The messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the believers and delivered the letter. And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message. Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith. They stayed for a while, and then the believers sent them back to the church in Jerusalem with a blessing of peace. [But Silas decided to stay there.] Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord there.Acts 15:30-35
These six verses give you a great opportunity to take some time to pull apart what on the surface appears to be a simple bridging passage which merely moves the story along to its conclusion related to the reason why the Council of Jerusalem happened in the first place. You have all the pieces that you need to understand what is going on here. There is much taking place behind these six verses. This short passage is packed with implicit information and the background knowledge that Luke has given us for us to ponder deeply on the verses before us.
Following these six verses we have a further six verses which are packed with implicit information and background information as well. Both of these short passages represent a turning point in the story of the Good News and its progress outward from Jerusalem to the Outer Most Parts of the Earth. Remember again what I told you in Gem 1659.
It is probably no coincidence that this chapter of the Book of Acts is right in the middle of the historical account Luke has written for us. It’s a Hebrew technique to use the beginning, the middle and the end to say the most important things. Hebrew Chiastic Structure (an hour glass arrangement of poetic material) uses the middle position to make a strong point. Here we find Luke has attempted an impossible task – to give an account of how it came to pass that an agreement was reached between the strict Jewish believers in Jerusalem and the rather more liberal Gentile church in Antioch. Luke has also given us a glimpse behind the scenes of the inner workings of the inner circle. How Paul and Barnabas came to represent two different approaches to mission activity concerning the Gentile. This Chapter marks a turning point in the understanding of the mission thrust to the Gentiles. But not only that, it gives us an insight into the tensions and disagreements within the inner circle.
It is placed right in the centre of the book of Acts. It makes me want to find the midpoint of the book. I can hear you thinking: midpoint Ian? There are 28 chapters to the book of Acts, how is Chapter 15 the midpoint? Well consider this, when this was first written it didn’t contain chapters. The chapter divisions are artificial, a later addition. It makes me wonder where the midpoint is; it may be revealing.
I would suggest that you take some time over these two brief blocks of six verses each. Luke could have given us any number of blocks of text in telling his story – the story of the Acts of the Apostles or the story of the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Take time now to consider these two blocks in tandem and in contrast. I will begin to pull the first of them apart in the next Gem. Both of these six verse blocks are filled with implicit information and unsaid things and yet pregnant with significance for us and for the thrust of the Gospel to the Ends of the Earth. Jerusalem being the centre and New Zealand being the ends of the earth. Once again I feel like I am in the middle of action.
Take time to examine these two passages for yourself. Leave no stone unturned, no comment of Luke’s untouched. Take all of what he has told us and examine it carefully. There are some interesting insights hidden in these twelve verses, contained within a chapter which many scholars and experts see as being the hinge or the lynch point of the Book of Acts.
Enjoy your time alone with the Bible and with the Holy Spirit. As I tell my students many times, the Bible is the only book that you can read on planet earth with the Author present each time you read it. So invite Him to help you in your investigation.
The butterfly effect: the concept that small causes can have large effects. A very small change especially in the initial stages or formative period can create a significantly different outcome.Ian Vail
God thinks you are awesome! He ought to know, He made you.Ian Vail
Millions long for immortality but don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.Ian Vail
Inside of you is hidden all kinds of potential; action it into being.Ian Vail
People don’t talk about average people. They talk about extraordinary people. Take it as a compliment!Rick Godwin
Take all of those quoted thoughts and ponder them. You stand at the cusp of something great – the rest of your life potential in God.Ian Vail