Lenten Reading Challenge: Acts 8-12
• When and Where
The second major section of Acts focuses on the gospel spreading beyond traditional Jewish boundaries. Notice how this texts seems to look back with an idealized view of unity that we earlier read Paul’s struggle to achieve. For the author of Luke-Acts, mixed communities of Jewish and Gentile Christians is, for this author, the norm.
• Key Insights
Acts has appropriately been called the Book of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is an active power, even a main character – impelling and guiding the mission that others, including Peter, John, Philip, Stephen and Paul are part of. Notice how nearly everyone who advances the story is “filled with the Spirit.”
Consider the role of Ananias in Saul/Paul’s experience. What does that say about Christian community and the work of the Spirit?
Consider how Peter’s vision (which could just be about food) is explained and expanded by Cornelius’s story.
• Big Picture
Often Christians have felt a call to be missionaries, which is in itself noble – but too often we have considered it our responsibility to take God to other people. The stories found in Acts suggest just the opposite. God is already present, and we participate in God’s action. For example, Cornelius is a Gentile and yet God gives him the vision to seek Peter. This is an example of the Wesleyan doctrine of prevenient grace—of God loving us even before we know or have words to describe it.
Blessings on your reading!