Sermon in a nutshell: Acts 17:10-15 “Many of them believed!”
We have been reading about miracles, events, and theological debates in the first church. We have been reading the Gospels and Book of Acts. Let us try to understand the emotional and intellectual turmoil that the first Christians had gone through.
First, the people had to come up with any kind of understanding of the miracles that they saw and witnessed. When they saw Jesus feeding 5,000 people with two loaves of bread and five fishes they needed an answer to the miracle. “Who is this man who can do this?” When they saw Jesus open the eyes of the man who was born blind, they were all puzzled, asking this question again, “Who is this Jesus anyway?” Then finally when they saw the risen Jesus, many of them had to confess that Jesus was the Son of the Living God and Messiah.
However, such statement was in conflict with their understanding about Messiah. Messiah should be a king who was able to conquer the oppressors like Roman Empire or their district governors. However, Jesus was killed on the Cross by them! Even though some people claimed that they saw the risen Jesus, they asked, “What is the practical evidence of the new era?” Their lives were in the same situation. They still were under the rule of the Romans and experienced daily financial struggles. Some followers of Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God among them. However, what had been changed?
That was why theological debate started among the first Christians. If their theology about Messiah was wrong or imperfect, what would be the right theology? How should we balance our understanding of the almighty God and the existence of the evil in the world? How should we square the traditional understanding of Messiah and the new reality of the risen Jesus who died on the Cross? With all his rabbinical training and understanding of the Greek philosophy, Paul tried to explain what he experienced on the road to Damascus. Then he tried to persuade both Jews and Greeks. With the Jewish rabbis, Paul quoted the Hebrew Bible. For the Greek philosophers, Paul used the first century rhetoric and philosophies. That was why Paul had so many debates with all kinds of groups and wrote so many theological letters. In that way, Paul gained many followers and believers with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s Bible passage shows us that the people in Beroea were more receptive and gentle. They were not like the people in Thessalonica. In Thessalonica, they did not logically and intellectually challenge Paul but tried to protect their financial and political territory. So, they used political power and violence to shun Paul’s party away from the city. In Beroea, however, people actually studied the Hebrew Bible to see if what Paul argued was true according to the writings and reason. Many of them believed in Jesus in this way, including men of high standing.
Through these experiences, Paul refined his theology about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and the salvation by faith through grace. Even though many Jewish people tried to persecute him with physical power, his experience of God’s grace, his understanding of the Bible, his use of intellectual reasoning, and the tradition of the people of God shaped the logical and rational explanation about what God had been doing in human history and in the lives of people.
That means we have to do the same thing in our own lives for our own times. How do we understand God, Jesus, Holy Spirit in our own situation? We do not need to rely on pastor’s weekly sermon alone. We have to use all four tools for this theological understanding: Reason, Experience, Tradition, and the Bible. Especially the Bible is the foundation of our faith. So, we will meditate the Bible day and night. Then we will have foundation of our faith and we will make every decision in our lives according to the will of God.
Here are our practical guidelines for our meditation:
- Read the bible every day. Read the whole Bible at least once a year.
- When we read it, we will ask these SPACE questions: In the passage that I read today, ……
S (“Is there any sin that I have to avoid?”)
P (“is there any promise that I can hold onto?”)
A (“Is there any action that I need to take?”)
C (“Is there any commandment that I need to obey?”)
E (“Is there any example that I need to follow?”)
- Then write down your own answers and pray to God for further guidance.
- Whatever comes to your mind, try to carry out, using reason, experience, and tradition.
- Share this in your small group that you started meeting couple weeks ago.
- Have you not started your “house church” yet? Try to start it this week.
- Have you started your meditation yet? Buy a journal and start this week.