Acts 7-9: What do you think of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus?
David Fleer preached a great sermon in which he repeatedly asked the question, "What do you think of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus?" I preached using this method and added some material, but the impact of the message was powerful and the Holy Spirit used this text and the feeling of re-creating the impact of the text to move the Garnett congregation to a wide variety of personal responses. So, I want to refer you to the book from which I took this sermon idea so you can also order the book and learn from some of the powerful keys to preaching Luke-Acts.
Each Sunday we are also asking questions of the text in our adult auditorium Bible class. Here are some questions we asked Sunday.
- Did priests that were converted continue to do their duties? I say yes. Jewish Christians continued to follow Christ in very Jewish ways, and synagogue teaching continued. Don't imagine priests doing extended sacrifices in the temple, but I'm talking about Jewish rabbis continuing to teach in the synagogues and even preach of the Messiah Jesus who came. In fact, even after continued signs that the Holy Spirit had been poured out "even on the Gentiles (Acts 10:45), some of the Jews who were dispersed after the persecution of Stephen were preaching only to Jews (Acts 11:19), and this was consistent with an earlier command of Jesus. But gradually, Peter and others learned to call no man or woman unclean who God has called clean. Others began preaching also to the Greeks (Acts 11:20). So, it's a fact that the early church was very Jewish and continued in Jewish practices such as circumcision (controversy later discussed in Acts 15; Galatians), so this assumes priests were continuing their duties in the early church.
- Traditionally isn't Acts 6 the precursor of how we view the distinction and choosing of elders and deacons? Yes, many people see analogies in Acts 6 with how we differentiate between elders and deacons.
- Is there any significance to them choosing seven? Yes, 12 is a significant number of tribes, apostles, and they wanted to keep the church leaders the same number (Acts 1), and seven is a number of perfection and a good number they liked, in much the same way we like 10. I don't get into numerology as much as others, so you can take this a little further than I do if you want, but I see over-emphasizing numbers detracting from the impact of the story more than helping the meaning.
- As application of the class, we discussed the fact that leaders have been chosen in two ways in Acts (Acts 1 and 6). The first time, two leaders were nominated, they prayed for the Holy Spirit to decide, and they drew straws. The second method in Acts 6 was out of a problem with some of the widows being neglected, and we discussed that it was an ethnic problem as well as a problem of resources. So in choosing leaders, we need to remember that this problem arose out of the concern for not favoring Jewish Christians over Hellenized Jewish Christians or Gentiles. We applied this to our situation of choosing elders now. We have decided to choose seven elders total, and to re-affirm the three we have. We talked about how we ought to be sure to consider if the man "has been with Jesus" as the apostles had.
- We also gave homework for the congregation to read 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to see qualifications of elders. Mike Davis of the elder selection committee exhorted the congregation to get nominations in by Feb 23 in writing and signed. He also said we ought to talk to the person we are nominating. Like another leader, I am convicted that even I ought to nominate. Sometimes we as leaders think we're exempt because we consider this too close to home, but since this is a congregational process and not a "good old boy" process, we leaders too ought to nominate and send our suggestions through the process and talk to the person we nominate. My wife, Jill, modeled nomination by doing this early on, and I appreciate her love of Christ and the church and nominating leaders both for the committee and for eldership.
- Rebecca LeDoux recommended the movie, "The Grace Card."