THEMATIC ANALYSIS ESSAY 3, ACTS 13:1–28:31

The theme of the segment is consistent with the ideas in Acts 1:8. The theme entails witnessing “to the ends of the earth”. The term “ends of the earth” is a denotation in the Old Testament referring to the limits of civilization. The allusion of “ends to the earth” also appears in the Greco-Roman literature with the same connotation of the end of civilizations. In addition, some scholars have indicated that the early societies such as Ethiopia used the theme of “end of the world” in their religious practices. In the book of Acts 13, Paul heads to the “ends of the earth”, which Polhill extensively discusses in the text. In the book of Acts 1:8 to Acts 13:1-28, the apostles leave Jerusalem after 40 days as instructed by Jesus and embark on a gospel-spreading mission. In addition, Peter preaches from Solomon Colonnade, Stephen suffers Martyrdom, Phillip gives witness testimony to the Samaritans, and Paul converts to Christianity.

Another major theme that is evident in Acts 1:8 is that of patience. When the disciples asked Jesus whether he wanted to restore the kingdom of Israel, he urged them to exercise patience, saying: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the father has set by his own authority”. Nevertheless, Jesus promised them that the Holy Spirit would truly come upon them regardless of the duration of their wait. He instructed them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift that God promised. However, readers may not be familiar with the concept of restoration of the kingdom of Israel. The Old Testament indicates that God promised to exile the Israelites from the Promised Land due to the enormity of their sins. On the basis of the Old Testament prophesies, the Jews believed that God would send the Messiah to forgive their sins and restore the land of Israel.

There are several other major themes in the book of Acts 13 that readers can identify. The first major theme is world mission. Paul and Barnabas demonstrated the theme of World Mission by preaching the Gospel and Salvation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and Pagans. Second, God demonstrated that he was omnipotent and omnipresent by being among the apostles at all times. For example, God was in their midst when the apostles experienced worldly trials and tribulations during their missions. The third compelling theme, according to Fowler’s video, is that of God’s providence. Readers will find that the church was an unstoppable institution and it was indeed the product of God. For example, the righteous and the gospel were able to overcome all the challenges from communities such as the Pharisees. Fourth, the book of Acts 13 is primarily about the kingdom of God. From the beginning to the end, everything has a connotation of the everlasting kingdom of God. The subject of God’s kingdom is as prevalent at the start as it is in the end of the book. Lastly, the theme of the Holy Spirit is clear in the book of Acts 13. It is evident to readers that Holy Spirit is the power that enabled the Apostles to spread the gospel and the kingdom. In addition, the Holy Spirit served as guidance for people to live godly lives and avoid temptations.

At the same time, Fowler claims that all the key themes converge in the final chapter of the book. In Acts 28:1-6, Paul appears to accomplish his overall worldly mission by reaching Malta and Rome. During the journey, Paul encountered numerous obstacles, including poisonous snakes. However, God demonstrated his providence when he protected Paul from the snake’s venom. The last chapter of Acts is also a demonstration that God is both omnipresent and omnipotent. Evidently, God was accompanying his disciples all the time, and even the people from Malta perceived Paul as their savior, both physically and spiritually. Another theme that is apparent in Acts 28 is that of selflessness. Although Paul was able to heal others, he could not heal himself after he was attacked by the poisonous snake. As the apostles took the gospel further from the Jews, there were incidents of dramatic conversion. For example, people such as Saul, who were once persecutors, became faithful witnesses of the Gospel.

            For one to compare and contrast the sermons by Paul in the Book of Acts, it is important to consider several instances of gospel preaching prior to chapter 17. The sermons that appear in the preceding chapters entail those who believe in one God, the Jews, the God-fearing Gentiles, Samaritans, and all believers. Paul directed his earlier sermons to those who believed that God was the creator of the world, as well as to those who believed that Jesus died on the cross and later rose from the dead. However, in the Book of Acts 17, he directed his sermon to the Pagans, non-believers, and polytheists. Unlike Christians, Pagans had multiple idols that they prayed at the same time. However, they did not recognize God as the Supreme Being, thus they did not pray to him. The second contrast was that in Acts 13:16, Paul intended his message to be a sample of his proclamation to the God-fearers and the Jews. However, Paul’s presentation before Governor Felix, Governor Festus, and King Agrippa 2 is a version of what he would have presented to the pagans. Evidently, Paul did not want to use the same approach because he sensed that the level of understanding between the Jews and the pagans were vastly different.

Nevertheless, there were several similarities between Paul’s preaching to the pagans and his sermon to the Jews. In both instances, Paul proclaimed salvation to whoever followed the path of righteousness, and destruction to those who rejected his message. In other words, Paul concluded his entire summons with a curse upon those who refused to proclaim God as the creator of the world. The second similarity was that Paul adopted a dialogical approach to his sermon both to the Jews and pagans. In doing so, he was simply following the synagogue model of debate. Paul’s use of dialogue is evident in Acts 17:2, “…for three Sabbaths, he reasoned with them from the scriptures”.

            In the Book of Acts, there are clear patterns that emerge with regards to the Jewish response to the witness of Paul. First, the Jews rejected everything the apostles said. Although the apostles were following the commands of Jesus, the Jewish leaders did not want them to deliver God’s message to the Gentiles. The second pattern that is evident is that the apostles preached to anyone who listed to them. Once Paul and Barnabas became saturated with the Holy Spirit, they immediately set out to accomplish their missionary duties as evidenced in Acts 13:2. Third, there was a clear pattern between the Gentiles and the Jews in that while the former received the gospel openly, the latter refused to listen to the message. As a result, the apostles had to adopt a different approach every time they faced different congregation during their missions. Lastly, there was a prevalence of speaking in tongues, which simply meant that the apostles sometimes used interpreters to make their followers understand the message.

 

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