Thursday, October 09, 2008

Acts 24:1-23

On my book shelves are several different types of books. There are books of poetry, novels, Bible commentaries, nonfiction books on any number of subjects, picture books, and so on. Each of these types of books are written for a different purpose, and so I read them in a different way with different expectations from them.

As you no doubt know, the Bible also contains many different types or genres of literature. It too includes poetry, short stories (often called “parables”), law books, letters, songs, and so on. When studying the Bible, therefore, it is important to recognize the type of literature we are reading, and the literary form the biblical author is using to get the message across.

Applying this to the book of Acts, we find that we are reading historical narrative. The primary purpose of historical narrative is not to teach (that’s called didactic, such as can be found in the teachings of Jesus or the letters of Paul), but to accurately recount the events that began spreading the good news of what God has done in Christ throughout the world. It’s written to tell us what happened in the early days of the church.

The big question is, of course, “What does any of this have to do with us?” And the way we answer that question is to note both how God and His faithful followers have acted in history. This gives us an idea of how we might expect God to act today—and how He might expect us to act as well. In other words, we draw principles from the stories which we can then apply to our lives.

For instance, God doesn’t rescue Paul from hardship. Though Felix (a fellow we also read about in such Roman history as the writings of Tacitus, by the way) grants Paul a little leniency, he does not release him. Apparently God is better able to accomplish His (God’s) purposes this way. Paul is able to share the Gospel with some of the most powerful people in the world of his day, Roman Governors.

I think it is safe to say that we can conclude that God will not always deliver us from hardship in our lives either. He will not always bring us to safe places, as much as we might wish this was so. Things will not always turn out as we’d wish.But that does not mean that God is not with us, or that He is not actively at work in our lives. Far from it, it may well mean that it is precisely situations like these that God’s plan is being accomplished through us.

When we realize that, then like Paul, we are in the position to make the most of whatever opportunities God choose to bring our way.

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