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Make Disciples Who Make Disciples

The Mission of FBC Afton  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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ME: A mixed reaction (13:42-52)

Last week, we looked at the start of the first missionary journey for Paul and Barnabas.
They were sent out from Antioch by the Holy Spirit.
They travelled to the island of Cyprus,
Made the proconsul there a disciple in the face of opposition from a cult leader.
Then they travelled up to Pisidian Antioch,
Where Paul had the opportunity to preach in a synagogue during a Sabbath service.
In his sermon,
Paul summarized God’s sovereignty through Israel’s history,
And how Jesus was the fulfillment of it,
Proven by his resurrection.
Then Paul ended with an ominous warning,
Telling his listeners not to miss the work that God is doing right in front of them.
This morning we are going to look at part two of these missionaries Going and Making Disciples.
The outline for the second half of this journey is:
Polarized Reactions (13:42-52)
Prudent Departure (14:1-7)
Preaches Creation (14:8-20)
Planting Churches (14:21-28)
After Paul’s sermon,
The narrative of their journey picks back up in vs. 42,
Ending the chapter with the polarized reactions to Paul’s sermon.
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue,
At first the people urged them to speak about these things again next Sabbath.
It is clear that Paul’s sermon stirred a spiritual hunger in this group in a very positive way.
After the synagogue dismissed their service,
Many of the Jews and converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas,
Who urged them to continue in the grace of God,
Implying that in the same way the became a Christian by God’s grace,
They must continue to persevere as a Christian by relying on God’s grace.
This is so important in light of the increasing persecution of Christians.
One week later,
On the next Sabbath,
Vs. 44 says almost all the inhabitants of the city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
Most of the inhabitants are Gentiles,
So, in vs. 45,
When the Jews see the crowds,
They do not react well.
It says, they were filled with jealousy.
They took issue with these guys preaching about Jesus.
Something Jesus said to expect in Mark 13:13,
Mark 13:13 ESV
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Motivated by jealousy and hatred,
The Jews first try to contradict Paul’s teaching about Jesus.
But they do not stop there,
They go on to undermine Paul as a person by insulting him.
It is so sad to think that the very people who were familiar with God’s Word,
Were the ones who were most hostile to Paul.
They did not just contradict his message,
But they attacked him as a person!
Yet, both Paul and Barnabas reply boldly in vs. 46 condemning the Jews from Scripture.
They explain this strategy of going to synagogues first,
Saying it was necessary for the Word of God to be spoken to the Jews first.
Which makes sense,
Jesus is the Messiah,
He came through the Jews.
Therefore, Paul consistently goes to the Jew first,
Then to the Greeks.
And that is what Paul is saying here.
Quoting Isaiah 49:6 in vs. 47,
He condemns the Jews for rejecting the gospel,
Then recognizes how God’s plan includes the Gentiles.
So, Paul and Barnabas are saying to the Jews:
“Now that we have gone to you first,
And you have rejected the gospel,
It warrants us turning our attention to the Gentiles.”
This moment turns the tide of salvation history,
In the most wonderful way.
Because it means salvation is available for everyone on earth.
When the Gentiles hear Paul say this,
They rejoice, worship the Lord,
And vs. 48 says,
As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
This statement expresses a great truth about the balance between God’s sovereignty,
And human responsibility.
This is what we call the doctrine of election.
Notice the order of events here:
It says, the people were first appointed to eternal life,
Then, after their appointment, they believed.
This is teaching that God had chosen these people beforehand,
Then, through conviction and repentance,
They trust in Christ.
Eph. 2:8 explains this,
Ephesians 2:8 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
So, the language really describes us as passive participants.
The people were appointed.
As in, the appointment happened to them,
God is the active agent here.
Only God can grant eternal life.
Jesus teaches this in John 10:28,
He says,
John 10:28 ESV
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Romans 9:18 says,
Romans 9:18 ESV
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
The doctrine of election is an expression of God’s free and sovereign grace.
But just because God appoints some,
Does not mean those people have earned or deserves God’s election.
God does not owe any sinner any mercy of any kind.
The only thing any of us deserve is condemnation.
So, it is a marvelous act of God’s grace that He would save any of us.
God is a mystery,
Our minds cannot fully comprehend Him.
So, the fact that He appoints some is equally mysterious.
Our minds cannot fully comprehend it.
This is a relatively controversial doctrine.
But when we rightly understand it,
We can better see how great the grace is that saves us.
Which moves us to respond with humility, confidence, and praise.
The mysterious aspect of it,
Is that we consciously choose to believe in Christ,
But somehow we believe because we were consciously chosen by God.
But we still have a responsibility.
As 2 Pet. 1:10 says,
2 Peter 1:10 ESV
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
So, we have been called by God,
And we have a responsibility to confirm this calling,
It will be known by its fruit.
This is a mystery.
And part of the mystery,
Is that we do not know who God has elected.
It will not be ultimately revealed until after judgment.
So, until that time comes,
God commands us to call everyone to repent and believe.
So, as we go and make disciples,
Election serves as a great encouragement!
Paul and Barnabas had no idea who, if anyone, would believe,
But this was not going to keep them from preaching.
Likewise, we have no idea who would or would not believe,
But this cannot keep us from preaching God’s Word.
Because those who are appointed by God,
Are ultimately called to Christ through His witnesses.
Vs. 49 summarizes how God sovereignly spread His Word through His witnesses.
It spread throughout this entire Gentile region beyond the city.
These were people who were historically outside of God’s people,
And they are now redefining what it means to be God’s people by their inclusion.
But those who had been God’s people did not want this redefinition to occur.
So, they stirred up persecution against Paul an Barnabas.
Sometimes, they stay and endure persecution,
Other times, as is the case here,
They move on.
As they do, they shake the dust off their feet.
Because Jesus said to do this as a sign of displeasure or disassociation in Matt. 10:14.
This is kind of a dramatic symbol of judgment.
But despite being driven out of town,
The disciples were not overwhelmed with fear,
They were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
This demonstrates the connection between suffering for the gospel and joy.
By the end of ch. 13,
Some were intrigued by the gospel,
Others were enraged by it,
And some trusted in it completely.
We should expect similar results as we go and make disciples.
It demands more than just knowing God’s Word.
Because those who were hostile to Paul and Barnabas were the ones who knew God’s Word.
The problem is they did not trust in Jesus.
So, being a disciple is more than just knowing God’s Word.
It demands trust in Jesus.
But being able to make disciples demands both:
Trust in Jesus and a knowledge of the gospel.
You never know who may be open to the message.
But you also don’t know who may be hostile toward the gospel.
But as the end of this chapter shows,
Persevering through opposition produces great joy.

WE: Flee From Iconium (14:1-7)

After they joyfully leave,
We can see on the map that they travel about 80 miles southwest to Iconium.
This ancient city is one of the oldest cities that have been continuously occupied.
It was an attractive city that drew many people.
It was a center of both agriculture and commerce.
And the events that take place in this city are like a microcosm of the whole disciple-making experience.
There are both people who believe and people who oppose.
There are supernatural signs and wonders.
And there is increasing hostility that leads to the disciples eventually leaving town.
In the past, Paul was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
Then, we just read how in ch. 13,
He told the Jews he was turning to the Gentiles.
Yet, at the same time, Paul never completely excludes or abandons the Jews from the gospel.
In fact, he deeply desires that his fellow Jews would embrace their Messiah.
Despite Jews being some of his greatest persecutors.
Therefore, Paul continues going to synagogues first.
This is such a testament to his perseverance.
He just left a situation where the Jews personally attacked him and drove him out of town.
Now, in the next town, he goes right back to a synagogue.
That’s incredible!
Have you ever walked into a situation knowing that someone was going to oppose you?
This is a Holy Spirit kind of courage.
As a result of this courage here in Acts,
It says, a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.
But then, vs. 2 immediately follows with unbelieving Jews instigating trouble,
Poisoning the minds of the Gentiles against the disciples.
Clearly, tensions are rising.
But Paul and Barnabas are not intimidated,
Vs. 3 says they remained for a long time,
Boldly testifying to God’s message of grace,
The message of God’s unmerited kindness being extended to us.
And vs. 4 shows how this message either produces an unspeakable sense of peace and joy in people,
Or hostility and anger.
Because as fallen humans,
Our hearts are naturally drawn toward a system of works-based righteousness.
So, this idea that we cannot earn God’s favor contradicts this system.
But the beauty of the gospel is that even though we cannot earn God’s favor,
God forgives our sin through Jesus.
We cannot do enough to pay God back for our wrongs,
But by God’s grace,
Through faith in Christ,
We are gifted access into His Kingdom.
To a legalist, this is maddening!
That is what we see from both the Jews and the Gentiles they win over in vs. 5.
These groups plot together to stone Paul and Barnabas.
Stoning is so gruesome!
It is just people hurling rock after rock at a person until they die.
Fortunately, Paul and Barnabas find out about this ahead of time.
So, they understand that opposition has escalated to a life-threatening level,
Therefore, they leave town and head to Lystra and Derbe.
All these cities are a part of the Roman province of Galatia.
And these are the places that Paul writes to in the letter to the Galatians at the end of this journey.
Because notice, vs. 7 says, they continued to preach the gospel as they fled.
Once again, we see the perseverance of the apostles,
But by fleeing, we also see their prudence.
There is no question,
The apostles were brave,
But they also were no fools!
They heard about the danger,
And they fled so they could live to preach another day!
Sometimes making disciples will require perseverance in the face of opposition.
Other times, it will require prudence to flee from persecution.

GOD: Miracle At Lystra (14:8-20)

After the apostles fled Iconium,
The ended up in Lystra in vs. 8.
Lystra was a trade city in Galatia founded under Augustus in 6BC.
This city was probably the most Gentile city the apostles have gone to thus far.
In fact, there does not seem to even be a synagogue there.
Nonetheless, Paul still finds speaking opportunities.
In vs. 9, as Paul is speaking,
He looks directly at a man who has been crippled since birth.
Then, assuming the Spirit gave him some supernatural insight,
It says he saw this man had the faith to be healed.
So, in vs. 10, Paul commands the man to stand up onto his feet.
Immediately, he jumps up to his feet and begins walking around.
This is clearly a miracle.
The Bible uses a variety of words for miracles:
Wonder, mighty work, and sign.
Wonder describes the impression that is left by a miracle.
As in, an event that evokes wonder.
Because these are things that are beyond the normal.
So, they make us aware of God’s presence and power in this world.
Mighty work also communicates this.
It points to the the powerful presence of God’s supernatural acts.
Mighty works reflects God’s creative power.
They are not chance or coincidental events,
And they cannot be explained by the natural.
The other term is sign.
This is most commonly used in John’s gospel,
It indicates that the miracle points to something,
Or carries a message with it.
As in, a sign authenticates the miracle worker as a representative or messenger of God.
Like any other title,
A sign shows how nothing can stop God from bringing about salvation and judgment.
So, it is not as if these miracles are pointless irrational displays of power.
No, they have a purpose that is consistent with God’s majesty and holiness.
And if you are a Christian,
Believing in miracles is integral!
God taking on human flesh and being born as a baby,
Rising from the dead,
Miracles define Christianity!
We cannot reject these miracles without rejecting the faith!
So, if we are Christians,
We must believe that God can miraculously intervene in this world any time.
That is what is happening here in Acts.
God does a miracle through Paul.
The people were astounded by the miracle,
But they reacted wrongly,
Treating Paul and Barnabas as if they are gods.
This reaction was likely influenced by a local legend.
As the story goes,
Zeus and Hermes disguised themselves as men to come and seek hospitality.
But all the people in town rejected them,
Except one poor couple who welcomed them into their small cottage.
After the gods left,
The next day the couple went to return to their cottage,
But it had been transformed into a temple with a golden roof and marble columns.
While all those who rejected them had their houses destroyed.
So, this is the story that is in the back of the people’s minds,
When they see Paul miraculously heal this crippled man.
So, they assume Zeus and Hermes did it again,
And attempt to worship these men by offering sacrifices.
The way the apostles respond is a reflection of their heart.
If you remember back in ch. 12.
A crowd said Herod had the voice of a god, not a man,
And he ate it up!
Which led to his death.
But Paul and Barnabas do the exact opposite.
They do not want to feed their ego,
They were in anguish that the people wanted to worship them,
Immediately tearing their robes,
A sign of grief and horror,
To refuse being worshipped.
Clearly, these guys are not preaching Christ for any selfish reasons.
We would be wise to take note of the way they deflect glory from themselves to God.
Only God deserves to be worshipped.
Paul then immediately follows with a brief sermon in vs. 15-17.
This is almost like an abbreviated version of his sermon in ch. 17.
Paul is addressing a crowd with no understanding of God’s Word.
So, he draws more on nature and the work of God,
Rather than God’s Word.
Now, these people still have spiritual beliefs,
But they believe in many gods,
Not one.
So, Paul emphasizes that there is one God Who created everything.
You see, he could have just told them about Jesus,
But then they likely would have just added Him to the many other gods they worshipped.
So, in proclaiming the good news about Jesus,
Paul pleads with them to repent,
To turn away from worthless idols to the living God.
Paul straight up calls all their gods worthless,
And says that they need to abandon them for the one true God.
Hearing something like this,
Makes it easy to understand why being told to repent does not sound like a good thing to most people.
Because you are being told to turn away from something you love.
But repentance is good!
Because it is turning away from something that is worthless,
And instead trusting in Jesus,
So, that we can experience forgiveness,
Be set free from slavery,
And have eternal life.
That is what Paul longs to see people do!
That is why after calling the people to turn away from their worthless gods,
He goes on to tell them about God, the Creator!
By pointing to creation,
Paul is teaching about what we call natural or general revelation.
Psalm 19:1 explains this,
Psalm 19:1 ESV
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
In other words, nature is evidence that there is a Creator.
This is why we call it general revelation.
Because God is actively disclosing aspects of Himself to everyone, everywhere.
And failing to acknowledge Him in that, as the Creator, is sin.
So, this causes the entire human race to be guilty.
We all naturally fail to worship the rightful Creator of the universe.
Because we have this sinful, ego-centric nature that drives us away from God,
And toward idolatry,
Toward worshiping anything other than God.
In our idolatry,
We humans suppress truth,
And exchange the glory of the Creator for creation.
So, in one sense,
Because we are fallen,
The idols we worship distort the truth about God,
Therefore, we do not rightly know God.
But God cares about us too much to allow us to completely suppress our awareness of Him.
Therefore, He gives us a sense of right and wrong.
He gives us a conscience that condemns us,
Giving us a feeling of suffering for the wrongs we have done.
So, in that sense,
God speaks to us through our conscience.
We know God through that unavoidable, uncomfortable inkling of guilt.
But God does not stop speaking to us there.
He continues speaking to us through special revelation,
Through the gospel of Jesus Christ that forgives us of our guilt.
This has been accomplished through human history,
And written down in what we call the Bible.
Special revelation is explicit verbal statements,
Telling us the same things general revelation show us about God,
And so much more!
This is the approach Paul takes here in Acts,
Ending his brief sermon in vs. 17,
With an emphasis on God’s goodness and providence.
He essentially asks who sends rain for the crops that feed you?
Who satisfies your heart with good things?
So, the common human experience is evidence of God.
We are all witnesses to God’s goodness in every day life.
Every good thing that any person has ever had is because of the mercy and grace of God.
Every time you eat a good meal,
Relax in a comfortable chair,
Laugh with family and friends,
Smell the freshness of ocean air,
Or take in a beautiful sunset,
It is an experience of God’s kindness.
Do you ever take the time to acknowledge that?
Do you ever talk about this goodness of God?
Especially with unbelievers?
We should delight in God’s goodness.
And that is what Paul is doing with these unbelievers here.
While this is not an exhaustive gospel presentation,
It is an opening to the Bible for people with zero biblical background.
Paul connects their life to the truths of the Bible,
Even though he does not cite a single Bible passage.
This is an example contextualization.
Although he does not preach the entire gospel,
He does lay the groundwork for future ministry in Lystra shown later in Acts.
Contextualization does not edit the gospel.
But it does require us to understand our audiences.
We need to establish a point of contact with people,
Then from there, we chart the path to the gospel for them.
This is why we need to understand others.
But we must also understand the Bible.
So, that no matter where a person is at,
We are able to chart the path to the good news of Jesus Christ.
It is not exactly clear what all happened next,
But at the very least,
We see in vs. 18 that the sacrifices of the people were barely stopped.
Then, in vs. 19-20, we see how determined some Jewish opponents are.
This is something Paul can actually resonate with.
He had hunted down Christians from house to house.
But now that he has come to Christ,
He finds himself on the other end of persecution.
In this case,
Some of these Jews from Antioch came from about a hundred miles away,
To stir up the people in Lystra.
These guys took the Christian threat so seriously,
That they tracked down Paul and Barnabas to persecute them.
These Jews were vicious.
They persuaded the locals to join their persecution,
Nearly killing Paul by stoning him,
Then dragging what they think is his dead body,
Leaving him to rot outside the city.
Clearly making disciples endures suffering.
We won’t make disciples without making sacrifices.
Even though Paul did not die,
He was very close to death,
But God was not done with him yet.
So, by God’s grace, he survived.
In vs. 20, the disciples gather around him to help him up.
Then they bring him back into the city for the night.
Somehow, he recovered enough to make the 65ish mile trek to Derbe the next day!
Paul never stopped to rethink his plan or second guess his mission.
Because of the gospel!
He trusts and obeys that he has been set apart by Jesus,
And set apart by the Spirit.
He cared more about people getting saved than his own well being.
So, clearly as long as he is alive,
Nothing is going to stop him from completing this task.
Paul’s is such an encouragement.
Because like him, we must be fueled by the gospel!
Paul clearly never got over the gospel!
He never got over forgiveness, freedom, the Holy Spirit, adoption, reconciliation, future resurrection, and God’s Kingdom.
The gospel is so glorious,
That Paul could not stop preaching it,
Even if it meant suffering!
How often do we just put off sharing the gospel because we just feel like its not convenient?
The more we are captivated by the gospel,
By who Jesus is and what He has done,
The more we will sacrifice comfort and preference to share the gospel.
Never get over the gospel.
Never let your affection for Jesus fade.

YOU: (14:21-28)

Vs. 21 says Paul had preached the gospel in Derbe,
And made many disciples.
This is the furthest point on their journey.
And looking at the map,
It would have made a lot of sense for them to keep heading east,
Rest in Paul’s hometown of Tarsus,
Then make the short trek back to Antioch.
But they didn’t.
Instead, they backtrack through all these places where they just faced persecution.
Because it was vital for Paul to follow up when planting churches,
To establish healthy congregations.
This perseverance demonstrates two things:
A deep love for the gospel and an equally deep love for the church.
Paul was not interested in evangelizing the masses,
Having people make decisions for Christ.
He wanted to make disciples of Christ.
He was passionate about planting healthy churches because he was devoted to the local church.
We must have a similar devotion to the local church.
This fellowship of brothers and sisters is God’s gift to us.
He gives us one another to stir one another up to love and good works.
We need the fellowship of a local church.
Paul clearly understands that he needed the support and strength of his fellow believers.
So, he was committed to planting churches.
Therefore, despite all the danger he would face for retracing his steps through these cities,
He goes anyway,
So, that he could strengthen and encourage these new disciples,
Demonstrating three foundations of church planting:
Biblical instruction,
Elder oversight,
And confidence in God.
When Paul encourages believers to continue in the faith,
He is talking about biblical instruction.
The faith implies a body of doctrine that Paul had taught them.
For example, as members of FBC Afton we agree to a body of doctrine.
And what do we call that body of doctrine?
Our statement of faith.
So, what Paul is referring to here would be similar to a statement of faith.
He taught these churches biblical doctrines to both protect the church and encourage the church.
One of these things he encouraged them in was the inevitability of facing many tribulations.
The second foundation is elder oversight.
These churches had not been planted for very long,
Yet Paul made sure to establish leadership in every single church.
He assigned the responsibility of eldership to multiple elders in every church.
Our modern day pattern of one pastor for every church would be foreign to Paul.
Plural elders from their local congregation was the norm for churches from their inception.
We are not given all the details about how Paul went about doing this,
But later in the NT,
He does describe elder qualifications.
So, even though these disciples would have been relatively new Christians,
Paul likely spent a considerable amount of time training them,
And vetting them on the basis of those same elder character qualifications.
Therefore, paired with his letters,
We see the basics of a distinct and repeatable pattern of leadership development.
The third foundation of church planting is trust in God.
In vs. 26, they arrive back at home base in Antioch,
To the church where the Holy Spirit set them apart.
These weary travellers are bruised and battered,
But Acts reminds us that they had been commended to the grace of God,
To fulfil the work of this first journey.
In other words, they accomplished the work by trusting in God.
So, they get the whole church together in vs. 27,
To report how all God had done,
How God opened the door to the Gentiles.
Again, emphasizing their trust in God.
The final word in vs. 28,
Is that Paul and Barnabas spend a considerable amount of time with the disciples in Antioch.
We can only imagine the fellowship they enjoyed,
The stories they shared,
And perhaps the medical care they received.

WE: Conc.

On that note,
Let’s close with two questions for reflection,
And two applications.
First question:
Are you presently going through something that demands you to look to Jesus today for the grace to persevere?
The apostles had to do this for their entire journey.
Second question, do you truly love Christ’s church?
Devotion to the church is clearly displayed on this journey.
May we all display a similar devotion!
Now application,
The first application was introduced last week:
This can be in subtle ways or in extravagant ways.
But there is such a thing as overcontextualization.
For example, if you claim to be something your not as a way to “contextualize”,
Then you are not contextualizing,
You are being dishonest.
So, contextualization does not mean we compromise integrity,
Nor does it mean we compromise the gospel.
Proper contextualization is about making disciples,
By removing unnecessary obstacles,
Without losing the gospel message itself.
So, that is what Paul did and that is what we must do.
The second application is how the sovereignty of God accomplishes our call to make disciples.
When we neglect the sovereignty of God as we go and make disciples,
We either grow impatient or we grow anxious.
We become impatient when we don’t see immediate fruit.
Or we become anxious over whether we said enough,
Or said everything just right.
The sovereignty of God tears down our impatience and our anxiety.
Because God is the One Who saves.
Therefore, we never know when a word of truth plants a seed.
Even if we stutter or stammer our way through,
Or we think we are messing up,
God remains sovereign.
As the Bible says,
Some plant,
Some water,
But God gives the growth!
This impatience or anxiety often reflect a lack of faith in God’s power,
Or neglecting the fact that God has a good and perfect and pleasing will.
Sometimes a person may trust Christ immediately,
Other times it’ll take years,
But ultimately, their trust is a work of God from beginning to end.
Going and making disciples,
Requires us to simply be faithful with the time, gifts and opportunities God gives,
And trusting God to do the saving.
Because it is God’s sovereignty that accomplishes our call to make disciples.
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