Missions and Acts - Covenantal Approach?

Kaitiaki's picture

Basically this is just a "what do we learn about the Church from Acts?" thread. As we watch Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas building the Church in Acts, what can we learn about their concept of the Church as a whole? Robert suggested my original plan was too cumbersome so asked me to create new threads.

Thread Moderator - Kaitiaki

Jesus said he was sent to seek and saved the lost sheep of Israel - yet he still had a place for Gentiles who were present when he was preaching. When the new Church began in Acts i took a sign from God before the Apostles were prepared to take the Gospel to the Gentiles at all. Then when Paul did, he went first to the Jews and then to the Greeks. We explore this aspect of his method of missions.

The process Paul used (The Jews first and then the Greeks) may set out a policy we should keep in mind for missions outreach. Do you think this was a deliberate policy? Do you think he began with those who, not only should have been the easiest to reach with the truth but also, were the ones who should join with him in the further work of outreach? What part did their greater accountability under the covenant have to play in his use of this policy?

CLARK E. WADE's picture

Christianity as a Jewish sect?

Hi brother Lee,

You stated "...we must remember The Church of Jesus The Christ was first and is a Sect of The Jewish Community at Large!"

I agree with the first part that Christianity started off as a Jewish sect, but believe that that is no longer the case. Had the church in Jerusalem remained "the Mother Church," Christianity would have remained, as you say, a Jewish sect, leaving the Gentiles pretty much unevangelized.

The Jerusalem church was much hampered and weighed down by its continued emphasis on Jewish customs and rituals. They were Jewish believers in the Messiah, in our Lord, but they insisted on keeping so much of their religious baggage. The letter that Paul wrote to the Galatians was a result of the Judaizers from Jerusalem that were seeking to undermine the faith of the Galatian churches in the gospel that Paul preached to them.

The Judaizers were saying in essence (see "The Untold Story of the New Testament Church" by Frank Viola):

1. Jerusalem is the center of God's work on earth. The twelve apostles are the only authority for what the true gospel is and they were commissioned by Christ Himself. Paul did not come from Jerusalem, and he was not commissioned by Christ.

2. Paul's gospel is deficient. The Jerusalem leaders believe in the God-given practice of circumcision and observing the Law and the traditions...Believing in Jesus coupled with obeying the Law of Moses justifies and sanctifies a man before God.

3. Peter is the chief apostle among the Twelve. Paul had the arrogance to rebuke the apostle Peter to his face! This proves that Paul is a freelancer who is engaging in an independent work apart form the ministry of the Twelve.

Paul answered these accusations in full in his letter to the Galatians. Here is a segment of that response (Gal.2:11-13):

"But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I protested and opposed him to his face [concerning his conduct there], for he was blameable and stood condemned. For up to the time that certain persons came from James, he ate his meals with the Gentile [converts]; but when the men [from Jerusalem] arrived, he withdrew and held himself aloof from the Gentiles and [ate] separately for fear of those of the circumcision [party]. And the rest of the Jews along with him also concealed their true convictions and acted insincerely, with the result that EVEN BARNABAS WAS CARROED AWAY BY THEIR HYPOCRISY (their example of insincerity and pretense)."

"...even Barnabas was carried away..." Paul is shocked and angry here that his dearest co-worker was also "carried away" from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus.

While many of us are prone to be impressed with our human leaders, Paul wasn't so enamoured with the pillars of the Jerusalem church, as he writes:

"But from those who seemed to be something--whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favortism to no man--for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me." (Gal.2:6).

Another story in the book of Acts shows how even Paul ended up succumbing to the misguided counsel of the Jerusalem church (in the presence of James), and it ended up in a complete disaster and almost cost Paul his life. One thing I do notice about this story is that their advice didn't seem to be covered by prayer or witness from the Holy Spirit:

Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-32:The Message)

"In Jerusalem, our friends, glad to see us, received us with open arms. The first thing next morning, we took Paul to see James. All the church leaders were there. After a time of greeting and small talk, Paul told the story, detail by detail, of what God had done among the non-Jewish people through his ministry. They listened with delight and gave God the glory.

"They had a story to tell, too: "And just look at what's been happening here—thousands upon thousands of God-fearing Jews have become believers in Jesus! But there's also a problem because they are more zealous than ever in observing the laws of Moses. They've been told that you advise believing Jews who live surrounded by unbelieving outsiders to go light on Moses, telling them that they don't need to circumcise their children or keep up the old traditions. This isn't sitting at all well with them.

"We're worried about what will happen when they discover you're in town. There's bound to be trouble. So here is what we want you to do: There are four men from our company who have taken a vow involving ritual purification, but have no money to pay the expenses. Join these men in their vows and pay their expenses. Then it will become obvious to everyone that there is nothing to the rumors going around about you and that you are in fact scrupulous in your reverence for the laws of Moses.

"In asking you to do this, we're not going back on our agreement regarding non-Jews who have become believers. We continue to hold fast to what we wrote in that letter, namely, to be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; to avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians; to guard the morality of sex and marriage.

"So Paul did it—took the men, joined them in their vows, and paid their way. The next day he went to the Temple to make it official and stay there until the proper sacrifices had been offered and completed for each of them.

"When the seven days of their purification were nearly up, some Jews from around Ephesus spotted him in the Temple. At once they turned the place upside-down. They grabbed Paul and started yelling at the top of their lungs, "Help! You Israelites, help! This is the man who is going all over the world telling lies against us and our religion and this place. He's even brought Greeks in here and defiled this holy place." (What had happened was that they had seen Paul and Trophimus, the Ephesian Greek, walking together in the city and had just assumed that he had also taken him to the Temple and shown him around.)

"Soon the whole city was in an uproar, people running from everywhere to the Temple to get in on the action. They grabbed Paul, dragged him outside, and locked the Temple gates so he couldn't get back in and gain sanctuary.

"As they were trying to kill him, word came to the captain of the guard, "A riot! The whole city's boiling over!" He acted swiftly. His soldiers and centurions ran to the scene at once. As soon as the mob saw the captain and his soldiers, they quit beating Paul."

The question is, was this really godly advice given to Paul, a fruit of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with James, that pillar of the church, fully in attendance, or was it directly related to the very thing that had so bogged down the Jerusalem church that prevented it from the spiritual revival and missionary activity that was taking place in and from Antioch?

And Lee, I question your comment here:

"James The Just succeeded his brother Yeshua(Jesus) of Nazareth in Leadership of The Body of Believers."

Is that a positive thing in your view? Is it scriptural to think of one person, even the brother of Yeshua, assuming leadership of the body of believers in the place of Christ?

This seems to be the very thing our Lord warned about:

“But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ” (Matthew 23:8-20).

What we seem to see in Antioch is the Holy Spirit, the Headship of Jesus Christ, still fully in charge. Perhaps it is at the point of designating human leadership over the church that the real problems begin. Paul warned about this in his talk with the elders in Acts 20:29-30:

"I know that after I am gone ferocious wolves will get in among you not sparing the flock; even from among your own selves men will COME TO THE FRONT, who by saying perverse things will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them."

The secret of Antioch's power and mission came from the unchallenged centrality, supremacy and Headship of Jesus Christ. He was the leader of their meetings together:

"Now in the church assembly at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyhrene, Mansen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said “Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

Paul's calling as an apostle came out of this fellowship that recognized Jesus Christ as Head.

Can it be that Jerusalem over-localized and over-centralized the power of the church into the hands of a few leaders (pillars) rather than depend on the Headship of Jesus Christ being exercised throughout His body as He wills and chooses? Could it be that the revival that began in Jerusalem with Pentacost hardened into set forms and traditions and that God saw fit to begin elsewhere with a new foundation on Christ alone?

"And He has put all things under His feet and has appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church (a Headship execised throughout the church), which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all--for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself." (Eph. 1:22-23)
Thanks brother,