Applying Acts 13


cyprus-mapMD county mapAn interesting thought strikes me as I read Acts 13:4-6.   

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.  When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.  When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos…  (Acts 13:4-6a)

Paul and Barnabas are just starting off on their first missionary journey, landing on the eastern side of the island of Cyprus in a town called Salamis.  They then work their way across the island, preaching the gospel, headed west eventually to reach the capital city of Paphos.  I’m reminded that each of the State Directors for Capitol Ministries is seeking to do the same thing.

In addition to developing ministry initially at the state level in our respective capitol communities, we also want to partner with churches throughout our states to reach leaders on the local level.  This would include elected officers in county commissions, city councils and school boards.  This kind of local outreach can only be done with the involvement of like-minded believers through the state who share the burden to see leaders encouraged by the Word of God.

Instead of Salamis to Paphos, I’m thinking of ways to make this happen from Ocean City to Oakland in the state of Maryland.  Maybe you have a thought on putting together a strategy in your area.  I’d love to hear it!

 

touching the worldThe Paphos Paradigm of ministering to government officials is found at the beginning of Acts 13, and immediately the emphasis on the local church is made.  Five men are listed who were teaching in the Antioch church when two of them (Saul and Barnabas) are singled out for a new task.  Two important things are evident:

1)  The Holy Spirit called Saul and Barnabas – “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).  There was no strategy session, no committee meeting to express opinions and take a vote.  While this staff of teachers carried out their ministries of teaching and prophecy, the Spirit spoke and called out who He wanted to go on the missions trip.

The process of “the call to ministry” has long been a mysterious source of debate in the Church, but at the core of the issue is the working of the Holy Spirit – in the heart of the one called as well as in the church as a whole, who should observe, pray, affirm and commission the called one.  There’s something deeply inspiring about seeing someone who’s available to follow this spiritual leading and willingly submits themselves to the oversight and authority of the church who also seeks the Spirit’s leading.  This whole endeavor must be initiated and sustained by the Spirit of God.

2)  The church sent Saul and Barnabas – “Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3).  The “they” in this verse was the Antioch church and it’s a pattern that we must follow today.  What a connection, an identification is in this verse.  The church is behind this effort because it is an extension of its ministry, just in a different location.  Saul and Barnabas aren’t leaving to independently set up their own autonomous work.  They are an extension of their church, still connected, supported and encouraged by them.  They will later return to Antioch to give a report of the trips and be accountable to the church’s leadership (Acts 14:26, 27).

Missions begins and ends with the local church; that’s the pattern in Acts.  Any ministry activity apart from the oversight of the church has no accountability or direction to prevent derailments like discouragement, lack of counsel or doctrinal error.  The partnership and support displayed between the First Church of Antioch and Saul and Barnabas is an indispensable example we must duplicate.

From there, the ministry on Cyprus took off, with the eventual opportunity to witness to the governor.  When Sergius Paulus came to faith in Acts 13:12, it was the result of the church carrying out the mandate to make disciples, not just two men on an independent gospel expedition.  Taking the good news to leaders and everyone else is a responsibility we all share in the church.

May we think of that the next time we see our representatives on TV or in the papers.  The onus is on us to care for them spiritually.

Roman columnsThe first few verses of Acts 13 are fascinating on so many levels.  It was an exciting time for the newly established Church: gaining a reputation in Antioch, being taught by a strong team of disciple-makers and poised to send out the first missionaries.  Out of this backdrop comes our Paphos Paradigm.

Paul and Barnabas started the first missionary journey after leaving the staff of teachers at Antioch and headed to the island of Cyprus, Barnabas’ native country.  Arriving on the eastern coast (Salamis), they made thair way across the island, preaching the gospel,  and eventually reached Paphos, the capital city.  It was there that we are told of their first named convert, the proconsul Sergius Paulus.

But why the Roman governor?  Did he just happen to end up on Paul’s appointment list?  After all, Sergius was the one who summoned Paul and Barnabas (verse 7).  Why would author Luke make sure we know about this particular encounter?  Is there anything significant about targeted ministry to the political sphere? 

Consider these reasons why a great importance is placed on sharing biblical truth with leaders:

1)  Paul’s calling – When Paul was converted by Christ on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, you may recall he was blinded for a time.  The man God prepared to help Paul once he reached Damascus was a man named Ananias.  Hesitant to take a well-known killer of Christians into his home, Ananias was reassured of the Lord’s plan for Paul’s life: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15).   A specific aspect of God’s call on Paul’s life was focused ministry to political leaders.

2)  Paul’s strategy – Paphos wasn’t the only capital Paul visited.  Because of the call in Acts 9:15, Paul strategically sought capitals in his journeys.  Twelve of the 14 cities Paul visited fell into this category: they were the centers of influence, philosophy, commerce and culture.  That’s also where governmental leaders would be found and we know from the rest of Acts that Paul consistently stood before leaders to deliver God’s message.

3)  Paul’s heart – When Paul wrote to Timothy many years after the conversion of Sergius Paulus, he still radiated with a spiritual concern for leaders.  Encouraging the practice of various types of prayer for all people, Paul also specifies prayers should be made for “kings and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2).  And what is the purpose of this prayer?  It’s two-fold: that believers would have a godly and dignified attitude toward their government and the salvation and growth of all people, including officials.  Paul’s heart beats with God’s heart: “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4).

The significance of these reasons is that they weren’t just Paul’s personal calling and fulfillment of ministry.  The church as a whole has been given the role of caring for human leaders’ spiritual condition.  The prayer of 1 Timothy 2 is required of all followers of Jesus.  If God is concerned for the salvation of those in the political arena, we should be as well.

The question we have to honestly answer is: are we?

Welcome to my blog!  I hope you’ll be back often (or better yet, get the RSS feed and keep up automatically).

Why “The Paphos Paradigm”?  A paradigm is an example or pattern.   The significance of Paphos is found in Acts 13.  Paul’s first missionary journey took him, Barnabas and John Mark to Paphos, the capital of  Cyprus.  As they preached the good news of Jesus, the first named convert mentioned was a politician named Sergius Paulus, the proconsul or governor.

I serve as the state director for Maryland for Capitol Ministries, which exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the political arena in America’s 50 states and around the world.  The Paphos Paradigm is a great pattern to follow when seeking to minister to government leaders.  This blog will be about that mandate – a missing mandate in modern missions of the Church.  Hopefully it will serve to remind us all of what the scriptures say regarding our responsibility as citizens of a spiritual kingdom currently living in an earthly kingdom. 

The picture on the blog is the capitol building in Annapolis, with the House Office Buiding to the left and Senate Office Building to the right.  In between the capitol and the Senate offices is the governor’s mansion.  Right here in these halls of power, we are praying for opportunities to touch elected officials with the gospel just as Paul did in Paphos. 

Please leave your comments as we journey together through all this.  I look forward to thinking through passages that give us direction about our posture toward our government – the Bible is not silent on this!

Again, welcome.

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