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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

Things We Have Learned from Acts

Now that we have finished reading through Acts, we should take some time to reflect on the impact of the narrative as a whole. Luke has made striking use of traditions he inherited about the apostles—a plan of salvation history and the art of storytelling to instruct us about the development of God's plan of salvation in the apostolic age.

Judaism Is the Inherited Tradition of the Church

The church developed according to a divine plan of salvation, which remains rooted in the experiences of Israel. When God led the church to turn toward the Gentiles, this heritage was not forgotten although it was no longer necessary for a person to be culturally and legally a Jew in order to experience salvation.

God Seeks the Salvation of All the Peoples on Earth

Acts shows us that the apostles had to venture beyond their own Jewish culture in order to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Though they found this task difficult, since it often resulted in hostility from fellow Jews, all the apostles accepted this growth toward becoming a truly universal church as an expression of God's will. The task is not over. The church still must venture into other lands and cultures to fulfill the mission that is hers until the end of time: to bear witness to the gospel everywhere.

The Church Is a Spirit‐Guided Institution

You will notice that in Acts the Spirit works in and through the official leaders and structures of the community. Developments like the admission of Gentiles were clearly difficult adjustments, but we see that the leaders of the community in Jerusalem eventually come to express what is the will of God. Furthermore, as the apostle Paul leaves the scene, he has established “elders” or “overseers” in his churches. It is necessary that persons be designated as leaders now that the apostolic age has passed. Although many people think that an institution can never be the vehicle for the Spirit, Acts insists that the church is such a vehicle.

Christians Must Be Willing to Suffer for the Gospel

Since the apostles overcome the sufferings and imprisonments they face, we may forget how relentless the onset of hostility is. No form of suffering causes any of the apostles to stray from the mission given by God and cease to proclaim the gospel. There is no instance in which preaching the gospel does not awaken some form of resistance.

The Christian Fellowship Has Special Marks of Its Identity

Luke has presented us with ideal pictures of what the church should be. We see the harmonious gathering of diverse peoples for prayer, preaching by the apostles, and community meals. We also see a community in which concern for the weak and needy is one of the most important parts of its communal life.

The Church Calls People to Religious Conversion

Because the church preaches religious conversion, it comes into conflict with all forms of pseudo‐religion and superstition. Magical practices have no place in Christian life, nor do movements that use the religious sentiments of the masses to collect money from those who are taken in by the propaganda of such false cults. Christians give their resources to help those in need. They speak out against any false idea of God that would require buildings and other material goods for God or God's servants. Christians remain loyal to the basic institutions of their society, even when those institutions seem to be used against them by persons who do not like the criticism of false beliefs and behavior that comes from the gospel.

P.P.

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