Dear RCF Sisters and Brothers,
In a few short months following Jesus’ return to heaven it appeared inevitable that Judaism would be swallowed up by the new community of His followers. At the end of our last Sunday’s discussion Bible study the question was not “Would the new community of Jesus’ followers survive?”, but rather “How much longer would ritual Judaism last?” If we stopped at that point in history and didn’t know the future we would predict that the nation of Israel would succumb to the truth and rising tide of the Christian movement. Ritual Judaism would soon cease to exist and be replaced by faith in Jesus as its Messiah.
At the point of Acts 6:7, the new Christian community had all the momentum on its side. The attesting miracles and apostles’ preaching were prompting increasing numbers of Jews to understand and believe the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The transformed lives, joy, generosity, and internal witness of the Holy Spirit in the lives of new converts powerfully and personally corroborated the Christian message. As the new movement of Jesus followers grew, the old loyalty to ritual Judaism decreased. It seemed likely that Israel as a nation would soon recognize and embrace Jesus as its Messiah.
If the apostles were the protagonists in this narrative, the Jewish leaders were the antagonists…and they had a lot to lose. In addition, they still had significant assets with which they could oppose this new movement:
Religious – They were regarded as holy men, intercessors for the sins of the people, teachers of the Old Testament, and guardians of the ancestral traditions of their forefathers.
Economic – Thousands of people in and around Jerusalem made their living from the sacrificial and ceremonial religion which they officiated.
Cultural – They had the esteem and reverence of the masses, who traditionally perceived them to be vastly more knowledgeable and religiously significant than common people.
Political – They had influence with the Roman occupiers and delegated civil authority over the nation.
Practical – The glorious Temple in Jerusalem was under their authority, as were the Temple police and other assigned military personnel.
So what may seem to be an inevitable outcome at this point is not a sure thing. Even though the Sanhedrin – the ruling council of the Jews – has agreed to leave the twelve apostles alone, that does not mean that they are no longer willing to forcefully oppose the Christian movement. An unforeseen spark was about to be struck that would set the city of Jerusalem ablaze!
Join us this Sunday morning as we continue in the theme To The Remotest Part of the Earth, and our Discussion Bible Study in the History of the Early Church. Please prepare by reading the entirety of Acts 6:8 – 8:1a. This week’s title is “The Spark That Ignited The Flames of Persecution”.
Attached is an outline of the text we will be focussing upon this Sunday morning. Please print it ahead of time, as it will help you take part in the discussion.
Here is the Table Discussion Question for Sunday:
Acts 6:7 states that “…a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” Why is that very significant?
What institutions and people would that disturb? What actions might that provoke in Jerusalem? Why?
In this series we have already discussed the following texts and topics:
The New Era Begins: Acts 1:12-2:21
Who is to Blame for Good Friday?: Acts 2:22-23
The New Community Begins: Acts 2:24-47
The First Official Pushback Is Pushed Back: Acts 3
The First Official Pushback Is Pushed back – Part 2: Acts 4
God Elevates His Purity and His Principals: Acts 5:1-11
God Elevates His Purity and His Principals – Part 2: Acts 5:12 – 6:7
We hope that you will join us online this Sunday morning!
We love you all!
Jim and Jenny
Acts of the Apostles, Part 7 – Outline (PDF)