Thursday, September 18, 2014

Elders in Jerusalem

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers [3] living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30 (ESV)
Already in the first decades of the church, you see the concern Christians have for one another. And here it seems the gentiles are sending money to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. “See how they love one another.” Already tensions are brewing. Already there is a vocal circumcision party, suspicious of the gentile converts. The gentile converts put their best foot forward. They send money in anticipation of a famine that is prophesied to cover the world. Most people would stockpile their own resources at his time to prepare for this famine. But already due to the persecutions, the poor in Jerusalem were feeling the pinch.
They decide to send the money with Barnabus and Saul. It’s funny how one moment he is Paul, and the next Saul even after conversion. The likelihood is that he actually grew up with both of these names. It was common for Jews of the diaspora to have two names that sounded somewhat alike, one for use at home and among Jews, and the other to be used among gentiles. Since Paul is heading to Jerusalem he will be better known as Saul.

The other interesting thing is the use of the word elder here. In scripture this word is that which is used for what we know as the pastoral office. No mention is made of either the deacons (our elders) or the Apostles. The pastoral office it seems has already begun to take root in Jerusalem, and responsibilities are being given to these young pastors that just a couple years before would probably have been given to the apostles. The transition has to happen because the apostles will not always be with the people. The apostles are also called away from time to time to check on things elsewhere, and go to other lands. A person can learn of some of the travels of different apostles from Eusebius. If the church in Jerusalem is going to be stable it needs leadership of its own that doesn’t need to be shared with the rest of the church. 

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