In this series I’ve been trying to demonstrate that the book of Acts works like a story. It has a tension that finds resolution at the end. In other words, it has a climactic conclusion. In these next two posts, I want to show that nested in the story of Acts is another story. It’s the story of Paul’s journey to Rome via Jerusalem. This story has its own tension and resolution while at the same time bringing the story of Acts to its climactic resolution.
The first of Paul’s significant speeches is recorded by Luke in Acts 13 when Paul speaks in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. The speech is interesting because it contains a cryptic quote of Habakkuk that is often preached horribly out of context. That’s too bad because it plays an important role in setting up the second half of the book of Acts.
At the beginning of the book of Acts Jesus said to his disciples,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
As we’ve worked our way through the first half of the book we’ve found that we have gone through each one of these elements. The Holy Spirit has come upon the disciples and they have been his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the eart. Since we’re reading Acts as a story it might seem like the tension of the plot has been resolved. Why isn’t the story over? While it’s true that the Gospel has been preached to “the ends of the earth,” there’s still more to be explored about this idea of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
I can’t really recall when I’ve ever looked at a classic piece of artwork and felt like I understood all those things about the lines and the blah, blah, blah, that you can read in some of the art critics’ commentaries. But as I was selecting a piece of art for my next theology post (The Story of the Book of Acts) I noticed something really interesting about Rembrandt’s piece on the Stoning of St. Stephen pictured above.
Jesus’ statement in Acts 1:8, that his disciples would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth; created reader expections that we have been following throughout the book of Acts. So far, everything has happened just as Jesus said it would happen. And now we’ve come to the final element of that programmatic statement–the ends of the earth.
In Jesus’ programmatic statement of Acts 1:8 he says that his disciples will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We’ve already looked at their witness in Jerusalem, to the Jews and in this post we look at Judea and Samaria. Of course, as I mentioned in The Beginning of Acts, this is more than just a geographical statement. Samaria is home to the Samaritans.
After the Pentecost we read in the book of Acts about the beginning of the apostles’ ministry which takes place in Jerusalem, to the Jews. In this post we’ll look at four key elements or themes that are important for the whole book and at the same time we’ll look at the fulfillment of the first stage of Jesus’ programmatic statement in Acts 1:8. [Read more…]