By Many Means
Acts 18:1-22 November 19, 2000
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21
So far now on Paul's missionary journey to Macedonia we have discussed the following questions and issues:
In Philippi - The Diversity of Our Salvation
What can we learn about the means of grace that God uses to bring people to the truth of the gospel?
God is able to bring people to the truth of the gospel by opening their hearts.
God is able to bring people to the truth of the gospel faith by delivering their spirits.
God is able to bring people to the truth of the gospel by shaking their self-confidence.
There are many walks of life, but there is only one way to heaven.
In Thessalonica and Berea - Trick or Treat
What must we understand about our options when we are presented with the truth of the gospel?
We can reject it out of prejudice, feeling threatened by the opportunity for inquiry.
We can receive it out of gratitude, feeling blessed by the opportunity for inquiry.
The gospel is either a trick or a treat depending upon your attitude toward the truth.
In Athens - The X Factor
How is it possible for us to reach a pagan culture with the truth of the gospel?
We must dialogue with people where they are.
We must discover their felt needs.
We must demonstrate how Christ meets those needs.
We must not be discouraged by minimal success.
The correct solution to the spiritual equation in any culture is always Christ.
And now on Paul's second missionary journey we come to Corinth, the last city where Paul ministers in the Grecian peninsula before he returns to Asia.
It is interesting to see the themes that God brings forward in Scripture on any given Sunday that match a particular focus we may have previously set.
In our service today, we have the focus on stewardship, our responsibility to serve God with our resources, as we celebrate our thanksgiving season.
Even though this would appear to be at random in our preaching series on Acts, it just so happens in God's providence that there is a stewardship theme in today's passage in Acts 18:1-22.
But this stewardship theme has a different slant.
It is God's stewardship toward us, and for this we can be very thankful.
As we just saw in our unison Scripture reading, Paul is praying for the Ephesians that God would dwell in them richly and strengthen them in every way that they might know the marvelous extent of his love that even surpasses knowledge to the measure of the indwelling of God himself in them so they are able to do more for him than they could even imagine.
Paul prays for the Ephesians what he himself had experienced from God on his missionary journeys to places like Corinth.
The truth of God's power toward us, or essentially God's stewardship toward us, can be a very precious insight for us as Christians charged with the task of proclaiming the gospel.
God's stewardship toward us is how God serves us with his resources.
God provides himself to us without measure so we can accomplish what he gives us to do.
In the process of doing God's work in God's power we are built up into him.
This is a marvelous thing to understand and be thankful for.
We can gain understanding on this from the five points we will discover in our passage today.
But let's bring this home where we live.
If you are like me, you can sometimes feel overwhelmed with responsibility.
It seems we often have or take responsibility for many things we just aren't equipped for intellectually, physically or emotionally.
Whether you are a pastor charged with the spiritual health or your flock, or a parent charged with raising your children, or a business manager charged with earning a profit, or a foreman charged with manufacturing a product, we all have at least some shortcomings we are aware of and even some we aren't aware of.
And the truth is we are all inadequate for what ever we do – but God is not.
He is able, and willing, to supply our need (Php. 4:19).
And he does that in some amazing ways.
Spiritual life is a continuing discovery that God is not inadequate or incapable or stingy toward us
How have you felt the need for a renewed sense of God's provision in your life latey?
Or - How have you discovered a renewed sense of God's provision in your life latey?
Our son, Matthew, recently got himself disqualified from the drug rehabilitation center he was living at for having drugs on the premises, and he was told to leave.
How torn up should I feel that he has failed one more time?
I have beaten myself up many times over this continuing issue in his life.
I have helped him all I know how or is safe and reasonable to do – even beyond.
Now I must leave him to God.
I haven't rejected our son, but I am learning to take a new approach toward him.
It absolutely amazes me that I am not all torn up inside emotionally and spiritually about this, as tragic as it is.
Perhaps I am learning to trust in God's provision.
I can in good conscience leave Matt in God's hands because I believe that God is adequate to deal with what I am not capable of.
I can't fix Matt – only God can. God will decide when and where and how far in relationship to what he knows about Matt.
What I must continue to do is accept God's provision.
I must continue to accept the provision that the gospel will be effective in Matt's life – and mine.
We must also accept God's provision in continuing to proclaim the gospel.
How overwhelmed do you feel with the knowledge that God has commanded you to proclaim his gospel?
Joan and I talked at length Friday night about the witness that God had opened up for her with her immediate supervisor who is a liberal Jew.
Remember that woman who worked there and died from lung cancer after she found Christ?
I told you about that last week. Anyway, she had a funeral last Saturday and Joan's boss went and heard the "Black Gospel" on the South Side.
He started to talk to Joan about her Christian faith and Joan is asking me how she might have responded to some of his comments.
In many ways she felt inadequate for the task.
We prayed that God would equip her and that he would continue to stir the soul of her boss.
In fact, Joan said he may ask me some questions when I go with her to the office Christmas party.
I feel I can answer his questions, but can I answer them in a way that will draw him to faith?
Only God knows these things and I must depend upon him.
So we come with Paul to Corinth, the political and economic center of Greece, a wicked and worldly city that was proverbial for its immorality, and observe the means of support that God provides to him in his call to proclaim the gospel there.
He has left the intellectualism of Athens that bore little fruit for the gospel and now enters the arena of the common folk.
Corinth was destroyed completely by the Romans in 146 B.C. but rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. and refounded as a Roman colony.
It had a very strategic land and sea location on a plateau overlooking the isthmus connecting central Greece to the north with the Peloponnesian peninsula to the south.
It was built on the north side of the Acrocorinth, an acropolis rising precipitously to 1,886 feet providing an almost impregnable fortress for the city.
The population during NT times was probably over 200,000 – at least 20 times that of Athens.
It was the center for the worship of Aphrodite, whose temple with its 1,000 sacred prostitutes crowned the Acrocorinth.
We shall discover that the means by which God provided for Paul to proclaim the gospel in Corinth he is also able to provide for us.
When we approach God's Word we must ask the right questions of it.
We must approach it with an inquiring mind and a heart of humility and obedience.
We must seek to find out what God wants to teach us – in short we must seek the answers, but we must know the question we are trying to answer.
The comics today in "Mr. Boffo" proclaimed the philosophy of life once again in its simplest terms.
He was sitting before the 'big boss' at his desk and the boss says to him, "We can train someone who doesn't know the right answers, but we can't train someone who doesn't know to ask the right questions. I'm afraid we'll have to let you go." To which Mr. Boffo responds inquisitively, "Where?"
So as we come to God's Word once again today, what is the question that comes forward to which we shall seek to find the answers?
What means of support is God able to provide for us in our calling to proclaim the gospel?
I. Cycle One
A. Narrative (vv. 1-6)
God helps us in our calling to proclaim the gospel by giving us support through other believers.
II. Cycle Two
A. Narrative (vv. 7-8)
God helps us in our calling to proclaim the gospel by giving us support through successes in ministry.
III. Cycle Three
A. Narrative (vv. 9-11)
God helps us in our calling to proclaim the gospel by giving us support through divine revelation.
IV. Cycle Four
A. Narrative (vv. 12-17)
God helps us in our calling to proclaim the gospel by giving us support through divine intervention.
V. Cycle Five
A. Narrative (vv. 18-22)
God helps us in our calling to proclaim the gospel by giving us support through our own affirmation of God's provision.
What means of support is God able to provide for us in our calling to proclaim the gospel?
The support we receive from other believers.
The support we receive through successes in ministry.
The support we receive by divine revelation.
The support we receive by divine intervention.
The support we receive through our own affirmation of God's provision.
The means of our support in ministry is broader than we can imagine.
There is no reason to withhold ourselves from serving God in proclaiming the gospel, nor to withhold our thanks for those things he will never withhold from us in order to serve him in proclaiming the gospel.
Those who are rich toward God will find him richer still.
Actually, this principle works in all of life when we put God first.
And what it means to put God first is spoken by Christ most appropriately in Matthew 6:33 where he says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Yes, we can praise God for his stewardship toward us, but first we must want it. And to want it we must want him. And to want him is to serve him. And to serve him is to serve others in the proclamation of the gospel.
Like Jesus said in Luke 10:37, "Go and do likewise."
It is not the issues of our existence that are most important, but the issues of God's existence in us and what we do with it.
Let us each commit ourselves today to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.
Let us commit ourselves anew today to serve him in the proclamation of the gospel.