I would like to share two stories with you today.
The first relates to a pastor who was the pastor of a family member. He was paid a salary higher than average coupled to good perks. He spent most of his time running his own business with his wife, neglecting the Church. His spiritual ministry was less than mediocre and his sermons were shoddy. He did great damage to the Church and cost the Church a fortune. Fortunately he was removed, another pastor installed and the Church recovered.
The second story is about a conversation I had with a brother pastor who experienced the reverse. The chairman of the Church Board gave him a hard time for almost two decades when he, for his own sake and that of his family needed to resign. He worked hard. He preached well … but there was an obstacle to his ministry. When listening to his story I made a statement that went something like this … “No one, not the closest friend and not even the wife understands what a true, hardworking, diligent pastor goes through. It is spiritual, emotional and physical. Even he as a pastor cannot articulate to another his experience when attacked, hurt, slandered and refused the tools to do ministry.” He agreed with me totally. I was particularly blessed by God to have been given a rector’s warden (elder) who stood by me, supported me, held me in check and accountable and looked after me. Why did he do this? Because he loves Jesus and had the Church at heart.
You see, the pastor’s work is not to be involved in civilian work and neither must it be muzzled. He must not have distractions. He must not be lazy. Paul writes to young Timothy saying under inspiration:
2 Tim 2:3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
If the Kingdom of God is not in the heart, it will not be the most important feature of one’s ministry! Please read these last two verses of the Book of Acts:
Ac 28:30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
1) Two years In Rome.
Ac 28:30 For two whole years Paul stayed there.
Scholars debate how the two years were structured from a Roman point of view. The best we know is that God’s Word says two years. It seems as though Paul was released from house arrest after the two years and that he continued to preach and teach about Jesus on a possible fourth missionary journey. This is based upon the content of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Tradition says he was re-arrested, taken back to Rome and beheaded as Roman Citizens could not be crucified. It’s possible this happened under Nero when he order that Christians be executed following the great fire in the City of Rome in 64 AD.
2) Two years in a rented house.
Ac 28:30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house.
The phrase “his own rented house” gives the impression that Paul paid the rental himself in some way. He might have had some resources, yet on the other hand he might have been gifted the money to pay rent. Some suggest that he continued his “tent making profession”. This could have been likely, though it would have been difficult being in chains.
3) Two years of welcoming everyone. The text says … and welcomed all who came to see him. Having learnt something about Paul from the Book of Acts, we can imagine that some of the guests would have been Christian, whilst other would have been invited through Christian friends or people who were curious to meet Paul or hear what he had to say about his beliefs.
4) Two years of bold preaching and teaching.
Ac 28:31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1) The term “boldly” implies not having to use guarded language such as John used in the Book of Revelation. Paul did not need to use imagery or figures of speech or comparisons. He could preach openly without reservation. The term “without hindrance” follows on and means just that. There was no interference from the Jews or even the Roman Officials.
(2) Preached the Kingdom of God. This refers to the Gospel and everything associated with the God. Preaching is exhortation, exposition, admonition, encouragement, comfort and application. In short, it is … “This is what God says. Believe it. Change your lifestyle. Do what it says. Be encouraged and comforted. Where there is sin, be challenged and go and remedy your heart through confession and repentance.” This is where the Holy Spirit grabs the soul’s attention and stirs the heart to respond.
(3) Teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. This is transferring information through teaching and instruction. It is a more informal context where the Bible is explained, questions asked and answered and going much deeper. This is where real heart change happens. There are many countries where one needs to be guarded in what you preach and how you preach it. Often, state officials would attend a Church service, disguised as a regular worshipper to make certain the state religion or the state are not spoken against. Largely this is the reason John wrote the Revelation in Apocalyptic Language (hidden language). In most of the Western World we are relatively free to preach the Word of God without having to disguise what we preach. This might change though. Those who are offended by the Gospel and its requirements to live a righteous lifestyle might infiltrate the Church and cause disturbances. It is not unreasonable to expect this as there is a slow, though concerted effort to hamstring Christianity wherever possible. Where we speak out against abortion or same sex marriages we become targeted.
5) Two years of nothing but the Kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This was Paul. The Glory of God in Jesus Christ was what he lived for. So must we. This is where the previous point is explained. We need to ensure that we do not preach or teach what the Bible does not address! If we do we invite persecution. We need to teach and preach the Bible as accurately as possible. We need to use all the tools, Hebrew / English and Greek / English lexicons, commentaries and other materials to aid us in understand a text (passage, paragraph and verse) so that as we preach and teach we reveal what God says not what we think. Should we ever be found guilty of being offensive to the world out there, let it be because we explain the Bible accurately. At all costs we need to declare … “Thus says the Lord!” Over the past few months we have worked our way devotionally through the Book of Acts. You have the material to reflect upon and use when necessary. We started in chapter one where Jesus says:
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.”
They started in Jerusalem and when we get to the end of Acts, Paul is preaching in Rome. In between many Gentiles nations were evangelized with many coming to faith, Churches planted and Gospel work continuing. That was Paul, the other apostles and early disciples’ era. We need to do the same in our era.
Holy Spirit, thank You for the Book of Acts. Thank You for the many lessons we have learnt in our studies in this Book. Help us to continue in our age to take the Gospel and reach people of all ethnicities for Jesus. Amen.