Acts – Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 2
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|So we saw who he was: From a significant place, educated by a special person and known as a successful Pharisee. Secondly we saw what he was. What was he? “Paul, and apostle of Christ Jesus.” That word “apostle” tells us three things.|
Paul: The Missionary – Part 1
Turn with me again to the book of Ephesians. We’re keying off that first verse. As a matter of fact, half of the first verse. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” We started looking at Paul, the man. We’re going to look at Paul the missionary now. But let’s back up a minute. Maybe you didn’t hear the first part. Let’s see what we have seen so far. Paul, the man, who was he? We looked at that. First all, we saw that he was born in a significant place. Acts 22:2-3 tell us that he was born in Tarsus of Cilicia. Now, everybody in that day knew where Tarsus was. Back in that day it was one of the centers of learning in the world, competing with Athens and Alexandria.
Secondly, we saw that he was educated by Gamaliel. You see, he was brought up in Jerusalem. Gamaliel was one of the key teachers of the Sanhedrin, very respected, very influential. That was Paul’s teacher. Everybody knew his teacher. Everybody knew where he was born. Not only that, we saw that he was known as a successful Pharisee. By successful, I mean very zealous to the point that he persecuted the Church. We have the record of that all throughout Acts and other places in scripture, showing us how he actually scattered the Church. He became a terror to the people there who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we saw who he was: From a significant place, educated by a special person and known as a successful Pharisee.
Secondly we saw what he was. What was he? “Paul, and apostle of Christ Jesus.” That word “apostle” tells us three things. First of all, he was saved. We see that account in Acts 9:1-6. There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind. Secondly, he was sent, apostello. The word apo means “away from,” stello means “to send.” To send from as an ambassador would be sent with a message to represent another. He was sent forth by Christ Himself. Not only that, he was set apart. The apostles of the New Testament had to be a witness of the resurrected Christ, not just spiritually. You know, so often we say, “Well, we’re living in the twentieth century, and the Holy Spirit has revealed Christ to me, and He’s the resurrected Christ.” That is very true. But to be an apostle in the New Testament you had to witness Him with your own two eyes. Paul was an apostle “born out of due season.”
Somebody made the observation this morning, even though they elected a disciple nobody said he was appointed an apostle, speaking of Matthias. Paul was appointed an apostle, and we see that through his letters. And so, therefore, he was set apart. An apostle is one who gives us doctrine of the New Testament. That’s why when he writes his letters he says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus.” That said volumes to the churches. They knew he was backed up by the authority of Christ Himself.
Then we noticed why he was what he was. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by [or through] the will of God.” In that term “will,” thelema, we see the eternal design of God. What do I mean by that? It means God told him; He didn’t ask him. God stopped him on his way to Damascus and saved him, set him apart, and sent him out. So therefore, we saw God’s design. We saw also His eternal desire. The word thelema is the word that means God does what He does of His own good pleasure. So you see an attitude of God as He works in our life, but you also see an attitude of Paul as he responds to it. The whole time that he’s on this earth ministering, he’s never bitter, he’s never angry, and yet he suffers all the marks of being a believer. Finally, we saw in that the eternal deliberation of God. There is no definite article there, so it means God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit had something to do with Paul being an apostle. So we saw who he was; we saw what he was; and we also saw why he was what he was. Paul, the man.
Now we want to look at Paul the missionary. There are two things we need to look at. We’re not going to finish this time with this part. This is sort of part 1. We’re going to take our time. I told you that if you’re in a hurry to do Ephesians then you’re going to be very uncomfortable in these days to come. First of all, it is very important to make sure we nail down chapter 1. We may be there until the Lord comes back, I don’t know, but we’re going to make sure we get that nailed down so we can follow the flow throughout his book. But before we even get there we’ve got to look at the man and his missionary journeys.
There are two things I want to look at. One we’ll accomplish, the other we’ll just get in part. First of all, we want to look at the evidences of Paul’s conversion. How do you know in Acts 9 that he was really converted on the Damascus road? Yes, we have the account. Yes, we have Ananias going to him. Yes, we have a blind Paul. Yes, we have him regaining his sight, regaining his strength. But how can we follow through his life to see the evidences of his conversion? As we do this I want you to ask yourself, “If I were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence in me to prove that I was guilty?” You’re going to see in Paul there was plenty of evidence to prove that he was guilty of being a believer.
So turn to Acts 9. Acts doesn’t tell us everything we need to know in chapter 9, because it jumps to the apostle Peter. We have to jump over to about the 13th chapter of Acts before we pick Paul back up again. We do, however, get bits and pieces. Acts 9 and Galatians 1 go together to help us put some of this together. What are the evidences of conversion in Paul’s life? Well, the first one is a fearlessness in speaking the Word of God. I want to show you in a moment that Paul had that even in the midst of hostile situations. Now, we know in Acts 9 he was on his way to Damascus. Why was he on his way? To persecute Christians. He had all the records. That’s all he needed. He was going there to get those Christians. The Christ of Christianity stopped him.
Now, the scripture’s going to tell us as we look in Acts 9 beginning in verse 19 that he still gets to Damascus, but the agenda has changed. Instead of coming there to arrest Christians, he went there to preach Christ. That’s the first thing you see is the fact that Paul truly had been converted. He had truly been turned around. There’s been a marvelous transformation in his life. Verse 19 says, “and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus at the synagogue.” Notice “in the synagogue.” If you want to find a hostile place for a Pharisee, a Jew who, mind you, is a Roman citizen, if you want to find a hostile place for you to preach Christ, you find a synagogue. Paul used to go to the synagogue to pull the Christians out or to find the ones that were there. Now he’s going to preach the Lord Jesus Christ: “and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogue saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”
Can you imagine what’s happened to this fellow? Before he stood there at Stephen’s death, mocked Stephen as he talked to the Lord, and approved of them stoning him to death. Now he’s in the synagogue in Damascus preaching that Jesus truly is the Son of God. “And all those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, ‘Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’ But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. And when many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. And they were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in large basket.”
Now you’re going to see this pattern develop in Paul’s life. There he is in a hostile situation fearlessly preaching the Lord Jesus Christ. Immediately there’s a riot. Immediately there are problems, and they have to let him down in a basket over the wall just to get him out of town. Let me ask you a question. Do you think that you have to go to a course on how to witness before you can share Christ with someone? I hear this all the time. “Oh, if you will just tell me how to witness, I would go out and do it.” No, you wouldn’t.
I remember when I was an Associate Pastor of a church in the land of the Philistines, they told me that I was in charge of Evangelism. I had to put together a course, and we were going to have certificates at the church to say that these people had passed that course. I remember getting them together. We had a door set up in a class room. We had the living room set up. They had to come in and be with a hostile, antagonistic person and defend the faith and share their faith. We learned the plan of salvation. I mean, we had it down. We had more fun training. It was more fun because they had come to us and said, “If you’ll teach us how, we’ll go share Jesus with somebody else.”
Well, I want you to know that on the last night we finished, we had graduation. They came up. We gave them little certificates. Everything was geared around that night. They sang “So Send I You” and all these good things. We were going to send out these great disciples of Jesus to go out and win our city for Jesus. Folks, 30 days later we checked up on them. You know how many people had even opened their mouth to share anything about Christ? Zero. Not a single one of the people who went through that class was affected whatsoever.
You see, we live in a day when people say, “You just show me how, and I’ll do it.” No, sir! Until your heart is as surrendered as Paul’s heart was to the Lord who had set him apart, changed him, converted him, there’ll never be any fearless sharing of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially in hostile situations. The first mark on Paul was when he got to Damascus he turned the tables on them. Instead of arresting Christians, he preached their Christ. The people did not know what to do.
I want to remind you of something. Paul was a man without a country. The Jews didn’t trust him anymore, because now he had turned on them. The Christians were scared to death of him. He was a man who could go really nowhere. He had to just simply trust the Lord that had set him apart. He had a fearlessness to share Christ even in the midst of hostile situations. That’s the mark of a genuinely converted individual.
We find him in Jerusalem. Acts shows that he goes straight to Jerusalem. No, sir! Galatians 1 shows you that there’s a gap between Acts 25 and 26 of about three years when he was in Arabia, which is a desert region over there in that country. For three years he was taught by the Holy Spirit of God. Finally he emerges. Then the next time he reappears on the scene, yes, he is in Jerusalem. There we find the second thing about him. It’s almost like the first, a boldness as he speaks. It’s not so much that he’s fearless of the crowd, but he speaks boldly the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, they had to get him out of the city of Jerusalem once he begins to proclaim Christ. When he began to preach and share Christ, they had to sneak him out of the city because of all the turmoil that was going on.
Well, the third thing we find in Acts 9.30 is after they have gotten him out of Jerusalem, they take him down to Tarsus. Remember, what was Tarsus? Tarsus was where he came from. He’s going back home. We don’t know a lot about what happened there. But we find that in verse 30 so it says, “when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.” But if you look over in Galatians 1:22 we do have a couple of questions answered. It’s very difficult sometimes to put all these things together. I pray that you’ll pray with us as we do this. In Galatians 1:22-23 Paul says, “And I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea.” This is right after it says, “I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.” That’s where Tarsus is. Then in verse 22 it says, “And I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing” something.
Now this is the next characteristic of a person who is genuinely converted. What’s that? The fact that he is a consistent witness wherever he is, even is his own home town. He had just gone to Cilicia. We don’t have a lot of testimony about that except the reports keep coming in. The reports keep coming in to the believers who were back in Judea and Jerusalem. Here’s what it was. Verse 23 says, “they kept hearing, ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.’” Wherever he was he was preaching the faith that he once tried to destroy even in Tarsus, even in his own backyard. There was a consistency of his witness that proved him to be a genuinely converted individual.
Well, the fourth thing we see about him as we track him on down is in Acts 11. We get into the apostle Peter’s ministry. Then we have to jump to Acts 11:26. After he has left Tarsus we find him in Antioch of Syria. Now Antioch of Syria is going to become his home base: “and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.” They had gone after Paul and brought him down to Antioch. That is not Antioch of Pisidia, that is Antioch of Syria. “And it came about that for an entire year,” watch this. Here’s the fourth characteristic of a genuinely converted man. He does not just have a burden to share Christ. He has a burden to build people up in Christ, to equip them, not just to get them saved. Paul had a genuine discipling burden in his heart. To me that is a mark of Jesus being Jesus in Paul. Jesus would never just let a person get saved and leave him alone. The Lord Jesus Himself equipped His disciples, and that same Spirit is in us. As we’re converted, it’s the Holy Spirit of God in and through us that not only wants to see them evangelized, but wants to see the disciples of Christ equipped. It says, “And it came about that for an entire year they met with the church, and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
So you see, the result of that equipping, the result of that teaching, is people were actually called Christians. Up until that point they were called disciples. Have you heard that some people make a distinction in the Gospels between a disciple and a Christian? They say a person is not a disciple until later on in life. That’s ridiculous. The disciples have always been disciples, but they were first called Christians at Antioch of Syria. The result of all of that is verse 29. There was a prophet who came and said that there was going to be a famine. That famine is going to affect a certain part of the world. It says in verse 29, “And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” So already you’re beginning to see the effects of this. After they have been disciple, they now have a burden to help others.
And so you see this consistency in Paul. Not only is he fearless, not only does he have a boldness about him, but he also has a burden to see people not just saved, but to see them built up in the Lord Jesus Christ. He spends a whole year with the disciples helping them learn and helping them grow.
Well, the next time that we see him is in Jerusalem for his second visit. That’s found in Galatians 2. When he got there in Jerusalem, he informed the apostles that he was preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. It says that the ones of great reputation didn’t side too well with that. But Simon Peter and some others came alongside him and said, “Well, the one thing we ask you to do. Be merciful to those who are poor.” Of course, that was the burden of Paul’s heart. In other words, he had a gospel. Yes, his burden was for his own people. In Romans 9, he said, “I would cause myself to be stricken if somehow I could somehow see my brethren saved.” Not only did he have a burden for his brethren the Jews, which he was one, but he had a burden for the Gentiles. God had commissioned him to take the message to the Gentiles. Without prejudice, whether it was Jew or Gentile, Paul wanted to share the Word of God.
I think there is a beautiful point brought out in James 2. He says, “Listen, if you have real faith, you don’t show personal favoritism.” There is an absolutely, absolutely, unprejudiced view when you share the view of God. So we see these genuine marks upon the apostle Paul.
Well, the next thing we see him is being proven. If you’ll look in Acts 13:1-3, this is where we’ll camp out for the rest of the message. We see him being proven and sent out by the church there in Antioch. It says in verse 1, “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Verse 2, “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart [distinguish these two men] for Me Barnabas and Saul to the work which I have called them.’”
I want you to see something here. They do not become missionaries because of an act of the church. The Holy Spirit of God said to the church, “I have already done something in their lives. It’s been proven in everything that Paul has done. Now I want you to distinguish between those two men.” Verse 3 says, “Then, when they had fasted and prayed they laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” No, they did not send them away; the word is they “released them” to do what God had already called them to do. You see, we think of the church as a calling and sending agency. No, sir! It’s God the Holy Spirit. First of all, they were already proven by the fact they were genuinely converted. When a man is genuinely converted, God the Spirit sets him apart for God’s use. At that particular point he has a goal. He has the same purpose in life that God has. Now, Paul says, the scripture says the Holy Spirit made this known to the people of that church. The Holy Spirit probably wouldn’t have had to say that because they already knew that about Paul. It had been proven in his life. But the Holy Spirit ministered to them and said, “Listen, you set him apart. You distinguish between Paul and Barnabas, and I want you to do something. You turn them loose. Release them to do what I have already called them and set them apart to do.”
So the church begins to help them in any way that they can. It’s not the work of the church, it’s the work of God the Holy Spirit in the church that causes missions to take place. It started when the Holy Spirit of God set him apart. When was that? On the Damascus road. From that very moment, for the rest of his life he had a purpose that God had for him, and the Holy Spirit says to the church, “Now, listen, I want you to know this about them, and I want you to turn them loose, release them and let them do and let them be what God wants them to be.” So they’ve been proven.
Well, we see then the evidences of a genuinely converted individual. Just by looking at Paul and where he’s been, we see a fearlessness to speak the word of God and a boldness to say what is needed to be said. We see a consistent witness wherever he was. Whether it was in his hometown or whether it was over here, he was doing the same thing. The reports never conflicted. They said, “This man, who used to want to arrest those who did that, is now preaching their Christ.” He also had a burden to see people equipped, not just to be saved, but to see people equipped. A genuine Christ burden is in him. Then, finally, without prejudice, sharing the Word of God. There was no personal favoritism, whether Jew or Gentile. It made no difference. Paul just had a burden to get the message of the gospel to others. As a result, he was proven. As a result, the church distinguished that in his life, also in Barnabas’s life, and they released them to do the work that the Holy Spirit of God had already appointed them to do.
Now that gets us up to the second part of the message. This is going to take a while. I tell you what. These kinds of messages before we start a book sometimes kind of frustrate me. This is spade work. You’ve got to do the spade work before you can get in the garden. So, we’re going to look at his first missionary journey.
After the church had released them, after they had been sent out, as the scripture says, really released to do what the Holy Spirit had said in their hearts, we see the examples of his call. One of the first things I want you to see is what he was doing before he was released by the church he continued to do the rest of his life. You know, let me give you a thought. You may be thinking, “You know, I wonder if God wants me to be a missionary?” Friend, if you’re not cutting it now, you won’t cut it then. You’ve got to be living it now before you’ll ever live it someplace else. It was already distinguished in Paul’s life what God had set apart for him. The church recognized it by the Holy Spirit’s revelation, and then they simply released them to continue to do what God had already appointed in their heart. You don’t send a person across an ocean to make them a missionary. A person, when he’s surrendered to Christ, exemplifies certain burdens. Those burdens, when he goes out, are simply an extension of what he’s already doing where he was.
So we want to see the examples of the call of the apostle Paul. He took several missionary journeys, but we’re just going to look at the first one. We’re going to walk through it. Get your pencils out because this may help you down the road. Let’s go back and start off, walk through, and see if we can get a picture of his first missionary journey. Next time we’ll pick up there and tell you when he wrote certain books, and how it all fits on the calendar, when he took his first journey, when he took his second journey, etc. We’re going to walk him through his life. You’ll see where Ephesians fits into all of this as we begin to do our background, alright?
In Acts 13:4, after the church has released them to do what the Holy Spirit had decided they needed to do, we find the first missionary journey beginning. Verse 4 says, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
You know, having been in those Greek islands, let me just tell you a little bit about it. They’re all kind of the same. I mean, they’re all just barren. There are mountains. Some of them have a tree or two, maybe four, and they’re beautiful islands. I have never seen anything any more beautiful. I’ve been in the Caribbean and other places in the world, but when you get in that Aegean Sea, and you begin to see some of those islands that are over there, you begin to get a total different culture. It’s like culture shock at first as you begin to understand the times and the places that they were in.
Well, they went to Cyprus. Cyprus was an island about 41 miles off the coast of Cilicia. Now, where are they coming from? Antioch of Syria. Where do they go to? They came down to Seleucia, caught a ship, and went over to the island of Cyprus. Cyprus was 41 miles from the coast of Asia Minor, the coast of Turkey. Salamis was the port city on that island, and it said that was the birth place of Barnabas.
Let me show you something that I found in doing this study. Look back in Acts 4:36. I found out something about Barnabas that I didn’t know. “Barnabas” evidently was a nickname that the disciples had given to him. That wasn’t really his name. He was just called Barnabas. I didn’t know that. In verse 36 it says, “And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth [Cyprian, Cyprus], who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement).” Barnabas evidently came from Cyprus, and tradition tells us that Salamis, where they landed, was really where he was from. Old tradition tells us that’s where he was martyred for the faith. We do not know that for fact.
They continued to preach in the synagogues once they had gotten to Cyprus. They preached in the synagogue, and Acts 13:6-12 tell us what happened there. “And when they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos [in other words, they crossed over to the other side] they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Paul and sought to hear the word of God.” He was really interested. Verse 8 says, “But Elymas the magician (for thus his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him and said, ‘You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil [boy, notice how they minced their words; they were always careful not to insult anyone they were dealing with!], you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of our Lord? And now, behold, the hand of </nowiki>the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.’ And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him and he went about seeking those who led him by the hand.” Paul said, “By the Word of God you’re going to be blind,” the man was stricken blind. That will show you something.
Then verse 12 says, “Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.” Now, do you see the result was that the proconsul came to know the Lord Jesus Christ? I guess you could say that would be the first miracle on this first missionary journey. It came there at Paphos on the island of Cyprus.
Now, verse 13 tells us that they left Paphos in Cyprus, and they sailed to Perga of Pamphylia. It says in verse 13, “Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia.” It tells us what happened there. John left them at that point. Pamphylia was a Roman province on the southern coast of Central Asia Minor. When you see Ephesus, that’s not Central Asia Minor, that’s Western Asia Minor. You have to swing around, and there you find Pamphylia. Perga was the capital city of Pamphylia. It doesn’t tell us what went on except that John left them at that place.
Well, let’s move on. Verse 14 tells us they left there, and they arrived at Antioch of Pisidia. Verse 14, “But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.” This is the same habit they’ve had everywhere they’ve gone. Pisidia was on up. Now, when you get to Pamphylia you just keep on going north inside the country. Pisidia was a mountainous province in Central Asia Minor, and Antioch was on the northern edge of Pisidia. Here Paul preaches one of his greatest sermons. As a matter of fact, go on to verses 42-43, and let’s see the response of his sermon. Man, he preached like a house of fire, and look what happened. Verse 42, “And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath.” They loved it so much they wanted to come back the following Sabbath. “Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes [those Jews that came in later, those Gentiles that were circumcised] followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.” Well, they did. The next Sabbath they came back and preached the exact same message.
Look at the result in verse 44-45. “And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the Word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowd they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul and were blaspheming. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the Word of God should be spoken to you first [you Jews] since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are now turning to the Gentiles.’” He makes his announcement. “For thus the Lord has commanded us, “I have placed you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the Word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook the dust off their feet in protest to them.” I’d liked to have seen that—Paul just standing there, I guess, shaking the dust off, going right on wherever God wanted him.
I want you to see something that’s a pattern developing. Wherever Paul went, usually he was forced there by trial and by suffering. It was not as if Paul had an agenda. It was as if God had the agenda, and God would let it get so hot that it would force him out of a place almost like God was so far ahead of him. Every time he got in trouble God would move him, and when He moved him something else would develop in another place. Have you ever thought about that in your Christian journey? Now, I know we’re not the apostle Paul, but at the same time we’re led of the Spirit of God. Have you ever thought about the fact that when you’re going through those fires and those difficult times God’s just simply moving you to another pasture? It’s like the old shepherd who would move his sheep. He knows us, and He just continues to move us by His hand in His life.
Well, after they have left Antioch of Pisidia, chapter 14:1 tells us they go to Iconium. Now, if you’ll remember 2 Timothy 3:11, there are three cities mentioned by Paul to Timothy. They are mentioned because of the great suffering that Paul went through. Do you know what they were? Antioch, that we’ve just seen, Iconium and Lystra. Buddy, he was not treated well at all. The battle is on. In verse 1 of chapter 14 it says, “And it came about that in Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a great multitude believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren.”
Now, let me back up a minute. Iconium is in another province. We just have seen them in Antioch of Pisidia. They move now in Central Asia to the province of Lycaonia. In Lycaonia there are basically going to be several cities that they’re going to go through. Iconium was the first one. Verse 6 says they became aware of the fact that there was an attempt made by the Gentiles and the Jews, and therefore, they had to flee to other cities of Lycaonia. So the pressure is on. They get to Iconium after coming out of Antioch of Pisidia, a brand new province, and they force them out of town one more time. The next time they stop they end up at Lystra. Are you following along? They’ve been to Antioch of Pisidia. They’ve been down to Iconium. Now they come to Lystra.
Verse 6 tells us what happens at Lystra. It’s very similar to everywhere else they’ve been. Verses 8-11 will really help you. “And at Lystra there was sitting a certain man without strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze upon him, and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he leaped up and began to walk. And when the multitudes saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have become like men and have come down to us.’”
You’ve got to understand the culture of that period. There were gods everywhere. In all of these cities he went into idols were everywhere. They thought the gods had come down, invaded these men, and they were actually gods themselves. But what happens? Again you’ve always got that group. In verses 19-20 it says, “But Jews came from Antioch [they’re following him around] and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” Verse 20, “But while the disciples stood around him, he rose and entered the city.” Now, what would you have done? Would you have gotten up and gone back into the city or would you have hightailed it out of there? Paul was stoned. They thought he was dead. Finally he got up and went right back into the city. “The next day he went with Barnabas to Derbe.” Derbe is another city in the province there of Lycaonia.
Well, we’ve just about landed, because the tail flaps are down. He comes down to Derbe, as it says in verse 20. Verse 21 continues, “And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples,” they started to backtrack. Now, understand where we’re going now. They go back to Lystra, back to Iconium, and back to Antioch of Pisidia. “Now wait a minute, Paul, are you a glutton for punishment? Why would you go back to these cities that caused you so much trouble?”
Well, look what happens when he gets back to Antioch of Pisidia. Verse 22, “strengthening the souls of the disciples [as he goes along to each of these cities], encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’” So as he went back they are encouraging the disciples. Verse 23 says, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”
Well, back through Pisidia to Perga to Pamphylia and then on to a place called Attalla. Now that’s different. That’s not on our list. That’s a coastal area. There they get on a ship, and they go back to Antioch of Syria. So we have his first missionary.
Now Acts 14:27 says, “And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all the things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” I thought that was significant because the church had a role there in releasing them, praying for them, funding them in any way they could so they could do the job that God had appointed them to do. So therefore, they felt a responsibility to come back to that home church and to make a report of all that they had seen God do in opening the door to the Gentiles.
Well, that’s missionary journey number 1. You say, “Are we going to wade through them all that way?” I’m afraid so. We’re not going to quit until we get every one of them. One of the things we want to do in these journeys is to begin to put some dates on this and find out when Ephesians was written, what was going on. You see, we’re getting in the life of Paul, just a quick survey of it, and we must realize that wherever he went hostility and suffering followed him.
There’s one thing I want to leave you with. You say, “How in the world am I going to apply this? I’m not an apostle, and I haven’t been on a missionary journey in a while.” Well, first of all, if you’re saved and filled with the Spirit, God has a journey already outlined for you. There’s one thing that blesses me about the apostle Paul. As they were divinely set apart by the Holy Spirit, and the church had released them, something hit me. I asked the Lord, “Lord what are you saying to my life in this?” The thing that hit me was they understood their call. They understood their purpose, and nothing would shake them in their determination to be faithful to their God. It didn’t matter how much hostility; it didn’t matter how much suffering. “Stone me,” Paul said, “and I’ll come right back in your city.” They were divinely motivated with a clear understanding what it was that God had set about in their lives.
You know, I just don’t know what is wrong with me. Maybe I’m getting old or something. Some of you have said to me, “Are you okay? Are you alright? Are people griping and complaining? Is that why you shared what you shared?” You know, I really do thank you that you love me that much to think that, but I want to tell you something. Years ago I began to discern what God wanted in my life, and I want to make sure you understand where I’m coming from. I’m not the apostle, and I put myself in no category equal with him. That’s not what I’m doing, so just relax.
Years ago God spoke to my heart and began to burden me. I know my burden. I know what it is. I know clearly what it is. It’s outside the church walls. That doesn’t mean I’m not burdened there. No, I’m not saying that. But the bulk of burden that I have within me is to take the message that we’re preaching in the church outside of the walls. I have always had it. When I came to this church I asked the Lord to not let me pastor. Isn’t that crazy? I’m glad He didn’t answer my prayer, because I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven since I’ve been there. But I realize many times some of you look at me as if I’m a bird that you’ve never seen before. Of course, I do look a little funny, but I am different. I am different.
I want you to know from my heart I’m different, but I know because I know because I know what God has burdened my heart to do. The thing that I appreciate about this church is it has released me to do what God asked me to do. I could have never have imagined that I could have stayed as a pastor of a church this long and do all the things that God had burdened me to do.
So what I want to say is nobody’s griping, and I’m not trying to get at anybody. What I’m trying to say is thank you for loving me enough to let me be what God called me to be. I know it’s hard sometimes. Some of you come from backgrounds where the preacher was there every time you had a need. I mean, to hold your hand, pat your back, burp you or whatever was needed in your life. I know that. This is the thing that grieves me the most because I can’t get everything done. I understand that. I also believe God has designed the body of Christ as to do those kinds of things. If it’s ever going to be changed somebody’s got to stand in the middle of the current and see it change. I’ve made up my mind I’m going to do that at the risk of some of you thinking I don’t care. If I didn’t care I wouldn’t spend the time on my face and in the Word to preach to you every time I come into the pulpit. I’ve been gifted different than some of you, burdened differently and called differently.
Remember what I’m saying. Nothing shook the apostle Paul from that which he clearly understood to be the work that the Holy Spirit had set before him. That’s my encouragement to you. Don’t let anybody or anything get in the way of what God wants in your life as long as you’re running your race down here on this earth. I tell you what, if I’m free to let you be what Christ wants you to be, and you’re free to let me be what Christ wants me to be, this church, folks, is going to go down in history as a church that truly exemplified the Lord Jesus and allowed His life and Spirit to flow through them.
So, can I say that to you? Don’t worry about me. I’m okay. I’m trying to thank you. Thank you for letting me be what God has called me to be. Sometimes that gets frustrating to me because when I hear those of you who don’t understand, I want to come back and tell you again. This message allowed me to do that. I will never use a message to give me a soapbox, but I believe from the life of Paul I can clearly illustrate to you where my burden is. If it ever comes, and you let me know this, if it ever comes to where my burden overshadows and hurts this church in any way I want you to know from my heart I will not stay and belabor the situation. I will step aside and let God bring who He wants, gifted better than I, to do what I could never had done. But so far so good. I’m enjoying it, and I love it, and I want to thank you for letting me be what God has put on my heart. I can’t be anything else. That’s my love for you to let you be what God wants you to be. I want you to know that.
Well, we see the expressions, the evidence of his conversion. We see the example of his call. One of the things there is the consistency in which nothing shook them from what God had put before them. Let me ask you a question. What has God put on your heart? What are you to be? Are you going to be that? Are you determined to let God use you that way? Do you know your gifts? Do you know your purpose? Once you discover where you fit, folks, life is about to get more thrilling that it has ever been before. He’s gifted all of us for a purpose.