Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Acts 14:8-18

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary (Most recently April 26, 2015).

Summary:  This is not a passage I am very familiar with.  A couple of possible sermon directions:
- The power of word to produce faith and salvation
- The importance of focus to create healing
- The reality that things can wrong even when they go right
- How one preaches to pagans
- If you want to talk about persecution of Christians, you can do all of chapter 14.

Key Words
ηκουσεν (aorist of ακουω, meaning "listen"; 14:9):  The man's transformation begins as he is listening.  Verse 7 makes it clear what he is hearing -- the Good News! God's Word transforms people, not crowds.  But yes, this requires listening.

ατενισας (aorist of ατενιζω, meaning "gaze"; 14:9)  Paul must focus in order to be an effective leader here.  Perhaps this is our challenge in ministry (and all of life), that we cannot focus enough to observe someone with the faith necessary for healing in their life!

εχει πιστιν (have faith; 14:9)  Is faith a noun or verb, as in, to believe?  Hmm...it is a noun here, but the verb "have" is in the present tense.  Paul gazed at him, sees that he has faith, and...  Faith is a living thing, nourished by the word, that moves mountains.  In short, even if faith is something we can hold (as Luke indicates here), it is not static or bottled up.  In fact, when the man stands up (14:10), the verb is leap, like water, a reminder of John's Gospel where "out of the believer's heart will flow living waters."

του σωθηναι (from σωζω, meaning to save; 14:9)  The word translated as "heal" means save.  This word is always worth unpacking, at least in Bible study.  What do we mean by save?  Christians are clear that Jesus as savior -- but what does he save us from?  Here it is from sickness.

It is also worth noting that the word heal/save is in the passive voice, suggesting that even the man's faith did not automatically produce salvation, but that God's activity was needed.  This is a tricky point that could be interpreted in all sorts of bad ways.  Basic point:  we don't save ourselves.  More complicated point:  Sometimes we have faith, but we still need another word to liberate us!

ματαιων (from ματαιος, meaning here "the worthless things"; 14:15)  What a profound way to talk about the things not of God.  Paul avoids language of sin when speaking with a bunch of pagans, but he does refer to their focus on the worthless things of life.  See also 1 Cor 15:17, that our faith is ματαιος if Christ wasn't raised from the dead.

Grammar review -- the words του σωθηναι are an "articular infinitive."  (An infinitive with an article, "the").  It literally reads "the saving" or "the healing."  Greek often uses an articular infinitive to express purpose, in this case, faith for the purpose of being saved.

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