It is seldom today that when you visit a Church you will be invited to speak to the congregation, especially if you are a stranger to them and have never set foot in that Church before.
Years ago, a stranger came into one of our Sunday night services. This was about two months into my first pastorate. During the first part of the service he stood up and wanted to speak to the congregation saying he had a message from God. I said no … adding that if he wanted to say something he could speak after the service. I was hoping he would forget. I was young in the ministry and this caught me off guard. Then, during one song, he went off into some personal, self-induced experience where he was babbling. After the song I asked him to be quiet, I preached and at the end of the service he stood up and spoke some garbage about God giving him a message for us that made no sense at all. I then spoke to the congregation pointing out what he said was senseless and meaningless, without any Biblical ideas … and that was that. In our passage we see something different today:
Ac 13:14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.”
1) A visit to the synagogue. These missionaries were Jews before their conversion to Jesus. The great commission, although it included all nations, the Jews were the first “target”. We ought never to forget that God built the nation Israel through whom He would reach the world. So it was natural that the missionaries went to the synagogues, hoping to be able to evangelize.
2) The format of synagogue worship. Another aspect of the synagogue was the worship structure. It contained most of the elements we would find in our Protestant Church Services such as a call to worship, singing, prayers, Scripture reading and a sermon. A notable aspect is that the Old Testament (readings from the Law and the Prophets) were first read before the speaking or preaching took place. What we do today is based upon what they did then. I do realize that in the day in which we live, when you travel it is difficult to find a Church that is Bible Believing with expositional preaching. A suggestion is that before you travel, do some research and find a place of worship that will conform to what you are used too. You might not get the perfect match, but as long as the Word of God is expounded and will nourish your soul, you will have your spiritual needs met. Please don’t think this is a “nitpick” session. Your soul does not benefit when you sit and listen to a message that is political, about social action, prosperity, is legalistic or relates to the power of positive thinking. You need wholesome Biblical Manna from the Holy Spirit to feed your soul.
3) An invitation to speak. Here we find … the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak. They obviously did not know who these visitors were. I wonder whether they would have prevented them from speaking if they knew they were Christian Missionaries, seeking to bring the Gospel to them. They are invited to speak a message of encouragement. One of the most needed messages people need is one of encouragement! There is however a difference in what the synagogue rulers meant and what the missionaries presented! You see, encouragement could have meant something to lift their spirits as they lived under the yoke of the Roman Empire. Life was hard at the best of times. They were always on their guard as to what they did, said or where they went. They needed encouragement! Maybe they wanted encouragement from the Word of God to help trust Him during the political hard times. The missionaries however would stand up and give a totally different … and unexpected encouragement, from the Word of God … but with a different focus! Paul preached the Gospel, starting from the creation of the Israeli Nation in Egypt, going all the way through to Jesus. The invitation to speak again on the following Sabbath was offered and accepted, but on that day so many from the city attended the synagogue to hear the Gospel Paul preached, to the point where the Jews were “jealous” and “abusive” towards Paul. Please read Acts 13:16-52. This is the passage we shall unpack over a few days. In the light of verse 46, we see a dramatic shift towards missions to the Gentiles:
Ac 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.
Let’s consider a few thoughts before we work the sermon Paul preached.
(1) Ingredients of Church Worship Services. If you attend Church for the singing and to hear “lift me up” messages or “motivational speakers”, you are not seeking God’s voice but man’s! The focus of the Church service … all the singing, praying and reading must support, compliment and point to the passage expounded. Then the passage expounded needs to be what God is saying, not what man wants it to say. Take the message Paul preaches in Acts 13. From start to end it is all about Jesus. There is no deviation. If your church does not provide this, find one that does.
(2) Needed Missionary Mindset. Often small Churches can’t be actively involved in missions financially, but we can pray for mission and we can be evangelistic. Remember … for us today, everyone in the world is to be the focus of our Gospel Ministry. No one is to be excluded. The Gospel is for all, irrespective of their religion or even if they are our enemies. The Gospel for all nations means the Gospel for all people.
(3) Once a door closes, move to doors that are open. As with these missionaries, they moved away from a closed synagogue to other open doors. We shall come across people who are not interested and even antagonistic towards the Gospel. Pray for them and move on to the next opportunity. Once you have spoken the Gospel and it’s rejected your part has been completed. Now they are without any excuse before God. They cannot say to God … “I did not know.” They heard, rejected and are accountable for their sins. Should they not repent and land up in hell, it’s not your fault.
Father, help us to be faithful to the Gospel mandate, getting it out to the lost. In Your love and mercy, please use even us to reach lost souls for the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom. Amen.