Spreading the Supremacy of Christ
In Acts 13-14 Paul and Barnabas embark on the first of three missionary journeys. The Christian mission is not merely to build houses and help people do a little better. It’s not less than that, but it is much much more. This is not merely the story of two guys walking around convincing others to believe something different. The Christian mission is to reestablish supremacy of Christ among all the peoples of the world, starting with us.
This morning we are beginning a brand new section of the great book of Acts. Till now, in Acts 1-12, we have seen the gospel of Jesus Christ expand outward, from Jerusalem, tearing down every conceivable racial, social, and spiritual barrier. Jesus is calling out a new people of His own from every tribe, tongue, and nation. God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” is being fulfilled. From here, in Acts 13-28, Luke (the author) will focus in on the three missionary journey’s of the Apostle Paul as the gospel makes its way to Rome. It is fascinating to consider that the entire western church rests upon these three journeys. We’re here today, in large part, because of them.
Today, we’re going to tackle the entirety of Paul’s first missionary journey in Acts 13-14. The entire journey took Paul and Barnabas the better part of two years. It will take us the better part of 50 minutes. If you’ve been looking for a reason to use your maps in the back of your Bible, you have one today (or look on the back of these notes). You might ask, “Why look at such a large section of scripture?” Because I want you to see the big picture that gets lost otherwise. As we walk through this, be asking two questions of the text. First, is there a pattern behind the mission? Second, what does all of this tell me about what God is like?
The Christian mission is not merely to build houses and help people do a little better. It’s not less than that, but it is much much more. If our understanding of Jesus’ mission is restricted to that, we’ll view the mission as fairly insignificant. In fact, the reality couldn’t be more different. God’s goal in history is to display his glory for the good of all people, everywhere, through Jesus Christ. God’s “glory” is a packed term. Honestly, we need to talk about it more. God’s glory is one word that is used to refer to God’s eternal beauty, immeasurable value, unparalleled joy, and matchless worth. What we need more than anything else is to be in deep, vital, real, abiding relationship with this God through Jesus Christ. To love others is to point others to this God. How could we not? That’s the heart of the mission of God: to spread the name and news of the supreme value, worth in the universe – Jesus Christ.
As we approach this, we could look at this section and say “Well, just looks like a couple guys walking around trying to convince others to believe something different.” Doing so would be to miss the point. God’s mission is to reestablish the supremacy of Christ among all the people of the world, starting in this room. That’s also the goal of all Christian preaching. We see God’s heart for the nations throughout the Bible:
Ps 97:1 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice…
Ps67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy…
Ps 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord…
Ps 22:27 All the families of the nations shall worship before you…
Ps 66:4 All the earth worships you, and sings praises to you…
Rev 5:9 …ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
What does this tell us? It tells us that our God is not aloof, ambivalent, disconnected, passive, indecisive, in maintenance mode, coasting, or drifting. Rather, Jesus is a searching, sending and saving God. The book of Acts is a description of God’s heart to seek and save the lost in narrative form. So, the big idea today is this: God sends His people into the world to spread the infinite value and worth of Jesus Christ to the nations. We are a part of that.
Antioch is a diverse city which produced a diverse church, reflected in its diversity of leadership: Barnabas (Cyprus), Simeon (probably from northern Africa), Lucius (northern Africa), Manaen (elite, culture maker) and Saul (brilliant classically trained Jew converted Christian). God loves making diverse people family. Why? Because unity in diversity more powerful than unity of uniformity. Here they are worshipping together with the church. “They” is likely a reference to the entire church, not only the named leaders. This is my prayer for our church. We aim to focus on the depth of our work, while letting God take care of the breadth.
One thing I want to highlight here is the context that led to the first missionary journey, namely, worship. This presents an important truth. Mission is the overflow of worship. “Mission is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Piper The secret to all mission is worship. Why? You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.
Where passion for God is weak, passion for His mission will be weak.
Also, don’t miss that the calling of Paul and Barnabas happened in the context of a worshipping community. Often, I get asked questions about calling, “How do I know if I’m called?” The passage provides a helpful principle: Get deeply involved in a worshipping community. Within that type of community you can be tested, qualified, discover your gifts, receive affirmation and have others who know you speak into your life. You might say, “Well, this is about the calling of Paul and Barnabas, not us.” Yes, but we’re all sent. John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Some of us are called to go across the world with gospel, everyone is called to go across the street.
Seleucia was 15 miles from Antioch. Cyprus was another 75 miles. They landed at Salamis, which was the largest city on island and proclaimed the gospel, east to west, across the island (about 100mi). Here Paul solidifies his pattern of first visiting synagogues. In Paphos, they encounter Bar-Jesus or Bar-Joshua, meaning “Son of Joshua. This was not a reference to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, but some other Jesus, as it was a common name. Elymas is described as a false prophet and seemingly served as a spiritual advisor to Sergius Paulos.
Paul, “filled w/ the Holy Spirit” gives him a strong rebuke. This is not an angry, flying-off-the-handle, unstable, unloving rebuke. Paul knows there are not many paths, but one path to God with many deceptive counterfeits. He is passionately opposed, as God is, to anything or anyone that serves as an obstacle to that truth. We see the same things with Jesus during his ministry. At one point he says, “You are of your father the devil…” (John 8:44). The most loving thing we can do is point people to Jesus Christ. The worst, most unloving, thing we can do it block someone from Jesus. Christianity is a faith system of truth and grace. Not merely truth (religion) and not merely grace (irreligion), but truth and grace. There is a significant place for truth-filled gracious words. Hard words produce soft people, soft words produce hard people.
The result of this encounter is the conversion of an intellectual Roman officer with no official religious background – very much like Seattle. Right out of the gate, Luke wants us to see that Christianity is not merely for religious types and unthinking spiritual seekers. Here was a brilliant man with no official religious background.
13:13-52 Pisidian Antioch
From Paphos, Paul and Barnabas sailed to Perga (112miles) and then continued on there way to Pisidia Antioch. Antioch was a civil/military center and the leading city of the region of Galatia. At this point John leaves. We don’t know why. What follows is the first recorded sermon of Apostle Paul and in it we get to see how he explains the gospel to Jewish people. The main theme of his message is that Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s gracious promises. Israels’ history is one of God graciously initiating and Israel stubbornly refusing. Paul ends with a call to not repeat the mistakes of their forefathers.
Here, we also see four elements of every gospel presentation in the book of Acts:
#1 Jesus is the promised Messiah (Savior) in the scriptures.
#2 Jesus was wrongfully killed as foretold in the scriptures.
#3 Jesus was bodily raised from the grave as foretold in the scriptures.
#4 Everyone must turn from their sin and trust Him to be forgiven their sin.
vs38 “through this man, forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you…by him everyone who believes is freed…” This means that every sin you have, you are or you will commit can be forgiven – if you trust Him. Every other religions is powered by rules. Christianity is powered by grace.
Rules can’t set you free. Only trusting Jesus sets us free.
vs46 “judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life…” Paul ends with a loving, but stern warning. We all have a choice between life and death. Everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus. Some are personal enemies. Some are personal friends. His offer of forgiveness, adoption, and life are freely and readily made available by him.
vs48 “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” Does the Bible really teach that? Yes. In fact, this is one of the clearest statements of predestination in the Scriptures.
Acts 16:14 “the Lord opened her heart…”
Rom 8:29 “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”
Eph 1:5 “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…”
Eph 1:11 “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will
1 Peter 1:3 “He has caused us to be born again…”
This is an unbelievable truth. It means that you chose God b/c God chose you before foundation of the world. The only reason you believe is because God opened your eyes. Apart from his mercy, would never have known his mercy.
Q: Doesn’t Bible also teach that we need to choose? Yes.
Q: How do they work together? Mystery. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God” Dt29:29
Q: How does this work our practically? You live like its all up to you, while trusting it is all up to him. Rather than creating laziness and slot, this doctrine brings great confidence and courage (as we see in the life of Paul)
Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s promises. 2Cor1:20 “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus]” First, we see an intellectual Roman officer converted to Christ. Second, we see Jews and God-fearing Gentiles converted. Luke wants us to see that the Gospel is for all people, everywhere.
They move to Iconium and experience great division, some believe and some do not. If the Apostle Paul couldn’t control the results of His ministry, neither can we. We can’t change someone’s heart. Our role is to be faithful and then leave results to Him.
14:8-21a Lystra and Derbe
Paul and Barnabas head to Lystra and Derbe. Here we have the only recorded address to illiterate pagans. So, its insightful. [Give background on Zeus & Hermes by Ovid.] Instead of appealing to the Scriptures, Paul appeals to general revelation and God’s fingerprints made evident all around us and inside us. (cf. Rom 1) The big idea here is that Jesus is the God who made all that is. We move from intellectual Roman officer, to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles to superstitious illiterate pagans.
14:21b-28 Return Home
Paul and Barnabas head back home, strengthening souls of disciples, encouraging them to continue in faith and expect there to be many tribulations. He also appoints elders in every town, telling us that church planting was his main missionary strategy. The entire journey was 895 miles. Paul and Barnabas remain in Antioch for 2 months to a year. It was during this stay in Antioch that Paul writes his letter to the churches in Galatia. (i.e. Galatians)
Q#1 What is the pattern?
If we look over Paul’s missionary journey we can see a pattern begin to emerge that we can learn from today.
SHARE Paul and Barnabas embrace their identity and calling as missionaries and live sent-lives, speaking/sharing/proclaiming the gospel. The gospel must be spoken.
OPPOSITION Secondly, opposition is inevitable. We shouldn’t be surprised.
PERSEVERE The key is to not let the opposition cause you to quite, but rather, lean into Jesus, press ahead, trust him, if you do…
FRUIT You will see God work through you. There is no greater joy than seeing God work through you. In fact, it is the greatest thing that can happen to human being. We are made for partnership with God. Yes, thank God for your careers. But, know God put you there on purpose. That’s your mission field.
You are not where you are on accident, but by His perfect design. Take root and bear fruit where you are planted.
GLORY As you do that, God will be glorified. We will make God look as good as He is as we live our lives for him.
Q#2 What does this tell me about what God is like? What do we learn about heart of God?
Jesus wants everyone, everywhere to know him, love him, embrace him, bank your life on Him. That’s what underlies all mission.
In this section alone we see the gospel going to synagogue officials, Jews, God-fearers, devout women, leading men, elites, simple, Gentiles.
The same is true today. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people everywhere. Christ is the object of supreme worth and value in the universe and is for all people.
Smart+Simple. Soft+Calloused. Religious+ Irreligious. Literate+Illiterate. Close+Far. Clean+ Unclean.Asians+Latinos+Caucasians+Africans+Indians. Professional+Criminal.Lawyers+Bankers+Accountants+Teachers+Engineers+Administrators+Architects+Students. Strippers+Drug dealers+Thugs+SexOffenders+ Murderers+ Cheaters+Liars+Perverts.Rich+ Poor. Married+Divorced. Singles+Widows. Faithful+Faithless. Young+Old+Middle aged. Successful+Failures. Somebodies+Nobodies. Hopeful+Hopeless. Heterosexual+Bisexual+Trans-sexual+Homosexual.Broken+Disturbed+Addicted. Downcast+Downtrodden. Sci-fi fans. Country, rap, jazz and R&B fans. Nerds+Geeks. Cool+Hip. Self-righteous+Self-promoting+Self-confident. Ambivalent+disinterested. Wise+foolish. Jaded+Gullible. Weak+strong.
Jesus invites everyone, everywhere to put their trust in Him. To turn from self and bank your life on Him. He made you. Everything good in your life is from him. Your hunger for lasting satisfaction, real love, a faithful One, true freedom, adventure, true joy, eternal security, to be fully known, deeper purpose in life are all fully provided in Him, by Him, through Him.
He is the King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Rock of Ages. Alpha and Omega. Limitless in love. Perfectly steadfast. Unending in grace, power and mercy. God’s Son. Sinner’s Savior. He is unparalleled, unprecedented. He is entirely sincere. All things were created by Him, for Him, in Him. Centerpiece of civilization. All-sufficient savior. Supplies strength to weak. Hope to the hopeless. Faith to the faithless. Joy to the joyless. Forgiveness to unforgiven. Always ready, willing and able. He sympathizes and saves. Available to the tempted and tried. Sustains and soothes. Guards and guides. Forgives, heals, cleans, delivers and serves. Roadway to righteousness. Highway to holiness. Gateway to glory. His goodness is limitless. His love never changes. His grace is forever. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Indescribable. Incomprehensible. Irresistible. He is Supreme.
The Christian mission is to reestablish supremacy of Christ among all the peoples of the world, starting in this room.
Let him take your breath away – forever. Let your worship of Him overflow into mission with Him. Where passion for God is strong, passion for his mission will be strong. Let’s share this good news in this city and cities of the world; praying for open hearts, open doors, open mouths. We don’t know what He is doing, but we do know Its going to awesome.