Today we notice the response of the missionaries once they were expelled from Pisidian Antioch … they “shook the dust from their feet in protest against” the business and political leaders as well as the Jews who incited their expulsion from the city. During our time pastoring a Church in Welkom in the Free State Province, a “self-style prophet” passed through the city trying to get opportunities to preach in various Churches. He never approached me, yet every Church he approached refused and he landed up lambasting them “prophesying” things like … “The water used for infant baptism in the Presbyterian Church will turn into blood” and “The City of Welkom will fall into a huge hole as an act of judgment.” Naturally, he was a false prophet, as none of these things came to pass … but here is the thing … he took his shoes off his feet and shock the dust of Welkom off them before getting into the car and driving away, never to return. In his case, this act was performed in anger against people who would not recognize him as a prophet of God (which he was not). His later life proved him to be nothing but false and more of someone sponging on those soft hearts he could manipulate. In the missionaries’ case, shaking the dust off their feet meant something very different.
Ac 13:51 so they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
1) Shaking off the dust. The idea was not original to them as Jesus taught this in:
Mt 10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town
Jesus was saying that time must not be wasted on those not willing to hear and receive the Gospel. Move on because millions of others need to hear. In Paul and Barnabas’ case, the sign of shaking the dust off their shoes was directed against the Jews and their opposition, but not to the people of the city in general. Now you can see how wrongly the “false prophet” I mentioned above used this “sign” against people who legitimately refuse him access to their Churches because they wanted to protect their congregants from a false teacher! I do not believe we need to use such signs against people who do not want to listen to the Gospel today. Some people take longer to hear the Gospel in their souls than others. Give them time whilst you pray for them and then after a while, repeat your message. The only time one could consider using the sign of dusting off your shoes is when a community of people violently reject the Gospel and chase you away or endanger your life.
2) The Gospel on the move. The missionaries moved to Iconium. This city was about 154 kilometers away from Pisidian Antioch. A rather large and wealthy city being the capital city of the Asia Minor region called Lycaonia. This region enjoyed a good rain fall and her land was very fertile. Today she is called the City of Konya in Turkey. In chapter 14 we shall return to what the missionaries did there and what happens to them … but to note here … the principle the missionaries used was to reach the large cities with the Gospel. This ought to be a strategy for us today as well. Often we start with small towns. Not that this is wrong, but large cities have people from all over the region working there. Reach them for the Lord and they in turn find ways of getting the Gospel back to their own towns. Another important matter is that cities normally have more employment opportunities, so if a Gospel Worker needs to be self-supported, the likelihood of employment in a big city is better.
3) Joy and the Holy Spirit
Mt 14:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Surely these two go together! The missionaries served God and were full of the Holy Spirit. Their salvation was a joy as was their serving Jesus a joy. Then their being persecuted because they were part of Jesus was their joy too. Now remember that if the Lord Jesus is central in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is central in missions! He takes the Gospel and empowers willing Christians to reach lost souls. Even Jesus taught
Ac 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
To attempt any mission, evangelism or Church plant venture without consulting God and asking for wisdom, guidance and empowerment from the Holy Spirit will be a futile exercise. Then, when He uses you … joy fills your heart because you know it is the God of heaven and earth whom you are serving and there is no better or more noble task, than serving the real King! Paul also writes:
Ro 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Why is it that true joy is lacking in Christian service? Three answers come to mind …
(1) We spend too little time in God’s presence in prayer. Sadly, most Churches and most Christians spend little time in prayer! This might be the case with missionaries and other Christian workers. Apart from drawing spiritual power, wisdom and guidance for ministry through prayer, prayer seems to be the one spiritual discipline that fills saved souls with deep, inner spiritual joy that will sustain one through the most difficult spiritual and physical onslaughts. Apart from praying about your personal spiritual and prayer life, pray about the spiritual and prayer life of missionaries, pastors and Gospel workers. Some twenty odd years back, a survey in the United States found that the average pastor prayed for 3 minutes a day. If that was the Church leader, what would the prayer time of the congregation be?
(2) Often, too little credit is given to reaching souls for Jesus. Sometimes people want to build their own personal kingdom, neglecting that the Gospel’s intent is building the Kingdom of Jesus. Should you do an exercise of finding out how wealthy many of the motivational and prosperity preachers are, male and female, you will be astounded by their net worth, their jet or jets and types of cars as well as the mansions they live in. Their followers help them build their kingdom. This might be knowingly or unknowingly … but in such cases, Jesus’ Kingdom and the resources for Jesus Kingdom are not being built. Make certain the Church you are in, the mission you support and the people you help are not building their personal kingdoms but the Kingdom of Jesus!
(3) Too often, little acknowledgement of success is giving to Jesus. The Kingdom is all about Jesus. By His Spirit, He is the power. By His Spirit, He is the recruiter, convicting souls of the Truth of the Gospel Message. By His Spirit, He infuses faith leading to repentance and salvation. By His Spirit, He collects dead souls and makes them alive by birthing them into His Kingdom. Jesus is the beginning, middle and end of everything salvation. Yet there are those who credit themselves with the salvation of souls. In doing so they rob Jesus of the glory and honor due to Him as the pioneer of our faith. He as God incarnate came in the flesh. He died substitutionally in the flesh for our sin. He rose again from the dead, in the flesh to guarantee believers a resurrection after their death unto eternal life. He is the King of the Kingdom. He is the Lord of all lords. He is Almighty God. Why not acknowledge all souls saved are saved by Him, through Him and because of Him?
O Lord, for the glorious Gospel you have given we thank and praise you. May you fill us with joy and the Holy Spirit as we work out our salvation in serving You, our great and wonderful King. Amen.