Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vain Opposition to the Messiah’s Kingdom

In a recent article, Jim Hamilton writes about God's purposes in the life and growth of the church in the book of Acts. Part of the article highlights the "vain opposition to the Messiah's Kingdom."

I was greatly encouraged by his reflection on how opposition to God's purposes meets the very same "outcome of all attempts to fight against God."

The church relentlessly grows because God is the one adding to its numbers (see 1:15; 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14;6:1, 7). Frank Thielman rightly refers to “the certain triumph of God’s saving purpose” as “one of Luke’s settled theological convictions.” The scattering of believers from Jerusalem results in the Samaritans (8:12) and the Ethiopian Eunuch (8:27–38) coming to faith. Saul’s opposition to the church results in his conversion (9:1–22). Herod’s attempt to take glory that belongs to God results in his death (12:23). Tellingly, Luke follows the notice of Herod’s death with the statement that the Word of God continued to triumph (12:24). Fighting against God results in conversion in Saul’s case and death in Herod’s.

The war on God has no chance of success. As Thielman writes, “Luke wants his readers to know that God’s saving purposes will be accomplished despite all efforts to stop them, whether invisible or visible.” And yet, as Brian Rosner notes, “It is not progress in the triumphalistic sense that Acts portrays, for opposition and persecution are pervasive and enduring.” The non-triumphalistic progress by God’s power through every affliction is unstoppable: the Jews try with no avail to stop the advance of the gospel by opposing Paul. The Romans lock him up, but the Word continues to roam freely as jailers get converted (16:25–34) and people come to where Paul is held to hear the good news of the kingdom (28:30–31).

—"The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation Display the Divine" in Themelios 33.3 (2008): 34-47.

When I see the power of the gospel so clearly displayed as it is in Acts, it's difficult not to long to be a part of that Kingdom work.

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