Interesting Thoughts From Acts

As I've been reading through Acts this go-round, I've noticed some interesting things I thought I'd share with you all:

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS
I began looking carefully at biblical characters and how they are first mentioned. Look at some of these descriptions, all from chapter 16:
  • "A disciple" - Timothy
  • "a worshiper of God" - Lydia
  • "a slave girl with the spirit of divination" - was later freed from that spirit
  • "the jailer... was about to kill himself" - he and all his household were saved
Just interesting the way different people are described... it makes me wonder how I would be described.... what would be the first thing someone said about me, or would I be mentioned at all?

WHAT THE APOSTLES DID
Paul and Silas and other apostles at that time have some interesting phrases that others use to describe what they were doing (evangelizing the known world). Check these out:
  • "These men have turned the world upside down" -17:6
  • "You bring some strange things to our ears" -17:20
  • "This Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods." -19:26
  • "This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere" -21:28
Again, I wonder what would be said of me.

THE WOMEN OF ACTS
Women play a prominent role in Acts. In nearly every city or location of Paul's journey, women have some part to play in his work and ministry. This book makes a point to highlight not only the men who became believers, but also the women who follow "the Way."
  • "On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate... and sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, ... who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized and her household as well," she urged them to stay in her home. (16:13-15)
  • "Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women." -17:4
  • "Some men joined him and believed, among whom [was]... a woman named Damaris." -17:34
  • Priscilla is mentioned, along with her husband Aquila, as Paul worked alongside this couple in ministry together. She not only works with her husband, but we find her explaining the Scriptures to Apollos because he didn't understand accurately about God. (Chap 18)
  • In the beginning of Chapter 21, we see that wives and children are accompanying the men to the coast to send off Paul. They have such a connection to Paul, after only seven days, that they too (and not just the men) are included in his bon voyage "seeing off".
This kind of inclusion of women in the evangelism plan (16:13-15), ministry (17:4, 24), discipleship (18), and lives (21) of the followers of Christ is not only interesting- it is REVOLUTIONARY. No other 'religion' included women in this way from the beginning. Christianity has, from the beginning, respected and sought out the inclusion of women in evangelism, worship, and discipleship. And in this time period in particular, including women in the very fabric of faith was radical.

This lends even more credibility to the belief that Luke wrote Acts, because in his own gospel, Luke mentions and includes women more than in the other gospels. The book of Acts has women woven throughout.

One more thought... as far as I can tell, women are never included in the descriptions of people who participate and call for the persecution of the apostles. But women are consistently included as persons who minister to the apostles' needs and who hear and receive the words of truth.

THE VARIED EVIDENCE/OUTCOMES OF BELIEF
One other thing I noticed in this read-through of Acts is that there is not only one clear response of faith. Nearly every time belief is mentioned, an outcome is given, but those outcomes are not always the same. Here are some examples:
  • Chapter 16: Lydia's response of faith is to open up her home to the apostles
  • The jailer's response is to minister to the apostles by washing their wounds and feed them
  • Chapter 17: The Thessalonians who came to faith are generally regarded as having learned their lessons well, as the 2 letters to the Thessalonians are not written to clear up many doctrinal issues, as much as they are to continue teaching deeper things to the Thessalonian believers. These believers only had Paul with them for three Sundays, and yet they seem to have been well discipled during those three weeks.
  • We aren't told of the outcomes of the faith of the Bereans or the people who heard Paul in the Areopagus
  • Chapter 18: The Corinthians had Paul with them for a year and a half, and yet (in stark contrast to the Thessalonians) the letters written to them are written to clear up doctrinal misconceptions, to correct believers who have erred, and to exhort them towards love and forgiveness towards one another. This was a church in crisis after coming to faith.
  • In chapter 19, the people of Ephesus who had believed began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
  • Many Ephesians who had become believers came, "confessing and divulging their practices. A number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all." These followers had a radical awareness of the seriousness of their sin, and they not only confessed their sin- they took steps to ensure that they would not return to their sin!
Just some interesting (to me, at least) observations about this incredible book of the Bible that gives such a rich picture of the beginnings of the Church and the early days of Christian faith.

11 comments:

Serena said...

Interesting observations, Jess! I especially liked the point about the Ephesians taking steps to ensure that they wouldn't return to their sin. I think this is something that is greatly neglected. It's so very easy to slip back into the old self.

MInTheGap said...

That's some terrific analysis, Jess. I've often tried to think of what the Bible would say about me-- if I'd get listed at all. To me, there's those that just got listed because they had a good kid or they were in the right line (an accomplishment at that!) and then those that have little, and a lot to say.

Our pastor went through a series at the beginning of the year about the disciples, and it's interesting that there is so little on a few of them. They're mentioned, but not nearly as much as Peter and John.

LisaM said...

Neat observations, all of them. Thanks for sharing this study - makes me want to go back and read through -no, study through - the book of the Acts again.

Anonymous said...

Jess, early Christianity was indeed radical in some ways, and this revolutionary spirit has inspired many Christian believers. Google "Diggers 17th century England" and "liberation theology" for some examples.

Do you know anyone on the religious left? They have a lot to say on this subject.

Some Jewish scholars have also admired Jesus' contribution to the faith of his time. Martin Buber considered Jesus to have embodied the spirit of true Judaism, and Brad Young wrote an interesting book called "Jesus the Jewish Theologian."

Several prayers said on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur (Day of Repentance) deal with the need to refrain from repeating a sin when the opportunity arises. If you confess your sin but keep doing the same thing again, that is not genuine repentance.

Laurie B

lizzykristine said...

Hi Jess! I just found your blog today and browsed through some of the archives. I enjoyed reading your well-thought-out thoughts on various subjects. ;) I'm sure I'll be back soon!

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with your recent serious post, but I can't see a way to e-mail you. Found your blog from Walk Slowly Live Wildly a while back and then lost it again. You had just got your hair cut, though, and I remembered that and have been looking for your blog again. Could you please tell me what type of hair texture you have? Mine is thick, coarse and straight and I'm wondering if this cut might work for me. Thanks so much, Cathy

Jess said...

Cathy,
Thanks for reading and writing your question- (even if it wasn't about "the serious post"!) :)

My hair is very fine, but thick. Does that make sense? I've never known how to describe my hair. It's pretty much straight and fine--not quite baby-fine, but pretty smooth. But I have a lot of it- it's very thick.

It seems like your hair might do even better with this cut, because if it is coarse, it might hold the style better than mine does (as the day drags on).

Hope this helps!

For what it's worth, the e-mail address is WAAAAAYYYYY at the bottom of the front page of the blog: makinghome@pobox.com

Blessings,
Jess

Coffee Wife said...

What a lovely blog you have! God bless!!! -Michelle Therese in Scotland

Anonymous said...

Jess,

Thanks for answering my hair question! Long and straight isn't working for me so I'm ready to make a change.

Cathy

Anonymous said...

Jess, I have a question for you. Do you ever study any of the gnostic gospels? I am no expert on the New Testament, but my understanding is that there are some interesting and different perspectives in those works (e.g. Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip).

These texts seem to have been written down by students of the apostles, just as the four canonical gospels were.

Anyway, just wondering whether these other texts are ever in your field of study.

Laurie B

Jess said...

Laurie,
I haven't studied the gnostic gospels, or learned too much about them. I know some about them from my husband's reading and studies and our conversations, but feel a personal conviction that I ought to know the canonical, accepted biblical texts very well before I start spending any time in those that have been rejected.

I mean, even the amount of time I spend reading personal literature and books is probably too much, in comparison with the amount of time I spend in the Bible.

And for my personal study at present, with three small children and several moves around the world in the last 20 months, I barely have time to spend time in the Word. The time that I DO spend, I am choosing to spend in one book per month, in an effort to more thoroughly know the books I've chosen as individual books. My intent is to do this for a couple of years so that I can fully engage myself in the Word, knowing the Bible through and through.

I have always had difficulty with remembering what verses come from what books... for example, I can quote a lot of Scripture, but I have rarely been able to tell people which book it comes from, much less what chapter... but since the beginning of this year, studying James, Romans, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1 John, Proverbs, Acts, and now Colossians, I am already *better* at being able to find the reference when I'm talking about a particular verse or passage- although still certainly not great, by ANY means! :)

So anyway, that's why I'm studying the way I am at present. I have to be selective and intentional about what I study, because my time is limited and I want to make the most of it.

Thanks for your question- blessings,
Jess