Summary: On the second Missionary Journey, the Church in Philippi is birthed with pain and injustice. Yet God used that to birth his Church there
I rather like the book of Acts, because it shows the Church in action, warts and all.
It is a dynamic book, written as a sequel to Luke’s Gospel.
And unlike Luke’s Gospel – we see Luke’s personal reminiscences appearing – in the passages where he changes from describing Paul and his companions as “they” and using instead “we”
For example compare Acts 17:1 where Luke records:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia they came to Thessolonica ....”
with Acts 21:1 where Luke writes:
“Now it came to pass that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos...”
Luke has first hand experience of some of the events that he is now describing
In the book of Acts we see the Early Church in action. The growth of the Church was exponential
And yet when I compare what I read in Acts with the general malaise of the English Churches today - I wonder at the claim of the Church of England to be a Church in apostolic succession.
The more I read about the Church in the book of Acts - the more I wonder if we even have the same faith in the 21st Century.
One critic put the matter thus:
“It has been said that if the Lord had withdrawn the Holy Spirit in the Early Church 90% of all activity would have stopped and 10% would have gone on.
It has been said that if the Lord were to withdraw the Holy Spirit from the 21st Century Church, 10% of the activities would cease and 90% would go on.!”
A story is recorded of the famous theologian Thomas Aquinas visiting the Renaissance Pope, Pope Innocent II.
The Pope showed Thomas the abundance of funds in the church treasury, the works of art, the extravagant decorations and ornaments in the chapel.
"You see, Thomas," said the Pope, "the church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’ “(referring to the words of Peter and John in Acts 3:6 when healing the paralysed man)
"True," Thomas replied, "but neither can she now say, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, Rise and walk.’ " (which was the second part of Peter and John’s statement in Acts 3:6)
Perhaps we should, one day, base a series of sermons on all 28 chapters of the Book of Acts.
It would certainly be inspiring
The passage I want to look at this morning comes from our first reading - from Acts 16 – Paul’s first visit to Europe - in the middle of what is termed his second missionary journey.
2. Background to the Missionary Journeys
I think it might be useful to look at the background to this passage and that is why I have produced two maps on the back of the Pew news today
St Paul had three missionary journeys that are recorded in the book of Acts
The final goal of these three missionary journeys was to ground a church in the city of Ephesus with the Gospel
Indeed we see Paul, on his third missionary journey, spending two years in Ephesus building the Church there. Far longer that he spends in any other city of the three journeys
Why was Ephesus so special?
It was the capital of the Roman Province of Asia located just south of modern Izmir in Turkey today .
It was the gateway to the West
It was one of the three greatest cities of the eastern Mediterranean with a population of perhaps 250,000 - the other two being Alexandria in Egypt and Syrian Antioch.
Ephesus was an important port with good access to the interior of Asia Minor.
And ports were excellent centres to pass news on – the Good News of Jesus Christ.
It was - however - a pagan citadel being the centre for the worship of Artemis or Diana - the Asian goddess of fertility
The Temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and its great theatre could hold 25,000 people:
And you will see if you read Acts 19 that it is the temple craftsmen that eventually were the caiuse of Paul leaving town.
Paul approached his task like a military campaign
3. Review of the Missionary journeys
On Paul’s first missionary journey he takes the Eastern flank of Ephesus.
If you look at the map, you will see that Paul’s starts out from his sending Church Antioch in Syria. (Acts 13)
He passes through the Island of Cyprus, bringing the Governor there to faith.
He continues through the province of Pamphilia to town of Pisidan Antioch, (not to be confused with Syrian Antioch).
He then reaches Lystra (Timothy’s home town – was Timothy a Pauline convert there?), Iconium and Derbe and then returns home.