Monday, August 25, 2014

Not Changed Enough

Yesterday was my regular day for posting here. Given that I missed posting Thursday (being out of town and without a convenient computer), it was important that I post yesterday. I had the time. my only definite plan for other writing was to type a chapter, already written in manuscript, in Documenting America, Civil War Edition. I finished that before 3:00 p.m., giving me two to three hours of my normal Sunday time in The Dungeon to write and publish a post. Yet I didn't do so. Why?

Instead I decided to do more work on DA-CWE. I located source documents, copied them, and placed them in the book file. I made minor corrective edits on them, not the substantive, extracting edits I'll have to do. I discovered one document is not available on-line, so I'll have to type it. All of this is good work, work that needs to be done if I'm ever going to finish the book, but yesterday wasn't an essential day to do that, especially since I had an important blog post to write.

My problem wasn't knowing what to write. I'd considered writing a post about recent health issues, but rejected that for a post about our Life Group lesson yesterday. This was my week to teach. My co-teacher and I continue our summer ad hoc series on lived changed by the Resurrection. We have this week and next week left in that, then we move into a more structured curriculum, an all-church study. Last week Marion taught from Paul's time in Athens as described in Acts 17. The next chapter is about his time in Corinth. I decided to skip this and go instead to a series of events centering on Ephesus.

I titled the lesson "Changed by the Resurrection, but Not Changed Enough". I based this on things described in Acts chapters 18 and 19. To fully describe this would take much too long a post, so I'll just cover the first story, beginning with the back story.

Paul comes to Corinth, without Timothy and Silas, who he has sent back to check on the believers in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2), and reasons with the Jews in the synagogue. He sought out Aquila, a Jew from Pontus who had just come from Rome. From Pontus to Rome to Corinth. This Jew gets around. Paul sought him and his wife Priscilla out because they were tentmakers, as Paul was. It appears Paul needed funds, and since he knew the tent-making trade, he went to a fellow Jewish tentmaker for work.

In the next scene in the lesson, after a year and a half in Corinth, Paul sails for home, taking Aquila and Priscilla with him. They stop at Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla stay while Paul sails on, after reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue and promising to come back. So now, for Aquila (and maybe Priscilla), it's Pontus to Rome to Corinth to Ephesus. Maybe he was setting up tent-making franchises among the Jews of the Diaspora! The most important part of the story, however, is how they are able to help Apollos. A second, precursor part of the story isn't even mentioned.

Apollos appears to have been an itinerant preacher, or maybe a supply pastor. He's a Jew from Alexandria, a learned man, trained in the Jewish scriptures, and an effective speaker. He's also a believer in Jesus Christ, and that's Who he preaches. But, he lacks something. He baptizes new converts into John's baptism, not Jesus' baptism or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Aquila and Priscilla see this lack, reach out to him, and explain "the way of God more adequately" This turned Apollos' ministry around. Already educated, knowledgeable in Christian ways, now he has the full picture. He goes to Achaia (where Corinth is), armed with letters of recommendation to the old companions of Aquila and Priscilla. That's a great story, even if that's all there is to it.

But there's something Acts doesn't tell us. In Acts 18:2, Aquila is a Jew in Corinth from Pontus via Rome. Paul's coming to Corinth was the first Christian influence in Corinth, so far as we know. In that verse Aquila is not described as a Jewish believer, but simply as a Jew. It appears he is not a Christian, and may not even have heard the Christian message. At the end of Paul's eighteen month stay in Corinth, he is not explicitly described as a believer, but apparently he was, for he and his wife are able to explain Christianity more adequately to the preacher.

It's at this point that I wish we had a fuller story in the Bible, that being the conversion of Aquila and Priscilla. I can see Paul, at work in the tent-making shop. If he sang and prayed in the Philippian jail at midnight, while wounded and in chains, what might he do at work at his trade, while making money? Aquila and Priscilla must have heard plenty, and seen Paul's life. They must have been converted and discipled during this time. They thought they were hiring a worker. Instead they were opening the way for themselves to gain eternal life. I would love to have the story of their conversion.

So here, in this story, we hear of laymen helping a clergyman "up his game." All are working together for expanding the kingdom of God. I like that.

Stay tuned for the rest of this story, in a future post, not too far in the future.

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