At the end of Lesson 4, we saw the Holy Spirit sending Paul and Silas out, “having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord” (15:40). How thankful we should be for God raising up those who are sensitive to divine guidance. We need that more than ever in our day! Now we come to the next forward movement of the church into the Aegean area (Acts 16:6 to 19:20), Lesson 5 in God’s Plan for His Church.
Many refer to the ‘disagreement’ between Barnabas and Paul in a negative sense. I would like to suggest that God had given Paul a unique plan that would result in a rapid expansion of the church. Barnabas did not see it like Paul did and so it was not so much of a disagreement, as that they had different methods. As you read through this section, keep watching for the different places and means that Paul uses at the same time to both advance the gospel and strengthen or establish the church! You will see Paul’s method always fitting into the following steps, even though they may happen simultaneously in different places at the same time.
EVANGELIZE – ESTABLISH – EQUIP
· God was at work preparing hearts so that when Paul came, Lydia’s heart was open “to pay attention to what was said by Paul and…she was baptized” (Acts 16:11-15). God directs His servants where He is already at work so they can build on His foundation – CHRIST!
· When our response to persecution (prison) is correct (prayer and worship), God shakes up hearts so they want and receive salvation (Acts 16:16-34).
· It is God’s desire and plan that whole households be saved (Acts 16:31-34).
· Paul uses the prevailing religious context (idolatry) to present the gospel to the Athenians (Acts 17:16-34). This is best done by those who know the culture, not foreigners.
· Paul keeps moving from place to place and takes every opportunity to “strengthen all the disciples” (18:23). If multiplication is going to happen in the church, this must be a key component and strategy of mission work.
I have only skimmed the surface in the above observations, but I trust they have increased your appetite for more.
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