The Kingdom Continues to Take Formerly Held Enemy Territory. Satan and his petty counter kingdom is losing because the curse has been broken and King Jesus is advancing his reign.
Paul and Barnabas are continuing on the “first missionary journey” as Luke chronicles for us the work of the kingdom.
Acts 13:1-12 shows us how the Spirit launches the movement of the team to the Acts 1:8 plan of the “end of the earth.”
Acts 13:13-52 shows us the strategic shift to the gentiles, as the Lord had set Paul apart for, and the effective ministry of the gospel to call out the hidden peoples that the Father has given the Son.
Now, we continue in our front row seat to watch the Spirit general the great commission through the faithful and obedient service of the “first recorded missionary team”.
We have the opportunity to learn from them what we can expect and what we can do to be more than spectators in discipling the nations glocally!
As this “mission trip” heads to its final phase, we are going to see 4 scenes. We will see the team at 1) Iconium, 2) Lystra/Derbe, and 3) their strategic discipling and oversight work as they pass back through to see and further equip the disciples, and finally 4) reporting back home and resting up.
What do we see? What does it mean?
The Team at Iconium 14:1-6
Notice that Paul and Barnabas’ ministry is not in the dark, rather their ministry is very much in the public square.
There is gospel transformation 14:1
The gospel is the power of God for salvation. Romans 1:16
God bears witness to his gospel through signs and wonders 14:3
As C.S. Lewis says, “…we live in a magical world…”
God graciously witnesses that the work is valid through the inexplicable and powerful and mighty activity of breaking into the fall and setting straight what the curse has made crooked.
Much of our problems that revolve around the supernatural is that we westerners are tainted with a naturalistic worldview in which we are duped into believing that everything is biological first and only.
In fact, however, this world is spiritual and physical.
Signs and wonders dropped out of heaven through the spoken word or performed through the hands of a skillful and faithful servant of king Jesus (doctors heal with means that are the result of God giving the common grace of wisdom to mankind in order to restrain the fall) are there to point to the reality of another world and the King of that world and the fact that he is renewing all things and bringing them under his rule (Ephesians 1:7-10).
There are multitudes of signs and wonders. The questions are, “do you have eyes that see?” and “are you engaged enough in the work to be present when the signs and wonders are manifested?”
Illustrations: 1. Restoration Rome 2. Multitudes of pastors in a church our size 3. Churches about to be multiplied from a church our size when others believe it’s only a result of being “large” or having “enough money”.
There is gospel division 14:4
Luke 12:51-53 “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
The team encounters Satanic scheming 14:2, 5
What do we do with this?
- Engage the public square and do it with integrity and learned skill.
- Act like the gospel is powerful by sharing it not helping it and expect fruit.
- Expect signs and wonders and ask for eyes that see and ears that hear in order to enjoy i.
- Gospel work is not always peaceful. Often its internally messy.
- Expect Satanic scheming
2 Corinthians 11:12-15
“And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
We have to also remember that sometimes Satan comes disguised as an angel of light. Not all Satanic hindrance comes as violent opposition. Sometimes it’s a soft nudge off of “true north”.
The Team at Lystra and Derbe14:6-20
The team responds properly to the Satanic scheming 14:6
Paul and Barnabas have a mission, and this scheme to kill them is found out and they escape.
It is never the intent of Scripture that workers just foolishly allow themselves to be killed. When opportunity to escape is provided, it’s biblical and wise to move to the next part of the work.
It, however, is biblical and wise, when there is no other option, to die well while holding high the gospel.
It is biblical and obedient to risk everything for the sake of the gospel. It is the mission we are all called to.
Example: Turkey/Coup/Goals/Stay and Continue/Go
The team continues to preach the gospel 14:7
Paul and Barnabas continue on by preaching the gospel.
All of the uproar did not hamper their gospel work. They went to the next city and preached!
The team encounters what the fall has wrecked in a crippled man 14:8
As Paul is preaching he sees that the Lord has given faith and administers healing to the crippled man 14:9-10
Notice that the man “listened to Paul speaking”. Paul is preaching and the crippled man is hearing.
Not just listening. He’s hearing with God given hearing.
God has given this crippled man “healing faith”.
Paul recognizes this and simply receives What God has done.
The team experiences the confusion of the domain of darkness 14:11-14
The confusion they experience is the confusion of the lie of “gods” other than the one and only God.
“The preaching, and especially the healing, impressed the crowd, but they had the wrong idea and mistook the apostles for gods. There is an ancient story about these same two gods visiting a town in the area. They were not recognized and received only a cool reception. In anger they destroyed the town that had been so inhospitable. With such a folk-tale circulating in this region, it is hardly any wonder that the crowd reacted in the way that they did, bringing forth a bull and wreathes and wanting to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas after a simple healing. The legend also helps to explain why they assumed the visitors were those particular gods rather than a god of healing, as might have been expected from the events themselves. The crowd, when excited, spoke in their native Lycaonian language. The language barrier may in part explain why the people so easily misunderstood the apostles’ message and why the apostles had so much trouble discouraging the sacrifice (18)”.
The team has to correct the confusion and apply truth to the situation 14:15-18
Paul and Barnabas use the confusion as an opportunity to proclaim a message of salvation and an opportunity to repent.
The team encounters Satanic scheming again in slander and physical abuse 14:19-20a
The team receives effective healing themselves and continues on to effectively preach the gospel in Derbe 14:20b-21a
What do we do with this?
- In all the global work that we do and will do, we value the kingdom not safety, move on purpose with mission driving us, with wisdom not afraid to pay the price, willing to withdraw to preach another day or willing to die if no other option exists.
- At all times we preach the gospel.
- We address the brokenness of the fall by healing as God gives us the ability to see the faith he has given and receive his gracious gift (either supernatural healing without means or supernatural healing using natural means).
- We address and correct the lies of the fall with truth and tact.
- If abused for the sake of the gospel we receive it as well as the supernatural sustaining of God’s power.
Strategic Observation: The team establishes then sets up order 14:21b-23
Titus 1:5 “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you…”
Churches are planted with believers and then order and elders are appointed from within.
Paul and Barnabas, being apostolic (14:14 refers to Barnabas as an apostle as well, thus helping us to see the nuance of the appointment of Jesus for eye witnesses who are “sent” to bear witness to the resurrection and the gifting of the Spirit for being “sent” to establish and push frontiers), have planted new works in new locations.
Now they get the pastoral and prophetic honor of shepherding these churches into functionality.
The team as made many disciples 14:21b
This is the place where they tried to offer sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas as Zeus and Hermes. But the gospel has been effective and they have made disciples.
The gospel has won people to the faith and the text tells us that the apostle’s returned to put in order the churches by doing two tasks:
Task 1…The team strengthens the souls of the disciples by encouraging the churches to continue in the faith 14:22
The grammar suggests that strengthening the souls of the disciples happens by encouraging them in the faith.
They must have taught a lot about Jesus, his word and the Spirit!
Task 2…The team teaches these new churches that suffering is part of entering the kingdom of God 14:22c
Paul, being a living example and bearing the marks of identifying with Jesus right in front of them, has abundant credibility to speak this message to them.
The team appoints pastors in every church through fasting and prayer and then commits them to the good shepherding of King Jesus 14:23
As the team is passing back through on their way home they find other opportunities for the gospel 14:24-25
What do we do with this?
- We must take God’s strategy as our own strategy…preach, plant, order.
We say… “Seminary, order, plant.”
It’s vital to recognize that God’s order involves the shepherding arising from the disciples of the church not from outside the church.
This is how we function at TRC.
Your pastors have come from within the church not without.
Every church has what Alan Hirsch calls MDNA (missional DNA) because every church as Jesus followers who have the Holy Spirit.
He can put the noble desire within whoever is qualified to shepherd God’s people. And he can also gift Barnabas type apostles (remember verse 14 called Barnabas an apostle although he was not designated one by Jesus, therefore, apostle by gifting for frontier work as opposed to eye witness of the resurrection) to preach, plant and order.
- We must strengthen the souls of God’s people by teaching the text of Scripture.
- Take every gospel opportunity that comes our way.
The team returns home to report about the good grace of God and rest up for the next challenge 14:26-28
The team provides a report to their home church 14:26-27
This is the church’s opportunity to hear of God’s work and give thanks together for it.
The team reengages with home and rests up for the work that lies ahead 14:28
The local always fuels the global. The ministry at home will prepare the goers to be ready to go again.
There is an unbreakable link between local and global. If the local has no global flesh in the work then there is a short circuit in the local. If the global is not reporting to or interested in the local’s engagement, then there is a short circuit in the global.
We call this dynamic, GLOCAL!
What do we do with this?
- We work for a paradigm shift in the professional missionary model to a domain engagement model where the local and global feed off of one another.
We will be working on this as we expand our work into other locations in 2017.
- We report, take who the Lord raises up to go next, rest and go again until they all know!
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.”
 Conrad Gempf, “Acts,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1088.