So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Good morning everybody. Good morning. Invite you to take your Bibles to the Book of Acts chapter 16. Give be looking verses six through 12 as we return to the our series in the book of Acts. The Spirit at work to the end. Of the earth this morning. I’m gonna be giving sort of an overview message, um, but this is the text where we left off.
And I want to pick up here and try to give us a context of where we are. We’re gonna look at chapter 16. I think we’ll start at verse one. I’m gonna read down verse to verse 12, and that’s page 870. If you’re using a Bible there in front of you. Paul came also to Derby and Lystra. A disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.
He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lira and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places. For all they knew for. They all knew that his father was. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance, the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.
So the churches were strengthened in the faith and they increased in numbers daily. And they went through the region of frig, GIA and Galatia having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Macia, they attempted to go into Bethia, but the spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
So passing by Macia, they went down Toros and a vision appeared DePaul in the night. A man of Macedonia was standing there urging him and saying, come over to Macedonia and help us. And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought it to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Let me just mention this and I’m gonna read the next two verses. This is where we left off a number of weeks ago before the Christmas season. And all this time we have been operating in Asia. They are now crossing over, um, going into the, uh, area of northern Greece. They will be beginning for the first time on European soil, and we read these words in verse 11 and 12.
So setting sail from Troy, we made a direct voyage to some oath race and the following day to Minneapolis and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. Let’s pray.
Lord, we’re so grateful for the invitation to worship God. Thank you that we can come into this place or we can be watching online and participate. Lord, we’re here devoting this time this morning because. We desire to hear from you. We desire to be in the presence of people that know you and love you and God, I pray as we reflect on this study this morning, Lord, as we consider, what is the book of Acts supposed to be saying to us?
God, I pray that you would stretch us, challenge us, encourage us in our journey with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen. I’ve read, um, many books. I don’t have a number, many books on World War ii. Um, and I was going through some of them that I’ve read in the last couple of years. One of them I reread and I was struck with the fact that these books were written all about the same period, the same events, the same locale of the world in Europe.
But with very different purpose. I read the book, many, many have you read called Band of Brothers, the story, actually, Steven Ambrose came up with the idea World War II Scholar attending in 19 98, 19 88, a reunion of Easy Company. Um, and as he was with these guys, he had been invited to go. He was astonished with the bond that had been formed with these group of men where they got together at least once a year or all the years since 1945 when the war had ended.
And he wrote the Band of Brothers to portray the relationships that can be forged. in Combat Together. I read a book called Ordinary Men the last year. It’s the story of reserves in a police force in Germany that were, uh, conscripted. Uh, they were to be, uh, they thought local policemen in 1942, and they were actually sent into Poland and they were given the responsibility of finding Jews and of exterminating them.
And the story is by the author, uh, uh, uh, to bring out how ordinary people became murderers and to talk about the psychology of evil. I read another book recently called A Higher Call. It’s the story, a true story of a German fighter pilot flying a Messer Schmidt. And he had in his sights as a, leaving Germany from now over the Mediterranean, uh, excuse me, the North Sea.
And he was, as he was following this, uh, B 17 bomber, he realizes he was coming to get it in his gun sites, that it was completely crippled. It had been utterly decimated by, by armament that had come and hit the plane. He could even see in part of the plane and could see almost all of the crew was killed.
And this man was a Christian. And he actually, um, recognized this plane would never be in battle again. But he actually, they had, and their controls were out. They, they were lost in the Mediterranean, uh, in the North Sea. He actually led them all the way back to Britain so that they could land safely. And the author wrote the book to talk about how the pilot’s faith had led him to do what he did.
The titles give you a sense of the different purpose of these authors, even though they’re writing about the same era of history, the same locale of history, the same events that were going on. Band of Brothers, ordinary men, a higher calling, different purposes in recording history titles give you the sense of that we’re returning today to our study in the book of Acts moments.
Where they are launching the European part of the missionary journey now really moving into Roman influenced territory as they do this, we are reminded of the title of this book, the Acts of the Apostles. Well, we know from that it’s a history book. Matter of fact, we’re, we’re, it’s clear as, as Luke delineates this to us, that he is actually, it is actually part of a two volume work.
The first is called the Gospel of Luke, where he presents the most thorough historical, um, summary of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, of all the gospels. And then he follows up with volume two, which is the study of the, the, the followers of Christ, his apostles, his sent ones that are now taking his messaging and his ministry and taking it to the world.
but is telling history his ultimate purpose. I Is he just recording? Uh uh, uh uh, the history there. If you remember back when you took literature classes or some of you may be there now, you know that they encourage you to always look for the author’s intent or purpose. And you may remember this, there’s a thing called pi, p i e and they said, look for the A.
Typically authors have one of three purposes in writing. One, it is to persuade. Two, it is to inform. Three. It is to entertain. Is Luke’s intention just the eye? Is it to inform? I would suggest it’s not. I suggest that this book is not just a history manual giving us the second volume. Of this history anymore than the first volume was just to inform.
It’s striking that it is selected history. Sometimes he summarized the work of two or three years of ministry in one phrase, in one verse. Sometimes he takes an entire chapter just to sum, to write the summary of a sermon. He’s selecting the history. Every event, every sermon, every conversation that is included means hundreds of others were left out.
What is here is to fulfill the author’s purpose in writing. To inform certainly, but to persuade. To say this is the story of the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ, of his kingdom in the lives of people. He founded it through his death and resurrection. But now I’m telling you the story of its going forward.
But it is not just to give you some history facts because it is a very sketchy history. It is selected with certain events, but those certain events are designed to persuade us that the same priorities, the same realities of that kingdom, that serve as guiding principles of how they operated, are designed for the church today to embrace and to live out as well.
So I’d like to this morning summarize those five guiding principles or realities of Jesus Kingdom We see portrayed in an overview of the Book of Acts. And I’d like to, to highlight them. First of all, we are told, if we are to really understand what this book is trying to persuade us is that we are part of a kingdom formed by a resurrected king.
That the idea here is, and, and this message, I’m specifically speaking to those that have personally embraced Jesus Christ as savior that are part of Jesus kingdom. But he says, you’re part of a kingdom formed by a resurrecting. The central theme in all of the sermons and acts is that Jesus is the crucified savior that rose from the dead.
There are 10 thorough sermons in the Book of Acts where most, uh, a large part of them are recorded for us. There are nine other sermons alluded to in the book. All of them highlight Jesus is the crucified savior. That rose from the dead. He’s the foundation of this kingdom. The shocking portrayal of a perceived criminal who got the electric chair of his day, but literally physically came back to life and walked on earth again.
Let me just illustrate that by the first and last sermons, acts chapter two, verse 30, where Peter is speaking on the day of Pentecost. He says, God had sworn with an oath that he would set one of his descendants on his throne. He spoke about the resurrection of the Christ. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
That’s the first sermon in the book of Acts. Here’s the last one, acts chapter 28, verse 22. People came to him and said, we desire to hear from you what your views are for with regard to this sect. We know that everywhere it is spoken against, he’s now in Rome. Paul is speaking from morning to leave.
Evening. He expounded to them testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Basically what he’s saying is this book is about this kingdom that Jesus founded, and it is founded on a king that was both crucified and rose from the dead.
He is the foundation of the life of all of those that are citizens of the kingdom. Secondly, you are part of a kingdom found in changed hearts. It is not a kingdom of the world. This is a challenge. That I think was deeply needed in their day as they had a misunderstanding of the kingdom that Jesus was actually developed.
I also believe it is tremendously needed today. Christians are not trying to take over the empire in the Book of Acts. They’re not trying to make everyone embrace their faith. They invite people to do so regularly, consistently, passionately, because they know that they will enjoy Jesus Christ and they will have a relationship with him that enables them to go to heaven eternally.
It is a movement away from an earthly kingdom to a spiritual kingdom where Jesus rules as king in the hearts of his people. He sends their His Spirit into their lives and marks them as members of his kingdom, Roman authorities. We’re always trying to sniff out among new religions, new sex if they were a threat to the political foundations of Rome.
Luke goes out of his way in the Book of Acts to emphasize that this is not what they were about. As Jesus kingdom followers, they’re not trying to establish a new country, a new empire. A new nation. His goal is to reign in the hearts of his people, not to reign over a national state. Luke goes to elaborate links to show that the authorities did not ever sense that Jesus followers were trying to influence their political order.
This is particularly evident in the chapters ahead of us, in the Book of Acts. Let me illustrate this quickly, chapter 16. Next, where, where we’re moving into is a is a colony called Philippi. And there the, the common. Thing comes against Paul, Paul and Silas and the boys, where they’re constantly using the argument.
It goes all the way back to the early part of the church where the, where the religious leaders would say, these are insurrectionists. These are individuals that are trying to, to overturn the political order and take political control. They’re constantly dealing with. Romans in Philippians 16, the magistrates end up apologizing to Paul when they realized they had, um, arrested him and there was no grounds whatsoever in Corinth.
In chapter 18, the Pro council Galileo refused to even take the case on. It was brought against them in, in chapter 19 in the city of Ephesus, the, the second largest city in the empire, the second Rome, the Eastern Rome, if you will. The town clerk declared Paul and his friends to be innocent, even though it’s this giant uprising in the stadium in Ephesus.
And, and he says, no, I don’t. There’s nothing about these guys. That is threatening and, and that is indicating that they are about the political order In chapter 21 to 23, when Paul is back in Jerusalem, he’s arrested, they bring the Sanhedrin in, the Romans do. Now people are all stirred up and they’re ready.
All these accusations are going all around. And this guy, Claudius, uh, Lys, who’s the commander of the Roman military in Jerusalem, here’s what he says about Paul. There’s no charge against him that deserves imprisonment. We don’t have anything. In chapter 24 to 26, Paul has brought between Fe before Felix and Festus and a gripper who are all Roman, uh, mucky mucks of one degree or another in the, in the political arena, and all fail to convict him of any offense.
Matter of fact, they say, . He didn’t need to go to Rome. He had appealed to Rome to go before Caesar, uh, and, and they said, we, we don’t, we don’t really need to send him to Rome because there’s nothing that can be brought against this guy, but because he’s appealed to Caesar, we gotta send him. And that’s how Paul ended up testifying in Rome.
Why did Luke spend all his time so much time talking about the results of these Roman author? He is saying this, Jesus kingdom is not political. It is a kingdom of the heart. It is personal. The way the Christians tried to influence people toward Jesus kingdom was to share the message of forgiveness and grace that his kingdom offered.
It’s striking. We’re gonna see this in chapter 16. The first place they’re gonna go on European soil is this, this town called Fi Philippi. Philippi was a place that, uh, years before a a Roman, uh, general had gotten the emperor to declare as a colony for retired soldiers. This place was packed with military types.
Citizenship was so essential to them. There was no higher thing than being a citizen of Rome for them. They, many of them, had gotten their citizenship by a lifetime of military service in the empire. And Paul writes this in chapter one when he is writing to the Philippians. Guys, remember, our citizenship is in heaven.
This is where we belong. This is our kingdom.
They had great pride in their country, but he says, our citizenship is not of this world. Now I’m gonna make a statement that for some of you, is gonna be a tough pill to swallow. The Holy Spirit was not trying to set up a Christian nation in Rome. The Holy Spirit is never trying to set up a Christian nation.
The distinction has been important historically, when the Roman Empire fell in the early fifth century. Was a big deal for Christians because in the early three hundreds, B a d A Roman Emperor had declared the Empire Christian because he had come to faith. Whether he actually came to faith or not, but, but he had at least embraced Christianity in some form when the empire was vanquished by the Visigoths, and they all talk about the sacking of Rome because they just decimated the place.
Augustine wrote the City of God, a famous work. Basically, his thesis in the book is this, the city of God is heavenly based on God’s eternal drawing of people from every nation, and the city of man is earthly. He’s arguing the book among other things. The Jesus attention is on the city of God among his, uh, uh, people.
He’s not trying to build a nation, but a spiritual kingdom. A perfect commonwealth cannot be found in this age, is his argument part of it. But that does not mean that Christians can’t contribute to the, to, uh, genuine, uh, expressions of common good and the benefit of, of their nation. And so when the Roman Empire fell, Augustine saw this, this is not tragedy, ultimate loss.
This is not the, the crushing of the church and the kingdom of Jesus. There was another church father named Jerome who. Was decimated by the loss, and in his writings he kept lamenting what will become of the church now that Rome has fallen. Augustine saw more clearly that the city of God is not the Roman empire or any temporal kingdom in Augustine’s view.
God had brought the mission field to the missionaries. There was an amazing turning of many of the Visigoths to Christ, the these, uh, from German, uh, extraction. They had come down. He even pointed out that many of the Visigoths have been far more just and Christlike in their treatment of enemies than the Roman armies had been.
Basically what, what he was trying to argue is
that for him,
In contrast to Jerome who had a hard time separating the Roman Empire from us, Augustine defined us as believers in Christ. I think this is important in our day. I think this is important,
The United States, to me, is the greatest country on planet Earth. I have never felt differently. I don’t believe I ever will, but I do not believe the United States is a Christian nation, and I do not believe it ever has been. I do not believe, and I’m probably gonna have to defend this with some, and I’m, I’m fine with that.
I do not believe that was the intention of the founding fathers. No nation in history has been a Christian nation. A lot of the conflict intention that has actually weakened the, the witness and influence of the American church today has come in thinking we need to get back to something that is our right as Christians.
Was America more moral in the past? Certainly. Were there more standards of righteous behavior in the public arena? Yes,
but I don’t think that means we were a Christian nation, nor did I believe our founding fathers intended it that way. There is a philosophy called Christian nationalism. If you are not familiar with it, you will be. It is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way.
Popularly, Christian nationalists assert that America is and must remain a Christian nation. I’m gonna read some because I, I, I want my words to be what I really want to say. Christian nationalism is most evident not in its political agenda, but in an attitude, an unstated presumption that Christians are entitled to promising of place in the public square because they are heirs of the true or essential heritage of American culture.
That Christians have a right to define the meaning of the American experiment because they see themselves as America’s architects, the first real guardians of the country, because others are not true representatives of its vision. I would argue that the ultimate vision of the founding fathers was two things in particular, to have the rule of law that we would live under the rule of law.
Secondly, to utterly distrust the heart of any person with power. This to me, and this goes all the way back to John, Calvin, and others that said, true government should be assuming that no one can be trusted with power. There must be checks and balances. The beauty of American Judi judicial system to me and the glory of the founding fathers is this part of Christian belief.
They did embrace enough of them to say, we don’t trust anyone with power. We will then have a system of checks and balances where there will be different. Branches of government, executive, judicial, legislative, they will work together. Distrusting that anyone can be given absolute power, a belief in the corrupt nature of mankind, and a determination to control.
And on the principle, which I’m sure you’ve heard, power corrupts absolute power corrupts absolutely. American Christians in the past were exemplary in helping establish the American experiment, and many American Christians worked to end slavery and many other evils. They did so because they believed Christianity required them to work for justice, but they worked to advance Christian principles, not Christian power or Christian culture, which is a key distinction between.
Political engagement as Christians and Christian nationalism. Normal Christian political engagement is humble, loving, and sacrificial. It rejects the idea that Christians are entitled to primacy of place in the public square, or that Christians have a presumptive right to continue their historical dominance in American culture today.
Christians should seek to love their neighbors by pursuing justice in the public square, by working against things like abortion, promoting religious liberty, fostering racial justice, but also by protecting the rule of law and honoring constitutional processes. The early church did not seek to create a political kingdom, Christian Kingdom in Rome, but to live as members of an existing spiritual kingdom, whether it was in the Roman Empire.
The German Empire, or if I can use the term, the American Empire. We are the church and I recognize I want to be liked. Uh, and I, I, I don’t love going against what everybody’s thinking or some are thinking, I’m just being as honest as I can. Christian nationalism is not Christian. It is a concept of the Kingdom of Christ.
That is not Jesus concept. It’s not what the Book of Acts is about. They were not trying. They went, Luke is constantly saying, we’re not doing that. We’re not trying to change the political order. We’re not saying you have to do it our way. We’re not trying to argue except for the fact that we are trying to say there is a risen Christ that is.
King and Lord of our individual life, we invite you to join our kingdom. And if our earthly kingdom falls, as it did in the Roman empire, Augustine says, okay, the king is still ruling, the king is still king. Let’s now embrace what he has in this contact text. And in that case, with the fall of the Roman Empire, the Holy Christian, Roman Empire, purportedly, it became an opportunity to bring the, the, the, the sikas, many of them to faith.
Okay? As Augustine understood, and Jerome did not in the fifth century, our US is never ultimately our fellow citizens or our nation, but believers. All right, gonna move fast cuz we’re almost done. Number three, you are part of a kingdom uniting people of great diversity. Peter says in Acts chapter 10, you guys know as a Jew, I am not even permitted to be in your house, but somehow I’m here.
The more you read the book of Acts, the more you understand it in the context of what Paul is writing a about the difference of Jews and Gentiles and other cultural ethnicities getting together, the more you are struck that this thing worked at all, it’s just fathomless to see, but it is the fulfillment of Jesus prayer in John 17 that there could be unity among his people, that they could be one.
The spirit of Jesus broke down barriers that are almost unimaginable, the Jews had a lifetime separation code. They didn’t go in the homes of Gentiles, they didn’t, uh, eat with them in public. They didn’t intermarry with them. Certainly they didn’t even travel in their areas. They avoided them. They found new roots.
So they didn’t get, they were utterly set apart from the goam, which would be most of you and me, uh, the non-Jew. And all of a sudden, Pentecost, happenss and the spirit begins then to embrace all ethnicities, all cultures, including the goias, and, and they’re now doing church together. And the difference is, Are so astonishing.
I mean, imagine you’ve now got these former pagans who don’t understand or particularly appreciate any of the foundations of the Jewish faith like circumcision or the weekly Sabbath or the festivals or, or your blood connection to the Old Testament heroes. And you’re supposed to be in the same worship service as doing church together.
You’re supposed to now be ready to have their boy marry your girl and you’re supposed to do life and, and, and you have this amazing conflict of culture. And Jesus says, this is where the glory of the gospel makes itself known that you’re a part of a kingdom. That is a kingdom uniting. People not striving to.
People. The fourth thing we find is you’re part of a kingdom led by a sovereign king. We see so much of this in this book where God is constantly demonstrating that his purposes will not be thwarted. His sovereign plans for redemption will go forward. In Acts chapter 16, we just, the verses just, we read where Paul wants to go as he’s traveling through, uh, contemporary Turkey, uh, it was called Asia.
Then he was, he wanted to go north to preach to those guys couldn’t go the, he wanted to go west to go towards Ephesus and where the cos the, the urban centers were. And the spirit stopped him from there. And then to his surprise, he ends up in SRO ass and he gets this Macedonian vision. He says, I want you to come over here to to Europe, contemporary Europe.
There is no methodology except follow the spirit. It’s all God. He. He brings people to himself constantly talks about how it is the spirit of God that is reaching people in the most astounding of ways. He, he is intending things for good, that seem intended for evil. In Acts chapter eight, we saw how the church, uh, actually moves out from Judea.
And the reason is there’s a terrible persecution and the believers are forced to scatter, and the gospel begins to spread all through the outlying regions. God again, was at work.
It reminds us when we see that our kingdom is led by a sovereign king, that the ruling principle in the Christian life is that there are no initiators, there are only responders. Doesn’t matter how great a leader you are, it doesn’t matter how gifted you are in being able to manage and lead if you are a child of God, if you are in Jesus kingdom, you are never ultimately the initiator of your plants.
You are the responder to the spirit of God’s leading in your life. Every pastor has to bow the knee under that reality. Every church leader has to, every, every parent in their home has to have the concept. I’m not the king. I’m not on the throne of, of this church, or this family, or this business. He’s the ruler.
He’s the king, and his sovereign purposes will be fulfilled. And my goal is to align myself with the purposes of God to always see myself that I am ultimately a responder, not an initiator. Fifth, you are part of a kingdom resourced by divine.
Externally, they are facing incredible opposition in this book that will continue throughout the next number of chapters. In the past, we’ve seen religious leaders of Israel working against the church. We’re now going to see political powers work against the church more prominently, we’re going to see, uh, continuance of the demonic opposition that has come to the church.
There’s going to be internal opposition. We’ve seen some of this. Christians have major conflicts theologically, strategically, personality-wise. We’ve seen breakups even of the missionary band. We’ve, we’ve seen councils that have to be drawn together to try to figure out how are we gonna do this? Letting the goam into the Kingdom of God thing.
How do we do. , the Judaizer are gonna be out there that are constantly preaching that you really have to be, no one can become a Christian, uh, can, can become a Christ follower since he’s the Jewish Messiah. You have to first become a Jew, embrace Judaism, and then you can embrace the Messiah. You can’t j it’s not cheap grace.
You can’t just say, well, I’ve be lived like a pagan with multiple gods my whole life and I’ve done all this and, and, and now I’ve decided, yeah, I, I like Jesus too. I’m gonna be a Jesus follow. And the Jew said, that can’t be. No. You’ve gotta first embrace historic Judaism. And the church battled to say, no, no, it, it, the wall’s gone.
There’s no partition. There’s no first step in. And then you can have the vertical step. You freely come the church. As we look at what acts is saying to us, the church goes forward humbly. Independently crying out to God as one author said, I remember when I was in college reading this statement, he said, the church goes forward on its knee when you read the Book of Acts and you realize this is a supernatural enterprise.
We don’t now back into our own power and our own resources. It is utterly lived independence upon the spirit of God. It is a kingdom of our hearts. It is where Christ rules. Let’s pray.
Lord, I pray that you would apply this message in the way that you see the need. I thank you, Lord, that you have called us. into your kingdom.
We love living in the kingdom of light where there’s hope and there’s joy and there’s peace. But we also acknowledge we come as citizens under a king. So Lord, help us to live as responders. Help us to live as gentle people who are also people of conviction and boldly telling people of the glory of Christ that can be theirs.
I thank you for the chance to meditate on your word and talk about it today, Lord, in Jesus’ name, amen. Now go in peace to love and serve and enjoy the Lord.