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What’s in a Name? (6)


Acts 10:32-35
Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

The Story: Luke is a careful historian and a thoughtful writer. Before we become too swept up in the ministry of Saul of Tarsus, he returns us to the Gospel’s roots – Peter. Undoubtedly Peter was doing many different things during this time, with many different people. Luke could not report them all, so he chose a couple of what to him must have seemed like represented and significant incidents. I think there’s a little more at stake here, however. In Lydda Peter “found” (was he looking for him?) a man who had been paralyzed for eight years. There must have been many such people in Roman Judea at this time. Why this man, Luke? All we know is that, having found him, Peter preached the Gospel to him, and he was made well. The response in Lydda and Sharon was not unlike what we saw in Jerusalem. People were persuaded that something new and powerful and important had come into their midst, and they were right.

The Structure: But when we come to this man’s name, we can’t help but wonder. Aeneas was not a Jewish name. It was a Roman name. Peter ministering to a Gentile? More than that, Aeneas was the name of the refugee from Troy who supposedly founded the city of Rome! Whoa, Luke! What are you trying to say? Are you saying the Gospel is going to shake Rome to its foundations? Are you saying Rome is going to hear the Gospel? Maybe be transformed by the Gospel? Perhaps be healed of its corruption and the spiritual paralysis which was causing widespread despair among the people of the Roman world? Just askin’.

Luke connects the progress of the Gospel with real people through their names. What other ways might we connect the Gospel to things familiar to people today?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
What’s in a Name? (5)


Acts 10:26-31
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

The Story: The disciples in Jerusalem were reluctant, as we might imagine, to believe Saul’s story about having been converted to Christ. But Barnabas saw something there, something genuine, and he took Saul’s side and made it possible for him to continue these early days of his ministry among the saints at Jerusalem. Things had quieted down a bit in Jerusalem, and it seems the persecution against Christians had waned. Trust Saul to crank it up again, not because of anything in his character or methods, but just because of his uncompromising proclamation of Jesus and His Kingdom. For Saul’s sake and safety, the leaders in Jerusalem pack him off to home, because, well, people are always trying to kill him. We don’t know why this destination was chosen, or what instructions accompanied him. We do know, however, that when Antioch needed a pastor, Barnabas knew Saul would be their man (Acts 11). We can imagine that Saul continued doing in Tarsus what we’d seen him doing in Damascus and Jerusalem. We should not associate the peace of the Church in this region with Saul’s departure. The believers were continuing to grow in the Lord and to be strengthened by the Spirit, so we can believe they were being faithful in all aspects of the ongoing work of Christ, including gossiping the Good News to their neighbors.

The Structure: We note that Luke refers to the “church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” and not to the “churches.”  Already believers are beginning to think of themselves as one body; the name, “church”, is used to designate, in Acts and the New Testament, the church in a particular region (as here), the church in a community, house churches, and the church universal. It’s all the body of Christ. Luke used this name at this point to help lay a foundation for what will begin to be more obvious in chapters 10-15.

Would you say that the churches in your community have a sense of being one “church”? Why or why not?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
What’s in a Name? (4)


Acts 10:19-25
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. 23When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

The Story: Never one to let grass grow under his feet, Saul immediately takes up the work appointed to him within the ongoing work of Christ. He is in Damascus long enough, and is sufficiently persuasive, both to assemble a group of “disciples” around himself and to tick off the local religious leaders. His message was singular: Jesus is the Son of God. Wrapped up in that would have been all the prophesies of a coming Kingdom, of the Spirit of God, and the promises to Abraham. It’s not surprising that Jewish leaders would resent having their precious heritage “stolen” and “retooled” for the Christian cause. But that’s only because they could not “see” as Saul was, obviously, “seeing” more clearly each day. His reputation had preceded him to Damascus, but how others regarded him was turned upside down by what they now heard him advocating. Saul’s escape from Damascus reminds us of Rahab’s concealing then delivering the spies of Israel, prior to the invasion of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. Saul’s ministry may have had inauspicious beginnings, like the spies in Jericho; but big things were coming, and that right soon. These early days of Saul’s ministry are a portent of things to come; the reaction to him and the Good News he “carried” will be pretty much the same wherever he goes.

The Structure: The name, Damascus, would have been historically associated with antipathy to Israel. Syria was a long-standing opponent of the Jews in Canaan, and only Roman power kept them from dominating Israel in Jesus’ day. That the Gospel would take root there and begin to flourish in the midst of this Gentile city would doubtless have raised some eyebrows back in Jerusalem. But, well, there it was – not exactly to the Gentiles yet, but smack in their midst. Luke is getting his readers ready.

What kinds of responses to the Gospel should we expect from people, when we share the Good News with them?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
What’s in a Name? (3)


Acts 9:13-19
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19and taking food, he was strengthened.

The Story: Do you see the old woman? Now do you see the young woman? You are no doubt familiar with that little optical illusion. This is what Jesus is saying to Ananias. You see the old Saul. I’m going to show you – and him – the new. He would never see the old Saul again. Jesus had chosen Saul to “carry” His Name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” He has big plans for Saul, and Ananias has been appointed to break the bottle of champagne over the bow of the good ship Saul. What a privilege! Ananias goes right to his task. Finding Saul he greets him with an amazing statement of grace: “Brother Saul...” What must Saul have thought upon hearing this? “Do I know you? How is it we are brothers?” He would learn soon enough. Ananias did not explain everything the Lord had said to him. Jesus had said He would take care of that. Ananias only led Saul to his next step, which is what good leaders do. The falling away of scales from Saul’s eyes is meant both realistically and symbolically. His eyes had been seared by the blinding light of Christ, but now, his confusion was being dispelled, and he was beginning to “see” clearly.

The Structure: The name of “Gentiles” must have raised a few questions in Ananias’ mind. “What do the Gentiles have to do with this?” That scorned name, mentioned in the same sentence with the “children of Israel”, could have only one meaning: Jesus was aiming His grace toward the Gentiles, and the meaning and mention of that name would be forever changed.

Is there anyone despised in your life, who needs to hear the Good News of Jesus?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
What’s in a Name? (2)


Acts 9:10-14
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”

The Story: By the time Saul of Tarsus is becoming a name to be feared, the Name of Jesus has already set up shop and put down roots in Damascus. Paul was as foolish in his day as others have been throughout history and even today who think they can stamp out the faith of Jesus. Ananias was merely one of many believers in that city, among whom Saul would begin his ministry in just a few days. He responds with a ready heart when the Lord appeared to him in a vision – not what we would consider a usual way of the Lord’s making His will known, but in these early days, not uncommon, at least with certain select disciples. Ananias is ready to do whatever the Lord wants. Like young Samuel, he probably didn’t know exactly Who was speaking to him (1 Sam. 3), but he would be willing to hear the Lord and do whatever He commanded. Except – wow! Maybe he spoke too soon? “Lord, I’ve heard of this dude.” Who hadn’t? “Maybe You didn’t know, Lord, but...” We shouldn’t fault our brother here; he’s only seeking clarification, not a way out, since this mission seems most unlikely. Jesus has said to him, in effect, “See this big frog? Open wide.”

The Structure: Not many Christians name their children “Judas” or even “Ananias.” Those names seem freighted with bad karma, so to speak, given what we know about them in the gospels and Acts 5. Jesus brushes all such mystical nonsense aside by sending Saul to the shelter of a man named Judas – obviously, a disciple – and by sending a disciple named Ananias to welcome Saul into the Kingdom. Christians are not ridiculously superstitious.

How do you understand the will of God for your life? How does He make His will known to you?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
What’s in a Name? (1)


Acts 9:1-9
1But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and 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. 3Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8Saul 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. 9And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

The Story: Acts 9 is pivotal in the story of the ongoing work of the Lord, and not just because it recounts the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. But this is a good place for Luke to begin, because Saul represented the “big frog” for Christianity in those early days. You know the saying: If you have to swallow a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it. And if you have to swallow a lot of frogs, start with the big one. Saul was definitely the “big frog” for the faith of Jesus, and it seems that, right off the bat, Jesus was determined to show that not even the most determined resistance could keep Him from carrying out His work of restoring the world and all things unto Himself (as we shall see). Saul’s story is familiar and wonderful. Jesus has borne with this raging, murderous, egomaniac long enough. He lures him out of the safe confines of Jerusalem to blast him to life on a dusty desert road. It was not Christians Saul was persecuting, but Christ – Who identifies so closely with His Body that He sees us as one with Him! “Get up and move along; I’ll tell you the rest later.” Saul is helpless under the converting grace of God. All his bluster, all his zeal, all his power to resist Jesus, blown away in a flash and Word of forgiving, glorious grace. God is sovereign in the Gospel. When He shines His love on someone, all that person can do is obey.

Structure: Saul, son of Kish, was the first king in Israel. He was a complete failure. He brought disgrace on the nation and his own tribe of Benjamin for the rest of Israel’s history up to Jesus’ day. Saul of Tarsus, a descendant of Benjamin, would “boast” in this lineage, but only to show the futility and unworthiness of any such claims as currying favor with God. Saul of Tarsus, redeemed, signifies the redemption of rebellious Israel. His story – and name – introduced at this point, both sums up what the ongoing work of Christ has achieved, and points ahead to where it will continue to unfold.

Who would be the “big frog” for Christ in your life? How are you reaching out to that person with the Good News?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
On His Way Rejoicing


Acts 8:35-40
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

The Story: We note that baptism must have been intimately connected with believing in Jesus, because the eunuch was eager for it at the earliest opportunity. Not that baptism saves, but we are commanded to baptize – and, by implication, to be baptized – as a first act of obedience to the Lord (Matt. 28:18-20). Verse 37 is omitted in the ESV as not supported by the best and most reliable manuscripts. It’s a good choice. Philip’s work done, the Lord “carried” him away to Azotus for whatever He had next in mind. The eunuch continued south to his native land, a new person, filled with joy. He would obviously have many opportunities to explain what was different in his life. Luke leaves that homecoming to our imaginations, but not for long. We can believe that what happened in the home of Cornelius happened in the court of Candace as well. Luke can’t tell us everything, but he can point to it, and he does.

The Structure:  Luke wants us to get the impression that the power of God is at large in the world, that Christ is pursuing His agenda, and that no place is off limits, no person is beyond reach, and no power on earth can resist the power of God’s Spirit as He carries out the ongoing work of Christ. He is telling a true and thrilling story, brilliantly.

How would you explain to an unbelieving friend what is necessary for becoming a Christian?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
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