Acts, Variety – and Service? (RJS)


That is the second put up in a brief collection on the e book of Acts, was written by a Christian colleague (JAG) who teaches within the College of Social Work. Each his skilled experience and his private expertise as a second era immigrant form his understanding of the e book and convey insights that can assist all of us learn the e book higher. He offered the fabric in a nicely acquired class at our church and I’m happy to convey it right here as nicely. RJS

The Seven Deacons develop their expertise for speaking with various constituencies throughout the church, then lengthen the church’s outreach past Jerusalem (Acts 6-15).

A Private Re-introduction: Triple Consciousness and Battle?

Acts 6:1 identifies a battle: “There arose a dispute between the Greek-speaking Jews and the Hebrew-speaking Jews.” In my earlier put up, range throughout the church originates with the Jewish Diaspora. On this put up, triple consciousness is activated within the membership, and advantages each the physique and its outreach.

I’m no stranger to disputes relating to language and residence. Within the US, “Recent Off the Boat” (typically shortened to FOB or modified to FOP for “Recent Off the Airplane”) is not only a tv present a couple of Chinese language American household. Additionally it is a time period used to ridicule latest immigrants’ blundering makes an attempt to regulate to a brand new tradition, a slur I confess to have used greater than as soon as.

As a young person, I visited my Grandfather’s home on Manila Bay. He launched me to his buddies. Their dialog was in Taglish, a mixture of English and Tagalog, and gradual sufficient for me to observe alongside.


Normally this referred to a first-generation immigrant returning dwelling. The Balikbayan field trade has flourished, enabling homecoming kids of the archipelago to ship their anticipated presents to welcoming household and buddies.

“No. I used to be born in America.”

The dialog sped up and shifted solely to Tagalog. I requested them to please decelerate and use extra English.

“Balikbayan? Bah! You might be an American vacationer!”

Returning to the textual content, the Seven Deacons wanted to maneuver forwards and backwards between Hebrew and Greek, switching languages and cultural frames of references – not a easy process. The church at Pentecost numbered 3000 (Acts 2:41) however is now over 5000 (Acts 4:4). Is there a standard phrase for bread? Luke lists a number of languages spoken and locations of residence in Acts 2:9-11. Is there a recipe for bread that can fulfill everybody’s tastes? Who eats first and in what order? What’s the course of for making and imposing even that straightforward determination? Which language does the congregation pray in earlier than the meal? And as Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 14:16, with out an interpreter, how will the congregation even know when to say Amen?

The apostles are dedicated to educating the phrase. Maybe additionally it is true they’re ill-suited to this process. Witnesses at Pentecost ask, “Usually are not these males all Galileans?” – a touch upon that location’s popularity for considerably restricted linguistic capabilities. Bear in mind, too, when Peter denied Jesus:

“Absolutely you might be considered one of them; your accent offers you away.” (Matthew 26:73b)

What Prompts the Seven Deacons’ Triple Consciousness?

Service. Particularly, they oversee meals for the church, particularly the widows: “This proposal happy the entire group” (Acts 6:5a).  In Social Work, there may be a lot dialogue about praxis – what’s the relationship of observe to concept? Right here, may the Deacon’s observe inform the later writings (or concept) of New Testomony authors?

James, for instance, is the chief of the Jerusalem church in Acts 15. May he be an observer right here, later drawing on the Deacons’ instance to exhort believers to be fast to listen to, gradual to talk (since translation for 5000 does take time!) and gradual to anger (James 1:19)? May this service to widows be the inspiration for James 1:27?

Faith that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is that this: to take care of orphans and widows of their misery and to maintain oneself from being polluted by the world.

Paul, though not current, is also drawing on this instance when he writes in Galatians 3:28.

There may be neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither is there female and male, for you might be all one in Christ Jesus.

I remind Social Work college students that range is not only figuring out and understanding variations between and inside social teams – you should additionally be taught the talents and competencies to speak throughout these variations. In that literature, the main focus tends to be on race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class. The Deacons’ ministry bridges all three social boundaries.

Widows are clearly feminine and there seems to be a communication hole between them and the church management. All of the apostles and Deacons are male. Widows are additionally poor and marginalized within the Roman Empire, however within the church they worship alongside a lot richer believers. Barnabas, for instance, was a landowner. At this time, the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary (John 12:1-8), could be rich donors.

Lastly, in his epistles, Paul typically interchanges Greek with Gentile – Jew and non-Jew – to point how some early Christians expressed ethnicity. My level right here is that the Deacons’ means to maneuver between languages and cultures prompts a triple consciousness that additionally permits them to work throughout the social boundaries of race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class, each inside and, as we are going to see shortly, exterior the church.

Stephen’s Perception on the Synagogue of the Freedmen

Acts 7 is Stephen’s tour-de-force of the Previous Testomony however, for the needs of this put up, we are going to unpack just one key phrase:

“Nevertheless, the Most Excessive doesn’t dwell in homes made by human fingers.” (Acts 7:48)

The brilliance of this theological paradigm shift can’t be understated. It’s obvious to a Jew of the Diaspora like Stephen, or later, Paul, that their worship of God after the resurrection is equally legitimate in Jerusalem – or Antioch or Tarsus. Nevertheless, this perception isn’t obvious to the Freedmen. Historical past notes their dedication to the areas surrounding Jerusalem got here at a excessive worth and was a supply of nice pleasure. This is among the precipitating elements in Stephen’s martyrdom. Paul, at the moment Saul, is current at Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:58) and later will carry this message to a brand new viewers.

I typically marvel how clear Stephen’s perception was to the apostles. Solely they continue to be in Jerusalem after his martyrdom (Acts 8:1). When did they cease worshipping day by day within the Temple courts (Acts 5:42)?

Philip’s Evangelism in Samaria

Philip evangelizes Samaria, not the apostles. That is regardless of Jesus’ direct command to be his witnesses in “Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8), his assembly with the lady on the nicely (John 4:1-42), and his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

The enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans stemmed from the query of intermarriage. Samaritans had been Jews who married Gentiles, one way or the other creating an inferior race. To Philip, nevertheless, with an activated triple consciousness, this previous line of pondering raises a important query: How is the Samaritan mixture of Jewish and Gentile cultures any totally different than both aspect within the battle between Greek-speaking and Hebrew-speaking Jews, or Philip’s personal expertise as a Jew of the Diaspora?

My studying is that Philip sees these variations between teams as variations in diploma and never form, steady and never discrete. And to my earlier recommendation about range, Philip doesn’t simply determine and perceive these variations, he has developed the talents and competencies to speak throughout them – which he piloted in Jerusalem whereas serving meals.

Philip’s success as an evangelist raises one other query: Who’s the primary Gentile convert? Historically the reply is Cornelius, in Acts 10:23-48, but how does Cornelius differ from the Ethiopian eunuch, in Acts 8:25-40? What are we to make of the textual content that these scattered by the persecution of Stephen started preaching the Phrase to Jews and Greeks alike? That is hinted at in Acts 8:Four however made specific in Acts 11:19-21.

Now those that had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled so far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the phrase solely amongst Jews. A few of them, nevertheless, males from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and commenced to talk to Greeks additionally, telling them the excellent news in regards to the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number of folks believed and turned to the Lord.

As with Stephen and the Freedmen, what is obvious to the second era is hidden from the primary – till it’s revealed by the Holy Spirit. This is a vital level since Peter recounts his imaginative and prescient thrice between Acts 10 and 15. Whereas I’ve emphasised my private {and professional} approaches to the textual content, it’s the Holy Spirit who edifies the church with strategies which might be artistic and various. Generally the intervention is dramatic – Pentecost’s the present of tongues, Paul’s conversion, and Peter’s imaginative and prescient. Different instances, the processes are mundane – Deacons ready on tables or James presiding over a church enterprise assembly, in the end affirming the outreach to the Gentiles.

Questions for Reflection:

Are you engaged in service?

  • How may your service be enhanced by together with a number of views, together with racial/ethnic, gender, and/or socioeconomic class range?
  • What expertise or competencies may enhance your service to various teams?
  • How, the place or with whom may you develop these competencies or expertise?

Should you want to contact me straight you could achieve this at rjs4mail [at] att.internet.

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