Connected to Others
AGAIN (Acts 18:23) with the reported result that Paul and his missionary team “strengthened all the disciples” in the provinces of “Galatia and Phrygia”. Let us now move on to the second example of Paul’s persistent efforts to maintain connections with those people with whom he has had a previous spiritual ministry; Paul’s “connections” with the Christians at the new church at Thessalonica in northern Greece: • Having been redirected by the Holy Spirit from their planned “tour” for their second missionary journey, Paul and his team start a new church at Philippi. While many hearts “were opened” Paul is seized, whipped, cast into prison, and then, after an earthquake, is urged to leave the city. • They proceed “down the road” to the next city, Thessalonica, where for three weeks they “reason” with the Jews concerning Jesus. It is reported that some Jews and a “great multitude” of Gentiles believed (Acts 17:1-9). Non-believing Jews then “stirred up” a riot of people resulting in Paul being forced to leave. • Paul and his team again go “down the road” to Berea, where “many Jews” and “not a few” Greeks believe the message of salvation in Jesus, but they are soon forced to leave this town also by the trouble “stirred up” by the non- believing Jews from Thessalonica. • From here Paul travels down to Athens, where Paul later writes “when I could no longer forbear” (1
Thessalonians 3:1-2), thus he sends his team member, Timothy, back up to Thessalonica to “establish and comfort them” and “know concerning their faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 5). • Timothy reports back to Paul, who had moved on to Corinth, with “good tidings of their faith and love”. Paul is “comforted” and filled with great “joy” by this report. Timothy also brings back several questions from the Thessalonians to be presented to Paul. As a result, Paul writes his first letter to the Thessalonians with the purpose of “the Lord causing them to increase and abound in love one towards another” and to “establish their hearts unblameable in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). • Again, Timothy goes back up to Thessalonica to teach through Paul’s letter. After some time with the Thessalonians, Timothy returns to Paul with several “follow-up” questions to their first series of questions. • Thus, Paul writes a second time to the Thessalonians in part to recognize their “growth in faith” and their “abounding in love towards each other” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul says he also wanted to write so as to help them “who are trouble, to rest with us” (2 Thessalonians 1:7). • Yet again, Timothy is sent back up to Thessalonica to again teach through Paul’s second letter!
• We must note that Paul stayed “connected” with these beloved Thessalonian Christians as long as it was necessary to help them mature in their walk of faith. Let us now move on to a third example from the ministry of the Apostle Paul; Paul’s persistent “connection” with the Christians at the church in the city of Corinth. Towards the end of Paul’s second missionary journey, Paul comes to Corinth and stays there for 18 months. During this stay, he starts a church. After the start of Paul’s third missionary journey, he spends 2 years at Ephesus, a seaport city in Asia Minor (across the Aegean Sea from Corinth). Apparently, from Ephesus, Paul makes a short visit to the church at Corinth then returns to Ephesus. In 1 Corinthians, he states he had previously written a letter to the Christians at Corinth to express his concerns about things he had seen during his visit; Paul writes in 1 Cor. 5:9 & 11, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators... But now I have written unto you...” Also, about this time, Paul was visited by a delegation of leaders from Corinth who brought him a letter outlining several problems and disorders that were present at Corinth. They ask for Paul’s counsel. In response, Paul writes 1 Corinthians to direct the church at Corinth towards a godly pattern of life. Sometime later Paul continues his efforts of persistent discipleship by writing another letter to them “with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:3-4). Apparently, as a result of this “tearful letter”, one of Paul’s team members, Titus, meets up
with Paul in the province of Macedonia and reports of spiritual repentance amongst many at Corinth. This report brings great “rejoicing” to Paul’s heart and was, in part, the motivation for Paul to respond by writing 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:4-16). With four letters to the Corinthians and multiple visits, we can easily see Paul’s commitment to stay connected! So then, it would seem that the Apostle Paul would want us to mimic his life- long pattern of “persistent efforts” to stay “connected” to other believers with whom we have had a previous spiritual ministry. Letters, visits – both announced and unannounced – and third party “mutual friends” (as well as ongoing prayer!) were all part of the tools Paul used to help others in their walks with our Lord Jesus. Sometimes spiritual progress was wonderfully rapid and life-transforming. Sometimes spiritual progress was slow, accompanied with many “tears”, and only after multiple efforts! WE NEED TO REMEMBER PAUL NEVER GAVE UP ON CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE THE LORD HAD BROUGHT INTO HIS LIFE.
we find Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey. After visiting the island of Cyprus, they went to the province of Galatia, where the missionary work was to start churches in five towns; Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Upon completing this primary goal of the “missionary tour”, they retraced their steps “connecting again” with each of these churches. Their purpose was the “confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:21-27). Paul and Barnabas then returned to their “sending” church (Antioch of Syria). While at Antioch, Paul writes his first New Testament letter, The Epistle to the Galatians, a new “mode” of “connecting”! After a few months, they begin a second “missionary tour”. On this “tour”, Paul takes Silas with a plan to press on to the northern provinces of Asia Minor. Paul and his team first visit the churches of Galatia (Acts 16:1- 6). As a result of Paul’s persistence in maintaining connections, it is reported that, “the churches [in Galatia] were established in the faith and increased in number daily”. A few years later we have the story of Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 18 through 21) and, not surprising, we read of Paul starting out by first visiting the cities of Galatia YET
Our theme at the Bible Institute this year is “Connections”, so we should consider what the Bible teaches us about a strategy of maintaining “connections” with fellow ministers of the gospel. As “New Testament Guided” Christians, we would do well to consider some insightful questions: How long should a Christian seek to stay connected with other believers with whom he has had a spiritual ministry? Are there New Testament examples of Christian leaders deliberately maintaining connections with young believers? What patterns of conduct and steps of involvement are suggested in the New Testament for us to follow? It would seem that the best way to “get at” an answer to these questions would be to carefully look at the record of a persistent discipler, the Apostle Paul. He really worked at staying connected with people to whom he ministered! Our first notable example is Paul’s persistent connection with the churches he had a part in starting in the Roman province of Galatia. In Acts 13 &14,
Rev. Gary Ingersoll has been the Bible Survey Professor at the Word of Life Bible Institute in Florida since 1997. He received his B.M.E. at General Motors Institute, a M.Div and M.R.E. from Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary. Rev. Ingersoll has been a youth pastor for 10 years. He was also a Word of Life Clubs Missionary in the state of Washington for 12 years. Gary Ingersoll
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