the first is performed on the Christians themselves, the second on one of the general public. The first calls attention to the supernatural power by which the Christians speak, and so validates their message. The second illustrates the salvation that Jesus can impart to those who receive the message. So far, then, four stories in two pairs; but now we have reached the halfway turning-point in the section and there comes a change of mood: the priests and the captain of the temple attempt to nip nascent Christianity in the bud. In spite of that, the Christians continue to make numerous converts (5:14; 6:7) and to enjoy the respect of the general populace (5:13); but now they do so at the cost of having to defy the prohibition-orders placed on them by the Sanhedrin. 3. The four stories in the second half, likewise fall into two pairs. Two of them deal with the Sanhedrin s opposition (4:5-31 and 5:17-42). In both, apostles are arrested, put in prison, and then brought before the Sanhedrin: on the first occasion two apostles, Peter and John; on the second, all twelve (see 5:29). On each occasion Luke naturally reports the decision of the court and then describes how the apostles and the Christian community react to its threats and punishments. 4. The remaining two passages, like all the other pairs, share a common theme: they each provide an inside view of life in the early Christian community in Jerusalem. The first (4:32-5:16) tells how the propertied Christians would from time to time sell a house or a field and give the proceeds to the apostles for the relief of members in need. The second passage (6:l-7) describes the organization which the apostles put in place for the fair distribution of the common funds and supplies thus generated. To get a full and balanced understanding of the history Luke puts before us, we shall have to study carefully both the similarities and, more importantly, the differences between these pairs of passages that share a common theme. At the same time Luke s sense of balance is shown not only in this formal pairing of passages, but also in the evenhanded emphasis which his selection of material places on the two major themes that run in almost equal proportion through this first section: the impor-

5 THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS (1:1-6:7) 27 tance of spiritual things on one hand, and of material things on the other. This section of his work had to cover Pentecost and the spectacular explosion of spiritual energy initiated by that event. It was inevitable, therefore, that Luke should place a heavy and constant emphasis on spiritual things: on the person, power, and operation of the Holy Spirit, on the profound spiritual experiences of those who received Him, and on the dynamic witness they were empowered by the Spirit to maintain. What was not so necessarily to be expected is that in this section Luke should place an almost equal emphasis on material things, on food and money, on buying and selling, on houses, fields, estates, and possessions. No less than three out of the eight passages in the section are largely or else totally given up to this topic. At 2:43-45 he tells us one of the first, and apparently spontaneous, results of the conversions that followed Peter s first sermon: All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Not content to record this phenomenon once, at 4:32-37 he gives another description of it, in almost the same words but in greater detail, adding for good measure the particular case of a certain Joseph who sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet. Now this so-called communism disappears from view after the end of Section One, and is never met with again in the whole of the rest of Acts. We might therefore jump to the conclusion that it was a temporary, but minor, side-effect occasioned by the exceptional excitement of the early days, but destined naturally to pass away when the ferment of the new wine subsided. And we might further decide that Luke has given this phenomenon the space he has simply to give a faithful record of what actually happened, without necessarily wishing to imply that this phenomenon had any great importance or was any essential part of Christianity, or indeed was anything more than a temporary, peripheral detail. But to presume so would be to overlook another highly significant feature of Luke s record. In connection with this matter of food and money, buying and selling, houses, fields, and possessions, Luke has chosen to include three instances of grievous malpractice perpetrated by certain members of the early Christian circle. Consider this extraordinary catalog: With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood (1:18-19). a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles feet. Then Peter said, Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that

6 28 THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS (1:1-6:7) you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? whereupon Ananias fell down dead; and so, subsequently, did his wife (5:1-11). In those days the Grecian Jews complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food (6:1). At first sight it must seem strange that Luke should advertise so prominently these ugly blots on the record of the early Christian community. Of course a moment s further study reveals that Luke only records these wrong attitudes and practices in order to show how immediately and thoroughly the Christian community repudiated them. But the very fact that he records these incidents in full when he need not have recorded them at all 2 is surely significant. It suggests that in the eyes of the early Christians a proper realignment of one s attitude to material possessions was a necessary result of true faith in Jesus as Messiah, an inevitable result of a true response to the reception of the Holy Spirit. If that is so, we shall not get a true understanding of early essential Christianity as Luke depicts it unless we pay due regard to his sense of balance and proportion between spiritual belief and experience on the one hand and material things on the other. Finally, one further formal feature of Luke s narrative claims attention before we proceed. As the second volume of a two-volumed work, Acts naturally begins with a resumé of the first volume. But it will pay us to notice just how Luke constructs this resumé. In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving His chosen apostles their orders through the Holy Spirit (1:1-2). The resumé is astonishingly brief: a verse and a half, and all that Luke has told us in the first volume about the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord is summarized right up to and including the ascension. Nothing is singled out for particular mention except one solitary thing, and its very solitariness indicates its importance. Before Christ was taken up, says Luke, He gave His chosen apostles their orders through the Holy Spirit. The gospel s account of those orders is given in Luke 24:46-49, and they are picked out for special mention here because the whole of Acts, in one sense, is going to be the story of the carrying out of those orders. Since, then, verses 1-2a have summarized Christ s life and ministry right up to the ascension, we might think that the following verses would begin the new story of what began to happen after the ascension. Not so. Instead of going forwards, verse 2b takes us back to events and activities before the ascension. And when at last we arrive at the end of this first

7 THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS (1:1-6:7) 29 passage (v. 14), we shall have got no further than the last item dealt with in the Gospel the return of the disciples to Jerusalem immediately after the ascension (cf. Lk. 24:52-53 with Acts 1:12-14). What the resumé is doing, therefore, is going back over the period between the resurrection and the ascension to pick out certain of its features which we must be aware of and must understand if we are to follow the subsequent narrative intelligently. Some of these features will have been described in detail in the Gospel. Luke will assume we are familiar with the details: a summary reference will be enough to remind us of them. Some features will not have been mentioned before, and the fact that they are now mentioned here for the first time presumably means that they are of key importance for the understanding of Acts. We shall have to pay them special attention. A map of Section One is given on pages

8 SECTION ONE: CHRISTIANITY AND THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS (1:1-6:7) MOVEMENT 1: CHRIST S PROGRAM FOR THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS (1:1-4:4) I. FROM THE RESURRECTION TO THE ASCENSION (1:1-14): 1. The forty days demonstration by many convincing proofs that Jesus is alive again after His suffering (1:3). 2. He gave them instructions (1:2); He commanded them (1:4); You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth (1:8). 3. you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses (1:8). 4. They all joined together constantly in prayer (1:14). MOVEMENT 2: OPPOSITION TO THE PROGRAM (4:5-6:7) V. FIRST INVESTIGATION BY THE SANHEDRIN (4:5-31): To account for the miracle of healing, and to try to stop preaching in the name of Jesus spreading. 1. The healing of a congenitally lame man, over forty years old, constitutes undeniable evidence that God has raised Jesus from the dead (4:9-10, 14, 22). 2. Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle But to stop this thing from spreading any further they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (4:16-18). 3. the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (4:31). 4. they raised their voices together in prayer to God (4:24). II. FROM THE ASCENSION TO PENTECOST (1:15-26): The gap in the apostolic witness caused by Judas defection is made up. Judas shared in this ministry [apostleship]. (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood) (1:16-19). Lord, you know everyone s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs (1:24-25). one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection (1:22). VI. A VIEW OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY (4:32-5:16): Judgment on two dishonest members strengthens the witness of the community. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money and put it at the apostles feet Joseph, a Levite, sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet (4:32-37). Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property, pretended to give all the money to the apostles, but kept back part for themselves. For lying to the Holy Spirit, they both fell dead. how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit? great fear seized all who heard what had happened (5:1-11). With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (4:33).

9 III. THE MIRACLE OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES (2:1-47): Peter explains the significance of the miracle: the resultant converts number 3, The resurrection of Jesus from the grave: But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him You [God] have made known to me the paths of life (2:24-28). 2. Repent and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:38). 3. Exalted to the right hand of God God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (2:33-36). 4. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart Peter [said], Repent Save yourselves from this corrupt generation (2:37-40). 5. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (2:42). IV. THE MIRACLE OF THE HEALING (3:1-4:4): Peter explains the power by which the miracle has been performed: the number of converts rises to 5,000 men. 1. A lame man is laid daily at the gate of the temple to beg for alms (3:2-3). 2. The apostles, unable to give financial relief, give instead the superior gift of complete healing in the name of Jesus (3:4-10). 3. The priests seized Peter and John, and put them in jail (4:1-3). VII. SECOND INVESTIGATION BY THE COUNCIL (5:17-42): To call the apostles to account for the defiance of the ban on preaching in the name of Jesus. 1. The miraculous release of the apostles from prison: But an angel opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. Go and tell the people the full message of this new life (5:19-20). 2. We are witnesses and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him (5:32). 3. God raised Jesus from the dead whom you had killed God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Saviour (5:30-31). 4. When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But Gamaliel [said] Leave these men alone! (5:33-35). 5. they never stopped teaching (5:42). VIII. ANOTHER VIEW OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY (6:1-7): Another wrong is righted, without the apostles being diverted from their ministry of the Word. 1. Certain widows are neglected in the daily allocation of relief (6:1). 2. The apostles point out that while the ministry of material relief is important, they must confine themselves to the ministry of the Word (6:2-4): Seven officers are appointed to look after the daily allocation (6:3-6). 3. a large number of priests became obedient to the faith (6:7).

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