- Sermon Notes
On Mission Through Opposition
Illus. Turn around?
This morning we continue our study of Acts by turning to Acts chapter 14 where Paul and Barnabas are in the middle of a missionary journey. The chapter begins with Paul and Barnabas entering a new city where again, they will face significant opposition to their mission. I say again, because after being sent out on a missionary journey in Acts chapter 13, we have seen a recurring theme, they will head to the synagogue of a given city, preach the message of Christ boldly, and some will be open to that message, and others stand against them in opposition.
Illus. The mission so far (Recap of Acts 13).
They are on mission, but clearly, they were on mission through opposition. They had the important task to be witnesses for Christ to the known world (Acts 1:8), they had a mission, a commission to go to all nations, to teach them to follow all Jesus had commanded (Mt. 28:19-20), and they were doing these things no matter the location their mission landed them. The Lord had called Paul His chosen vessel, that he would bear His name to the Gentiles, to kings, and to the children of Israel. Paul himself said in Acts 13:47 that the Lord has commanded them to be “a light to the Gentiles, that they may bring salvation to the ends of the earth!”
As they head to a new city in chapter 14, we see a continued theme. Some will receive the Gospel and believe; others refuse to believe and will persecute Paul violently in an attempt to end his life. Paul and Barnabas were on a mission to bring the good news to the known world, but that mission would cause division between those who chose to believe, and those who were unwilling.
In seeing the theme, there are important truths for you and me to see. Today, in verse 22 of chapter 14, Paul will say it this way, “it is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God.” What these words and descriptions reveal to us is that when we are on mission, there will be opposition. As we move according to the mission we have been given, we must remember the words of Jesus when He sent out 72 of His followers out on a mission to make Him known. He told them that they would receive opposition on their mission, and that those who listened to them, listened to Him, and the ones who rejected them rejected Him; but those who rejected Him, rejected the One who sent Him (Luke 10:16).
- Go Forward with Reliance on the Lord
- At the end of Chapter 13, we are told that Paul and Barnabas leave a town called Pisidian Antioch and head to Iconium after the unbelieving Jews instigated persecution against them.
Acts 14:1-2, In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together and spoke in such a way that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brothers.
- As we have discussed, Paul and Barnabas follow their similar mode of operation, heading to the synagogue first in Iconium.
- Iconium is in the region of Galatia. We know there is a letter to the Galatians, but Galatia is not a city, it’s a region (modern day Turkey). It is about 80 miles away from the city they had just left.
- From verse one we understand that Paul and Barnabas are in the synagogue, and they spoke in such a way that a large number of people believed.
- This is a good word for us on our mission, to speak in such a way that people will hear what we have to say and believe!
- A large number heard what they had to say and believed…But not everybody.
- From verse two we understand that there were “unbelieving Jews” who began to stir up of the minds of the Gentiles, and the Gentiles became embittered against Paul and Barnabas.
- I mentioned a few weeks back that there was some common ground between Paul and Barnabas and the “unbelieving Jews.” They had common ground when it came to the Old Testament.
- But the lines were drawn when Paul would give the Gospel message, declaring Jesus as the Messiah the Scriptures pointed to and the way to Salvation.
- We read his first sermon in Acts 13, which ended by pointing people to Jesus Christ and that in Him is the forgiveness of sins.
Acts 13:38-39, Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
- In response, some began believing in the message given, and others are described as blaspheming him (slandering him).
- There were people there who would not personally receive the message of salvation and life in Jesus Christ.
- They were not willing to receive the message, they were unwilling to believe, so they began stirring people up.
- Specifically, they began stirring up their minds. To stir up is to raise or excite against, the word for mind here is defined here as one’s life, the seat of feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, and our soul).
- In Romans 1:16, Paul wrote that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation.” It is good news that Jesus came to save, but tough news to people who are unwilling to see it that way.
- Jesus’ teachings and ministry point to Himself as the way to eternity. What He taught and the life He lived was met with joyful reception by some, and severe rejection by others. So much so that He was crucified on a Roman cross.
- Known to those who receive Him as the Prince of Peace, yet in Matthew 10:32-34, He said, “Everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before people, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” “Do not think that I came to ring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
- Surely His message is a message of peace, but it is evident that it calls an individual to radical commitment to Jesus.
- It is a message of peace that divides between those who choose it, and those who reject it.
- I encourage you to continue forward with reliance on the Lord!
Acts 14:3, Therefore, they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be performed by their hands.
- Whenever you see the word therefore in Scripture, as the question…What is it therefore? This particular “therefore” seems out of place.
- The verses that precede it say that the people were being embittered and their minds were being stirred up against Paul and Barnabas.
- Therefore, they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord.
- The people are being stirred up against Paul and Barnabas, therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord. Paul and Barnabas give us a powerful model.
- Surely this is a familiar situation in our day, some believe, some disbelieve, and others disbelieve aggressively.
- What should this mean for us? It means that as we move forward in the mission to make Jesus known, it will be through opposition. But that opposition should not stop us from moving forward, rather, we can stay a long time, and go forward with reliance on the Lord.
- From verse 5 we understand that they will eventually leave the city after the Jews and Gentiles attempt to put them to death by stoning. But until things get to that point, they stay for a while, the fact that there was some who were against them did not stop them.
- As they remained there, there spoke boldly. Their “speaking boldly” meant they were confident and straightforward in the message they were sharing.
Acts 14:4, But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, while others, with the apostles.
- There it is the people in the city were divided. And the division was centered around the mission of making Jesus known and encouraging people to believe in Him.
John 8:31(a)-32, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- People are divided on many things in our world currently, it is important that we are those seen continuing in God’s Word, that is the description of His true disciples.
- And when you continue in His Word, you will then know the truth (His Word), and it is the truth that sets you free!
- For those who know the truth, are set on continuing in God’s Word and are set free, there is an incredible opportunity, to speak the truth you know to a world in need. As you speak the truth… be bold and go forward with reliance on the Lord!
- Speak What is True
- Paul and Barnabas move on from Iconium and later in this chapter they will head back there to encourage those who have chosen Christ there to continue in the faith.
- From verses 6 to 7 we understand that upon leaving Iconium they go to three cities Lycaonia, Lystra, and Derbe, and the surrounding region, continuing to preach the Gospel.
- In verses 8 to 10, Paul is out preaching the Gospel and there is a man who had never walked, but had heard the Word Paul was preaching, Paul recognized the man’s faith, and he addressed him, and was used by God to bring about physical healing in the man’s life.
- The man who was unable to walk since birth, “leaped up and began to walk!”
Acts 14:11-13, When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us!” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. Moreover, the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.
- It was a large crowd that witnessed the miracle. They were immediately amazed and had an immediate theory about what they had seen.
- The theory they take to immediately is that Paul and Barnabas were gods in human form. They also had a theory as to which gods they thought Paul and Barnabas to be.
- They decided that Paul was Hermes, and Barnabas was Zeus. According to Greek and Roman mythology, Hermes and Zeus were two gods).
- Zeus was believed to be the father of the gods, and Hermes was the speaker of the gods.
- Paul was doing the speaking, so they theorized that he was Hermes, and Barnabas was Zeus.
Illus. Back Story.
- Paul and Barnabas did not speak that language, so, they see that the people are rejoicing and praising, but they don’t seem to realize or know exactly what they were doing initially.
- When Paul and Barnabas finally heard about what the people thought it all meant, they tore their robes.
- Tearing one’s robes was an ancient tradition that expressed horror or grief.
- Rushes out to make sure the reality of the situation is clear. He says, “why are you doing these things! We are mortals just like you.”
- He continued, “turn from these useless things to a living God!” “Useless things” is a word translated elsewhere as “worthless things,” “vanities,” or “idols.”
- Paul tells them to turn away from idols and useless things, turn to the living God, and then he tells them about God: He made heaven the earth and the sea, and everything in them; He did good and gave rains for fruitful seasons, He gave food and gladness.
- Paul is preaching. But His preaching is unlike what we have previously seen. In chapter 13, when Paul was in the synagogue, around Jewish people who knew the Bible, he spoke to them using the Bible.
- In Lystra, he is amongst those who are pagan worshippers, worshipping false gods. So in his sermon, he doesn’t begin with the Bible but he does give a message that is rooted in it.
- The crowd was accustomed to superstitious worship that was built around false gods of nature. He doesn’t give Old Testament references.
- Instead, he says, “here we are in nature, we are in creation, the living one true God created it all, he gave us rain for crops, water in the sea, and food to eat.
Illus. Starting point.
- Paul is on mission, and given the situation, he wants to make sure the truth is given.
- He could have said, “oh, that is just the way they do things here.” But he didn’t, he wanted to make clear who life was all about. It’s all about Jesus.
- He spoke the truth, and he did it in love. and speaking the truth in love is an important opportunity for you and me.
Ephesians 4:14-15, We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Illus. Truth and Love.
- In Acts 14, Paul speaks the truth, he sheds light on the subject. Some come to believe, others deflect, and still others outright reject the truth he was sharing.
Acts 14:18-19, Even by saying these things, only with difficulty did they restrain the crowds from offering sacrifices to them. But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking that he was dead.
- What a group…They first respond to him in hopes of worshipping him, but when he would not accept it, they are won over by those who are opposing him, and decide to stone him.
- This is a familiar story, we just looked recently at Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt, the people shouting and praising, “hosanna, save now in the highest.” But on Friday, their shouts turned to “crucify Him.”
- Paul is stoned. The people believed they had stoned him to death. Some believe that this is when Paul had a glimpse of heaven that he would write about later.
- Those celebrating him, are won over by the Jews who find out where Paul is and come to persecute him in his new location.
- The crowd goes wild in a different way, from wildly celebrating him, to aggressively stoning him.
- The changing conditions of the crowd were true in Jesus’ day, they were true in Paul’s day, and they are true in our day.
Illus. The crowd.
Acts 14:20 (a), But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city…
- Paul was stoned, dragged out the city, and left for dead. But once the disciples stood around him, he got up and went back to the city. Paul faced extreme opposition, but he clearly was on mission. He gets up and heads right back to the city.
Acts 14:20(b) – 26
- The cities mentioned in verses 20 to 26 are cities that Paul and Barnabas had already been. Their goal in going was to strengthen the believers and appoint elders in the churches.
- In verse 22 we get a glimpse of the encouragements Paul and Barnabas were giving the people, “they were strengthening their souls, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “it is through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
- Paul experienced opposition, but he continued on mission. May this be an example for us in our day currently, no matter what we might face.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9, We are pressed (Afflicted) on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. (NLT)