June 28, 2018
PAUL RENTS A SCHOOL FOR CHURCH MEETINGS
Ephesus was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire during the time of Paul. It was a strategically placed seaport city with a population of over 250,000. It became the new center of Paul’s missionary efforts. Some gospel work had already been done in Ephesus, but now Paul lay a foundation for one of the greatest churches of the first and second centuries. The people of Ephesus and the surrounding province were so open to the gospel that Paul was able to rent a school from a local named Tyrannus, where Paul preached and taught daily for over two years.
Our church rented schools for our meetings for 19 years before we purchased a property of our own. I’m not sure how long the church at Ephesus rented the school of Tyrannus, for Paul felt the call to head back out on his third missionary journey after two years. Perhaps they were still renting when Jesus had John send them a letter some years later (Rev. 2:1-7).
June 27, 2018
PAUL RETURNS FROM HIS SECOND MISSIONARY TOUR
At the end of Paul’s second missionary journey, he visited the church at Jerusalem and then returned to the church at Antioch in Syria. The second tour was much longer than the first. He and Silas were gone from their home base in Antioch for about four years (50 to 54 AD). Along the way they added several people to their team. Young Timothy was added early in the tour, while visiting Lystra (Acts 16:1-3). Priscilla and Aquila were added to the team at Corinth, where the team worked together for a year and a half. After Corinth, Paul felt led to return home and report to the apostles in Jerusalem and to the church at Antioch that had sent he and Silas out.
What an exciting report this must have been to both the church at Jerusalem and the church at Antioch. What joy, to be involved with Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations!
June 26, 2018
PAUL’S COMMON GROUND APPROACH
After debating with some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens, they invited the apostle Paul to appear before the city council to explain more fully his teaching. For the Athenians loved talking about different religions and philosophies. Noticing that Athens was filled with shrines and altars to a multitude of gods, Paul saw one with an inscription to an “Unknown God” and indicated that he wanted to tell them more about Him. He commended the Athenians for their religious interest and used the example of the shrine to tell them about the God they didn’t know. He even quoted the Greek poet, Aratus, who wrote a poem describing Jupiter (Acts 17:28), to win common ground with them.
Paul described his approach to sharing the gospel with the peoples of different cultures in his letter to the Corinthians: “Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22-23).
June 24, 2018
THE DISAGREEMENT OVER JOHN MARK
Paul wanted to travel to check on the new believers that had come to faith on their first missionary journey. Barnabas agreed. However, they disagreed on taking John Mark with them again. Apparently, Paul considered the young man unreliable after he had “deserted them” and went home early on their last trip. But Barnabas, being the encourager that he was, wanted to give John Mark a second chance. Just as Barnabas had seen the potential in Paul, he saw it in John Mark. This led to a sharp disagreement, so they ended up splitting up the power team. Barnabas began to travel with John Mark. And Paul took on Silas as his new missionary companion.
Even committed believers can have disagreements. In this case, it led to two missionary teams going out. Over time, apparently the disagreement was forgiven and forgotten. For Paul wrote in at least two places concerning John Mark. In his letter to the church at Colossae, he wrote, “Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way” (Col. 4:10). When others had deserted Paul while he was in prison, John Mark had remained faithful to him.
And in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he wrote, “Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). Paul’s impression of John Mark had certainly changed.
Traditionally, John Mark or simply “Mark,” is considered the author of the gospel according to Mark. I’m glad Barnabas kept on believing in John Mark, and Paul too, for that matter!
June 23, 2018
ONLY ONE WAY OF SALVATION
After certain Judaizers came to Antioch, teaching that circumcision was required for salvation, Paul and Barnabas were sent to bring the question to the apostles at Jerusalem. After much deliberation, Peter stood and reminded everyone that he had been the first one chosen to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. He reminded them how the Spirit had been given to them when they heard the gospel and believed in Jesus. He questioned why the yoke of the law should be added to salvation when even the Jews couldn’t keep it and in fact, weren’t saved by the law, but by the “undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
The means of salvation is grace, which is God’s unmerited favor revealed to us in Christ Jesus. As the apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
There is not a Jewish “way” or a Gentile “way” of salvation. We are all saved by the “same way,” which is by the grace of Jesus!
June 22, 2018
FIRST CHURCH MISSIONS REPORT
Although the 72 disciples that Jesus sent out two-by-two were perhaps the first to offer a missions report, this report by Paul and Barnabas to the church at Antioch may have been the first to a church. While there was no mention of souvenirs brought back, nor a slide show to illustrate the trip, they reported “everything God had done” and how God had “opened the door of faith” for the Gentiles too. This mission trip, from its Spirit-led commissioning service to its comprehensive mission report, is a paradigm for modern missions. They reported back to the local church that had sent them. Yet, in reality, they were reporting back to Jesus, who is the Head of the Church, His body.
You don’t have to leave town to be on mission. Everyone who follows Jesus is sent–– sent to your family, your neighbors, your classmates, coworkers, and city. What will you report to Jesus?
June 21, 2018
GREAT RESULTS OFTEN MARKED BY GREAT RESISTANCE
The ministry of Paul and Barnabas was marked by great results and great resistance. It was in Antioch Pisidia that Luke first began to refer to “Saul” as “Paul.” It it was also at that time that Luke began to refer to this great missionary team in reverse order, instead of “Barnabas and Saul,” he called them “Paul and Barnabas.” Paul really came into his own at Antioch Pisidia, boldly declaring the gospel and standing firm against those who opposed it. Barnabas must have been pleased to see how the trust he had put into Paul was now being proved right.
Yet, even though “almost the entire city turned out” to hear Paul and Barnabas preach the gospel, the evil one was actively present to slander and resist. Great results are often marked by great resistance. Therefore, stand firm and keep on preaching! The Lord will prevail.
June 20, 2018
WHY ARE YOU HERE?
Paul and Barnabas traveled from Syrian Antioch to Antioch Pisidia (See Acts 13:14, in modern day Turkey), commissioned by the church to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. They were not tourists. They were not just passing through. They were “here” with a purpose. What purpose? To bring the Good News to the people in Antioch Pisidia.
Why are you “here?”
June 19, 2018
THE WORSHIP SERVICE THAT TURNED INTO A COMMISSIONING SERVICE
Five key leaders in the Antioch church were fasting and praying one day when the Spirit spoke to them. The Scripture does not say how the Spirit communicated. Did all of the men or only one hear the instruction? Was it an audible voice or an internal awareness? The Scripture doesn’t report whether the men were asking for direction. In fact, it appears they were simply having a time of worship together, as church leaders should always do. Regardless, the men heard the Spirit and obeyed.
The Spirit chose Barnabas and Saul. The order in which the five Antioch church leaders was listed placed Barnabas first and Saul last. Apparently, Barnabas was the senior pastor and Saul was the new guy. Yet, the Spirit put them together to build one of the greatest missionary teams in Christian history. The Spirit chose them for “special work.” What was this special work? It was to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
So, the leaders of the Antioch church immediately laid hands on Barnabas and Saul, commissioning them for special service, and sent them out.
June 18, 2018
A FALSE KING PERSECUTES THE TRUE KING
Herod Agrippa was the grandson of Herod the Great, who tried to kill the infant Jesus by murdering all of the baby boys age two and under in Bethlehem. His uncle, Herod Antipas, beheaded John the Baptist and ridiculed Jesus, sending Him back to Pilate for judgment. Herod Agrippa, who was more Roman than Jewish, took up the family habit of persecuting Christians. He had James the elder killed with the sword, which indicated execution by beheading.
The mother of James and his brother, John, had asked that her sons be seated on either side of Jesus when He came into His kingdom. Jesus replied that they didn’t know what they were asking. He asked, “Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” (Matt.20:22). They replied that that were able. To which Jesus responded that they would indeed drink from the bitter cup of suffering. James, son of Zebedee, and brother of John, was the first apostle martyred.
And what of the false king, Herod Agrippa? His reign was short lived. He died of worms after accepting the glory that belonged to God.