First United Methodist Church
May 29, 2022
Rev. Dr. Byron Kaiser, Pastor
Paul: Driven by the Holy Spirit, Called to Give
How has your faith effected your pocketbook?
I have been sharing with you regarding Paul’s missionary journeys. I chose to do this because of the three mission trips that the church has planned. The first of the three was just completed this past week to the Midwest Mission Distribution Center.
I have shared with you about how Paul was called or rather driven by the Holy Spirit to “Go!” He did not know where he was going. Paul was called to suffer. Remember the blindness and the broken bones. Today we look at some of his third missionary trip.
Paul was motivated in part in his third missionary journey to collect an offering for the church in Jerusalem. Paul had sent word ahead of time that the offering was to be taken before he arrived. He wanted people to save a little each week. He would collect the offering when he arrived. His approach is laid out in 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9. There is urgency in the words. For Paul, the offering provided aid to people who needed aid because of growing persecution of Christians. It was also a bridge of love between Greek Christians to Jewish Christians, perhaps hoping to heal the gap between the two; the Jerusalem church wanting people to become Jews first then Christians. In addition, the offerings may be personal in that Paul once persecuted the church in Jerusalem and now wants to help the church prosper.
Moreover, the Gospel of Jesus Christ when and wherever it is preached has an economic impact. The economic impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was more than collecting an offering. Paul learned that lesson in Philippi.
Paul driven by the Holy Spirit once again, sets out to shepherd the churches he planted and to grow the hearts of the people. Paul’s third missionary journey lasted 4 years, the longest journey yet.
Paul has a “Shepherd’s Heart”
Little is said about Paul’s traveling companions on this missionary journey. Perhaps he traveled with any of the dozens of people he names in his letters. Luke, Priscilla, and Aquila are names that come up on this trip.
Not much is mentioned regarding the first 736 miles of Paul’s Journey. He went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples - Acts 18:23. There were churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. This was his fourth visit to these churches in four years. (Except Derbe, which he visited three times.)
Paul continued onto Ephesus. From Syrian Antioch to Ephesus, Paul walked 736 miles. He could have taken a shorter journey by road or by boat. Because he had a shepherd’s heart, he did not short-cut. He stopped to encourage the believers in the churches he had started when previously he had been in Galatia.
Ephesus, the city that loved Paul
Ephesus loved Paul. The churches of Ephesus collected the letters of Paul that we have today and kept them, a labor of love for the man that grew their faith.
Ephesus was one of the four major metropolitan cities of the Roman Empire. The Great Theatre sat 25,000 people and is still used today for gatherings and concerts. The façade of the Library of Celsius still stands and with The Great Theatre of Ephesus are some of the best-known ancient buildings in the world. Though the harbor is silted closed today, it had been a bustling deep-water port. Looking up the Harbor Road from the water, one would see the Great Theatre like the fan of a palm tree with the road as the trunk.
At the end of his second journey, Paul had sent two fellow tentmakers to Ephesus from Corinth. Paul sent Pricilla and Aquila to establish a beachhead for the Gospel. Curiously, upon arriving in Ephesus, Paul met 12 people whom Luke calls disciples. Yet they had a limited understanding of the Christian faith.
Paul introduces these twelve to the Holy Spirit. He asks them if they have received the Holy Spirit. They answer no. He asks them what baptism they had. They replied, “John baptized with a baptism by which people showed they were changing their hearts and lives.” They listened to Paul and were baptized in the name of the Lord. When Paul placed his hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the engine that drives Paul and creates the church. Like the 12, many people do not know about the Holy Spirit. When they do think about the Holy Spirit, they think of stereotypical television healers who hit people on the head and say, “Be healed,” with a southern accent.
If the book of Acts were named a Gospel, it would be the Gospel of Jesus Christ According to the Holy Spirit. Acts begins with a declaration of the purpose of the Spirit in the life of a disciple. Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Holy Spirit is the “driver” of Paul. The Holy Spirit is the engine powering Paul forward. Can you be driven as Paul was driven; the answer is “no” if you think you can on your own energy. The answer is “yes” if you invite the Holy Spirit to be the engine.
Paul’s pattern was first baptism, then laying on of hands, and followed with the infilling of the Spirit. We cannot fulfill God’s vision for this church without the Holy Spirit being our engine.
After the encounter with the 12, Paul began his routine of ministry. He went to the synagogue. Paul preached and taught for the next three months in the synagogue. Paul “spoke boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God,” though some, “stubbornly refused to believe and spoke evil of the Way.” (Acts 19:8-9). It was then that Paul rented out Tyrannus’s lecture hall, where he taught daily for two years.
Paul had the first Christian Seminary! He raised up leaders. He taught and mentored. He sent missionaries out to Lycus and Colossae. Paul’s ministry is a model for us: raise up leaders, mentor them, send into mission.
The Gospel and the Economy
With healing comes change. When health comes, the changes from being well may conflict with “normal life.” Just as people brought the sick and hurting to Jesus, people came to Paul for healing. Ephesus attracted people who wanted healing. Ephesus was known for sorcerers who sold incantations with secret sayings and instructions that were meant to unleash healing power upon those who needed assistance. The trade in healing scrolls attracted people from all over the region and throughout the empire.
An example: “Give me your strength, Abraxas, give me your strength, for I am Abraxas.” Say it seven times while holding your two thumbs. What would you pay for an incantation that would take your illness away? What would you pay for an incantation that would guarantee success in a business venture? What would you pay for an incantation that would guarantee abundant crops?
Paul came preaching Jesus Christ. It is through him and “not some demigod or incantation, who breaks the power of demons and heals us.”
Acts 19:18-20 NIV, “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
That’s five million dollars of scrolls that were burned! What a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. Can you imagine the drop in the value of incantations? Many people in Ephesus under Paul’s preaching found a new source of hope. But not all people.
Ephesus was also known through the Greco-Roman world as the city of Artemis (Diana). In Ephesus, she was the goddess of fertility, blessing crops and marriages. The Temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
“After the burning of the magic scrolls, and following his exorcisms and healings, many began talking notice of Paul and the movement he led, known there and elsewhere as the Way. Among those who took notice were artisans who made the statues of the goddess Artemis that would be sold to pilgrims for home use. They began to fear the economic impact of people turning from Artemis to the Way.”
Acts 19:23-27, “23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
They rallied a crowd and marched to the Great Theatre, shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” They grabbed follows of the Way and drug them along. The leaders of the church and leaders of Ephesus pleaded with Paul not to go. The magistrate of Ephesus let them chant a few hours to expend their energy. He addressed the crowd that no harm has been done. No one robbed them or destroyed their shops. There was no crime. And the crowd dissipated.
Were they people wanting to protect the honor of their god or wanting to protect their pocketbook? Maybe both. What is consistent is that people want to blame Paul and his companions for offending the gods and setting up practices that were unacceptable to Romans. But, even on Paul, this harassment takes a toll. “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearable crushed that we despaired of life itself,” (2 Corinthians 1:8) “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (4:8-9).
After nearly three years of preaching and teaching in and around Ephesus, Paul started to travel again. He traveled to Macedonia: Troas, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth.
Before going to Jerusalem, Paul returned through Ephesus. Paul’s companions were desperate to keep him from going to Jerusalem. All they could anticipate for him was bondage and death. Paul had to take the offering that he had collected over the years of his journey. He called the churches to give their money. Paul was called to give his life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s missionary journeys were complete; but Paul’s time as a missionary was not nor was his journeying over. His stories continue. Perhaps you will complete the story as you read through Acts and the letters of Paul. He is our example of one driven by vision.
The energy and power behind Paul was the Holy Spirit. We are called to baptism, lay on hands, and pray for the infilling of the Spirit. We cannot fulfill God’s vision for this church without the Holy Spirit being our engine. Paul’s ministry is a model for us: raise up leaders, mentor them, send into mission. May you allow the Holy Spirit to power you to complete the vision to which God has called you?