GOSPEL EXPANSION (Acts 13:4-12)
The book of Acts offers a practical illustration of the truth that the gospel message comes from Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit produces true conviction and, despite opposition, bears fruit which overflows to others.
The Spread of the gospel (Acts 13:4-5)
The Opposition to the gospel (Acts 13:6-10)
The Power of the gospel (Acts 13:11-12)
Remember last week, chapter 12 – Herod, this prominent powerful political ruler is taken out – BUT 12:24 the Word of God grows and spreads.
· This is the purpose of the 2 volume series which we call Luke-Acts – to give us confidence in this gospel message which comes from Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, produces true conviction and despite opposition, bears fruit which overflows to others.
So this is the pattern we see in Acts and in our passage this morning (read):
· 4-6a: The gospel goes out and keeps going out
· 6b-8: There is opposition to the gospel message
· 9-11: In the power of the Spirit these obstacles are overcome
· 12: The Word of God is received with conviction
Luke’s inspired purpose
So Luke is giving us a very selective history, showing us this pattern, in order to accomplish this specific purpose of giving us confidence in the gospel.
· The next half of Acts is going to trace Paul’s missionary journeys and we will see this pattern repeated over and over again in the lives of certain individuals and specific local churches.
· Luke is careful to show that the message is the same, the opposition is the same and the power is the same – its Jesus message, proclaimed in the power of Jesus Spirit to build up Jesus bride, the church.
· So the second half of the book of Acts mirrors this theme in the ministry of Paul, which we have seen in the ministry of Peter
· So, for example, in Acts 8 we have Peter being opposed by a Jewish magician, Simon magus, whom he rebukes, and here we have Paul being opposed by a Jewish magician, Elymus magus, whom Paul rebukes. This is one instance of the same pattern
o Peter being persecuted by the Jews, Paul being persecuted by the Jews,
o Peter healing a lame man (Acts 3), Paul healing a lame man (in Acts 14),
o Peter being imprisoned (Acts 4) and Paul being imprisoned (Acts 16),
o Peter receiving a vision from God to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10), Paul receiving a vision from God to proclaim the gospel to Macedonia (Acts 16).
Luke is giving us a very selective history with a very specific purpose in mind – from Jesus, through Peter, through Paul – the same message, the same power, the same opposition, the same fruit.
We are having a baptism service today and that is the essence of our salvation testimony 2000 years later. Each one here this morning, who has been saved, has a personal testimony of how this simple message has come with the power of the Spirit, produced true conviction and despite all obstacles produced fruitfulness which is overflowing to others.
That’s the main point of Acts as a whole and the main point of this passage – nothing has changed in over 2000 years – the same, simple gospel message, is still coming in power, overcoming all opposition and producing good fruit to the glory of Christ.
Doesn’t that strengthen and encourage your faith?
This morning I want to look at this passage, but also connect it to this pattern that we will see repeated through the rest of the Acts in order to encourage your faith.
· The Spread of the gospel
· The Opposition to the gospel
· The Power of the gospel
The Spread of the gospel (4-5)
5: They proclaim the word of God
Luke gives us a very detailed account of how the Word of God grows and increases. For the next half of Acts we really need to read with an open Map as Luke traces the exact locations.
MAP 1 – Sea, countries
MAP 2 – point out first missionary journey as below
· The first missionary journey
o Acts 13-14
o Starts from Antioch and ends at Antioch – the church that had sent them out
o Ran for approximately 18 months, from AD 47-49
o Covered over 2500 km. The travel costs alone amounted to over R60k in today’s financial terms, and Paul and his companions would have spend nearly a month travelling, that’s just travel time, not ministry time.
· MAP 2:
o They went down to the coast, went by sea over to Crete, Barnabus’ home region as it were and then started proclaiming the gospel from Salamis (5), throughout the whole region to Paphos(6) – from the administrative centre on the east to the administrative center on the west
o 13-14: Paphos across sea to Perga. So from Barnabus’ native land to Paul’s native land, Asia Minor.
o Then up to Psidian Antioch into the region of Galatia. I say “up” because this was a climb of over the Taurus mountains, over 3500 ft above sea level. So this was a difficult journey. The paths up the mountains were “hijacking hotspots”
§ You know those signs you get at various intersections, exclamation mark – beware hijackers, like what are you supposed to do about it? The few paths through the mountains had those signs posted all along the way.
§ Some people think that is why John Mark left at that point. Things were getting too dangerous and too difficult for him
o Paul was sick. We know from Gal 4:13 that it was because of sickness that he ended up in Galatia. Something had attacked his eyes so that he could hardly see.
· Paul describe in 2 Cor 11:26 how “I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren, I have been in labour and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
o And Luke helps us put specific names and places to those journeys and those hardships.
o Not to magnify Paul – but to show the power of the gospel at work in Him!
o As Paul could sayin 2 Cor 4:11, we who live are always being given over to death, sothat the life of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal bodies.
· If we take the 3 missionary journeys together with the journey to Rome.
o Over 16 000 km’s
o Over land, sea, mountains and wilderness
o Nearly a year of travel time, at a cost of over 0,5 million rand – travel costs alone.
o Hundreds of churches planted, thousands of converts so that by Acts 17:6 the people say “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.”
God wants us to understand through this inspired writing – that this was not about Paul – this is the power of the gospel which grows and increases and bears fruit wherever it goes.
Diocletian was the Roman emperor who lived 250 years after Paul. He published royal edicts commanding that the churches be levelled to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire" and anyone possessing a Bible be killed (Church History, Book VIII, Ch. 1). After this edict had been in force for two years, Diocletian boasted, "I have completely exterminated the Christian writings from the face of the earth!" (Rimmer, Seven Wonders of the Wonderful Word, p. 15)…He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Voltaire, the noted French infidel, who died in 1778, made his attempt to destroy the Bible. He boldly made the prediction that within one hundred years the Bible and Christianity would have been swept from existence into oblivion. But Voltaire's efforts and his bold prophecy failed as miserably as did those of his unbelieving predecessors. In fact, within 100 years, the very printing press upon which Voltaire had printed his infidel literature, was being used to print copies of the Bible. And afterward, the very house in which the boasting Voltaire had lived, was literally stacked with Bibles prepared by the Geneva Bible Society
The gospel is the power of God which increasing and bearing fruit wherever it goes, overcoming every obstacle.
2: The Opposition to the gospel (6b-11)
There are many forms of opposition to the gospel.
· There are the physical hardships and costs, which accompany trying to proclaim it in all the world, to get the message out there.
· Then there is the direct persecution which comes against us and we see this repeated pattern in the life of Paul and the Apostles.
· But there is also 2 other enemies of the gospel which are less direct – discouragement on the inside and deceit on the outside.
· We see these other two forms in our text – discouragement and deceit
· 5: They took John Mark along as helper. The text doesn’t say exactly what help he rendered, possibly some practical help, but I think it was more than that.
· John Mark, most believe wrote the gospel of Mark. He was likely the young man referred to in Mk 14:51 who when the guards tried to seize him, ran away with only his loin cloth on.
· So John Mark had been an eye-witness of Jesus public ministry, death and resurrection. Paul and Barnabus hadn’t.
· He was Barnabas’ cousin, so it’s quite likely they sought him out, specifically because of his connections with Barnabas and with the earthly ministry of Christ. It was handy to have someone with them who could give first hand eye-witness testimony.
· But in 13:13 John Mark abandons them. Here it says simply he left, not even halfway in the first journey and he’s out of there.
· Acts 15:36-39 John Mark is said to have abandoned them, left them in the lurch, abandoned ship and Paul and Barnabas have such a sharp dispute over this matter that they end up parting ways. Barnabas wants to give him a second chance and Paul is not interested.
Though this is not a big issue in Acts 13, it is certainly a pattern as we follow Paul’s life – the discouragements that not only come from opposition without, but discouragement within, brothers, fellow believers abandoning the faith, falling off the bus, letting us down.
2 Tim 4:9-11; 16-18
· Here we see as Paul writes from prison, the great discouragement of being abandoned by fellow brothers, co-labourers when you most need support.
· Yet a surprising blessing – John Mark has recovered and ultimately proved to be useful in the ministry!
· Those who belong to the Lord, who stumble along the way, will not fall headlong and stay down.
· The Lord rescues and strengthens and delivers us.
The other form of opposition is equally subltle – deceit.
· Vs 7 Here was a proconsul, a civil governor. He was the governor of Cypris, the head ruler of the entire island province and he was asking to hear the gospel personally – what an opportunity!
o The mayor of JHB hears about some ministry we are doing in the community and calls me in to his office so that I can explain the gospel to him – talk about an open door!
· But then there is this right hand man, a spiritual advisor – a Sangoma of sorts whose got his ear. His position is obviously going to be threatened if the Mayor becomes a Christian. Christians don’t consult Sangoma’s in order to gain wisdom and insight into spiritual matters (you do know that don’t you!)…
· Well Elymas knows that, so vs 8 tells us he was opposing them, contradicting them, correcting them – seeking to turn the Proconsul away from the faith.
· The gospel is not going to benefit men in power, so men in power will seek to silence the gospel.
o That’s what all these closed countries are all about. This principle is still at work today. Men in positions of political power and influence are afraid that this simple gospel message is going to free people from bondage to deceit and they will lose their political power and control over them.
o We better keep this gospel message out of our countries at all costs because one missionary with this simple message has more power to undo our empire than the entire American Government.
Vs 10 tells us what lies behind this opposition
· Deceit and fraud. Lies and deceit because he is a son of the devil, an enemy of righteousness – one who take the straight way of the Lord and makes it seem crooked. Who corrupts and perverts everything that is good and turns everything that is true into a believable lie.
· The Greek word for deceit (dolos) indicates that he was not just wrong, but deceitful. He deliberately perverted the truth for personal gain. The word is used of bait on a hook – designed to attract the fish, to make it think it is getting a meal, when really it is becoming the meal.
· This has been Satan’s strategy from the beginning and this man has made himself a servant of Satan.
· In Jn 8:44 Jesus calls him the father of lies and says that when he lies he speaks his native language – this is who the devil is and what he does – spread lies.
· Our battle is not against flesh and blood, Ephesian 6 tells us. People are not the main enemy – Satan is and his main tool is deceit. Wrong thinking which leads to wrong living. Falsehood which leads to immorality. A Clever twisting and distorting of the truth.
WE ARE IN A BATTLE FOR TRUT WITH A SPIRITUAL ENEMY WHO IS A MASTOR IN DECIT.
2 major applications that flow from this:
1. We need to renew our minds constantly with the truth. To identify the subtle, deceitful lies we are believing and defeat them with the truth. The battle against sin for holiness is fought and won in our minds first.
a. What are the lies you are believing, the untruths you keep preaching to yourself?
b. I can’t do this, this is not worth it… or just this once- God will understand….or God doesn’t care anyway, where is God I have to sort this one out on my own….
c. Eph 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
d. Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ
e. Heb 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin
2. We need to renew our minds with truth and correct those who contradict it. It is not popular in our culture today to say someone is wrong, or to say someone is a false teacher. It is definitely not acceptable to call false teachers out by name – and yet the text of Scripture does all these things and those who would be faithful with the gospel message must be willing to do the same.
a. 2 Cor 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
We can’t only proclaim the truth, we must also expose the lies that come from Satan and are designed to undermine the truth of the gospel, to prevent people from being saved. The false gospels of our day must be refuted and the false teachers must be called out – this is our gospel duty.
Time permitting – 2 Cor 9 – Paul attacked by Satan
We can think of Paul as being harsh here, or unloving. He is certainly being direct – but just remember. This is exactly what Jesus did to him to stop him in his tracks and to help him realize his spiritual blindness. Paul himself was struck blind and groped around for days having to be lead around by the hand and the language here in vs 11 is definitely connecting us to that account.
Paul is putting Elymas in the same position as Jesus put him in. Physically blind that the eyes of his heart might be opened to see the glory of Christ. That he might be converted from being a son of the devil to being a son of salvation which is what his name actually means – bar Jesus means son of salvation.
It’s not loving to leave people in their lies. It’s our job to expose their lies. But as vs 11 intimates only the power of Jesus can convert their hearts.
The power of the gospel (12)
The proconsul believed.
He was evidently being drawn by God, he desires to hear the gospel, he sees the power of God at work in the ministry of Paul and all of this culminates in simple faith.
The text says literally, “He was struck by the teaching of the Lord”
· He was struck, he was amazed, he was convicted. He had an intense personal response. This was not just another boring sermon – this message came with power and conviction, it was like being struck on the head like a hammer.
· Vs 7 had told us that he was an intelligent man, a thinking man, a reasoning man. He had probably heard many things from his subjects, but he sought to get to the bottom of things, to hear the truth first hand, which is why he summoned Paul and Barnabas.
· What struck him was the Word. Not primarily the authority of Paul or their eloquence, or their arguments or evidences – it was the word that brought conviction
· Notice whose Word -the word of the Lord. Jesus own words are heard in the gospel message. When we proclaim the gospel, Jesus is speaking and Jesus is offering life in His name, Jesus is drawing sinners to Himself.
Up until now, everyone who has come to faith in Christ has had some contact with Judaism.
· The first beleivers were Jews.
· Samaritans were half-Jews. Foreigners who had adopted the central teahings and practices of Judaism.
· Or they were Helensists – those who were Greek speaking Jews
· Or Like Cornelius or the Etheopian Enuch – god-fearers – gentiles who had in some measure converted to Judaism.
· So these were people who had a biblical worlview and exposure to the teachings of the Bible.
· This is the first convert who comes from a completely pagan background. It’s no wonder that Satan was trying to get in the way.
· This is the opening of a flood gate that would sweep the world.
· It doesn’t matter what your religious background, what your political position. How wealthy or poor, how sinful or self-righteous- this simple message comes with the power of God to convert the soul.
· It’s God’s supernatural sledgehammer – to crush human pride. God’s God’s glorious light to expel the darkness, God’s all sufficient- cure to treat the sickness of sin, God’s soothing balm to heal the broken-hearted; God’s truth to correct the lies, God’s life to raise the dead, God’s power to convert the soul.
The Gospel is a spiritual lightning bolt, carried from heaven to earth by the power of the Spirit, striking where it wills, destroying all that would get in its way, and setting the world ablaze with the glory of God in the face of Christ.
· Pail could say in Rom 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”
· This is the most powerful message in the universe… – it comes from Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, produces true conviction and despite opposition, bears fruit which overflows to others.
Slide – spread of the gospel into all the world?