GOD ESTABLISHES HIS CHURCH IN THE WORLD
Discipleship Takes Time
Jerry A Collins
u How long does it take to make disciples?
u What is the benefit of longevity in ministry?
u Why should we view ministry as a long term commitment?
We constantly bump up against the reality that so much of what we do and want to do and wish to see happen just takes plain old time. I have been procrastinating about changing my physique because it will take months before I will begin to see a noticeable difference. We have to save up the money before we can make that purchase. It takes constant discipline and study to get an academic degree. If you are going to finish that book you will have to take the time, make the time to read it. It has taken quite a while and still some before we will move into a new location. Everywhere you turn, nearly everything you do and anticipate and hope for takes time. Making disciples of Jesus Christ requires time too. Ministry should always be viewed as a long haul effort. Building up people who will display righteousness consistent with the Word of God takes a lot of time! Consider our passage for instance. In vs. 3 Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly and vs. 28 And they spent a long time with the disciples.
1. WE MUST MAKE LITE SO EVIDENT SO AS TO EVOKE A DECISION BY ALL 1-7
Notice, first that in both cases they spent a lot of time. Time is like that. God gives it to you so that you can spend it. Once it is spent you cannot have it back. In this case they spent a lot of it. The word literally means to rub away like when you are trying to clean up a spot on your shirt or shin. You keep rubbing away at that mark again and again maybe with a wet cloth hoping to get rid of way. Tenacious and enduring remaining at the task until it is resolved. Second, what were they rubbing away at? In the first instance it was speaking the word of God boldly with reliance upon the Lord. That is our business and we should never be deterred from it in our lives. (1) It was the reason many believed in vs. 1. The manner in which the gospel is preached is by no means unrelated to the results.† (2) At the same time opposition to this was aroused vs. 2. Not everyone will be happy to hear this message. You have to expect that. There will be hecklers who reject it and even go so far as to excite others who become irritated with you. (3) Over against this opposition is an exhibition of divine power vs. 3. This is further confirmation of Godís endorsement of this ministry and message. (4) The climax is a division in vs. 4. The emphasis on the opposition is described as Jews. Once again being reminded of their hardened rejection and unbelief all throughout their history. In contrast are those of the apostles. The first time Paul is called one in Acts. Tho apostles before, Luke refrained from giving Paul this title until the historical evidence for it becomes obvious. Both the responses to his ministry and the supernatural confirmations of miracles along with it crescendo with the evidence necessary to recognize Paul as numbered among the apostles. An apostle then is one directly & personally commissioned by the Lord and authenticated as such by signs and wonders. (5) The persecutions severe enough to force departure and the gospel going into new fields vs. 5-7. When our time to leave a field of ministry where God has used us has come, He is able to make that plain. Until then perhaps a slowness to leave that ministry is a wise choice.
2. GIVE GOD THE CREDIT WHEN HE USES YOUR MINISTRY 8-18
(1) In 8-10 Paulís healing of this cripple closely parallels Peters healing of the same in chp 3. The dire circumstances of each are described as in vs. 8. Both Peter and Paul gazed at the one to be healed; both healed men responded by jumping/walking. The point is to underscore Paul as equal with Peter as apostle. What Peter was to Jews Paul is to Gentiles. (2) In a strange reaction the crowds wanted to retain their idolatry and yet incorporate Paul and Barnabas in some way within it. When they realized what was up they deliberately stopped them from doing so. Instead this crowd must turn away† from† their† vain† things† and thru the gospel turn to God their creator. First, notice there is no tolerance of this crowds faith. It is false and it is wrong. No accommodation or acceptance. Some want us to believe that tolerance of others faith is a virtue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Second, this crowd was pagan and ignorant of Godís revelation in the OT. So Paul appealed to the universal, rational knowledge of the Creator (Rom 1:18-10) as he did later on Mars hill. Altho the nations vs. 16 had no written special revelation like Israel had, God did not leave Himself without witness 17. The giving of rain & fruitful seasons is an effective witness to God. So man asks why is there such regularity and order to these things? Because there is a living God who constantly provides them. Now this has ended. We have written revelation and the gospel is to be preached everywhere and to everyone. With the testimony of general & special revelation those rejecting God are without excuse (Rom 1:20). Third, it is very difficult for people to change their thinking about God vs. 18. Even here we see how bound man is to the vanity of his own thoughts. Idolatry, false religions, opinions hard to change.† 3. MAKING DISCIPLES IS HARD WORK THAT TAKES TIME 19-28 You cannot make disciples overnight. (1) Interesting that while they wanted to worship Paul and unmoved by his appeal, they are easily moved by slanders of Jews and now stone him. Never be swayed by the crowds. They are fickle. (2) One of the most severe trials of Paulís career, remembered by him yrs later in 2 Tim 3:11, now happens and God delivers him vs. 20. He then does six things: A) He made many disciples vs 21. The great commission is not merely to gain professions of faith but to nurture that faith to maturity. B) Strengthened & encouraged the disciples vs. 22. Not just create new disciples but strengthens old ones. Similar to exhorting troops about to go into battle. The message is twofold: (1) Continue in the faith (2) necessity of suffering. Abandonment of Christian faith is the lure which persecuted Christians have dangled before them. You do not want to lose your discipleship. There is reward attached to it. C) Appoints overseers 23. In lite of spiritually hard fact of discipleship Godís people need overseers. Not more apostles. Not vicars. Just overseers to guard the flock of God from false teaching and apathy. D) They completed their work 24-26. It had begun in 13:2. It was the grace of God that enabled them to complete it. If any Christian work is ever completed it is not completed by human skill, wisdom, organization or planning but by grace! E) They report & rehearse the things that God had done with them 27. It is not what God had done thru them or what they had done with Godís help but what God had done with them. We participate with God in what it is He is doing. F) They spent a long time with the disciples 28. You cannot making disciples without spending time with them. Jesus spent time with his disciples. Paul spent time with his and we must spend time with ours. 1. God demolished the wall between Jew and Gentile Eph 2. Galatians written later. 2. Why go to your mission field? Because God is going to go there and if with him we can see what he will do. Those staying home will miss thrilling spectacles which can be witnessed. 3. Hard but rewarding.