Cutting Room Floor: Acts 2
Useful Things Cut From Acts 2
Peter & Lots:
After Judas’ tragic suicide, his place among the Twelve is taken by Matthias. They choose his place by lots; an ancient sort of roll of the dice. A test try and see what God wills out of a handful of options. It’s a little bit cultural, a little bit faith-filled, basically trying to give God control over a game of chance, and trusting that whatever the result of a toss of the dice is, God affirms it.
We never see this after the Spirit comes upon the Church, by the way. The implication is, simply, that we don’t need. There’s also a hint, unspoken but discussed by those who read this, that this lot-casting was…hasty. Wasn’t something Peter should have been taking on, because if only he’d waited, his reasoning would have proven sound in Paul’s conversion. But that’s a much bigger discussion for another time. Lots though, disappear, when the Spirit comes, because we don’t need them: We can trust that God will lead us directly, not through the intermediary of casting lots.
Birth of the Church:
People talk about that moment when the Spirit came on the disciples at the Temple, early in the day before most people were drunk, as the “birth of the Church.” But I don’t think the Church was really born until later, when Peter realized that even us Gentiles could be a part of it, and God proved it by sending the “Spirit to all who believe.”
New Covenant Promise:
This New Covenant promise came well before Joel’s, was given by Jeremiah. Jeremiah had declared, two hundred years before Joel, “The days are coming…when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah…This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer 31:31-34).
But again: Jeremiah seems to be only talking about Israelites. Peter just accepts that Joel is talking about Israelites only. It takes the experience of seeing the Spirit clearly come upon the Gentiles for Peter to realize that we’re a part of this New Covenant, too, and Israel’s equals.
In Romans 10, Paul makes this incredibly complex, beautiful argument about the relationship between the Israelites and the Gentiles, and why not all Israel has turned to the Messiah. He declares, there, that “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
Paul says that the Law, which baby-sat Israel for so long, keeping some small part of them still close to God so God could work out his election purposes of undoing sin and death, it was always, always, always, building to the Messiah. This is what Paul has discovered. God has always been faithful all along, never abandoning Israel, never forgetting them, never given up on them, but letting the Law be their babysitter until, as he puts it in Galatians, “the promised seed arrived,” until the Messiah showed up.
And now everyone who keeps faith with the Messiah will be considered by God faithful to God’s Covenant. Him. There will be righteousness for everyone who believes.