A Gospel Shift in Strategic Focus
Up until this point in Acts, the gospel of the kingdom has been expanding and taking in new and previously enemy held territory.
Now, the gospel has invaded the frontier of the end of the earth as Acts 1:8 has promised.
I want to make a point right here regarding our exposition and application of the text.
The applications are good, but they are truthfully not earth shatteringly new. They are some of the same applications we’ve seen already.
What I want to make you aware of is the encounter you can have with the God who inspired the text as we study the text.
What drove C.S. Lewis to his early atheism was the cold and dry externals of the Irish Anglican church that could not speak to the intangible “Joy” that had happiness and even heaviness embedded in it. There were longings in him that could not be satisfied in this world, which would lead him to conclude that he was made for another world. We may say that he and we were made for another “kingdom”.
Don’t let the search for some life changing application on this side of the kingdom fully come rob you of having your deepest longings for satisfaction met by encountering the King and his kingdom that is in our midst.
I want you to experience the text and it’s Writer. Then, and only then, will our observed applications have some weight.
The Lord is the Lord of his mission and it’s strategic shifts, so don’t miss him in the mechanics of the shift to the Gentiles we will see today.
Lets look at our text today and see what the Lord has for us.
What do we see? What does it mean?
The Gospel of the Kingdom is Powerful and Attractive v. 13-43
Paul and Barnabas are speaking to Jewish folks and Gentile converts to Judaism (God fearers…Gentiles acting like Jews). v. 13-16
The team prepares the people in v. 16-25 by recounting the story of Israel that climaxes with John the Baptist and telling that it was God who was preparing them for the coming of his Messiah.
They speak in context and show Jesus to be the promised Savior through his resurrection.
The team declares to the people in v. 26-37 that Jesus is that Messiah and that through his resurrection he has Jesus is the proven one to redeem the people of God.
They quote the Old Testament to show Jesus’ as the one who died for their rescue and the Father’s approval of the Son in raising him up. v. 33-35 (They do this because they are speaking with a group who believes and values the Old Testament.)
The team applies the gospel message in v. 38-52 by recounting how the gospel grants forgiveness of sin, justification (ESV translates in verse 39 justified as “freed”) and rescue from God’s wrath.
The missionaries use Habakkuk 1:5 to prove that there is a coming judgment. This passage is not a promise of good things. It’s a promise that the “Chaldeans are coming!” And the Chaldeans are coming to bring judgment (see Habakkuk 1:6). v. 40-41
Note the people’s response in v. 42, 43.
We see that these folks “begged” them to come back and tell them the story again next time they gather.
The scene is a little like after church. Folks are gathered around Paul and Barnabas and begging for more, and Paul and Barnabas encourage them to continue in God’s grace as they investigate more of Jesus.
Note the interesting strategy employed by the team in verse 43. They didn’t try to seal the deal. The let them hang on the gospel and told them to continue in the grace of God.
These folks they were preaching to were close to the kingdom. They were not Gentiles who had no knowledge of God. They were at least knowledgeable about some solid basics and needed Jesus and the resurrection to round it out.
Paul lets it hang on them. Paul trusts Jesus to seal the deal. Jesus will build his church. The saved will follow Jesus.
Don’t misunderstand. This is not cavalier playing with the sovereignty of God. This is inspired Scripture showing us that when people are close, you don’t have to yank them into the kingdom. Jesus will build his church.
The church will be planted and those who Jesus will draw to himself will come out from among those who don’t follow Jesus and they will be part of his church.
Matthew 13:44, 45 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
When a person is brought to see by the supernatural work of the gospel they will come after Jesus.
What do we do with this?
- Know your context. Know the customs of your context. Fit in. Be part. Don’t crush unnecessarily, things and customs. When invited, tell the gospel of the kingdom.
- Don’t force the gospel. The gospel does not need help.
- Learn to tell the difference in ripe “fruit” un-ripe “fruit”. You don’t have to yank someone kicking and screaming into the kingdom.
- Be a recipient of God’s activity. Therefore, take the posture of a recipient rather than a warrior who is ready to force the issue. This displays trust in God, humility and wins favor with people we want to reach.
A Providential and Strategic Turn of Events v. 44-51
Remember, Jesus saved Paul to make him his ambassador to the Gentiles.
Acts 9:15 “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”
Paul has preached to Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism. But this city is predominantly Gentiles who have not converted to Judaism.
Word has spread and almost the entire city shows up to hear the gospel. But the team gets to preach some, because, as we’ll soon see, Gentiles believe and turn to the Lord! However, the preaching service gets cut short because the Jews stir up a controversy.
Paul’s response is gold in quoting Isaiah 49:6! Paul trusts the providence of the Lord. After all, Jesus did knock him off his horse at just the right time. And Paul trusts the Scriptures.
So, Paul takes the counsel of Isaiah 49:6 as understanding it’s time to turn to the one’s Jesus knocked me off my horse for.
Note the gentile’s joy in verse 48!
The gentiles have heard the gospel. We see this from verse 44. They whole city has turned out.
The gospel gets preached because we read that the Jews, in jealousy, began to contradict what was being taught.
The Gentile’s joy over this turn of events is astounding. They rejoice and glorify the word of the Lord!!!
They get saved!!!
Note the gentile’s salvation comes as appointed fruit from an eternal gospel v. 48.
The Scriptures tell us that God has elected a people for Jesus as a gift from the Father to the Son (John 10ff; Ephesians 1) from all nations. The tragic reality of the fall is such that Adam and Eve in their freedom chose condemnation for many. But God being rich in mercy has taken it upon himself to save some from the tragedy of the fall.
The promise is that the preaching of the gospel is powerful to save.
Paul and Barnabas get off enough Gospel in the city gathering to call in the hidden people of God!
Verse 49 then tells us that the word spread out from that moment to the whole region. Why? The word spread because the gospel of the kingdom is like yeast in dough. These new followers of Jesus take the message viral and it spreads supernaturally into the souls of people.
There is now a church in Antioch of Pisidia (this is on the “Roman Road) and those opposed to the kingdom drive the ambassadors of the kingdom out of their region.
Note the strategy! Jesus builds his church in a place that will provide continual viral access to the gospel of the kingdom (located on the Roman Road).
What do we do with this?
There are missiological and daily applications to this text.
- The church has to be involved enough on the front lines of ministry to take note of divine shifts in God’s activity among the nations, and then take gospel opportunities.
Paul and Barnabas respond to the providential shift not by fighting the Jews, but by turning to those who will hear!
- The church must always be flexible enough to shift any non-prescribed strategies to match the activity of God.
There are some things the Scriptures prescribe.
Much of the church’s work is adapting strategic implementations to achieve the prescribed mission.
Jesus doesn’t always tell us is exactly how to implement the mission.
That gives us freedom to see him at work and join him rather than continuing to swing away on strategies that are losing effect or have lost effect years ago.
The Spirit is opening doors for TRC outside of our country. Doors seem to shut off I country and doors seem to open in multiple other places.
OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU: Eric Cone and I would love for you to have us come and talk to your RL group about the strategic shifts taking place in our opportunities to engage the world. Just set us a date and we’ll come share.
Jonathan and Amber Pewitt set such an opportunity up for me to come and share about the global work and it was great for me and for their group. The Lord is putting together a team to engage a city in N. India in February that is strategic in many fronts for engaging domains and for a base to engage our country or provide rest for workers in our country.
- There are paradigm shifts taking place in the global work of the gospel. There is a shift away from the “professional missionary” model to a “domain engagement model” that mobilizes the whole church not just a few “special forces” Christians.
We want to be part of that.
READ “LESSONS FROM THE EAST” – Bob Roberts, Jr.
- Be quick with the gospel! Don’t think you need to assist it.
It moved people in the city. It will move people in our city.
- Expect opposition from the dominion of darkness.
- Trust the providential turning of events and roll with what Jesus is doing.
We often fight against turns in events thinking somehow sinful men are sovereign over God. God is the one who turns events.
1 Kings 12:15 “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.”
Walk in the providential circumstances of the Lord with great hope he is at work. This is the foundation off of which we can reject bitterness and embrace God’s grace in all things.
Joy and Fullness of the Spirit as the Result of Rejection v. 51-52
Note that there has always been in Acts success and as well as rejection of the kingdom of God.
That will not change in our work.
We can expect both.
After being driven out of town, Paul and Barnabas shook the dust from their feet as a testimony against the instigators of the uprising for their rejection (see Mt. 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5) and move on to the next place.
This is not a rejection of the people or a lack of love for them. This is witness that one has done all they can in the apostolic work of “establishing” and that they are not guilty of failing to preach the gospel there. In fact, there are now believers there, and we can accept that they have begun to meet together and the Lord Jesus is overseeing that work just fine.
Disciples from the now established church will come along and engage in evangelism daily, but for Paul and Barnabas, witness has been made, disciples have believed and it’s time to move forward and trust Jesus to keep building his church.
This is apostolic work at its finest. Preach, teach, establish and move to the next work of “starting” and “establishing” while disciples keep making disciples.
Take note of the fact that rejection and ejection from the location does not dampen their joy or abundance of the Spirit.
Joy and Spirit power are not contingent upon external circumstances!
They could rejoice because they knew Jesus was in charge and the Spirit’s presence is Jesus’ promise kept to them.
What do we do with this?
- Keep expecting success and purposeful rejection.
- Be ready to move on if the Lord is sending you on. He’s in charge of people’s response to us.
However, make sure we are not being moved on because we sinned and treated people with contempt or was foolish in our engagement.
Paul and Barnabas’ confidence to say they had done all they could included their acting with integrity toward the people and the city.
In other words, they don’t act like jerks and then shake the dust off their feet as there are leaving like they were innocent.
When we act right and do right and are rejected, we can move on in peace and innocence knowing that the Lord is sending us on.
- Don’t let your joy be tied to people’s response to you. We don’t work for people’s approval. We work for King Jesus.
- Fullness of the Spirit is a result of faithful obedience to the Lord as a promise given because we have not quenched the Spirit’s presence through disobedience.
Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”