Monday, February 1, 2016

Reboot's Commentary on Acts 15, Part XI: v.30-35


Acts 15:30
So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.

The men executed the plan as requested.


Acts 15:31
The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.

This message is one of great encouragement—it is freeing! There is nothing that is required to buy our way into heaven. No additional burdens are added to join our faith.

Do you realize how strange this is? Join Judaism and there are 613 laws one should be following. Join Islam and you must give 20% to charity and pray five times a day and go on pilgrimages. Join Hinduism and you must participate in certain rituals and rites. Join Buddhism and you must begin to deny that suffering is real and see the world in critically different ways.

But join the faith of Jesus, and you need to do nothing. The work is done for you. Grace is received not based on your merits, but on His merits.

This is offensive, this gospel. It is offensive to many who join the faith. Many Christians today are just like the Judaizers at the time—they accept grace for themselves but add rituals or rites or requirements onto people to maintain that relationship with God. It is easier that way: we love checklists and to-do lists.

But here’s the thing—when you add burdens to the list, you call God a prostitute. You can’t buy His love; He gives it to you freely, as a gift.

This message should be heard as a major encouragement. It isn’t up to you! Relax and enjoy all that is good, for God loves you!

And to live life well, avoid idolatry and sexual immorality.


Acts 15:32
Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.

Used in this way (definition Fiii in Strong’s Lexicon), it is speaking of those who have the gift of preaching—revealing hidden things in Scripture under the Spirit’s guidance to instruct, comfort, encourage, and convict the listeners.

So Judas and Silas stay and preach for a while.


Acts 15:33-34
After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.

Some manuscripts say that Silas decided to remain among the Antioch believers, but it is not in most manuscripts; hence the absence of v. 34 from most texts.


Acts 15:35
But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.

We see that there was a team of teachers at Antioch, which helps keep one man from misinterpreting and running off in strange directions.


________________________________________________________

This completes the commentary; now I must find a way to cover all of the key aspects of that...in a 35-40 minute message. I have two more weeks to get there...pray for guidance!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Reboot's Commentary of Acts 15, Part X: v.28-29

Acts 15:28
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:


This is a powerful verse for several reasons.

First, it seemed good “to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Decisions of the elders shall not be made separately from the Holy Spirit. The decision of the Council of Jerusalem is given after much discussion and searching of the Scriptures so that they may be certain of the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Second, we are not burdened with anything beyond the requirements. Anything. 613 laws of the Torah, and they are instead whittled down to four. Again, remember that this is not Christians choosing what they can and cannot follow; this is the apostles telling us that Jesus already fulfilled the Law so that we no longer have to do so. For the Judaizer, this is a total and crushing defeat. There is no compromise in this statement: the entire Law is fulfilled for the Gentiles and they need to take on none of it.

Finally, “beyond the following requirements.” These requirements as mentioned before were already considered to be universal morals and would not be surprising to hear; furthermore – other than the sexual concerns – it is doubtful that any would have caused concern on the part of any listener.



Acts 15:29
You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.


So again, the Noachide laws are repeated here. Again recall that “blood” implies not only the drinking of blood but also the shedding of blood, as Noah’s covenant demanded.

The choice of “abstain” here is interesting, as they avoid any sense of forbiddances. Abstaining does not carry the idea of something being inherently evil, but rather that it is something that is better to avoid. Some commentators take this, along with verse 21, to infer that such things are fine as long as they are not done in the presence of Jews. However, this seems a risky stretching of the text.

Rather, it is more likely that the sense is that while they are sins, they are forgivable sins. The Scripture says on numerous occasions that there is but one unforgivable sin—the sin of disbelief or of unwillingness to bow before a holy God. Everything else can be forgiven. So the sense of this passage is—these are things that are important to follow. They are things God asked of you. They will make you spiritually healthy and blessed. They will make your life a valuable witness. You will be a “good and faithful servant.”

The question it arises is—why would one not be willing to do such things. If you actually believe that God, the creator of the entire universe and who holds life and death in His hands, is willing to humble Himself and die to forgive your sins, in what possible way can you claim to appreciate and love and be committed to Him, and yet still claim that something like sex or other religions are of enough value that you won’t give them up?

For true believers, who have received the Holy Spirit, these are not going to keep them from God’s kingdom. However, they remain sins—and universally recognized as sins. It is concerning when we hear those claiming the name of Christ also claiming that these are not sins, instead of saying, these are sins that I struggle with. It is completely fine to struggle with a sin type, even for a lifetime; but it is concerning when one essentially says, “I love Jesus…but I love a certain type of sex more.” So while doing these things is not unforgivable, it is concerning if someone does them and feel no remorse or regret; in that case one should seriously pray and consider their commitments.

To live in this way will be “well” in our lives. God can use someone who takes these basic steps and mature them well. Don’t worship other gods or eat at sacrifices to other gods—this is a pretty easy one in our culture. Don’t eat meat that keeps the blood inside of it—also easy as this is basic FDA rules (a rare steak isn’t filled with blood; that is a different compound, not hemoglobin); so skip the blood pudding or blood sausage and you’ll be just fine. Don’t kill other people. Don’t commit sexual immorality—this last one is the tough one for most of us today, for as I have said, our culture says sex is important but treats it as a common and valueless thing to be done on every third date or in exchange for a bit of flirting, of little more value than a pair of movie tickets.

Now, idolatry might sound simple but I would argue that our challenge in today’s society is actually tougher than the Gentiles first receiving this letter. For them, idolatry was in their face: a literal statue to which one was killing an animal and drinking its blood. Idolatry throughout the Bible is paired with, an analogized by, sexual immorality: Idolatry is, essentially, “cheating on God with someone else.” In the old days that was literally other gods. But our Enemy, I submit, has become much more cunning than he used to be. Now it is not gods of wood and stone that become our idols, but rather that old god Mammon that Jesus preached against: money.

Our society has elevated free-market capitalism to a place where it feels blasphemous to speak out against it, as though we are doing wrong by criticizing an economic theory. Our society has made money our god; we gobble it up and spend what we don’t have. We measure our happiness by things that we purchase, and become depressed if we can’t keep up with the guy next door. (This is why Teddy Roosevelt once said that “Comparison is the thief of joy”—as soon as we begin comparing ourselves to someone else, we always manage to find ourselves lacking and needing to go buy something, upgrade the house, etc.) We make elaborate gifts to show you how many dollars worth we love each other. We work insane hours, day and night, in the pursuit of a bigger bank account. We spend as a country 96% of whatever we gain. We seek our security in our savings accounts.

We have made money our god. And there are certain sacrifices—work—that you are expected to make at the altar of this god in order to receive the blessings of money. That’s why so many look down on the poor on welfare—those lazy bums are complaining about the lack of blessings from the god of money but they haven’t made the sacrifices at the altar, the work hours and education!


You see, it is subtle but powerful. Never ever forget that money is not the god of this world. You should be wise with money. And you should be able to give away HUGE amounts to charities. In the Jewish world, it was ASSUMED you would give 10% of your gross to those less fortunate, and up to 20% for those who were wealthy. And this wasn’t a big deal, because people didn’t worship money. It wasn’t an idol for them. For many of us, it is—and I will be honest, it is my biggest idol as well. I am not a guy who struggles with panic attacks…until my bank account gets low. Then I start really stressing out. Why? Because at times I trust money more than God to provide for me.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Reboot's Commentary on Acts 15, Part IX: v.21-27

Acts 15:21
For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read on the synagogue every Sabbath.

This statement is explaining why the Noachide laws are still valid and should not be a surprise:  they have been preached from ancient times in every city. Everyone in the ancient world understands what Jews claim to be universal to all mankind.

Furthermore (and some scholars expand this one too far in my opinion and make it the main point), because this is known to every Jew, it is particularly offensive to see Gentiles claim to share in the blessings of God and not follow them. So by choosing to obey these laws, the Gentiles are also building a bond with their Jewish brethren. However, this seems to be the lesser of the two meanings and should not be expanded too far into theology, lest .





Acts 15:22
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers.


The Elders and Apostles did not want to take any risk of Paul and Barnabas not being believed when they returned to Antioch. Therefore they took leaders from among the church body, who we are told later also are members of the preaching group, and send them to ensure the message is communicated properly.


Acts 15:23
With them they sent the following letter: To the Gentiles believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.

First and foremost, they identify the Gentiles as believers. They use the same word (adelphos) to describe the believers in the Gentile regions as they do their own believers; calling them brethren in Christ.


Acts 15:24
We have heard that some went out without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.

They clearly refute the claims of the Judaizers to have come from James, and mention that the things that they were told troubled their minds.



Acts 15:25
So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul

Here they affirm the legitimacy of the current messengers as well as letting the churches know that Barnabas and Paul are “dear friends” whom they support.


Acts 15:26
--men who have risked their lives for the name of Jesus Christ.


They reiterate that the men from their congregation whom they are sending are bold followers of Jesus and can be trusted to deliver the message.


Acts 15:27
Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.



Two-thirds of the letter written to them was to secure authority in the messenger. This fact reinforces that it was very unclear to the Gentiles whom they could trust. Two sets of missionaries show up, both claiming the authority of the apostles…there is no Scripture at the time to consult…so how will they know who is teaching God’s word and Gospel?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Reboot's Commentary on Acts 15, Part VIII: v.20

Acts 15:20
Instead, we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”


What James is doing here is referencing what are sometimes called the Noachide Laws. This was a common Jewish practice at the time to teach Gentiles, and basically it goes like this: God gave some commandments to Adam’s descendants and Noah’s descendants (which is all of us, including Gentiles), and a different set of more detailed commandments to the descendants of Abraham and Moses (the Jews).

So the idea goes, any time that God made universal laws and proclamations, then God-fearing Gentiles should follow them, regardless of culture. But the cultural-specific mandates given in the Law were fulfilled by Jesus and even if they had not been fulfilled they weren’t given to Gentiles anyway.

Later Jews would expand the list to seven commandments, but generally at the time these were summed up into three or four laws, as you see here; even the Jewish Encyclopedia—which makes this all sound like a grand conspiracy—admits that this passage is settling on the Noachide Laws.


These were the laws given to Adam and Noah, and their meanings are:

1.    Idolatry – eating food sacrificed to animals was the most common form of idolatry at the time Acts 15 was written, but the Noachide laws generally prohibited all forms of idolatry. It goes without saying that one is harming their relationship with God by “cheating on Him” with other gods.

2.    Sexual Immorality – to ‘complete’ Adam, God created a woman whose male/female ‘parts’ matched and said in Gen 2:24 that a man and woman each leave their family and are joined together as one new flesh. The joining of flesh through sex bonded them together and also was used to fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply. Sexual immorality was the pursuit of the joy of sex in any way that was outside of this desire, such as incest (failure to leave your family), adultery (1+1=1, so you can’t join with others as well), homosexuality (male and female are meant to go together), bestiality (that is not the role of the beasts); prostitution (trying to enjoy the fruits without the commitment envisioned by God); and Jesus expanded this list to include lusting after someone who isn’t your wife (saying it was as bad as incest) and sex after remarriage (as once you are married it is intended to be for life). All of these are pictured in the Scripture as not the ideal for marriage.

(It also goes without saying that all of us have committed at least one of these at some point in our lives, so we will come back to this).

There is little doubt that this is what was meant by James when he quotes sexual immorality as that is what is always meant in every Jewish document by that term.

3.    Meat of strangled animals – it was not uncommon in the ancient world (although not today) to strangle an animal rather than exsanguinate it, and eat it with the blood still in it (or drink the blood along with the animal’s meat). This was particularly common among pagans. It is forbidden after the Flood with the covenant between God and Noah, because the Scripture says that the life is in the blood.

4.    Blood – this is a reference to the shedding of blood, which was also forbidden post-Flood in the Noahic Covenant. We are not to kill others ourselves, or tolerate the killing of others.


So what James is doing, explicitly, is affirming the legitimacy of the universal laws that God assigned to us via Adam and Noah.

Sexual immorality is really the only one that is a sticking point to some people; most would agree wholeheartedly with the others. Why sexual immorality?

It is because we have a false view of sex. In our society we are ubiquitously surrounded by the teaching that we are all just basically smart animals, who are pre-programmed instinctively to spread our seed widely. So we say that it is something that we all have to do to be healthy, and that having sex as often as possible with as many people as possible is normal. In Big Bang Theory, it is made as a joke that Penny at one point has over 30 sexual partners with over 180-something sexual activities. And it is seen as normal.

But this view does not make sex more special or valuable, it doesn’t elevate sex—it takes it below the Biblical view.

The Biblical theology of sex is that it is a sacred activity that has spiritual significance. There is an entire book of the Bible—Song of Solomon—that is downright raunchy, as the description of two lovers on their wedding night. And God is pictured as watching and approving of it. Sex is used throughout the Bible as a symbol of our relationship with God—He is the groom, we are the bride; He is coming to wed us, and we should be prepared; He is building us a house at His father’s estate (as the Jews did) and we should be prepared to leave our family to join Him; we will live together forever faithfully; and when we are not faithful to Him it is described as being adulterous.

Our situation before God is that we are missing something crucial that only He can provide; that we cannot possibly have joy apart from Him; that we cannot multiply the kingdom without His help; that we need Him literally to complete us; that we have flaws but are accepted in all our vulnerability by His love; and that we must be willing to leave our family here on Earth and commit to being with Him forever in heaven.

That is shown as a picture when a bride leaves her family and joins a husband for eternity. She stands before him naked and vulnerable, and he can see every flaw yet accepts and loves her anyway. When they join together, their parts mate and they are complete, both physically and spiritually. And through this activity are they fulfilled and are they capable of multiplying to create others who will one day do the same.

So sex becomes a picture of our relationship to God. It is therefore meant to be sacred, and Jews and Christians have always held it as a special thing. It is not to be cheapened and traded. If we pursue sex as the naturalists would have us do it, then yes we will feel the physical pleasure…but that is all. We lose the sacredness and spiritual fulfillment of it.

We cheapen it dramatically when we turn it merely into a physical pleasure, like eating a meal or a nice bottle of wine. Sex is that way for many people—but it can be far more. It can be existentially fulfilling in a way that is hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it. This is why the Jews and Christians treat it so carefully…because to get the full joy and pleasure from it requires that one treat it appropriately.

Furthermore, sexual immorality is one of the big problems that led to the Flood, along with violence: these two issues together led to the greatest anger God has ever had at mankind. Hence it is logical for it to be a part of God’s commands.

This seems strange to us in our culture today. We have done a strange thing in our culture by cheapening sex and yet simultaneously treating it as more important. Generally speaking, laws of supply and demand dictate that the rarer something is in supply the more valuable and special it is treated. However, Americans want to have our cake and eat it too: we want sex to be omnipresent, on every billboard and in every TV show and in everyone’s personal life whenever and however and with whomever they want; if you do so, then you must accept that its value will lessen. So it is strange that when someone says that they are going to wait or abstain or follow a narrower path to give it greater value, the society looks down on them as “prudish”—as though they do not like or value sex, when in fact the opposite is true!

The picture and theology that God has for sex is that it is incredibly powerful and valuable and indeed sacred; that having sex is in fact practically an act of worship to God if done in the proper way. It is treated that importantly, and encouraged that strongly, as one sees in Song of Solomon. And yet in our society it is a commodity, to be traded for a movie and dinner or sometimes just straight-out cash.

Indeed, consider how often you have seen in movies and television that two people are having sex with each other when one says, “I love you.” The other invariably isn’t ready to “take that step”. This shows how far removed from the Scriptural view of sex our culture’s has become; we view saying I love you as a bigger deal than sex; sex is a glorified hug or kiss. In fact, sex in the Bible is far more powerful and more passionate and more sacred and important than this. It is something to be treasured and valued and enjoyed…like a fine wine, it is to be properly prepared, allowed to age, and savored properly, not cheap booze to be drunk quickly and then forgotten.

Furthermore, we see in the Scripture a very different view of sex and identity than we see in the modern world. Modern America’s view of sexuality (and, more recently, gender) is that these are identifications or orientations which one is born having or (in the case of gender) one may change as time goes on. In either case it is seen as inherent to your basic consciousness and personality. Scripture, however, does not view identity in that way. Gender is seen as a given at birth, and the methods someone has sex are seen as equal possible by all people; that is, Scripture doesn’t view anyone as a person to be homosexual, rather it views any person as capable of performing homosexual acts. Your core identity is about how you relate to God, not about how you are attracted to other people; and indeed it seems quite clear from Scripture and the Greco-Roman worldview that they saw any person as a sexual being who, given certain situations, might perform a wide variety of acts. They did not, therefore, see your brain as “wired” gay or straight; rather they saw you “wired” sexually and how you express this determines whether it is within or without God’s purposes for sexual activity.


More to the main point:  there are no “further burdens” placed on mankind by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only things which are sins for us are those things which were already sins for us and are universal to all mankind—murder/bloodshed, idolatry, pagan practices, and the contemptuous treatment of sex.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reboot's Commentary on Acts 15, Part VII: v.19

Acts 15:19
It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

James pronounces his judgment—that we should not make things difficult for those converting to God.

Does this mean that James stopped being serious about sin? NO! This is the same guy who said, “Show me your faith without works and I will show you MY faith BY my works.” James believed very much in living as much like Jesus as possible. According to Jews of his time, James was famously poor, giving every penny he had to the poor, and his church likewise was poor and massively altruistic. It is also said that he could barely walk in old age and his knees were deformed, because he spent most hours of every day kneeling in prayer. So he really acted upon following God.

But he also knew that God was quite capable of leading all of us to Him in His timing and in His ways.

We are told in the Bible that there will be no sin in heaven, and all who follow Him will be purified; but we are not told that you have to clean up in order to join the community of believers. There are very rare times in the New Testament in which someone’s sins force the church to break away from them and cast them out; generally, this is when people are teaching idolatry, pagan worship, or that grace means you just live however you want.

James does not say at all that we need to pretend as though sin isn’t sin.

But what he DOES say is that it is not our job to somehow put down a list of behaviors that you should engage in as a new believer, or start demanding that a person behave a certain way. It is not our job to make it difficult for new cultures or people from different backgrounds to follow the faith.

This is a common view of many Christians. They wouldn’t say it that way, of course. They would simply say, “We as the church have to make sure that people are TRUE believers.” Putting that ‘true’ statement in front is very interesting. They say that it is our job as a church to deny communion to those who we haven’t tested. They say that it is our job to examine their lives for the fruit of repentance.

It’s not.

Our job as a church is to love them and to teach them—and frankly, it isn’t even most church members’ jobs to teach new believers how to mature. That is the role of the Elders.

Many churches—some denominations are explicit, but most do this in subtler ways—act as though their role is to protect the church from the unholy elements of the world. That is not at all what the Scripture says. We are to be a light in the darkness, a city on a hill visible to all, a people known for dining with sinners and tax collectors. The Gospel breaks barriers, frees slaves, unites peoples, forgives radically. The Gospel is Jesus protecting a prostitute from being stoned to death. The Gospel is Jesus and His disciples accused of being drunks and unclean because they hung out with unholy sinners.

The Gospel offends those from the “in” crowd because it does not seek to protect God from man, but to free man from himself so that he can go be with God.

If the Church is making it difficult for someone to come to God, then she is failing; if the Church ever finds itself saying, “So glad you are a Christian! Now just so you know, you must stop living like that,” then it is polluting the Gospel.


God will mature us—He always does. And we don’t have to hide that (in fact, James will not hide what to do to mature in just a few verses). But God does not need us running around being morality police for others. He was perfectly capable of maturing us, and He didn’t forget how to do it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reboot's Commentary on Acts 15, Part VI: v.13-18

Acts 15:13
When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.”

James was the pastor/bishop of the Church of Jerusalem, the chief of all the elders and the brother of Jesus.

In addition, James had written what was quite possibly the only book of the Bible to be circulated by this time—the Epistle of James had gone out widely. And it seems from some of the evidence that the Judaizers who had stirred up all this trouble were claiming to represent James or possibly using James 2:10 as evidence for their position.

So James’ voice—which would have always been the critical voice in the debate, as the presiding Elder—carries extra weight in this case as he is the one whom the Judaizers are claiming as their authority.


Acts 15:14
Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for His name from the Gentiles.

James begins by restating Peter’s calling.


  
Acts 15:15-18
The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things—things known from long ago.”

Decisions of the eldership are not made in a vacuum. Wise counsel and insight is taken from all the elders, but ultimately it must all come back to Scripture. In this case, James references Amos 9:11-12. He does not claim that this event was prophesied by Amos. Instead, he points that this passage (about the final restoration of Israel) will also include a salvation of the Gentiles.

However, note that these are shown here as two different groups—God will restore Israel and “the rest of mankind [that] may seek the Lord.” It does not say that the Lord will turn the Gentiles to the Jews; it instead said that both would be part of salvation.

So James here comments that Peter and Paul’s descriptions are not out of bounds of Scripture, that we already knew that the Gentiles would come to follow God apart from Judaism.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reboot Commentary on Acts 15, Part V: v.10-12


Acts 15:10
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?


Here Peter gets to the root of what they are trying to do—the real reason that the Judaizers are wanting to put the Law on them is as a test.

The Levitical law may have served the purpose of making one pure before a holy God, but from a practical purpose, it separated the Jews from the Gentiles. They couldn’t eat together, their work together was limited, and it was better to live in separate villages when possible.

As such, many Jews developed a prejudice against Gentiles (cf. verse 9). They felt that the Law itself was what gave them the special relationship to God, rather than His choice that gave them the relationship.

The Gospel, essentially, offends. The Gospel offended them when it began to result in non-Jews becoming believers. And so they could deal with it as long as the Gentiles “cleaned up their act” and started acting like good Jewish boys and girls. The problem being, of course, that Paul was teaching something radically different: that because they were Gentiles, (a) the Levitical code was never given to them anyway, since they didn’t descend from Israel, and (b) the Levitical code was fulfilled by Jesus regardless.

Peter here points out that they are only applying the Law to test whether God was really serious; they weren’t willing to accept the evidence of the Holy Spirit and testimony of the missionaries and new believers. Instead, they wanted to add a new set of burdens onto them, a new law and then if they passed the Mosaic Law, now we will accept them.

Peter also points out here the absurdity and hypocrisy of expecting these Gentiles to pass a test that the Jews have tried for centuries, and failed, to pass.


Acts 15:11
No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.



Peter is adamant that the Judaizers’ approach of adding the Law is not Gospel-centered. It is no sign of Gospel love to accept someone because they changed their entire culture and life to look and act like you! That’s not even tolerance, much less acceptance.

The sign of the Christian Gospel is that we are saved by Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and sacrifice for our own sins, not because we somehow succeed at following it. As such, to add the Law would in fact do the opposite of what Jesus came to do!


Acts 15:12
The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.


Now the council reviews the testimony of Paul and Barnabas. They had already heard it before (just a few verses ago) but now they are listening anew—listening for evidence of God choosing the Gentiles as they are, apart from the Law.