Presentation on theme: "Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s Letters A Portrait of the Early Church."— Presentation transcript:
Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s Letters A Portrait of the Early Church
Acts of the Apostles Following John’s Gospel in Canonical Order – the Acts of the Apostles chronicles the early life of the Church. It was written between 75-85AD by St. Luke and was meant to be a continuation of his Gospel. The book gives a unique perspective on the growth of the Church from Jerusalem to the far reaches of the Roman Empire and beyond. It tracks the missionary activity of the Apostles and their companions throughout the world:
Pentecost The event which made the missionary activity of the Apostles possible was Pentecost. Acts 2:1ff tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was a Jewish harvest feast and the Apostles were all gathered together and there came into the room, “a great wind” and the Spirit parted upon them, “as tongues, as of fire”. The Spirit enabled them to go out and preach and on that day 3000 were baptized.
The Great Harvest Peter’s preaching at Pentecost added 3000 to the Church. In a short period of time the Church goes from being a small group of Jews to a multinational organization. Acts 2:5-12 describes how there were Jews in Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire; those new Christians would travel home and spread their new faith. The event of Pentecost is rightly called the “birthday of the Church”
The Early Church What did the early Church do? We read in Acts 2: that the early Church was committed to four basic activities: 1.“And they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching” 2.“The Breaking of the Bread” 3.“Prayers” 4.“… and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all"
St. Stephen The First of Many Martyrs In Acts 7:54-60 we learn of the martyrdom of Stephen the Deacon. Stephen was one of the seven deacons ordained by the apostles to preach and baptize. Saul, a member of the Sanhedrin, was present and was most likely responsible for Stephen’s death. The martyrdom of Stephen reveals three important things: (1) early on in the Church there were levels of Holy Orders (2) Stephen’s witness to Christ has a great impact on the growth of the Church, and (3) we are introduced to Saul who will become St. Paul.
St. Paul - From Murderer to Saint Saul was placed in charge of rounding up Christians to be imprisoned and/or to be put to death. On his way to Damascus, Saul is thrown from his horse by a blinding vision. He encounters the Risen Christ Who asks, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Christ reveals Himself as the Lord to Saul and Saul continues into the city, receives his sight back and is baptized.
Paul the Missionary After his conversion Paul becomes a missionary. He makes three missionary journeys; establishing Churches and overseers (bishops) in each Church along the way. During his travels Paul writes back to many of the Churches he establishes to address questions and concerns. Paul becomes the apostle to the Gentiles in Greek speaking lands and one of the greatest saints of the Church.
The Council of Jerusalem An issue in the life of the early Church was whether Gentile converts had to follow the Jewish customs and laws to be considered Christian. This issue divided the Church between the Judaizers and Anti- Judaizers. The early Church met in Jerusalem to discuss and resolve the issue. In Acts15, Peter delivers his judgment that Gentile converts do not have to follow Jewish laws and customs; they are full members of the Church through faith and baptism.
St. Paul’s Letters Romans Written in about 55-58AD Purpose: (1) to introduce himself and his teaching prior to his planned visit, (2) to establish a connection to Rome which Paul hoped to be a new center of missionary work, and (3) to ease tensions in Rome between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Key Themes 1.Salvation in Christ – Paul describes how the world was guilty before God, but Jesus’ coming, His death and Resurrection restored the family of Adam. 2.The Restoration of Israel – God has not abandoned His chosen people, He will save all Israel in Christ. The Gentiles have been grafted onto the tree of Israel. 3.Christian Living – Paul discusses the obligations of a Christian believer and the relationship between the believer and the state.
I & II Corinthians – The Sinners Called to Repent Both letters written in 56AD. Purpose: to call the Corinthians to repent from their many vices, to strengthen Paul’s relationship with the Church, and to assert Paul’s apostolic authority. Key themes 1.Renounce Pride – the Corinthians valued human knowledge above the Divine knowledge of the Scriptures. 2.Renounce Selfishness – the formerly pagan city of Corinth was known for sinful practices. Paul reminds them that, as Christians now, they need to act differently. It is only thought living in Christ that we can be delivered from self-centeredness. 3.Paul’s Apostleship – Paul affirms his authority and his deep desire to be a father to the Corinthian Church.
Galatians – Are we Jews or Something Else? Written in the early to mid 50s. Purpose: (1) to defend Paul’s teaching against the teaching of the Judaizers, and (2) to explain how Jesus’ establishment of the New Covenant does away with the unnecessary rituals of the Old Covenant. Key themes 1.The New Covenant has fulfilled the Old – the Judaizers has some success among the Galatians, but Paul insists that Jesus’ Covenant has made the rituals of the Old Law meaningless. 2.The Cross of Christ – Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross has sealed the Covenant; there is no more need for the Law of Moses for Jesus has instituted a Law of Love and Faith.
Ephesians – Christ, a Mystery Revealed Written in the early 60sAD. Not so much a letter in the typical Pauline sense – Ephesians is more of a liturgical and theological homily on Christ and His rule of the world. Purpose: to draw the Church at Ephesus into a deeper appreciation of the grace of Christ won for us on the Cross and Christ’s reign in heaven. Key themes 1.Christ Reigns – Jesus is reigning from heaven and renewing the Earth through the Church. 2.Jesus the Mystery – God once hidden was revealed in Christ, especially through His death and resurrection. 3.The Grace Continues – Jesus’ death and Resurrection are not past events; they are still alive in us through grace. And through this grace we participate in His royal, priestly, and prophetic mission.
Philippians – Paul’s Thank You Note Written around 62AD. Purpose: Paul sends his personal thanks to the Christian Church at Philippi for their support and prayers during his imprisonment. He also writes to resolve some conflicts within the community and to warn against the Judaizing message. Key Themes 1.Jesus the Servant – the Church at Philippi experienced some problems with pride, so Paul points to Christ Who emptied Himself and became our servant. 2.Paul the Servant – through persecution and imprisonment, Paul remains faithful to the mission by imitating the example of Christ.