The Word and the Tables -- By: Charles F. Peiffer

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 04:0 (NA 1971)
Article: The Word and the Tables
Author: Charles F. Peiffer

The Word and the Tables

Charles F. Peiffer

In an age which clamors for change, old problems have a way of recurring. In every age the church has had to determine its priorities. The preaching of the Word, and the response to human physical need in the name of Christ, were and are necessary parts of every Christian witness. The Epistle of James reminds us that there were those in the earliest church whose response to the poor was, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled.” Of such pious talk without the addition of a helping hand, James scornfully comments, “What does it profit?” (cf. James 2:14–17) .

As we meet the church in Acts 6 we find that there was concern for the poor—in this instance the widows—and that the apostles supervised the distribution of appropriate supplies. Problems arose, however, when two factions within the church exhibited partisan spirits. One group was Hellenistically oriented. These were Jews who had accepted the Greek language, mode of dress, and general cultural orientation. In modern terminology we would say that they were westernized.

The other group, called the Hebrews (Acts 6:1) had clung to the Aramaic language and the traditional Jewish usages. These were the descendants, spiritual if not physical, of the Jews who had suffered persecution because of their loyalty to the Jewish faith during the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes during the second century B.C. As a party they had little sympathy with those whom they regarded as traitors to the faith, compromisers with things Greek, hence foreign and unorthodox.

The preaching of Christ was directed at all segments of the Jewish community, and we find both Hellenists and Hebrews taking their place in the Christian church. It is one of the glories of discipleship, that all sorts and conditions of men are called to take up a cross and follow Jesus. The fisherman and the tax collector, the zealot and the doubter are numbered among the disciples. Martha who served, and Mary who chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him had differing temperaments, but unquestioned love for the Savior. At its best the church ignores distinctions between circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free men. All are one in Christ.

Seldom, however, has that ideal been realized. The earliest church had the same human problems we have. It may be popular for preachers to call us back to the Christianity of the first century, but honest students of the Bible and of history will realize that the fact of sin was as evident in that age as it is today. As the church grew, ol...

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