Acts and Mission 17

EmptyTomb.jpgWe turn now to Acts 4 in our quest to read the Book of Acts together as we probe the missional theology of this early Christian witness to what God was doing — through the apostles — and through the community — to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world. As we read the Book of Acts in search of missional theology, we are reading The Acts of the Apostles (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries)
as our guide.

One key word in missional theology is witness. Peter was a “witness” to the gospel, and how Peter understands the substance or content of his gospel is so important. Here are the first 12 verses of Acts 4:

The priests and the
captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John
while they were speaking to the people. They
were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed,then
know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus
Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the
dead, that this man stands before you healed.
He is
   ” ‘the stone you builders rejected,
      which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

So many things to say:

1. Missional theology knows the power of God’s Spirit at work, that power that raised Jesus from the dead: notice Peter’s message, in context of priests and Sadducees, focuses on resurrection.
2. Growth of the church matters to missional theology. Not because it measures its “success” by numbers but because its reason for existence is to extend God’s grace to others — all others, including the family of God, but also to those outside the family. God’s grace extended prompts conversions.
3. Peter, like other early Christan missional witnesses, knows the power and name at work: Jesus Christ.
4. Missional theology is unafraid of the claim that salvation comes only through the resurrection gospel about Jesus Christ.

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  • T

    Well, I love the passage, and love your comments. But I don’t know how well either are symptomatic of churches/people that identify themselves as missional. The passage and the comments seem to match the Pentacostal churches in substance and tone than missional ones.

  • Bill

    I don’t understand the distinction you seem to be making between “missional” and “Pentecostal”. Are you saying they don’t mix?
    Good emphasis on Peter’s understanding. And your comments are insightful. Grace extended however, can be more than just words; probably should be. I think Peter’s understanding went beyond word to include the realm of the Spirit manifesting Himself in some very stunning and grace-filled ways.
    Yes resurrection. Even Paul picks it up in 1 Co 15.

  • Scot McKnight

    Pentecostal means, for me, the power of God’s Spirit as seen in Acts 2. “Missional” means a life that participates in the Mission of God.

  • T

    No, I’m not saying they don’t mix. On the contrary, I’d like to see the missional movement be more receptive to the missional theology Scot is describing here precisely because mission and pentecost go hand in hand.