JUNE 3", 2018 PASTOR DON PIEPER
In Paul's Footprints ACTS 19:20-31; 19:32-20:1
"ON THE WAY"
After taking 3 weeks to read from the letter Paul wrote from Ephesus to the church in Corinth
we_ return now to our regularly-s-cheduled program, walking in-Paul's-footprints. But-as-we-return-to his
third missionary trip, Paul isn't actually walking anywhere. In fact, Luke barely mentions Paul at all! Instead, Luke tells us of a riot in Ephesus in which Paul's role is little more than that of a bystander.
One can't help but wonder why this story is even included. What's the point? As I prayed about this, four things came to mind, each connected by a single thread — a theme that reappears again and again throughout Paul's ministry. It's mentioned for the sixth time in verse twenty-three: "About that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning The Way." (Acts 19:23) It reflects back to something Jesus said about himself to his disciples: "I am the Way, the truth and the life!"
By referring to themselves as followers of The Way, they were affirming Jesus' claim as the source of life, in this life as well as in the next. The term also reveals how they viewed the church — not as a building or an institution but as a movement. 'The Way' implied that a person wasn't just a believer but a follower of Jesus. The Way was distinct from the world. To be on the Way meant a movement of being, to change from one form into another, from one world view to another. As Paul put it, "Do
not conform any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed...!" (Romans 12:2)
In Acts 19 we are shown at least four facets to this life of faith known as the Way! The first is found in the transitional section: "Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem. 'And after that,' he said, 'I must go on to Rome.'" (Acts 19:21)
With this verse Luke affirms one of Paul's primary teachings in his letters, that to follow Jesus, to live a life of faith on the Way, one learns to be led by His Spirit. Paul, as we saw in his letter to the Galatians, puts it this way: "Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.., for since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives." (Galatians 5:16, 25)
Paul is doing just that as he seeks to discern where to go or what to do next. The Spirit compels him to go back to Greece and later to Rome. I must go on to Rome, he says. The word 'must' conveys a sense of being compelled. What might God be compelling you to do...? He compels me in the form of inner nudges, by bringing someone to mind or an inclination to do something.
Last week I was making a phone call to someone I'd asked to sign the guest sheet when I got a strong nudge to call someone whose name I didn't recognize. As she answered the phone I got another nudge to ask if there was anything I could pray for. She responded as if to say, how'd you know, and told me of the hardships she's been facing. Later we got together and she told me how a friend had told her to be patient. God was going to help her reconnect by sending someone her way. I marveled at it all and chuckled at God's timing. She was waiting at the carwash when I'd called.
A second facet of following the Way is that of a legal, moral precedent, found in the context as well as the content of Luke's telling of the riot in Ephesus. Luke informs us that those who're making mucho moola selling silver souvenirs of the pagan goddess, Artemis, whose temple was one of the seven wonders of the world and hostess to scores of pagans and tourists, aren't pulling in the same lucrative profit after Paul preaches that the pagan god of fertility is no god at all but a mere chunk of metal. So the silver guild start a riot and their grievances wind up before the mayor.
I reminds me of our experience down in Redding... Fearless in their love of Jesus and inspired by their confidence in the presence of the Holy Spirit, Redding is reveling. We witnessed this in action when we went out to eat at a pizza cafe. A group of young people were talking & laughing one moment and-in the next they circled around one of_the guys,_laid harids_on him and prayed. One_of_them_made eye-contact with me and then came over to share with me why and what they're doing!
I see that kind of thing happening here! Filled with Jesus' love for the disconnected and growing in confidence of the presence and the gifts of the Holy Spirit we can and will have a God-sized impact
That brings us to the fourth facet of the Way found here in Acts 19 - that of Paul's courageous, powerful partners. Twice in this story alone Luke names some of Paul's partners in the gospel. First, "Paul sent his two assistants (partners), Timothy and Erastus, ahead to Macedonia..." (Acts 19:22)
Later Luke mentions two more: "Gains and Aristarchus were Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia..." (19:29) Erastus was a leader of the church in Corinth and is returning to his home church but the others are Paul's traveling buddies. "Several men were traveling with him. They were Sopater from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Therbe; Timothy (Paul's protege), (Luke the book's author) and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia."
Luke records their names because they matter! These guys were committed not only to Jesus and his gospel, but to each other. These weren't half-hearted acquantances — they were all-in! No wonder Paul's last letters are full of inpassioned pleas for others to also live in an all-in, covenant-bonds of loving, trusting relationships with one another. Over and over he urges them to be kind to each other, encourage one another, pray for one another, help one another, love one another, bear one another up...
As Paul will later write to this very church in which all this took place: "Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace."
Every time Paul used the words each other or one another he was talking about the committed, covenantal relationships within the church family of which the Christ-follower was a part. The reference to binding yourselves together is one taken from the bondage of slavery or inprisonment, in which two people were physically chained to one another. It was a metaphor for living life in community, in life and death kind of partnerships, where one knew that the other had his or her back.
In the film, "The Fellowship of the Ring", nine individuals form a bond out of a common sense of purpose, each articulating a commitment to one another to see that purpose, their mission, achieved. [DVD clip from the film, The Fellowship of the Ring; 1:31:35 — 1:33:28]
Where are we going? That's the beauty of the Fellowship of the King of Kings. He invites us to belong even before we believe. We come to find the way even though we as yet may not know the way but as we come to know the Way, the Truth and the Life that is Jesus, he places us in a partnership with others, who are also learning to walk in the Spirit; that thru us, the Spirit may have such an impact as to change our lives, and the lives of those around us, as we enter all in, to the fellowship of the King!
I invite you to put that to prayer, and to find ways of expressing that, not only in words, but in actions, by making events others are putting themselves out there a priority, finding new ways of living in a way, The Way, that honors Jesus by honoring one another as we learn to walk in the Spirit...!