Third mission

Session 11   3rd Mission  Acts 16 & 17,

Talk Introduction

To get everyone up to date with today’s reading we are looking at Acts chapters 16/17.     We are dealing with our history of the early Christian church at this this it’s about 17 years old, say 50AD, Jesus had risen, leaving his 120 followers to witness his life and God’s Word, on receiving The Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they straight away preached the risen Lord. The church grew, showing Jesus over his ministry was indeed the awaited Messiah. Peter was at the centre of miracles and healing, the church was spreading to Gentiles but it was being persecuted by the Temple leader and still it grew. Paul was converted and he led missions into what is now called Turkey.

Talk   Paul’s Third Mission journey Acts 16-17

Disagreements had started between the leadership and now splits were starting. There were Jews who wanted to keep the followers of Jesus as a Jewish Sect, then they were those who wanted Gentiles to join but they then had to live as Jews, others wanted Gentiles to worship side by side with Jews as equals and some wanted and eventually got a complete spilt with the Jews. This was in fact due to the obsessional hate traditional Jews had for anyone not living to their laws which meant there had to be a complete break and hostilities between the two and this still going to today.

 Timothy Joins Paul and Silas 16:1-4 Paul in Lystra, met Timothy who was a follower of Jesus, Paul wanted him to join the mission, so circumcised him because the Jews knew that his father was a Greek. 

I do find this odd since Paul, in just the previous chapter, was the main person involved in stopping circumcision for Gentiles. One commentary states, Paul did not think he was compromising the principles of Gentile freedom, by circumcising Timothy yet it does seem to be done simply for appearances because the Jews who now considering following Jesus wouldn’t listen to Gentiles who hadn’t made that commitment to demonstrate his conversion by circumcision.

We have to remember that this was the very early church Paul wanted Timothy to join his group of Christian Jews on a mission and if this was the only way his group would accept a Gentile Christian because they didn’t fully accept the arguments he had made in Jerusalem nor did they accept the decision Peter and the disciples had made. It is then we can understand Paul wanting to smooth over troubled waters but we can already see splits in the way people are accepting Jesus as The Messiah and applying his teaching.

The same thing has gone on for 2000 years arguing about the detail of religion rather than living the faith by following the greatest command. Loving Our Lord God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength do that and everything else, including theology, becomes secondary. It is these very type of disagreement that needed the gospels to be written, to enable Jesus’ life and teaching to be accurate and consistent and  so people don’t go off at tangents, but of course they did and they still do.

Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia 16:5-10 As they travelled from town to town, the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew in numbers, Paul then had a vision telling him to go to Macedonia.

Those early churches were strong in the faith, and they grew in numbers, the question is what were they doing to achieve that? They were excited by their faith and wanted to share it with others, the teaching was simply, straightforward and The Holy Spirit was being used with all the members having the freedom to do what God Spirit leads them to do.

For all church members need to take on the responsibility of their beliefs, if we feel led, then strive to be a Leader, Preacher, Teacher, Administrator, Healer, Helper, Giver. For a church to grow it needs all it members to use their skills and gifts each showing the love of God in their words and actions.         When we feel that something needs doing, an idea, a vision, a dream then this is most likely due to the prompting of The Holy Spirit. First we need to pray about it, then talk to another Christian about it, still happy it needs to be done, then talk to the leadership. Then there is a very good chance that God is leading his followers to do it, As members we have the responsibilities to accept and use the gifts given to us witnessing The Father, following Jesus and everything being led by The Holy Spirit.

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi 16:11-15 Two days later they were in the Roman Macedonia city of Philippi, Going to outside the city to pray they talked to Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She already worshipped God and her heart was opened to respond to Paul’s message. She and the members of her household were baptized, Paul’s group then stayed at her house.

Paul immediately acted on what God was telling him, if it feels right to do something then do it, don’t wait around just do it. If we start talking to someone and a God opportunity reveals itself, take it for God may have placed you there to get that person to start thinking. Throw a seed of God’s love and see what grows weather is does or doesn’t is not up to us so let’s not be shy to talk about our love for Jesus for we have the promise that we will say the right words when we allow God’s Holy Spirit to work in us and never be afraid of what others think of us.

Paul and Silas in Prison 16:16-22 A female slave who earned money by her spirit predicting the future continuously followed us and shouted out, “These men, are servants of the Most High God, are telling you how to be saved.  Paul became annoyed and told her spirit to leave in the name of Jesus and it left. As she couldn’t then earn money her owners seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the marketplace to face the magistrates saying, “These Jews are advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” When the crowd joined in the magistrates ordered the two be stripped and severely flogged, then thrown into prison.

Some people do have the ability to see the future, in Church we call them prophets. These are not fortune tellers nor are they charlatans, when proved genuine people like to use them, so why didn’t Paul use her? After all she might have been an assess confirming they were sent by the most High God, confirming that Paul should be listened to, but Paul became annoyed with her. Maybe because she was distracting people from what he was saying? Or he wanted people to listen to him and come to believe without her coercion.

Was Paul correct in doing this? Well some would say he wasn’t and will quote what Jesus said Mark 9:38-39  “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”  Jesus told him “Do not stop him, for no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,

Paul, Peter, the disciples, all Jesus’ followers, then or now, we all made mistakes the important thing is to accept no-one but Jesus is going to get it all right all the time. We shouldn’t think less of anyone who is trying to do God’s work nor ourselves as sometimes we get things wrong, however we need to keep on trying working as a team and learning from what we do right or wrong. Also when we get things right by God then sometimes people will accept us but others will hate Christians, try to stop us and in some counties even try to kill us.

Keeping the faith 16:25-34 About midnight the prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns when a violent earthquake made the prison doors fly open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer seeing the prison doors open and thinking the prisoners had escaped went to kill himself but Paul shouted, “Don’t, we’re all here!”  The jailer fell trembling before Paul and Silas asking what to do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your household will be saved.” After telling everyone about Jesus and his teachings the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then he and all his household were baptized. 

After being stripped and severely flogged, lying in prison Paul and Silas had recovered enough to worship and were singing and praying it’s unlikely they were many other prisoners but when the prison doors opened no-one left. Maybe they would be both frighten and confused about what was happening but we not told about their cell mates yet the jailer saw God working and reacted. We can never predict how people will take our witnessing but what matters is that we do allow God to work through us.

Release 16:35-40 At daylight, officers were sent released them, but Paul said, “we are Roman citizens and were beaten publicly without trial and thrown into prison. Make the magistrates come and escort us out.” The magistrates were alarmed and going to appease them, they escorted them from the prison and asking them to leave the city. Paul and Silas left but first went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them.

Paul didn’t just leave he wanted to make the point that wrong had been done, he wanted to give credibility to himself and therefore what he stood for. When the magistrates appeased Paul they gave him respectability and credibility and by association gave acceptability to what he did and said. This would also apply to the followers who accepted what Paul was teaching, they put severing God first and going to Lydia’s they encourage the followers showing them proof that God is real, does miracles and does care for his children.

In Thessalonica 17:1-9  Arriving at Thessalonica, Paul went to the synagogue, and over three Sabbath days he explained from Scriptures how, Jesus, the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead.  Some Jews were persuaded along with a large number of Greeks plus many prominent women. The Jews who disputed Paul organised a mob to riot in the city, they dragged many believers before the city officials, shouting: These men led by Paul are causing trouble all over the world defying Caesar’s decrees, calling Jesus a king. The city officials made them all post bonds and let them go.

Paul certainly had a way with the high raking ladies, did Lydia’s conversion, staying at her house and the conversation they had provide a key element to his missionary work? If so it certainly worked. For some time the Jews were happy to listen and debate with Paul about Jesus so why was it that everywhere Paul went people turned against him for it doesn’t seem to be the teaching he gave, nor were the disputes about Jesus, no it was about the Jewish synagogue leadership thinking they were losing influence, authority, power and money.

In Berea 17:10-15  Paul and Silas travelled to the synagogue at Berea (be-rea)  they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did many Greek men and also a number of prominent Greek women. Learning Paul was at Berea, the Jews in Thessalonica went there and stirred up the crowds against Paul so he went to Athens.

We see a pattern developing to Paul’s missionary work go to the Synagogue first and talk to the Jews. The Jews listen study and debate the issues after which many come to believe, they then go out to the Prominent Greek women who are attracted to message and likewise many of the men. The Jews don’t like the changes and using their influence had the Missionaries thrown out.

In Athens  17:16-34  Paul saw Athens was full of idols even so he preached the good news of Jesus and his resurrection both in the synagogue and the marketplace. A group of philosophers asked Paul to explain his new and strange teaching, he told them: You worship an unknown god and I’m going to tell you about him, he made the world and everything in, God doesn’t live in temples and he doesn’t need anything from us, rather, he created us so we would seek him out, even your poets knew this writing ‘We are his offspring,’ God is not an image made of man’s skill from gold, silver or stone. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, now he wants all people to live to his ways. He appointed a judge for all people and giving proof of him by raising him from the dead. When hearing about resurrection some sneered, but others wanted to know more and came to believe.

Paul tells in a most simplistic way of God relationship to us rather than get bogged down with our relationship to God. We can really only serve God by first understanding what he wants from us. If we joined a football team and didn’t ask what the rules were or what our roles were then we would be a hindrance, and quite useless to the team.

Paul in Athens didn’t start with Jesus he dealt with the root of their ignorance telling them about the one God and what God expected of them, for people who didn’t know their Gods, this would have been unprecedented, astonished that God wants something from them rather than them wanting something from him and when you think about it it’s not only logical it’s understandable. People understand about bosses and this tells them that God is the biggest boss of all. We need to do what God wants us to do after all he designed us to serve him.