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This is a paper that I wrote for my Acts class a few semesters ago. The reasons that I will post some of my own work for classes are two fold: 1. My writing needs to be critique and challenged. I will never become a better writer, arguer, and thinker if people don’t question my reasoning and point out my errors in writing. So please, if you read these let me know where you disagree with me with precision, not just a  general “I don’t like.” Let me know what you don’t like and why you don’t like it. This would be a help to me to interact with you and hopefully sharpen both of our thinking. 2. Because what things I do study need to be passed on to aid others. Not that I have a lot of deep, spiritual things to say. But I want to aid in pointing people to Christ in any way I can. So enjoy!

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THE INVASION OF THE GOSPEL AMONGST THE PAGAN INTELLECTUALS:

ACTS 17:16-34

Introduction

The church had received the command by Jesus, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8b). And in Acts 17:16-34 we see this commission working out it two categories. First, Paul confronts the paganism that flourished in Athens.  The reality of Christ was pitted against the falsehood of pagan idolatry.[1] The second category is that we see the gospel brought before the intellectuals. The gospel is not timid to critical thinking. It can stand up to the toughest intellectual scrutiny. But as the end of this passages demonstrates, no matter how realistic the gospel message is, mankind’s rebellion rejects the glories of the cross as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). But I believe that there is an overall sphere that encapsulates these two categories. The main thrust that drives these two things is a desire for God’s glory shown through the redemption of people. And it is people that come from different cultural backgrounds and have different presuppositions about reality. God glorious truth confronts their beliefs, shows the futility of those beliefs, and presents Christ as all in all. Therefore, in proclaiming the gospel we must know who we are proclaiming the gospel to[2] and present God’s one gospel in diverse ways to reach who we are speaking it to.[3]

Historical Background

To get the fullest sense of the meaning of this text I am going to look at some of the key historic places (Athens and the Areopagus), the philosophies that were present at Paul’s message (Epicureanism and Stoicism), and the context of this passage.

Athens

Athens was once a very important and wealthy city under the reign of Pericles in the 5th century B. C.[4] It was once the city of such prominent philosophers as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno.[5] By the time of Paul, however, that glory had faded.[6] Yet, the city still rode on its former glory.[7] Thus it was still a place where philosophical inquiry was pursued.

Areopagus

The Areopagus was “the chief judicial body of the city”[8] of Athens. It had the over arching power to decide cases on issues of city life, education, philosophical lectures, public morality, and foreign cults.[9] But one function of the Areopagus that corresponds to this discussion is brought out by Bruce Winter. In regards to new religions,

One of the long-established tasks of the Council of the Areopagites was to examine the proofs that a herald might offer in support of his claim that a new deity existed. That role continued into the Roman period. If the Council were so persuaded, then the god or goddess would be admitted to the Parthenon. A dedicated temple would be built to the divinity, an annual feast day endowed and included in the Athenians’ religious calendar…the approval or disapproval of a new god in Athens set the precedent for other Greek cities.[10]

So the Areopagus was a center of great importance for the city of Athens.

Epicureanism

Epicureanism was founded by Epicurus who settled and opened up a school in Athens in 306 B.C.[11] Epicurus believed that everything came into existence when atoms traveling in infinite void collided with one another.[12] Thus, “Epicurus’s doctrine was completely materialist.”[13] The gods, also, came into existence by the atoms and lived in “perfect blessedness, undisturbed by concern for mankind or worldly affairs.”[14]

Their theory of purpose for life was one of pleasure, “Epicurus held that pleasure was the chief goal of life, with the pleasure most worth enjoying being a life of tranquility free from pain, disturbing passion, superstitious fears and anxiety about death.”[15] So Epicurus’ view does not mean that it is a rush into immediate sensuous pleasure. It was a search for “true peace of mind.”[16]

Stoicism

The history of the Stoics started with a man named Zeno. He held his philosophical gathers in the Stoa Poikile in the Athenian Market place. And it was from there they received their name Stoics.[17]

The Stoics were of a completely different nature than the Epicureans. Blending ideas from Socrates, Heracleitus, and himself he came to view everything as living in harmony.[18] They “argued for the unity of humanity and the kinship with the divine.”[19] His view of God was pantheistic and this god was part of everything and fated the lives of every man.[20] They had a high view of morality as one should act according to the divine nature that he is a part of.[21]

Contextual setting

This passage is during the second missionary journey of Paul. Paul decided that He wanted to visit the churches that they had planted (15:36). Yet, because of a disagreement Paul went with Silas instead of Barnabas (15:39). Together Paul and Silas “went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (15:41). In Lystra they meet a young man named Timothy and included him in their missionary travels (16:1-3). While traveling the Spirit directed them to Troas where Paul received a vision to go to Macedonia where Lydia, a Jailer and his family are converted (16:11-39). From there they went to Thessalonica (17:1-9) and then to Berea (17:10-15). In both cases they were driven from the cities by jealous Jews (17:5-10, 13-14). Thus members of the church sent Paul away (17:14) and those conducted him took him to Athens where he waited for Silas and Timothy (17:15).

Here in Acts we see God using the evil purposes of men to accomplish His good purposes. Where evil is trying to stop the influence of God’s gospel it only makes it increase more. Now Paul stands among the intellectuals with a message that defies human reasoning. And we can witness the apostle glorifying God by bring this good news to these intellectuals.

Commentary

This section is divided in three sections. In verse 16-21 we see the interaction of Paul with the people of Athens. And then in verses 22-31 see hear the speech Paul made in the Areopagus. And the final verses, 32-34, summarize the response of the speech.

Paul’s Interaction with the Athenians. Vs 16-21.

While waiting in the city for Timothy and Silas Paul saw that Athens was full of idols. Paul did not view these idols “dispassionately, remarking on the beautiful artistry.”[22] Instead Paul’s spirit provoked![23] He started preaching[24] the gospel in both the synagogue and the market place called the agora. This was in pattern of how Socrates shared his ideas.[25] This shows that “when Paul evangelized this city of Socrates, he used the method of Socrates.”[26] Paul witnessed to these different people in their own cultural practices of communication. And because of this gospel being preached in the market two different groups of philosophical thought became attentive to Paul’s preaching. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers begun conversing with Paul concerning the message he was preaching. Some completely discounted what he was saying and derided him as one who picked-up and used other people’s idea even though he did not understand those ideas himself.[27] Others recognized that he was teaching a new religion.[28] Because of these teachings coming from his mouth they took[29] Paul to the Areopagus. There Paul was summoned to openly declare the new teaching that he was bringing to the city.

Paul’s Speech at the Areopagus. Vs 22-31

Paul stands in the midst of the Areopagus and proclaims message of Christ to his listening hearers. He begins his message by saying that he recognizes their religious pursuits.[30] And because of these religious pursuits they had crafted an altar to an “unknown god” just in case they had missed one. This altar that stood as a witness to the polytheism in that city Paul uses as starting point in his declaration of the one true living God.[31] What was unknown to the Athenians was going to be made known this day.

Paul proceeds to disclose “their place in the panorama of God’s global, history-spanning redemptive agenda.”[32] Paul works Biblically and methodically against each of the present philosophical worldviews to present the glorious Christ that reigns supreme over the cosmos. Paul begins with a proper understanding of God’s place as creator and self-sufficient. Drawing from the revelation in the Old Testament[33] Paul combats the ideas of the Epicureans with their distant, uninvolved gods and the Stoics with their pantheistic god. He did all this while under the main heading of decrying the worship of spiritually dead idols.[34]

Paul next point starts by looking at the origin of mankind. He declares that from one man God has made every nation that existed.[35] And his rights of creator extend to his sovereign governance of size and locations of these nations. [36] And God excises this sovereign right for a reason. So that people will, out of thankfulness and reverence for this creator God[37], search and find this God.[38]

What we see next is Paul quoting some of the works[39] written by these pagan philosophers. In both of these quotes the truth that God is not encapsulated in idols is shown to be believed by Greek philosophers.[40] Because, if we are God’s offspring and are living then we should not think that God dwells in a lifeless object.[41]

Paul then reaches the conclusion of his speech warning of the judgment that is to come. The Athenians had been living in ignorance[42] to the actual reality of the person and works of God. But God has graciously overlooked that ignorance. Now, however, God holds men accountable and calls them to repent of their idolatry. For the fixed date of judgment is coming upon the world. And this judgment is going to be carried out none other than Jesus Christ.[43] And all people have been assured of this by God’s action in raising Jesus Christ from the dead.

The Response to Paul’s Message. Vs 32-34.

Paul would tell the Corinthians that the aroma of Christ is life to some and death to others (2 Cor. 2:14-16). And that truth is shown by the response of the Athenians. At the first mention of resurrection some began mocking Paul’s ideas.[44] Others responded by showing a further interest into what he was talking about and wanting him to speak about this matter again.[45] But to those that had be appointed to eternal life (Act 13:48), they believed in the message and joined Paul after he had left the Areopagus.

Conclusion

With boldness and clarity Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and proclaimed the gospel. He did not, however, share some mechanical, prepackaged gospel presentation. Instead with what could be compared to a surgeon’s skill he presented gospel truths directly in philosophical and theological areas where those people lived in darkness. Because, as the Christ came amongst humanity and brought the gospel to our direct need. So too, Christ’s gospel still is designed to meet people where they are at and confront the idolatry they are serving. Once they are met and the Holy Spirit opens their darkened minds to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6) they then find their lives defined by the universal purposes of God.  And part of God’s purposes is not just for the removal of evil but for the salvation of a bride that is part of the evil. This is His plan of redemption that is going to bring the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit glory for out eternity. It is our commission and honor to be a part of this plan.


BILIOGRAPHY

Books

Beale, G. K. We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2008.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament History. New York, NY: Doubleday Galilee, 1969.

Dever , Mark. The Message of the New Testament: Promise Kept. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2005.

Eswine, Zack. Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons that Connect with our Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008.

Johnson, Dennis E. Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007.

Schreiner, Tom. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.

Commentaries

Barrett, C. K. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Acts of the Apostles. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1994

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. In the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.

Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Rev. ed. In The New international Commentary on the New Testament. Edited by Gordon D. Fee. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988.

Fernando, Ajith. Acts. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Longenecker, Richard N. The Acts of the Apostles. in vol. 9 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Garbelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1981

Marshall, I. Howard. The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998

Polhill, John B. ACTS. In The New American Commentary, vol. 26. Edited by David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992

Language Resources

Mounce, William D., Smith, D. Matthew., Pelt, Miles V. Van., eds., Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.

Robertson, Archibald Thomas. Word Pictures in the New Testament. vol 3. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1930.

Articles

Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 2007

Newman, C. C. God III: Acts, Hebrews, General Epistles, Revelation. The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Daniel G. Reid. Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 2004.

Winter, Bruce W. “Introducing the Athenians to God: Paul’s Failed Apologetic in Acts 17?” Themelios 31:3 (2006)

Internet Sites

Carson, D. A. The Worldview Clash, accessed 2 April 2009, http://www.ccfw.org/home/ 140001117/ 140001117/docs/c2s%20THeWorldviewClash.pdf?sec_id=140001117; Internet.

This is a paper that I wrote for my Acts class in the spring of 2009. The reasons that I will post some of my own work for classes are two fold: 1. My writing needs to be critique and challenged. I will never become a better writer, arguer, and thinker if people don’t question my reasoning and point out my errors in writing. So please, if you read these let me know where you disagree with me with precision, not just a  general “I don’t like.” Let me know what you don’t like and why you don’t like it. This would be a help to me to interact with you and hopefully sharpen both of our thinking. 2. Because what things I do study need to be passed on to aid others. Not that I have a lot of deep, spiritual things to say. But I want to aid in pointing people to Christ in any way I can. So enjoy!

____________________________________

CONVERSION OF SAUL: ACTS 9:1-9

Introduction

In Acts 9:1-9 we have the dramatic conversion of Saul. At the beginning of this narrative he was bound and determined to squelch the belief of “the Way” (other wise known as Christianity) and its followers. Then, however, we witness the intervention of a sovereign God who converted the one whom He had set apart before he was born (Gal 1:15) so that Paul would preach him among the Gentiles (Gal 1:16).  Like the prophets of old, God summoned Saul to himself and gave him a message to proclaim to others.[1] I believe the emphasis that colors this narrative is that it is Christ himself who brought about this change[2] that would bring the kingdom of Christ to the Gentiles. Even though evil men try to stand against this coming kingdom, they find themselves no match for the sovereign Christ who subjugated the most evil of these men and made him a vessel for the further increase of this kingdom.

Historical Background

There are two areas that we can look at to help us understand the happenings here in this text. The first one is the person of Saul: who he was and what was his mission. And the second will be the context leading up to this passage.

The Person of Paul

Saul was born, raised, and educated at the city of Tarsus as revealed in verse 11. Tarsus was a wealthy university city that was famous for being a center of learning.[3] There Paul studied under the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), the same Gamaliel that stopped the Jews from killing the Apostles in Acts 5:33. Now there is an obvious difference between the reaction to the new belief of Christianity between Gamaliel and his student Saul.[4] Gamaliel responded by a peaceful action and wanted to leave the outcome of this group to the judgment of God (Act 5:38-39), Paul resorted to terrorizing and persecuting the church (Acts 8:1-3). N. T. Wright points out that there were two main camps of the Pharisees: the Shammaites and the Hillelites. These groups debated on the strictness of personal observance of the Torah in the midst of Israel being ruled from outside forces.[5] The Hillelites believed in a policy that was fine with foreign rule as long as they could freely practice Judaism where as the Shammaites believed that the Torah demanded that Israel be free from foreign rule. And this freedom could be accomplished by any means necessary—even violence.[6] It seems to me that Gamaliel was of the Hillelite thought, as Wright points out, his action in Acts 5:34-39 portray a pacifist attitude regarding the Christian movement.[7] Yet, this Hillelite’s pupil, Saul, resorted to violence to fend off the Christian movement (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-2). Probably, Saul began to see the danger of the Christian movement and it’s ever increasing strength. He saw them growing so much that he left the example of his teacher and followed the path of the Shammaites to deal with the followers of “the Way.”[8] Saul (who would be named Paul at the time of writing these things) would later testify to his passion in persecuting the church as “zealous” (Gal 1:14, Phil 3:6). It could be said that Saul began seeing himself in the same heroic line as Phinehas (Num 25:1-9) and Mattathias (1 Macc 2:23-26) who displayed their zeal for God by slaying those that openly defiled God’s commandments.[9] Thus, when Paul is shown in the first part of this narrative he is “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). For his passion against those that defiled the Torah is great enough that he used violence to set things right. And in his mind the Christians called for such a response.

The Placing of the Narrative

In Chapter 7 we have the first martyr of the faith—Stephen. Stephen’s discourse in chapter 7 centers on the charge that the Jews had always rejected God and his messengers. And their present rejection of Jesus as the Messiah is the culmination of them being a stiff-necked people (Acts 7:51-52). The crowds became enraged (7:54) and proceed to stone Stephen to death (7:60). Then in the start of chapter 8 massive persecution breaks out against the church headed by Saul (8:1-3). Yet, in the words of John Calvin, “thus doth the Lord use to bring light out of darkness, and life out of death.”[10] For from this persecution came the spread of the gospel to places outside of Jerusalem (8:4). Thus we see Philip travel to Samaria and proclaim the gospel to crowds that are eager to listen (8:5-6). Then again God spread the message when he called Philip to meet the Ethiopian who was receptive to the gospel (8:26, 35-38).

So we have wicked men throwing violence against the church of Jesus. But what comes from this persecution and attempted squelching of the Christian message is an increase of believers in it! The reason is that this movement is not another cultic uprising that the Jews were familiar with. This was the very people of God! This was the church of the Messiah. And no gates of Hades could stand against it (Matt 16:18).

And so we come to chapter 9 having the church increasing because of the prosecutions. And Saul is all the more furious because if it.

Commentary

9:1-2. The passage begins with Saul continuing his persecution against the church. He was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. Even though God’s kingdom had triumphed over the first attack of persecutions it has not thwarted Saul’s resolve to stop this Christian movement. His hatred for Christians had increased to the point that his desire was for them to be murdered.[11] Thus to fulfill his desires Saul went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Saul’s plan was to travel to Damascus and extract[12] the Christian Jews there and bring them to Jerusalem to be imprisoned.

Now here we have the Christians being titled as followers of “the Way”. “The term ‘Christian’ was first coined at Actioch of Syria,”[13] So early on other titles were given to the followers of Christ such as those of “the Way” or “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5, 14; 28:22).[14] The term speaks about the way of life Christians are to believe in and live. As Longenecker clearly articulates, “it surely had something to do with the early believers’ consciousness of walking in the true path of God’s salvation and moving forward to accomplish his purposes.”[15] Thus, Paul moved out to find, capture, and export the followers of “the Way” back to Jerusalem so that more violence could be done against them. But next we see that no evil act of man can trump the purposes of God!

9:3-4. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. Without warning a light of intense magnitude flashed upon Saul. Such appearances of blinding light are comparable to the theophanies found in the Old Testament.[16] The only difference in this physical revelation from that of theophanies is that the Son is the one that is out rightly revealed.[17] Jesus was no new religious philosopher. He is the same God that existed before time and ruled over the people of Israel. And Saul was being blinded by His glories. And falling to the ground… Saul’s reaction is just like any other person at an event as this.[18] The light knocked him from his horse and onto the ground. he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, This doubling of names “indicates intense emotion.”[19] God cries out from the vision the question to Saul, why are you persecuting me?” This statement is rich in substance. The voice from heaven asks Saul why he is persecuting him (As we will see, Saul already new that this vision was of a heavenly and therefore divine making). Confusion may have been racking his brain as he attempted to piece together what was going on.[20] He was on a mission for God to end this heretical sect of Christ followers and now a divine manifestation has knocked him to the ground and declared that Saul is persecuting Him.

And there is a deeper theological and ecclesiastical truth conveyed here. This phrase “points to Jesus’s corporate solidarity with the church. To persecute the Way is to persecute Jesus.”[21] One of the theological truths presented here is the picture of the church being the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:12. “The image [in 1 Cor 12:12] emphasizes that the church is the locus of Christ’s activity now just as was his physical body during his earthly ministry.”[22] Yet, there is even a deeper theological truth that acts as the foundation for this one. In his epistles Paul (the same person we are seeing converted in this narrative) would talk about Christians being “baptized (immersed) into Christ” (Rom 6:3, Gal 3:27), chosen and made perfect in Christ (Eph 1:4), and “hidden in Christ” (Col 3:3). This is what is called union with Christ. As John Murray explains,

Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ. Indeed the whole process of salvation has its origin in one phase of union with Christ and salvation has in view the realization of other phases of union with Christ.[23]

Here in this narrative we see an aspect of this union fleshed before our eyes where Christ takes the personal offense against evil actions against His church. So hidden is the believer in Christ that to persecute him is to, in actuality, persecute the living God!

9:5-6. After gathering himself Saul asks a question, And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” Some have made the suggestion that the Greek word for “lord” in this passage should better translated “sir” since it was common to use the term to address people respectfully. But the context of a divine vision calls for a greater meaning of the word than just “sir.”[24] Though, Saul still does not know that this is Christ so the term does not have Christological significance.[25] Thus Saul asks for the identification of the person of the heavenly vision—and he was answered. And he said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. What was revealed to Paul at this moment was of epic proportions. The heavenly figure that had knocked Saul to the ground in a unparalleled beam of light and who had accused Saul of persecuting his very being was none other than Jesus Christ! The one who he had probably considered a blasphemer was now in front of Him robed in the glories of God! The people who he once thought were heretics are now the true followers of God! Saul now understood that he was waging war against God Himself.[26] The truth was now right in front of Saul, a truth that had been articulated by the very one that taught him (Acts 5:39), that he was opposing God. And in the misted of his worldview being absolutely shattered, Jesus gives the command, But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do. Jesus commands Saul to continue to Damascus. Yet now, this is not the old Saul that was going to go in hatred for the church. He arose with “a new perspective on divine redemption, a new agenda for his life, and the embryonic elements of his new Christian theology.”[27] He had under gone a change, a change that “can only be attributed to God himself.”[28] Saul was now a believer in the true Messiah and willing to follow His commands.

9:7-9. The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Those accompanying Saul are dumbfounded at the experience. They heard a voice[29] but were unable to see anyone. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were

opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. Saul finds himself having no sight even though he could open his eyelids. Thus, he was led into Damascus completely powerless. The once fierce Saul has been reduced to a handicapped status by the power of God! And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. All Saul could do was wait and think over the experience he had encountered.[30] And possibly he lived in penitence as he reflected on what he was truly doing when persecuting the church.[31]

Conclusion

John Calvin says it very well when expounding this passage, “And whereas such a cruel wolf was not only turned into a sheep, but did also put on the nature of a shepherd, the wonderful hand of God did show itself therein manifestly.”[32] Yes, here in this passage we do witness the wonderful hand of God in manifest! For we witness God’s power as He grows His church. Even though evil had purposed to over throw God’s plan of redemption it found himself being thrown to the ground by the brilliantly powerful glory of God! And not only was it defeated. But God sovereignly made this rebel into one of his own. And as John Calvin put it, not only did God turn a wolf into a sheep, but he made this sheep into a shepherd. A shepherd that would carry the gospel to the Gentile world and further increase Christ’s kingdom and God’s glory.

Application

No matter what evil or persecution sets themselves up against Christ’s kingdom they will find themselves utterly defeated and used for the further increase of that kingdom in the end. We live in country that is constantly tearing at the fabric of the church. Whether it be the post-modernism that screams violence when we proclaim that our story is the story, or the secularism that laughs at our “primitive” beliefs, the church has a scoffing world for her audience. And if the outside world is not bad enough there are the unceasing problems within the churches walls. Whether the problems resides in church members that hold a grudge against others or to churches that find other things to preach rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ, problems infect the church beyond quick cure. By looking at such things one could quickly draw the conclusion that the future of the church is pretty much doomed! Yet, as this passage displays before us, this church is not a lonely entity that tries to survive the changing years. There is a power behind this church that is none other then the one who sustains the universe by the word of His power! This is His bride that the Father drew to Christ. And His people are hidden in Christ. Their identities are so intertwined that Christ identifies Himself as the church! This is the redemption that He initiated and will see to completion! And evil itself, in the end, will be found as a means for the increase and furtherance of this redemption on earth! All praise and glory to the might of His name!

__________________________________________________________________________________

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books

Schreiner, Tom. Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ. Downers Grove Ill: InterVarsity Press,       2001.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament History. New York, NY: Doubleday Galilee, 1969.

Wright, N. T. What saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of  Christianity? Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

Robertson, Archibald Thomas. Word Pictures in the New Testament. vol 3. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1930.

Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans        Publishing Company, 1955.

Commentaries

Longenecker, Richard N. The Acts of the Apostles. in vol. 9 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Garbelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1981

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. In the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.

Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Rev. ed. In The New international Commentary on the New Testament. Edited by Gordon D. Fee. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988.

Polhill, John B. ACTS. In The New American Commentary, vol. 26. Edited by David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992

Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVIII: John 12-21, Acts 1-13. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books, 2005.

Marshall, I. Howard. The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998

Barrett, C. K. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Acts of the Apostles. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1994

Theologies

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1998

Schreiner, Tom. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008

Dunn, J. G. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids, MI: B. Eerdmans Publishing

Company, 2006.

Culver, Robert Duncan. Systematic Theology Biblical and Historical. Great Briton: Mentor, 2005.

Articles

Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 2007

Hamilton, James M., Jr, “The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation  Display the Divine.Themelios 33:3 (2001): 34-47.


[1]Tom Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (Downers Grove Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 47-49. C. K. Barrett, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Acts of the Apostles. (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1994), 442

[2]Richard N. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles. In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 9. ed.

Frank E. Garbelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference, 1981), 367.

[3] F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (New York, NY: Doubleday Galilee, 1969), 234

[4] Ibid, 238

[5] N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 26-27.

[6] Ibid., 27.

[7] Ibid., 28. Darrell L. Bock and also agrees with Hillelian thoughts in Gamaliel. Bock says that Gamaliel was a student of  Hillel. Acts in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 249. Longenecker and Polhill would agree with Hillelian thought as well but say that Gamaliel was a relation to Hillel. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, 322.  John B. Polhill, ACTS in The New American Commentary, vol. 26. ed David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 171. F. F. Bruce raises the fact that earlier traditions which would “reflect direct memory of Gamaliel…do not associate him with the school of Hillel.”  F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts rev. ed. in The New International Commentary on the New Testament. ed Gordon D. Fee. (Grand Rapids MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 114-115. Just because  Gamaliel is not listed does not, in my mind, force me to the conclusion that Gamaliel did not follow Hillelian views. His actions regarding the apostles in Acts 5:33-39 makes me agree with the view that Gamaliel was a Hillelite.

[8] Bock, Acts, 319.  Bruce, New Testament History, 238.

[9] Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ, 43. J. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle. (Grand Rapids, MI: B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 352.

[10] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVIII: John 12-21, Acts 1-13. (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books, 2005), 328.

[11] Speaking of the phrase “breathing…murder”, Bock says, “It may not mean that he seeks to murder them himself, given that the execution remains in Roman hands, but it expresses what he hopes will be the result of his arrests” Bock, Acts, 354.

[12] Ibid., 355.

[13] Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, 370.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., 370.

[16] Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 576.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid. see also C. K. Barrett,  A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Acts of the Apostles. (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1994), 449.

[19] Bock, Acts, 357. F. F. Bruce would see an allocution in the double use. Bruce, The book of Acts, 182

[20] Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, 371.

[21] Bock, Acts, 357.

[22] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1998), 1047.

[23] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 161

[24] Bruce, The Book of Acts, 182-183. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, 371. Barrett, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, 450.

[25] Bock, Acts, 358.

[26] I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary. (Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 170.

[27] Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, 371.

[28] Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ. 44.

[29] Which probably means that they heard something that they understood at least to be a voice but they where not, however, able to understand what was being said. Thus in Acts 22:9 Paul can say that they did not hear the voice of the one speaking to me. Bock, Acts, 359.

[30] Ibid

[31] Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary. 170

[32] Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVIII: John 12-21, Acts 1-13. 367.

“but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,” (2 Cor. 6:4)

” [Paul]… does not view his suffering as an apostle as a tedious detour; it is rather the main highway.” -David Garland, 2 Corinthians.

Suffering.

It is something that I make an aim to avoid. I try to make life the safest it can possibly be. Whatever it takes, whatever I might lose, whether it be a deeper relationship with someone, to see my neighbor exposed to the gospel, to become wiser and pass on that wisdom to others, it does not matter. It is so much safer keep Christianity in-doors. And so it remands. Buried under the dirt, never any risk of bad happening to it…or anything for that matter! Nice and safe, with no suffering.

Forgive me for this Lord. May I imitate one who was faithful to you, Paul. For he went head long into suffering when your mission, to glorify you name by the proclamation of the Christ called for him to go into it.

What follows is a message about a recent convert from one of our missionaries on the field.

This message picks up from Abraham recently coming to Christ from his Muslim religion. At the news of his conversion his wife became irate and moved to divorce him. We had prayer for Abraham during this time and this is the latest message we received,

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Abraham’s wife never changed and so she still forced Abraham to divorce her and pay thousands of dollars in fines.  He arrived at court last week.  His wife announced to the judge and all who were present that Abraham had apostatized and converted to Christianity.  Abraham was shocked because his wife had told Abraham that she would not say anything during the court hearing.  She has also contacted all of Abraham’s family, friends, and co-workers to tell them about his conversion.  To Abraham’s amazement he still has the support of his relatives.  Because of Abraham’s godly conduct and his kindness toward his wife even in the midst of this divorce his family is not turning against him.

I was talking with Abraham for a long time last night.  He told me how for the first three days or so after the divorce he was so hurt.  He said he was overwhelmed with sadness and was crying a lot.

But, now he has been filled with deep and even overflowing peace and joy.  He said he’s never been so happy in all his life.  He told me he was walking the other day and talking with the Lord.  He said, “God, why are you so good to me?  I’m nothing, I’m rubbish, yet you have given me so much peace and love and joy.  I thank you so much!  You are too good to me!”  Abraham rarely stops smiling.

And praise God.  The news of Abraham’s conversion to Jesus has gone out to all.  So, he now has no fear.  Everything is in the open, everyone knows he’s a follower of Jesus.  And we’re praying that God will draw some to Abraham and find the forgiveness of sins found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matt 19:29)

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