First United Methodist Church
May 8, 2022
Rev. Dr. Byron Kaiser
Paul: Driven by Vision Called to Go
Going on a Journey
We learned from Katie that the Appalachian Trail, the longest pedestrian-only path in the world, winds 2,190 miles through 14 eastern states. The average walking pace once a person gets their trail legs is about three miles an hour. It takes most hikers 5-7 months to complete a thru-hike. I am sharing this with you to give a reference to think about.
Last week we started thinking about the Apostle Paul. After his time of learning and reflection, Paul completed three missionary journeys. Today, I want to emphasize Paul’s call to “Go”. In his first missionary journey, Paul covered 1500 miles in 18 months.
So why are we talking about vision, call, going? Because you are sending three mission teams in the next few months. Midwest Missions – May 22-27, Henderson Settlement – October, and Mission Guatemala – January 2023. I want to rally your support for them and for you to consider your call by God to go driven by a vision.
The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are mated together, first because they were authored by the same person. Second because both describe the work of the Holy Spirit. Luke is about Spirit driven leadership – Jesus. Acts is about the Spirit driven church – mainly Paul. In the portion read for you today, Paul’s first missionary journey begins.
Begin Syrian Antioch
We begin with a small gathering of believers in the city Syrian Antioch, not to be confused with other cities named, “Antioch”. Antioch is on the Orontes river and home of Barnabas and Paul. We do not know exactly when Paul arrives from Tarsus. However, Antioch is the cradle of Christianity and first location where the term “Christian” is used.
God’s call came to Barnabas and Saul during Worship and Fasting. “As they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Appoint Barnabas and Saul to the work I have called them to undertake." After they fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on these two and sent them off. After the Holy Spirit sent them on their way…” The Holy Spirit drives Barnabas and Saul onto the journey and directs the other believers to anoint them for their work.
Remember Saul has no Google Earth. Saul would offer the good news wherever the Spirit led, including places where he had never been. He often did not have a clear idea exactly where he was going. No trip begins until you take a second step. The Holy Spirit calls Barnabas and Saul to be anointed for the work, then drives them out the front door.
First Step Cyprus
Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, records Barnabas and Paul and John Mark (young cousin of Barnabas from Jerusalem) begin together. They travel down the Orontes River to the port city of Seleucia and find passage on a boat to Cyprus. The trips lasts one to two weeks.
The significance of Cyprus comes to our attention because the Cyprian Governor converted to Christ. Afterward, Luke refers to Saul as Paul, and Luke refers to the missionary team as “Paul and Barnabas” or “Paul and Companions”. Before Cyprus, Luke named the team, “Barnabas and Saul”. They left Cyprus and sailed for Perga.
Second Step Perga
Upon arriving in Perga, conflict arises, John Mark leaves and returns to Jerusalem. Don’t think little of John Mark. The Holy Spirit had other plans for him. Folks conclude that John Mark works with Peter. The record of Peter’s sermons and memories are captured in the Gospel According to Mark.
Paul and Barnabas face intense heat. Paul becomes ill. Perhaps Paul became ill with trachoma. Trachoma, also called granular conjunctivitis, Egyptian ophthalmia, and blinding trachoma, is an infectious disease caused by bacterium. The infection causes a roughening of the inner surface of the eyelids. This roughening can lead to pain in the eyes, breakdown of the outer surface or cornea of the eyes, and possibly blindness. Untreated, repeated trachoma infections can result in a form of permanent blindness when the eyelids turn inward.
Paul driven by vision and by the Holy Spirit persevered.
Third Step Pisidian Antioch
The companions travel a week to two weeks going up and down mountains, moving through passes, ascending, and descending switchbacks and crossing rivers. They arrive at a town of about 50,000 people.
Acts 13:14-15, “They went on from Perga and arrived at Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath, they entered and found seats in the synagogue there. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue leaders invited them, "Brothers, if one of you has a sermon for the people, please speak."”
Paul’s methods surface:
- Paul begins by recounting Israel’s History
- Proclaim Jesus is God’s Savior
- Leadership in Jerusalem did not recognize
- Condemned Jesus to death
- Fulfilled the words of the prophets
- “But God raised him from the dead!” (Acts 13:30)
Acts 13:38-39, 38 “"Therefore, brothers and sisters, know this: Through Jesus we proclaim forgiveness of sins to you. From all those sins from which you couldn't be put in right relationship with God through Moses' Law, 39 through Jesus everyone who believes is put in right relationship with God.”
Condition of sin separates people from God, people from people, people from self, people from creation.
“Jesus came to save us. He came to deliver us from sin, to win forgiveness for us, to call us to a new way of life, to change our hearts and minds, and then to deliver us from death and to eternal life. He came to call humanity to be a part of God’s empire, which Jesus called the Kingdom of God.” Adam Hamilton
The response was overwhelming. Jealousy drove the opposition.
Acts 13:44-45, “On the next Sabbath, almost everyone in the city gathered to hear the Lord's word. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were overcome with jealousy. They argued against what Paul was saying by slandering him.”
Paul was driven by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He persevered.: Acts 13:50, “Because of the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the disciples were overflowing with happiness.”
Four Step Iconium
Paul and Barnabas walked 75 miles.
Acts 14: 1-3, “1 The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas entered the Jewish synagogue and spoke as they had before. As a result, a huge number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 However, the Jews who rejected the faith stirred up the Gentiles, poisoning their minds against the brothers. 3 Nevertheless, Paul and Barnabas stayed there for quite some time, confidently speaking about the Lord. And the Lord confirmed the word about his grace by the signs and wonders he enabled them to perform.”
Opposition pursued them from Pisidian Antioch. They left due to threats. Paul was driven by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He persevered.
Fifth Step Lystra
Paul and Barnabas traveled to the small town of Lystra. They healed a lame man. In response the towns people wanted to worship them as gods. Paul pointed them to Jesus alone. Consequently, many converted to believing in Jesus. Then, opposition arrives and turns the town against them. The crowds became violent and spontaneous stoning took place. They drug Paul’s body outside the city and left him for dead. The new faithful come to him and prayed over him. “He got up and went into the city” (14:20).
Sixth Step Derbe
The day after the stoning, Paul and Barnabas walked to Derbe, 65 miles as the crow flies. They “Proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples,” (14:21).
Paul was driven by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He persevered.
Rather than returning home, they retraced their steps: Lystra, Iconioum, Pisidian, Derbe and Attalia. They returned to the cities where they had just preached the gospel, cities where they had been stoned, harassed, and asked to leave.
Acts 14:22-23, “they strengthened the disciples and urged them to remain firm in the faith. They told them, "If we are to enter God's kingdom, we must pass through many troubles." They appointed elders for each church. With prayer and fasting, they committed these elders to the Lord, in whom they had placed their trust.”
“Some decry “organized religion,” but the truth is that it’s generally only as believers organize that they become functioning communities and have a lasting impact.” Adam Hamilton.
Paul was driven by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He persevered.
Paul and Barnabas crossed over the Taurus Mountains to Parga, quickly went to Atelia and returned home.
Upon returning to Syrian Antioch, gave mission report to the church.
Acts 14:27-28, “On their arrival, they gathered the church together and reported everything that God had accomplished through their activity, and how God had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. They stayed with the disciples a long time.”
Paul reached out to the new churches with a letter of encouragement.
Churches on this first journey were located broadly in the region of Galatia and some believe that Paul’s earliest letter and the first book of the New Testament was Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.
“Paul had heard the call to “Go!” but may not have known much more about his mission. Now, months later, he had traveled to new places, embraced believers, preached about sin and salvation, met opposition, suffered violence, and trained leaders. With each new experience his mission had become clearer, shaping him into the inspired and inspiring evangelist we know today. More travels were coming, and more trouble. But Paul, called and claimed by Christ, was ready.” Adam Hamilton.
Paul was driven by vision and called to go by the Holy Spirit. He persevered. What about you?