Text: Acts 17-18
Today we follow Paul from Thessalonica, to Berea, to Athens, to Corinth and on to Ephesus.
Paul’s custom in preaching the gospel was to go to the city’s synagogue and preach from the scriptures and to prove that Jesus was the fulfillment of what he was reading. This often persuaded many Jews as well as Gentile men and women.
But not everyone was pleased to hear the gospel. In both Thessalonica and Berea, disbelieving Jews, fueled by their jealousy, stirred up mobs and riots with bad characters so as to cause the city to be in turmoil. This put Paul in great danger so he went ahead of Silas and Timothy to Athens.
Paul gained a few followers from Athens when he saw an altar inscribed “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”. He used the altar to speak about the Lord of heaven and earth and a few people believed.
Moving on to Corinth, Paul meets Aquila and Pricilla and works with them making tents. Silas and Timothy eventually join him again and this allows Paul to devote himself exclusively to preaching to the Jews. But when the Jews again become abusive toward them, Paul resolved he would only go to the Gentiles. The Lord affirmed Paul’s conviction about this in a vision and so Paul stays a year and a half ministering to the Gentiles in Corinth.
Next Paul sails to Ephesus and revisits his strategy of preaching in the Jewish synagogue. He is met with curiosity from the Jews but leaves them and heads to Antioch. He moved around all over the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples.
Pricilla and Aquila meet Apollos, who was teaching about Jesus even though he only knew the baptism of John. Pricilla and Aquila invite Apollos into their home and more adequately teach him about Jesus before encouraging him to go to Achaia, where he vigorously refuted the Jews and proved Jesus was the Christ.
What we see in these 2 chapters is a rapid spreading of the church as Paul went on mission to bring the Good News to many cities. As with any leader, he only has so much capacity and we learn about the team he built up around him to sustain his ministry.
Paul had to work making tents to provide for his own needs when he was alone, but when Silas and Timothy joined him, he had a lot more time to preach to the Jews. When the Jews didn’t listen, Paul went to the Gentiles. Whoever is open to the Gospel, these are whom he teaches.
But Paul doesn’t stay anywhere too long—it is vital that he plant the church in the city and then move to the next place so that the gospel continues to spread. Led by the Holy Spirit, Paul is not interested in building one central church in one location. Rather he is laser-focused on building a spiritual revolution according to the Kingdom principals Jesus taught—a worldwide discipleship movement of people transformed by faith in Jesus. He stays only long enough to impart the gospel and then he moves on. He depends on the new converts and capable individuals in the city to continue the work he started and to catch the vision. Silas, Timothy, Acquila, Pricilla and Apollos, (and Mark, Barnabas and Lydia) are all very important team members to grow the gospel movement Paul is spear-heading.
As believers, we are all called to catch this vision and to continue carrying the revolutionary message of Jesus and His Kingdom to the world around us. When Jesus left this earth, he commissioned, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
God knows we will need help to do his work. That is why He gave us the Holy Spirit and that is also why he sends people into our lives to partner with so that we can have effective ministry.
Question: How are you participating in the Great Commission? Who are the team members God has placed around you so you can be most effective?
Prayer: Lord thank you for the privilege of working with the Holy Spirit to bring the knowledge of Jesus and His Kingdom into the world around me. Help me to recognize the opportunities, open doors and team mates you provide as I partner with the Holy Spirit to be a light in this dark world.
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.