G'day and welcome to Partake! We are now on day 29 of our series "Glimpses", looking at the story of the Bible in 30 days - from the time of creation through to the time of the fullness of redemption! We saw last time Jesus making a sudden reappearance which resulted in the conversion of one of the main persecutors of the church - Saul, who later changed his name to Paul. We saw also a problem to be solved, it was done so judiciously and it was decided that salvation was by grace alone through Jesus' death on the cross and through the Holy Spirit alone.
The church had begun to spread throughout the Roman Empire from its birthplace in Jerusalem. Remember back to the day of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit first came? The people there had gone back to their own countries and cities: places such as : Egypt, Arabia, Libya, Italy, Greece, Judea, Elam, Media, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Pamphylia, Phrygia, Asia, Crete, Cyrene and Crete, parts of the Parthian Empire and of course even the headquarters of the Roman Empire, Rome!
As far as we know, from the Bible record, the most effective missionary was Paul, and that's because most of what we call the New Testament consists of letters written by him. Here are the places he and his various teams of people visited on what we call his missionary journeys. You can read about them in the book of Acts.
Paul's First Missionary Journey
The first journey was to places such as: Antioch (Acts 13:4), Seleucia and sailed to Cyprus. From there they went to Salamis and Paphos (Acts 13:4-6). Then onwards to Perga in Pamphylia, which is now southern Turkey. At Antioch in Pisidia, Paul deliberately plans to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). Then Iconium (Acts 14:3), Lystra (Acts 14:19), and Derbe. Where they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (in Pisidia) (Acts 14:21), before going throughout Pisidia, Pamphylia, then to Perga, Attalia, and returning to Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:24-26).
Paul's Second Missionary Journey
The second journey begins, Paul goes through Syria and Cilicia (now southeastern Turkey), coming to Derbe and Lystra, and then onto Phrygia and Galatia, before passing through Mysia to Troas, the island of Samothracia, and then to Neapolis in Macedonia (now northern Greece) and Philippi (Acts 16:14-34). Passing through Amphipolis and Appolonia, they came to Thessalonica. After teaching in Berea, Paul departed into Achaia (now southern Greece), to Athens (Acts 17:14-15). Then Paul then makes his first visit to Corinth (Acts 18:5)! Paul leaves Corinth to go to Cenchrea and then across to Ephesus and Caesarea, before finishing up in Antioch in Syria.
Paul's Third Missionary Journey
Paul's third journey begins in Galatia (central region of Turkey) and then to Phrygia (Acts 18:23) before arriving in Ephesus where he stayed for 3 years (Acts 20:31). Paul then went to Troas and continued to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13 and 7:5). After going through Macedonia (northern Greece), Paul came to Achaia (southern Greece) (Acts 20:2-3), makes a third visit to Corinth before headed back to Macedonia (Acts 20:1) and onto Philippi (Acts 20:6). Following this, Paul went to Troas, Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogylium, Miletus (now in southwestern Turkey), Coos, Rhodes, Patara, Tyre (in Lebanon), Ptolemais and to Caesarea before finishing back in Jerusalem.
Paul's final journey
Paul in Jerusalem, is beaten by the Jewish authorities (Acts 22) and taken to trial before them. Many Jews wanted to kill him (Acts 23:12) for his service to Jesus Christ. Paul is taken before the Roman Governor Felix at Caesarea (Acts 24:10) and when the reign of Portius Felix begins, Paul appeals to Caesar in Rome! Paul was a Roman citizen, he was innocent of the crimes bought against him and it was his right to appeal to the Roman emperor! So He did and Paul's final journey starts in Acts 25:11. The boat sails to Sidon, Myra (now southern Turkey) and on to Crete (Acts 27:7-13), Melita, near Sicily, Syracuse, Rhegium (southern tip of Italy), then to Puteoli (on the western coast of Italy). Finally, Paul ends up in Rome (Acts 28:30)!
During all these journeys, Paul has endured persecution, beatings, stonings, whippings, imprisonment, mock trials and shipwrecks! In 2 Corinthians 11 you can read all that Paul endured and he sums it up 2 Corinthians 12:10 "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul was an amazing man!
Issues in the Churches of the Bible
Lets look now at some of the issues of the churches at that time, and we see this best by looking very briefly at some of the letters of the New Testament, written by Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude.
Romans: Paul's letter to the church in Rome presents God's plan of salvation, which sees it extended to all of humanity based solely on Jesus Christ' work on the cross and received by an individual's faith in Him alone.
1 Corinthians: At Corinth, the church was an established church, taught by Paul, yet they were not living he had taught by him. Members of the church were living improper lives and Paul wrote to correct them, with the love of a pastoral heart.
2 Corinthians: here due to people doubting his integrity and authority, Paul presents his authority, message, sufferings, disappointments, responsibilities, blessings, and hope.
Ephesians: Paul discusses the position of Christian believers before God - that they are now children of God! He then goes on to discuss the daily function of the Christian, including living a life worthy of Jesus Christ, supremely by serving others.
1 Thessalonians: Paul is unable to revisit this new group of believers who are under attack and persecution. He commences with some personal reflections and continues on to teach, stabilize, console and to encourage them in their Christian walk.
2 Thessalonians: The Thessalonian church is still enduring persecution. Central to this letter is Paul's concern for them regarding the coming again of the Lord, where some believed it had already occurred.
1 Timothy: Paul the apostle delegates authority to Timothy, his personal representative in Ephesus. His instructions include Timothy's life and ministry as an apostolic representative and about the organization, function, and edification of the church. This includes countering all kinds of false teaching about Jesus the Christ.
James: James writes to scattered and leaderless Jewish believers who still met at a synagogue and were enduring hardship. James urges them to keep going and develop an active working faith that is actively working and to live a morally and ethically correct life.
1 Peter: Peter writes to believers undergoing suffering & persecution. He instructs them toward Christian stability, and the proper expression of this stability and growth. Peter stresses a hope that is alive, glorious and certain, and because of that can endure persecution and suffering.
2 Peter: Peter is dying as he writes this letter to a group of believers who are enduring trials and being confronted with false teachers. He also clarifies teaching about the Last Days.
1 John: John writes about fellowship which comes through obedience to the Word of God and through confession of sin when sin is committed. John also writes to tackle false Gnostic teachers who were challenging the teachings of Jesus' apostles..
Jude: Jude writes warning against apostasy, which is giving up and abandoning a belief in Jesus and going back to old ways. . He urges his readers to recognize the problem and fight for the faith.
Through these letters of the New Testament, we see the early church dealing with issues of doctrine and teaching, countering false teachings about salvation and Jesus' return, warning against apostasy and encouraging wholesome living and service as believers in Jesus Christ. The church has grown and spread throughout most of the known world in obedience to Jesus' last command to go to all nations. This growth of the church is the greatest evidence of Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead. His resurrection was the catalyst to turn 11 frightened men, his disciples, into the leaders of the early church. But Jesus also promised that He would come back again and that's what we will look at next time, in our final part of Glimpses! Thank you.
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