Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - April 21 - A Collision Course with the Word

The New Testament portion of our reading today is Acts 5. The chapter begins with the story of Ananias and Sapphira, with echoes of a couple of famous stories from the OT. The presence of sin in the fellowship of Christians is reminiscent of the story of Achan's sin in the camp of Israel in Joshua 7, and the immediate judgment upon the sinful couple is similar to the punishment of Nadab and Abihu for their sin in Leviticus 10.

But the bulk of the chapter focuses on the escalating conflict between the apostles and the Jewish leaders. Or to be more precise, between the word of God and the Jewish leaders. In the Book of Acts, the Lord's word is treated as a force in and of itself, and those who try to stop the apostles and other preachers of the gospel find themselves on a collision course with the word. But in the book, nothing can stand in the way of the progress of the gospel.
  • "And the word of God continued to increase" (Acts 6:7).
  • "But the word of God increased and multiplied" (Acts 12:24).
  • "So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily" (Acts 19:20).
In Acts 5, there is a clear escalation of the conflict from Acts 4. In Acts 4, only Peter and John were accosted by the leadership. In Acts 5, all of the apostles were arrested (v. 18). In Acts 4, the leadership was uncertain how to handle Peter and John, but in Acts 5 they wanted to kill all of the apostles (v. 33). And in Acts 4, Peter and John were released with a threat, while in Acts 5 the apostles were beaten (v. 40). This sets the stage for the next level of conflict, when violent and bloody persecution erupts beginning with the murder of Stephen, and leading to the flight of most of the Christians from Jerusalem in Acts 7-8.

The word of God is always going to challenge the power structures of the world, whether religious or political. The gospel message which declares that Jesus is the only true Lord and Savior of the world defies any system which sees itself as the chief object of man's devotion. Disciples of the Lord must embrace this conflict, rejoice when privileged to suffer for Jesus, and keep the faith that in the end the word of the Lord will multiply and increase.

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