Oct 24 – Luke/Acts Birth of the Church…and Pope Peter

Discussion centered on the diagram below of the NT works of St. Luke. Formation and growth of The Church is a theme that runs through Luke and Acts, and that theme is emphasized by the thirteen verses included in the diagram.

The spark that led in this direction was the simple fact that we are currently reading from St. Luke in the daily Mass readings, Luke 12 this week, and that better understanding of the context of those readings is of great value in understanding.

The story begins with the call of Peter to become a “fisher of men,” proceeds through training of the disciples, sending out of the seventy, St. Luke’s version of The Great Commission, Pentecost, and ends with St. Paul, imprisoned in Rome, awaiting death, and still obeying that commission, preaching and teaching. If you did not get a copy of the chart below and cannot read this one, here is an attached pdf (Luke Acts Birth of Church1) which can be downloaded. For an outline of the process of formation of the early church, read items 1-13 on the chart below and perhaps look up the passages in the NT and read them in context.

Discussion included the roles of Paul and Peter and the fact that Peter dominates the first half of Acts and Paul the last half. The first half ends with the Jerusalem Council at which Peter announced the final decision about the Gentiles:

Acts 15:7-11 After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”

It sounds like Peter is in charge, doesn’t it, but from that point on, Acts is all about the missionary journeys of St. Paul, and Peter is not mentioned. Here is a summary of the number of mentions of the two of them chapter by chapter.

 

This is of interest because it leads to skepticism in some quarters about Catholic claims of Peter as the first Pope and Bishop of Rome. Sacred Scripture does not announce that explicitly or even mention St. Peter going to Rome. But there is considerable historical support for our belief. You can read a good summary of it on Catholic Answers at THIS LINK.

You may wonder why I am presenting this information. Well, we do have this instruction from Pope St. Peter:

1 Peter 3:14-16 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

So, being informed about and comfortable with the foundations of our faith is a good thing.

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