Monday, September 14, 2009

Missional Insights from Scripture

Two Facets of Life Transformation

I am intrigued with Acts, the continuing history of Jesus Christ acting in the Spirit. Over the last weeks, Acts has been the focus of my personal Bible study while I continue to read Psalms and Proverbs in my daily quiet time with God. In fact, I am trying to learn to maintain the distinction between those two encounters with the Word. That doesn’t mean that I do not want to learn during the daily quiet time with God, but I do not want that time to be overwhelmed by my going to bookshelves to get multiple resources with which to exegete passages or read multiple insights of other commentators. In our conversation together, I listen as God speaks, without seeking input from others.

In study, I turn to trusted companions for wisdom and insight; commentaries, Bible Encyclopedia, concordances, and countless hundreds of volumes I have accumulated through the years. I also invite God to provide counsel through the podcasts of fellow believers who share what God is teaching them. Sure, I also have the extensive resources of Libronix Digital Library System (a gem for taking a comprehensive library on my laptop as I travel), but honestly, there is nothing that compares to holding a treasured volume in hand and reading from the familiar pages.

So, after having chased that rabbit, let me return to some recent insights from Acts. When an angel released the apostles from public jail where they had been detained by the high priest and Sadducees, the angel instructed Peter and his cohorts to “…speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life” (Acts 5:20). The “whole message” is a loaded proposition! It might be translated simply “all the words” of this Life. As I read that statement I realized how much more there is to the Gospel than the simple rudimentary truths that I often assume.

In fact, part of the reason the apostles were imprisoned was because of the impact the whole message had upon those it touched. In Acts 3, as they were going into the temple, the apostles encountered a man who had been lame all his life. That man’s interaction with the whole message left him leaping and praising God while astonished crowds looked on. In response to their wonder, Peter proclaimed the Gospel and the powerful name of Jesus.

As the crowd grew, Jewish political leaders arrested the apostles and brought them before the high priest and others political leaders. As Peter explained the healing of the lame man, Peter used two different phrases to describe what had happened. In Acts 4:9, “…this man has been made well,” and in verse 10, “this man stands here before you in good health.” I was astounded as I studied these two phrases which sound synonymous in English.

In Greek, the first of those, made well, is the from the root word σώζω (sotzo) which is often translated “to save.” The second phrase “in good health” uses a different word, ύγιής (hugies) which is translated healthy, well, cured, or whole. It is the word from which we take the English word hygiene.

The whole message is not just about eternal salvation, it is about being made whole. Repeatedly Jesus encountered people with physical maladies and in His compassion He healed them physically while also transforming them spiritually. His own mission statement proclaimed release to captives, sight to the blind, and the favor of the Lord (see Luke 4:18-19).

The Gospel we proclaim does much more than provide spiritual rebirth. Thank God that it is the power of God to salvation. But it is also Good News today, here and now, in its power to meet the needs of physical life with God’s transforming power. The whole message saves us and makes us whole!

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