As the church was persecuted, it scattered in to the neighboring countries. St. Luke, the author of the Acts of the Holy Spirit, summarizes the churches message in this way, “he (Phillip) preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.”
Why the kingdom or reign of God? In the first century, the reign of God offered a direct challenge to the civil leadership of the day. To follow Jesus you had to decide if you were going to worship Caesar or God. In proclaiming the reign of God, Phillip and the early church were declaring they were not swearing allegiance to any earthly power. Many in the church today have been seduced into a syncretism that melds civic faith and Christian faith. The church would do well to again call itself back to its roots and declare their allegiance to God first and foremost.
There is another challenge addressed in the preaching of the early church: there is only one way found to God and this is through Jesus Christ. On every front the church is being challenged to think about how she will talk about and live out the claim of Jesus to be the way and truth and life.
Lesslie Newbigin, one of the leading theologians of mission in the 20th Century, tells about an encounter he had when he was preaching at Cambridge. While preaching about the exclusive claims of Christianity he was challenged by a young man, “Why do you say Jesus is the only way?”
Newbigin asked him, “Are you Jewish?
“Are you a Hindu?”
“Are you a Muslim?”
“Are you a Christian?’
“I guess so.’
Newbigin replied, “Then Jesus is your problem.”
If you and I claim to be followers of Jesus, Jesus’s claims are our problem.
Ronald Friesen © 2015