Conversatio Divina

Part 8 of 10

The Church Turns to Missions

Originally given in a Sunday School class at Woodlake Avenue Friends Church

Dallas Willard

A study of the book of Acts for a Sunday School class at the church where Dallas Willard and Richard Foster met. Expositions of Acts 13-15.

“Lord, we are thankful that we have thy word and that it is given to us in written form. We are thankful for the living word, for yourself and that you live in it. We are so thankful for the wonderful grace which you are pouring out upon people in our midst and we are glad to know that you are a very present help, both in times of trouble and in times of joy. We are glad to know that we don’t always have to be kicked in the head to get right and that you can lead us and teach us without having to beat us to death. We are thankful for that. We pray that you will help us to daily turn from the ways of the world, which we know to be poison and to live on the basis of love and grace by the power of thy spirit. Increase our faith and increase the abundance of thy spirit in our hearts. [0:56]

Bless everyone who is here present today. Enable us to benefit from seeing the way in which thy Holy Spirit moved this early group of Gentile and Jewish Christians that were there at Antioch and Syria. Moved upon them and sent them out across the face of the earth because you love all men alike. All men alike—every human being is precious to you whether they are a male or female, bond or free, or tall, short or fat, thin or bright or stupid.  You love them all. [1:35]

Oh, Lord, with your might, help us to live out this love in the abundance of thy spirit. May thy proofs exercise the gifts of thy spirit for thy glory and the praise shall be thine; in the name of Jesus, Amen.” [1:56]

Now, I gave you a rather long lesson for you to read and we will certainly not be able to cover all of the parts of this lesson today but the theme of the lesson I have, if you have the notes before you; and by the way, these are not complete notes. I just frankly must tell you that I had to go to bed sometime this morning and did; and I didn’t finish typing the outline so I haven’t gotten all the way to the end of the time in which I gave you. I’ll get the rest of the outline to you. [2:36]

Notice—I want to call your attention to the fact that the assignment for next Sunday is at the bottom of the second page. Please look at it and you will notice that it is not in the book of Acts. I want to dwell on Paul’s message here for a Sunday or two and then we will complete in a very rough scale, the last chapters of the book of Acts, because in fact, there is nothing new in principle which emerges after the chapters that we work on today. There is nothing new in principle.

Our journey into the spiritual unknown—all of the unknown principles of the Kingdom of God, which are to be at work from that time on have been made clear at this point. So, I am going to be looking at the first three chapters of the book of Romans next time. I hope you can study that very carefully. Try to understand what is the righteousness of God and how it is shared. [3:37]

But, today, we do have some things, which are really new in principle. Last time, we were studying about how in every nation; there are people who fear God. God is no respecter of persons and where there are people who fear Him and love Him, He meets them and He gives them what they need in the way of better life or better health or whatever it is they need. If they really love Him and serve Him in the way that Cornelius did, He meets them and brings them where He wants them.

Now, the question arises that if this is true, why missions? Why missions? If it’s true that the knowledge of God is everywhere and that God indeed is everywhere. If it’s true that there is sufficient knowledge to serve God successfully everywhere across the face of the earth and I’ve given you a lot of references here you notice. I hope you will look these up and study them and think about them. Some of them we’ve referred to you previously and some of them we haven’t.

And if this is true, why then missions? And the answer is very simple. I’ve given some verses here for the one from Romans, the 1st chapter and the 21st verse, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” [5:09]

Well, you see, the truth of the matter is simply this.  Even though there was the knowledge of God; even though there was ability to serve and please God, human beings are in rebellion and what they know of God, they don’t find suitable to their own plans by Him and so they say, “Well now, thank you! No.” He doesn’t want it.

It’s like Eve there in the Garden of Eden. She had the commandment all clear but there came one who said to her, “You better watch out for God; you can’t trust him. He’s really trying to rob you of something that you’d really like to have so you better not do what He says.” So immediately, we are off and running and that’s the story of rebellion against God continually. We think that if we do what God tells us to do and what we know to be right, we are going to miss out on something. There is something good we are not going to get so we better not trust this. We better take the thing into our own hands, so the world is filled full of people who have rebelled and failed before God.

Now, who did Jesus Christ come for? Did He come for righteous people? No! For sinners! Jesus Christ came for sinners. One of the things that He was approached with was He didn’t spend all of His time hanging around with the righteous people. He went down to un-religious places and sat down with ungodly people. They said, “What is this? How can a respectable teacher hope to keep his reputation? Why, He is going to destroy His witness. He’s going to destroy His witness.” Jesus said, “I have come to save those who are lost. Those who are found don’t need to be saved.” It’s those who are lost so that’s the heart of missions. [7:29]

We go because we have good news that sinful and evil people can stop trying to cover up their own unrighteousness and live on an honest basis with God and man. Be what they are and in that honesty, receive the grace of God to live at a level of righteousness, which is far above anything—anything that can come by the law, whether that law is the natural law which is written in the heart that Paul speaks of, John speaks of or whether it is a revealed law, which, for example comes through the Jewish tradition. A much higher righteousness than is come. [8:21]

Now, when you read the first three chapters of Romans for this week, I want you to really try to understand what he means when he speaks of the righteousness of God because those chapters, as well as the entire rest of Romans, they are concerned to re-work the conception of God’s righteousness. What is it that they call righteous?  Now, when we go as missionaries for Christ, we go out with a radical revision of the concept of righteousness and that’s why we have good news. It isn’t good news to anybody if we go lay a bunch or burdens or laws upon them; especially if they’ve already failed with the ones they’ve got. If a man has got a bunch of rules that have driven him to despair of one form or another, he doesn’t need a bunch more to add on to that. He needs a new route of righteousness and that’s what the Gospel has done and the Gospel is so unlikely in the way it offers righteousness to people. [9:45]

The Sermon on the Mount starts out with a redefinition of blessedness and it takes the unlikely people and says, “Yea, they are blessed.” Blessed are the poor in spirit. Now that doesn’t mean blessed are the humble. Some people even translate it that way and it is wrong. It means blessed are those who are poverty stricken in intellectual, personal endowments—talents, abilities; those people are blessed.

One of the very classes of people whom we are most inclined to look “down” on; people who aren’t especially bright; people who don’t’ glitter when they walk or talk—illustrious people, untalented people; Jesus takes that group and calls them blessed. [10:44]

He takes others—peacemakers—now, we can say what we want when we are in our idealistic moods but if you’ve ever tried to make peace in a situation where war was really going on, that’s something else. Jesus said this, “Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” Now, that is about the bottom of the well. Most of us think that that is one of the worst things that can happen to us is to be persecuted for righteousness sake.

See, Jesus takes all of these unlikely classes and re-defines the concepts of blessedness or righteousness so that people can begin to understand possibly what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. So, we go out as missionaries because that Gospel is needed because the world is filled full of people who are failures and rebels before God and we go out to offer amnesty and above all, we go out to correct the consumptions of God which keep them in a defeated and beaten state of mind. [11:58]

Now look, the most important thing about you is how you think about God. That’s how you think about God and when Jesus Christ came, what He had to say was so radical that He said repeatedly, “No one knows what they are talking about when they talk about God. I am the only one who can put your head straight on this matter because I have been with Him, I’ve come from Him; I am the only one who really has the truth about Him and it is very difficult for us to get ourselves to the point where we have a right conception of God.

That’s where we need that mind transplant that I‘ve been talking about to you—that transformation, that re-working, that overhauling of the mind so that we can think right about God, so that we can have a right faith and so that right feelings will follow and right willings will follow. [13:01]

Now, there is a real reason why, up to this point, in the book of Acts, missions could not be undertaken as a conscious voluntary effort to reach people and I want to talk about that for just a moment. You see, the early church struggled with this idea of human worth and the early church was conceived and brought forth in an atmosphere where people just quite frankly did not think that every human being was worth it and the concept of the worth of a human soul is tied directly to our conception of God, just like the command to love God is tied directly to the love of neighbor. And the conception of the worth of the human soul had to be free from all of the little “goody” things, which had been tied to it through Jewish history and that was very hard to do. [14:23]

Do you remember the story from earlier chapters how the church in Syria and Antioch got started? We might look at that just a moment. Back in the 11th chapter, 19th verse (of Acts)—“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene . . .”

Now, where is Cyrene? Where? [Africa] Africa, right! It’s a way down the coast of northern Africa, isn’t it? Way down the coast. Now, these people who were far removed from the center of Jewish religion and these people from the island of Cyprus, what did they do? “ . . .when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 11:20) Gentiles in effect—people who had been so far removed from the center that they could no longer take as seriously as those in Jerusalem the priority of the Jewish nation culturally and when we come to study this church, we find an interesting man named Simon Niger and you don’t know exactly but it’s very likely that man was Simon, the Black. [16:31]

He was a black man in this church at Antioch. These people were so far removed from the center but they took seriously the souls of all men. And when they came to Antioch, they didn’t just preached to the Jews only, they preached to the Gentiles as well and the Gentiles caught fire at the word and we have them at Antioch, the first church, which is not a Jewish extension. These people were no longer Jews; that’s why it was at Antioch that they were first called Christians. It was at Antioch that they could no longer say, “Well, this is just an extension of the synagogue” because now people were teaching and preaching indiscriminately and the spirit was upon these people indiscriminately and we have our first church beyond cultural presuppositions, and it was because we have a church like this that now we can finally have a church which says, “Here is a whole world before us.” [18:48]

Now, years before—15 to 20 years earlier—Jesus had said unto them, “Go ye unto every nation and preach the gospel. Make disciples. Baptize them.” They couldn’t do it. They did not see the world as He saw it at that time and so the first missionary effort—if we can call it that—happened how? They got kicked out. They got scattered abroad across the face of the earth. They were forced out and they went everywhere preaching the Gospel. I think that is Acts 8:4; that passage says, “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word,” and to their surprise and astonishment, people were converted—all kinds of people—Samaritans, Gentiles. Even after the case of Cornelius though when it was clear that God intended to bless the Gentiles, it did not occur to people that they ought to do what Jesus told them to do in Mark 16:15. “Go to every nation and preach the Gospel—indiscriminately. Finally, finally it had begun to get through and now as these people in Antioch, in Syria; as they meet together and teach and I want to really stress the character of what was going on in that church. [19:19]

Would you look at the opening verses now of the 13th chapter of Acts? “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch . . .”—and there are two Antioch’s. One is a city of Galatia, the center of Asia Minor—Antioch of Pisidia—and this is Antioch in Syria and Antioch in Syria was the first center of non-cultural Christianity.  “ . . . there were in the church (Antioch in Syria) certain prophets and teachers . . .”—notice the plural, would you? The plural.

We have here a group of people in which there are a lot of people functioning under the spirit—prophets and teachers—“prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger and Lucius of Cyrene . . .”—another African, right?—” . . .and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch . . .”—that’s nice, a personal friend of old Herod—“. . .and Saul.” (Acts 13:1) Gee, what a list this is when you get into the lives of these people—man alive, what a collection! Yeah? That’s wonderful! [21:53]

Now here is Barnabas—what a wonderful world there is in that man. Barnabas! You just think about it. I’ve commented about him before and it’s a study that’s worth a day is for you to just take your concordance and look up Barnabas all through this book and see where he shows up in the New Testament. Wonderful! These men; oh, it just makes you just want to praise God when you think of those men being together and working day after day, sharing and praying and preaching and teaching and prophesying.

Now listen, it was out of a cauldron like that that you get a missionary movement and we’ve seen it in more recent times, haven’t we? Have you ever heard of the Zinzendorf Brethren, the Moravian Brethren, and the Zinzendorf group? Out of that group of people, there came those who sold themselves into slavery to the Sarasites and to others in order to go where they couldn’t go otherwise to preach the Gospel. Did you know that? It came out of a caldron that was bubbling just like this one—just like this one. Now watch! [22:09]

“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate . . .”—you know, I can’t, I must comment on that phrase, “they ministered to the Lord.” A great deal of our difficulty in the churches comes because we try to minister to one another too much and we don’t minister to the Lord. Our ministry is unto the Lord and it’s only through my ministry to the Lord that I can minister to anyone else. I don’t have the right to come directly and start in finagling with your mind and your heart.  It isn’t mine. I minster to the Lord; my ministry is to the Lord and then I let the Lord take care of you, so I figure He can run that part of it and if you get it a little out of hand, I don’t have to control it. The Lord does. I am faithful to the Lord in my ministry of teaching and prayer, loving Him and helping Him in whatever else my ministry may be and then I leave it up to the Lord to handle other people.

“ As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) Now, there are a lot of reasons if you look into the lives of these people why He said that to Barnabas and Saul. They were prepared people. He didn’t just pick anyone. He picked a definite two persons and if you look at their past and look at their history, look what they’d been through and look what they’d done, you can see why these people were picked above all to go where they went. [24:09]

Just to mention one thing—their main contact, for example was going to be in the synagogues, not uniquely and only in the synagogues, but mainly in the synagogues. When they would go to a place, they went to the synagogue if there was a synagogue. Some places there weren’t and it is beautiful to see what they did when they went to those places.

Paul was just the kind of man who would step right into that synagogue situation. They knew him. They didn’t have the distrust to him that they had in Jerusalem because they were further out. Maybe they realized that this first missionary journey Paul went on was just sort of like a trip around behind the hills back of his hometown. These people that he went to in the Galatian cities were his kind of people, you know? He was from Tarsus. Tarsus is just sort of over the hill from Derbe which was the end point of the first missionary journey, and then he turned around and went back through Lystra and Iconium, Galatia and down to Perga and Seleucia there on the coast there outside of Antioch. See, Paul is just excellent at this. Barnabas was too. [25:25]

We don’t know how this worked, you know. It says, “the Holy Ghost said,”—Well, how did the Holy Ghost say? Did it come over the intercom? Well, probably not and if experience is any guide here, what happened was, there was a growing impression in the minds of a number of people in that church who had listened to Paul and Barnabas and had worked with them and perhaps had heard their concerns and there was a growing impression not of anything definite apparently that they ought to do but the thing had some kind of special ministry which God was laying on them. [26:07]

Now, when God calls people, He doesn’t call them with wild thoughts in their own little minds alone. He calls them through the assembly of the brothers and sisters and a calling is not a private thing and it wasn’t here. Calling is not a private thing. Calling is something, which comes upon the fellowship in which people live. This returns to the theme which I have stressed over and over because I know that it, and I think one of the weakest points in our understanding about the Holy Spirit and the work of God is that the work of God is done in us as a group and that the Holy spirit functions in us together—together, and much of the idiocy that we see in religion is because people at heart are too proud and unbroken to acknowledge the dependency upon the body of Christ. So, we see people taking off in all kinds of directions, and many times destroying themselves, and many others simply because they don’t understand the principle of life in the body—life in the body. [27:39]

Now, when this impression grew on that assembly of people, there came a time when they explicitly marched Saul and Barnabas out and when they had fasted, the 3rd verse, they didn’t do this in a hurry. They fasted and prayed. They fasted and they prayed and then, a beautiful thing—“ . . .when they had fasted and prayed . . .” they brought Barnabas and Saul, “ . . . and laid their hands on them. . . ” Why did they do that? Why did they do that? They did that, again, as an expression of the unity of the body.

When Paul and Barnabas were going out, they were going out not for themselves, but they were going out for Christ and for Christ’s body and they were not going out in their own power but they were going out in the power that you receive from the body. The laying on of hands is a transmission—transition of the power of the body.  [29:08]

It’s that way whether it’s for healing or for ordination or whatever it may be. When we lay hands on, we are not picking something, which is just our little private session, our little plaything. We are working as one of the joints of the body. They laid their hands upon Saul and Barnabas and Paul was never the same after that. If you will watch the things that Saul did after this, you will see that there is a difference in the kinds of things that happened. He was no weakling before, but now he goes out in a kind of power that is just really almost incredible—just almost incredible. [30:02]

And, as he goes out now and they go down to the sea coast, he takes a ship and he goes to the Isle of Cyprus and he started at one end and they go right through the whole island—east end to the west end—preaching. We don’t have much more detail about what happened until he gets to the west end and then we have a meeting with a reprobate Jew named Elymas, who was a friend of Sergius Paulus, an official there and Sergius Paulus was a Gentile but he wants to hear Paul and he is listening to their message and Elymas decides he wants to resist it. Paul plants him in his spiritual eyes. He just says, “Alright, you are our sort of half baked magician of sorts, I want to show you something about God. You are going to be blind.” And Paul lays upon Elymas, what we today would call psychic blindness, and for a period of time, Paul plants his mind by the power of the spirit, which he was in, and he restrained them in that way and Paul used that sort of thing over and over.

Paul would scare you to death. He would scare you to death and believe me, he scared people and remember, he had to say to some people once, “Now chaps, I‘ve written these letters; I’ve tried to reason with you. I want you to straighten this matter out entirely before I come . . . . [He walks away from the microphone and these couple statements are inaudible.] [31:50]

The power of God is not in words; it’s not in words. The power of God is something, which isn’t just, you know, how loud you can lay people out with words. The power of God, which Paul knew was something, which could just overwhelm people like it did and he was a scary person and one of the scariest things about him was how unlikely the guy looked. In fact, according to his own confession, he said, “I’m sure not much to look at. I’m just an insignificant little Jew without scarves on my head and rocks and things like that.” And so, “Gee, how should I get out of this way of this fellow?—and all of a sudden he is just lying there flattened out. [32:42]

Paul is an amazing man and it is wonderful to talk about this because we know what Paul has endured to this point. He had a lot of things burned out and you remember that you are dealing with a person who can say, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet I’m not even alive . . .” It’s not I. I’m not the one; Christ is the one.  “. . .and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) See, Paul could say that in his rough words and that’s why God could trust him with His power. This man, Paul was never the same after that group in Antioch in which he had worked for years, laid their hands upon him and Barnabas and sent him out to do the work of the Father. [33:50]

Paul’s ministry is one of the clearest instances of what had been “hither to unknown” in the way of spiritual principle. Now, if you will watch what he does and we will just go through quickly some of the places he visited. If you watch what he does, it’s unaccountable that it should have the effect. Paul and Barnabas traveled from Cyprus across the waters up to Perga, and went almost straight north into the way called Galatia—maybe not quite the size of California—the state of California. It was a good deal smaller. It was quite a lengthy area and right in the central part of Asia Minor and it seems like one of the first places that he stopped and really made a point of doing something was in the city of Antioch.

Antioch is an interesting place and I would like to refer you to a book if I may which is extremely useful in understanding the kind of work Paul did from a human point of view, and it’s a book by Sir William Ramsey called The Cities of St. Paul. It’s out and been re-published in paperback. It’s an old book and in general, Sir William Ramsey’s braggings on the early church are just priceless and this one is the study of various cities and not just cities but areas. Now, he doesn’t take all the cities of St. Paul but he takes many of them and gives a very thorough archaeological historical study of just what was there when Paul was there—all kinds of city walks and how did he go.

Another book that you might look at is St. Paul The Traveler and Roman Citizen by Sir William Ramsey. Both of these are really excellent books. They are somewhat dated in parts because they were written a long while ago but the value of them is just so great and really everything considered, they haven’t been surpassed or forgotten. They are old books, but they’ve been re-published and they are really worth your time and attention. It gives you a lot of these kinds of details as I say, I just can’t begin to talk about in the short time that we have. I want to talk more about what actually happened when he went there. [36:50]

Now, Paul would go into the synagogue and it was the custom when visiting countrymen came to add to the ritual that had been gone through, they would say now, “Brother Saul or whoever, from so and so, brothers, If you have anything to say to us, speak up.” Here is an open door. It is an automatic open door. So, he just comes and he gives them a review of Jewish history, preaches what had become the standard sermon about the prophecies and how they were fulfilled in Christ. He does get a little unusual quest here which shows up in his letters because he says, “Look, the fact that the Jews at Jerusalem have rejected the Messiah gives us a special opportunity out here in the boondocks because since they have rejected it, we get it. They rejected Him; we can receive Him. He goes out of his way to stress this point that we have a special opportunity—the Jewish people who weren’t at Jerusalem and that they were down-graded because of that as well as the Gentiles and he proclaims that message of forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ.  He gives them a warning about please don’t reject this because if you reject it, the same kind of fate that is brought to others who reject the plan of God because Paul knew and he leaves it at that and sits down. Message preached. Now what would you expect? [38:17]

Suppose you had to give it. Suppose someone said to you okay, there is a country over here that is about half the size of California; wonderful if you all would [Inaudible comments]. It’s so unlikely that anything can come of this. Really. But look what happens. In the 13th chapter, the 42nd verse and following. “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them next Sabbath.” See, in the synagogues there, there were many Gentiles who associated in the synagogues—many Gentiles—and they were not necessarily proselytes; that is, they hadn’t been circumcised and taken up the rituals.

There was another class known as the “God fearers” who were people who would come to give the readings of the law and do what they could short of becoming a proselyte; of course no one could become a Jew without having been born to that but the Gentiles were there and they say, “Won’t you come please and preach this to us again next Saturday?” [39:41]

The next verse—“Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas . . .” They went down the street and people followed them and what happened? “ . . .who speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.” So, they had an active service is what went on. Now these people followed the laws of the Gentiles and the Jews, and they continued outside of the context of the synagogue, they continued to teach them.

Well, the next Sabbath day, what happened?

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas: Yes, what? Jealousy! What were they jealous about?

Comments: Inaudible

Dallas:  Yes. Pretty soon.

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas: Which? Yes, right. What happens is this. You can tell from verse 44 that the word had gone out. All week they had been gossiping this all week long. Here’s what happens. “The next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together . . . “ Why? “ . . . to hear the Word of God.” [41:52]

Comment: Inaudible from student and Dallas

Dallas: And now, instead of praising the Lord, what happened? They are “bent out of shape, man alive. Their nose is over behind their ear” and they just can’t stand this. They are filled with envy. Is that the first time we’ve run into envy in the book of Acts? No. Envy is a familiar theme here.

Envy. This isn’t the first time in the New Testament, is it? That’s what got Jesus killed. From a human point of view, he was killed because some people were envious of Him and why were they envious of Him? Because when He spoke, people listened, “He spoke with authority and not as a Scribe.” Now, what happened to the Scribes? With the Sadducees, people would asleep [Laughter] and they would say, “Gee, we know this guy has got it alright but we see his footnotes and hear all of this and—snoring sound is made. But when Jesus spoke, everyone was electrified! Sleep? No! They couldn’t even sleep when they got away from Him because the “spirit of God was upon Him.” [Inaudible comments as he has walked away from the microphone.] [42:32]

And this is what begins to happen. A most unlikely appearance—a couple little Jews drag into town with their coat tails dragging and literally walking across and they go into the synagogue and stand up and say, “Fellas, this is the way it is!” God was at work! When he had come, he broke into the worlds of sin, righteousness, and judgment. You see, what you are seeing here is a man who goes out without a Kingdom, without position, without anything except the power of God. And he goes out under the most unlikely circumstances and we are gonna see now when he gets to Lystra, he doesn’t depend on his Jewish connection. He just goes and he speaks the word and God honors the word and God calls out a people. [43:34]

You see, that’s how problems start when we say, “When I came to you, I didn’t come rushing forth with this wisdom that I had picked up at the university. I just came with simple words and spoke the truth about Jesus.” He says that when I came to you, I was determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I would say that’s all that I was concerned about and that’s all I talked about and that’s all I thought about. That’s all I presented to you. I just told you about Jesus Christ and I didn’t speak or whine, worrying about how I was going to finagle and mange your mind and your spirit to get you to line up on the right side. I just simply spoke. [44:19]

And what happened? A people were called out. As Steve said last night, “They just came out of the woodwork,” and that’s just the way it works. Paul went in there. He didn’t know those people. God called them—one here and one out there—very special. They just believed. The promise is unto you and to your children and to them that are off even unto as many as the Lord our God will call.

See, Paul went and spoke, not because he had confidence in his own abilities, because he knew what God would do. He knew what God would do in the lives of human beings and he knew he didn’t have to do it so he didn’t sweat a bit. It wasn’t his work. His work was simply to go and to speak. God’s work was to redeem and to make people what He wanted and not what Paul wanted. Leave that up to God. That’s God’s work. [45:35]

Well, now then, the friends who said on that first day were the dignitaries who said, “We have Brother Paul and Brother Barnabas visiting with us today and they have a few words they would like to share with us.” Well, they were kicking themselves all the time and saying, “Why did we let this cat out of the bag?” And the whole town was listening to Paul and Barnabas and what happens? Well, the officials, bound up a bunch of ladies they had heard, you know—“hell hath no furry like a woman’s whatever?” And so they go get the devout ladies and devout ladies are especially difficult. [Laughter] And in the 50th verse—“But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city. . .” Now, undoubtedly, the chief men knew the women were stirred up because they happened to be attached to some of these devout and honorable women, you know? [Laughter] We all know about that sort of thing so no need for comment. “ . . .and the chief men of the city, (and there is a connection there, no doubt) and raised the persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.” [46:58]

Now, a coast looks like it a big deal around the ocean—that just means their borders. They took them to the limits of the city and said, “If sundown sees you here, you’ve had it.” They got out. They took the hint. “ . . .they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came into Iconium.” But what did they leave behind? Now that last verse, it’s just glorious, just beautiful. “And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” and the Holy Spirit. But they left behind a bunch of people just on Cloud Nine. You see, those people had already understood what they weren’t hanging on to Paul. They were okay. Paul had put them in touch with God. Filled with the joy and with Paul’s words—“filled with the joy and the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit had come to Antioch as a permanent residence and it had extended the body of Christ into that area. It’s a beautiful thing. A beautiful thing and we have missed, so desperately missed the work of God in forming the body of Christ where ever we are concerned—even here in Canoga Park. We have taken prerogatives away from the Spirit of God and put them in the hands of men and this is largely why we see so much trouble in our churches or so much deadness in our churches. [48:37]

When Paul left, he was run out of town, disgraced, perhaps a few tars—a few feathers and tars—just hanging around somewhere, you know? But these people were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost and they were still there when he came back a few months later. And at that time, he was able to appoint elders over them, to exhort them, to encourage them, and to teach them better and go on and leave them to the God who had come. Of course, he’s concerned about them. Of course, he writes back to them. Of course, he loves them with all his heart and he prays for them and they pray for him. It’s God’s temple; it’s not Paul’s. It’s not Baptist. It’s not Quaker. It’s not Catholic. It’s God’s. It’s not Paul’s. It’s not Caesar’s. It’s not Apollos’. It’s God’s. It’s God at work. [49:40]

Now, I want to just skip on very quickly and touch on the difference in the way he works here and then what happens at Lystra and Derbe. If you will look at your outline, I did manage to get a part of that on this last page and I am going to skip over the work at Iconium because what you have there is the same song, second verse of what happened in Antioch. The same thing happens. They go to the synagogue. They preach, God calls out many disciples. The Jews get all worked up and they and they run the apostles out of town leaving the converts behind rejoicing. There you go.

But now, the thing about Lystra that is so interesting is that at Lystra, he doesn’t tie in to the Jewish religious tradition. This is a beautiful thing. Now, you watch how it happened. They come back and he is amazed to the wholing of a cripple. A crippled man is healed or wholed. Paul heals him. Let’s read that.

This is in the 14th chapter of the 8th verse (of Acts)—“And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked. The same heard Paul speak . . .”  “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” “The same heard Paul speak . . .” Apparently there was some kind of interchange and Paul . . .  “steadfastly beholding him, perceived that he had” what?  Faith! He had heard. See, the word of God had been spoken to him. Right? The Word of God comes and then faith comes from the Word of God. He perceived “that he had faith to be healed.” (Acts 14:9) [51:30]

Now, it doesn’t always require faith in the one who is being healed, in order to be healed. Faith can be located around in various places but in this case, Paul saw that this man’s heart was captured by the Word of God and he had faith to be healed. So, he “said {to him} with a loud voice . . .” He didn’t whisper it. He made a public announcement; “ . . .Stand upright on thy feet.” Now, he didn’t just do that—“ . . . he leaped and walked.” (Acts 14:10) Incredible! Incredible if you just look at the ordinary course of events, but you are not dealing with very ordinary events when you are reading the book of Acts. He leaped. [52:10]

Now, what happened? The people saw what Paul had done. Now, this is most interesting, because apparently Lystra was a city is which there had not been the same amount of Jewish influence that there had been in other places because when they come to interpret this amazing act, they don’t interpret it in Jewish terms. They interpret it in Greek terms—in Greek terms.

Now, watch what happens. “ . . . they lifted up their voices, saying in the of speech of Lycaonia, the gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” (Acts 14:11) It’s not far from truth, you know. It’s not far from truth—it’s a little bit removed there. Actually, the incarnation is in the background. “And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; (Zeus) and Paul, Mercurius (or Hermes) . . .” These are the Roman names. The Greek names are Zeus and Hermes. “ . . .because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter . . .” Now, see this, we may have a rabbi coming forth here. We have a priest of Jupiter. See, you don’t have a rabbi coming forth here. This is just beautiful because you see, Paul is able to step into any cultural tradition with the power of God now and take that tradition and transform it and plant the heavenly treasure in whatever earthly vessel is around. No cultural presuppositions here. [53:33]

The priest of Jupiter comes out. They bring oxen and garlands to the gates and they get ready to slay the oxen and have a sacrifice—a party. [Laughter] And Paul and Barnabas, they hurried out and they run out and they tear their clothes and they say, “Sirs, why do ye do these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you . . .” Now, watch what they preach. They do not give them a quick survey of Jewish history. They don’t mention these things. Why not? Because the Jewish history was a part of the vessel, and the conceptualizations, which these people had were of a different variety of flower pot. So, what do they say? “We are men of like passions, and we preach unto you that you should turn from these vanities. . .” What are these vanities? All of these idolatrous panatheas; these nothings—vanity is nothings. “ . . . unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth . . .”—you see, they are zeroing in, right on—right on with the Greek way of thinking about this now. [54:59]

Of course, the Hebrews had that in common with them, didn’t they? They refer, in other words, to those things which are known of God—the invisible things of God which are known by the things which are seen and things which are known. It’s common knowledge. If fact, it’s right under that, he says, “ . . . the God who made Heaven and earth and the sea and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from Heaven, and fruitful season, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:15-17) See, the goodness of God, which they see in their own position. “And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people. . .” (Acts 14:18) In other words, they just barely did mange to keep them form cutting that poor old bull’s throat and having a sacrifice right there.

“ . . . filling our hearts with food and gladness,” they barely restrained women’s work, they would have done sacrifice.” Now, this is beautiful because what happens? The same thing—a group of people out of the woodwork are called and God formed a community in Lystra on a different preconception, on a different cultural assumption. [56:02]

Missions are not something, which deals with over the water. Missions are a simple matter of outreach of those who are in the community to those who are not in the community and the assumption of missions is simply speaking the word in the power of God; speaking the word of God’s grace, of the righteousness which will be in Christ and the power for the body—the community of God indwelt by the Holy spirit. That’s essentially missions. [56:50]

I hope that now we will re-work at our thinking about this now. As we attempt to reach; as we attempt to carry out our missions to our husbands and our wives, our missions to our children and to our neighbors and the people we work with, to whoever or to whomever we speak in every situation, that we might understand what the work of missions really is and how it is effectively done in the power of God. [57:27]

When we do this, then we are prepared to walk as Paul and to be an extension—a foreign extension of the body of Christ through the power of God. This is really, I am afraid today still a good bit of a journey into the spiritual unknown and I am praying that by and large, we still have to catch up on the book of Acts on this conception of missions.

So, I hope you will think about it now and then next week as we get into these wonderful first three chapters of the book of Romans, we are going to see more and more how Paul works out his conception of a righteousness which is free from the vessels—free from the cultural ambitions which had up to this point and even to day for many people prohibit the extension of the Kingdom of God. Fran, you’ve been wanting to say something for fifteen minutes and I haven’t let you—you still got it?

Comments: Inaudible

Dallas: I think by in large the answer to that is complex but I think there are two main reasons. One was they had the disciples and Jesus Himself to restrain them from doing it and saying, “No this is not my way,” and the other was—

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas: Not necessarily, no! They weren’t in fact and the people with power were not. The Jews managed to get the people—this was the chief man of the city and they were able to bring power to bear on the side opposed to the apostles and that’s the other part of the story. It’s just simply at this point, the people that were with the disciples were too weak to effectively resist those people and if they had decided, but the way of the sword is not the way of the Christ and their way is to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies, to pray for those that persecute them, bless those that curse them. [1:00:11]

Comments: Inaudible

Dallas: Oh, I am sure they said this is wrong. You know, I am sure they didn’t just not say anything but that’s not effective when it’s brought to bear against the weight of a political machine, which this was.

But, the way of Christ is not the way of forced resistance and if Christians had tried to win that way, they would have never won. They did win. They won by loving their enemies and blessing those that cursed them and praying for those that despitefully used them. Jesus said, “If I wanted to use force, I’ve got troops of angels just waiting to mow them down.” But you see, Jesus didn’t come for that purpose. He didn’t come to kill people. He came to save them and the disciples from across the face of the earth didn’t come to kill people because they didn’t agree with them or to resist them if they didn’t agree. They came to bless them. [1:01:09]

Comments: Inaudible

Dallas: This is right. This is God’s way, isn’t it?—to just walk on away or in any other case, to shake off the dust on their feet, symbolically saying this dust has heard it all and it will lie here and will stand up before God and say what you did.

Let’s pray. We must get on to the service. “Lord, we are thankful for this word and pray that you will . . . .”