JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.”
September 7, 2009, 3:12 pm
Filed under: E Acts

Reading Chapter 19 of Acts and other passages around the same time frame, such as the first letter to the church of Corinth and Paul’s previous letters he had sent earlier such as his letter to the churches in Galatia and the letters to the church at Thessalonica Paul made sure he had help to carry “on the work of the Lord.”

Through Paul’s first, second, and now third missionary journey he has been discipling where ever he went. What comes to mind is Jesus great commission to “go and make disciples of all the nations.” Perhaps the apostle Matthew had already finished writing his gospel and Paul had gotten a copy by now for his travels to the churches, along with copies of his previous letters to Galatia and Thessalonica and now his first letter to the Corinthians along with the Old Testament. It seems he not only had a focus on proclaiming Jesus Christ to all who would listen, he would focus on instructing the new disciples in loving Jesus in praise and worship, loving Jesus through loving one another, His Body, and expressing that love to others. These new disciples enraptured by the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who had given them hope and salvation even in the midst of persecution desired to share that same love with those around them, there family, friends, and co-workers no matter the cost. This then formed a church in a home from which Jesus would begin to express Himself more fully through the community.

Because of the journey of traveling, hiking, and camping in the wilderness (what a time I would have enjoyed!) from town to town “Paul wanted to take” others “along on the journey.” Perhaps the Old Testament book from Ecclesiastes (“two are better than one…a cord of three strands is not quickly broken”) became more real for Paul during these days when his travels were many and lonely and the need for companionship the greatest. These other disciples were spoken well of in the church that were planted by Paul.

Paul initially had Barnabas and Mark, later just Barnabas for his first missionary journey. For his second missionary journey Paul had Silas but, because of the first missionary journey, Paul began to have more “companions” travel with him, such as Timothy whom Paul was a spiritual father to and we see his name in many of Paul’s letters. Luke shows up and becomes one of his most faithful companions and writer of his letters. Then Paul shares life with Aquila and Priscilla, then Crispus (a former synagogue ruler), and later Sosthenes (another synagogue ruler). On his third missionary journey, his list of companions grows even more so. Perhaps because of the length of time he spent in Ephesus his focus may have been just on raising up church planters who were sent out to form churches in homes and the work places by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul meets Apollos whom Aquila and Priscilla had helped to know Jesus in reality through a shared life together.

It seems all the while Paul’s focus was on not just being content with “preaching Christ” whom “God raised him from the dead” but helping believers who met in homes and in the marketplaces to “continue in the grace of God,” to know in reality that “Christ lives” in them and to “know Christ and him crucified.” The results were that the believers, wherever Paul went, found themselves in the midst of persecution: Jews who “were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying” in Pisidian Antioch , “the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers” in Iconium, the Jews “stoned Paul” in Lystra, in Philippi “Paul and Silas” were “dragged…to face the authorities” and “severely flogged” and “thrown into prison,” again in Thessalonica the Jews became “jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city,” in their search for Paul and Silas they found “Jason and some other brothers” and “dragged (them)…before the city officials, shouting,” “Jason and the others” were forced to “post bond” and then were let go, these same Jews then left to Berea and also agitated the crowds and stirred “them up,” in Corinth “the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive” and later “made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court,” and finally before leaving to go through Macedonia to visit the church in Corinth a riot occured in Ephesus due to the loss of the idol making business from “silver” shrine “craftsmen” which caused “the whole city” to go “in an uproar.” “Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia” were “seized.”

The life of a church planter in Paul’s day and time was counter cultural and at odds with the world. I wonder why we don’t hear that much about this kind of church planting Paul did in the United States or Europe? I hear numerous stories from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Are the churches in the United States really planted, or start out like those we see in the New Testament? I hear pockets of stories occurring, but not so much from the traditional or contemporary churches whose focus is on building “church” buildings and having a staff and clergy causing enormous overhead for the people of God who claim it to be their church. The stories I hear that are similar to Paul’s church planting style seem to be occurring like in Paul’s day, in houses and the marketplace, where the focus is Christ as Head not a senior pastor, senior teacher, staff, building focused with a mall of programs, or specific distinctions such as mainly white, African American, Latino, etc and no huge overhead such as salaries and mortgage payments and debt.

Is it possible that if we simply made making disciples who love Jesus with all of their being in their homes and marketplaces that formed the body Christ where they lived, learning to live a shared life of love for one another, a priority the church would look more like what we see in Paul’s day, more like what we see outside of the United States? The life I see from Paul is “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” and “knowing Christ and him crucified.” Am I sold out for Christ, because of His great love for me? Do others really love Jesus and are they sold out to Him because of my love and devotion to Jesus in all that I say and do?

Perhaps because of love for pleasure and the things of this world, living a comfortable life of pursuing happiness, the American dream, we cannot fathom ever living by faith because by doing so we must deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Jesus, a life hated by the world. Perhaps because of our neglect for one another, our focus on ourselves, having so few real relationships, shallow relationships, we have no one who can mentor us to really pursue Christ, to know Christ and him crucified?

It seems the institutionalization of the church has done more to harm the making of disciples, the building up of the body, than it has helped. What needs to change in the church today, in the body of Christ, so that it truly can be the New Testament, the New Covenant, the new man, the true vine, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, holy and without blemish? Only Jesus can do such a work, a people by faith who are fully devoted to Jesus teachings, to Jesus incarnate, allowing Him to love through us to one another, focused on Him and nothing else!

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