Acts 15-18:11

Led Part 2

In Acts 15 we find that the pressure for the new gentile converts to be circumcised is increasing. So Paul and Barnabas are sent to Jerusalem to find out what the Apostles had to say about this issue. When they get to Jerusalem and meet with the Apostles they find that there were some Pharisees who had become believers that were saying that the gentiles, not only needed to be circumcised, but they must also follow the Law of Moses.

This is often the case in the Church. People get saved and find freedom in Christ and then attempt to bring in the things of their old life that they are used to and try to change things according to their plan rather than follow God’s plan.

The Apostles concluded that salvation is by the grace of the Lord Jesus and does not depend on the works of man. A letter is written and Paul and Barnabas deliver it to the church in Antioch.

After spending time there, Paul wanted to return to cities he and Barnabas went to on their previous journey. Sadly, they ended up in an argument over whether or not to take Mark with them. When Paul and Barnabas were first sent out, back in Chapter 13, it was because they were led by the leading of the Holy Spirit. We don’t read that the Holy Spirit directed Paul and Barnabas to have an argument and split up. But that is what they did. Paul went one way and Barnabas went the other. I fear that this is so common that we accept this as God’s will. In reality, it is a decision of man that God will work with but it is clear no one was seeking God’s will or waiting on Him.

In Chapter 16 we read of Paul starting his second missionary journey. God’s call on Paul was to be sent to the Gentiles but Paul longed to reach the Jews. God knew what Paul didn’t know. Though Paul felt he was the right man to reach the Jews God knew they would never accept him. Now all God has to do is make Paul understand this and make him willing to do God’s plan. So Paul starts out with Silas and Timothy whom he circumcised even though he had with him the letter from the apostles saying the gentiles did not need to be circumcised. Twice the Holy Spirit blocked his path. He then came to Philippi where a church was started but he and Silas were beaten, thrown in prison, and escorted out of town. Battered and bruised they came to Thessalonica but after three weeks the Jews chased them out of town so they go to Berea.  Soon the Jews from Thessalonica stir up trouble and this time Paul goes to Athens and later Corinth alone. In each place Paul does have some success in starting churches and leading people to the Lord but it is not until he comes to Corinth that things change.

In Corinth Paul is resisted again by the Jews but this time he decides to quit trying to reason with the Jews and goes next door and starts to minister to the Gentiles. Paul is now broken by God and has been made ready for the work that God has for him. 1 Corinthians 1&2 describes this brokenness which can be summed up in his words in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. “And When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” NASB

In John 15:26&27 Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would testify about Him and they were to testify as well. In John 16 Jesus tells the disciples that it is the Holy Spirit that takes the testimony and brings conviction that leads to conversion. The fact that a person is saved without clever speech, or words of wisdom, but with the simple proclamation of the crucifixion of Jesus for our sins, is a clear demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power. It is God who saves, not man. It is God who is to get the glory, not man.

God had to bring Paul down to this point, but from this point on God will be able to use Him and work through him to accomplish far more than Paul could ever ask or imagine. The same is true for us.

We are all called to be a witness for Christ Jesus but many of us do not believe we are qualified nor have the talents or abilities to communicate the gospel. The reality is, we could not save anyone even if we had those abilities. What we do have is a partner that can take that testimony to the heart of a lost soul and convict them of their need for Jesus and salvation.

We need not fear for if God is with us, and He is, who can be against us?

I want to encourage you to step out in faith, and when the opportunities arise, share what God has done in your life. Let God be responsible for the outcome. Don’t let fear or intimidation silence your witness. Don’t let pride block the way either.  Surrender your plan to God’s plan and let Him guide and direct.

Be led by God.

Pastor Dave