18 Jul St. Paul’s Mission Strategies Still Work Acts 14:21-28
The book of Acts occupies a unique position in the New Testament, forming a bridge between the Gospels and the Epistles. Acts moves purposefully out from Jerusalem to the wider world of the empire and its final scene is set in Rome. Acts is not a letter addressing a single reader. It is the Church planting mission report of Paul and his team narrated by Dr. Luke. “E J Good Speed declares that ACTS is one of the most exciting books with varieties of events-trials, riots, persecution, escapes, martyrdom, voyages, shipwrecks, set in that amazing panorama of the ancient world-Jerusalem, Antioch, Phillipi, Corinth, Athens and Rome. Here, he sees the providential hand of God that has made and guided the great movement for the salvation of mankind”
In Luke’s mind the Ascension of Christ has two aspects: In the Gospel it is end of the story of Jesus, in Acts it is the beginning of the story of the church, which will go on until Christ comes again. Luke’s history in Acts is not mere recital of what happened, it is history written by theologian and a Preacher. Christian missions are rooted in the Christian concepts of God. The missionary movement as a definite enterprise originated with Jesus Christ. According to Scripture, the missionary idea has its ultimate origin in the heart of God. The primary message is delivered by men; and as an organized enterprise among men, it is carried on by the Church of God. The second half of Luke’s narrative of Christian beginnings is frequently known as the Acts of Paul. It is an appropriate title, for chapter 13 marks a decided shift in the Author’s interest from Peter and other Apostles to Paul.
Peter and Paul in the ministry
Acts is the book that tells the first age of the Church. EF Scott says, “It is our one account of primitive Christianity. Everything Luke had written in the ‘Acts of Apostles’ was about Peter, Judas(1:18) James the brother of John (12:2) John (3:1-11) but after chapter 13 ACTS become to all intents and purposes a biography of Paul. The reasons are: Luke was selective due to availability of space in the scroll. He was writing for more as a preacher than a historian, listing events as they happened.
Deliberate equivalent of Peter and Paul. (Recognition of Gentile mission and its leader)
THE MISSION TO GENTILES
Antioch (Syria) became the new Gentle Mission center. Acts 11:20 says that the gentile church was planted by men of Cyprus and Cyrene. The disciples were first called Christian in Antioch with a new identity, from where started the ‘first gentile missionary movement’, as this church was not well recognized by Jewish Christians. After the Jerusalem council it was recognized. Also churches gathered in the houses due to the rejection of Jewish Synagogues. Later, Peter had an experience with Gentiles in relation to the centurion, Cornelius (Acts 10:1- 11:18).
Purpose of The Acts of Apostles
a. Since Acts is so closely associated with The Gospel of Luke, it is best to see Acts as a sequel to the Gospel message. Luke’s Gospel was written with a Gentile audience in mind. It seems best to see Acts as an explanation of how the Gospel message was taken to and received by the Gentile world.
b. Another purpose for Acts is an explanation that Christianity is no real threat to the Roman Emperor or Empire. At the end of Acts Paul is in Rome under house arrest in his own house, but with the freedom to preach and teach, even in Rome!
c. A third reason for the writing of Acts is to demonstrate the universal message of the Christian faith and mission of the church, which was to take the Gospel message to all nations, not only to the Jews.
d. A fourth reason for Acts could be to explain the role of the Holy Spirit in God’s plan. We will notice some interesting statements regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in Acts.
e. Some have suggested that one of Luke’s purposes was to explain why Jesus did not return immediately. The Gospel message needed to be taken into all the world and disciples made among all nations (Mk 16:15, 16; Matt 28:18-20).
The principal divisions of the Acts of the Apostles
The Preparation for the Christian Mission (Acts 1:1-2:13)
The Mission in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-8:3)
The Mission in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:4-9:43)
The Inauguration of the Gentile Mission (Acts 10:1-15:35)
The Mission of Paul to the Ends of the Earth (Acts 15:36-28:31)
The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles:
Just as in Luke’s Gospel, the Spirit of God inspires and guides most of the action within the Acts of the Apostles. Some scholars even suggest that this book should be named “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”:
Jesus instructs the apostles “through the Holy Spirit” (1:2).
The first disciples are “baptized with the Holy Spirit” at Pentecost (1:5, 8; 2:1-4; 11:15-16).
The apostles are “full of” or “filled with” the Holy Spirit, esp. when they preach (1:8; 2:4; 4:8, 31; 11:24; 13:9, 52).
Similarly, the Holy Spirit spoke through King David and the prophets in ancient Israel (1:16; 4:25; 28:25).
God “will pour out” his Spirit on all people and all nations in the last days (2:17-18, 33; 10:45).
Believers, including Gentiles, receive the Holy Spirit when they repent and are baptized (2:38; 15:8; 19:5-6).
Sometimes the reception of the Holy Spirit even precedes baptism (10:44-48).
Some people “test” or “lie to” or “oppose” the Holy Spirit, with dire consequences (5:1-11; 7:51).
Deacons and other ministers must also be “full of the Spirit” (6:1-6), esp. when they prophesy (6:10; 7:55-59; 11:28; 21:4).
The Spirit is conferred through the “laying on of hands” (8:17-19; 9:17; 19:6).
The Spirit “speaks to” the apostles and prophets (8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:1-4; 21:11).
The Spirit leads and guides the decisions and actions of the Christian leaders (15:28; 16:6-7; 19:21; 20:22-23). 13
The missionary thrust was proclaiming the Word 13:4,5
The commissioning of missionaries 13:1-3
Church leaders as missionary candidates 13:1
Sending was directed by the Spirit of God 13:2
The Church releases the missionaries 13:3
1. First Missionary Journey Paul goes to Galatia (AD 46-48) (Acts 13:14)
2. Second Missionary Journey Paul goes to Greece (AD 49-52) (Acts 15 – 18)
3. Third Missionary Journey Paul revisits Asia and Greece (AD 53-58) (Acts 18:23 – 21:16)
4. Paul’s Final Voyage to Rome (AD 59)(Acts 27:1 – 28:16)
EXPLANATION OF THE PASSAGE Acts 14:21-28.
a. Call of God
When we read the Bible, we must be impressed with its missionary message from beginning to end. All human beings share in the fall and all are made heirs of the promise of redemption. The whole New Testament may be regarded as the record of a great missionary movement. The mission of Jesus and of His apostles was summed up by the Lord when He said, “As my Father has sent me, even so send I you” John 20:21. Paul had a clear conviction about God’s call to the Gentile mission. In Gal. 1:15 he says that ‘but when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.’
Paul had a clear vision regarding his ministry “Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” Acts 13:2. “ . . . the Gentile to whom I now send you. To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” Acts 26:17,18
c. Sending Church
With chapter thirteen of Acts, we see the formal inauguration of foreign mission. The Church as a base of operation force carrying the Gospel unto the non-Christian world. The missionaries followed the same general method as taught by Jesus. Usually they went in pairs. We see Peter and John, Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Silas and other teams take the road together. They were to take no money. On arriving at a town, they should seek out the house of a worthy man; if received they should stay there. Then work included healing as well as preaching the message of the Kingdom of God. They were the heralds of his Anointed.
THE METHODOLOGY OF PAUL’S MISSION TO GENTILE
a. Preaching the Gospel Acts 14:17
The first missionaries had a message. Their one aim was to make it known. This was the word of God which the missionaries proclaimed and its called men to make a decision. Preaching becomes more formal and professional, but without losing its power. Paul preached in the given context (Acts 17;23-34). Preaching with the power of God (I Cor 1:24) Preached only Christ (I Cor 1:23) We can learn that preaching is the basic to proclaiming the good news with different methods, suitable to our context, like open air, night meeting, through drama, Songs etc
b. Winning souls v17
The purpose of the gentile mission is to win souls. It is the heart beat of our Lord Jesus too. Paul and Barnabas demonstrated God’s power and preached the gospel with conviction that gave enormous result.
c. Planting the Churches v 17
This first gentile mission gave birth to Churches. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, that He convicted people. They gathered the believers for worship and it became the church. Wherever they go, God opened the door and they reaped a great harvest.
d. Opposition and persecution v22
God had prepared Paul for persecution (23:11) He suffered a lot for the sake of Christ, and prepared believers to face it too. In today’s context it gives us hope and courage to face and endure persecution.
e. Appointing local leaders v23
One of Paul’s strategies was giving responsibility to the local people. Indigenization was earlier practiced by Paul as a model. Delegation of responsibility gave way to the growth of the Churches. Local Leadership development is today’s need.
f. Spiritual Disciplines – Prayer and Fasting v23
Paul paid much attention to the growth of the believers. For a victorious Christian life, spiritual disciplines should be practiced to avoid backsliding. So, Paul and his associates taught people to stand on their faith by keeping spiritual discipline like prayer and fasting etc.
g. Follow up Visits v24
Paul knew the importance of personal visit. It gives encouragement to new believers. And to solve all the day today problems of the Churches, this is a very essential strategy for today’s missionary work to avoid backsliding.
h. Writing letters v 24
The Apostles set the examples of the use of literature as a means of Christian progress and interpretation. Others followed their example. They used Epistles to help the Church to grow and be strengthened in their faith. This use of literature continues and grows until it becomes an extensive means of promoting the Christian cause. The “Apostle Writings” were widely circulated as individual documents and on groups, later to be called the “New Testament Canon”.
i. Stayed with the converts v 28
Not only preaching the gospel and paying visits, but Paul lived with the young believers This “incarnation method” method of dwelling with the converts make them strong and to learn from the missionaries.
j. Reporting to sending Church v27
It is the responsibility of the gentile missionaries to report to their Sending Church about the result of the missions. The Antioch Church was anxiously waited for their reports. Even though Paul was financially supported, he was obligated to the Church for their prayers.
The above said passage is one of the best models for today’s missionary work. From proclamation to Church planting and the follow up ministry, the components of cross cultural missionary work is clearly explained and demonstrated here. This passage is a manual for the cross cultural ministry even today. If we follow these principles in our lives, we will be a Church planter in the given place, bringing glory to God in the highest.
1. The Oxford Bible Commentary, John Barton & John Muddiman, University press, Oxford, 2000 P 1028
2. EJ Good Speed,Introduction to the New Testament p .187
3. William Barclay, The fourth Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles Vol. II P 228, 231
4. Carver William Owen, The course of Christian mission(Fleming H Revell Company, New Jersey) 9 , 23
5. The Apostles, Donald Guthrie, Zondevan Publication, 1975, P 108
6. William Barclay, The fourth Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles Vol. II P 228, 231
7 . Interpreting the New Testament, James Price, Holt,Rinehart and Winston, Inc 1961 P 330
8. Acts, William J, Larkin Jr, Inter Varsity press, Illinois, 1995. P 191
9. Journeys of Faith 6789 Quail Hill Parkway, #534 | Irvine, CA 92603
9a. Howard Marshal, The Acts of the Apostles; an introduction and commentary , Inter varsity press, England, 1980 P 20
10. The Acts of the Apostle, William Neil, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1973 p 26.
11. The New Testament Speaks, Glen W barker, William L Lane, J Ramsey Michaels, Harper and Row publisher, USA 1969, p276-284)
12. The Oxford Bible Commentary, John Barton & John Muddiman, University press, P 1028.)
13. An outline of Missions, John Aberly, Muhienberg press, Philadelphia, 1945 Chapt 1, p3-4)
14. The beginning of Christianity, Clarence Tucker Craig, Abingdon -cockbury Press, Nashville p151)
15. The New Testament Speaks, Glen W barker, William L Lane, J Ramsey Michaels, Harper and Row publisher, USA 1969, Chapt VIII P146
Dr. Emmanuel Rajan serving with FMPB as the Secratery Publications, lives with his family in Chennai