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.