Who Let Paul Into the Synagogue?

You may or may not have noticed, but flying under the radar a bit, I have been conducting a very slack study through the book of Acts [here, here, and here]. Nothing thorough by any means, but a few stray observations as I have been slowly making my way through the book along with a couple brothers.

This week we took a quick jaunt through chapter 18. I will admit that there were not a lot of things that really caught my attention this time. The one thing that did catch my eye had to do with both Paul and Apollos. They both had a significant presence within the synagogues and were not only present but were actively teaching in a way that would have fallen well outside of the orthodox understanding of Scripture during that time.


Now Paul eventually wore out his welcome in a pretty significant way, but the passage seems to be hinting at a significant amount of time that Paul was a known quantity, preaching the gospel and reasoning from the Scriptures, pointing to Jesus as the Messiah within the Jewish synagogues.

I remember a story being told in the pulpit about a man who seemed to randomly show up at the church and say that he was giving the message that day. He was portrayed as being mentally unstable (and maybe he was) and was eventually forcibly escorted off of church property. That story lingers in my mind and is highlighted with this text because I hardly think that we would be willing to allow a Paul or Apollos to come into our own assemblies and speak in a similar manner.

If today’s church were the synagogue of the first century, there would be no question of allowing an outsider to come among us to show us the truth of Jesus as the Messiah. The idea of the crucified Christ would fall outside of our accepted doctrine, so Paul would never have the opportunity to wear out his welcome, he would have been screened out before he ever got a chance to open his mouth.

Paul and Apollos would, of course, be well within their rights to start a synagogue of their own down the street to talk about this crazy Jesus business, but there would be none of that heretical teaching that accuses us of reading the scriptures incorrectly.

As I mentioned, Paul ultimately ran into his share of problems preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, but it is noteworthy that he was ever even heard out in the first place.

How much violence has been done to the body of Christ merely by the conditioned reaction to dismiss those voices that run counter to our accepted orthodoxy, to silence them and cut them off?

Scripture speaks of the different members (or parts) of the body that make it a whole. We have the obvious parts like arms and legs, eyes and ears, but there are plenty of vital parts of the body that are not easily seen. There are parts of our body that become active when bacteria or some kind of foreign agent enters into our system, they serve to protect the body when something has gone wrong or we become sick. Without a properly functioning immune system, the body would be in serious trouble. The church has in many ways decided that the best way to prove that it is healthy is to fight off the leukocytes in the body that are trying to tell it that it is sick.

We need these corrective voices within our assemblies, the ones that are willing to tell us that we are ill. The ones that are up to fighting off infections within the body. If that part of the body is cut off, there is no choice but to quarantine… I wonder which choice we have made.


32 thoughts on “Who Let Paul Into the Synagogue?

      • Driscoll’s an extremely dangerous and deceitful wolf. He’s smart and charming and knows how to act sheepish when necessary. Yet he’s remarkably dumb when it comes to the things that matter most in the Kingdom of Heaven—relationships.

        Notice in this little bully clip how he assigns the guilt of sin to certain members of his congregation for “grumbling and questioning” his most treacherous and antichristian of actions.

        But these words from Phil. 2:14 are a matter obeying God without grumbling and questioning—not obeying the twisted dictates of Pastor Mark.

        • Right! Funny how these wolves think nothing of usurping Christ’s position and assigning “sin” to others. And Driscoll is a Rock star among “evangelicals.” mostly because he attracted a crowd of paying customers.

          • And these fawning customers are paying for it with more than just money. A ticket to ride Mickey Mark’s Magic Bus must require a significant piece of flesh, and an open heart toward being holistically used and abused and having their precious souls trampled by vision casting sorcerer Pastor Mark Driscoll, and his wolf pack of mini marks!

    • Here’s a transcript from a message Mark gave from around that time.

      Wolf Driscoll: Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission and if people don’t sign up you move on. You move on. There are people that are going to die in the wilderness and there are people that are going to take the hill. That’s just how it is.

      Um. Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people.

      Um. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (chuckle) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done. You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options, but the bus ain’t gonna’ stop.

      And, uh, I’m just a, I’m just a guy who is like, look, we love you, but this is what we’re doing.

      There’s a few kinda’ people: There’s people who get in the way of the bus—they gotta get run over!

      There are people who wanna’ take turns driving the bus—they gotta’ get thrown off (chuckle). ‘Cause they wanna’ go somewhere else!

      There are people who will, uh, be on the bus—leaders and helpers and servants—they’re awesome!

      There’s also just sometimes nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. Um. They’re not helping or hurting—just let them ride along. Um. You know what I’m saying?

      But don’t look at the nice people that are just going to sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.” They’re never going to. At the very most you’ll give them a job to do and they’ll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that hasn’t been on mission for a really long time, they are by definition not a leader—and so they’re never going to lead.

      You need to gather a whole new core.

      I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting, I’m doing it right now. I’m doing it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus. Yesterday, we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus.

      Um. They were off mission, so now they’re unemployed. I mean. You. This will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I’ve read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul puts somebody in the wood chipper. You know?

      • At the blog that shall not be named, it is amazing how prevalent this thinking is.

        “I have a mission, and God has sent you here to serve me and my mission. If you get in the way, I will destroy you.”

      • monax, I was sickened by these words the first time I heard them, and continue to be. The only positive I can see is that at least he was honest about what he was doing, as opposed to the vast number of ‘leaders’ who take this approach, but pretend they love those they run over.

        • “A totally evil man has an irresistible charm and excites the envy and admiration of those who dare not display their own true selves so completely. Total evil had a kind of virtue of its own, an honesty.” ~Scaevola, writer on Roman legal matters.

          • that “had” in the Scaevola quote should be a “has”

            you know, LivLim, years ago when i was first exposed to Driscoll it was through a young Presbyterian seminarian intern who was quite struck with Pastor Mark.. he emailed us all a short youtube video of Driscoll “preaching” (in a cemetery, or something of the sort).. but what impressed me right off the bat with Mark Driscoll was his arrogance—a deep-seated spirit of pride antithetical to the attitude and spirit of Christ! What i saw in him within seconds was a broken boy—a spiritual child—who had no business playing Pastor. Yet not everyone has that sort of discernment. So this seminarian, btw, went on to plant his own local church. And, fwiw, I’d consider this punk just another mini mark.

          • “What i saw in him within seconds was a broken boy—a spiritual child—who had no business playing Pastor.”

            Well spotted, I’d say! I first came across him when I was trying to make sense of my own spiritual abuse experience. The thing that struck me was how similar it was to what was going on at Mars Hill at that stage 😛

        • I think that one of the biggest things about people like Driscoll getting into the “pastoring business” and even more so being successful in it, is that it does poison the well for everyone else. Because Driscoll has been successful with his abusive behavior and narcissistic ambition, he becomes a model for others to emulate, and even those who aren’t pulled into that kind of thinking, now have to compete with it.

          It is part of the machine that monax coined as the lupine effect. Those mini Marks that the machine churns out are little wolf pups.

          • you’ve actually already read it.. as it’s merely a repost of a comment i left beneath a Living Liminal’s post from last November.. i googled it for myself to find it.. enjoy your family..

          • “It is this system of false authority over others that actually shapeshifts its wearers into wolves—for a wearer can only hold and defend their magic hatship but by fleshly and worldly means.”

            That cuts to the heart of the problem! 🙂

          • Yes, I think so, LivLim..

            “Bottom line: this system of church management distorts our relationships with each other to the extent that just by wearing a hat of ruling authority the wearer inevitably transforms into an adversarial character the Word of God reckons an antichrist and wolf.”

          • Your word choice of “church management” actually really hit me today. I was reading something earlier today about pastors, and was thinking “what the heck are they even talking about”. Well, what they were talking about was church management which is about the furthest thing from any of the functions of the body that I can think of… well you know what I mean.

          • How about that to emulate? People consistently learn by example their whole lives. Excellent point-people that previously didn’t think that way are now sucked into a lie that his behavior is good. Woe to those who call bad good!

  1. “The church has in many ways decided that the best way to prove that it is healthy is to fight off the leukocytes in the body that are trying to tell it that it is sick.”

    Wish I could say it’s not fooling anyone by doing that, but it sadly does fool some 😦

  2. From the end of Acts 18,

    “When Apollos—an eloquent man, competent in Scriptures—arrived at Ephesus he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

    I find that most beautiful!

  3. Apparently the synagogues were open to outsiders speaking. I don’t see this in Acts 18, but 13:14-15 says, Paul and his companions “went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, Men, brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.” Paul then spoke about the history of Israel, then continued preaching Jesus.

    • It seems like the church has learned from that “mistake”, they don’t have to resort to this;

      “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.”

      They just make sure that they have full control over the message.

      Thanks for stopping over and commenting Don.

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