Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Today's post features what is a major section of the Book of Acts - Acts 13-28. In looking at the Book of Acts we can note its layout in accordance to Jesus' instructions in Acts 1:8 "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Let the reader notice how Acts 1:8 encapsulates the entirety of the Book of Acts:
a). Acts 1-2 = "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."
b). Acts 3-8 = "and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem"
c). Acts 9-12 = "and in all Judea and Samaria"
d). Acts 13-28 = "and even to the remotest part of the earth."
Whenever we consider the contents of Acts 13-28, they truly are a continuation of Jesus' mission for His church. Another significant point to make about Acts 13-28 is that we see the book of Acts shifting its focus from the ministry of the Apostle Peter to that of Paul. Acts 9-12 functioned as a transitioning point, wherein Saul was converted and changed his name to Paul, and Peter and John's ministry experienced both its peak and gradual handing over the reins of leadership. God in His providence also had it to be that the center of Christianity in the first decade of the early church's life would switch from Jerusalem to Antioch.
With those introductory comments made, what can we note about what is termed: "Paul's first missionary journey in Acts 13-14? More particularly, when a church or group of believers specifically aim to take on the mission of Jesus Christ to reach the lost throughout the world, what principles need to be kept in mind?
Today's Point of Application: The main point of today's post will be: "When the church is doing missions, she makes the most progress in God's grace". I get this point of application from Acts 13:43 "Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God." Just as Paul and his companions were already doing - i.e sharing Jesus, now they were being urged all the more to do - i.e continue in the grace of God. So again, when the church is doing missions, she makes the most progress in God's grace. To achieve that end, we will see four principles to keep in mind when pursuing Christ's mission in our individual lives as His followers and in the local church:
1. Consecrate with prayer. Acts 13:1-3
It was very clear that God was changing the center of gravity in the Christian movement from Jerusalem to Antioch. He assembled key people, with specific giftings to Antioch in 13:1. We then see in Acts 13:2-3 "While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." The early church was a praying church, a fasting church, as seen in other places in Acts. (Acts 1:24; 6:6). We scarcely see the early Christians make decisions or do a deed without first consecrating such in prayer. To consecrate means to set apart and designate something as being a possession of the Lord Jesus Christ. How we begin helps us to understand the destination of any mission. This church saw that the Lord had them to reach out to regions beyond their immediate area - thus they consecrated the whole mission in prayer, and in this case, in fasting. Notice the second principle to keep in mind when doing Christ's mission...
2. Expect difficulty. Acts 13:4-13
This may sound surprising to some readers, but for any follower of Christ who has been following Him for any length of time, difficulty is par for the course. Why? Because the world, the flesh and the Devil Himself opposes all efforts to broadcast the Gospel of Jesus Christ by mouth or other methods. (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 2:14-17) In Acts 13:4-13 we see two examples of intense opposition to Paul and his associates. The first is a magician name Elymas who attempts to undermine Paul's missionary efforts to an official in the region. Paul rebukes Elymas in 13:9-11 "But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him,10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? 11 Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand." Such opposition gave occasion for the Lord to demonstrate His power against the kingdom of darkness and to shine the light of Sovereign grace into a Roman official's heart in Acts 13:12, resulting in that man's salvation.
Then if outside opposition were not enough, a defection occurred in Acts 13:13, namely the defection of John (that is - John Mark). Now Luke just mentions this defection in passing here, however later on in Acts 15:36-41, Paul and his companion Barnabas get in such a heated debate over whether or not John Mark should come with them that they have to part ways. John Mark's defection had apparently threatened to unravel the mission's efforts. Thankfully God in His providence would later reconcile John Mark and Paul, with John Mark later composing his "Gospel according to Mark" ("Mark" being the surname of John). Let the reader note that the first missionary journey of Paul was only twelve months in length from Acts 13-14. Such oppositions occurred rapidly and intensely. Lets now look at the third principle in doing Christ's mission...
3. Center on the Scriptures. Acts 13:14-41
If any missionary efforts are going to succeed, they must center on the scriptures. Once Paul and his fellow laborers reach the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13:14, Paul is asked by the attendees to give them a sermon. What follows is perhaps one of the grandest sermons in Holy Writ. Though this is Paul's second sermon, we see demonstrated the command of scripture that He had in connecting the Old Testament to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Without going into extensive detail, we can note what areas Paul focused upon in His preaching:
a). God is the Prime Agent of the scriptures. Acts 13:17
b). The plot-line of the scriptures center on Jesus Christ. Acts 13:17-37
c). The purpose of the scriptures is God's glory. Acts 13:38-41
Let me remind the reader once more of our main point of application: When the church is doing missions, she makes the most progress in God's grace. Whenever you see how saturated the early church was in the scriptures, and the kind of preaching that went forth at both the centralized locations and missionary frontiers, one can see why these people made such progress in Christ's mission. They retained the principles of consecrating what they did in prayer, they expected opposition and yet they centered themselves in the scriptures, since in the scriptures we meet and hear our blessed Lord Jesus telling us to: "go into all the world and make disciples." (Matthew 28:19)