Church

The Start of the Missionary Era

Monday: The Church at Antioch

As we study this chapter, we need to see a number of important things. First, we need to see the church base from which this missionary outreach was conducted. Second, we need to think of the work of the Holy Spirit in calling, equipping, sending and blessing the missionaries. Third, we need to see the nature of the task, as it is illustrated in the work that took place on Cyprus, the first missionary target of the church in the Roman Empire.

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The Start of the Missionary Era

Wednesday: A Church’s Spiritual Disciplines

The Holy Spirit is not a power for us to use. He is a Person, the third Person of the Trinity. So rather than thinking of the Holy Spirit being a power which we are somehow to seize and use, we are to think of Him as a person whose job it is to use us. Acts gives us this contrast. In chapter 8 we have Simon wanting to get and use the Holy Spirit, but in chapter 13 we have the Holy Spirit getting hold of and using Barnabas and Saul.

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The Start of the Missionary Era

Thursday: Sent by the Spirit

When the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me,” the people He chose were the two most gifted leaders in the church. Saul was the most effective person in the extension of the Christian message to the Gentiles, and Barnabas must have been right there with him. This shows the importance God puts on world missions.

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Another Sabbath in Antioch

Monday: Planting a Church

Antioch was chiefly a Gentile city, but like many Gentile cities in those days it had a Jewish community. The Jews had a synagogue, and that is where Paul preached first. However, the Word of God spread quickly among the Gentiles. So when Paul and Barnabas came to the synagogue on the second Sabbath to preach again the place was packed by Gentiles—people who probably had not set foot inside the door of the synagogue previously.

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Another Sabbath in Antioch

Tuesday: “To Hear the Word of the Lord”

Paul and Barnabas did not have anything novel to say, nor did they make some new or striking presentation. According to the text, the curiosity of the people of Antioch was provoked by “the Word of God.” That is said four times in this short section.

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Another Sabbath in Antioch

Wednesday: Clinging to the Law

Paul was trying to point out, as he did on every occasion and as he does in his epistles, that we are justified by the work of Christ and through faith in him only. The Jews who were listening must have construed that as preaching against the law of Moses.

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Another Sabbath in Antioch

Thursday: Going to the Gentiles

Paul now made an important decision, establishing a principle that he was to follow from this time on in virtually every city where he preached. He said to the Jews who were resisting him, “We had to speak the Word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (vv. 46-47).

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Another Sabbath in Antioch

Friday: The Gentiles Believe

The wonderful thing about this is that when the Gospel was proclaimed to the Gentiles, they believed it. We are told a number of important things about their response.

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The First Church Council

Monday: Salvation by Grace Alone

The hardest of all ideas for human beings to grasp is the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. This is because we all always want to add something to it. This is a serious matter, because if a person is trying to add anything to the work of Christ for salvation, that person is not saved and is operating under a fatal misunderstanding.

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The First Church Council

Tuesday: The Issues at Stake

Many of the “circumcision party” were no doubt honest and even spiritual men. Paul was not so charitable when he spoke of them in Galatians. He regarded their view as heresy, as indeed it is, and he considered those who were advancing it to be subverters of the church and God’s enemies.

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The First Church Council

Wednesday: Behind the Scenes

If you have ever been in church circles, you know how it is. There is an issue to be decided. But there are people who are afraid of offending those who are on the wrong side. These therefore always try to work out a compromise that will satisfy everyone but actually satisfies no one. That must have happened in Jerusalem.

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The First Church Council

Thursday: Speakers at the Council

Luke reports the speeches of three people—four, if we count Paul and Barnabas separately. The first whose words he reports is Peter, but there were many who had spoken before him. Verse 7 says that it was “after much discussion” that Peter made his speech. This means that there were pros and cons, and that Peter, Paul, Barnabas, James and the others let them air their positions.

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The First Church Council

Friday: Results of the Council

James was wise too, in his own way. He understood that the people to be won over to the right position were not the Gentiles. Probably not many of them were present at the meeting. It was not the Gentiles who needed to be persuaded. It was the Jews. So James began by referring not to Paul, who was the apostle to the Gentiles—that may have been a sticking point in itself—but by referring to Peter.

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Come Over and Help Us

Monday: Paul and Barnabas Separate

The account of the second missionary journey begins at Acts 15:36 with the report of a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. These two men had traveled together on the first trip, taking Barnabas’ relative John Mark with them. It had been the first official missionary journey in which a church actually supported a team of workers, and it had taken the workers themselves to previously untouched areas. The second journey was to prove even greater. On the second trip, Paul got to several of the great cities of the ancient world, among them Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth and Ephesus.

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Come Over and Help Us

Tuesday: Ministry Realignment

Barnabas—these two great missionaries, apostles, the kind of people you might bring into a pulpit on a missionary Sunday and say to the people, “This is what you should be like”—these two great men disagreed so violently that they actually went separate ways. Imagine that! Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus, where the missionaries had gone first on the first journey. We do not hear any more about Barnabas and Mark on Cyprus, but tradition says that Barnabas stayed on Cyprus and died there as an old man. Mark eventually was called by Paul to go to Rome. As far as the other missionary team was concerned, Paul took Silas, another leader in the church at Antioch, in place of Barnabas, and the two of them set out overland to visit the churches of Asia Minor.

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Come Over and Help Us

Wednesday: Timothy Joins the Team

In the first paragraph of chapter 16, we find a new worker coming on the scene. There is already one new worker, of course. That is Silas, whom Paul took in place of Barnabas. Here we find one that Paul and Silas discovered on their journey and invited to go along. His name was Timothy. This is the first place in the New Testament that Timothy is mentioned.

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Come Over and Help Us

Thursday: Paul’s New Direction

At this point, with a new missionary team and new workers, Paul received a new vision for his service. It concerns his vision of a man of Macedonia, who challenged Paul to “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (v. 9).

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Come Over and Help Us

Friday: Going to the Needy

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.

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Two More Cities

Monday: Establishing Contact

The seventeenth chapter of Acts is best known for the sermon Paul preached on Mars Hill in Athens. But that is only in the second half of the chapter. In the first half of chapter 17 we find Paul not in Athens but in two other Greek cities: Thessalonica in the north, and Berea on the way from Thessalonica south toward Athens.

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Two More Cities

Tuesday: Presenting the Scripture

The second thing I notice about Paul’s method is that, having made contact with people through the synagogue, he then began to reason with them from the Scriptures. That is what it says in the case of Thessalonica: “He reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (v. 3).

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Two More Cities

Wednesday: Preaching Christ

The result of Paul’s method is what I have been speaking of all along, namely, that a church was established in these cities. In Thessalonica we are told that “some of the Jews…joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women” (v. 4). The next paragraph tells us that the name of one of them was Jason.

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Two More Cities

Thursday: What Happened in Thessalonica

The church Paul founded in Thessalonica soon experienced persecution. Those who did not believe were jealous and moved to round up certain bad characters—the kind you find hanging around on street corners everywhere—and with these started a riot in the city. They went to Jason’s house because that is where Paul and Silas were staying. They did not find them. They found Jason and a few other brothers instead. So they dragged them before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus” (vv. 6-7).

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Monday: Changes in Paul’s Ministry

The first verses of Acts 20 give details of Paul’s final tour of the mission field. They tell how he went back to the churches of Macedonia and Greece, no doubt strengthening them, teaching them, dealing with problems, training their leadership, and establishing them so that they might prosper when he was no longer able to come to them.

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Tuesday: Concern for the Church in Corinth

Luke begins chapter 20 by telling us that Paul left Ephesus and went to Macedonia. He does not give much detail. But when we read what Paul has written in his letters, we find that this was a period of great agony on Paul’s part. His chief concern at this time was the situation in the church at Corinth.

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Wednesday: Paul’s Fellow Workers

We are told at this point about a team of church workers that joined Paul to go together with him to Jerusalem. It was an impressive group of people: Sopater from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia; and Timothy.

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Thursday: Sunday Bible Teaching

Before Luke describes the departure of this group for Jerusalem, he gives a glimpse into a normal day of worship of the church at Troas. Paul was delayed there seven days, probably because the winds were unfavorable or the ship was taking on cargo and couldn’t go. Whatever the reason, during those seven days the first day of the week, Sunday, rolled around, and the Christians got together. I find in the account of this day not only a glimpse into the worship of the people of this city, but also an indication of the importance of this day as well as of the elements that should generally be present in all Christian worship.

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