Thursday, February 21, 2013
Explaining from Morning Until Evening
Acts 28:16 ¶ When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
Acts 28:17 ¶ Three days later he called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.
Acts 28:18 When they had examined me, the Romans wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case.
Acts 28:19 But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to the emperor—even though I had no charge to bring against my nation.
Acts 28:20 For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
Acts 28:21 They replied, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken anything evil about you.
Acts 28:22 But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
Acts 28:23 ¶ After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets.
Acts 28:24 Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe.
Acts 28:30 ¶ He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him,
Paul has now arrived in Rome and is settling into the home in which he will live under house arrest. Paul seems quite at peace with the arrangement and plans to use it for the benefit of the Lord, to begin his ministry in Rome. He is only there three days when he calls in the Jewish leaders to have a meeting with them. They have heard about the "sect" of Jesus Christ and interestingly they comment that "everywhere it is spoken against." I find that comment interesting because it makes us realize how quickly the news of Jesus had spread throughout the known world. And yet what was it that they had heard? I'm guessing it was rumor and innuendo. Judgement had been made regarding the Jesus as the Messiah based on faulty information.
Enter Paul. Paul had been highly respected by the Jewish community because of his upbringing and his education. He knew how to articulate the faith and he spent hours, from morning until night, explaining it to them. He was able to teach them about the kingdom of God. This was a different way to look at a Jewish population that was awaiting a political savior. Jesus came to be their savior but within a different kingdom, one that was ushering in an entirely new era here on this earth. Paul was able to go back to the law of Moses and explain Jesus' relationship to that law. What had Jesus said? He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law. Again this was new understanding to be laid upon the foundation of faith which these Jewish leaders had received from the early years. Finally Paul began to appeal to them from the prophets. What had they prophesied about so long ago? Jesus was able to fit into prophecy after prophecy. He was the one who had come to fulfill the prophecies!
And for some these hours of instruction and explanation made sense and they were able to put aside the rumors and innuendos and they received the good news of Jesus as their Messiah. For others, they were simply too skeptical. It wasn't going to work for them. They simply refused to believe.
How important is it these days to be able to articulate our faith? There has been much emphasis placed upon the "experiential" portion of our faith -- that is, can we testify to particular experiences which have occurred? Coming from a Wesleyan/Arminian perspective this is not a bad thing because it fits well into our paradigm of understanding our faith as founded in Scripture, but also takes into account experience, reason and tradition. However, if experience begins to take the place of the other three areas, we become out of balance. Paul represents a great balance for us. Yes, he had incredible experiences with Jesus Christ, but when arguing with the Jews he had to know how to convince them from their perspective. They were not going to be convinced from experience, instead they had to see the connection of Jesus to the promised Messiah. This had to tie into their understanding of a kingdom and now the shift from an earthly kingdom to the kingdom of God.
I have had discussions with people in the pew who tell me that they don't want people to preach about what someone else thinks (for some this means a particular theological perspective) but instead just want to know what's in the Bible. The problem is that every time someone preaches or teaches from the Bible they bring with them their particular theological perspective. There is subjectivity involved and the more that subjectivity is based in experience alone, the more that we may run into some difficulties. When the Jewish leaders in Rome were basing their understanding of Christianity on rumors, innuendos and experience alone, they weren't sure what to make of it. God purposely sends Paul to Rome and places him in a position where he is available to teach from morning to night. Do you think that there is any correlation to this and the fact that Rome becomes the center of the Western Church? The church wasn't going to grow and/or thrive on experience and rumors alone -- it needed some good, solid and foundational theological teaching.
Paul remained there in that house for two years, teaching day in and day out. It did matter what was being taught. For the foundation to be laid there had to be sound teaching from one who was able to articulate the faith. This is what left a lasting impact on Rome. If we are to leave a lasting impact on the world today we need spirit-filled teachers and preachers who have the ability to articulate the faith from morning until night! We cannot have a separation between the academy and the church -- they must be knit together into one, creating a strong foundation on which the church can be built -- teaching from morning until night.
Lord, may we all be fervent listeners and learners of you and be willing to share the news about you with all whom we meet. Amen.