Sermon: What Happens When the Gospel is Proclaimed? (Acts 14)

What Happens When the Gospel is Proclaimed?

Acts 14

Introduction

What does Gospel ministry look like?  God has called each and every one of us to consistently and boldly proclaim the message of Jesus Christ.  What does that Gospel ministry look like in your life?  How are you doing?  How are you fulfilling God’s command to go into the entire world and make disciples?  Are you a bold witness for Christ or are you sitting on the sidelines hoping someone else will do it?

Beloved our Lord commands us to make disciples to share the Good News, to evangelize as we are going.  How are you doing?  I pray each and every one of us will be encouraged and challenged by our text today.  I pray we will learn Paul’s secret to faithful Gospel witnessing.

TT- We must persevere through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
Human need met by text

One need we have that our text meets today is the need to go boldly into life pushing back the darkness with the Gospel light.  We must stop making excuses and stop putting it off.   Ask yourself, when was the last time a actually spoke with someone and went into the Gospel with them?  I’m not saying mentioning church or Jesus, but actually explaining the Gospel to them?  I would venture to say that most Christians in America rarely if ever share the Gospel.  When we don’t, we have believed lies when it comes to sharing our faith with others:

Lie # 1– Sharing the Gospel is for Pastors…Many think that the pastor gets paid to do that and they are not responsible to share.

Lie #2- We can share the Gospel later…we can always think of a good excuse as to why we really don’t need to share the Gospel now.  Sometimes we formulate a picture perfect scenario of how we think it should be or should work out and once it deviates from that we stop or we suppress the thought of evangelism.  We think that something has to happen in our lives before we can share.  Or we think, I’ll engage in a Gospel ministry once this or that is taken care of…

Lie #3- I can’t share the Gospel here…we too often compartmentalize our lives.  We often segregate our everyday life from our Christian life.  I think we do this so that our responsibility to witness is relieved while we’re at work, school, out and about.  God wants you to be a Christian everywhere you go.  He wants you to share the Gospel everywhere you go.  He wants you to be a bold witness at work, school, at the store etc.  We must be active believers sharing our faith wherever we are.

Lie#4- Because I find it difficult, it must not be the right time…We too often use our circumstances to dictate our actions.  How do you interpret events?  Just because your Gospel witnessing meets with resistance or even animosity, do not interpret that, as God doesn’t want me to do this or to do this now.  We clearly have in His Word the divine order to go and tell…

Notice with me to hardship Paul and he missionary team encounter as they go and tell.  Then notice how they interpret their hardship.

Acts 14:1-28 (ESV)
1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.
2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.
5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them,
6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country,
7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.
8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked.
9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,
10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.
11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”
12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.
13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out,
15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.
17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.
20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,
22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia.
25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia,
26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.
27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.

What happens when the Gospel is Proclaimed?

1.  Those Who Hear are Divided

1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.
2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.
Have you noticed how anyone can say just about anything without a problem?  Have you also noticed that you can say about anything, even mentioning God, but once you mention Jesus everything changes.  Jesus is the great divider.

He said that He would be,

Matthew 10:34 (ESV)
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Jesus also warned His followers what the reaction would be…
John 15:20 (ESV)
20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
Paul and his team speak the Gospel and a great number believe.  These believers are made up of Jews and Gentiles who heard Paul preach in the synagogue.

On a bit of a side note, have you noticed how whenever Paul enters a city he usually goes to the local synagogue to preach?  There, he would find those who were familiar with the OT.  He could build on their knowledge of the Bible and preach or explain Jesus to them from their own Scriptures.

A great many believed…there was also a great many who did not.  What happens is that those who are not persuaded usually fight back.  They don’t just disagree and move on or agree to disagree.  When it comes to Jesus, you cannot remain neutral and often the ones who oppose, oppose violently.  These opponents were made up of the Judaistic Society.  Jew and Gentiles who were part of the Judaistic culture in the city.

Because there was opposition and resistance…3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
They met with resistance…so they continued for a long time.  Many today would not persevere like these early missionaries.  When they meet resistance, they might leave or quit.

Those who heard were divided.  Some believed and other remain in unbelief.

Paul and his team stayed there ministering in a very hostile environment for months or even a couple of years.

When mobs were being formed and the threat of stoning arose, they decided it was time to move on.

6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country,
7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.
2.  Previous Beliefs Are Threatened

11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”
12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.
13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out,
15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.
17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
Notice that here, they didn’t seek out the local synagogue as they did elsewhere.   Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, were in the region of Galatia, as strictly Roman province with little to no Jewish influence.  So here, Paul must change his tactics.  He cannot preach in the synagogue to those who know who the God of the OT is, but must take another strategy in sharing the Gospel.  He finds a man who was lame.

8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked.
9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,
10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.
God was gracious in performing a miracle so that the words of Paul would be heard.  I’m sure this wasn’t what Paul had in mind.

In Jewish areas, Paul went to the synagogue and explained from the OT how God all through the ages had predicted the coming Messiah and how the Scriptures more specifically tell that the Messiah would be from the lineage of David.

Here, he didn’t have that foundation to build upon.  He goes a different route.  He explains that they have been worshipping gods but their worship is in vain because their gods are not really gods at all.  He introduces them to the true and living God.

He goes on to tell them that even though they worshipped false gods, the true God, for a time has been good to them…

15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.
17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
The problem here, as with the Jews, is that previous beliefs are threatened.  He tells the Jews that the Scriptures they grew up with didn’t tell them how to work for salvation but tell them about Jesus the Messiah…they didn’t like being told they were wrong.  Here, Paul tells these worshippers of idols that their worship is vain and their idols nothing.

3.  The Messengers Become Targets

19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.

Paul heals the lame man, preaches the Good News, shows them their sin and calls them to repent and be saved…and gets stoned by the people.  These were probably some of the same Jews from Antioch who wanted to stone Paul there.  They must have travelled behind Paul inciting those in Lystra to go along with them in this mob execution.

Paul wasn’t dead.  They just thought he was.  He wasn’t far from death, being unconscious they drug him out of the city and left him for dead.  Hours before they were singing Paul and Barnabas praised declaring them to be gods only to be moved to kill Paul.

If you speak the truth in love, you will become a target.  People do not like being told the truth when they are living in deception and sin.  If you seek to engage with our culture, you will become a target.  Here they wanted to kill Paul.  Rather than considering their message, they would rather live in sin and die in sin.

No doubt, there were some who believed their message.  It was Paul’s first journey through Galatia that a church was started…He would write them,

Galatians 6:17 (ESV)
17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.


20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.
4. The Messengers Must Remain Faithful
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,
22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia.
25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia,
26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.
27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.

Derbe lies further to the east at the edge of the Galatian territory.  They go there to preach the Gospel to those in that city.  They preached and made many disciples there.  Then, they head back the same way they came.  The first missionary journey has ended so they go back and encourage and strengthen the new believers in the cities they just came from.
Who better to encourage new believers to remain steadfast even in persecution than someone who has done it.  No one was persecuted like Paul.  Still carrying the scars of persecution, he could sit down with the believers and encourage them to remain true and faithful while they endured persecution.
Paul was fulfilling what Jesus had spoken to Ananias…
Acts 9:15-16 (ESV)
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Now, they would not go publically preaching the Gospel but privately they would encourage and strengthen the believers.  They also did something else that would prove vital in the growth and maturity of the new converts, appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
I mentioned at the beginning that we would see Paul’s secret to a faithful Gospel ministry.  He gives it to us in verse…

that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Must- is Paul’s way of saying that it is God’s divine plan to bring about persecution of His followers.  This is how we grow and do battle with the enemy.  This is also how we prove that we truly are children of God… 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Beloved, we must suffer.  There is no way around it.  We will struggle in this life.  But struggling and suffering is not in opposition to God divine sovereignty and power.

Finally, notice Paul’s assessment of their first missionary journey-

27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
John Mark quits, Bar-Jesus the magician opposes them and Paul curses him with blindness, Jews oppose Paul at Pisidia Antioch and stirred up persecution against them, threatening to stone them, In Iconium the Jews poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and the rest, In Lystra they were worshipped as gods, threatened and Paul was stoned and left for dead… he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
What does Gospel ministry look like?  Whatever you have in mind and whatever simple answer you might give…forget it.  You will never be able to plan or strategize for it.  We simply must be ready for whatever opportunities God has for us.

I pray in the coming year we make 2014 a year of faithful evangelism to those we know.  Be on an adventure with God and see what He has waiting for us.

TT- We must persevere through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

 

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