Acts 3

WGO?

Peter heals a lame beggar and preaches to the crowd who have gathered because of the miracle.

 

WTP?

1. Evangelism can look like going to another church’s bible study (1; Act 17:1-3; Deu 33:10; Mal 2:7; Joh 18:20 = Temple courts [e.g., Solomon’s Portico] were where the people in Jerusalem would go to find teaching from various experts on the Law [priests/scribes, lawyers/judges, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.,]. Hence the reason Jesus went to the Temple to teach – because He knew the religiously inclined wb there; Similar Act 16:13 = Bible studies were not always held in synagogues or the Temple [see also Act 20:20 “teaching…house to house”).

 

2. It is the job of the covenant community to see that those born w/disabilities are provided with the financial support necessary to care for their needs (1-2, “alms” = Financial donations; Act 4:34 “not a needy person among them”; Lev 15:4).

 

3. We must graciously accommodate the theological ignorance of those whose soteriology is right (1, [“going up to the Temple at the ninth hour” = The time of the evening sacrifice] w/17 “acted in ignorance” = Peter and John knew that the sacrifices of the Temple could not propitiate for sin. They however also knew that those attending the Temple who were ignorant of this –and more importantly of Jesus’s true identity and role in this respect, possessed the right soteriology [i.e., gain thru vows/covenant signs/faith and maintain through obedience to God’s Law or faithfulness is also required to be save]. Hence the reason for referring to them as “brethren”. In this light, consider 1Ti 1:12-14 = Paul was already a faithful member of the covenant community [already saved]. Paul made similar accommodations to the Jews in Act 21:20-26).

 

4. The mantle of authority (or power) given by Jesus to those pastors possessing the right gospel remains fully intact even when they possess certain beliefs which are wrong due to ignorance (1-10 = At the time that Peter exercises Jesus’s authority/power [“in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene” = According to His authority/power], he ignorantly believes the gospel to only be available to Jews or Jewish proselytes [Act 10:1-28]; Mat 18:18 “whatever you bind…loose” [Grk., hosos = Any or all things in quantity or measure]).

 

5. God gives power and spiritual authority (“piety” [Grk., eusebia = spiritual authority] to the church’s anointed pastors as a means to:

5.1. glorifying Jesus since it is His power and authority they now possess (11-13a; Joh 14:13; Joh 20:21-23). POINT NOT TO MISS: when you resist the authority of the church’s leaders you are both resisting Jesus and robbing Him of His glory.

5.2. exposing those possessing hearts of rebellion against God’s authority (13b-15 = The Jews refused, rejected and killed [“disowned”] Jesus b/c they did not want to submit to His authority. God raised Him from the dead proving Jesus’s authority was divinely-appointed). POINT NOT TO MISS: When you buck the authority of Jesus (which now resides in His anointed pastors), you show yourself to be a rebel to God.

 

6. Loyal obedience to Jesus as our King can lead to more than just spiritual deliverance (16, “on the basis of faith in His name [a pledge of loyal submission to Jesus’s authority]…has given him this perfect health”; 1Co 11:30 = Many Christians get sick or suffer ill health bc they continue to pledge their loyalty to Jesus’s authority [which we do every time we partake of the LT – “for faithfulness of life”] yet live in sinful opposition to Him).

 

7. There is mercy for those whose rebellion is the product of ignorance and not stubbornness (17; 1Ti 1:13; Zec 7:8-13 = Stubbornness leads to wrath – not mercy [God being stubborn to us]. Hence the reason we need to determine whether the problem is moral or intellectual).

 

8. God knows how to take our ignorance and evil actions and use them to advance His Kingdom (13-18, “He has fulfilled” = God’s purposes were being accomplished even thru the wicked suffering inflicted upon Jesus by the Jews; Isa 53; Pro 16:4). POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) free wills and a free future are not enough to keep God from perfectly accomplishing His plans – esp. in re: to His people (Rom 8:28).

2) possessing the proper biblical framework in re: to God and human responsibility, is essential to avoiding – or reading into passages like vv13-18, the error of determinism ([Exo 13:17; Isa 54:15; Jer 19:5] w/Eph 1:11 “works [Grk., energeo] = To give energy to, to operate – not determine/decree/fix – Act 17:26, 31 [Grk., horizo] = Some things – but not most things, have been determined by God – e.g., Jer 5:22).

 

9. There is no forgiveness of sins or blessing of salvation from Jesus for those who fail to cease in their practice of (known) sin and live in obedience to God’s commands (19, “repent and return [to loyalty to the Lord, to practicing His ways and righteousness– Act 11:21, 26:18; Jam 5:19-20; Isa 55:7 w/56:1; Jer 4:1-2]” = This is the principle of put off and put on [Eph 4:22-24; e.g., it is often people’s failure in the latter that keeps them from persevering; Other examples: dieting, unhealthy relationships – self programmed robots//*wb awkward and uncomfortable at first]; 26, “to bless you by [instrumental – how the blessing will take place] turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” = The blessing [of Jesus’s salvation] happens only where there is no more practice of sin – i.e., where [again] it has been replaced by the practice of righteousness [1Jo 3:7-10]).

 

10. Jesus will return when the Jews return to Jesus (19-25)[1] “in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things” = The return of the Jews to God thru becoming Christians (Rom 11:25-29), will lead to the return of Christ and times of refreshing (new heaven, new earth (Isa 66:18-22), which will also signify the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (1:6) and the eternal destruction of all people who do not bow the knee to Jesus (22-25 [Gen 22:18; Deu 18:15-19; 2Sa 7:8-17]; Isa 66:23-24)[2].

 

 

[1] “Christ’s coming is seen as in some sense dependent on Israel’s repentance.” – Ben Witherington (Acts)

[2] “If the Israelites would repent for a day, the son of David (Messiah) would come immediately” – 1st cent., Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (p. Ta’an)

Acts 2

1. The Christian Pentecost should be viewed as Sinai 2.0. given:

1) the sacred holiday of Pentecost (Shavout – Feast of Weeks, Exo 34:22) represented not only a celebration of God’s bountiful giving of physical food (or harvest), but also spiritual food since according to Jewish tradition, Pentecost was the day Israel received the Law from God at Sinai (Hag Matan Torateinu – The Festival of the Giving of Torah[1]) (1, “Pentecost…they were all together in one place”[2]).

 

2) the parallels that exist between Sinai and the Christian Pentecost:

(Exo 19:16-18 w/20:1, 18) = Fire and awe (“fire…people trembled”) accompanying the presence of God speaking about His mighty deeds and Law (“God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’”) which all the people experienced/heard (“All the people perceived”).

(Act 2:2-12) = Fire and awe (“fire…They were amazed and astonished…they all continued in amazement and great perplexity”) accompanying the presence of God (“the Holy Spirit”) speaking about His mighty deeds and Law (“speaking of the mighty deeds of God”) which all the people experienced/heard (vv5-11).[3]

 

3) like the Christian Pentecost, Sinai also shares the association of people receiving the Spirit (Act 2:4 and Num 11:16-17 [this event takes place immediately following the Sinai event – Num 10:11-13]).

 

4) Luke’s mention of the Pentecost event as “fulfillment” (1, “When the day of Pentecost had come”) = Literally, “in complete fulfillment of the day of Pentecost” (Grk., en ho hemera pentakostay sumplay-ra-oe = In sum/complete fulfillment). Luke seems to be indicating that something started in the past (i.e., Sinai) has now come to completion (at Pentecost).[4]

 

5) What follows the Christian Pentecost is the receiving of the “new” Law (the Law as transformed in application and/or semantic range by Jesus) (42, “the apostles’ teaching”).

 

2. The “other tongues” – or tongues given by the Spirit to the early church, were human languages unknown to their speakers (versus a non-human language unknown to the speakers – e.g., an angelic language [Pentecostal version of speaking in tongues]) [5] (4-6, “tongues” [Grk., glossa = human language, Rev 14:6], “hearing them speak in his own language” – See also again, vv8-11)[6].

 

3. Without the proper biblical framework, acts of God (or obedience to God) have been known to be misinterpreted as the behavior of fools or false teachers (12-13; “full of sweet wine”) = Drunk early in the morning, the behavior of fools (14-15). Drunkenness during the day was also associated w/many pagan religions who believed alcohol (or the creation of ecstatic states) was a means to connecting w/deity (e.g., early Christians were accused of being cannibals [for eating their Lord] and guilty of incest [bc they married their brothers and sisters]; we are accused of being works based/trying to earn our salvation or unaware of what Scripture teaches about salvation by faith [bc we teach salvation also requires obedience]).

 

4. Prophesy always involves the miraculous but not always new words – or predictions about the future (16-18, “prophesy”) = Peter is identifying their miraculous speech as the fulfillment of the first portion of Joel 2:28-32 (i.e., the portion re: to prophecy). Yet the content of their speech was itself not miraculous. Once more, they were “speaking (only) of the mighty deeds of God” – referring to those deeds done by God in the past. How then does this qualify as prophecy? The content of most prophecy is not miraculous; it neither speaks about anything new nor predicts anything still future. For speech to qualify as prophetic only two things are necessary: 1) speech in agreement w/God’s existing words (Deu 13:1-11, 18:20), 2) speech accompanied by something miraculous (2Co 12:12; Deu 13:1-2, 18:21-22)—which in the early church’s case, was the ability to speak the various foreign languages of those present at Pentecost w/o knowing them beforehand.

 

5. Peter’s divinely inspired interpretation of Joel 2:28 as “And it shall be in the last days (versus how it was communicated in the original text, “And it shall come about after this”):

1) indicates that the Christian Pentecost/IPO of the indwelling Spirit is not only the beginning of new words/NT canon from God but also the final millennia before Christ’s return and Judgment Day (17-18 = Gifts of the Spirit necessary to new words from God [“prophesy…visions…dreams” = The indication of new words from God/NT canon], 19-20 = Signs that will immediately precede Jesus’ return [Mat 24:29-31]).

 

2) provides further evidence that Jesus’ return will be in the very near future (17, “last days” = Plural or referring to more than one day which in Jewish tradition, each day represents a thousand years of redemptive history [2Pe 3:8] and Messiah returns on the last day, the Sabbath [or at the end of 6,000 years].

At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we were already somewhere in the range of 4,000 years – which means the “days” (or millennia) being referred to by Peter can be no more than two. That puts Jesus’ return somewhere around 2033 [or two thousand years after the Christian Pentecost which took place in 33 A.D.]. In this light, consider Jesus’ words in Joh 9:4).

 

3) should create greater urgency (in us) to be faithful and productive for His kingdom (Mat 25:14-30) – most especially in witnessing to the truth and saving others (Peter’s [Joel’s] point in v21. Once we reach the last days, there is no time to waste; again Joh 9:4, also Pro 11:30).

 

6. The indwelling (or empowering of the) Spirit is given for the purpose of:

1) witness in persecution (Chapter one: witnesses on fire in the fire) (1:8).

 

2) new Scripture (2:17, again, “prophesy…visions…dreams”).

 

3) judgment (most esp. in the covenant community – 18, “prophesy” [all God’s people] = Judgment is a form of prophecy [e.g., Eze 23:36]; The NC indwelling Spirit is the new version of Num 11:17, hence Mat 18:15 = Every member judging/holding other members accountable/responsible for preserving justice/confronting sin as the first step in congregational justice/discipline).

 

7. What God wants the Jews to know about Jesus:

1) He was from God (22; Joh 3:2).

 

2) God’s plan was to deliver Him to the Jews as the (truly) propitiatory sacrifice for their sins (23a; The animal sacrifices were neither sufficient nor penal [i.e., the lambs were not punished]– Rom 3:25; Heb 10:4; Consider also the example of Isaac [God was not punishing him or Abe] or the prophesy of the High Priest [Joh 11:50-51]).

 

3) The Jews treated Jesus as though He were a criminal (23b).

 

4) God still treated Jesus’ death as propitiation for Israel’s sin, hence the reason death could not keep Him/He was resurrected (i.e., He was victorious – Rom 4:25) (24; Heb 9:15-16).

 

5) Jesus’ resurrection and role as Messiah (the “Christ”) was prophesied by David (25-32).

 

6) Jesus is now in heaven where God has exalted and confirmed Jesus’s role not only as His earthly king (“Christ”), but the divine King of heaven and earth (“Lord”) (33-36), 7) God is holding the Jews personally responsible for Jesus’ mistreatment and death (23, 36).

 

8. Peter uses the three most relevant pieces of evidence to validate a person and their message to prove that Jesus was who He claimed to be:

1) their public body of work (22; Act 26:26).

 

2) the Scripture (25-31).

 

3) personal (eyewitness) testimony (32).

 

9. One of the ways to know that you have been a faithful witness causing conviction in others, is that those receiving the message will either be “pierced to the heart” which leads to salvation (37) or “cut to the quick” which leads to persecution (5:33, 7:54, 10:39).

 

10. We are saved and regenerated in the waters of baptism (37-41, “be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…Be saved [thru repentance and baptism]…So then, those who had received his word were baptized…and…there were added [to salvation] about three thousand souls”). That by the word, “added” Luke means salvation is confirmed by (v47 “adding to their number…those…being saved”; 1Pe 3:21).

 

11. The Bible teaches infant baptism:

1) All the essential ingredients found in the phrase, (39, “For this promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off”) are also found in God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 17:7-13 (“children” = infants [v12], “this promise is for you and your children” [7, 10, “you and your descendants after you”], “for all those [children] who are far off [in the future]” [13 “everlasting covenant”]).

 

2) for the entirety of Israel’s redemptive history, infants were granted this special favor by God (i.e., they were automatic members of the covenant). Hardly would any Jew have found what Peter was preaching as good news if such special favor was no longer part of the deal (i.e., they were in under the OC, but now [under the NC], they need to be old enough to understand and give consent).

 

3) to remove God’ special favor toward infants (in this respect) would be a violation of God original and “everlasting” promise (hence the reason, baptism is identified as the new form of circumcision [Col 2:11]– God is keeping His promise!).

 

12. The first true Christians were continually devoting themselves to practicing the very things the world and popular religion (which is only popular b/c it has adopted many of the convictions of the world) has always found controversial or outright rejected:

1) new understandings (of old teachings) (42, “the apostles’ teaching [on the new application/understanding of the OT/Law]).

 

2) seeking confirmation from God (not popular opinion) for what they believed (43, “wonders and signs” = Confirmation that what was being taught was from God. Such signs and miracles were needed given the absence of the NT canon [what we use today to confirm the teaching]).

 

3) treating those in the covenant community more like family than blood family (42, “fellowship” [Grk., koinoenia]) = The idea of family or sharing and becoming one in re to: our resources/care (44-45), our beliefs, convictions and perspective (46a), our personal life (transparency) (46b, “and breaking bread from house to house” = Devoted themselves to time together outside the Temple for the purpose of sharing their personal lives), loyalty (“breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” = Joyfully sharing a meal w/others was an ancient indicator of your loyalty to them), happiness and blessings (47).

 

4) signs with real spiritual power (sacraments v. ordinances) (41, “baptized” w/47 “adding…those being saved”; 42, “breaking of bread” w/Joh 13:10 w/Joh 6:54).

 

[1] Tradition also speaks of this as the day that Ruth – a Gentile, placed herself under the yoke of the Law.

[2] During Pentecost, it was customary for ancient Jews to

gather in one place, stay up all night learning Torah, and remembering their

vows of obedience to God’s commands (See “Shavout – The Holiday of the Giving

of the Torah” – Chabad.org)

[3] The famous Jewish philosopher, Philo’s words, “Then from the midst of the fire that streamed from heaven there sounded forth to their utter amazement a voice, for the flame became the articulate speech in the language familiar to the audience” were not spoken about Christian Pentecost, but Sinai.

[4] “Luke uses an odd phrase to introduce this event, literally ‘in the fulfillment of the day of Pentecost,” but clearly from what follows [is not the fulfillment of that specific day since] the day was yet young.’” – C.K. Barrett (Acts Vol. 1)

[5] Jewish tradition records that the language of angels is the same language God used to create the world, Hebrew (Jub 12:26). It is also this language that (Jewish) tradition teaches was preserved by Michael the archangel for those descendants of Noah in the line of Abraham after the splitting of the languages during the Tower of Babel incident (Apend. Of Naph. 8:4-6). Of further interest, the word “Hebrew” in Hebrew (eev’riyt) is a derivation of the Hebrew word for covenant (beriyt). Put another way, Hebrew was the language of covenant (or those in/remaining in covenant with God).

[6] “The Greek syntax, surely dictates that the phrase ‘in his own language’ must go with the word ‘speaking’ not ‘hearing,’ in v6. They heard them speaking in their own languages.” – Ben Witherington (The Acts of the Apostles A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary)

Acts 1

1. Important people can help us advance the Kingdom (1; “Theophilus” – See Luk 1:3 “most excellent Theophilus” = Title reserved for those with high social status, power or influence [Act 23:26, 24:3, 26:26]. Given that Luke’s audience was much larger than just Theophilus, strongly implies the mention of his name was for the purpose of adding extra validity – and therefore readership, to his writings – possibly to those in the Jewish community. Luke was a Gentile and therefore would have carried no respect in the Jewish community. Such an assumption infers that Theo was an important and highly respected Jew.).

2. Jesus did not go back to heaven until equipping His Church w/: 1) authority: He passed the mantle of Holy Spirit authority [anointing] to His “chosen” leaders (2, “after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders [or “charge” – Mar 13:34] to the apostles”, Joh 20:21-23). 2) assurance: He proved He was alive after His death (3, “many convincing proofs” = Evidence that removes doubt – e.g., Joh 20:17 [Mary Magdalene hugged Him], 20, 24-29 [Apostles saw/touched His wounds], 21:12-15 [Peter and other apostles ate breakfast w/Him]; “over a period of forty days” = Most likely the time when more than 500 people also witnessed Jesus alive after His death -1Co 15:6). 3) ability: He provided His disciples w/instructions for receiving the promised indwelling Holy Spirit for empowerment (4-8).

3. There is an ascending and descending gift of the Holy Spirit: 1) ascending = anointing (2; Joh 20:21-23 = Jesus gives the HS just before He ascends back to heaven), 2) descending = indwelling (4-5, 8; Eph 4:7-11; “measure” = indwelling – or indwelling and anointing; “When He ascended…He gave [aorist = tense stressing association more than indicating time]” = Christ’s HS anointing is associated w/His ascension; “descended” = On Pentecost to give the indwelling Spirit; v11 = The anointed offices today [“evangelist” = NT priest who plants churches/missionary, “pastor-teacher” = NT priest; See Isa 66:21]).

4. Being faithful as Jesus’ “witnesses” in the midst of persecution/trials is: 1) necessary to being empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit (4-8 w/Luk 3:16-17 w/Mar 9:43-50 “salted by fire” = Tested by fire [or fiery trials] (Lev 2:13 “with all your offerings you shall offer salt”)[1]. Jesus went through the same process – Luk 3:21-22, 4:1-14. In this light consider also Paul’s words in Act 20:22-24 w/14:22; we are born [again] w/power that can only be released thru the trials that come thru witnessing). 2) the reason most Christians never experience empowerment from the indwelling Spirit — because they avoid witnessing for Jesus and the persecution/trials it often brings! Point NOT to miss: empowering is for the purpose of witnessing in the midst of persecution/trials which means if you avoid witnessing in these situations, you avoid being empowered (12-26 = The apostles are praying [w/ the expectation of] empowerment [12-14] bc they are planning to witness [15-26] to the same hostile Jews who killed Jesus[2]; See similar in [4:29-30]).

 

5. Jesus’ return will feel a lot like a science fiction movie, an alien invasion and episode from “Law And Order” (9-11 w/1Th 4:15-17 [Mat 24:29-31] and 2Th 1:7-8 [Psa 149; Joh 5:28-29; Mat 13:40-43]; In the end, everyone will have their day in God’s court and some of us wb called to testify against others– Rev 20:11-15; Heb 13:17; 1Co 6:2-3).

 

6. The geographical place of Jesus’ ascent will also be the geographical place of His return (11-12 w/Zec 14:1-14, 9).

 

 

 

 

7. The standard by which to measure any church is its divinely inspired prototype: the church started by Jesus, the church of the apostles, the Jerusalem church which was small and filled with a lot of personal family members (versus large and filled with a lot of strangers) [3] (13-15; As it re: to being small: “one hundred and twenty persons” = Very small in comparison to the crowds that once followed Jesus [e.g., Luk 9:12-14]; As it re: to being filled w/family members: “Judas” = Jesus’ [half] brother, apostle and author of Jude, “Mary the mother of Jesus, …with His brothers.” = This list would include James – the future senior pastor of the church, as well as Joses and Simon. His sisters were [ml] also in attendance [Mar 6:3]; According to Scripture and tradition [e.g., Clement of Alexandria], most of the “eleven” were married and had at least one child [e.g., Mat 8:14; 1Co 9:5; e.g., Peter’s daughter was named Petronilla]. More than likely then, 30-40 [or 25-33%] of the 120 persons were family members. As it re: to remaining small: though experiencing times of great expansion (Act 2:41, 4:4, 5:14), they were short lived. Persecution forced most of the church’s new members to seek shelter in churches outside of Jerusalem (e.g., Act 8:4). As a result, the Jerusalem church remained one of the smallest for the majority of her first century existence (hence Act 11:28-30; Rom 15:25-26; 1Co 16:2-3).[4]

 

8. The apostles believed that insurrection – condemning or coming against the authority of those anointed to sacred office in the church was blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the unforgiveable sin and apostasy (16-20 w/Mat 26:14 w/Joh 12:1-8; “Let his homestead be made desolate and let no one dwell in it” [See the full context of Psa 69:22-28] = Let them become apostate; For blasphemy against the HS as insurrection against the anointed in the covenant community, see Mat 12:32 w/Num 15:30-31, 16:1-3; also Psa 105:15).

 

9. The qualifications for being in the anointed sacred office of apostle make clear that anyone claiming that office today is a false teacher (21-22 w/25 “apostleship”).

 

10. The congregation is the one deciding who gets anointed/ordained (15-16 w/23 [“they” = the congregation] – 26 [“added” = voted in by the congregation]; See also Act 6:1-6 [“the whole congregation…chose”; That they were choosing for the purpose of anointing/ordaining – i.e., that these were elders/pastors is confirmed by the fact these individuals had the authority/ability to baptize – e.g., Act 8:38]; OT ref. to congregational choosing for anointing – 1Ch 29:20-22).

 

11. Casting lots (sortition or selection by lottery) is a divine way to preserve equity in situations where there is no explicit counsel from God [His Word] (23-26 = Lots were cast to determine the duties of the priests. Joseph and Mattias were [ml] elders in their church [Luk 1:9 and 1Ch 24:1-5, 31, 25:8, 26:13-16] e.g., also [clothing] Mat 27:31; [land] Num 26:55; Jos 18:6; [sacrifices] Lev 16:8; in re: to it being divinely attended [revealing God’s will] – Pro 16:33 [e.g., Urim and Thummin – Exo 28:30]).

 

[1] “The reference to ritual sacrifice (Lev 2:13) would be fairly evident to the first readers of Mark. The argument has a coherence deeper than catchwords: Since undisciplined disciples risk the fire of gehenna at the last judgment, the hardships the disciple will undergo now are disciplines like the fire of a sacrificial offering that purifies, or like salt which stings but is preservative in its effect. Jesus on his way to Jerusalem is the supreme example of the sacrificial offerings ‘salted with fire.’ His sacrificial death is not to shield disciples from costly obedience, but rather show them the way: ‘For every one (meaning every disciple) will be salted with fire.’ Disciples whose lives are not characterized by rigorous self-discipline [and bold witness] are like flavorless salt. They have lost the sharpness which sets them apart from their environment and constitutes their usefulness.” – Lamar Williamson Jr. (Mark)

[2] Since both were required holidays and the cost of travel was steep, the Jews who travelled to Jerusalem to observe Passover, would often stay until Pentecost. As such, the Jews who witnessed Jesus’ death are still in town.

[3] The are several good reasons for referring to the Jerusalem church as prototypical: 1) it is the specific church Jesus is referring to when making His “church promises” to Peter (Mat 16:17-19), 2) it is the church to which all the other first century churches looked for instruction/ruling on orthodoxy and orthopraxy (e.g., Gal 2:1-2; Act 15:1-29; 1Co 11:16 = The unity of practice among the “churches of God” on this issue was no doubt due to the fact that it came from their mother, the church at Jerusalem).

[4] According to ancient church historian Eusebius, the Jerusalem church relocated to the city of Pella just before the city’s fall to the Romans in 70 A.D. It did so however without its two leaders, James (the brother of Jesus) and Peter who stayed behind and perished during the siege. At this point, most of the apostles were also dead and the church’s former members permanently dispersed to other locations. Though the city itself would continue to play a significant role in the world’s politics and religion, her church remained small and struggled to exist.

Acts: Signs You Are Part of a Genuine Jesus Movement

Acts stands for “Acts of the Apostles.” IOW: What the apostles did, endured or experienced as God used them to spearhead the first genuine Jesus movement after His death and ascension back to heaven. Given the purpose of Scripture, those actions and events can be considered the signs of when such a movement is taking place today. In broad strokes, they are the following:

1. The gospel message being preached will have teeth.

1.1. Two things are meant by this figure of speech:

1.1.1. the message wb offensive not only to the world, but also the majority of those claiming to follow God (e.g., the Jews of Jesus’ day; Evangelical Christians) (Act 7:51-54) = Like the messages preached by the former prophets, Stephen’s gospel was offensive to the majority of those already believing themselves to be the followers of God (the Jews of Jesus’ day; popular Christianity) (Act 17:6 “upset the world”, Act 28:22 “it is spoken against everywhere”). Most people (pagans and “Christians”) will hate the gospel of a genuine Jesus movement.

1.1.2. salvation would not be free and easy – or something you get for nothing (with no strings attached). It would instead require sacred vows of loyalty to Jesus and a life of faithfulness to God’s Laws (Act 2:38):

1) “repent” = Commit to practicing obedience to God’s Laws (which means putting off/turning from the practice of sin) (Luk 3:3 [notice, like faith, repentance is also necessary to the forgiveness of sins], 4-14 = IOW: Practice the Law in all things, this is what it means/looks like to repent (Isa 40:3-8 “word of our God” [i.e., God’s Law]) = Eternal preservation/salvation will require clearing out of our lives all lawlessness and clinging to God’s Law as preached (esp. at the time of His Messiah) (Isa 42:1-4, 51:4-5). Notice this message (or offer of salvation) also applies to the “nations” – people other than the Jews (Isa 55:1-7 w/56:1-8)[1]. That by repentance is meant commitment to obeying God’s Law is also supported by other passages in the book of Acts (Act 21:21-24) = Paul would have refused James’ request if the version of Christianity he had converted to did not view obedience to the Law as necessary; (Act 24:14-15 w/25:8) = Likewise, Paul could not say these things if the version of Christianity he had converted to did not view the Law as necessary; (Act 17:11) = The Bereans would have found Paul’s gospel to be false if it ignored obedience to God’s Law since this was the central message of the OT Scriptures they were using to validate his message.

2) “each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” = Notice, this too (baptism) is necessary for salvation (or the forgiveness of sins). According to Peter’s first epistle, baptism represents a sacred vow of loyalty to Jesus (1Pe 3:21 “an appeal [Lit., a vow or pledge of loyalty] to God [in exchange for] a good conscience [i.e., forgiveness] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ [the person whose blood is the source of our forgiveness]”). This vow of loyalty is also picked up in the word faith [Grk., pistis = loyalty]. Examples from Acts (Act 3:16 “faith in His name”) = A common ancient idiom referring to a person’s loyalty to another (usually a person more powerful or of higher status than themselves); (Act 20:21 “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”) = Not only is the aforementioned idiom expressed, but this time the word “faith” is used as the substitute for baptism. Instead of Peter’s former gospel combination of repentance and baptism, it is repentance and faith – demonstrating faith to be both a suitable synonym for baptism and another term communicating vows of loyalty.

1.2. Why a gospel requiring such things was (and continues to be) so offensive to those outside a genuine Jesus’ movement = Because the gospel preached by the majority of those claiming to follow God has always been a gospel which requires no such loyalty or commitment. True now and true also in Jesus’ day. The rebellious Jews were the first Evangelicals. They too believed in a FAG (Jer 6:14-19; Luk 3:8 w/Joh 8:39).

1.3. A gospel causing this kind of offense among the majority was prophesied as central to the genuine Jesus movement (Luk 2:34-35 w/Mat 10:16-39) = The people Jesus is calling “wolves” – who will do these awful things, wb the majority of those claiming to follow God and blood family.

2. The gospel message is powerfully and irrefutably proven from the Scriptures.

1.1. (Act 18:24-28 “powerfully refuted…demonstrating by the Scriptures”) = Proving by powerful argument and irrefutable Scriptural evidence (“demonstrating”, Luk 17:14).

1.2. (Act 1.17:1-3, 8:4, 19, 19:8 “synagogue”) = Jewish place of worship where scrolls containing all the OT Scriptures would be found. Though Paul [ml] possessed some books (e.g., Pentateuch – 2Ti 4:13), it would have been almost impossible to his missionary endeavors to carry everything.

Hence therefore the common practice of going to the synagogue to evangelize. (“explaining and giving evidence”, “reasoning”) = The employment of logic and facts to make an argument. In this case, the logic and facts established by the Scriptures. (“persuading”) = Irrefutably proving.

1.3. Jesus preached the same way (Luk 24:27 w/32 “our hearts burning within us”) = Idiomatic phrase indicating the presence of strong conviction where there had once been doubt. Jesus’ demonstrably proved from the OT Scriptures that the gospel message He had preached (most esp., that the Christ would need to suffer and die) was true.

1.4. Point not to miss: the gospel of a genuine Jesus movement doesn’t just claim its message is irrefutable, but proves it from the Scriptures in such a way that it leaves its opponents w/o a valid rebuttal (in re: to ordained men, Tit 1:9-11 silenced” = their mouths made shut/stopped).

3. Because what is being preached as the gospel is both offensive and irrefutable, those rejecting its message (including those within the majority) will employ slander and shady tactics to shut the preachers up.

2.1. (Act 6:7-13 “cope with the wisdom”) = Refute his arguments from Scripture. Jesus promised to give His preachers this kind of wisdom (Luk 21:15). (“secretly induced men to say…put forward false witnesses”) = Employed slander and shady tactics to shut Stephen up bc (once more) they couldn’t refute him.

2.2. (Act 9:22-23 “plotted” [20:3 “plot…formed by the Jews”, 19 “plots of the Jews”]; See also 23:12-15 “conspiracy”) = Shady tactics. In this case, the shady tactic of condemning someone w/o giving them the opportunity to defend their actions or beliefs (e.g., a kangaroo court). God’s Law forbids such shady tactics (Exo 23:1 w/Deu 19:15; Hence Joh 7:51). Even the pagan Romans viewed such behavior as shady and illegal (Act 19:21-28 w/35-42; See also Act 23:30, *25:16).

2.3. Because they could not refute their gospel, the Jews called the Christians a cult (“sect”) so that others would view them with suspicion.

2.4. Another common (shady) tactic of those who are unable to refute the preachers in a genuine Jesus movement is to slanderously attack their personal character. This they also do, in the hopes of scaring others out of listening to them (Act 24:5 “deceivers…pest”) = Translates as “scoffer” in the OT. It refers to a wicked person who boldly condemns those who are right as though they were wrong. (“dissension”) = Insurrection (against God). See also Paul’s words in (2Co 6:8 “regarded as deceivers”) = Imposters.

2.5. Jesus’ character and intentions were likewise attacked by those who were unsuccessful in attacking what He preached (Mat 11:19 “gluttonous man and a drunkard” [Notice they condemned JtB also- v18]; Joh 8:41 “fornication” = Implying that Jesus was a bastard child; See also v48).

2.6. It is for these reason that both Jesus and Paul were confident that those part of a genuine Jesus movement will experience hatred and persecution from others (including once more, those a part of the majority followers of God) (again, Mat 10:22; See also Joh 15:18-21; Act 14:22).

 

4. The church will possess real authority.

4.1. The fact that Acts speaks of those being baptized as receiving forgiveness of sins means there is real power in this sacrament. Another text that speaks of baptism as the place where we are forgiven – or our sins are washed away, is (Act 22:16).

4.2. Seeing that the church (or her elders) were the only ones able to carry out this powerful act (Act 8:12, 35-38 = Philip was an elder in the Jerusalem church [Act 6:1-6], 9:18 = Ananias was the elder at the church in Damscus, 10:46-48 = Peter as an apostle/elder of the Jerusalem church, 16:14-15, 31-33 = Paul was an apostle/elder in the church at Antioch) means that the church possessed real spiritual authority – the authority (or power) to “bind and loose”, just as Jesus had promised (Mat 16:17-19; Joh 20:21-23).

4.3. That those churches associated w/a genuine Jesus movement possess real spiritual authority is also supported by the church’s exclusive ability to: 1) determine who received this authority from the HS (Act 8:15-19, 14:23; Act 20:28) = Notice it mentions the HS [or His authority and power] in conjunction w/ the elders at Ephesus (“the HS made you overseers…to “guard…oversee [and] shepherd” the church), 2) to pronounce and secure divine judgment in relation to the disobedient in the church (Act 5:1-11) = Notice again, the mention of the HS w/respect to the elders. When Ananias and Sapphira lie to the elders, they are viewed as lying to the HS.

4.4. As a final note, it should be mentioned that Acts also indicates that false churches and their leaders – or those not part of a genuine Jesus movement, will not possess such authority – and as a result, not be able to keep the demons out of their covenant communities (Act 19:11-16 w/Mat 16:18-19).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Many have claimed that their church is (or has been a part of) a genuine Jesus movement. If the present study’s findings are correct, how many churches truly are (or were)? What about us? Is what has been discussed today, what we see or have experienced in this church? If so, welcome to a genuine Jesus movement.

[1] Scholars believe Acts to be the fulfillment of these chapters in Isaiah. See David W. Pao’s Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus