3.23 Acts -- Law vs Gospel, cont.
Let us be very clear about what is happening here, for it is a pattern that is repeated throughout history. The expansion of the church in Jerusalem was accompanied by a loss of the true gospel of the Kingdom of God, in favor of a racially tainted message. The Spirit who was poured out with such exuberance in Chapter 2 has been bottled up and quenched by Chapter 21. The descent of the Spirit was to inaugurate a new era of internationalism and the breaking down of walls of prejudice and privilege. It was to be a time of welcome and invitation to the oppressed, the worthless, the excluded, the foreigner. Yet within a few years, the church had become a mirror of the Judaism from which it violently parted originally -- it espoused the same values, it overlapped the same membership, it worshiped at the same location, and instead of a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at the center, it was still preoccupied with foreskins.
This process is the inevitable byproduct of a racially homogeneous community. It doesn't matter what race or class the community is -- all-white, all-black, all-Asian, all-Hispanic, all-Jewish -- but just the fact that people have the same heritage seems to guarantee that the Gospel is turned inward instead of outward, and tradition outweighs mission. Only Paul, and later John, as evidenced in his Gospel, grasped the essential component of the Age of the Spirit -- that it is outward-focused, future-directed, expressionistic, wall-breaking, and intentionally diverse in constituency. A homogeneous church that adopts a Kingdom mentality will become heterogeneous through investing itself in the larger world outside its own pews. And this is the only way to maintain its own fidelity as an outpost of the Kingdom, for the church without a mission ceases to be Spirit-indwelt.