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6 September 2017

Acts 24:10-27 — The different ways to peace

As I read this text I find myself trying to draw together the lines of theology mentioned in it.

V14: I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. 15?I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16?Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience towards God and all people

That would seem to be a serviceable summary of what many Jews agreed upon, and which was already very different to the logic of Hellenistic life. Then a pivot:

V21: “It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.”

And so a disagreement has arisen, about an actual resurrection, rather than the concept of general resurrection. Then later:

V24: Felix heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgement

Christ’s resurrection elicits a call to faith, an engagement with justice, the exercise of self-control, and a new take on how to regard the general resurrection to judgment.

I find myself also noticing the very prosaic, normal human moments in what transpires. Felix, the experienced judge, who ‘knows’ about the Way’ (v22). Who is frightened by talk of justice, self-control and judgment. Who hopes for a bribe. Who allows Paul some liberty and the ministration of friends. His successor, who curries favour.

Luke has written with a kind of a slant on how life goes on, with all the usual swirl of human desires, and amid it, there are those who are held steady by the law and the prophets, by hope, and by that pivotal resurrection.

There is nothing triumphal or miraculous here, just the picture of two different ways to peace, one turbulent and driven, the other stable and hopeful.

I want the stable and hopeful one. I am often tugged by the turbulent, fearful one, as are we all. (I almost commented on Psalm 18 today, since its message is so similar, in its own way: that the only way to find stability within the turbulence of life is to give ourselves to the source of all life.)

Can I therefore commend you to meditate on hope, on clarity of conscience, on what the resurrection of the dead Jesus gave to human life and society; on justice, on self-control, on the coming judgment.

Can I commend being well-versed in the Way in this way: hopeful, steady, and held within everything around us.

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