Paul's Writing

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This is the last of our focus on the Book of Acts.
I hope that this dip into this book has brought some issues to light for you and your walk with God.
This morning we are going to focus in just for a short while on the ministry of Paul.
For most of the book we have been looking at the Beginning of a movement, but we want to end off this series by taking a look at the man God used in a powerful way to not only give us God’s written Word, but to model a lifestyle of a follower of Christ.
Last week for those of you who were hear or listened to the sermon on the website and you took on the challenge I left with you last Sunday.
I’m not looking for a show of hands, but I left you with this challenge
May I challenge you this week to write out, tell someone, give testimony to God working in your life.
If you write it down, I would love to hear it
Do we look back at the many things God has done in our lives?
To be honest, I often am so focused on what the future may look like that I move on, and often too quickly, left the past in the past.
What about you.
How was your week. Was God speaking to you this past week?
Did you come this morning with a rejoicing spirit excited to celebrate the Goodness of God with fellow believers,
or did you come this morning with a weary heart because it has been a tough week and you came to be filled once again by the encouragement of God’s Word, and the fellowship of other believers.
You see both of these states of mind Paul experienced in his walk.
There were moments in time when everything seemed to be running great. Blessings upon blessings were flowing through his ministry, yet sometimes it was just plain hard.
In both of these Times as we will look into the life of Paul we see a consistent Paul.
Pressing forward
Philippians 3:14 ESV
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul lived these words and as we look into the passage this morning we are going to see two sides of Paul.
Turn with me to the 17th chapter in the book of acts and jump into Paul’s journey
Acts 17:2–4 ESV
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

Paul’s Custom

Paul’s custom.
Here at the church we have said that a disciple of Christ is one who is seeking to know God while being transformed into the image of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit in the context of community.
Paul went to church as a custom.
What brought you here this morning.
I can tell you why Paul came to church.
To discuss the written Word of God.
His primary reason to gather at the synagogue was to come to the Jewish people and open up God’s Word and show them that all of the Old Testament was written to show the coming of Christ.
Look at verse 3
Acts 17:3 ESV
3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
I often get confused by leaders who want nothing to do with the Old Testament as we are followers of Christ.
They cry out. Only read the NT and Paul’s Words as we follow Christ.
Remember, Paul used the OT scripture to show that they were all pointing to the fact of Christ’s work on the cross.
Paul spent time with the people Sabbath after Sabbath and as we see in verse 4, many turned to follow the way of Christ.
Before we read any further, I don’t want to skip over these folks in this city.
You see they became very dear friends to Paul and it was no small turning point in their lives.
Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians and we are going to see a story behind Acts 17
1 Thessalonians 1 ESV
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Examples of the Faith

When history books are written, what will they say about you and me?
Back in the 90’s when I was early in my ministry, as we sat around a table and planned what we needed to do, we felt called as leaders of a church to move the church forward following a model set out by a famous church that seemed to be attracting people.
Not only where they attracting people, but people were being saved and following Christ.
We set out to explore there methodology, to visit their facility to gain an understanding of what secret formula was working in their midst.
Many other churches did the same and I know of many churches fully embraced the methodology down even to the design model of the building.
Examples of the faith don’t always work that way.
But what I can tell you is that these folks listed in scripture had one example we should look at.
Their example of turning to God came at a great cost.
Turn back to Acts 17:5-9
Acts 17:5–9 ESV
5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Paul came into the city and with the message of Christ turned the city upside down.
They made such a powerful impact on the people.
And when this always happens the focus was taken off of others. and what happened
Why do we always want to compare.
Are you trying to compete with the Jones.
do you look around your friends and even your neighbours and that small jealous voice tries to reach into our heads and say.
Hey why do they have that and I don’t.
Why is there plan successful and mine isn’t
A conflict arose in this town.
The synagogue leaders where losing their control. The people began to follow the Way.
Follow the teachings of Paul through the spirit working among them and there was conflict.
If there is one thing that Covid has taught us is how do we handle conflict.
As I sit on the district board of the EFC here in BC and hear of other friends churches, Covid has caused divisions among the people of God.
In some cases, and I am so grateful that it hasn’t been here, but some churches had divided over the issue of how does on respond to Covid.
This week I continued in a course and the concept of conflict came up.
This was one of the progressions that conflict can take
steps of Conflict
Problem identified, working together to solve
Disagreement, but I want to come out looking good
Contest- I want to win even if you look bad
Fight/Flight- I want to hurt you even if I escape
Intractable- I will hurt you
Many of the people were in the later stages of conflict as some of the brothers, were shouting.
Look at Paul’s letter,
1 Thessalonians 2:14 ESV
14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,
How would you like to start a ministry like that.
You come to faith only to be dragged in the public square and challenged.
What is interesting to note is that they people didn’t flee.
They stayed. They persisted. They held onto the faith.
In fact they realized that things could get worse and sent Paul and Silas off to another place by night.
One person wrote,
The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 28: Acts (Turning the World Upside Down)
With that Luke’s account of the ministry in Thessalonica comes to an abrupt close. Paul and Silas were secretly sent on their way by a firmly established church. But these new and beloved converts were never off the apostle’s mind. .......
That’s the reason he wrote what I believe to be the first of his epistles to the new church in Thessalonica from Corinth a brief time later. The letters review Paul’s essential message: the Lordship of Christ, conversion, the blessing of His Spirit, how to pray, and how to live in the spontaneity of the Spirit without quenching His inner fire.
Now we find the Trio in a town called Berea.
When you go to seminary and you begin to talk among other soon to be Pastors we all agree that this type of church would be wonderful to be called to.
Look at the second part of verse 11
Acts 17:11 (ESV)
11 ......... they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
As Pastors we love to hear a great desire among the people who have a passion to study the scripture.
To diligently pour over the scriptures to have it as the most important book on their shelf and that they are not satisfied enough to hear, but to examine for themselves the truths that they have been told.
I could image that this was a high point in Paul’s ministry.
People were excited, about searching the scripture and it was a great passion.
It would be one of those times in the life of Paul we often describe as a spiritual high event.
those moments when you see God working in your life.
Yet it is in those high moments,
that the forces that work against God,
try desperately to disrupt the working of God.
We once again see the crowd disturbers move there way down and bring confusion along with them.
So what happens, Paul is moved along
once again he is ushered along,
yet this time he is sent alone.
He finds himself alone in Athens.
Scripture doesn’t explain why the triad was separated. We don’t know why
Some believe that the crowd would bring harm to Paul but not the others.
Some believe that the crowd of disgruntled Jews had the ear of the government and were out to harm Paul alone.
Paul finds himself ushered away alone.
the companions that escorted him to Athens are told to tell his to meet up with him.
For me, I think Paul may have been lonely for the team. It is this point, I would assume we can adequately assume Paul was an extrovert. He needed people to be personally rejuvenated.
Paul’s ministry was marked in the context of community and he longed to do ministry together.

Paul in Athens

We now move to Paul’s work in Athens
While Paul finds himself in Athens and waiting for his companions he begins to walk around the town.
As was his practice he spent the Sabbath in the synagogue, but the other days was out with the people.
Paul the missionary and not the tourist.
Athens, A city known for the great thinkers of the time.
Notice Paul began to connect with people and dialogue with them.
Remember last week I mentioned that God’s plans don’t change but ours do as we meet up with God’s plan.
One person wrote,
Now Paul was in Athens, under circumstances not altogether what he would have planned. He was waiting for Silas and Timothy to come before beginning his mission in Athens. But the rampant idolatry he saw around him compelled him to present the claims of Christ to Jews and “God-fearing” Gentiles in the synagogue on the Sabbath and to whoever would listen in the agora (marketplace) on weekdays. As with Jeremiah (cf. Jer 20:9), “the word of God” burned within Paul like a fire in his bones, and he could not keep silent.
Longenecker, R. N. (1981). The Acts of the Apostles. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts (Vol. 9, p. 472). Zondervan Publishing House.
This passage outlined in Acts 17 is one of the greatest apologetic discourse one could read.
You see, Paul started with where they were at.
They had no understanding of Scripture or the ancient prophecies, but they relied upon their ancient worship.

To the unknown God

Someone outlined this sermon like this
He proclaims God as creator, who does not need temples because, he himself gives to all man life and breath and everything ( 25 Paul affirms humanity united ancestry in Adam and gods rule over the histories of nation. God does this so that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way towards him and find him verse seven
Paul then quotes two Greek writers to show that as God’s creatures we are dependent on the creator and should therefore shun idolatry (28 and 29). In doing so, Paul affirms that God reveals himself in his control of history so that human brings beings might seek and find their maker. God mercifully has not brought immediate judgment to idolaters. However, now that Christ has died and risen, God will no longer tolerate such ignorance but will judge the world and right this man he has been appointed., even Christ (31 )
At this point he moves from speaking about general revelation to special revelation. he proclaims Christ as the risen one and judge. Because God is full of mercy and patience, he commands all people everywhere to repent ( 30) of their idolatry he wants the gospel to go everywhere in his general call, and through the general Call makes a special call that effectively brings many to Christ.
Stop for a moment.
Think about what is happening
Paul is now in a place by himself. I believe it was the first time in this missionary journey.
He has seen conversions in the last two places, people have chosen to follow God and their choice is met with opposition, yet they remain strong. There is excitement in this type of ministry
Now he is in the greatest place for discussion and thought.
He presents what many use as the greatest apologetic message given.
What was the response.
Acts 17:32 ESV
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
The majority of the “Great Minds” mocked him, so he left with a few followers. and time to wait to be heard again.
So what do we take away from this part of Paul’s Journey,
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 9: John and Acts 3. The Response to Paul’s Address (17:32–34)

Paul obviously failed to convince the council of the truth of his message, and he evidently failed as well to gain the freedom of the city and the right to propagate his views. The council decided to hold the matter in abeyance for a time. But Paul could tell from this first meeting that sentiment was against him.

His hands were tied to speak in public. What does a evangelist do when faced with the concept of your current location doesn’t allow you to speak.
Well he could wait for the council to, wait for a time they would allow him to speak.
How long should he wait. Some where coming to the truth and following Christ, but in the eyes of Man, this was not a successful event.
One commentary states it this way
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 9: John and Acts (3. The Response to Paul’s Address (17:32–34))
We should remember, however, that going to Athens was not part of Paul’s original missionary strategy, nor did he expect to begin work there till Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia. Moreover, there were some converts at Athens, and we should not minimize the working of God’s Spirit or Paul’s message because only a few responded or because we don’t know what happened to them afterward. Still, the outreach of the gospel at Athens was cut off before it really began, and in overall terms the Christian mission in the city must be judged a failure. But the reason the gospel did not take root there probably lay more in the attitude of the Athenians themselves than in Paul’s approach or in what he said.
The second take away from this text is what did this do to Paul. What what his reaction?
As I looked into this text and explored the thoughts of others I came up with a few questions.
How was Paul feeling of the Success of his ministry?
His calling by God hadn’t changed, Some even argue that after this encounter his methodology on presenting the message changed, but what about Paul.
In ministry, how does one respond when human success is not meeting personal expectation.
When you have a personal expectation of what should happen in what God has called you to do and you are met with unfulfilled outcomes. How are you to respond?
Do you stop?
You have spent months working with a neighbor or co-worker on sharing the gospel only to be told, stop telling me about this?
You have been working with a family member and it seems to be going no where in any direction towards Christ, how do you respond.
Again, when you personal expectation of ministry is not fulfilled, how do you respond?
A good take away from this is that ministry has moments of unmet expectations, but we need to face what it does for us personally.

Paul’s response

Luke quickly moves on by saying in Chapter 18
After this......
If you read deeply into this passage you will be able to tell this was a low point in the ministry of Paul.
The darting words of failure had touched Paul’s heart and he was feeling the affects.
its been stated

In fact, matters seemed to have gone from bad to worse at Athens, where he was dismissed with polite contempt rather than being violently driven out. So he must have traveled from Athens to Corinth in a dejected mood, wondering what worse could happen and why God had allowed matters to fall out so badly.

Later Paul even wrote
1 Corinthians 2:3 ESV
3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
If you are thinking was Paul struggling with his calling, look at the text.
Finding like minded people in his trade, Priscilla and Aquila he went back to work...... main focus upon his trade.
yet, he was still preaching
Acts 18:4 ESV
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
He was quick to judge their responses
Acts 18:6 ESV
6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
a bit of frustration in his voice.
Folks, Paul was human. He was a man obeying God’s calling on his life and yet struggled with the reality of his own expectations of that calling.
Any ministry that God has called you to do will have moments of doubt.
In those moments, God’s Grace will come pouring in to help.
It did for Paul, the human words of discouragement were overcome when God came and spoke.
Acts 18:9–11 ESV
9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
it was because of this moment in Paul’s ministry that he could later write to that church these words,
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
In those moments when we feel week, Christ will rest upon us.

In Summary

Where are you today?
Is your ministry God has called you to seemed to be stalled? Has the world and those in your life seem to be casting you in a moment of questioning God’s work in your life.
Hang on to God’s promises.. God’s power will come and restore you when we give it all to Him
As the worship team comes forward to lead us through a response to worship, may I challenge you this morning.
Is there something in your life you are holding back from God.
Give it to Him
Are you feeling like Paul you are wondering why God would ever use you for you have seemed to failed miserably. God’s Grace is there for you.
We are going to sing what should be our life
What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer There is no more for heaven now to give He is my joy my righteousness and freedom My steadfast love my deep and boundless peace
As we sing these powerful words feel free to come to the front and respond to God. As a sign of response to worship, come there is no judgement if you come you come as a response to God.
If things are going well right now and you just want to come and praise him, come as well.
Let’s Stand and respond to God.

Response to Worship


Ephesians 3:20–21 ESV
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
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