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Acts #56 (chpater 15:36-16:10)
The Book of Acts
Evangelism the Right Way
Acts 15:36-16:10
We are, once again, in Acts 15 and 16 looking at a section of scripture that gives us, through the experiences of Paul and Barnabas and Silas and John Mark and Timothy, some of the characteristics of how to do evangelism the right way.
So far, we've seen the
         - right passion
         - right priority, and the
         - right personnel
We see in Paul, in particular, this drive and determination to be involved in reaching people for Christ, and not just to see them make a profession of faith, but to become full-grown, mature, disciples of Christ. 
And even though there was a difference of opinion about how that should be done and who should be involved, when it's all said and done, there are two mission teams out doing the work, instead of one; they are covering different areas, and involving more people. 
Now, that brings us up to where we stopped last week, and that is at Acts 16:3.  Paul and Barnabas disagree on whether or not John Mark should accompany them.  They part ways with Barnabas traveling with Mark and Paul traveling with Silas. 
They go down to a place called Lystra and there he comes in contact with a young man named Timothy.  We know Timothy from the letters Paul wrote to him and his deep involvement in the ministry and life of the Apostle Paul. 

But here we are given a couple of other details about Timothy.  We are told his mother is a Jewish woman and his father was a Greek.  That, combined with some other details made him a perfect asset to the ministry of Paul and Silas and where they would be traveling. 
But there is a little issue that needs to be addressed and we are told about it in
verse 3
And there we see the fourth characteristic of doing evangelism the right way and I want to identify it as
4. The Right Precautions
Now there are some commentators who read that and come to the conclusion that Paul is a Judaizer, just like those he was arguing with back in Jerusalem.  After all, he took a hard stand on salvation by grace for all men, regardless of race or nationality, and the particular requirement Judaizers were placing on men was circumcision. 
Now, here we are just a few days removed from that and it appears Paul is doing the same thing with Timothy.  So if he's not a Judaizer, he is, at the least a hypocrite.
But the salvation of Timothy is not the issue.  Notice, it doesn't say he circumcised Timothy so he could get saved. It says he circumcised him because of the Jews in the area knew he was a Greek.
Now watch this. Timothy was a half-Jew and half-gentile. If he was not circumcised the Jews would assume then that he had accepted his Gentile identity because circumcision was the very mark, the defining characteristic of Judaism.
So the Jews would assume that he accepted Gentile characteristics and that would have limited his ability to minister to Jews.  Now Paul understood that the key to reaching the Jewish people was being able to go into a Jewish synagogue and be heard.
The first place he went in every town he visited was the local synagogue.  So the key to Timothy being accepted by the Jews was to embrace his mother's nationality. 
Now Timothy had a lot of Judaism in him.  He had been brought up in the synagogue.  He understood the character and substance of the Jewish faith.  He was familiar with the traditions and practices.
All he needed to do was just get circumcised and he would have full entrance and full acceptance among the Jews and it wouldn't hinder his work among the gentiles.
And so it was not for salvation's sake, but rather for the sake of expediency and to avoid any stumbling block to the Jews hearing the gospel.
 I don't know how the Jews knew whether or not he was circumcised to begin with, but that's why Paul requires it.  
We already know Paul's heart on the subject.  What did he say to the Corinthians?  "To the Jews I became as a Jew. To those that are under the law as under the law though I myself am not under the law." He says, "I become all things to all men that" what? "That by any means I might win some."
Paul is looking to remove any hindrance to the gospel being heard. 
By the way, on the others side of the issue, eventually Paul will met another young man named Titus and he forbid Titus from being circumcised. 
So why would he require it of one and forbid it with another?  Simple answer. Titus was a gentile. To circumcise a gentile would have been to impose legalism.  But to circumcise a Jew who was already a Jew was simply to allow him the liberty to be more effective. He would've been wrong to circumcise Titus. He would've been wrong not to circumcise Timothy for the sake of effectiveness.
Now, all of that to say if we are going to be effective in doing evangelism, there are some precautions that need to be taken, especially when you are doing missionary work.  Every culture has its own uniqueness and any missionary who goes into any culture needs to be aware of some of those things so that he or she is not offensive, and thus forfeits the privilege of delivering the gospel. 
By the way, it would do serve some evangelists I've known well to practice the same kind of wisdom.  Anyone who goes into any situation as the messenger of God needs to understand that there are characteristics about that situation which he has to be aware of.
So what these verses are saying to us is that we need to be sensitive to people so we can adapt to the most advantageous approach in evangelism, the right precautions.
What is effective here might not be the right approach in Africa or Mexico or even in California or Colorado.  It's the same message and the same need and the same Holy Spirit,.  But sometimes, jsut a little tweak in our approach can mean we are heard of not hear.
And in Timothy's case, if you're going to witness to Jews, there is a better chance of being heard if you are accepted as a fellow Jew. That was especially amplified by the bitter hostilities that had existed between the Jews and Gentiles for centuries. 
So the right passion, the right priority, the right personnel, the right precautions and 
5.  The Right Presentation
So what did the preach?  What was their message?   
verse 4
In their case, their introduction to their gospel presentation was the decision that was made by the Jerusalem council.
Remember, back in chapter 15, verse 11 they made this doctrinal statement that people are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That was their message.
Salvation was by grace through faith.  Then they added one caveat and that was that the Gentiles abstain from blood and things strangled and fornication and things offered to idols."
Again, the reason was so that the gentiles wouldn't offend the Jews.  By the way, I think I see a pattern emerging here.  The Gentiles are given instruction about not being offensive to the Jews; Timothy is told to be circumcised so he doesn't offend the Jews also.
Everyone is saved by grace through faith, but that faith will immediately begin to manifest itself by loving others and working hard and not being offensive, neither to our brothers and sisters in the faith or those we are seeking to lead to the Lord.
God has saved us but that doesn't give us the freedom to stomp all over everybody else and be offensive to them.  The royal law of liberty is the law of love. That's what they preached. They preached you're saved by grace and you live by love.
That's the right message, and if this text is any indicator, that message will get results. 
verse 5
Now that verse returns us to the priority of evangelism. Notice, what they did had a direct impact on the churches. 
First, the churches were strengthened.  That means they were increasing in their knowledge and understanding of God's word.  They were learning how to pray and depend upon the Holy Spirit.  They were growing strong in the Lord. 
And , they increased in number daily.  I know we aren't to get carried away with numbers for numbers sake, but just the fact that the Bible includes that detail indicates it is an important fact.
I think growth in numbers is good because that means more people are coming to know the Lord and be a part of His kingdom and church.  Numbers must be important for God to place a section in His book by that name!
And notice, the order in the verse is not by accident.  The churches were strengthened in the faith and they increase in number daily.  That is a reminder that strong churches established in the faith will reproduce in number.
Churches that are concerned only about increasing in number have got it backwards.  And if all you're interested in is going deep with God and not sharing the gospel, you've missed the point.  Churches that rightly strengthen their members will naturally have an emphasis on reaching others for the Lord.
You know what Paul wanted to do? He wanted to win as many people as he could to Christ, but he understood that the best way to do that is develop some productive Christians and they, in turn, will reach others. 
The early church preached the right message and there were a lot of people out there preaching it and the church was growing.
The right passion, the right priority, the right personnel, the right precautions, the right presentation need to be done.  And lastly, they need to be done in
6.  The Right Place
verse 6
If we had a map, you would be able to see that they are ministering in Galatia.  Now Galatia is a large area and they've been traveling and preaching and ministering and helping the churches, and all the time they are there, Paul keeps looking to the west.  What's to the west?  Asia Minor.
That means he has Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Collosae, Sardis, Pergamus, Thyatira and all that area on his mind. And that was a great opportunity.  But the Holy Spirit forbids them to preach there.  I don't know exactly how they knew, but they knew that wasn't where they were supposed to be.
So then, Paul says, "If not west, then maybe we should go north. 
verse 7
Mysia is a little region right between Asia and Bithynia and from there they tried to go to Bithynia, but, once again the Holy Spirit didn't allow them to go there either.
So they can't go west and they can't go north.  To the south is water and they had already been to the east.  So all the doors are closed.  Some might have been tempted to believe God was through with them and they should just go home and close up shop. 
But not Paul.  He knew God's calling and giftedness.  He had this passion burning in his heart.  His motivation was right in that he wanted to strengthen and grow disciples.  God had put the perfect team together. 
They have taken the necessary precautions.  After all, Timothy has been circumcised.  I guaranteed you he was saying to Paul, "You are not deciding now that we aren't going to go on a mission trip!"
So what does Paul do?  He just keeps searching and moving and looking and seeking and he finally makes his way to a little place called Troas. 
verse 8
Do you know why he stopped there?  Because he couldn't go any farther.  The next step would have been into the Aegean Sea.  So he went all the way to the water and there he waited to see what would happen. 
He tried to to west and couldn't.  He tried to go north and God stopped him.  He tried to go south and God said "No".  So he went as far as he could go and there he waited on God.
Do you know how to know the will of God for your life?  Stay busy doing what you know to do until God gives you more specific instructions. Don't sit down and get stagnant or comfortable.  Just do what God has already told you to do and keep listening for God to tell you what else you need to do.
verse 9
Now Macedonia was across the Aegean Sea and do you know what cities were in the area? Places like Philippi and Corinth and Athens. You say, "So what?"
Well that means the gospel is about to begin its journey to you.  No longer would the Christian faith be confined to the Asian countries. It was about to go European and eventually make its way to us. 
And it all began with one man from Macedonia that was used by God in a vision to speak to Paul.  And Paul came to the conclusion that God was speaking and that they should travel to Macedonia. 
By the way, what else was he going to do?  He's tried every other direction and God stopped him!  Obviously, God wanted them in Macedonia but the interesting thing is He never told them until they couldn't take one more step.
You want to know how to live by faith? Just keep looking and searching and pursuing God's will until you finally hit a dead end and then God will open the door so wide you can't miss His will. 
So what did Paul do?
verse 10
A great way to know where God wants you to work and what He wants you to do is just start going something for Him.  It doesn't matter which direction you travel, just keep your eyes and ears open to Him, don't try to kick open the doors that He closes and just keep serving until He opens the one He wants you to go through. 
God uses those who have the right passion for the right priority with the right personnel taking the right precautions to make the right presentation and they submissively keep following until they get to the right place and there, evangelism done right will take place.   
Let's pray.
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