PENTECOST 2021 : NR 6
Scripture: Acts 14
Theme: Attributes of a Spirit-filled life
The past week we followed Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey from Antioch, north of Palestine (in modern Turkey), to the island Cyprus and afterward northward to Pisidian Antioch also in what is Turkey today, at that time the province of Galatia in the old Roman Empire.
In chapter 14 Luke describes for us how the first missionary journey is completed, and their return to Antioch from where they were initially sent out.
To summarise chapter 14, it looks like this: Paul and Barnabas are expelled from Pisidian by the unsaved Jews. They then go to Iconium and preached in the synagogue, where a great number of Jews and Gentiles came to repentance and faith in Jesus. Iconium was 100km southeast from Pisidian, still in the Galatia province.
The unsaved Jews, however, poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas and they fled – and so to Lystra and Derbe.
Lystra was about 25km from Iconium, with very few Jews. In Lystra, the Lord heals a lame man. The crowd thinks that Paul and Barnabas are gods and wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
However, Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over – so much so that they stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city thinking that he was dead. They leave for Derbe and preached the Good News there.
Derbe was 50km southeast of Lystra. From there they set off on the return journey, and again they pass through Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian (where shortly before they were almost killed – but yet they return there) to encourage the new believers and appoint elders. Then they return to their home church, Antioch (from where they originally were sent out as missionaries).
The question is: What does this travelogue say to us – today in 2021.
Thursday night we studied Paul’s Pisidian-sermon and saw from it what the essence of the Christian Faith is.
But what must we say of this travel journey?
The answer is: we see here the attributes of a Spirit-filled life. In Paul and Barnabas’s behavior, we see what is characteristic of a person who is utterly and completely committed and obedient to the Lord Jesus. These attributes shall begin to characterize your and my life if we are His obedient children. And take note: They are supernatural attributes – it is impossible to imitate them. It is the fruit of the indwelling of the Spirit. Here they are:
1. PASSION FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE LOST – Essence of Paul and Barnabas’s existence: Filled with a passion that people who are lost should be saved. Irrepressible energy. With only one aim: to preach the Gospel message. In season and out of season. It is absolutely from the Holy Spirit.
Do you see how the gifts of the Spirit manifest themselves: preaching (verses 1, 21, 25), teaching (verses 21, 22), encouraging (v 22), administration (v 23).
In addition to that, the gifts only manifested in the disciples, such as miracles (verses 3, 10). We know from 2 Cor 12:12 and Heb 2: 3-4 that the Spirit gave the gift of miracles only to the Apostles to affirm their preaching. After all the Apostles had passed on and the Bible was complete, it (the Bible) was enough to test the preaching by.
But now look carefully: All the gifts were applied for only one thing: a passion for lost people and the edification of the church.
We can look at people in different ways, but through the Holy Spirit, we always want to try to find out if someone is lost or saved. If the person is IN CHRIST or not.
1. STEEPED WITH THE MESSAGE OF GOD’S GRACE – Verse 3: permanently amazed about one thing: God’s free grace! When the mouths open: grace is preached.
That is what is unique about the Christian Faith as opposed to other religions – that salvation cannot be earned in any way but is a free gift – earned by the blood-sacrifice of Christ. Yes, that God, (before the creation already) chose for Himself a bride (Eph 1:4; Rev 13:8), out of humanity to whom He owes nothing except the eternal condemnation, but whom Jesus came to save on the cross (John 10:11).
Perplexing undeserved grace and love. In our environment, where everything is about merit, it is so necessary to preach the message of grace in season and out of season. If the Spirit fills you, you remain constantly amazed about this grace and you want to share it with everybody.
1. ENDURING PERSEVERANCE – What is most significant in chapter 14, is how Paul and Barnabas simply continue and keep on with the preaching. Even though the opposition is great, they do not hesitate for a moment. They simply plow through the opposition. If it becomes necessary to flee, they merely go to the next city and continue preaching.
That is the supernatural Spirit-gift of boldness – brave courage and perseverance. Only the fact that they preached Christ through the Holy Spirit, caused pandemonium and polarised the city into two groups – saved and unsaved. The same as Jesus who said that He did not bring peace, but the sword (Matt 10:34) and whoever is not for Him, is against Him (Matt 12:30).
Wonderful that, despite the opposition of the unbelievers, Paul and Barnabas remained in the city (v 3). The opposition is the reason to remain longer, not to run away.
It could not have been easy for Paul to be rejected and driven out of the city and have stones cast at him. Paul was a respected and learned leader. He was not used to be treated like a criminal! How humiliating! Just think how we feel when someone slights us. We want to crawl under a bush and cry.
But what do Paul and Barnabas do? They go to the next city and immediately start to preach! And they preach with the anointing of the Spirit. People come to faith and there is a reaction out of hell.
And after Paul was stoned? He goes to Lystra and starts to preach again. And a lame man is suddenly healed.
The most wonderful of all is verse 24: When Paul and Barnabas were on the return journey – tired and full of bruises – they quickly stop off to preach the Word in Perge. Where any right-thinking person would look forward to a chance to rest, they just keep on with their calling and task. Relentlessly devoted to the Word. Perseverance!! So clearly a fruit of the Pentecost-Spirit!
1. SMALL BEFORE THE LORD AND PEOPLE – It was in Lystra where the Lord healed the lame man. He was never able to walk before, but he jumps up and began to walk. That was when the people started to think that Paul and Barnabas were the gods Zeus and Hermes in human form and that they wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
At that time there was a legend that Zeus and Hermes previously visited the city of Lystra in human form and knocked everywhere on doors, but no one would open and let them in apart from one elderly couple. Then the gods struck the city with a flood.
Now they did not want to make the same mistake, because here is Zeus and Hermes again in their midst! What a temptation it must have been to Paul and Barnabas to accept the honor just a little! Who knows: if the people think they are gods, perhaps their preaching would be better received, the people would be prepared to listen to them! Our human nature always wants to be a god!
But what does the Spirit work in Paul and Barnabas? They tore their clothes with horror: “Why are you doing this? We too are men, human just like you! We are bringing the good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God who holds your subsistence in His hands!”
Can you see? The Lord’s messengers are only servants who sow the seeds. The Lord gives the harvest. Do not make too much of the servants. All believers are servants.
And what is humility? Not a spineless feeling of “I am nothing”. What then? To live with the realization of everything good/constructive/edifying out of my life comes from God! He is God, I am not. 1 Peter 5:6 – “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you in due time”. Small before God and people.
1. OBJECT OF PERSECUTION – An obedient, Spirit-filled person causes trouble, and finds trouble.
To be sold out to Christ angers the enemy. The entire book of Acts testifies about that. In no cheap manner do the Apostles try to gather people and keep them together, because then the Truth will be compromised? No, they gather people in/by the Truth of the Gospel alone. The enemies of the Truth stand apart.
That is the exact reason why a sold-out Christian causes trouble, because he/she believes the absolute truth and that it is found only in the Bible – and that it is centered in Jesus of Nazareth. Look at the text: Verse 2: unsaved Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned the minds of the newly converted believers. Verse 4: the people of Iconium were divided – for and against Christ. Verse 5: the riotous Jews want to ill-treat the believers. Verse 19: Insurgent Jews come from Antioch to Lystra and incite the people – who, just a moment ago wanted to bring offers to Paul and Barnabas – so much so that within minutes they almost stoned Paul to death. That is how the human heart is – it easily turns against the Truth (Gal 1:6). And verse 22: Paul and Barnabas tell the believers: ”We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
1. CARING ABOUT OTHER BELIEVERS – Did you notice that Paul and Barnabas returned with the same route with which they went out? That means: they purposefully returned to all the places where they were almost murdered and driven from!
Lystra (where Paul was stoned), Iconium (from where they had to flee to save their lives), and Pisidian (where they were driven away).
Is it not indescribable? Why did they do that? Because they wanted to encourage the new believers and appoint elders to lead and teach them. They sincerely cared for fellow believers. They still had to be taught. They had to be taught how to pray. They had to get leaders (elders) and they chose them and committed them to the Lord (v 23).
That is the Biblical way of how a church is administered: elders, of whom some are ministers.
It is though, important for us to identify this attitude of care-for-fellow-believers in Paul and Barnabas because it is an attribute of a sold-out believer: the attraction towards /particular love for other Christians (Ps 16:3). The searching for Christ’s presence in other people. The requirement that friends be committed Christians before a road can be walked with them.
There you have the 6 attributes that you can notice so clearly in your life if you long to be controlled by the Holy Spirit 24 hours of every day: the passion for lost people, continuously in amazement of and talking about God’s free grace, enduring perseverance, humble and small before the Lord and people, the object of persecution and opposition, also attracted to and concerned about other Christians.
THAT is what the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost brought to us today –according to the description by the Holy Spirit in Acts 14!
Translated by Marthie Wilson