This is the final post on the missteps of the early church Apostles as recorded in Acts. If you want to know what I think about the accuracy of their writings (the Epistles) you’ll have to go back and read part one where I talked about that. But that hasn’t been my theme. I’m merely trying to glean for us a few lessons from the mistakes they made and encourage us to make every effort to avoid any repeat performance.
“After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’
“‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’
“But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’” Acts 22:17-21
In the telling of his conversion testimony, years later Paul admitted that he “argued” with the Lord when he told him to get out of Jerusalem. It seems, at least for a brief moment (if not longer), he felt he had a better idea than God’s, a better plan for how he could be most effective in the service of God. From where he stood, he was sure the Jews would be receptive to him because of the obvious transformation he’d undergone. Surely they’d see what kind of difference Jesus had made in his life and want some of the same. True, Paul was young in the faith at the time and didn’t know how Jesus rolled, and also true that after a brief exchange on it, he ceded and did the right thing. But his first instinct was to plead his case for what he thought was best at the time.
I really like how honest and transparent he was to even admit his disagreement with God in front of his persecutors. But keep in mind, this was no commonplace “Quite Time” he was describing, he was in a trance and saw Jesus in a vision when he got the “get out of Dodge” order. To my mind, that brings it to another level of commissioning, which he would eventually learn to obey more readily. The moral – when in a trance, having a vision of Jesus standing there, do what he says without proposing a “better plan.”
There might have been more conversation involved during the trance/vision, but all we have in Luke’s account is Jesus winning the “argument” with a command – “Go!” That’s how God wins arguments – with commands. He usually doesn’t give us reasons for what he tells us to do, sometimes he just says, “Go and do it,” to which he expects compliance. He might be willing to have some back and forth with us for a while, but at some point, he expects to stop explaining and move to commanding.
So, have you had any such “arguments” with the Lord? Who usually wins? Are there any areas or issues in your life in which you feel you have a better idea than his? What have you learned from insisting on your way over his? Just wondering.
So, those Apostles (the ones “upon whom the foundation of God’s household is built”) didn’t do everything right. They made mistakes of one sort or another throughout their lives. And if that’s true, what does that say about us, who aren’t Apostles (at least not the kind with the capital “A”)? I think it says we should learn from their mistakes and not be too hard on ourselves as we try to live our lives pleasing to God. I think it means we should shoot for the moon, but if we hit the trees, at least we got off the ground. Let’s do our best to stay on the path, but also do our best to stay out of his way on that path. And I think the best way we can do that is to stay behind him (as opposed to venturing ahead) with our eyes peeled, light on our feet, and “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” When we fall down, lose our way, or deliberately choose the wrong path; let’s get back up, shake off the dirt, get back on track, and follow.