Richard Pratt on Acts today at FoWS conference 2012


These are my partchy notes from the first of Richard Pratt’s lectures at the Fellowship of Word and Spirit Conference 2012.These notes may not reflect exactly what was said but how I heard it and write it down.

Acts and Christian Ministry

1. Original meaning
Prophecy – not prognosticating but motivating – in light of the coming judgement how should we live? Godly and holy lives. 1 Peter. Speed it up.

Luke’s purpose was to guide the church toward the end of the Apostolic age by explaining the surprising inauguration of the last days unfolded after the ascension of Christ. (one way amongst many for how to summarise Acts).

Epochal, Cultural and personal similarities and differences.

Today:Luke’ purpose is to guide the church today by explaining the implications of the surprising inauguration of the last days after Christ’s ascension. – e.g. we have no capital A apostles today, culturally first century Mediterranean world different to 21st century Britain.

Controls? Exegesis of scripture, culture and history. In community. Intuitively. These three should be in harmony. This is dynamic and if there is not harmony between scripture, church and the work of the Holy Spirit (intuition, led by God).

1. Original meaning
2. Holy Spirit
3. Apostolic Ministry
4. Church

2. Holy Spirit.
Expectations (Isa 44:1-5, John 2:28-32) cosmic upheaval, all people under God, world renewed, evil destroyed etc. This is what was expected when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Not an individualised experience of God as understood today.

Before Pentecost: “power” “witness” for inauguration of Mission. Experiential empowerment for continuing mission. This is essential. Experience of Holy Spirit is essential for the desire to go and do mission.

Pentecost. Jerusalem. First Fruits (Rom 8:23). Tongues (2:28). Importance of religious ecstasy. meditative language. What people call tongues today is not the gift of interpreting foreign language. But, nevertheless, it is close enough and allows people to experience religious ecstasy, bounded by regulations in scripture. If you don’t have religious ecstasy, you’ll flatline. Holy Spirit praying for you Romans 8, when you are suffering, but theory is no good, you need the experience. These appear in Acts because of the suffering the Apostles were going to be subjected to.

After Pentecost. Samaria (8:14-17) Caesarea (10:44-47, 11:4-18) and Ephesus (19:1-6 cd 1:5). – continued ethnic and global expansion through Spirit of judgement/salvation. (1 Cor 14:20ff; Rom 9-11).

Balance is not something to seek but which is momentary. Church is like trying to pour a cup of tea from a pot, with the cup resting on a tray, whilst you balance on a ball, on the deck of ship in a storm. Ecstasy is something we should seek to be motivated to keep going.

Holy Spirit comes through focus on the cross and Christ and by his love, and by what he has won for me etc etc. Comforter, counsellor, Paraclete, the language of Christ is more intimate and personal than “Holy Spirit”

3. Apostolic Ministry
Expectations: Renewal of Israelite tribes (Chronicles)
Twelveness in disciples was unexpected.
Victorious Empire under Messiah (Isa 60-65)

Before Pentecost: Witness extending of Christ’s suffering (1:4-8; Col 1:24; 2 Cor 4:7-12)
We run from suffering for Christ in the same way we run from cancer. Safety, prosperity and peace of mind are middle class goals which we have made ours. We suffer passively, like we do with cancer, but we don’t seek to suffer. Sacrifice, suffering, pain and so on is part of the battle. Embrace suffering as part of the battle against evil and bring about glory to Christ.

Uniqueness. Requirements for Apostles (1:21-26), Paul’s Qualification Repeated (9,22, 26), Authority and miracles, varied message (3:22 vs 17:24-27), success (5:38-39, 28:31-31). Uniqueness – submit to the Apostles (Luke 10:16, Eph 2:19-20) that’s why we have a book containing their teaching. They are personal models for us.

Formulaic presentations of the gospel are not enough, we need to be nimble to be able to present the gospel to different sorts of sinners. Not gospel which works for me, but what works for them. Not preaching to self but to them.

4. Church
Expectations, fully renewed, united people (1 Chr 1-9, Jer 31:31ff) – all people under Christ, but problem of wheat and tares, apostacy, weak, sick, mixed church. At the restoration there will be not more shame or threat from evil. Does the church look like Jer 31? No! This is crisis for Christians because if you know your OT then the church looks nothing like the new covenant people of Jer 31. We start with the mix bag.

Church planting. Missionary journeys. Start with groups of people. Good. Church plant.

Continuing leadership: deacons (6:1ff) and elders (20:17ff). western people do not want people in authority over them, because of individualism. Sacrificial leadership is the theme of the book of Acts; necessity of leadership and that being sacrificial.

Internal growth. Fellowship/unity (2:42-47) – supporting one another.
Unity/ethnic struggles (6:1ff, 15:1ff) Jesus did not teach on circumcision, the Apostles were left to wrestle with it, internally, what about blood, etc.
Ananias and Sapphira (5:1ff) – internal growth comes through apostacy.
Savage wolves (20:29-30) –

Romans on fellowship/unity across Jew/Gentile divide. 1 Cor 12-14. Unity and ethic struggles, Eph, Romans) Church discipline.

External growth: Persecution, favour of larger community. Expectation of Persecution. Expectation of favour.

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