Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Closer Look at Acts: Part 3, Overcoming Conflict

As I continue to peruse the commentary I have mentioned several times here, I will share again an interesting insight about the book of Acts, as reported by Dr. Wave Nunnally.

This week we look at another theme that runs through the book of Acts: The Holy Spirit Overcoming All Conflict. Conflict in the book of Acts is remarkably common, and it can be broken down into two categories: Internal Conflict and External Conflict. The message is that the power of the Holy spirit is "more than capable of overcoming every form of adversity from within the church and resistance from the outside world." Allow me to make a few comments about each.

I will start with Internal Conflict. Can you imagine any church having conflict from within? Okay, I admit it is a no brainer. The first century church certainly did. A great example of this is the story of Annanias and Sapphira (5:1-11). You know the story...the couple sells some property and donates some of the proceeds to the church and keeps some back for themselves, but they claim they gave it all to the church. For some reason our excuse making sides come out when we hear this story and we think "Well, they gave money to the church, what was the big deal?" However, you could classify this sin as lying, cheating, stealing or as all three. The Holy spirit overcomes this conflict in an unusual way...He strikes them both down dead. This is an extreme example, but it certainly is an example of internal conflict...and I bet people did not lie about their offerings anymore. Other examples of internal conflict in the book of Acts include the widows being overlooked during meal times (6:1-7), Peter being criticized for entering the house of a Gentile (11:2), and the council at Jerusalem (15:1-31) among others. The common thread...The Holy Spirit allows the church to overcome the obstacles every time.

There is also plenty of examples of the Holy Spirit overcoming External Conflict as well. External conflict is an everyday occurrence in the book of Acts. Peter and John go on trial before the Sanhedrin (4:1-31). Stephen is put on trial and stoned (7:1-60). Paul is kicked out of cities, stoned, and left for dead (14:19-20). External conflict was not scarce in the first century church. This happens today too...but seldom in America compared to other countries. In the little bit of traveling I have done, I have seen and heard of the church in certain countries persecuted more than we can imagine. The last I heard, the top four most persecuted churches (in no particular order) were Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we cannot forget our brothers and sisters representing Christ in these nations. I think the persecution of Christians in America is going to continue to get worse. I would not be surprised if certain terrorist acts start happening at some point, like shootings or bombings of churches. It would be interesting to see the reaction of American Christians. How many would continue to go to church if they knew there was an immanent threat of danger?

In the end, as Acts shows us, the Holy Spirit can and does overcome this conflict, as well as helps us overcome it as well. Our God gives us strength, courage, and boldness to face the enemy when we need it. He helps us solve internal problems and conflicts within the church (Matt 18:15-20). Praise the Lord that no human or spiritual resistance can stop Him or his perfect will! I love the last verse of Acts, which communicates this point so well. "[Paul] proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ--with all boldness and without hindrance!"

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