Until the Whole World Knows

posted in: Messages | 0
Welcome to the final week of this series that we called “To Be Continued”. It has been a continuation of the events that transpired immediately after Jesus rose from the dead and His new church was created.
For that we’ve been looking in the book of Acts, and have seen that the main character of that book and really the whole Bible is God Himself, and in particular the Holy Spirit who causes ordinary men to do extraordinary things and the church is growing like a wildfire despite, and in part because of, persecution.
So far we’ve spoken a lot about Peter, who became the leader of the Apostles. God used him to do some amazing things such as heal people, raise people from the dead, and last week we saw how God used him to open the door of salvation to the Gentiles.
But as awesome as Peter was, another character tends to overshadow him. The Apostle Paul.
We met him first as Saul of Tarsus in chapter 8. He was a zealous Jew hell bent on destroying this new Way, but God had different plans and knocked him to the ground and blinded him to tell him about it. After that first introduction, he goes off the map for awhile as we hear more about Peter. But now he’s going to take center stage for the rest of the book of Acts.
We have so far covered 12 chapters of Acts in four weeks. But there are a total of 28 chapters in Acts, which means we only have 16 more chapters to cover today. Good thing we have a potluck today, because this is going to take awhile…
And since we have so much to cover, we best get right to it. Picking the story up in Acts 13, we find ourselves in the late 40’s AD. The Christian church has been exploding in Judea and even up in Antioch. Last week we ended where Barnabas when to get Saul for some help.
Acts 13
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
A few verses later is when Luke starts calling him Paul instead of Saul. Paul was his Roman name. Saul was his Hebrew name.
And thus began the most impressive missionary career to date. Over the next 20 years, Paul travels over 15,000 miles on foot or by sea spreading the good news all over the Mediterranean. And the rest of the book of Acts details every stop along the way…

This is the part where you might be wondering if I was serious about trying to cover 16 chapters today…well I am, but don’t worry it won’t take that long.  Lucky for you I found a pretty decent video that summarizes the many places that Paul went on his journeys.  I’ll let you watch it to get the overview, and then I will cover a few of the highlights.  But, I do strongly encourage you to read all of it on your own. There is some great stuff in these chapters that I won’t be able to cover today.
With that, please watch this little clip from the kids program, “What’s In The Bible?”
SHOW VIDEO

So, as you can see, Paul did a lot of walking and a lot of preaching. You may have recognized some of the names of the cities he visited because several of the “books” of the New Testament are Paul’s letters to the churches he planted in these cities – like Corinth, Ephesus, Thessolonica, Philippi, and Galatia.
As you saw in the video, Paul went on three major trips.
The first trip, he and Barnabas were partners.
The second trip, Paul had a new partner – Silas.
And the third trip he mostly did on his own.
And by “on his own” I mean with his usual entourage. Just like in the Gospels where only the disciples are mentioned among a crowd, the reality is there are many more people in the same group left unnamed. Paul was never actually traveling completely alone. 
As you read through the rest of Acts you will see that in each city he stopped, two things almost always happened.
  1. One, many would believe his preaching and become Christians.
  2. And, two, many of the Jews who refused to believe would cause trouble for him and cause him to have to leave. There was actually a group of Jews who pretty much followed him around doing their best to incite the people against him everywhere he went.
In many cases he was able to escape, but sometimes he was arrested, beaten, and put in jail.  But he always managed to get out and continue spreading the good news until his death around 68 AD.
 

Now for some highlights…
At the end of Paul’s first journey, as he was back in Antioch – his home base, something very important happened. It is generally referred to as the Jerusalem Counsel.  The story is found in Acts 15.
Acts 15
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch
If you’ve been paying attention to the locations of the cities, you may be confused as to why Luke would say “down” to Antioch when Antioch was north of Judea. It’s because their use of the terms up and down when talking about directions is actually referring to elevation. Jerusalem/Judea was on a higher elevation than it’s surroundings. And Jerusalem was on something of a mount. So going to Jerusalem was always going “up” regardless of the direction, and going away was always going “down.”  Interesting little tidbit that nerds like me will appreciate.
Back to the story…
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 “‘After this I will return
    and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
    and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
    even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’—
18     things known from long ago.
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
Greetings.
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
Farewell.
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
This was an important council because it answered the question of how much of the OT Law was now applicable to these Gentiles who were becoming Christians. Since the faith began with the Jews, many assumed it was simply an addition onto what they’d been doing for thousands of years. But through the experience of Peter and Paul and Barnabas and others, it was becoming clear that Christianity was almost a complete break with the ways of Judaism. I say almost, because the God of the OT and the God of the NT are the same God, and He doesn’t change.  However, while He does not change, the way he has interacted with his creation – namely us humans – has.  And while much of the old covenant was replaced with the new covenant, not all of it was.
In this letter we see this Jewish council make a very short list of restrictions for their new Gentile brothers. This must have been painful for the Pharisee believers who before had prided themselves on having over 600 laws of minutia memorized and obeying them to the letter. Nonetheless they were able to whittle it down to these few things (which Paul later expounds upon in his later letters).
29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
So, why these things? 
Well, one of these is the bane of modern society (and really all societies since humans have existed).
Sexual immorality.
This has been wrong from the beginning of time, and is still wrong today. And it’s not only wrong, but detestable to God. And just to be specific, sexual immorality includes all forms of sex outside of the biblical marriage between a man and a woman. You will find this listed in almost every list of DO NOTS in the New Testament, and it was punishable by death in the Old Testament.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians said sexual sins are indeed worse than other sins because you are sinning against your own body, which, if you are a Christian, is NOT YOUR OWN!!
1 Corinthians 6
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
In other words, if you are a Christian, you cannot do whatever you want with your body….because it’s not YOUR body!
So, they made it clear again here at this council that while some rules have changed – that one hasn’t.
The other things they talk about are having to do with food. And while it may seem that they are trying to institute dietary restrictions even after Peter’s vision earlier had clearly abolished the dietary restrictions, what they are actually doing is an appeal to the Gentiles to abstain from a few practices that they were already in the habit of doing that were wholly offensive to the consciences of their new Jewish brothers.  It was an appeal to help with relationships, not to make a big deal about food.
It’s no different than asking Christians today not to invite some devout Jews over to their house for some pork ribs.  Paul later summed up this practice in his letter to the Romans when he said “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:18)  And in the case of this new merging of the Gentiles and Jews, these Jews were asking the Gentiles to be sensitive to their brother’s weak consciences.

After this, Paul set out on his second missionary journey. This time without Barnabas. They had a disagreement over John Mark (the cousin of Barnabas and the author of the Gospel of Mark). Barnabas wanted him to come with them, but Paul refused to let him. Apparently he had “abandoned” them at some point in the first journey. Neither would budge and so they split, which may seem sad but was ultimately better for the Kingdom. Barnabas and Mark went to Cypress, and Paul chose Silas as his new partner and he was off again. 
They traveled a long way as you saw in the video. It was during this trip that Paul had his vision of the man of Macedonia asking him to come help, so he and Silas went to Philippi, a city in that region.  While there they got into some trouble and got put in jail, but God got him out in his usual dramatic fashion.
I don’t have time to cover that story today, but I recommend you read it in Acts 16, it has a somewhat funny ending.

Now we are going to fast forward to the end of the third missionary Journey. It is now about 59 AD, and over the past 10 years Paul  travelled thousands of miles, visited dozens of cities, planted as many churches, and reached thousands, perhaps millions with the Gospel.  But his journeys are not over.  
He’s headed to Jerusalem, where he knows he’s going to likely be arrested and possibly killed. But he also knows he must go.  On his way, he meets with the people of the church he planted at Ephesus – where he spent three years, so they were close – and he gives them this farewell address:
Acts 20
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Paul, as always, is single minded. 
25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.
 
They might have been expecting a sad, “I’ll really miss you” kind of speech, but Paul never wastes an opportunity. And here he is making it clear that there is nothing more important in this life than knowing Christ. And if they don’t know him now, it’s their own fault! Then he charges them…
 
 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
If you read his letters, you know that Paul always emphasized the importance of knowing and believing the pure truth! In fact that’s part of his charge to pastors like me, to guide those under my care into the truth.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
After this, he and his entourage head to Jerusalem and meet with James the brother of Jesus, who is now the head of the Jerusalem church, and the other elders. But by the end of the week, the Jews that had been following him around came and started trouble as usual.
Acts 21
27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)
30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps,the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”
37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”
“Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?”
The commander had just assumed Paul was this Egyptian, perhaps there had been a report about that guy in the morning briefing or something, and he was surprised to hear him speak Greek.
39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”
What Paul just did there was inform the soldiers that he was a citizen of the Roman city Tarsus which was “no ordinary city” because it was the capital of this province.
40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:
Acts 22
“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”
When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.
Paul really knew how to get people’s attention. He speaks Greek to the soldier, then Aramaic to the Jews.  Here he tells them the story of his conversion on the road to Damascus which I covered a couple weeks ago, so I won’t repeat it here.
We’ll pick it up near the end of his speech…
Acts 22
17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’
Jesus is telling Paul that the Jews are not going to listen to him.
19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
While this conversation is not recorded earlier in Acts where we read about Paul’s visit to Jerusalem, I don’t doubt that it happened. It also happens to be a timely place to mention it since he’s referring to the same Jews who are in his audience that are now trying to kill him – just as Jesus predicted.  But Jesus is not convinced by his plea.
21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
They were fine up until that point. Just like with Stephen, they like hearing a good story. Maybe it poked their conscience a bit when he mentioned how it was predicted they wouldn’t listen, but now that he is claiming God sent him to the dirty rotten hated Gentiles he had gone too far!
23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this.
 
The commander didn’t speak Aramaic, so had no idea what Paul had said to get them so upset.
 
25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there (in Greek again), “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
Apparently he hadn’t caught on early when Paul mentioned he was a citizen of Tarsus…a Roman City.
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
Roman citizenship was a big deal in those days, and to be born a citizen made you even more of a citizen than if you bought in. These soldiers could get in a lot of trouble for flogging a Roman citizen without a trial.
30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
While before the Sanhedrin, Paul says some more things that get them all riled up again to the point the commander thinks they are going to kill Paul, so his soldiers take him back the barracks. There Paul gets a visitor.
Acts 23
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
Jesus himself came to Paul to encourage him. What a wonderful savior we have! So personal! Jesus was telling him to keep the course, that he WOULD make it to Rome.
12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.
Well, either they all died of starvation or they gave up at some point, because Paul wasn’t going to die for another ten years.
In fact, he was about to begin his last journey, and I wish I had time to go through it in detail but I don’t, so here’s the two minute version:
From this point on in Acts, he is always a prisoner and is being taken where he goes.
First he is transferred to Caesarea to be tried by the Roman governor Felix.  Paul gives him his testimony and preaches to him. But Felix was hoping for a bribe and pretty much sat on his case and kept him under house arrest until he was relieved by Porcius Festus two years later.
Acts 25
Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way.
Two years later…those guys must have been really hungry by now…
So Festus meets with Paul in Caesarea and when he tries to get Paul to go to Jerusalem, Paul appeals to Caesar. As a Roman citizen, he had the right to have his case heard by Caesar himself.
To which Festus replied, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
But before he sent Paul to Rome, Festus asked King Herod Agrippa to also hear the case since Paul was a Jew and Herod was the “king” of the Jews (Rome allowed local kings to maintain some power as they understood their local cultures well and it aided in relationships with the Romans), Also, Festus wasn’t quite sure what to say to Rome about Paul’s charges, since it seemed to be only a religious dispute.
So, Paul does his thing and preaches to King Herod too, who apparently was starting to be convinced, because he basically ends it with
Acts 26
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
Sounds like Paul had a sense of humor…
30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”
32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Shortly after this, Paul is transferred to Rome by ship. On the way there, there is a great storm and the ship wrecks but everyone survives. They end up staying on the island of Malta for several months before they are able to continue on to Rome. It’s a good story. You should read it in Acts 27.
Once in Rome, Paul is allowed to live on his own in a house instead of prison, but he was assigned a Roman guard who would always be with him as he waited for his appointment with Caesar.
Acts 28
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
And that’s where the book of Acts ends.
The rest of Paul’s story we have to piece together from clues in his letters and other extra-biblical historical records. Our best guess is that after this two years he got an audience with Caesar and was released. Then he went on another missionary journey, a 4th journey, that brought him all the way to Spain. Some time later he was arrested, imprisoned, and beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero who also executed the apostle Peter and many other Christians around the year 68 AD.
And the reason Luke did not record all of that is because he wasn’t writing a biography of Paul or Peter. He was writing the story of the beginning of the church and the spread of the Gospel, of which Paul was responsible for a great deal.
He traveled thousands of miles,
started dozens of churches,
reached thousands, if not millions, with the good news.
Along the way he was was imprisoned,
flogged,
given the “forty lashes minus one” five times,
beaten with rods three times,
stoned nearly to death,
three times shipwrecked,
constantly fought against and
frequently the victim of mob violence.
He went without sleep,
without food,
without shelter and
sometimes even clothing.
But none of that could stop him from pursuing his life mission. To tell as many people as he possibly could about the amazing gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ our Lord! It took an executioner chopping his head off to shut him up…
And we can’t even tell our co-workers who we work next to and talk to every day because it might make the conversation a little awkward. 
We can’t tell our friends because it would make us uncomfortable. 
We can’t tell our family members because it might cause some tension.
And we can’t even tell our neighbors who sleep mere yards from us each night because…why? 
I don’t really know, but I’m guilty.
We look at a life like Paul and think that he must have been superman. To do all of that. To endure all of that. He must have had some kind of magical power that normal human beings are not privy to.
FALSE!
He was just a man. Flesh and blood. Just like you and me. But he had the Holy Spirit.
And the same Holy Spirit that burned inside of that man, will burn inside of you and inside of me if we let him. 
Because the same mission that drove Paul to do so much has also been charged to us. 
The Great Commission was not just for the original disciples.
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” 
That means the commission is given to each new disciple. You and I are commanded by Jesus to replicate, to make more disciples. A disciple is simply a follower of Jesus. If you are a Christian, you are a disciple. And you inherited the Great Commission. 
And just in case the original guys didn’t get it the first time, Jesus got a bit more specific in the last thing he said before ascending into the clouds. 
Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Well, that original crowd and Paul made quick work of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria – but as you saw in the video that I began with today – there is still more earth to reach. And I’m not talking about just far-off lands. Yes, there are unreached people far far away, but there are unreached people right here in our city. In our schools. In our work places. In our neighborhoods.
 
And it is our job to reach them! 
To be the light of the world.
To be the city on a hill.
To save our friends, and family, and acquaintances from having to spend an eternity in hell! 
 
In Paul’s last letter before he was executed, he issued this charge to his friend and spiritual son, Timothy. This charge is also for me. It is also for you.
2 Timothy 4
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 
Paul’s race has long since finished. But this is a relay race and the baton is now in our hands. 
What will we do with it?
What will I do with it?
What will you do with it?
Romans 10
13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
That is not the same thing as “Oh Jesus help me!” – this refers to worshipping God, which is why Paul continues…
14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him?
 
And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him?
And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
 
15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?
That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
They can’t be saved if they don’t know Jesus. 
They won’t know Jesus unless they hear about him.
They won’t hear about him unless they are told by those who know him.
But no one will tell them if they are not sent.
Well, consider yourself sent.
Commissioned.
Charged.
It’s not just the preachers charged with sharing the Gospel. But all of us. 
If Paul could endure all of that. Surely we can stand a little discomfort.
The baton is in our hands.
We must not stop until one of three things happens.
We die.
Jesus comes back. 
Or until the whole world knows.
Amen.