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Acts 16-18

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Pray

Father, as I read today, help me remember You are in control and that the Holy Spirit may lead your people in unexpected ways. God, give us patience and persistence in the face of closed doors. Give us grace that we may respond to challenging situations with joyful prayer and praise. Help me multiply disciples for your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Read & Learn

Read Acts 16-18

These chapters describe Paul’s second missionary journey. This time, Paul and his fellow disciples focus on major cities: Philippi, Athens, and Corinth. Let’s read and learn more about how Paul and his co-laborers understood church planting.

Acts 16 Paul began his second journey by returning yet again (14:21) to the churches he started on his first trip. As a result, these “churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (16:5). Observe that Paul then attempted to go into the province of Asia (probably Ephesus) and Bithynia, but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit. This time, the Holy Spirit adjusted the Apostle Paul’s church planting strategy. Clearly, closed doors and waiting on God’s guidance was normal for missionaries, even in the first century.

Don’t miss the diverse groups of people described in Philippi (16:11–40) and how disciples are made and multiplied. For example, Lydia, a businesswoman (16:14), received the gospel and was baptized along with her household. The girl from whom the spirit was cast out was a slave (16:16). The jailer who listened to Paul and Silas singing at midnight was a working-man.

Acts 17 Note the timing concerning Paul’s work in Thessalonica (17:1–9). Paul didn’t plan to leave as quickly as he did, but he was forced out of the city. While the exact length of Paul’s stay isn’t mentioned, an exemplary church was planted (1 Thessalonians 1:7) in a short period of time.

After a brief stay in Berea, Paul waited for his teammates in Athens (17:15–16). While waiting, he spoke of Jesus in the synagogue and the marketplace. Notice Paul’s presentation to a group of Gentiles is different, but the fundamental gospel elements remain.

Acts 18 Luke describes missionary tent-making (working a job while taking the gospel to new places) in Acts 18. Consider Paul’s investment in Aquila and Priscilla, a couple who eventually hosted house churches in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19) and Rome (Romans 16:5). In the New Testament, disciples multiply and gather into other local churches. Paul then returned to his sending church in Antioch (18:22–23).

Daily Verse for Meditation

Acts 17:30-31a

30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.

Reflect & Change
  1. Timothy became the Apostle Paul’s beloved son in the faith and closest co-worker (2 Tim 1:2; Phil 2:20). This should encourage you to find faithful fellow disciples who will help you show and tell the gospel to others. If you already have Timothys in your life, pray for them to find other Timothys themselves.
  2. Paul’s plans to stay in Thessalonica are interrupted, and he leaves abruptly. The gospel reaches Greece because the Holy Spirit redirects Paul and company away from Asia. We may have plans and strategies, but we must always remember God is the event coordinator of the universe, and He reserves the right to adjust our plans. The book of Acts helps us see the gospel as it makes progress under God’s sovereign control, sometimes quite contrary to human plans and strategy.
  3. Followers of Jesus invested in other disciples who shared with other disciples. As a result, both believers and churches multiplied as the gospel was shared.
Go & Do
  • Magistrates threw Paul and Silas in prison for helping a slave girl. Paul and Silas responded by “praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). Choose a challenging situation this week and respond by “praying and singing hymns to God.”
  • Discuss what you are learning about following Jesus with someone you are discipling. As you invest in making disciples, prepare them to make disciples and expect them to train others.
Discipleship Activities
  • Write out a 5-minute gospel presentation to share with your Word on Life group. Make sure to get their feedback. If you want assistance, review last week’s videos from Day 3. The form below can also help you evaluate your presentation to see if it includes these elements: God, Man, Christ, Response, and life change. Try to use clear and simple language, avoiding Christian phrases that non-believers may not understand. [Making Disciples]
Gospel Sharing Assessment
  1. After you share the Gospel presentation with a friend, ask him/her to give you feedback on how clear and complete your Gospel presentation was.
  2. What are some strengths of your Gospel presentation?
  3. What are some growth areas of your Gospel presentation?
  4. Did you address any Honor/Shame or Fear/Power issues in your presentation? You learn about these in Module 2. Read about Honor/Shame Fear/Power below.
  5. Are there parts of the Gospel presentation that you tend to leave out?
    • God
    • Man
    • Christ
    • Response
    • Life Change

GOSPEL NARRATIVE

  1. After you share the Gospel narrative, God’s story of redemption, with a friend, ask him/her to give you feedback on how clear and complete your Gospel narrative was.
  2. What are some strengths of your Gospel narrative?
  3. What are some growth areas of your Gospel narrative?
  4. Are there parts of the Gospel narrative that you tend to leave out?
    • Creation
    • Fall
    • Redemption
    • Consummation
Three Aspects of Culture: Honor/Shame, Fear/Power, Guilt/Innocence

Each culture has its own personality. Some people even call it a culturality! That said, cultures are usually a mixture of these three types:

  1. Guilt/Innocence
  2. Shame/Honor
  3. Fear/Power

Each of these somewhat determines the different ways a person will initially hear the gospel.

It’s important to be aware that people from honor/shame or fear/power cultures may initially hear the gospel differently than those from guilt/innocence ones.

Of topic, the gospel is good news to all, to those overwhelmed by shame or fear as well as though who feel guilty. In Genesis 2 and 3, we read that sin affects societies in all three ways, not just one. Likewise, Christ’s life, sacrificial death, and resurrection addresses all three of these aspects—not just one. Once aware of this, we begin to see how God’s gospel is beautifully designed to address all the effects and problems of sin.

The gospel addresses the effects of sin in animistic or folk religious communities (usually fear/power cultures) as well as shame/honor societies. It’s good to pay attention to these three dimensions of sin’s effects so that when we read Scripture we don’t miss how the gospel speaks to each of them. Similarly, as we share the gospel, we should be alert to proclaim the good news as it applies to every result of sin and not just one.

Warning: A gospel presentation that ONLY addresses guilt, shame, or fear is missing something. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection solves the sin problem and addresses the effects of sin for anyone who turns from sin and believes. 

3 ASPECTS OF CULTURES, 3 RESULTS OF SIN


Guilt
Innocence: This is present in more individualistic societies (mostly Western) where people who break the law are guilty and seek justice or forgiveness to rectify a wrong.

Shame – Honor: This is present in more collectivistic societies (common in the East) where people are shamed for not fulfilling group expectations and then seek to restore their honor before their community. In these cultures, the loss of identity and being cast out brings shame. Conversely, inclusion restores honor.

 

Fear – Power: This is present in more animistic societies (typically tribal or folk religious) where people who are afraid of evil pursue power over the spirit world through magical rituals, superstition, and magic.

We can see how the gospel addresses all three of these in the book of Ephesians.

  • “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins . . .” (1:7). “God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions . . .” (2:5) Our guilt is forgiven!
  • “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ . . .” (1:5). “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (2:19). You have honor in God’s household! In Christ, your shame is covered.
  • “That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly realms . . .”(1:19–20) Christ has power over fear and death!

Can you think of other examples in the Word?

See also: Wu, Jackson (2016). Does the “Plan of Salvation” make disciples? Why honor and shame are essential for Christian ministry. Asian Missions Advance, pp. 11-17.