May 13, 2010

The Centrality of Acts 15

“Acts 15 is central to Luke’s story because it addresses the crucial question at the heart of the expansion of the church from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth: Will the Jerusalem church sanction unhindered outreach to the Gentiles? Paul and Barnabas had extended the frontiers of the church from Antioch to Cyprus and the province of Galatia (Acts 13–14). For continued growth, cultural questions had to be faced. Must new converts first become Jews, embracing a foreign lifestyle, and thereby blunt the force of the gospel? Or could converts remain culturally Gentiles, in full and unfettered contact with family and friends? The fate of the expansion of the church and its character lay in the balance as the church debated the question. The passage thus addresses whether the early impetus to the ends of the earth would be fulfilled or whether it would be checked. Luke’s primary purpose is to underscore the fact that the Jerusalem church embraced the Gentile mission, a decision that enabled the church to continue growing to the ends of the earth. In the process Luke prioritizes mission over cultural constraints.”

David K. Strong, “The Jerusalem Council: Some Implications for Contextualization,” in Mission in Acts: Ancient Narratives in Contemporary Context, American Society of Missiology Series 34, ed. Robert L. Gallagher and Paul Hertig (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004), 197.

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