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It Was the Right Time

30/08/2020

It Was the Right Time

Acts 12:25-13:12

Paul’s mission to the Gentile world has begun.  He has already been blessed, for hearing the word of God, the proconsul of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus believed in the Lord Jesus and was converted!  What a great start to a life of missionary service!  You might say that Paul was in exactly the right place at the right time!   Here’s some scripture texts about how God ordains everything in his time… Psalm 31:14-15A  Ecclesiastes 3:1  Ecclesiastes 3:11   James 4:13 – 16 Galatians 4:4-7

See how God has smoothed the path for these missionaries…

Sorry – no podcast for this sermon!

1 The Relative Ease of Travel.

Look at the structure of the chapter.  Read Acts 13:4  Acts 13:13  Acts 13:51  

The whole chapter is based on the ability to travel, both by land and by sea.  There are two factors that enabled safe travel:

  • Roman Roads!  The Romans built roads right across their empire, 50,000 miles of primary roads, and 200,000 miles of secondary roads. They had a state postal service, and the roads were primarily for the prose of moving the mail.   Because of the roads, the movement of the police and troops along those roads, this led to…
  • Roman Law! The ‘Lex Romana.’ Rome was basically a police state, the punishments were strict and very harsh, crucifixions were commonplace, and horrific, and bodies of executed criminals were displaced on roman gobbets along the roads.  With such a stern deterrent, the roads remained reasonably safe, in contrast to parts of the world where Rome did not had sway.  

Both these factors made travel relatively safe.

2 The Availability of a Universal Language.

The Greek language was the language of trade and commerce.  Everyone who wanted to carry out international business spoke Greek.  Nowadays the English language is spoken and taught throughout the world – Sometimes it is despised for this! So Greek was the language that could best carry the message, the NT was written in Greek, Paul wrote and spoke in Greek, and the message of the gospel spread throughout the Greek speaking world.

3 The Jewish Diaspora Opened Doors for Preaching.

How does a new missionary in a a new sphere of evangelism get an opportunity to be heard?  For Paul this was never a problem!  There were Jews everywhere, and wherever the Jews went they organised themselves into communities around a synagogue.  Acts 13:5  These groups were always the first port of call for Paul and Barnabas.   

  • The STRUCTURES of the Synagogues.  The Synagogue was not just a building – the Synagogue was a community, with its own elders, its leaders.  These men would have been responsible for the services in the Synagogue, but much more.  They carried a measure of authority, – acting as a local ‘Sanhedrin’ – exercising discipline over the attached community.  They could administer punishments, and did, even carrying out corporal punishments. Paul himself had suffered at their hands. 2 Corinthians 11:23 -26
  • The WORSHIP of the Synagogues.  On the Jewish Sabbath, the Synagogue would meet for worship, with men and women sitting separately.  There were three parts of the worship.  A time of prayers, then readings from the Law and Prophets, then a ‘word of exhortation’ from someone sitting down.  All of this was followed by a recitation of the Shema.  Deut 6:4-9,11.  The exhortation itself could be delivered by any Jewish man, although as time went by, this would become the work of a Rabbi.
  • The OPPORTUNITIES of the Synagogues.  All of this helped Paul.  As a Jewish man he could attend the local synagogue(s) – which were always welcoming places for visitors, and being recognised as a man of learning he would be entitled to speak, and would often be asked if he had a word of exhortation for the people, as happened in Pisidia.   This was Paul’s opportunity, to stand and introduce himself, and speak of his conversion and preach Christ and him crucified, in a very direct and forthright manner, as we shall se in the next study.
  • The MIXED CONGREGATIONS in the Synagogues.  There is one final reason why Paul would seek out the synagogue and get a preaching opportunity there.  Along with the Jews there were two other groups meeting and worshipping there.  There were:
    • The proselytes. Gentiles who had come to Judaism, through a process of conversion.   
    • The God-fearers. Now theses were people who were tired of the low moral standards of the Roman world, – they were ethical monotheists, seekers, who were reading the Old Testament Scriptures, and trying to learn about the God of Israel.  Paul perhaps saw these ‘God-fearers’ as a providentially prepared mission field!  People who were searching for God, tired of this world, convicted by the Law, they were ready made receptive audiences for the good news that Christ died for sinners.  But what did the leaders of the Synagogues think of Paul’s evangelism from among their wider community?  FF Bruce concludes that because Paul had to visit the synagogue to establish contact with the God-fearers, the almost inevitable result of this policy must be a breach with the synagogues,  – and I might add, the open hostility that we read about in this very chapter.  Acts 13:50  

All of this was used by Paul and Barnabas as a means of preaching the Gospel, without compromise – to the Jew and Gentile alike.  God had not only opened the door, and chosen his messengers, but he had already prepared the way for them – it was exactly the right time, and the good news could be carried to the ends of the earth.  

God is supremely in control of history.  He is the Sovereign God whose plan is always perfect, and we can trust him implicitly.   2 Samuel 22:31 It is is the Lord himself, who provides Gospel opportunities, and who calls workers to reap his harvest.  In fact, when it comes to our own desire to spread the word, we are taught to pray that God himself would provide missionaries!  Luke 10:2   We should pray for God to open ‘Doors of opportunity.’ 1 Corinthians 16:8  

From → Acts, Bible Study

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