the weblog of Alan Knox

Church Meetings in Acts – in Conclusion

Posted by on Mar 15, 2010 in gathering | 5 comments

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been examining passages in Acts that indicate a meeting of believers by the use of certain phrases that I’ve called “gathering language.” Here is a list of the posts:

Introduction
Acts 1:15
Acts 2:1
Acts 2:44
Acts 4:31
Acts 11:26
Acts 12:12
Acts 14:27
Acts 15:6
Acts 15:30
Acts 19:9
Acts 20:7
Acts 20:17

As a conclusion to this series (perhaps the longest series that I’ve written), I’d like to point out a few things from these passages.

First, in many, many instances, the “gathering language” was given in the passive voice. What does this mean? It means that for Luke, the people did not primarily seem themselves and gathering themselves together. Instead, they saw themselves as being gathered together by God. When they looked around the room at the brothers and sisters sitting around them, they saw these people as being brought together by God, not by any action or choice of the people themselves.

Second, Luke indicates that whatever happened when the church got together was a combination of the work of the people and a work of God. They recognized their dependence on God, but also that God chose to work through them. They did not see themselves as having the power to enact what was happening around them. But, at the same time, they knew that their obedient submission to the will of God meant that he would use them in his activities.

Third, the activities of the church were not set. When the people gathered together, they would do different things depending on what was needed at the time. We see various activities: meals, prayer, prophesy, speaking, etc. Perhaps some of these activities happened more regularly than others. But, the focus would shift from time to time depending what was happening in the life of the church.

Fourth, the church did not focus on evangelism during their meetings. Instead, the focus was on people who had already been evangelized. The assumption was that the people who gathered together had already be indwelled by the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, even though the church did not focus on evangelism when they gathered together, their times of gathering were paralleled by a recognition that they were sent to those who were not believers. For the believers in Acts, being gathered and being sent went hand-in-hand.

Finally, while several passages indicate a closeness and intimacy between believers that could only be attributed to regularly association in small groups, these small groups were not separatists. Instead, the believers recognized their mutual relationship and interdependence with all believers in their area. In fact, when believers from other areas “came to town” they were immediately recognized as brothers and sisters with all “rights and responsibilities thereof.”

Now, I believe that Luke gave us these “descriptions” of the church for a good reason. I think we should compare the modern church with Luke’s descriptions. Where the modern church falls short, we should seek change and transformation.


5 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-15-2010

    Rolling in the life threatening persecution of the time, it was reasonable to not invite NONbelievers to the gatherings. Likely, informants were a problem. Get ‘em saved first, then introduce them to your believing friends. The Church today, may not be far off from the need of such a strategy….~just sayin’

  2. 3-15-2010

    Good series. You might want to rethink your first point. The use of passive forms of sunago is due to its intransitive nature, not a theological point that the author is trying to make. When people gather together, the passive/middle is used. When people gather something, the active is used, and indicates transitivity. A quick TLG search, or perusal of the relevant LSJ/BDAG entries, will confirm this.

  3. 3-15-2010

    Archie,

    I think that Paul, at least, envisioned the possibility of nonbelievers being present when the church met. However, even then, the nonbelievers were not the focus of the meetings.

    DS,

    If the passive is due to the intransitive nature of the verb, what do you do with those cases where the verb is active? (i.e., Acts 15:30)

    -Alan

  4. 3-16-2010

    Alan, that’s my point exactly. When you have an active verb, the sense is transitive and you always have the direct object stated, in this case τὸ πληθος. But, you never just have an active verb with no direct object. When you want to say that a crowd gathered (intransitive), you use συνήχθη ο όχλος. Again, just look at LSJ’s entry, which gives the passive as: “gather together, convene.” You could find hundreds of examples outside the NT of the passive voice used intransitively for a group coming together, without any thought of God gathering them.

  5. 3-16-2010

    DS,

    Thanks for the info. I’ll look into the intransitive nature of these verbs.

    -Alan