J. Gordon Duncan

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Sample Chapter from “Family Philippians”

familyphilippiansThe design of “Family Philippians” is to enable families to worship together.  Towards that end, each chapter has four sections.

A section of Philippians to read.

A brief time of explanation.

A few questions about the reading.

A guided prayer time.

As families work through the book, they will eventually read the entire book of Philippians together and get to enjoy and complete thought in scripture together.  Enjoy this chapter from Philippians 1:12-14 as an example.

Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

 

In this section of Philippians, Paul is writing a letter to the Philippian church while he is sitting in a prison.  You know what a prison is, right?  It is the place criminals go when they break the law.  Do you know why Paul was in prison?  Paul was there because he told people about Jesus.

Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine that if you told someone about Jesus you would go to jail?  That would be pretty scary.  But Paul did that, and here is the amazing thing.  Paul was thankful.

What would cause Paul to be okay with going to prison?  Well, Paul was glad that the gospel was being advanced.  That means that Paul was excited that people were talking about Jesus.  Not only was the church talking about Jesus, even his prison guards were talking about Jesus.

And you know what?  The church wasn’t scared about going to prison either.  In fact, seeing Paul go to prison and telling people about Jesus made the church even more bold in talking about Jesus.

How can that happen?  Aren’t people supposed to be scared about prison?

Well, Paul and the Philippian church trusted God.  They were okay with however God wanted people to know about Jesus.  That takes a lot of trust and a lot of faith in God.

It is scary to think about going to prison or people being mad at you because of Jesus.  But is it exciting to think that God will help us no matter what happens.

Questions

Here are some questions to think through and answer with your parents.

Do you ever talk about Jesus when you are not at church or with your parents?  Why or why not?

 

Have you ever been afraid to talk about Jesus?  Why?  Describe that time.

 

Ask your parents for examples of when they have talked about Jesus.

Prayer

 

As you think about those things, maybe you and your family could pray about them for your family and your church.  Would you?

 

Pray with your parents for boldness to speak to others about Jesus. 

 

Pray with your parents to trust God no matter what happens.

 

You can find “Family Philippians” as a pdf download here, and also at

Amazon Paperback
Amazon Kindle
Nook


 

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paul’s BFF – Romans 16:5b-16

Find more of Gordon’s writing on religion at the Raleigh Examiner

You would think in town like Garner or Clayton or Cary that churches would be more connected.  Since these regions are smaller, connectivity would allow for better coverage when city-wide needs arise and would offer individual pastors great support encouragement.  Though relationships in the area are cordial and collegial, I can’t really say they are close, and nobody would describe them as partnerships.  That truth highlights one of the practical benefits of being in a denomination.  Being part of a bound together by vow and accountability helps a church to find wisdom, seek counsel, and be held responsible for their actions and convictions.  Being completely independent leaves no room for accountability.

In my opinion, the lack of connectivity between churches is really a result of the fact that Christians really don’t love each other.  Oh, you might love the ones within your local church or the one’s from an old youth group or something, but sadly, there is a real lack of affection for other believers.  You can see why then the church is often incredibly poor and sharing Jesus with non-believers.  If we aren’t going to love each other in the church, why in the world would we ever care enough to love those outside of it?  Sadly, the folks outside the church know we don’t love them and they know we don’t love each other very well either.  Scripture, however, loving one another in the church is a direction reflection of your love for Jesus.  Jesus said as much in John 13:34

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

And you know what God promises to do if you love one another.  He promises to make it a testimony to the whole world so that those who do not know Christ might know and love Him as well.  Jesus says as much in verse 35.

35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

With those things in mind, this week in the book of Romans, we are going to see a list of people that Paul loved.  He is going to mention a bunch of people that we don’t know much about and whose names are hard to pronounce.  But what we will see is Paul’s affection for other believers and in turn, we will also see how that love reflects the love of Jesus.  With that in mind, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  How does mutual affection within the church speak to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

5b Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.

The first person that Paul greets is a guy named Epaenetus.  Epaenetus means “praiseworthy” which is providentially appropriate as he was the first person to profess faith in Christ in Asia.  Asia’s leading city as it was known then was Ephesus which Priscilla and Aquila helped establish.  If you remember, just prior to this verse, Paul commanded the Roman church to care for Priscilla and Aquila because of their faithful service to God, so it would make sense that they are connected to Epaenetus.  You can imagine why Paul is so thankful and mindful of Epaenetus.  He was the guy that started it all in Asia.  You see, some translate “first convert” as “firstfruits” as Epaenetus was the first of many converts to Christianity in the area.  Paul probably sits around the table with Priscilla and Aquila and talk about the good old days.  “You remember when we first rolled in Ephesus?  Man, we didn’t know anybody.  Then we asked Epaenetus where the synagogue, and the next thing you know, he was asking questions about Jesus.  Now thousands of people believe in Asia, and it all started with one conversation.”

I hope we can relate to that here at SK.  I can remember the first person I struck a conversation with at Bushiban coffee shop.  I remember the “random” phone calls people gave me about the start of the church.  I remember worshiping in the Dance Studio with no air conditioning.  I remember the first time most of you walked through our door.  I hope you have many memories of your firsts here at SK.  As we and Paul celebrate the work that God does through people, then we celebrate the work that God is doing through us.  That’s why being connected here and beyond these doors is important.  The world will know that you are Jesus’ disciples if you love one another.  Next, we meet Mary.

6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.

Now, Mary is also translated “Miriam” in some texts, and the name is inherently Jewish.  If you haven’t noticed, there are tons of Mary’s in the Bible including Jesus’ mother, the mother of James, as well as Mary Magdalene.  How do we know which Mary labored in the Roman church?  Well, we don’t.  We can assume that this Mary is neither of the ones mentioned above because there is no record of them traveling to or living in Rome in the latter parts of their lives.  What we do know is that she worked hard for the church in Rome.  Every church has one of these folks, and hopefully more than one.  This is the person who tirelessly and thanklessly cleans the worship space in joy each week.  This is the person who works sound and only hears from folks when there is a complaint.  This is the person who does the bulletins, the powerpoints, prepares the Lord’s Supper, and on and on.

The church only sustains her efforts by God gifting her with talented, willing folks like Mary.  Thankfully, he has gifted SK with many Mary’s.  Next week meet Andronicus and Junia.

7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.

So, who are Andronicus and Junia?  Some have wondered if they were married since there names are joined in this way?  But there seems to be some confusion about the gender of their names.  Junia can be either male or female.  Well, when it says “They were known to the apostles,” that can be translated “Men of note among the apostles,” so more than likely Junia was a man.  Some think “my kinsmen” means relatives but he uses the same word later in verse 21 so most think he means “fellow Jews.”  Their devotion, faith and willingness to be imprisoned for the sake of Jesus gave them a Godly reputation that extended as far as to the ears of the Apostles.  The takeaway despite all the Greek wrestling involved is that these Godly dudes were willing to proclaim Jesus even if it meant that fellow Jewish brothers handed them over to the authorities to be arrested.  Their commitment to proclaiming Christ was so great, news of their faithfulness spread across the world.  You know despite so much harrumphing about loss of liberties and hand wringing about our government, I don’t the church today has that much to fear about going to jail over our faith.  When Christians aren’t willing to love the neighbor across the street or over the fence, why should worry about jail.  Christians will stand up and say, “If they make Christianity illegal I would gladly go to prison.”  Well, my question is, “Is that what it is going to take to get folks to proclaim the Gospel?”  I hope not but at least there were Godly people like Andronicus and Junia who went before us is such things.

Let’s take these next couple of names pretty quickly, and then let’s see what we can find:

8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.

Ampliatus is Latin for amplified or enlarged and was a common name for a slave.  Showing that the work of Christ crosses every social barrier, Paul thinks highly of Ampliatus as Paul describes him as “my beloved in the Lord”   This is an intensely affectionate description similar to what David said about Jonathan in the OT.  Paul loved and appreciated Ampliatus not just for what the work he did for Jesus but for who he was as a person.  Next, we meet Urbanus.

9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys.

Urbanus was a name of social rank and status in that day and time.  It was given by wealthy families to their children as an outward way of displaying that their family was above others who didn’t have a lot of money.  Yet, this guy also has come to know Christ and now works for the Kingdom.  Now, look what we have here so far.

  • Priscilla and Aquila – a Jewish married couple who were kicked out of Rome.
  • Epaenetus – a Gentile from Ephesus
  • Mary, Andronicus and Junia – Jewish men and women
  • Ampiatus – a common slave with no social status
  • Urbanus – a rich kid born with every privilege and advantage in the world.

All manner of class, racial, and gender equal before God and co-workers in the Kingdom with Paul.  Rich and poor.  Jew and Gentile.  Men and women.  Somehow, in a culture that was probably more socially diverse divisive than our own, the Holy Spirit brought them together in the church of Rome to work for the sake of Christ.  They were bound together by their mutual affection for Jesus.  I would offer them to for encouragement but before we do that, we would have to look at their example and walk in repentance as this type of wonderfully Kingdom diverse community is rare these days.

Note also that Paul calls Urbanus a fellow worker as he does Priscilla and Aquila except he calls them “my fellow-workers” and here he calls Urbanus “Our fellow workers” which implies a bit less personal relationship.  Stachys is also called beloved as Ampliatus.  The name is specifically Greek so more than likely he would have been from the area of Greece.  Beyond that, we don’t know anything about Stachys.

Notice how Paul describes the next person in his list.

10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ.

Now, Apelles was a name commonly used by Greek Jews, so that means that Apelles was raised as a Jew but not in Israel.  He is wonderfully described as someone approved in Christ.  This is an expression used in that day to show that someone remained faithful to Jesus in the midst of very difficult circumstances.  We really only see this kind of language in one other place in scripture:  2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  The command here is the same as the descriptor used for Apelles.  Paul was commanding Timothy to be faithful in obedience to the scriptures in the midst of difficult times.   Apparently, that is exactly who Apelles was – a faithful person to both Jesus and the scriptures.

Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus.

There are few guesses here about who Paul is talking:  Aristobulus was the grandson of the infamous Herod but there is no historical evidence of him professing faith in Christ.  If it is Herod’s grandson, then more than likely, Paul is addressing the slaves of Aristobulus that professed faith in Jesus.  It is just as possible that there was a different Aristobulus who had either passed away or didn’t believe in Jesus and Paul was addressing his household of faith.  No matter who it was, Paul is thanking an entire household who faithfully served the kingdom.

11 Greet my kinsman Herodion.

Herodion was a fellow Jewish believer but we don’t anything else about him.

Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus.

Church history as equated this Narcissus to a freedman who became rich and powerful during the reign of Claudius.  History has it that when Nero took over, Narcissus killed himself.  Church history generally equates this family as the slaves that lived within this ungodly household who professed faith in Christ and persevered through what would have been immense persecution.  What happened to them once Narcissus died and the Christian hating Nero took power is not known.  What we do know is that their Godliness is such a difficult household has been preserved for thousands of years because of their inclusion in this letter.  Other faithful workers were Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis in verse 12.

12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa.   Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.

The first two ladies are typically considered to be sisters who are mentioned for their outstanding labor for Jesus.  Persis is translated Persian lady, so she is definitely a female as well.  Persis is also described as beloved by Paul but notice this time he does not say “my beloved” as he did with Stachys.  Instead, Persis is the beloved of the Roman Church whichh implies that she had a tremendous reputation among the Christians in Rome.  Whereas Tryphaena and Tryphosa were still working for the sake of the Gospel, Persis’ labor for the Lord is seen in the past tense and Paul doesn’t want people to forget the hard work that they contributed to the Kingdom.  Next is Rufus and his mother in verse 13.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.

Now, cast your mind back to the only other mention of a Rufus in scripture.  We meet a Rufus in Mark 15:21 who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross for him when Jesus stumbled.  Interestingly, the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome so church historians have generally equated Rufus with the same man in Mark, though it is not possible to be 100% sure.  Describing him as “chosen in the Lord” speaks to Paul’s assurance of Rufus’ character and salvation.  Describing him as “chosen in the Lord” is a way of saying his Godly character was so sure that he most definitively has to be one of the elect.  Rufus’ mother is also mentioned.  Notice that Paul has great affection for her as she mothered and cared for Paul as well.  We have no way of knowing how Paul might have interacted with her but we do know that she had the gifts of hospitality and charity that we studied just a few weeks ago.  You have to go a long way to say that another person was another mother for someone so obviously Rufus’ mom served Paul well.  As we come to a close, we don’t know much about the next group of folks.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them.

We don’t know anything about these dudes except that perhaps they made up a house church in Rome.  The same goes for the folks in verse 15.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

Most think that Philologus and Julia were married and Nereus and Olympas were their children.  The saints with them imply that these guys constituted another house church in Rome.  It would make sense as the Roman church was addressed as one in Paul’s letter but more than likely they constituted a gathering of churches.  Paul’s letter is almost like sending a letter to a Presbytery that is made up of lots of smaller congregations.  Finally, we have Paul’s summary statement to the church in Rome.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

A holy kiss was a common way that church members in the 1st century greeted each other.  It was a non-sexual sign of genuine affection among believers.  Hendricksen in his commentary makes a great point about holy kisses: they always involved three parties:  God and the two who were kissing each other.  I Peter 5:14 and 1 Thessalonians 5:26 also reference this habit as a kiss of love   Early church father Justin Martyr mentions that the exchange of the holy kiss was actually part of church worship services making it akin to the right hand of fellowship that some churches do today.  We have today as well.  If you are a guy, you give another guy the right hand shake with the left hand double tap on the back.  If you are a guy greeting a female you’ll either go with the wave, the handshake or maybe the Christian side hug so as not to make too personal.  No matter the cultural preference, Paul is sending a warm greeting to these folks from himself and all the other churches that he has been a part of.  The grand takeaway here is a genuine evidence of affection through Christ that Paul had for the churches in Rome and the churches in the area.  In an era when communication was immensely more difficult than what we have today, the 1st century church did a better job of sharing what God was doing in individual’s lives than what we do today.  This sharing of Christ’s work engendered a real affection among Christians.  It works this way – a real affection for Christ will be demonstrated in a real affection for those within the church and those outside the church.

Anything less is counterfeit Christianity.  Let me tell you a little story to illustrate my point.  In 1945, the Nazi’s spared Jew Adolf Burger from the concentration camps, but they didn’t do it because they were being merciful.  Adolf Burger was such an incredible artist that they enslaved him to make exact reproductions of the English currency.  The Nazi plan was to flood the British economy with millions upon millions of counterfeit English money thus rendering all British currency worthless and toppling the government.   The money was created but only small amounts of it entered the marketplace.  The majority of it was placed in trunks and dropped at the bottom of lake 350 feet below the surface at the end of the war.  Had the plan been fully enacted, the British government would have ultimately crumbled because the influx of counterfeit money would have rendered the authentic money useless.  You see, the general principle stands true in almost any arena be it money or faith:  the influx of the genuine weakens the real thing.  Genuine Christianity reflects the love we have for Christ by loving the household of faith as a testimony in loving the rest of the world.  Anything else is counterfeit.

If the church does not genuinely express the love of Christ to each other first and then to our neighbors, then our expression of love to Jesus is counterfeit.  And there are so many things that mask as the genuine article.

  • Republican or democratHome school,
  • Christian School, or Public School
  • Church building or house church
  • Tongues or cessation
  • Sprinkle or immerse
  • If I haven’t hit your or my issue yet, I could keep going.  These things are important in some areas and they play some part in Kingdom work.  But they are counterfeit compared to the genuine love of God expressed to one another.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Priscilla and Aquila – Romans 16:3-5a

I sometimes wonder what it was like for the Children of Israel to hear Moses’ first speech at Mount Sinai.  Do you remember the setting?  The Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt suffering under a merciless Pharaoh who over the past few weeks only made their lives and their work more difficult.  This guy named Moses shows up, and says he is from God Himself.  This God that Moses speaks of was the God their parents and grandparents talked about, but slaves don’t have a lot of time to gather for worship, so there was very little depth if any relationship with God.  Moses displays that He is from God as all manner of plagues shower down on Egypt when the Pharaoh won’t let the people go, and everything culminates with this horrific event where the first born child of every family dies except those who proclaim faith in this God.  Moses gathers all these slaves together, they run out of town, squeeze between the parted water of the Red Sea, witness all of Pharaoh’s army crushed beneath the waves, and when they get to Mount Sinai, Moses heads up to the top of the mountain to meet with this powerful, deadly God of theirs.  40 days and 40 nights later, Moses has still not returned from the mountain.

What to do while waiting for Moses?  Hmm.  They think, “Surely this God of ours wants some sacrifice.”  So the former slaves gather together all of their gold, melt it down, and make a golden calf to worship because that was the type of sacrifices offered to the gods of Egypt.  They would soon find out that their God was not like the so-called gods of Egypt.  Moses comes down from the mountain, and finds them in their sin.  In judgment, the golden calf in ground up into water and the people are forced to drink it.  3,000 people die that day, and then, God sent a plague among them.  Finally, in mercy, God relented in His judgment.  He once again gives them the 10 Commandments and the Law, and there, God makes this amazing promise to them:

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

The amazing thing in this short narrative is that God gathers a people to Himself, in the shortest amount of time, they turn to their own wisdom and their own sense of what worship is.  They commit the most heinous acts of idolatry and yet God is faithful to forgive them and even use them for future ministry.  God covenants with them and promises to do marvels among them.

I really want everyone to take that in.  I want to make sure everyone hears that.  After worshipping a golden calf, God still promises not to leave them and even still to do great things among them.  He describes the work that He is going to do among them as any 13 year old boy would – awesome.  Folks, when we fall short, when we willfully sin, we need to be reminded that God can still work through us, can still work through you.  When you fall short.  When you willfully sin.  You need to be reminded that God is faithful to you because He has made a covenant with you through Jesus Christ.

God can and will still work through you.  So, when we as a church sleep walk through the motions of worship, God is still faithful.  When you arrive to worship merely out of obligation, pat yourself on the back for doing so, but never muster an iota of worship within your soul, God is still faithful.

  • If I preach a faithless sermon
  • If the music team plays the songs but their heart doesn’t cry out to God
  • If you spend the whole service worrying about what folks think about your kids instead of worshiping God
  • If you can’t set aside petty grievances with someone in the crowd

God can and still work through you.  Those things are sin no doubt.  Yet God forgives people who worship golden calves.  He forgives His obstinate children because of our beautiful Savior in Jesus Christ.  Recognizing that Christ became nothing, did not consider equality with God something to hold onto and took your payment of sin so that you might be forgiven should motivate your soul to worship and serve.

With that, what I hope to do this week in the book of Romans, is look at one couple, perhaps the most famous couple in scripture, and see how God did just that:  forgave them and used them.  Then we can be convicted of sin, encouraged by grace, and commissioned to serve.  Having said that, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  How do the scriptures encourage you when you think that you can’t be used by God?

Romans 16:3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.   5 Greet also the church in their house.

Now Priscilla and Aquila are perhaps the most famous couple in the Bible aside from perhaps Mary and Joseph.  They get mentioned seven different times and understanding their background is helpful before we get into Paul’s commands to the church of Romans

We first meet Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18:2-3: There he (Paul) met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.

Whether or not, Priscilla and Aquila knew Jesus before meeting Paul is unclear.  What we do know is that they were raised Jewish and at some point and time declared Jesus to be their Savior.  How they came together was this.  When the third Caesar Augustus took over Rome, he was open to almost any religion except for Druidism, but he eventually cast the Jews out of Rome because Christianity and Judaism were at conflict and he would have no religious wars in his state.  Because of this Priscilla and Aquila traveled to Corinth and met Paul there.

Now look at what happens here.  These two new converts risk everything for the sake of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.  They leave Pontus.  They leave Italy.  They leave Rome and wind up in Corinth.  There they meet Paul because Paul finds out that they make tents and that is how Paul makes a living on the road.  These guys were obviously skilled craftsman, and Paul wanted to know to improve his skills.  They either became converts because of this interaction or God used them to equip Paul and give him a place to rest after they became converts.  Paul stays with them for a while, works, and apprentices with them.  Now Paul planted the church in Corinth, and according to the Corinthian books, did not depend on any outside resources while there, but lived as a maker of tents

We see these guys again a few verses later.

Acts 18:18: Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.

So Paul takes his newly, honed and refined skills in making tents to a brand new mission field, Syria.  But this time, he takes his new friends Priscilla and Aquila with him.  Now, notice what is happening here, and it one of the wonderful, unique things about the Kingdom of God.  Paul stays in Corinth to plant the church there, and along the way, he learns a great deal more about making tents so he can support himself out on the road.

Priscilla and Aquila were in Corinth, and they either just came to know Christ or got to know Him better through Paul. They told Paul what they knew about making tents, and then they decide to take off and be missionaries themselves.  There is this wonderful pairing of God given gifts and talents that God does providentially when he brings people together.

You might be sitting here in this congregation giving very little thought to what gift you have that God might use.  You may think that any thing that you might contribute would be inconsequential for the folks you know, SK, or the Kingdom.  But look at the trade that Paul undertook.  Making tents was one of the most common trades of the day.  Most speculate that the type of tent that Paul makes were the same kinds that were specific to his hometown of Tarsus.  The type they made there were not the expensive leather tents but the cheaper goat hair tents.  So Priscilla and Aquila are skilled in this very common trade that probably offered no social status whatsoever.  However, couple that skill with the passion that Paul had for the Kingdom of God and what you get is 3 missionaries instead of 1.

That’s what God does among His people.  Catalytic, energetic leaders who are passionate for Jesus bump into folks who have specific skills and a wonderful transference is made.  Each person grows both in passion for the kingdom and skills for the kingdom.  That is what I so desperately want here at SK. I want each person to see they can be used by God in some unique way.  I want folks to see that God has equipped them to a specific ministry no matter the place in life or the specific talent.  I want each of you to feel an obligation to spur others onto good deeds and inspire great acts of faith for the Kingdom.  If the analogy of  Paul and Priscilla and Aquila is applied here at SK, I don’t want any of you to think I’m Paul and you are Priscilla and Aquila.  Each of you may be just as used as Paul was to inspire others to take great risks for the kingdom, and each of you have some unique gift and talent that God might use.

Look at the gifts that God have given us already.

  • Talented musicians.
  • Patient folks to help with kids.
  • People who can do powerpoint and layout bulletins.
  • Coordinators who can put together a meal to feed 50 people.
  • People who can layout floor plans for a new worship space.
  • People who can cook.  People who can greet, and on and on.

God has given us plenty of talent.  Now we need to step out in faith in discipling each other and investing in each.  Then we pray and wait and see what God will do.  Look what happens with these guys as the make their way to Syria.

Acts 18:19: They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila.

Now this is amazing.  On the way to Syria, Paul, Priscilla and Aquila stopped off at Ephesus.  Paul had plans to keep on going so he left Priscilla and Aquila behind to begin the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus and planting a church.  Paul trusted these two so much that he felt he could leave them behind while he went on ahead to Antioch, Galatia, and a few other areas. Paul’s efforts are multiplied because he has trusted people to do the same work that he is doing.   This is when we really see Priscilla and Aquila shine.  Listen to Acts 18:26.

Acts 18:24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.  He (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

So who is this Apollos and what exactly was his error?   As we can see, Apollos was a Jew and a native of Alexandria in Egypt.  Alexandria was a great city in Africa that actually helped produce the Greek translations of the Hebrew Old Testament called the Septuagint.  This is part of the reason for his conformability with the scriptures.  We also know that he had the ability to speak eloquently.  Somewhere along the line, he had been instructed about Jesus and was fervent in spirit about the proclamation of Jesus.  There was just one problem.  Apollos only knew the Baptism of John.  Something was missing in his preaching and lifestyle.

An ocean of ink has been spilled about what it means to only know the Baptism of John, but the best guess is that Apollos knew of Christ’s work but since John’s baptism only spoke of some future work God was going to do through the Messiah, the best bet is something like Apollos knowing Jesus had come but not knowing that Jesus’ work of the cross had been completed.  He lack a full understanding of Jesus’ work for the forgiveness of sins.

Well, Apollos was preaching in the Synagogue in Ephesus, and Priscilla and Aquila heard him and decided they needed to have a little chat.  They apparently had secured a place to stay already, so this Godly couple invited Apollos into their home so they could explain to Him what Jesus had done more accurately.  Notice this though, they didn’t ridicule Apollos.  They didn’t publicly humiliate him or call him a heretic.  They didn’t say, “I don’t mind if his theology is off as long as the Spirit shows up.”  They valued correct and informed teaching of God’s word.

What Priscilla and Aquila are doing with Apollos is the exact same thing that Paul did with them.  They are taking someone who is younger in the faith and encouraging and instructing them in deeper truths about Jesus.  They said, “Coupled with good, correct theology and an understanding of Jesus, God is going to use this man, and it is our responsibility to help him just as Paul helped us.  Priscilla and Aquila laid such a solid foundation of the Gospel in Ephesus that Paul eventually returned to help plant and solidify the church there.  We see these guys three more times in scripture.

1 Corinthians 16:19: The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.

The Corinthian church of course knew of this couple as they accompanied Paul on his missionary journey to Corinth back in the book of Acts.  But it looks like Priscilla and Aquila are no longer traveling. They have a local church meeting in their home.  Interestingly enough, in 1st Corinthians, Paul mentions Apollos as well, so some assume that Apollos became the next person that joined Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila on the road.  It would make sense because Paul trained the couple, they trained, Apollos, and Apollos continued on in ministry.  Apollos went on to become so influential that some folks would brag about being his disciple.  Paul would have none of that saying that whose disciple you are doesn’t matter.  What matters is being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We later hear about Apollos taking on this ministry of equipping and teaching when Paul encourages the church in Crete in the letter of Titus to make sure that they give Apollos everything he needs before he heads out on his next missionary journey.

So, a great multiplication is happening with converts, discipling, and mission.  The next place we hear of Priscilla and Aquila is in our passage today in Romans.

Romans 16:3-4: Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Paul speaks about this couple “risking their necks” for him.  The Greek actually speaks of placing yourself under something or someone that is puts your life at great risk.  Whatever happened out on the road, Priscilla and Aquila put themselves in real physical danger, even at the risk of their own lives to help Paul.  Their testimony was so great that the Gentile churches spoke about their Godliness and commitment.  You can hear the affection that Paul has for this couple.

  • They helped him be a better maker of tents.
  • They traveled with him on the road.
  • They helped started the Ephesian church.
  • And they had his back.  When the guy was in danger, they came through.

Finally, our last mention of this Godly couple is in 2 Timothy 4:19.

2 Timothy 4:19: Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.

Paul wrote 2 Timothy during his 2nd imprisonment after his 4th missionary journey.  This is near the end of Paul’s life.  Timothy was in Ephesus so apparently Priscilla and Aquila had gone back to Ephesus to strengthen the church there.  What we see here is that their whole life was about proclaiming Jesus either through the of strengthening believers, bringing in new believers, planting churches, and enabling others to do the same.  The very common tentmaking couple helped start churches in Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome.  They enabled Paul to plant churches in Antioch and Galatia.  And they enabled Apollos to work in Corinth and with Titus in the church in Crete.  All this from one, inconsequential, blue-collar, tentmaking couple.

So what do we do with all of this data?  A few things.

Repent and draw near to Christ as Priscilla and Aquila did – None of what we see that God did with Priscilla and Aquila would have happened had they not left their Jewish heritage and clung to Jesus Christ.  They heard the sweet offer of complete and final forgiveness of sin offered through Jesus, and their lives were never the same.  The catalyst, the beginning point for anything that God is going to do through you and through us is calling out to Jesus in faith and repenting of our sins.  Never forget that.  We have grand plans here at SK to love and care for our city, to launch a new worship space so impact more people, but if we are not calling out to Jesus by faith, we are wasting our time.

The next thing we should do in light of the lives of Priscilla and Aquila is see our individual skills as gifts of the kingdom of God – Folks, there was nothing glamorous about making tents out of goat hair.  It was a menial job that paid the bills.  However, God used it to help Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul plant churches all across the world.  Ask yourself and pray, “How might God use the skills that He has given me?”  Ask God to give you a willing heart to use your skills and talents to invest in the kingdom and to train others.  No talent or skill is too small as God uses them all.

Allow people to speak truth into your life and be committed to training younger, believers as well – Priscilla and Aquila thought they were going to school Paul in the art of making tents and they did.  But it was Paul who trained and discipled them.  So much so, these two got a passion for the Kingdom of God, packed up and headed out on the road as missionaries.  You will not full understand or discover what God might have for you in solitude.  God has uniquely designed the Kingdom of God to have His children speaking into the lives of each other.  Each of us must be willing to be humble allow older, wiser believers teach us about what God has taught them.

Be passionate about proclaiming Jesus so that new people will come to Christ, missionaries and pastors are equipped, and the church might be strengthened – Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.  The example of Priscilla and Aquila is calling us to see that God wants to use each and every person in the church to bring others to know Christ.  God may use you to proclaim him to others.  God may use you to train others to proclaim him.  God may use you to disciple someone who might disciple someone else.  The point is that our gracious God takes the ordinary (that’s you and me btw), transforms us into passionate people with faith in Christ, and uses us to build up others, so that the fame of Jesus might be proclaimed in all the earth.

Let’s pray that today, God would humble us in faith and repentance to Jesus, show us who we should be listening to, show us who we should be investing in, and enable us by the power of the Holy Spirit to passionately and fervently proclaim Jesus to those who so desperately need to hear about Him.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment