Theology

Justice is a Gospel issue: Spiritual and practical empowerment – Acts 6:6

“These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:6) Continuing the theme of empowerment that runs throughout Acts 6, verse six describes the apostles’ commission and ratification of the selection of those chosen to solve the presented problem. By definition, this is an example of Apostlic leadership, but we must not rush to assume we know what that means. Firstly, our understanding of apostolic leadership must be…

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Racism Theology

Justice is a Gospel issue: Affirmative action – Acts 6:5

And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. (Acts 6:5) If the opening verses of Acts 6 demonstrate the apostles’ listening an empowering approach to resolving the racial conflict that emerged at that time, verse 6 emphasises this approach. “What they said please the whole…

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Racism Theology

Justice is a gospel issue: Hands, feet and mutual submission in Acts 6:4

But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. Having established a quasi-congregational method of deacon appointment, the text now moves onto what this action means for the apostles. In the previous verse the apostles – who continue to speak in a single, unnamed corporate voice throughout the passage – explained that they “cannot submit” to “leave the word of God”. However, here – as a result of the…

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Theology

Justice is a gospel issue: Empowered problem solving in Acts 6:3

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. (Acts 6:3) Having set out their team leadership stall in the previous verse, the apostles continue their empowering approach by asking the gathered believers – which we know from Acts 6:2 was the whole assembly – to select “seven men” from “among you…whom we will appoint”. The people were…

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Theology

Justice is a gospel issue: Precedents for ecclesiology and polity in Acts 6:2

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables”. (Acts 6:2) In Acts 6:1 the immigrant believers complained that the local believers were neglecting the needy amongst them. First, we must note that the complaint was not only heard, which is an important indication that demonstrates the apostles’ receptive handling of the complaint, it was…

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Racism Theology

Justice is a gospel issue – Acts 6:1

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on how justice and the gospel are inextricable. Anyone who has read Isaiah (or any of the prophets) as well as Jesus (see Matt 25 etc) can’t help but agree, but Joel Brown was making his point that “justice is a kingdom issue” based on Acts 6. My immediate response was: Yes! Acts 6 connects with many really important things such as ecclesiology, race relations…

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Racism Theology

Are Philemon and the White church “older brothers”? (Final reflections on Paul’s letter to Philemon)

During this series I have re-read Paul’s letter to Philemon in light of its often-overlooked protagonist Onesimus. In short, Onesimus’s life matters. But, as the social media interaction I have engaged with during the last couple of months shows, the details matter. Far from being an apology for slavery or even a tacitly pro-slavery letter based on the argument that first century slavery was somehow more ethically acceptable than 16th to 19th century North American slavery, Paul’s letter to Philemon serves to subvert all notions of slavery by exalting the Kingdom and by empowering Onesimus.

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Racism Theology

No longer a slave – Reflections on Philemon (Part 5)

The letter to Philemon is about freedom. It is not about justifying slavery. However, despite my efforts to demonstrate that far from being a biblical rationale for slavery verse 12 of Paul’s letter (as well as the rest of it an many other Pauline, New Testament and other biblical passages) actually subverts and challenges such systems, I encountered opposition to such views online. These ranged from Islamic apologists to fundamentalist US Christians that appear to want to continue to justify slavery on biblical grounds. My hope is that Paul’s most overtly anti-slavery words in verses 15 and 16 further clarify the situation:

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Racism Theology

Sending him back: empowered confrontation – Reflections on Philemon (Part 4)

Prior to these reflections, I knew Philemon could be read as meaning that Paul sent an errant Onesimus back to face his master and the consequences of his actions. But, the more you understand this letter, the less such readings make sense. And, while I was also aware that the letter to Philemon has historically been coopted as a justification for slavery, I wasn’t prepared for just how contemporary such views are.

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Racism Theology

My very ‘heart’: Who Onesimus is in Christ – Reflections on Philemon (Part 3)

Philemon and his church were good believers. And they were kind. But they had a blindspot when it came to class and/or race. They didn’t know who Onesimus really was. They didn’t know a) how intrinsically valuable he is just because he was made in the image of God or b) who He had become in Christ. Now Paul begins to show them:

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