"Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died." - Acts 12:23
Chapter 11 starts with Peter explaining to the early church why he gave the Holy Spirit to the gentiles. Why does he need to explain himself? Didn't Jesus make it pretty clear that he wanted Christians to spread the word to everyone (i.e. not just Jews)?
The chapter goes on to tell about the Christian church spreading to Antioch (a Greek city). Barnabas and Saul are the head of this offshoot church. This story doesn't seem to have much significance other than to tell us that the church is spreading to Greece. In this story we see one of the very few times (three, if my googling is correct) that the followers of Jesus are actually referred to as "Christians".
Chapter 12 is all about Herod arresting members of the church. He first arrests, and executes, James. He then arrests Peter, presumably planning to do the same thing. However, the church earnestly prays for him (were they not earnestly praying for James?) and the night before his trial an angel comes and breaks him out of jail. When Peter meets back up with the disciples, he immediately tells them to go tell James of his miraculous release. Does he mean the James that just died? This constant use of first names only is getting old.
On a bit of a tangent, the disciples seem to have lost their concern for having twelve disciples. James dies and they make no move to replace him. I guess if you're a good person and die, it must have been God's will.
The chapter ends with Herod giving a speech to the people of Tyre and Sidon. After he gives this speech they all shout, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man". Immediately after this, Herod is killed by an angel of God for not properly praising the Lord. Of all the things Herod could have been killed by God for (namely, killing disciples and taking part in the execution of Jesus depending on which gospel you read), he was executed for not correcting a rowdy crowd?
Anyway, I thought Godly killings were supposed to be over. It's the New Testament after all. Of course, I have little biblical evidence for this claim. But it seems that any Christian you ask will claim that God just sits around playing with kittens in the New Testament.
In chapter 13 we're back to Saul and Barnabas. This time the Holy Spirit sends them off to Cyprus. While they're on the island they meet a sorcerer/false prophet. Saul, who the bible says is also referred to as Paul, looks this sorcerer straight in the eyes and says, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right!" This sorcerer is going to be immediately executed by an angel, right? After all, "child of the devil" is surely worse than someone who fails to properly acknowledge God. Wrong. This sorcerer is just blinded.
The remainder of the chapter is just more converting by the disciples. This is a lot of stuff we've already heard, including the repeated assertion that Jesus was hung from a tree. At the end of this conversion attempt, the bible says that, "all who were appointed for eternal life believed". This would again imply that God has preselected the people that he's going to allow to believe, and thus allow into heaven.
Are the tea partiers following the bible? They seem to be the only ones that think so:
That's what some progressive Christian leaders are arguing as battle lines are drawn for the 2010 mid-term elections. They say Beck and his Tea Party followers are, in a word, unbiblical.
Not so fast, say Tea Party activists, who claim biblical grounds for a libertarian-minded Jesus. He didn't like tax-based welfare programs, they say, and encouraged his followers to donate from the heart.
First of all, I'm 99.9% sure that Jesus had no opinion on tax-based welfare programs. I also don't recall him telling us to "donate from the heart" anywhere. He tells us to give to the needy (which tax based welfare programs would seem to do), and he mostly tells us to get rid of our money at all costs (forgive the pun). Remember, its easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven. So, as a Christian, you're really encouraged to give for your own eternal welfare. That is, you should give for the primary purpose of not burning in hell.
Lloyd Marcus of Deltona, Fla., a spokesman for the Tea Party Express, is a born-again, nondenominational Christian who says flatly that "Jesus was not for socialism."
''Yes, the Bible advocates giving, but out of the goodness of our own hearts, not out of government confiscation of wealth or re-distribution of wealth," he said.
Jesus may not have been a fan of socialism or re-distribution of wealth. But there seems to be solid bible-based evidence that the early church was. Lets look at Acts 2 and 4:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. - Acts 2:44-45
Note, this doesn't say "they gave to the people when their heart called them to". It says they gave to anyone in need. Sounds a lot like a welfare system to me.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales - Acts 4:32-34
First of all, they shared everything. That's redistribution of wealth taken to it's most extreme. Then, if anyone is needy, the people sell their houses and give them the money. What did these needy people do to deserve this money? They need to stop being lazy and get a job (note: this is not my opinion, I'm just channeling my inner tea partier). And remember what happens if you try to keep a little money from the sale of your house? That's right, Peter has you killed. Talk about "socialist nightmare".
"When Jesus talks about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, he's talking to us as individuals," Farah said. The Bible does not "suggest that government is the institution that he designed to help the poor." Government social welfare programs are akin to "coercively taking money from people and redistributing to other people, which, at the end of the day, is legalized stealing," he said.
I'm beginning to wonder if these people have ever opened their bibles. This "coercively taking money from people and redistributing it to other people" is exactly what happened in the early church (see previous paragraph). Is this early church the utopia we're supposed to be aspiring to, or the socialist nightmare that's going to end America?
I'll give the last word today to Michael Lindsay from Rice University:
"I would like to think that Christians are generous," he said, "but sadly the truth of the matter is that their rhetoric is much stronger than their action."
(via The Washington Post)