By Pastor Glenn Pease
Maybe some of you saw the Donahue Program where he wore a special outfit designed to help men feel what it is like to be pregnant. It was an awful experience for him as he felt the pressure and the pain involved in bearing a child. The whole idea is that men just do not understand the cost of new life for a mother. Men create things too, but as Mike Nichols says, "The Golden Gate Bridge does not give you stretch marks, the Hover Dam will not wet the bed, and the Chrysler Building never needs to be burped."
But let's not write men off as wimps when it comes to giving birth, for there are other things besides babies that need bearing and birthing. There are churches as well as children, and the Apostle Paul gave birth to a number of churches, and it was after a painful labor, and they did leave stretch marks. Listen to Paul as he has to go through the pain of labor the second time for the Galatian Church. Gal. 4:19 says, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." Paul had to go through labor twice, and not for twins, but for the same baby. Can men have babies? In some sense they can, and they can also know the problems and pressures of raising them up to maturity.
Listen to Paul as he writes to another of his brood in II Cor. 11:27-29: "I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep." If that is not a man experiencing motherhood, I don't know what is. And after listing other sacrifices he says, "Beside everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?" This is no mere spiritualizing the idea of motherhood, for Paul actually felt the physical and mental anguish involved in giving birth to and raising these baby churches. He felt just as Jesus did when he cried out over Jerusalem in Matt. 23:37, "...how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
The male is capable of having many of the emotions of motherhood. The whole book of Acts is really and account of the babies of the Apostles. They went everywhere giving birth to churches, and Paul was the most fertile of them all. In Acts 17 we see Paul giving birth to three new baby churches-one in Thessalonika, one in Berea, and the third in Athens. Many feel that he had a miscarriage in the Athens pregnancy because we have no letter of Paul to the church there, but this is true of Berea as well. Others feel it was premature, but did survive. Whatever the case, we have an account here of three babies and a man, because in all three places the new birth took place and babies were born into the kingdom of God.
If you saw the movie Three Men And A Baby you know you learned more of what not to do with a baby than what to do. But here in this account of three babies and a man you learn what to do to be a reproducing Christian, that is, how to have babies and help them grow up to have babies of their own. This, after all, is what Christianity is all about. Jesus took a bride because He wants to have a large family, and the church is His bride, and so all Christians both male and female are to fulfill His purpose by bearing much fruit, and that means to be having a lot of babies for the King that His kingdom might be populated. Paul says in Gal. 4:26 that the church is our mother. All people are born into the family of God just as was God's Son. He was born into the world by the Holy Spirit and an earthly mother. So also all Christians are born of the Spirit through the earthly mother of the church.
The church, composed of both male and female, is the bride of Christ and the mother of all His children. Male and female are equal in God's plan when it comes to having an raising babies. In the kingdom of God this is not the exclusive realm of the female. Males are also baby-makers. The fascinating thing is that the New Testament tells us that the process of reproduction in the family of God is just like that of all life. In other words, eternal life though super natural is just a continuation of the natural process of reproducing all of life. All of life is reproduced by means of seed. The Greek word is sperma, and the New Testament uses this word 44 times. It refers to the seed of plants, animals, men, and God. All have seed by which they reproduce.
The children of God are the seed of God, and they carry in them His sperma and by it they reproduce new life for His family. Evangelism in the New Testament is a process of spiritual reproduction where the Holy Spirit and the Christian labor together to bring forth new life. The Christian is born to reproduce. We want to begin a study of how this spiritual reproduction works as we look at Paul sowing the seed and bearing babies for Christ. The first factor that has to be considered in reproduction is-
This means having the capacity to reproduce. There is not much point in sowing seed on a mirror. It may reproduce its image, but it will never reproduce another seed, for that is not fertile soil. The first requirement for reproduction is fertility. You will observe that the first verse of chapter 17 reveals Paul passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia. He did not stop there to preach the Gospel. These people were just as lost as anybody else, but Paul did not sow any seed there. Why? Because he had no foundation for fertility.
The three places where he did stop to sow the seed and bring forth new life all had synagogues, and that is where he began his proclaiming of the Gospel. Paul did not just go off casting seed indiscriminately everywhere, and hope that some would find a fertile bit of soil in which to grow. Paul had a plan. He went where he knew there were people who were open to the Word of God, and were ready to respond to the new word that he brought to them about the Messiah. The synagogue was the mother of the church. It was fertile soil in which the seed of the Gospel grew and the church was reproduced.
Paul already had common ground with these people. They were there because they had a desire for devotion to God, and a desire to learn more about God and His will. The point is, Paul targeted his audience. The babies he gave birth to were not the result of promiscuous sowing of the seed. He focused on fertile soil where he knew the seed could get a chance to grow and reproduce. If we are going to be reproducing Christians we need to find fertile soil. We need to identify specific people just as Paul did, and make them our target. There are people we just cannot reach, and God does not expect us to. They are not our target, but they may be the target of someone else that God will raise up. But all of us can reach someone who has much in common with us, and who will be fertile soil for the seed we sow.
What Paul is practicing is sometimes called Friendship Evangelism. It is reaching people with whom you already have much in common. You have to have some common bond in order to build a relationship. There has to be some common values and convictions if you are to influence anyone to come to Christ. They have to in some way like you to even listen to you. They like you because they think like you and have some of the same loves and common interests. If people have nothing in common with you and do not like anything you like, they are not likely to care about what you think is the greatest thing in the world, which is the Gospel.
All evangelism is really friendship evangelism. We have no record of anyone being saved who hated the one sharing the Gospel with them. The sower has to be accepted before the seed will be accepted. You can only reproduce through people who find something in you that is appealing. It is amazing how reproduction in the spiritual world parallels that of the physical and romantic world of human love. People do not tend to reproduce who do not find something attractive in each other, and so it is with the Gospel. It will not appeal to those who find nothing in you that they like. All of life reproduces itself through another that is attractive and appealing.
Paul was a great spiritual lover, and he knew how to court people and entice them to become a part of the bride of Christ, and then to bear his seed and reproduce. The essence of evangelism is love. You have got to love people and seek to find ways to become intimate with them on some level that they might be fertile soil to receive the seed of God and become a child of God. We may not be Paul, but according to I John 3:9 all who are born of God have His seed in them. We have the sperma of God in us, and we are expected to reproduce.
The whole idea of discipleship is that every Christian is to be so trained that they can reproduce and train another. Reproduction is the bottom line. It is the only way the Great Commission can be fulfilled. The world can never be won by preacher and evangelists alone. It can only be won when each cell in the body of Christ does its job of reproducing. The physical body grows because each cell divides and this continues until their is maturity. So it is in the body of Christ. Each cell is to reproduce and become two, and those two to become two others, and on and on until all the elect are born into the kingdom. We are all called to give birth to a baby, both male and female. Having a baby for Jesus sounds strange, but it is the goal we are to strive for as we relate to a lost world.
If I love a certain T.V. show, I tend to tell others about it and express how enjoyable it is. If they turn to it the next time it is on and also fall in love with it, I have reproduced myself in that area of life. I have made a convert and doubled myself in that way. Now their are two who love that show. If I love tennis and get someone else to love the game, I have reproduced my love. I have had a new baby in that area of life. This can be done in many areas, but if we do not reproduce in the spiritual realm and have babies for Jesus we are not acting as His bride. We are prostitutes who are having babies for all sorts of other interests, but none for the kingdom of God.
The judgment of God fell on Israel over and over again because they were having babies for every Tom, Dick and Harry in the world of idolatry, but were not reproducing for Him who was their Husband. We do the same thing when we do not look for fertile soil where we can sow the seed and make a baby for Jesus. May God make us aware of our duty to look for such soil, and, like Paul, be busy about the business of reproduction for the kingdom of God.