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Acts 13-14: The character of evangelism

Continuing the Acts Series, pastor Adrian preaches on Acts 13-14 and the early missionary stories of the church. With a focus on the incredible events of Paul and Barnabas' missionary journeys, this sermon explores many of the important lessons and challenges involved in preaching the Gospel.

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Adrian Pratap


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Good morning everyone Jacob is that so good to sing together wasn't it and uh what a great selection of songs thank you Dylan and team it's wonderful that we can do that we are kicking straight into our Series this morning called ax disciples making disciples and we are up to Acts chapter 13 and we're going to be reading two whole chapters this morning I felt like I was preaching on half the Bible this week um when you've got two great big chapters there but God is pretty amazing and as we'll see as we go through these two chapters and do a bit of a survey of them you'll see how cohesive they really are and what he's really actually trying to say and what why these two chapters go so well together okay so let's get straight into it if you've got your Bibles there I want you to turn to Acts chapter 13 and uh we'll be going from there but the first thing we want to see is that both of these chapters basically give us an idea of a of what the character of evangelism or Ministry is really like and if we're going to have a look at these together which we are we'll see that essentially we see a number of missionary Journeys as Saul and Barnabas are sent out from the church in Antioch and as they go out and minister in in some of these other places and it reads like a bit of a mission log so if you or I as a church were to send a a couple of missionaries out this is the kind of report that we might expect to receive back from those missionaries and so that's essentially uh what's going to happen and as as I've always wondered you know what would it have been like to go out on Mission um in Jesus day in Paul's day and this is a glimpse of what it would have looked like for them and so often we we send missionaries out and we've we've been able to support over a number of years missionaries like the mix family and the Steels and a few others and we get a bit of a glimpse of what it's like for them out in their mission field and the areas in which they've been sent and what we see here is Paul and barnabas's early days in missionary work and of course it's missionary work because they were both Jews and they were sent out from the church in Antioch to other places and not necessarily to churches because there were no churches they were the church weren't they and we've discovered also over Acts chapter 12 that that was a bit of a pivotal chapter in the sense that much of the commentary that we've read from Luke in acts up until chapter 11 has been centered on the ministry in the work of the church in Jerusalem but now we see the shift of of work and Ministry updates coming from the church in Antioch which is essentially the Gentile Church and so that's what we're going to be looking at so let's look at the first few verses just as we skip past this of course you realize I am going to be going through this reasonably quickly because I haven't got time to read the whole two chapters but you do in your time so please take the time to do that but we're just going to have a bit of a survey this morning and there's a couple of there's three key learnings that I'll sort of break into a little bit later on but the first few verses highlight some things for us firstly um Barnabas and Saul were sent out it tells us in Scripture that the Holy Spirit called them very specifically and told them to be set apart from the church and the Church of course in Antioch amongst whom they were worshiping said okay well we're going to do that and they set them out they sent them out just as the Holy Spirit had told them to do and the church complied we've got to remember that Saul and Barnabas were likely key leaders in that church they they didn't have the luxury of so many great quality leaders that we have in our church because remember this is a this is a fledgling new church nobody really knew how to do anything they didn't know uh how to organize things and they certainly didn't have elvanto or flat out having paper there was no paper was technology back then all right and so that wasn't there and so they were still figuring out how to organize themselves and what they were going to do and yet here was the Holy Spirit saying I want you to sit apart Saul and Barnabas Saul who became Paul okay and they're going to be going out and doing some missionary work for me and I want you as a church to send them out and so that's of course what they do in the first few verses and then we see skip past that Verses 4 through to 12. we'll see that they went and preached to the Jews in a place called Cyprus and they preached to the Jews in their synagogues was the first place they went and then they preached to a pro-consul just a leader in the community okay a gentile leader and they dealt with opposition and there's there's a whole story in there about how there was this one guy called bar Jesus and and he was in opposition to what Saul and Barnabas were preaching and of course Saul looks at him in the eyes and says well actually you're you're going to be silenced and he does that in obedience to what the holy spirit is telling him so that's a that's a pretty cool story okay there's more and we see they move on from that place uh into a place called Antioch in Presidio there's two antiox in this story Antioch in Syria which is where they were originally they were sent out from that large church and then this is an Antioch in presidia and they went firstly to the synagogue and preached to the Jews and then some of the Jews got jealous and opposed the message and you're going to see this come out a number of times okay they go to the Jews and they preach to the synagogue and the the Jews in the synagogue and then some of the Jews got jealous and they opposed the message but then there were some Gentiles there who did receive them and so they preached the Gentiles okay but some of the Jews continued to oppose the work so Saul and Barnabas moved on and then moved on to a place called Iconium and then they went and preached the local synagogue it starts off with again but some of the Jews oppose them again okay but the Lord blessed the work all right you're seeing a bit of a pattern come through okay and so we'll move along um I'm sure it wasn't so quick for Saul and Barnabas we've spent it all of about 10 seconds on some of these things but for these guys this was a real journey they had to walk most of these places or go by ship and it wasn't just oh um we're dealing with opposition we've dealt with it let's move on sometimes they will run out of these towns and later on we'll see that Saul even or Paul was uh stoned get to a place called lystra in verses 8 to 23 of chapter 14 and once again they preached to and healed a man of faith that was what they saw and there was this man who seemed to have a faith and so they preached to that man and healed him and there was a number of witnesses a number of Gentile Witnesses who saw what had happened and they were Amazed by what they had seen and they were stirred by that miracle and they decided they were going to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas because they thought Paul and Barnabas were Gods okay and of course Paul took that as an opportunity to correct them and say hey actually hold on hold on hold on you've got this wrong let me tell you about the one true God and of course he he does that okay um but then in this same place have I missed a slide no in that same place they the Jews some of the Jews opposed the work and they drove them out of town so whilst some received the missionaries while some received the gospel there were also others who actively opposed the work and that opposition looked like a number of things sometimes it was persecution sometimes it was physical harm sometimes it was name-calling oftentimes it was a combination of all of those things are you getting a bit of a picture yeah in this log can you imagine if these were your missionaries that we sent out from caboolture Baptist Church and this was some of the stories that we were getting back from them saying hey we went to the Jews we went to this place this meeting place right and we preached there because we thought they were spiritually open and some of them received us but a lot of them were like no no this is this is terrible who are you who do you think you are coming into this place and telling us what to do who do you think you are when the blame of Jesus on our shoulders oh but that happened in Jerusalem what's that got to do with us here in lystra does it sound familiar okay it sounds very familiar doesn't it but then of course they return back to Antioch in Syria and they give a report back to the church from which they were sent and they gave a report to the people who were gathered there and they gave a report not of what they had done but what rather that the Holy Spirit had done with them and that is a very very very important distinction to make because when you're in Ministry it can feel like the work that you're doing and you know it's powered by God you know it every person in in any sort of ministry that we we have here always knows that the work that we're doing is powered by God but we can get caught in the Trap that we feel like we're doing something and certainly so Paul and Barnabas as they traveled along and they they went to these various towns and they encountered various types of reception I'm not sure what they could have hoped for as they went out can you imagine the call that the Holy Spirit would have put on these on these two imagine if he said that to you I want you to be set apart from the church because I have a specific thing that I want you to do and I want you to go out into places that you have no idea about the people that you've never met you don't know their culture or necessarily even their traditions and they're not going to necessarily always welcome you but I want you to go and I want you to tell them about me not me Adrian me Jesus okay tell them about Jesus about who he is and what he has done even for them because whilst Jesus was born as a Jewish man he is a holy God and his God for everybody and he died for everybody because isn't that what the scripture says yeah and so this was the message that Paul and Barnabas were sent out with it doesn't tell us that they were sent out with any financial support necessarily from the church we don't know it doesn't tell us if there was any other support or provision that was given to him it does tell us fairly early on that there was a man named John who went with them for the for the first part of the journey but then he went back to Antioch because that was as far as he could go um but we don't know what other supports or other arrangements were in place for Paul and Barnabas but what we do see in this log is that they went out and they went to the spiritually open can I just start with that they went to the synagogues because that was the meeting place of the Jews and the Jews were supposed to be a spiritual people weren't they would you agree there was supposed to be a spiritual people they had the law given to them by Abraham Isaac and Jacob through Moses right and so that was their that was their foundation and so every time they went to a place they went to somewhere they knew that's Paul and Barnabas they they went to somewhere that they thought they would meet spiritual people and that was where they started because they had no other idea of where to go it doesn't tell us that they went to the council doesn't tell us that they went to the local Governor or some figurehead in that town okay which would seem like it would be the reasonable smart thing to do now they went to the places or to the people that God had done a work in first and that's very very key for us to remember they went to spiritual people and so that brings us to some of the things that we can really learn from these two chapters and I said earlier that these do read a little bit like a mission log a story or some some short stories of things that had happened in various towns as these two men traveled and sought to be obedient to the call that God had placed on their lives they didn't know how long God wanted them to walk or travel or what what places they were supposed to go they just knew the next place they had to go and often they were driven out of the place before they decided to move on all right how many of us would overstay our welcome well they overstay they're welcome often and it wasn't because they were welcomed is because they were opposed okay but some things to learn go to the ones whom God has prepared like I said Paul and Barnabas went to the spiritually over open even those who were working according to a different Spirit remember the story in lystra uh where they they they they heal this man who who had faith and they preached to him and they healed him and there were a bunch of people around who didn't who didn't know the god of Abraham Isaac and Jacob all they knew was uh there were multiple gods that's what they thought okay and as they stood around and watched this miracle worked out in front of them they were amazed I thought this is incredible these are some of the Gods who are amongst us right and so they responded in their own way according to what they thought was spiritual and right that was an opposite Spirit to the Holy Spirit but God could work even amongst them because they were spiritually open and so as we're thinking about this as we're considering who is it that we're sent to this is something that we need to to take on board it's more important also to remember that even if people are going in the wrong direction spiritually God can do something with that you know who he finds trouble moving with the ones who aren't moving the ones who aren't open the ones who aren't necessarily spiritual even if you're a pagan worshiping the Sun God as I'm sure some of these people were God can work with that because they're spiritually open the ones who find it so difficult are the ones who aren't open at all can you imagine the amazement of the crowds you know we've got the Avengers anyone heard of The Avengers yeah we've got some fans here okay of course they're superheroes but you can draw a bit of a bow and go okay well these are based on mythological creatures right mythological Gods if you will on and having superpowers and so on that's kind of the mentality that some of these folks had I mean our Avengers story has come from Greek mythology and Norse mythology and Roman mythology right and that's this is what this is and these people were witnessing true honest to God Miracles happening before their very eyes they'd never seen the guys do anything quite like this before and they were amazed I thought hey we've got to get us some action in that maybe if we appease the gods if we honor them and they thought that Saul and Barnabas were the original Avengers right um and so maybe if we offer sacrifices to them they'll remember us and like I said Paul was able to take that opportunity and teach them second point is that the fruit of ministry belongs to God the fruit of ministry belongs to God and like I said earlier both Paul and Barnabas really had no idea of what to expect as they went out right or they were told from what we can see in scripture is the holy spirit call for them to be set apart from the church in Antioch and sent them out into Asia Minor into into some of these into some of these places and they had no idea of what to expect all they knew was that they were going to go and tell everybody about Jesus that that was it they had no expectation of what that result would look like they had no expectation of of what to expect even the Holy Spirit would do they had all they had was experiences that they'd experienced themselves and what they'd seen God do in the past in Jerusalem and other places and even in Antioch right so here they are they go out and what they saw was some people were healed but some traditions were challenged as well and people weren't very comfortable with Traditions being challenged right but then something else happened as well and there were some people who saw the light and they turned to the Lord and they thought hey this Jesus guy he he's legit I want to follow him but then also there was some incredible opposition and some were passive aggressives and some were active aggressives right and some actively stoned Paul and hurt him to the point where they thought that Paul had died but then he got up and walked out so you know can't keep a good man down he got up and he walked to the next town with Barnabas he didn't just stumble home think about that how do you go from someone who everyone thinks is dead right to standing up walking to the next town and preaching the gospel he wasn't bitter at God hidden so I'm done with this missionary life no one loves me they don't receive you Jesus I'm so disgusted no no he got up from what was considered death from the people around him and he walked to the next town with his mate Barnabas and they continued the work he could have just gone home couldn't he said I'm done surely this is enough God I'm going back to the church I've got enough of a report but no he went to the next town because I've got something to tell you that's incredible see for Paul and Barnabas this wasn't just a story the Jesus story was not just a story they lived and breathed encounters with Jesus all the time they'd worked miracles not because they had work miracles but because the Holy Spirit had worked miracles through them that's why it was so easy when they went back to Antioch in Syria to give a report of what the Lord had done with them not what they had done it's an important distinction isn't it so I wonder what some of the fruit of ministry is that you would love to see but remember that fruit belongs to God he is going to do what he is going to do and sometimes that fruit looks like opposition opposition often that fruit looks like opposition and remember these people weren't going to just random places and just doing a scattergun approach they were going to those who they perceived as being spiritually open but even there people have the opportunity to choose don't they even the Jews had opportunity to choose and often we see in these stories many of the Jews those who knew better opposed the word it's going to make us wonder and think the Jews knew the scriptures didn't they they heard them read out to them week in week out they knew the word they knew the Old Testament so clearly knowing in your mind isn't what saves you it's important but it's not what saves you what do you think you know you've many of us have been in church for a very long time we've heard many many sermons right maybe you're a great teacher yourself and the Lord has used you in many ways and given you much training and that's a wonderful thing it really is but if you're relying on that training on that teaching to get you over the line I'm sorry that's not how this works because the fruit belongs to God you cannot earn your way you cannot learn your way into heaven shocking isn't it and we see this over and over again through the ax passages as we will be traveling over the number of weeks as we continue that it doesn't matter the caliber of the person it matters the caliber of the god and what we see is that God has chosen certain people and those are the ones who respond and so the fruit belongs to him but what he often does and you'll see it time and time again is that God's gospel challenges tradition challenges culture human tradition and human culture always remember Jesus said that the word of God is divisive right either you're for him or against him we invented the gray area he didn't he said you either for me or against me and so this is this is The Cutting Edge of ministry that Paul and Barnabas were on and they would preach the gospel and say this is Jesus this is who he is this is what he has done this is what he's done for us this is what he's done for you now what say you in a summarized fashion you can see some of his summarized sermons in these accounts as we've traveled through Acts chapter 13 and 14. and yes there's no great mystery to what he is telling them from our perspective okay it's just the pure unadulterated gospel nothing clever and yet many opposed but also many were saved and so I'm sure as Paul and Barnabas went they didn't quite know what was going to happen but all they were was obedient right and the third thing we can learn from all of this is that there's no formula there is no formula because again the fruit belongs to God and the only thing that Paul Barnabas consistently did as they went out was they went out to the ones they perceived to be spiritually open that was their starting point and from there they were LED as God did the work right but when they went into a place for the first time they had no idea they went to those that they perceived would be spiritually open God bore fruit whatever that fruit was but they quickly discovered as you can I can see as we read through these scriptures there is no formula you can't do step one step two step three now they're saved it's God who decides the only thing that I can consistently see that Paul and Barnabas did was tell the story if there was an opportunity as the Holy Spirit Led them they would heal or they would cast because it wasn't them that healed the holy spirit said I want you to to do something here and so they would do it and then he would do something miraculous and people would get saved so can you see obedience all the way through as we go the church was approached by the holy spirit in Antioch and said I want you to set apart Paul and Barnabas the whole church were obedient and said we're going to set apart these two key leaders and we're going to send them out just as you have asked us to do that's called obedience Paul and Barnabas then went out they could have chosen to say no we're not going to do that it's too scary I don't know enough I haven't got enough money I've never done this before I have no experience I could have done all those excuses that you and I come up with Ryan but no they were obedient and they went out and they probably would have looked foolish to many around them and then they were obedient in going to the spiritually open they were obedient when God said this is this is a man who was opposing me and Paul looked at him and he saw what the Holy Spirit was showing him and then they saw that they should go and speak to the proconsul and then they saw that they should probably leave now because there it was it was counterproductive for them to stay in this town so they went to the next town and once again they started off with the spiritually open waiting for God's leading and then as the Lord LED them that's what the ministry was that happened and so there is no formula other than preach the word of God and obey and isn't that what we have in this Great Commission of ours Matthew 28 says go out to all the world and preach and disciple the Nations teaching them what my Commandments the commandments of Jesus in other words who he is what he has done what he's telling us about life and living and it's going to be with us till the end of the age can you see that Jesus was with Paul and Barnabas can you see that I mean there are so many times that they should have died right and they got pretty close in a place called lystra with Saul with Paul to the point where everyone thought that he was dead but he got up and continued on Mission I want that kind of single-minded focused church right even when they they Stone us when they when they when they do all sorts of things and we should be down and out I want to be able to get up the next morning and get on Mission right and these these weren't Angel these were just normal human beings like you and I who have received the same gospel like you and I who worship the same God Like You and I and his name is Jesus we have the same holy spirit that went with Paul and Barnabas he's the same holy spirit that called them out of Antioch the same Holy Spirit that's whispering in your heart this morning because there is no formula because if there was a formula we could do it I've often argued with God I said God I wish I could save everybody you know if I could do this one thing and then the next thing and then the next thing and then I know that by step four they're going to be saved and it's going to be so good in heaven I know that this person's being saved but I can't do that only God can do that and I think Paul and Barnabas quickly discovered that they couldn't do it all they could do was be obedient to the holy spirit's leading as they were going but he led them can you understand this he led them as they were going they had to be going they were sent out the church sent them out but God didn't do much of this stuff until they went Church we're not going to see much of this stuff happen until we go we're not so where is God sending you this week you know later in his ministry Paul wrote this this section of scripture which I love the natural person does not accept the things of the spirit of God for they are Folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned can you see how incredibly valuable and special you are in the kingdom of God because God saw you and gave you the ability to be spiritually open gave you the faith that was necessary to be able to even respond to the holy spirit's call on your life have a think about that because you couldn't do it we were dead in our sins right dead things don't make decisions they're dead the only way we could choose for God was that God saw us breathed life into US gave us faith and it says now choose life or the other way and we see this come out in scripture time and time and time again and that pattern of going to the spiritually open the ones whom God has prepared there's another point in scripture in John where it says look the fields are white with Harvest you know why they're white with Harvest because there's there's people who have gone before us who have sown the seed and there are some others who have watered the seed and it's grown and now some of that seed is ready for Harvest but there's also weeds we weren't sent to the weeds because the laborers are few right we haven't got time to be messing around with weeds we've only got time to be messing around with the ones that God has prepared who has God prepared in your life not are they a Christian are they spiritually open are they open to having spiritual conversations with you I can tell your story of some work that's been happening in North Queensland some friends of ours who are essentially doing this you know they don't know who to go to they don't know who God is going to turn into a Christian or not all they know is that someone might be spiritually open because they're happy to talk about the Bible for example just a random person on the street walking along Cairns but Esplanade saying I've got some issues you know they bump into them have an ice cream together and they start telling you about their life and say well I I've I've got someone called Jesus in my life would you be open to that if they say no okay that's cool let's enjoy the ice cream but if they are let me show you about the Bible would you open the Bible and read about what Jesus says to you in your hurt not because I have the answers but because he does you know there are people being safe Australians being saved in places like North Queensland just like we read about in the Bible because God is doing a saving work not because people know stuff not because we are Supernatural but because he is and I can tell you countless examples not just the north Queens of other places where that that model works is not a formula it's obedience right God has sent me to a people who are spiritually open he's prepared the people the fields are white with Harvest who are the ones that are ready for Harvest it's still their choice but I'll present the word of God to you and you choose there's no skin off my nose if you choose not to but man I get to hang out with you in heaven for all eternity if you do choose yes all right and maybe you'll you'll have a hope in your life subsequent to this that you haven't had before but that's it and if God wants to work a miracle he will do that if God I'm in the miracle of Salvation right but we will settle for lesser Miracles like healings and other things but this scripture that Paul writes the natural person does not accept the things of the spirit of God you guys as a church we often find ourselves beating our heads against a wall because we've been ministering to that one person that we desperately love and we care for we want them to come to Christ and not be called to love everybody but God didn't prepare them for you and you might spend the next 20 years wearing yourself out on that person when God was like but there's a person just over that I have prepared for you who is spiritually open is very ready to read the Bible they don't need you to know stuff they just want you to pray for them and you haven't gone there because you're so busy with this other person God is not interested in our busyness he's not interested in us struggling with he said the burden is easy didn't he didn't he say that it's the widest Ministry seem so hard sometimes see God has given us a very targeted Ministry I'm going to leave you with that this morning and here it is who are the spiritually open in your life because Paul and Barnabas were successful in Ministry because they were obedient Sally this evening is going to be doing something in obedience to the word of God her going into the water and coming out is just getting wet right but it represents something that's far more significant than that and we as a church get to witness in a physical way what God has done spiritually in her and that's worthy of Celebration and that's written in the word of God and that's why we do it we don't do it because it's our tradition we do it because it's in here we're sharing communion because it's in here I preach the word of God not because it's necessarily always the best way to teach but I do it because this is what the word of God tells us to do and if it goes out of fashion so be it I'm still going to do it let me pray for you Heavenly Father we thank you so much for the sure word we thank you so much for the example that your Apostles your disciples have given us over the years Lord God we thank you Lord God the work really is so easy it's to go to the ones who you've prepared and tell them about you father yours is the fruit yours is the kingdom and yours is the power your son's precious and holy name. Amen.