by, Feb 14th 2012 at 08:43 PM (329 Views)
"What's In a Name?"
Okay, so we left Paul with the Pagans in Lystra trying to patch up a horrible misunderstanding. (Acts 14). In the very next chapter, Paul is found defending the Gospel message in the face of Judaizing additions. Circumcision was being taught by many as the logical outcome of Christ's 'Jewishness', the law of Moses must be followed by the Gentiles. Paul strenuously opposed this, as he did the Gentile interpretation in Lystra. If you look at his life as recorded in Acts and his letters, his whole life was spent in defending, delineating, and fully describing the Gospel to all who would listen, Jew and Gentile alike. Today, we find ourselves caught up in the three D's of Paul's work. From the beginning of the Gospel's spread up to this day, many Christians have taught, and died, to achieve this goal.
In Acts, Paul has encounters with Roman Proconsuls in which he has to explain the Gospel, and defend it from Jewish opposition at the same time. There are two examples worth of note. My first example is with Gallio, who was Proconsul of Achaia around the time Paul was first working in Corinth. Paul, having been finished in Athens, decides to leave for Corinth and there settles working as a tent-maker while witnessing in the synagogues. After a while, then the Jews kept resisting the Gospel and even blaspheming the Name of Christ, Paul turned to the Gentiles, and continued to work in Corinth for a year and a half all told.
It was while he was gaining success among the Gentiles that the Jews grew jealous and began to oppose him openly. They dragged Paul before Gallio and openly accused Paul of teaching men to worship God in a way contrary to the law of Moses. But, before Paul could speak, Gallio dismissed them. He did not want to hear about any religious disputes; he was only interested in events that were contrary to established law. The Jews raised quite a ruckus, even beating Sosthenes the leader of the Synagogue, but all to no avail. Gallio was not interested in any such disputes, and appears to have been unimpressed by the goings on.
It should be pointed out that an inscription has been discovered in Greece with his name on it, concerning the city and oracle at Delphi. He seems to have been concerned that the city of Delphi was run down and largely a ghost town. He was granted funds by the emperor to re-establish the city with many important rights of citizenship. The new citizens of 'good birth' were to have all the rights and privileges in order to make it attractive to move to Delphi. Gallio was interested in 'religion' just now the Jewish religion of the teaching of an obscure Jewish preacher who had raised such ire.
There is another instance recored int Acts 13, which occurred during Paul's first missionary journey. The first went to Cyprus, and went through the whole island preaching and teaching. The Proconsul on Cyprus, being an intelligent man, sent for Paul and Barnabas to learn about the word of God. Here, Paul faced Jewish opposition in the form of the Magician, Elymas. If you remember, Phillip had a similar encounter with a magician named Simon. The contrast between the two add another layer to the discussion. In Philip's case, he had been working great miracles and impressing everyone, who even saw Philip as a greater 'power' than Simon who apparently fell in with the believers. Paul and Barnabas had been 'preaching and teaching' the Gospel. Luke does not stress the miraculous, though miracles might have been worked, they are not important to the narrative in chapter 13 up to this point.
Whereas Simon, in chapter 8, did not oppose the message, Elymas, in chapter 13, sought to keep Sergio Paulus from accepting the Gospel; Elymas actively opposed the faith. So, Paul strikes Elymas with blindness and demonstrates the power of the Gospel over the false prophet. In chapter 8, Simon sees how the Apostles give the Holy spirit by laying on their hands and causing even greater signs and wonders, so he attempts to bribe Peter to give him the power of giving the Holy Spirit. Peter rebukes him for such evil thoughts. The difference between the two incidents stands out, but both can become obstacles to understanding the true message of the Gospel.
Elymas openly fought against, Simon thought he could purchase it with money; both were wrong. Elymas was struck blind (are there parallels with Paul's experience in chapter 9?), Simon was rebuked for his blindness of heart and spirit. In the long run, both were obstacles to be overcome in understanding what the true message was. We see both in action today. There are many who oppose the message, and many who thing they can purchase salvation by money, hoping to influence the judgment of God. Both views cloud the message in different ways, but still they cloud it.
For Paul, Gallio's action in Acts 18 just reflect a pattern seen in Pontius Pilate's judgment of Jesus. Pilate could find nothing wrong with Jesus, but the Jewish authorities pressed the issue until it became a matter of political expedience, which Pilate understood as did all good Roman governors. Pilate found nothing wrong with Jesus but let the Jews crucify Him anyway; Gallio wanted no part of such a religious dispute and just walked away from it. He had his own religious sentiments and they did not extend to Moses or Christ. In all three incidents, Acts 8, 13 and 18, indifference, opposition and gross misunderstanding became obstacles to true faith; they had to be dealt with and corrected just the same. Even so, must we do in spreading the Gospel today.
In looking at today's modern setting, we can draw some important parallels. To those who are on the 'outside' of the Christian message, it often seems as if we are consumed with just religious minutiae, and things that just don't make sense. Like Gallio, they do not want to be drawn into such matters, prefering to focus on the real world that they encounter everyday. In many cases, and especially in such areas as Africa and the Mid-East, there is open opposition from other religions; some of it is quite physical and deadly. Paul had to face the Athenian intellectuals, the Judaizing element, and Roman indifference as he preached the Gospel; the same holds true today.
Next Musing will talk about two events in Acts 18 and 19 which shed light on another kind of action that was muddying the water of understanding. I will draw this thing to a conclusion...hopefully....