The Church has faced great trials and experienced great triumphs throughout the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts. With persecution of the Church still prevalent, a group of passionate Christians endeavor to bring the gospel outside of the borders of Judea and the immediate region. Men like Paul and Barnabas turn their focus west to Asia Minor, Greece and even Rome. Facing new cultures, their would be new challenges and opportunities. How would they fare in spreading the gospel to these peoples and what adjustments might they make? We examine these questions and more today.
New Places, Same Message
Starting in Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are commissioned to take the gospel beyond the immediate borders of Judea. They would go throughout Asia Minor and eventually venture into the Greek Isles. These new places brought new cultures and perspectives on life. Most if not all of these people knew little about the Hebrew faith, much less anything about Christ and his ministry.
Despite the complete lack of foreknowledge, Paul and Barnabas trusted the message that they held in their hearts. They didn't try and alter it to appease the new cultures. They didn't diminish or separate Christ from the his place as the One True God. They held to the message that Jesus Christ was Lord and Savior of all and that through him alone is their salvation.
Paul did try to meet people where they were at in Christ. In Athens he discussed Christ in comparison to all of the idols on Mars Hill. In Cyprus, Paul called a sorcerer out for trying to speak evil over them. This worked as a testimony to those of the power of God over false practices. When he wrote to the Colossians, Paul talked about the need to differentiate between their former faith of angel (or spirit) worship and their newfound Christian principles. While all of these approaches vary in practice, the message behind them is the same: God's ways are higher than the ways of the world and other false teachings and practices.
In our witnessing today, we cannot compromise the message of Christ. Even when people of good intention proffer ideas and practices from other faiths and ideologies, we must make sure to relinquish are beliefs just to strike a balance. We must explain the difference between Christianity and what they are presenting and understand why God's way is better. This means we must understand God's ways through regular reading of His Word and through regular communion with Him in prayer. We won't have to get a theology degree or become an expert in apologetics. We just need to understand what we believe and why we believe it. When we have an understanding of that, every other argument and belief will falter when we share God's message.
New Opposition, Same Resolve
Along the way, Paul, Barnabas and the others faced plenty of opposition. They found themselves imprisoned, cast out of cities and even stoned. No matter the circumstance or trial, they resolved within themselves to press forward. In one instance, Paul, after having been stoned nearly to death at one city, stood up and went right back into the same city and preached Jesus. On one of his missions, Paul was dogged by the same cruel and bitter Jews that saw him as competition. Yet, Paul continued to preach the same message no matter how they tried to confound, ridicule or suppress his message.
Not everyone is going to like the truth we have to bring. Other faiths and secular groups don't generally want the message of Christ preached. They will fight, protest and even threaten us depending on what part of the world we live. Even some Christians today have diluted and compromised their message to find "modern relevance". They don't want to hear the bold message of Jesus because it would risk their brittle peace with the world.
Even with all of this opposition, we can't back down. In another religion, there are those who feel oppressed and empty. Jesus can free and fill them. In the secular world, there is a hollowness to the "progress" being made. Christ can show the true fulfilling way. In watered down, dead and compromised Christianity, there are people who hope for a revival of meaning and truth. Christ's message, His True Message, can provide that way. We just have to be bold enough to stand up and proclaim it, no matter the cost.
Mission, Not Vacation
Paul, Barnabas and the others did not see their mission trips as awesome opportunities to see the world. They weren't champing at the bit to get to Cypress, Athens, and Rome to see the beautiful sights and the vast culture. They were going to win souls. They had restful moments and made great friends along the way. However, the mission never became just a trip to them. It was a calling.
Today's missions trips too often become sight seeing tours with a couple of services/activities tacked on. We plan to go to another country and we plan out our tourist spots before we plan out what the purpose of the trip is. We plan city outreach events and think of the prize giveaways before ever considering how to converse with a soul about Jesus. We look at our neighborhoods and schools and see garden parties, Barbecues and sports/social gatherings rather than Bible Studies and prayer meetings. Whether its on the macro scale of Global Missions or the micro scale of neighborhood outreach or anything in between, we must keep the main thing the main thing. It's about God and His Mission. Our Mission. If we get that priority straight, we will see and do some remarkable things. Everything else will fade into the background where it belongs.
Bringing The Message Wherever We Go
The whole message of Acts from start to finish is about Christ bringing His Spirit into people's lives and then spreading that saving Spirit throughout the world. Paul, Barnabas and the entire early Church endeavored to do both of those things. They were arguably the most successful generation of Christians as they brought Christ to every corner of the Roman Empire and beyond in one generation.
Today, we can rise to meet that mark. We can be the generation that brings the gospel to every creature. We just have to decide to make the message about the MESSAGE. We have to go forth no matter the opposition and trials that face us. Finally, we have to keep that message at the forefront of our purpose and not let anything else sift or dilute it. If we do that, we'll find ourselves accomplishing greater things than we could ever expect.
We hope you enjoyed this look into the Book of Acts. We will be taking some time off to assess where we are at in our own endeavors and be back with more great content in the near future. Until then, God Bless and Keep Searching.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.