The Book of Acts brings us to 7 years before the destruction of Jerusalem
This week we are going to continue with the question from a few weeks ago as to why the Book of Acts is confusing to some and why there were so many debates found there.
This series is attempting to give the "why" all this was happening and how we should look at the book today.
So, with a foundation already discussed in the last several weeks, let’s review some thing and then try to piece some things together so that you can understand Acts and understand what was going on.
The Book of Acts will bring us up to about 63 A.D. or seven years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
The book reveals the condition of the Jewish and non-Jewish believer and the issues and controversies found there.
The Basar, or good news, is going out to the Gentiles and its concepts.
Gentiles are coming into the faith without becoming Jews and having to be circumcised as part of the conversion process at the time.
The Sadducees did not believe in the Messiahship of Yeshua or the resurrection and this was a major contention among believers who were Sadducees, who just didn’t turn off what they were taught.
On the other hand, the Pharisees didn’t have a problem with the resurrection but had problems with whether Yeshua was the promised Messiah. Some Pharisees believed it and became believers, others did not. A constant during this time was a long running conflict between these two groups over the minds and hearts of the people.
This conflict went back as far as the Maccabean revolt nearly 200 years before and they saw it as a conflict between the Hellenists (more Greek influenced) and the Traditionalists. At the heart of all this was how was a non-Jew supposed to live, how were they to walk before the Lord.
This is called Halachah, or "how to walk." Into this mix you have to add all the other sects and what they believed and the misconduct of the Romans.
So, with all that going on what you have is a powderkeg ready to explode. When it does, it will have an adverse effect on the Jewish people and all believers in Yeshua. By 70 A.D. Jerusalem will no longer be the ruling authority. Yeshua gave the people warning about this in Matt 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 and believers flee to Pella to escape the coming judgment.
When the nation is destroyed, Rome becomes the ruling authority and congregations in the empire and begin to abandon their Jewish roots and foundations. Jewish believers are split, with some adopting new ways and others do not. The non-Jews are faced with the same decisions.
This transformation was already taking place when the New Testament scriptures were written but as the nation fell, so did the cohesiveness of the faith.
Now, when we read the Scriptures, we must put them in context and you have to ask yourself "How would this be understood by the author and by the people reading them?" This is crucial to properly understanding any old document.
You can’t read Dickens, Chaucer, Shakepspeare, Julius Caesar or anyone without understanding who they were or what was their belief system. You have to understand the
idioms and phrases they used and not define them by what we think they are 100’s of years later, but by what the writer knew them to be. That is one of the main problems in reading the Scriptures today. We have to understand them from the writers point of view and by what they mean’t to say, not how we would define their writings after 2000 years through the prevaling culture at the time or by the definitions in the interpreters native language.
Hebrew understandings and idioms have been translated into Greek and then through every known language in the Earth today and much is lost through these translations. It isn’t because of some conspiracy with the translators, it just happens that way.
So, to understand the Book of Acts, or any book of Scripture for that matter, we have to go back and understand what was going on at the time, we have to understand the politics, the religious controversies, the idioms and phrases they used and rightly divide the Word of Truth.
We need to understand the author and what he believed and how he lived when he wrote the book that bears his name. We need to ask ourselves these questions, to get into his mind and heart to understand his words, which were inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself.
With that in mind, we will pick here next week and deal with the Apostle Paul and give you some insight in how to interpret his writings for example. Even Peter had some difficulty with his writings and he knew him.
He writes in 2 Pet 3.15-16 that "just as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and ustable distort, as also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." So, it was happening in the 1st century so it’s not surprising that it is even worse today. So next week we will talk about how to interpret the difficult writings of Paul and what to keep in mind when studying what he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.