Acts chapter thirteen begins the final section in the book of Acts. Warren Wiersbe calls this section, “the period of triumph.” This was a time in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to the Roman world and local churches were established. When we come to Acts chapter fourteen, we find some very interesting insight into the life of a missionary.
Missionaries suffer for Christ. Look at Acts 14:1-20. There is an underlining theme that we see in Paul’s missionary journeys. This theme is the fact that wherever the Gospel is preached you will find division and disturbance. There will always be those who oppose the Gospel. This opposition is driven by our enemy, Satan. Anytime the Gospel is preached, anytime there is a concentrated effort to evangelize the lost, there are always attacks from Satan. These attacks come in many different forms. First of all, attacks on the proclamation of the Gospel come from pagan society. Paul came to Lystra in order to preach the Gospel. While he was there, God used Paul to heal a crippled man in order to demonstrate the power of God. As a result, the people thought Paul and Barnabas to be gods. They thought that Paul and Barnabas were their gods that came down in the likeness of men and they sought to make sacrifices to them and to worship them. Paul and Barnabas were naturally very disturbed by this and they tried to persuade the people that there is only one true God who created all things and He is the only one worthy of worship. Paul used the means of natural revelation in order to point them to the Gospel. It is interesting to note that when Paul spoke to the Jews, he would refer to the special revelation of scriptures and when he spoke to the Gentile pagan society, he would refer to the natural revelation of God’s creation. Read Romans 1:18-25. Even those who do not have access to the Gospel, God has revealed Himself to them through creation. Sadly, most people do not respond to that revelation and they worship the creation rather than the creator. Satan uses pagan society to attack the Gospel and to hinder people from coming to the Gospel by twisting the truth of God in their minds and drawing them to worship others things instead of seeking after God. We see Satan doing the same thing even in our advanced culture in America. He has infiltrated the education system in order to pull people away from the truth and to teach them the lie of evolution and other false religions. He has infiltrated the science community by drawing them to focus on the creation rather than on the creator. He has infiltrated our government by putting men and women in office who seek to destroy the Christian principles on which this nation was founded. As a result, unbelievers have been given over to their sinful ways and have begun a downward spiral of shameful immoral sins as we see listed in Romans 1:26-32. My friend, America is no longer a ‘Christian’ nation. We live in a very pagan society and as a result the Gospel is under attack and those who proclaim the Gospel are also under attack by pagan society. Satan not only uses pagan society to bring attacks on the Gospel, but he also brings attacks on the proclamation of the Gospel from religious society. Notice in Acts 14:19-20 how that the Jews heard where Paul was and came and stoned him. The Jews in this passage represent the religious society. They were a religious people. They knew the scriptures. They claimed to worship God. Yet, they had only a ‘head’ knowledge. Their lives had not been changed by the transforming power of Jesus. Satan is still using the same tactic today. Think of all the liberal churches out there today. People who claim the name of ‘Christian’ yet they do not preach the Gospel. Satan has used religious institutions and churches to hinder the cause of Christ. He has infiltrated the religious society by causing them to question the validity of the scriptures and to not take the word of God for what it says. He has used the academic world to infiltrate the minds of the religious by convincing them to believe the lies that God did not create the world exactly the way He said He did as recorded in the book of Genesis. We need to understand that anything that brings to question what the Bible says is an attack on the Gospel of Jesus Christ by none other than Satan himself. Sadly, many good and even God-fearing people have bought into the lie of Satan and have not accepted the Bible simply for what it says. They have to reason it out and try to figure it out in their own minds instead of taking the truth of God for what it says and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we have many false theologies and distortions of the truth. This is all a tactic of Satan to keep the true Gospel message from falling upon the hearts of all who still have not believed. A third method of attack by Satan is the attacks on the proclamation of Gospel from those within the church. This is the most hideous and paralyzing attack on the Gospel known to man. Satan loves to use God’s own people to hinder the work of proclaiming the Gospel. He capitalizes on division and strife within the church. He uses simple disagreements and blows them out of proportion in order to get us focused on ourselves and who is right and who is wrong, rather than focusing on what we are called to do. He stirs within us our own personal preferences and likes and dislikes in order to take our focus off of proclaiming the Gospel. He plants lies into the hearts of believers such as the idea that ourselves or a certain group is to be in control of the church or that the money that the church has is somehow ours to control. When our concern is over who has a certain position or who we think should be ‘in charge’ we are hindering the Gospel. When we focus on how we should or should not spend the money, we are hindering the Gospel. When we focus on our personal preferences such as the style of music or the way the preacher preaches, we are hindering the Gospel. All of these things are things that Satan uses in order to distract us and to get our focus off of what God has called us to do. It is an attack on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Brothers and Sisters, we must not allow Satan to use us as a hindrance to the Gospel. We must all learn to submit ourselves to Jesus Christ and to the authority of scripture. We must learn to put aside our personal preferences for the sake of a unified vision and focus of getting the Gospel to the world. When the Gospel is preached, there will be attacks. Those who are faithful in proclaiming the Gospel will suffer for it. Don’t allow those attacks to deter you from faithfully proclaiming the Gospel. Be a missionary and embrace the suffering in way that God will use your suffering for His ultimate good in bringing the Gospel to the world.
Missionaries establish Bible-teaching churches. Look at Acts 14:21-24. Here we find Paul and Barnabas establishing disciple making churches. There are several purposes of the church that we see here. First of all, the purpose of the church is to strengthen believers in the faith. Look at Ephesians 4:11-16. Here we find that God has given to us certain leaders in order to equip us for ministry, encourage us, teach us true doctrine, and to protect us from false doctrine. These leaders are the same as the elders that Paul appointed in Acts 14 who are gifted in the areas of pastoring, teaching, and evangelizing. Paul and Barnabas ‘appointed’ these elders. The word ‘appointed’ has a double significance. It means to ‘designate’ as well as to ‘elect by popular vote.’ Apparently, the Apostles selected the best candidates and then the church confirmed their selections by a vote. These elders are the same as a bishop or a pastor. These were to be men who would oversee the work of the church. Their primary responsibility is what we see in Ephesians: to strengthen the believers. A second purpose of the church is to encourage believers to persevere. Paul and Barnabas established churches so that believers would be encouraged to remain faithful. What are they to remain faithful to? They are to remain faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel. They are encouraged to endure tribulations for the sake of the Gospel. There are a lot of great evangelistic organizations out there today, but none can replace the work of the local church. It is through the local church that believers are strengthened and equipped in order that the world may hear and receive the Gospel.
Missionaries report to the local church. Read Acts 14:25-28. Notice how Paul and Barnabas reported to the church all that God was doing on through their missionary endeavors. Even though we have various denominations and mission boards, the final responsibility in sending missionaries is the local church. Paul and Barnabas were sent out of the church at Antioch, so they went back and reported to them. They were responsible to the church. When I think of all the missionaries that our church supports, I like to look at each of those missionaries as staff people of our church. They are appointed and sent out by the church for the purpose of bringing the Gospel to the world. It is not just their ministry that we happen to support financially. Each of those mission fields are ministries of the local church where I pastor. Therefore, those missionaries report back to us so that we can rejoice in the work that God is doing and so that we can know how we can better assist them in the work that they are called to do. There is a principle we see here and that is that ministry flows out of the local church. Every believer should attach themselves to a local church where they can grow in their faith and be equipped to serve. If you are looking for a church, I encourage you to find a church that does not just meet your needs, but a church that will equip you to use your spiritual gifts for the work of the ministry. Find a church that will seek to involve you in the work of bringing the Gospel to the world.
Every born-again believer is called by God to be a missionary. You may not be called to go to foreign field, but you are called to be a part of proclaiming the Gospel through the ministry of the local church that you attend. Be a missionary today!