Sunday, December 11, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Paul's First Missionary Journey: Part One"

“Paul’s First Missionary Journey: Part One”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
December 11, 2011
Acts 13:1-52

Our series is called From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania, and we’ve been watching the gospel spread just like Jesus said that it would. He told His apostles, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

The spread of the gospel has been rapid but bumpy, and it hasn’t gotten too far from Jerusalem yet.

But it’s starting to.

Last week, we saw the gospel take root in a forming a great new church in Syria in the city of what? [Antioch.]

The church at Antioch was a great church. Last week, we saw how they were dedicated to the gospel and biblical truth and how they were generous with their treasures, giving to those who were in need. The church at Antioch is where believers were first called Christians–bearing the name of Jesus Christ. And that church was a growing church.

It also became a sending church. Antioch was the first great intentional missions-minded church.

That’s what we are going to read about in just a second.

This church sent out Paul and Barnabas on what we now call “Paul’s First Missionary Journey.”

Paul’s First Missionary Journey takes up two chapters of Acts, chapters 13 and 14.

Today, we’re only going to get through chapter 13. We’ll do chapter 14 next week, and then take a break from Acts for Christmas.

Now, I’m not going to say that Paul’s first missionary journey is typical of all missions work–that would be a real stretch.

But I do think there are things we can see happening here that do happen again and again when God’s people get excited about God’s global mission and get busy living it out.

Five headings this morning as we seek to understand this story.

Acts 13, verse 1.

“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas [we know him by now], Simeon called Niger [Niger means “black” in Latin. He was probably a black man as was probably this fellow next to him], Lucius of Cyrene [we saw that as North Africa last week], Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) [some ties to royalty] and Saul [the persecutor turned Christian and Bible teacher].” 

So, this is a church full of great Bible teachers. Prophets who have special gifting and teachers who can explain what the Scriptures mean and apply it to life.

And from this team, God is going to send out some missionaries. V.2

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.”

Stop there for a few seconds.

Being sent.

Notice that going on a missions trip wasn’t just a good idea that somebody had.

God the Holy Spirit was involved.

Who did the sending?  Verse 2 and verse 4 make it clear that the Holy Spirit did the sending. How did He speak to them in verse 2? It doesn’t say. I would imagine that God used one of the prophets from verse 1, but it doesn’t say.

It does make it clear that the Holy Spirit is doing the sending. This is a God-thing.

God the Holy Spirit is involved in missions.

Notice, too, that the call comes while they are worshipping, while they are fasting, while they are praying.

But it’s not just the Holy Spirit who does the sending. The church is involved, as well. Verese 3. “They placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

I get the picture of financial provision, of ongoing prayers, and concerns. They don’t  just say, “Well, it was good knowing you. Off you go!”

There are only two godly responses to missions. Go or send. That’s it.

And Barnabas and Saul are going. The church at Antioch is sending.

This makes me think about our Serbie Missions Trip that is forming for August 2012.

Tim mentioned a few of the details during the announcements.

We have between 5 and 10 youth and adults that are going to form our Serbia Missions Team.  They are planning to fly 4500 miles from here to Belgrade and connect with the Elijas family.

Remember the Elijas family? They aren’t as big as the Durochers, but they’re getting there. They are friends of Heather and mine from our Moody Bible Institute days and they are indigenous missionaries in Serbia.

They have visited our church several times and on their last visit while they were singing and sharing, Becky Forcey got a vision for a short-term team to go from our church to where they work and help out.

If you remember, Ernie Degrasse once went to Serbia to help the Elijas with a building project, too.

Our Missions Ministry Team has been praying and working for over a year now on the details, and I’m very excited about this opportunity.  How many here, would you raise your hand high, are seriously considering going?

And it’s not too late for people to get involved. Talk with Becky Forcey about it.

We are going to formally interview and form the team on January 11th and then we’ll be telling you more about it including how you can be involved in raising the funds for this trip.  On the last Sunday of July, we’re going to be doing verse 3. “Placing our hands on this team and sending them off.”

Now, here’s where they went.

The started at [where?] Antioch in Syria.

And verse 4 says that they went down to Seleucia, and then caught a boat for Cyprus.

Who was from Cyprus?

Barnabas was. So, the first trip was to somewhere familiar.

Why are they going on this trip?  What is the point?

It’s to spread the gospel. Verse 5

“When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.”

Salamis is here on this end of the island.

They go to where the Jews are and proclaim the Messiah.  They have a young man traveling with them named John (also called Mark, John Mark). He helps them with their needs.

Then they travel to the other end of the island to Paphos. Verse 6.

“They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.”

Woo!  Things are heating up all of a sudden.

I’m going to call this section:


A Jewish sorcerer?!  That’s two things that shouldn’t go together!

He is a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. What does that name mean in Hebrew?

Barnabas is Son of Encouragement.

Bar-Jesus would be Son of Jesus or Son of Salvation.

This guy is anything but!  He’s trying to keep Sergius Paulus the proconsul (or governor) from the faith, from Christianity. From the truth.

Time to clash. V.9

“Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, ‘You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.”


That clash didn’t take long.

From here on in the story, Saul is called Paul.  Apparently from verse 9, we find that Paul was Saul’s other name.

And here Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit and is bold to clash with the forces of evil.

You are not Bar-Jesus. You are Bar-Diabolos. Son of the devil.

He has strong words, doesn’t he?

There are times for strong words, especially in the face of great evil.

And the end result is that Elymas goes blind.  Paul must have thought about how he was blind after he saw the light.

And the proconsul, Sergius Paulus also sees the light. Verse 12.

“When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.”

Notice that it wasn’t just the power that Paul showed but the teaching that convinced Sergius Paulus to become a beliver.

Now, I think that this guy is the first Gentile convert who wasn’t a seeker in any way.

Not a proselyte like the Ethiopian treasury official nor a God-fearer like Cornelius.

This was just a plain old Gentile out on a island.

But he believes! That’s awesome.  That’s you and me.

Praise God for those who are willing to clash with evil in the name of the Lord Jesus.

But our journey is just getting started. V.13

“From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.”

Now, take note of that. We aren’t going to talk about it today, but it becomes a point of contention eventually between these guys.
They are here at Perga and they go on to the Antioch here. This was Pisidian Antioch, not Syrian Antioch. There were 16 Antiochs in the ancient world named for a ruler called Antiochus.

This is the one here that Paul and Barnabas travel to. Notice that Paul has clearly become the leader.  I think that’s fine by Barnabas. He knows who is the greater teacher and the one who has the greater calling on his life.  V.14

“From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.’”

That’s all the encouragement that Paul needs!  He launches into a gospel presentation.


Now, I want you to notice how Paul never gives the gospel the same way twice. He does things in similar ways in similar situations, but he’s always tailoring his presentation to those whom he is talking to.

I think we can learn a lot by how he talks about the gospel.  He presents it here among the Jews, as a story. Their story. V.16

“Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: ‘Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years. ‘After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'”

Stop there for just a second.  Do you see what he’s doing?

He just preached Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and most of 1 Samuel in just 6 verses!

It can be done.

He’s starting with what they know, especially the promises that God had given the Jewish people. Where’s he going?

He’s going to Jesus.  V.22 again.

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.' ‘From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.”

Now, he’s got their attention. He skips 1000 years between David and Jesus and explains his point. V.24

“Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: 'Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.' Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus [he came to that which was his own but his own received him not], yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him [read Isaiah 53!], they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people [There’s that word “witnesses” again!]. We tell you the good news [the gospel!]: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: ‘'I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.' So it is stated elsewhere: ‘'You will not let your Holy One see decay.' ‘For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.”

There is a lot there, and I’m not going to repeat it all for you, but just check your footnotes to see how much Scripture Paul used in this little sermon.

The whole Old Testament pointed to Jesus.

And (v.32), “What God promised [the Jewish] fathers he has fulfilled ... by raising up Jesus.”

And now, Paul brings it home. V.38

“‘Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. [That’s been the point of our study of Galatians all Fall in adult Sunday School.] Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:  ‘'Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'’”

It’s the same gospel that we preach today.

Turn from your sins and trust in the Savior!

And you will be forgiven.

Verse 38 again, “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

That message never gets old.

Just think about it.

Every sin that you have committed. Every lie, every lust, every dishonoring of parents, every covetous thought, every idolatrous choice, every angry word.

Every sin forgiven. “I want you to know that through Jesus [what he did on the cross, by his resurrection] the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

That’s the best news in all of the world.

Do you believe it?

Have you come to believe this gospel?

Are you forgiven?  Are you living as a forgiven man or woman or child?

Don’t scoff at it. V.40 again.

“Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:  ‘'Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'’”

Don’t be like that. Don’t say, “Couldn’t happen. Nobody comes back from the dead. Not three days later.” Don’t say, “Couldn’t happen to me. I’m too far gone to be forgiven.”

Believe the gospel and be saved!

And then preach that gospel to those who desperately need to hear it.  V.42

“As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. [They are interested.] When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.”

But that’s not all they encountered.


“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.”

Not everyone is happy about this gospel of Jesus Christ.

There will be opposition. There will be persecution. There will be rejection.

We have to be ready for that. Paul and Barnabas were.

“Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'’”

“When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.”

“ But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.  And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Not long ago, Paul was persecuting Christians.

Now, Paul is a persecuted Christian.

This is often what happens when Paul comes to town: trouble.

And we need to expect it.

This last week, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the churches of New York City who have been meeting in public schools throughout the city.

You know that real estate is impossibly expensive in New York.

There are 60 churches that have been renting space from the city for their worship services.  The city contends that “churches meeting [inside public schools] outside school hours inappropriately influence children.”

That’s a true story. That’s happening now. They have until February 12th to find somewhere else to meet.

Some of those churches have been meeting there for more than 25 years.

Now, I don’t say that to get all political.  (We could talk about why this is and what the best responses would be.)

I say that to prepare you and me for what is inevitable in this world.

The clash between those who share the gospel and those who oppose it.

We just have to be ready to withstand opposition to the gospel.

And keep preaching it!

Because God has plans to use it to save people. Look again at verse 48.

“When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.”

I love that.  I love all of the different ways that Luke uses to talk about conversion and salvation.

Here is it “all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”

Bring on the opposition. It can’t stop God’s saving purpose in this missionary journey.

All who are appointed for eternal life will believe.

God is sovereign over it.


“The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.”

You can’t stop it.

You can’t stop the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The withstanding of opposition and the welcoming of new believers happen at the same time!

No wonder that after they leave, shaking the dusty from their feet in protest, they are (v.52), “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Because He’s at work.  He sent them, and He goes with them.

And He’s with us today, as well.

We’re going to leave Paul and Barnabas in Iconium and come back to them next week.

But let’s ask ourselves whether or not we’re willing:

To be sent or to send.
To clash with evil.
To preach the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
To withstand opposition with faith and love.
And to welcome new believers with joy.

If so, then we are on mission ourselves.

Messages So Far In this Series:

No Other Name
Snapshots of the Early Church
Even the Gentiles
Are We Willing?