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• When and Where

The second major section of Acts focuses on the gospel spreading beyond traditional Jewish boundaries. Notice how this text 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 the norm, something already accomplished.

• 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, laity, 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, making the food images symbolic for a much larger vision of the inclusivity of the church.

• 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. One of the interesting dynamics of our time is how people from Asia and Africa are feeling a call to become missionaries to North America and Europe!

(Side note – the Great Plains United Methodist Conference is one of the most diverse in the world, as of 2021, of the 756 pastors in the conference, 109 were born outside of the United States, primarily in Africa and Asia!)

Blessings on your reading!

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