Friday, 29 July 2016

The Book of Acts and Paul's Gospel

There actually seems to be a developing plot to the Book of Acts.

The plot reflected Paul's theology and purpose - not surprising, seeing the author had been a traveling companion of Paul's.

The story begins in Jerusalem exclusively - and ends among the Gentiles, in Rome, the capital of the Gentile world.

It begins with the Promised Kingdom-salvation being experienced in Israel - but only within a nucleus of believing Jews, many of whom continued to be zealous for the Jewish customs for some time after they believed.

It then takes us on a journey, showing how the Jewish rulers rejected the good announcement of the Kingdom, and expelled the community of believers from Jerusalem;

It shows how the Gospel of the Kingdom began to be received among regular Gentiles; and how the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem decreed that the Gentile believers need not become obligated to the Jews' Law;

how the Jewish rulers continued rejecting the Gospel of the Kingdom in synagogues in every Gentile city; and rejected Paul again at Jerusalem; and finally at Rome also - while regular Gentiles were receiving the message, even in their capital Rome;

Yet God was mercifully using that outcome to try to provoke more Jewish individuals still to repent and believe.

And there the story ended abruptly - as if the same dynamic which had been reached by that point in the story should now continue until the end, when Christ finally comes the second time in His Kingdom.

No post-Apostolic period without spiritual gifts... future Jewish period with a return to Levitical worship...

...just the Gospel - until the end.

So the plot was an historical illustration of Paul's theology, as he explained his theology in His Epistles.

That plot is lost from the Book of Acts, if instead of understanding the plot in terms of Paul's theology, a person rather imposes some alternative theology onto his understanding of various scenes of Acts. This is especially so with chapter 15.

(Alternative theologies such as: Orthodox Judaism of course; but also Dispensationalism; Full-Preterism and Full-Futurism; versions of Covenant Theology and Replacement Theology which can't acknowledge that the first church had to have been in Jerusalem; and the increasingly popular Hebrew-Roots Messianic observance of modern-Judaism, etc.

Understanding Acts in terms of those theologies instead of in terms of Paul's theology, causes one to lose the developing plot of the Book of Acts.)

Paul's Theology instead was that:

While we still await the consummation of the Kingdom of God...

...there has already come the inauguration of the Kingdom-scheme through the Person of Jesus Christ, through His cross...

...the Kingdom-message was received first by believing Jews, in Israel, fulfilling Kingdom-prophecy; and then the same message of the Kingdom was received by Gentiles, also fulfilling Promise and Prophecy, together in one new identity, the Church, His body...

...a salvation which need not involve the deeds of the Law...

...for all nations alike...

and then Christ and His Kingdom shall ultimately come, as Prophesied - but only the saved shall enter it, as Jesus said.

That was Paul's Gospel!

The Epistles explained it...

...the Book of Acts provided the history which illustrated it.

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