Luke’s Jewish-centric Ecclesiology

Combing through some research on an upcoming presentation on Second Temple clerical Lukan Jewishnessforms in early church ecclesiology, I came across two examples of existing leadership structures that caught me by surprise. As I’ve been working through the four unique ecclesiologies in the New Testament (Pauline, Lukan, Johannine, and Matthean) one of the points of differentiation between Pauline and Lukan, which are close, seems to be Luke’s abiding concern for locating the work of the burgeoning Christian communities within a Jewish context. (There are other points of difference though.)

Perhaps this is why, at the end of Acts we are left with church communities focused around rising presbyteries (though what happens after CE 70 is a mystery.) Yet I was taken aback in noting two forms of leadership structures in the Essene communities of Qumran. Specifically:

1. The necessity of having at least 120 families in a community to allow for it to have its own council which is seen in Mishnah Sanhedrin 1.6. It is peculiar that, in Acts 1:15, Luke points out that 120 people (though the Greek here, ἀδελφῶν, literally means “brothers” indicating households) were present with Peter as the first meeting of the followers of Jesus takes place. Why would Luke use this rather precise number when, only one chapter later, he approximates the number added to the Church to some 3,000?

2. Later on in Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas go before the Jerusalem Council (a scene which corresponds to Paul’s retelling in Galatians 1-2.) This council is reported to have three principal leaders by Paul (who cites them as “pillars”) in Galatians 2:9. In Luke’s recording of the events he notes that Peter is present and that James, the brother of Jesus, is occupying a leadership role over the elders. Now, if the council in Jerusalem corresponds to the council regulations laid out in Qumran (1 QS 8:1f) this would indicate an additional connection with the Jewish context out of which the earliest communities arose. If Paul’s observation is correct, that James is included with the other two apostles, perhaps the three apostles were serving alongside twelve elders in a kind of early Christian Council.

It is curious, given the two examples above, that Luke’s ecclesiology wouldn’t have been embedded in a specifically Jewish context. Perhaps more than any other of the above four ecclesiologies, Luke best represents the Jewish context out of which the earliest Christian communities arose. As a result, Luke’s understanding of ecclesiology, which gives more of a leadership role to the twelve disciples, then Apostles, in his Gospel and initial portion of Acts. This describes how the earliest communities considered themselves a natural extension of the Jewish communities in Palestine and throughout the Diaspora.

Of course Luke also is the final historical discussion that places the worship patterns of the earliest communities in the Temple of Jerusalem (and also the Diaspora synagogues.)  Paul only references them as places where the Jews, or historic Israel, conduct their cultic worship.

Just a few thoughts. The developing ecclesiologies that are cast across the New Testament provide a healthy picture of the natural development which was occurring in these diverse communities. Perhaps Luke’s ecclesiology does represent more of a Jewish focus than the others. More studies to follow.

Mar 2014



Encountering God: A Sermon

Recently, I was able to preach in the Sunday services at Sugar Creek Baptist Church where I serve as the pastor to Young Marrieds. My topic was around the idea of encountering God in the midst of our lives. You can check out the sermon here:

Encountering God

One of the things that I believe is that so many of us miss opportunities to encounter God because we are dialed into our everyday lives and frequently distracted. However, as God is working in the world there are opportunities to encounter His presence and capture something amazing.

My primary text came from Luke 28:13-35 there the resurrected Jesus meets with two of His followers, Cleopas and a companion, during their trip between Jerusalem and Emmaus. So often, God encounters people in the middle of their journey, this seems like an appropriate scene to use.

Behind our encounters with God is the big idea of the text:  God places divine moments in our journeys to capture our attention and communicate his grace.

The reality is God desires to meet with His people and we an experience the blessing of His presence in our lives if we are looking for it. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 13:2 some of us have even  “…welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.”

The real tragedy in the life of too many followers of Jesus is that they’ve gone their entire Christian lives without a meaningful experience of God’s true presence. As a result the Christian life isn’t what they expect and isn’t fulfilling the needs they have. Encountering God in the midst of our everyday journeys allows us to capture a renewed vision and experience His grace.

So what are you doing to put yourself in a place where you can see God at work and encounter the blessing of His grace and presence? Is this a goal you frequently seek out throughout your life?

Jan 2014