Friday May 15, 2020 - Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 15, 16 & 17

Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem and tell about the faith of Gentiles; Peter shares his experience; James looks to the Scriptures for direction; elders and others participate in the discussion. Together they discern the will of God and proclaim that it is not law but faith in Jesus that leads to salvation. This marks a major development in the life of the community.

Paul sets out on a missionary journey (his 2nd, lasting about 3 years) but human as he was, he has a spat with Barnabas and they part ways. Silas becomes Paul’s new assistant. (Remember the earlier passages of how the community was just perfect? Maybe a bit of exaggeration on Luke’s part?). Notice the various places Paul visited: Philippi, Thessalonica, Galatia, all communities to which Paul would later write letters which are contained today in the New Testament.

Two interesting comments: “they were prevented by the Holy Spirit” and “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” A reminder that God’s guidance sometimes leads us to do something and sometimes leads us away from doing something.  Another bit of humor may be found in the story of the “fortune-telling” girl who trailed Paul and “annoyed” him. Paul and Silas (similar to Peter in chapter 12) end up in prison and are freed by God’s power. Notice how Paul asserts his rights as a Roman citizen; this point will come up again later in Acts 25, 11.  False witnesses twist the truth and accuse Paul of opposing Caesar and proclaiming Jesus as King. (Sound familiar? Check Luke 23,2). Prudently, the community of believers sneak Paul out of town; he travels to Athens, the “cultural” center of the Gentile world.  When speaking with the Jewish community, Paul, of course, uses what is familiar to them, the Hebrew Scriptures to help people believe in Jesus as the Promised Messiah. In Athens he’s speaking with pagans, so he uses what is familiar to them- an altar dedicated to an “unknown God,” a quote from a Greek philosopher (“in God we live and move and have our being”- we say this very phrase in one of the Prefaces in our Liturgy), and a quote from a Greek poet (“we, too, are God’s offspring”). Paul tries to show them that God is present in their experience. Some misunderstand, thinking that Paul’s reference to “resurrection” is a reference to a pagan goddess called “Resurrection; others aren’t convinced, others come to believe. Among them is a man named Dionysios (in English- Dennis! I try to tell my sister that I’m in the Bible; she still doesn’t believe me.)

Something to consider:
Have you ever been prevented by circumstances from doing something only to find out later that it was better that you didn’t do it?  Was it circumstances or the Holy Spirit? Maybe a prayer of thanksgiving is in order.

Homework: Read chapters 18, 19, 20.

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