After this three-year period, Paul fled Damascus and went to Jerusalem where the apostles and some other disciples were. They did not accept him until Barnabas affirmed his conversion. Paul spoke out boldly in the name of Jesus, talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews.
Paul was given such a heart that he prioritized the message of the Gospel above all else. He did not debate people concerning the truth of Christ because there was any gain in it for him. He did not begin by renting a gathering place or making sure that he would be provided for. In fact, he went to a people who did not accept him initially and the Hellenistic Jews were attempting to put him to death. The way that we share the Gospel is so contrary to the way that it is done in the Bible. What we see in the Bible and what we will consistently see in Paul’s missionary journeys is that people of God begin with the Gospel, are sustained in the Gospel, and finish with the Gospel. God’s grace is sufficient for the missionary.
One surefire sign that someone isn’t a true missionary, then, is that they begin by trying to attract people to a building or a ministry, or that they are too concerned with making enough money to support themselves or sustain their ministries. The church is not connected to the money of this world. The Gospel spreads with or without money, property, or material resources. In every place the Gospel is contextualized, which we see here as Paul “argues” with the Hellenistic Jews. We always use the methods that will be received, but the Gospel is always the content we use to reach people- nothing else. If we ever find ourselves saying that we “have to have” anything else, we have committed idolatry in ministry. God will provide exactly what we need to do ministry where and in whatever capacity He wills. Sometimes that means a pastor will be paid. Those who work hard at preaching and teaching are worthy of their wages (1 Timothy 5:18). So churches should seek to provide for their pastors and give everything they can to advance the ministry of God’s word. In certain contexts, it means that pastors cannot be paid and that churches are unable to obtain property. The work of the Gospel does not depend on those things even if those things should be used for the work of the Gospel when God’s provides them to His people.
As a result of the priority of the word, the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was built up and continued to increase. The missionary decreases as Christ increases. Brothers and sisters, if we are to see the ministry of the word build us up and continue to increase our numbers in a godly way, we must deny ourselves, give what we have to God’s ministry, and serve in our context in a giving, not a receiving, manner. Make no mistake, God is always working and He will not fail to accomplish all His will. Will we be active, positive, parts of that work?
The way we see growth is by pouring God’s word into the world, not by pouring the world into the church.
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