And in my younger years (as Bon Jovi say, 'I'm not old, I'm just older), that was my focus - trying to persuade my friends and people I met to become christians. Because of these assumptions I think we completely miss what was happening for Paul and Peter and the disciples as they wrestled with who Jesus was and what Jesus meant.
Paul is ultimately arrested by the Romans, and ends up having to defend his case against the Jews, the Greeks, and then to the Roman rulers themselves. It's a mind-boggling story (Acts 15-20 or so, check it out) but the key thing I want to pick up here is Paul's later explanation of himself in Acts 24:4. He says:
“I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors, as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the law and that is written in the prophets.”
Here's the key point: For Paul, he was a Jew, a Greek, and a Roman citizen. He never stopped being any of those. And when challenged to explain himself he admits the claim that he is a follower of The Way (which they viewed as a new religion; a strange sect that had emerged following this Jesus guy).
But then Paul claims that it is the 'God of our ancestors' that he worships and that he believes 'everything in accordance with the law and written in the prophets.'
He is telling that that Christ has not brought a new religion and started a sect, but that Christ is the ultimate fulfilment of their religion. Everything the Jewish law and prophets were always pointing is found in Christ. He didn't create a new religion - he fulfilled their religion. For Paul, there was complete continuity between his commitment to the Law and the prophets - he wasn't forsaking any of that; it was just that he claimed to now understand for the first time what it all really meant. The same thing happened with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 when, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets" (vs 27) Jesus explained to them who he was.
Christ was returning his people once again to the fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham. The whole Biblical narrative is the story of a God who has made a sacred vow to his people that he is fulfilling.
For us, journeying together in The Local, our journey - as we seek a life of faith instead of religion - is one of trying to become people who inherit the life of God's original promise and draw others into that inheritance. The New Testament expands the application of that promise to all people. Religion opposes that inheritance and claims it is accessible only to a narrow few. We need to understand the story of this promise again - a living faith, any harmony we achieve, and any miraculous signs, are all evidence that the promise is real.
This coming Sunday, we do a bit of work together on understanding the story of scripture a bit better. It will help you grasp the promise you are inheriting - and help you understand the New Testament way better too. See you there friends.
Bless you heaps!
- Carl :)