Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/07/16 Sermon - What's the Objective?

“What’s the Objective?”

Acts 15:36 – Acts 16:5

 

Last week we read how the Jerusalem Council had wrestled with letting go of requiring Gentiles to participate in the rituals of the Jews in order to become Christian.

Since Christianity began in the Jewish synagogue by a Jewish Savior the Jewish leaders naturally assumed that for Gentiles to be accepted into the family of God, they would need to do the same things the Jewish nation has been doing for centuries.

The prime ritual was that of circumcision.

Following much debate it was decided that becoming a child of the King was not something humans did, but something God did, so the Christian church in Jerusalem sent out recommendations that should be considered for the church’s well-being.

The Gentile believers were relieved.

It was from this point on, the focal point of the Christian church switched from Jerusalem to Antioch.

Peter, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was no longer mentioned. Instead, from now on we will be reading about the growth of the Gentile Christian church.

We left Paul and Barnabas last week in Antioch where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. Time goes by and Paul had been thinking of the people in the churches he and Barnabas had reached with the gospel during their first missionary journey. His thoughts caused him to suggest to Barnabas that they go back to those churches and visit with the believers and see how they were doing. Barnabas agreed with Paul and suggested they take John Mark along with them, again. Paul’s response to his suggestion went something like this, “No way!           You must be out of your mind?

Why, he will only dessert us again, like he did the first time.

He is not trustworthy and I refuse to consider it.”

Barnabas staunchly disagreed. Why John Mark was Barnabas’ nephew, and not only that, he was older now, more mature. John Mark had learned from his previous actions. Barnabas wanted to offer John Mark a second chance. Isn’t God the God of second chances?

Don’t you recall the story of Jonah?

What about King David? Come on Paul? Lighten up!

Neither man would budge.

Each had a point to prove.

Paul was focused on the love of righteousness, Barnabas was focused on love for his fellow believer and relative. Barnabas would not give up, he held on to hope and wanted to offer John Mark another chance.

Paul, on the other hand, would not give in.  

Therefore, they agreed to go their separate ways with separate companions.

The only consolation was they did not disown each other but instead, continued to serve the Lord Jesus.

Paul’s view on Barnabas had changed. The man who had once been his sole defender was no longer someone Paul could agree with. Paul wrote to the Galatians, in chapter two of his letter to them, that even Barnabas followed Peter’s example in withdrawing from the society of Gentile Christians. Paul had lost respect in Barnabas. Yet, with time, Paul’s view of John Mark eventually changed. John Mark did develop into a full and mature Christian and was appreciated by Paul for such in Colossians, Philippians and Second Timothy.

The ugly dispute resulted in two missionary journeys. Barnabas and John Mark returned to their native island of Cyprus. Paul chose another partner Silas, a fellow Roman citizen and leader of the Jerusalem church, and they traveled through the cities of Syria and Cilicia, encouraging the believers and strengthening the churches.

Which leads me to the title of my message, What’s the objective?

The focus of this passage is often on the dispute between two Christian leaders.

Neither offers to budge, each thinks they are correct.

Wow!

Does that ever sound familiar?!

I honestly don’t believe that the dispute should be the focus. The dispute only proves to me that Paul and Barnabas are human, opinionated and a bit stubborn. Which in an odd sort of way makes me feel good, as I too have been given those labels at certain times.

No, we are not to place the focus of this passage on the dispute because God’s word tells us in Philippians 4:8 – which Paul wrote, by the way, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

And for Paul to lose his encourager and companion is not right. However, the dispute does bring about noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy results.

This is God in action, to human’s reactions. More churches were being encouraged because two teams were on the mission field instead of one. Paul finds in himself the ability to be an encourager to a new convert, Timothy.

The objective of this passage is to recognize that even when we mess up and respond in human ways, God’s purpose will still be accomplished.

Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, God’s plan prevails.

The two men lose each other as companions yet they do not lose their relationship with God. They keep investing in the young men around them and they keep investing in the growth of the church. They keep the objective of furthering the kingdom of God in front and find a way to deal with their personal opinions. A lesson we all should remember.

From this point on, Barnabas is history. Luke no longer comments on him. Instead, Paul becomes the focal leader of the spreading of the Gospel.

When he and Silas arrive in Lystra they meet a disciple named Timothy. Timothy’s mother was Jewish but his father was Greek. He had an excellent reputation and Paul wanted to take him along on his journey. There was one problem, he had not been circumcised. So Paul had him circumcised.

Okay, wait a minute.

Didn’t we just go over the need to having Gentiles be circumcised in the previous chapter and didn’t the Jerusalem Council decide it was not necessary.

Wasn’t Paul one of the adamant fighters for that cause?

Then why on earth was Paul choosing to circumcise this man, and then in the next verse Luke tells us they go around from town to town, telling everyone about what the council had decided! It certainly looks like Paul has some serious inconsistencies going on here.

Again, the title of my message, “What is the Objective?” Paul was certainly against placing anything as a “requirement” to accepting the grace from God, through Jesus Christ, and becoming saved from one’s sin. Redemption came solely from Christ’s sacrifice, period…nothing else added.

This included circumcision.

However, for Paul, everything should be done in order to allow the message of gospel to be heard by those God has called you to witness to and share the gospel. If there was an obstacle that would keep others from hearing the Gospel and Paul had the means to remove it, he did.

This included circumcision.

Paul aimed to bring all the activities of his life and thought “captive to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5. Paul didn’t have Timothy circumcised in order to ensure his entrance to heaven and salvation.

No, Paul had Timothy circumcised in order to make sure others would not be diverted from being saved and going to heaven. Timothy’s circumcision held a practical purpose. By doing so he would have a greater usefulness in the ministry of the gospel.

Practically speaking, because Timothy’s mother was Jewish, and his father was not, if Timothy was not circumcised he would be viewed as apostate and unable to enter the Jewish synagogues. It would not help Paul and Timothy if Paul was seen as condoning apostasy. The objective was to spread the gospel of Christ and if a simple procedure would allow Timothy to assist Paul in doing so, so be it.

Our passage concludes with the churches being strengthened in the faith and growing daily in numbers. This growth came about because those committed to everyone coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ kept their eyes on the objective. They didn’t allow diversions to keep them from the goal. Arguments came up, yet the mission trip still happened. Although there was a possibility Paul would not be understood, he still had Timothy circumcised in order to keep doors open and allow him to spread the gospel.

How often do we allow the things of this world to get in the way of the objective of the Great Commission?

Whether it is defending ourselves because we are right and we feel someone else is wrong, or maybe it is doing something that on the outside which may look hypocritical yet on the practical side is the very thing that will allow us the ability to keep sharing the gospel.

Whether it is pride or mis-conception, we are called to keep our focus on Christ, not on ourselves.

When your opinion is being attacked or your actions are being misunderstood, standing for the objective of Christ, is often difficult. However, Christ promises us that he is always there, he will never leave us nor forsake us.

Deuteronomy 31:6, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; "He will never leave you nor forsake you."

Deuteronomy 31:8, The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.

God is never the one who moves away.

We are.

How close are you to God and His objective for you to walk with Christ and reach out with His message to those around you? Maybe there have been things that have gotten in the way, your job, your desires, your obligations to things around you. Whatever it is, remember, God is still right beside you. He hasn’t moved a bit. As we take time to observe the Lord’s Supper, and as the elements are being passed out, take time, right now, to focus on the objective of living for Jesus, thank God for His gift of grace. Acknowledge those things that keep you from loving and serving him completely. Take them to the foot of the cross and leave them there. Choose to walk home today, lighter, less entangled and more focused on Who is number one in your life and with a determination to keep Him first throughout the week.

Let’s pray.