Paul here again.  Your pastor and I had an experience a couple of weeks ago. He took me to a place where there are these golden arches.  We went to have a little breakfast.  It sure is a popular place.  With so many people there it seemed like a good place to share Jesus.  I used to go to the agora or marketplace in ancient cities; that’s where people would gather.  I don’t know if Pastor Zahn was serious or not, but he said that they should have called the marketplaces “McAgoras.” 

            While we were at one of your “McAgoras,” I saw something that really struck me.  A family entered who spoke a different language.  The father struggled to communicate but eventually everything was good.  He then pulled some money out of his wallet but it was a large amount of money. I assume that it was many denarii.  The clerk was a flustered.  He said he didn’t have enough money in his money machine to give back the difference. A man in the background stepped forward and said, “Allow me to pay for it.” The father objected, but the stranger said, “You need to eat; your family needs to eat,” the stranger said, “allow me to pay.”

            I thought about what I saw.  The stranger said, “You need to eat; your family needs to eat.” Then the man paid for the meal.  It is like God saying, “You need forgiveness; your family needs forgiveness.”  Then God paid - not with gold or silver but with the precious blood of Jesus.  That love compelled me to tell others. It compelled others. It compels you.  Today I continue Behind the Scenes – with Silas, the Self-Sacrificer.    

            After Barnabas and I returned to Antioch from our first mission journey, we were excited.  Barnabas and I were asked to give a mission report.  Yes, we suffered much but we saw so many blessings.  Salvation came to so many people – even non-Jews.  Many Gentiles repented of their sin and believed in Jesus as their Savior.    

            Satan, however, wanted to throw cold water over our joy.  There were “Christian Jews” from Jerusalem who came to Antioch and tried to rain our parade.  I said they were Christian Jews, but they were really more Jewish than Christian.  In their own words, they said, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  Needless tosay, they doubted the salvation of all the Gentiles we preached to since they didn’t bear the mark of being a Jew, circumcision.  

            People were confused by the Law of Moses as I was at one time. I thought obeying the Law of Moses was my ticket to heaven.  And I know that many still think that.  Pastor Zahn asked a group of people at a nursing home this week, “If God were to ask you why he should let you into heaven, what would you say?”  A man called out, “Good works!”  The Christian Jews in Antioch were saying that too. The males needed to do something.  They had to be circumcised. 

The reason the Lord gave the nation of Israel special laws like circumcision and the worship and dietary laws he did, was to separate the Jews from every other nation on this earth.  No other nation had Laws given to them like Abraham’s children did. The reason he gave those special laws was because they were a special people, not because they were better than anyone else, but because Messiah would come from them. 

That’s what got lost – the real reason for Messiah’s coming.  I, along with countless others, was so misguided.  We thought the Law was the ticket to heaven. For a man, keeping the Law included circumcision. Instead of looking at Messiah as the one who was pierced for every transgression against the Law of God, instead of seeing the Messiah as the one on whom the Lord laid the iniquity of us all, we looked at Messiah that would make Israel important again in the affairs of the world.  Messiah came as a king all right, but as the servant-king.  Instead of Messiah enforcing the Law, the servant King came to keep the Law for us.  Instead of punishing violators, he came to be punished for all the violators - us.    

Pastor Zahn says that history keeps repeating itself. He says that there was a man named Pelagius who taught that you had to obey the law to get to heaven.  He wasn’t even subtle about it. But people who believe you need to believe in Jesus and do good works are Semi-Pelagians.  That’s wrong too for what they are really saying is that Jesus didn’t do the whole job.     

What a slap in the face for Jesus, don’t you think?  I know I should hardly be criticizing because I was there too. I had no respect for Jesus. But I got the message loud and clear.  How comforting it is to know that our salvation rests on Jesus alone.  It’s a gift. It’s free.  It has been done for you.  You need not help.  You cannot help.  I am living proof of that.  

My friends, Silas and Barnabas among them, knew that too and preached it clearly.  But because these Judaizers created such a ruckus, a church council was called in Jerusalem. All the big guns were there.  I was going to say “big bows” but Pastor Zahn said you wouldn’t understand. I spoke.  Barnabas spoke. Peter spoke. James, the brother of Jesus who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem, spoke.  My friend Luke wrote down Peter’s exact words.  “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”   How about those concluding words, “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are?”

The leaders agreed to what has always been true since Adam and Eve.  The gospel, the Good news of salvation, is free and full and forever and for everyone.  It is everyone’s possession through faith in Jesus Christ.  There are no conditions. 

A letter was written to be delivered to the church in Antioch.  Emissaries from the church in Jerusalem were sent to show universal unity.  One of those emissaries was Silas.  That’s when our relationship began.    

Before I say more about Silas, I speak to you as members of God’s Church.  The Council of Jerusalem gave a good example about how to resolve problems in God’s church.  1) Face those controversies face to face.  That way there is no whispering campaign, no indirect attacks, no misunderstandings.  Just good candid exchanges between godly people.  2) Listen. The people listened.  The assembly listened to those who were speaking.  An honest effort was made by all to understand the other side.  3)  There was a Scriptural solution.  When James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, wrote a final draft he quoted from Isaiah, Jeremiah and the prophet Amos.  You allow Scripture to be your guide.  God has the final say.  4)  As long as the solution doesn’t violate Scripture, look to see if there is a position of compromise.  There is room to compromise as long as the compromises don’t violate the Scripture.   

Now, more about Silas!  I told you last week that Barnabas and I made good partners on the first missionary journey, but we disagreed when it came to his cousin John Mark. I didn’t think he should go along on the second journey. Barnabas felt differently. So we decided to go separate ways.  He took John Mark; I took Silas. 

They sailed to Cyprus to follow up on the churches we started there on the first journey.  Silas and I went overland to the mainland churches that were founded on the first journey.  Some of the great conquerors had traveled these routes and conquered these lands.  The Hittites, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman armies had claimed these lands. Xerxes, Cyrus and Xenophon and Alexander the Great all traversed this ground.  Now it was Jesus’ turn.  We revisited the Galatian, Cilician, Asian and Pamphylian cities we had once preached God’s everlasting Gospel to on the first journey.  In Lystra, a particularly trying city the first time, God gave us a surprise.  We met Timothy.  He had an incredible reputation from a fine family.  He joined us there. God provides workers.  Anyone here interested in doing more or even fulltime work for the Lord?   

I had a dream one night from God.  There was a Macedonian Man who was calling to us, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  God was calling us to new places.  He was calling us to Europe.  Luke joined us as we were to cross into Europe.   

The experiences were incredible.  God’s results were even more so.  We sailed from Troas to the island of Samothrace.  We wanted to get to Philippi.  No synagogue was there. We heard about a gathering of worshippers at the GangitesRiver.  We met Lydia – a godsend.  I am talking about her next week.  She gave us incredible hospitality.  We cast out a demon in a young girl.  She supposedly prophesied.  We got into a lot of trouble with her agents who made money off her.  They stirred up a mob.  We ended up in jail.  Oh, what a night!  God shook the earth.  It’s a long story.  The jailor went from wanting to commit suicide to knowing his future was secure in heaven through Christ. I have fond memories of Philippi. 

From there we went southwest to Thessalonica.  Silas and I were there for a very short time.  Unbelievers chased us out of town. In fact, we made life dangerous for a very nice hospitable man whose name was Jason.  He had to suffer for Christ.  Luke who had joined us stayed behind and helped that church that seemed to be stuck together with bandaids.    

We fled to Berea sixty miles to the west-southwest.  It was nice being there.  We met a lot of good godly people who knew their Bibles.  When we preached there, the people “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were true.” Be good Bible readers like they were. The anti-Christian agitators found us there.  But they were after me. Timothy and Silas remained behind a while.    

I fled to Athens, the majestic royal city of the Greek civilization.  I toured the city as I waited from Timothy and Silas to catch up. People were really devoted to false gods.  Lots of time and money were spent on beautiful temples. It such a shame how people hunger for God but want their gods to be the way they want.    

Next stop was Corinth, a pagan hell hole.  Our second missionary journey lasted about 3 ½ years.  We spent eighteen months in Corinth alone.  They needed Jesus so badly.  God brought us Aquila and Priscilla from the city of Rome.  They had to flee since Emperor Claudius commanded that all Jews needed to leave or suffer.  Soon they converted and were lifelong friends…actually forever friends.

We stayed with Titus Justus.  The Lord spoke to me in a vision and said, “Do not be afraid but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city.”  After eighteen months in Corinth, I went back to Caesarea.  Silas stayed behind to continue to work the field that God told us that would reap many for the harvest

I know that I gave a travelogue.  I know that some people don’t like to hear about where people have been and stayed.  But let me tell you this.  Silas and all the others were important cogs in getting the Gospel to all kinds of people in these various places. 

Pastor Zahn said there was a missionary who went to all kinds of different places that were not as modern as I see that you have it here at Messiah.  The missionary was asked if he liked the work.  "Do I like this work?" he said. "No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonably refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse...But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to 'Go," and we go. Love constrains us." Thank God for people like Silas who was self-sacrificing.  Thank God for all kinds of missionaries throughout the ages who were compelled to sacrifice so others could hear. 

But you know what? The love of Christ, meaning the love from him and for him makes all his people self-sacrificing to use time, talent, and treasure to do the same.  That’s the case with you, isn’t it?    

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