Singing in the night

Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:03
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Last week we saw how the early church handled serious questions about the faith. We saw the church leaders in Jerusalem looking to what the Lord had already done, and what He has revealed in the scriptures to affirm the truth of the gospel, that God accepts everyone who come to Him by faith in Jesus. Then, they sent a letter back to the church in Antioch, along with faithful brothers who would confirm the message of the letter, and there was unity in the church.
Today we will pick up the account of the early church in Acts 15:36, and go through the end of Acts 16.
After coming off this ‘victory’ for the gospel, Paul and Baranbas wanted to continue on with the mission, going to see the churches they had established on their first journey, and spreading the gospel to more areas.
This is what happened.
Acts 15:36–40 NIV
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.


Have you ever had a victory in your life, only to have a setback come quickly on its heals? How did you handle that? How are you handling it, if it is going on right now?
It is easy to become discouraged when there are setbacks in life, when things do not go as we would like. Disagreements are one way that Satan attacks us and tries to get us off target, or derail us as we pursue staying on mission. That is what happened with Paul and Barnabas. How did they handle it?
Both last week and this week, we are seeing disagreements. They were handled in different ways.
Last week, they took that disagreement to the elders of the church in Jerusalem to find a resolution. Today, we see a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, but they don’t take it to the elders of the church in Jerusalem. What is the difference?

Essentials vs. Non-essentials

Last week, the disagreement had to do with the gospel—whether non-Jewish believers had to follow the Law of Moses. That was an essential issue. There needed to be a resolution of which was the correct direction for the church.
Today, we have a difference of opinion, where both have merit. Barnabas saw potential, and wanted to work with John Mark. Paul saw that he was not faithful before, and wanted to take someone along who would be faithful. This is non-essential to the faith. The direction taken here was not going to change the message of the gospel. Both wanted to stay on mission, being witnesses. They just wanted to do it differently. So the solution this time was that they parted ways.

Sometimes we need to agree to disagree and keep going with the mission

The good news is that neither Paul nor Barnabas gave up on the mission. They both stayed on task and did not let this disagreement hinder their work for spreading the good news of Jesus.
What is more, Barnabas was right. John Mark was discipled by Barnabas, and later became a true helper to Peter, and to Paul. He even wrote the gospel of Mark while with Peter.
Paul was also right, and because he went on with Silas, they also found another young man and discipled him to be a leader in the church as well.
So, both men were right, and were able to stay on mission, making disciples.

Trusting God in the Setbacks

The important lesson for us to learn here is that when there are setbacks, when there are disagreements which can be so discouraging, sometimes we have to realize that it is better to go our separate ways and not be discouraged. God is going to work this out, just as He promises. He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. We don’t know how, and in the heat of the moment, we may not see how it is even possible. But from this example with Paul and Barnabas, we have the advantage of seeing the end results, and how God did work things out for the good. Both Paul and Barnabas continued on with the work, and God used them.

God is Faithful

God will work, as we continue to be faithful to follow Him and the direction He is leading us as long as it is not a sinful direction, which in this case neither was.
So, what happened? Well, Luke records what happened with Paul. I already mentioned what happened with Barnabas. Let’s continue on with Acts 16.
Acts 16:1–5 NIV
Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Paul takes Timothy along

This is a great answer to prayer. On the first Journey, Paul and Barnabas took John Mark. Now, without a young man to disciple along the way, Paul and Silas head out and find Timothy.
Timothy was well spoken of by all the believers. This is an important note. Why did Paul take Timothy? Because he was already walking with the Lord, as evidenced by those who saw his life. He was already faithful. We need to be looking for faithful young men and women to disciple and involve in the ministry to raise up the next generations of servant saints.

Difficult Choices

But Paul did something curious. While he was delivering the decisions from the elders in Jerusalem about not needing to follow the Law, he had Timothy circumcised. Why? To not be a stumbling block to the Jews.
Timothy was free to live without being circumcised. He was saved by grace through faith, and did not need to obey the Law. We do not follow the Law for salvation.
He most likely wanted to join Paul, but this is a setback. “I have to do what?” This would be discouraging to me. How is Timothy going to handle it? He went through with it. Why?
Sometimes we need to willingly give up our freedoms, even if it costs us dearly, when we can do something to further the spread of the gospel.
This is a great example of what Paul meant when he said to the Corinthians later,
1 Corinthians 10:31–33 NIV
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Trusting God to use the difficult choice

Timothy saw this setback, and met it head on. This was no easy sacrifice. This was a painful relinquishing of his freedom. This truly cost Timothy. But he was willing to give up his freedoms for the sake of the gospel. It did nothing to benefit him. It was all about what would be good for others so that they might be saved.
The result of all of this is that the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew!
Again, what we would see as a setback, God uses for His glory and the furtherance of the gospel.
Let’s continue on with the account.
Acts 16:6–10 NIV
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
no asia, no bithynia on to mysia

Closed doors

Setback number three. Trying to go and share the gospel, but they could not go where they wanted to go.
Proverbs 16:9 NIV
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Trusting God for direction

Acts 16:11–12 NIV
From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
Travel to Philippi
Acts 16:13–15 NIV
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

A church established in Philippi!

Acts 16:16–24 NIV
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Persecution, Beatings, Stocks

Acts 16:25 NIV
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Trusting God in the setbacks

even after the setbacks
Acts 16:26–34 NIV
Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

God uses their reaction to the setbacks

Acts 16:35–40 NIV
When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

What about me?

How do I handle the setbacks of life?

Romans 8:28 NIV
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Do I trust God’s promise to lead, guide, and work things out for the good for those who love Him?

not for me…

Does my trust in God have evidence? Does it show in my attitude and actions?

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