In yesterday’s study we looked at two reasons to engage in world missions: 1) Jesus Christ told us to do it; and 2) Christ’s love constrains us. Let’s look at one other vital lesson.
3. The need of the world is a factor. The world is perishing in its sin apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it has other needs besides social and physical needs. I find it significant that it is largely in these terms—the last of these three motivations—that the call to come to Macedonia was given. The man of Macedonia did not say, “Paul, God tells you to come over here.” Nor did he ask, “Paul, don’t you love us as much as you love those who are in Asia?” No. He said, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” That is, we need help and you are the one who can help us.
I wonder if you have thought of your church’s missionary effort or your witnessing to a neighbor in those terms. You say, “It is difficult to witness today because so many people in our day don’t want the Gospel.” That is true. They don’t. They very seldom do. Most people today are self-satisfied. They do not want anything that might upset their lifestyle. But if that is the case, why not refocus your witnessing for a time at least on those who are hurting and do have needs. In the past the Gospel has spread best among the masses who have had obvious social, intellectual, medical, and other needs. They have been open to the Gospel because they needed help. Christians helped them and brought the Gospel too.
Maybe one reason why the Protestant churches in this country in particular are not prospering is that they are going to those who are prospering when what they ought to do is go to those who have known needs.
After Paul received the vision he must have shared it with his traveling companions, for the result was they all immediately got ready and crossed over the sea to Macedonia. It was the official opening of Europe to Christianity, and with it the Gospel began that long march westward which eventually brought it to ourselves.
At this point in the narrative, for the first time in Acts we have an occurrence of the first person plural pronoun “we,” indicating that now the narrator, Luke, has joined the party. Luke will continue to use the first person plural pronoun throughout chapter 16. But he changes to “they” at the end (v. 40), indicating that he remained behind in Philippi when Paul and the others left to go south to Thessalonica. “We” does not occur again until chapter 20 where, significantly, Paul has returned to Philippi (v. 6). So clearly, Luke joined the travelers again at that time and accompanied Paul and the others to Jerusalem. This type of narration stops in chapter 21. But then it appears again in chapter 27, which contains the account of Paul’s being taken on a ship to Rome. There is little question that Luke traveled with Paul at those times.
We have seen a new alignment of the missionaries, a new worker in the person of Timothy, and a new vision. The bottom line is that this issued in the founding of a new church, the church at Philippi.
There was no synagogue at Philippi, so Paul could not follow the pattern he usually followed. But down by the river Paul found a group of women under the leadership of a businesswoman named Lydia. They were worshiping God together. Paul recognized this as a proper place to start. So he began to teach them, and they responded to his message. Lydia, who apparently was a very able woman, invited Paul and the others into her home, and that home became a church, the first church of this first Christian community in Europe.
What is life about? Is it getting recognized by other people? Is it fame? Satisfying yourself? Being happy? If that is what you think it is about, you are headed for much frustration and great failure, because those things have a way of slipping through our fingers like sand. That is not what life is about. Life is about God calling out a people to Himself, a people who will know Him. His purpose for us is to assist in that great call and work.