on the first missionary journey and its aftermath (sermon summaries 11.12.06)

Today we come to Paul’s first missionary journey, the first major step in the ‘uttermost parts’ expansion of the church. My theory is that Ac 12 sees the apostles generally forced out of Jerusalem for their own safety, the basic foundation of the church is laid in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, and now the Lord is using the apostles to push the church farther into the civilised world.

Our first message concentrated on the stoning at Lystra, with a summary of the whole first missionary journey (Ac 13-14). The title was “They Returned to Lystra” and the basic theme was evangelism. Here is my proposition: Gospel work needs Christian men and women who are willing to risk themselves for the sake of the witness. I began by showing the persistence of Paul and Barnabas by giving the overall survey of their ministry, then their persistence in the whole region, especially Lystra, after the stoning. The thing that is amazing about the healing or resurrection of Paul is that he returned to the city. He wasn’t about to let the opposition keep him from his task or from his flock. The next day he went to Derbe and evangelised many people there. When the work in Derbe was finished, They Returned to Lystra, and Iconium, and Antioc, the places where the most fierce opposition had been fomented. Their purpose was to encourage and stabilise the saints and to appoint elders – they persisted. Were they successful? Well, consider Ac 16.1 – Timothy is the fruit of this ministry, he was from Lystra. Consider Ac 20.4, and Gaius of Derbe. The work was significant. I closed the message with these words: We are plagued with a pathological desire to be well liked and well thought of. Have you ever considered what an idol that desire is? One of the reasons we are ineffective for Christ is because we will not risk ourselves for his gospel. None of us in our church have ever been slugged for the gospels sake, but we have been evil spoken of. For our precious ‘id’, we are tempted to keep silent!

The second message saw us turn to Galatians. I believe Galatians was written from Antioch of Syria immediately after the first missionary journey, making it the first of the Pauline epistles and second book of the NT to be written (unless Matthew got his gospel out before it). After Paul’s departure, false teachers, Judaizers, came in exalting circumcision and teaching that it was required for salvation. They were also apparently attacking Paul’s authority and apostleship. The first two chapters mostly defend this second charge, so our second message was “The Authority of Paul”. This is significant because over one half of the NT is written by Paul. It is important to establish right away that Paul possesses equal authority with the other apostles. Paul makes assertions concerning his apostleship, he was appointed directly by the Lord not by men, he received his gospel of the Lord, not from men. Paul points out that he had two visits to Jerusalem since his conversion, both times he was accepted by the apostles and affirmed by them. He was not required to change anything, and Titus, a Gentile accompanying him, was not required to be circumcised. These claims are important because the Galatians could write to the apostles Paul named for independent confirmation. Furthermore, Paul established his equal authority in his rebuke and correction of Peter (something that I think happened before the 1st missionary journey). Paul corrected the pope!! (Just kidding, there is no pope!) The point is, however, that Peter accepted his correction, backing Paul up a few months later in the Jerusalem counsel (Ac 15) and calling Paul ‘our beloved brother’ in his 2nd epistle. Why is the authority of Paul important? It is important for the integrity of the NT as I mentioned, but it is important for us as well. When Paul speaks in the epistles, we are obligated to listen. My proposition explains why: “Paul’s teaching carries the authority of the literal voice of God because of Paul’s role in God’s kingdom.” When Paul speaks, it is the voice of God. You are obliged to listen and obey.

Our last message covered Gal 3-4 and “Justified by Faith“. I call this the ‘first doctrine of the church’ because it is the first one articulated and it is the founding genius of the New Testament church. It is the ‘so what’ of Peter’s confession, Thou art the Christ. I showed how Paul defended justification against the charge of antinomianism; defended it by the witness of Christian experience (the baptism of the Spirit) and the witness of the Abrahamic promise, where the gospel was preached in the OT by the promise of blessing to the nations; defended it by explaining the curse of the Law and Christ being made a curse for us; and finally defended it by explaining the function of the law as the schoolmaster bringing us to Christ. In this message I made a big point that you can’t be saved by the Law or any law. You can’t be saved by prayer. (I used an illustration of a friend of my wife, living in sin, who wrote her a letter saying, “Oh, I’m all right. Remember that prayer I prayed with you that time?” – you can’t be saved by prayer, you must be saved by faith alone). You can’t be saved by going forward at an invitation, by baptism, by church attendance, by any work you think should get you credit with God. You are only saved by faith. “The true church has always held this doctrine.”

All in all, it was a great day today. We had one visitor, someone whom we have had a good deal of contact with in the past. This person has been living a very wicked lifestyle and is now back, claiming to want to break with the past. In attendance for all three services, we hope that the commitment is real this time. There was openness on the face and seemed to be some honesty in the look. I hope it is real and not just seeing what I want to see.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


  1. Jerry Bouey says:

    Bro. Don, I really appreciated this message, “They Returned to Lystra”. It was a real strength and encouragement to me. It is good to see Paul’s determination to do God’s will – and then see some fruit as a result of being faithful in the midst of persecution and trials (ie. Timothy and Gaius). God bless.

  2. Don Johnson says:

    hi Jerry

    Your comment led me to check this post. I realized that I had missed the link to the second message, so it is all fixed now!

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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