With Chapter 13, Paul’s missionary journies truly begin. He and Barnabas are ordained by the Church in Antioch to go out as missionaries to the Gentiles. It is perhaps significant that Luke takes the time to tell us that this church is multiracial and multi-cultural. And it is also the first place where disciples of Jesus were called ‘Christians’. This ordination to leadership comes through prayer & fasting, discernment, laying on of hands, and more prayer – only then are Paul and Barnabas actually sent out. Their ministry did not begin there – they were qualified for this ministry in part because they had already shown themselves bold and humble servants of Christ, and their ministry had already born fruit for the kingdom. Here also, in ch13, Paul rehearses some of the messiah texts from the old testament – promises made to the messiah himself.
Principle: Being qualified does not automatically lead to ordination for ministry, but it is necessary.
Chapter 14 – From Antioch, out to Iconium, where Paul is nearly killed by stoning – to the brink of death, and yet he returns to Iconium to continue to minister among those who had tried to kill him. Then off to Derbe, and back to Iconium to see that the new believers are grounded, and have elders appointed to lead them, and then Paul returns to Antioch – there and back again.
The Apostles and Elders clarify what of the old testament law the gentile believers should follow – 28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these requirements: 29 You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.”
Paul & Barnabas understand their ministry as both to Evangelize and call people to faith, as well as establishing and putting into place church systems that can nurture those new believers, and then return periodically to do check-ups – 35 Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch to assist many others who were teaching and preaching the word of the Lord there.
36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are getting along.”
& Great friends and colleagues in ministry can have great disagreements that cause them to part ways, but if they remain faithful, this will only go to further the work of the kingdom.
Chapter 16 – Despite the instruction in 15:29 regarding what laws to follow, Paul & Timothy conclude that the ministry will be better served if Timothy is circumcised (no small sacrifice!) for the sake of the Jewish believers in the churches. – This is an example of Paul’s principle of becoming all things to all people – not being under obligation to the law for God, but for the sake of those he would try to win. (1 Cor 9) They made acomodation to the opinions of listeners, and then proceded to lead them toward greater truth – they understood the need to ‘meet people where they are.’
16:10 – the first time Luke says, “…we…” in the narative – indicating perhaps that he, Luke, joined Paul’s ministry team around this time.
Chapter 17 – While in Athens, Paul dialogues with people of various faiths and philosophies. He honors their perspectives while remaining confident in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus. He connects his teaching of the Gospel to the theological position of his listeners, so that they will be able to hear him. He also suggests that God is at work in all cultures and peoples, seeking to reveal himself in ways that will help them to be open to trusting in Christ – 27 “His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As one of your own poets says, ‘We are his offspring.‘ Paul then goes on from this mutual connection to explain the exclusive claim of Christianity – 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. 30 God overlooked people’s former ignorance about these things, but now he commands everyone everywhere to turn away from idols and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” This piques the interest of the listeners, but he does not try to convince them further by argument, but lets the truth speak for itself, (knowing that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and converts, not the evangelist or preacher!)