I just finished reading the Book of Acts in one sitting. I don’t share that to brag or in any way self-focused, but actually because I believe we should be sharing with each other what we’re doing, what we’re reading, & more importantly what God has taught us through our reading of His Word. I could very easily go off on a rant about that, but I’ll save it for another post.
Understand that I’m not writing this because I’m a preacher or congregational minister, but I’m writing this as a student of the Bible, a Christian desiring to know God & Christ through the Word, and one who still has a long way to go in becoming the image of Christ I believe God has in mind for all of us. It should be nothing special or extravagant for us to be reading our Bibles, regardless of the amount. What’s important is what we get from it, and that’s worth sharing.
Anyway, Book of Acts – WOW! It’s a really neat thing to read an entire book of the Bible in one sitting. No, not because its anything special or because your rear could handle it, but I personally get so much more from the reading. I get the full context, the flow of the story & narrative, connections that are in the text to both other parts of the book and to other books in Scripture. For example, I had gone to Acts 22 & 26’s accounts of Paul’s defense many times to use it as an example of Paul’s conversion, how to defend faith, many things, but I hadn’t realized until today that I didn’t actually comprehend the full circumstances of WHY Paul had to defend his faith to Felix, Festus, King Agrippa & Caesar. In Acts 22 he was defending his faith to a group of Jews that were trying to arrest him for something he did back in chapter 20:4, which after yet another riot in Ephesus through chapter 19. So when Paul’s defending his faith & actions to Agrippa in ch. 26 it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, it was from events that had happened 6 chapters earlier, which directly were caused by events with specifically Paul since chapter 8, which came about through the whole book. Acts is a fast moving, gripping narrative full of riots, political dissension, power plays, faith, and the story of ordinary men who catch fire for God.
Question for you: if you were to turn open to any part of Acts…I just did it and I opened to Acts 13 when Paul’s speaking in Antioch, no doubt we could read it and glean something from it. But would we understand the WHY? Would we understand that Paul in this chapter just started being called Paul, & the implications of that. Would we understand why Barnabas was with him? Would we understand that its incredible irony that Stephen had basically preached the same sermon that got him stoned to death back in Acts 7, and now Saul, who was overseeing his death & approved it, was saying the same things to his own people? Would we get the full layered meaning of verse 46 when Paul says, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you (the Jews). Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we are turning to the Gentiles,” that Paul himself was once like this? Would we be able to be in step with him as he preached constantly to the Jews, his own people, people he loved and they constantly, constantly rejected him, plotting to kill him, pursuing him to other cities as he had once done with Christians? Could we take that journey if we opened up just to this passage? Oh its such a journey, Scripture is, if only we take it.
While with the way we’ve (Americans) have structured our church assemblies, we simply don’t have the time to sit there and together read a whole book. Quite a pity I think – that was what happened in the Synagogue: they’d read huge bits (not to mentioned they’d have the Old Testament memorized…another post as well) and then talk about it- what it meant, the implications, how to live it, etc – because there is such value in reading Scripture. There is value in reading Scripture in short chunks, but I believe it was meant to be read as fully, completely, & as often as possible. We cut out time in our schedules for movies, for other books we enjoy, for golf, for hunting, the list goes on. Its an honest question, one that I often wrestle with myself as a preacher – why don’t I carve out the time to really read Scripture more often.
It wasn’t until today that I saw the full conversion of Paul, his quick journey from persecutor to convert to preacher. I related – my own journey from unbeliever to preacher happened very quickly. I saw the foundation for Paul’s letters to the Romans, Galatians, Philippians, about all the epistles in Acts. We wrestle with what Romans 13 says when talking about obeying governing authorities, but we have the example of it in Acts 4, 5, & 20-26! We read about getting along & loving each other, something ironic as Paul fled from his own people. We read so much in different places, how much effort do we put in putting it together in our own minds?
Please watch this video of NT Wright, one of the foremost New Testament scholars living today. Check it out and consider what he says about what I’ve mentioned.
I also leave you with a challenge. If you’ve never sat down & read a book of the Bible from beginning to end, pray and do it soon. Start with one of the gospels. It’ll take you maybe the length of movie, maybe just a little bit more. Read and experience the story, let yourself be there with Jesus, with Paul. Say quote out loud as if you were there saying it, and imagine it happening right before your eyes. For me, whenever I do, it’s such a blessing and spiritual mountaintop that I can’t begin to tell you. Try it for yourself, and share what happens! I’ll listen. Grace to you.