How Today’s Church Should Use the Principles and Patterns in Acts
Unit 1: Project 1
How to Interpret Acts
The key to fully understanding anything in life is the approach taken. If we don’t learn in a given way that we learn best with, than the result will most likely be a lack of complete understanding. Likewise, the key to soundly understanding scripture is the way you interpret it insomuch as your approach to understanding the scripture of interest in its full context. Interpretation is the key, also, to understanding and utilizing any principles and/or patterns in the book of Acts. Without a sound understanding of the full context in which any given principle or pattern is documented in the book of Acts, it is likely that these things would be improperly interpreted and implemented into present-day church practice; whether it be principle (theology) or pattern (ministry).
Finding intention is the key to discerning context. The question of “why” should drive our interpretation of scripture. This pulls intent from what is being read. But you can’t ask why without knowing what is going on. Asking why provokes further investigation of what is actually happening. This is where a broad picture of scripture comes from: this is our context. Further analyses of what is happening as we read through scripture (as well as what the cultures or people surrounding what any given scripture is referencing at times) gives us the tools necessary to discern why something is happening. Upon discovering an answer to why, we may move into the realm of what to do with this information. Putting scripture into context with the purpose of implementing what is gleaned is not enough when it comes to applying principles and patterns. We must also take into account practicality. Using reverent wisdom is the only way to effectively discern and utilize principles and patterns from scripture. For example: if a given pattern in the book of Acts was powerful and effective in the time it was written of, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be as effective (or effective at all) in the current state of what the church needs in order to impact the Kingdom of God the greatest.
Freedom in Form
Some of the patterns suggested in Acts would break some laws, if not in this country, in others. So we must, as the church, find other ways to accomplish the same goals. This is where the question of why comes in. We ask why certain patterns happened or why the first century church did some things in order to discover what our goals and vision for the church might be; with the goal of leading in a biblically sound manner. This is what has been referred to as “freedom in form”. We have the freedom to use various different methods in order to accomplish and uphold biblical goals and principles. This is not only because not all methods used by the first century church are applicable to this day in age, but also because the bible is unclear as to the specifics of many methods/patterns as well: what age a person should or shouldn’t be when baptized, what (if any) miraculous signs of receiving the Holy Spirit might be upon baptism and whether or not the gift of tongues is or isn’t a sure sign of that, to name a few. Many of these types of patterns could be categorized as traditions.
Tradition and Its Dangers
Because of the lack of clarification on certain aspects of the faith, we have nonabsolutes within the faith. Some of them would be the above referenced patterns. But many Christians get nonabsolutes mixed up with absolutes. Thus we have disagreements and discord among the body of Christ. People hold fast to nonabsolutes as if they were absolute, and others combat nonabsolutes as if they were incorrect absolutes (heresies). Traditions should be based from the bible first through the lenses of wisdom and discernment, and compared to the history of the church and where it has been. In Numbers 21 Moses was instructed by God to construct a bronze serpent after sending real serpents to them as chastisement for their unthankful and disobedient behavior. The bronze serpent was constructed for Moses’ people to look upon and be healed if they were bitten. Now Christ is the one we look to for deliverance (John 3:14). As a tradition, some people handle snakes as an act of worship. But this is putting God to the test, placing yourself in danger, metaphorically (with non-venomous snakes) or not, and is strictly spoken against (Deuteronomy 6:16). This tradition of handling snakes is lacking a strong biblical base, nor has it been a biblical pattern in any way, shape, or form with the result of being an act of worship to God in the manner in which it’s practiced. Plainly stated: handling snakes does not bring God glory and, in fact, is cultish.
How, Then, to Live Out the Book of Acts
By using biblical discernment, reverent wisdom, and freedom in form, one can develop a firm grasp on how the Lord is leading them to glorify Him within their surrounding culture. By these methods, utilizing principles and patterns from the book of Acts in the modern day church can be accomplished in a nonheretical, well thought out, and Spirit lead fashion.