TEXT: Acts 16:1-15
The church needs a full knowledge and total understanding of the reason it should not be confined to the local assembly without conscious efforts to reach lost souls in other lands and climes. Christ’s instruction to His early disciples is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). This command, by extension, is for all believers today. The church needs an awareness of the need to reach other souls wherever they are. A church without vision is a church without mission. Jesus died for the whole world and the gospel is for all nations. God looks forward to welcoming converts from “all nations and kindreds, and people and tongues” (Revelation 7:9), which can only happen when His children become “…witnesses unto [Him] both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Even Caiaphas the high priest at the time of Christ was inspired to speak about His substitutionary death that,”…it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but… prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:50-52). The body Of Christ should be mission-minded in attitude, commitment, programmes and teaching, God expects every Christian to be a missionary involved with either home or foreign mission. The Christian faith is borne out of missions, spread through missions and advanced through missions. A church that relegates missions to the background without doubt, lacks understanding as what constitutes the whole counsel of God.
Real Christianity is expansive not exclusive. The church that is not mission-minded will only succeed in building an empire around itself and may not enjoy the fullness of the blessings of the Lord. Obviously, not all may be called to the foreign mission field but all can participate in the church’s missionary projects by contributing physically, spiritually, materially and financially to the outreach efforts.
THE COMPANY OF PIONEER MISSIONARIES (Acts 16:1-8; 15:22,40,41; 21:8; Luke 10:1-3)
Apostle Paul belonged in the company of earliest missionaries who carried the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the uttermost parts of the earth. At his conversion, Christ had said of him: “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). True to this mandate, he spared no effort in reaching the lost, a commission that engaged his life entirely. But he was not alone in the mission field; he travelled at various times in company of Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Luke the physician, and others. “And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea…” (Acts 21:8). NO one can preach the gospel alone, not even a pastor or founder of a Christian assembly, Missionary assignment should be a joint effort that requires the cooperation of workers and members of the church. As leaders are busy recruiting and engaging soul-winners into God’s vineyard, believers and members of the congregation should be ready and willing to join the leadership in fulfilling the vision for world evangelisation. The men and women who will bear the gospel to the ends of the earth should be people, one, of sound Christian conversion and conviction. They must be people who have known the Lord through genuine salvation, sanctification and baptism with the Holy Ghost (I Peter 1:23; 2 Timothy 2:21; Acts 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:1-7). Two, supposed obstacles or barriers must be removed to prevent the enemies of the gospel from taking advantage of the missionary. This may relate to character, spiritual reputation, litigation or outstanding debts, which should be settled in order that the believer fall not into the reproach of the enemy (1 Timothy 3:7). Timothy “…was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). His lack of circumcision was to be a sore point but Apostle Paul quickly remedied the situation (Acts 16:3). Three, New Testament missionaries are people of clear and persuasive vision. They know what the Lord has called them to do and have a strong understanding of His leading. Four, they are men and women of deep commitment and persuasion. A true missionary does not go to other lands partly out of a desire for adventure, sightseeing, tourism and pleasure. There is need for an unwavering purpose, a definite call and a Christ-centred motive to go through the vicissitudes of the mission field. Paul the apostle remains an enduring example of the character and composition of a committed and successful missionary.
Most importantly, the Holy Spirit should be allowed to be at the centre of every mission programme to determine who goes where and when. Believers in the early church prayed and waited for the Spirit’s leading. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:2-4). Carefully planned and wisely executed mission programmes should be carried out under the supervision of the church leadership or missions committee. Intending missionaries should also count the cost and be ready to pay the price because they may need to sacrifice their comfort, leave families, friends, acquaintances and prospects, for other lands. The church too may be laced with the choice of either retaining workers have proven ability and dependable personality in i heir home or headquarters church or sending them to the mission field.
THE CALL TO PREACH IN MACEDONIA (Acts 16:9-13; 19:21,22; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; 1:14,15)
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul’s vision in Macedonia is symptomatic of the critical and urgent call for world evangelisation. It typifies the general malaise, helplessness and hopelessness of the people of this world against sin, Satan and his activities; only concerned and spiritual men and women of faith can help deliver them. Truth is, multitude of souls descends daily to a lost eternity and calls for urgent rescue through relentless preaching and prevailing prayer. As the only panacea for man’s lostness, the gospel should be preached in season and out of season to set men free from corruption, defilement and present-day pollution. Believers should be all-out spreading and sharing the good tidings of Christ’s redemption and deliverance. Oh that disciples of Christ would hear the voice of these drowning souls and race to save them!
There was immediacy in Apostle Paul’s response to the vision. “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:10). They went from city to city armed with the message of salvation, healing and deliverance, and the Lord blessed their work with great success. Christians should emulate these exemplary missionaries and witness for Christ at every opportunity. God recognises no national boundaries and expects the church to seek the lost far and near. Before His ascension, Christ was deeply concerned for His sheep that were outside the kingdom and looked ahead to a fold composed of all peoples, races and tongues under one Shepherd. Today, there are “Macedonian calls” from Africa, America, Europe and Asia, even our home country, and the Lord is looking for labourers to send into His field to harvest souls (Luke 10:2). The un-evangelised are yearning for opportunity to hear the gospel message. The field is ripe and ready for harvest. More than two thousand years after Jesus shed His blood for humanity, billions of people are still in darkness of the truth of the gospel. The church therefore cannot sit on a rocking chair and fold her arms. We can deploy various means of communication — the Internet, social media platforms, electronic devices, etc. — to reach vast swathes of humanity. We must not hoard or hide this knowledge that liberates and sets people free. Ruskin, a secular art critic and writer strikes the right cord when he said, “He who has knowledge that is essential to the welfare of his fellowmen is under solemn obligation to convey that knowledge to them. It makes no difference who those men are, or where they live, whether they are conscious of their need or how much inconvenience or expense he may incur in reaching them.” What a challenge! Every recipient of the redemptive grace of God is indebted to those who are yet un-evangelised at home and abroad.
CONVERTS FROM PAUL’S MINISTRY (Acts 16:14,15; 13:11,12; 16:33, 34; Galatians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 4:14, 15)
In obedience to the vision, Paul and his company preached to “…a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God… whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house…” (Acts 16: 14, 15). Though a religious person, Lydia was not born again and needed the salvation message. As they ministered to her, the Lord opened her understanding and she was converted. A similar account occurred to Cornelius while Peter ministered to him and his household (Acts 10). Such cases of religious but unconverted people abound in our churches today and we must do everything possible to reach them. As a seasoned missionary, especially to the Gentile world, Paul laboured in the gospel and won countless souls to the Lord. His numerous epistles and letters to his converts attest to this (1 Corinthians 4:14, 15). God depends on us today to spread this liberating knowledge of the gospel and deliver the people in the region of darkness cruelly bound by the enemy. Lydia’s experience also underscores the need to depend on the Holy Spirit to birth souls into God’s kingdom. Except the Lord confirms His word through His Spirit, our labours would be fruitless and in vain. Believers, however, can trust Him as they go forth everywhere believing that He will work with them and confirm the word with signs and wonders (Mark 16:20).