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The Hope of the World (Acts 2:42-47)

The Hope of the World (Acts 2:42-47)

I was so excited to see that the assigned passage for today – Friday, May 29 – is one of my favorite passages of scripture. As a preacher, I don’t think I am supposed to have favorite passages of scripture, but I do. In fact, Acts 2:42-47 is on my Mount Rushmore of bible passages, alongside Micah 6:8, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:8-10, and John 1:14.

You may be asking, “What makes Acts 2:42-47 worthy of a place on the Mount Rushmore of Bible passages?” That is a fair question. It is one of my favorite passages of scripture because it describes the mission and purpose of the local church in a way that no other passage of scripture does. If you were ever wondering what the church should be doing, this is the place to start looking. It is a passage of scripture that can inspire a local church to re-imagine how it goes about being the church. It is a passage of scripture that can make you question whether you are doing church based on your own preferences or on the purpose of the church described in scripture.

 

It also points to the potential that the local church has if it lives into the purpose described for the church. It fills me with hope as I think about what our church could be and do if we live into the purpose of the church.

What, according to Acts 2, is the purpose of the church? The church is to devote itself to the “apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… give to anyone who has need.” That’s five simple things. First, be devoted to the apostles’ teaching; we might call that discipleship or spiritual formation. Second, be devoted to fellowship, the sharing of our lives with one another. Third, be devoted to the breaking of bread; this isn’t just the Lord’s supper, but also the action of sharing meals with one another. Fourth, be devoted to prayer. Lastly, be devoted to giving to anyone who has need.

What happens when the church does all these things? The book of Acts says that the “Lord adds to their number those who are being saved.” The early church didn’t have any fancy buildings or programming. They didn’t have elevated social status or influence. They were simply people who were faithful to their calling and people who were far from God found their way to God by grace because of it.

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, a retired theology professor, used to say often “The local church is the hope of the world.” When the local church fulfills its purpose it can accomplish things that no government agency, business, or social institution can. It can call people to grace, lead people to transformed lives that transform the world around them. It is my sincere hope that we, by committing to faithfully fulfilling our calling as a local church, may be a beacon of hope in Union County.

Posted by David Oakley

Faith in Action: All Things to All People

All Things to All People  (Acts 17:16-34)

Aside from his conversion (Acts 9), Paul’s speech at the Areopagus is perhaps the most well-known event in his life. As it is described in the book of Acts, Paul is in the city of Athens and he becomes agitated by the number of temples and idols in the city. He can’t stand the idea of so many people worshipping false idols, so he decides to do something about it.

Paul goes to the synagogue in town and talks to them about Jesus. He goes to the marketplace to talk about Jesus. He stopped anyone who would talk with him and had a conversation about Jesus. While he was doing so he ran into some local philosophers. This wasn’t that unusual in Athens. Athens was the one of the centers of learning in the ancient world. It had been the home of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus. There were philosophers all over the place.

These philosophers were intrigued by Paul because he was saying something they had never heard before. So, they took him to the Areopagus. The Areopagus was a small hill just to the north of the Acropolis. In earlier days the city elite met on this hill to discuss, debate, and decide the direction of the city-state. By Paul’s time it had become a place for sharing and debating ideas.

When they arrived at the Areopagus, Paul launched into a doosie of a sermon, the longest of Paul’s speeches recorded in scripture. He told them that he knew they were a very religious people because of all the idols they had, they even had an idol dedicated to an unknown God, just in case they had left one out. While the Athenians were religious, they were mistaken. God couldn’t be contained in a temple and no image or idol could be made of God because God is beyond our imagining. God, Paul said, demanded repentance. God demanded that people turn from their wrong-headed ideas and embrace the truth. Paul told them that the resurrection of Jesus was proof of what God was up to.

That’s when he lost them. Some of them began to sneer; they began to giggle. Surely Paul was just babbling now. The truth is often too difficult to hear. But a few of them wanted to hear more. By the end of the day some of them had begun to believe.

Truth be told, it wasn’t the most successful of Paul’s speeches. Not many were convinced that day. What makes this story so interesting is they way that Paul went about talking to people about Jesus. He met the Jewish people at the synagogue. He met others in the marketplace. He went to debate at the Areopagus.

Paul met people wherever they were. He engaged them in their real lives. He spoke the truth about Christ in ways that fit his setting and his audience. This is a real-life example of Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

In what ways are we willing to become all things to all people?

Posted by David Oakley

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