Slicing Timmy’s Package & Other Painful Evangelism Insights: Reflections on Acts 16 (Part One)

Posted: 02/16/2011 in Acts of the Apostles

KNOW GOD – LIVE BIBLICALLY – BLESS OTHERS

Acts 16 is pretty heavy when it comes to the Biblical insights into evangelism.  Brief insights on how committed the apostles were to blessing others:

3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Here Paul is on a journey delivering the decrees of the Jerusalem council that agreed that physical circumcision was not required for New Testament salvation, yet in order to gain a more open audience for he and Timothy’s ministry – he circumcises Timothy!  Rabbi Paul performs a bris on a grown man – pre-pentothol, pre-Vicodin.  He does this spiritually unnecessary operation for one reason: to better minister to others who needed to be open to what he had to teach.  How many of us would do something we know to be unbiblical and unnecessary simply to respect an audience of unbelievers or weaker believers who lack our level of understanding?  Many Americans today would label Paul a hypocrite or dishonest for doing this when in actuality, he was being Christ-like and (what we call) apostolic. Evangelism and teaching ministry often requires that we deny ourselves our liberties in some settings to increase our effectiveness in blessing others.

Timothy.  Ouch.  Perhaps this young minister provides an even more stirring insight when it comes to the motive of love when you want to evangelize and minister to others.  A young man voluntarily submits himself to his elder’s idea to cut off part of his genitalia so that he (Tim) can more effectively minister.  Obviously this is not a template for ministerial training, but it’s amazing to contemplate.  Would I want to evangelize and minister to others so desperately that I would trust my mentor’s judgment and volunteer to suffer like this?  We have no record that God spoke directly to Timothy about doing this. Think about it. How much are we willing to suffer and go through – even at the hands of those in the ministry over us (if we permit such a person to exist in our lives) – simply because we are desperate to evangelize the lost and serve the body of Christ? Timothy gives a painful insight that may indeed have practical application today: if you truly want to reach the lost and serve the church, be willing to choose unnecessary (in terms of your salvation) inconvenience, pain, and self-denial to bless others. Verse 5 makes Timothy’s bris all worth it.  What area of yours does a trusted spiritual leader or mentor think should be painfully cut away in order for you to be more effective in evangelism and ministry to God’s church? Would you do it even if you knew it wasn’t required by God for you to be saved?

The main difference I see between the 1st-century church and the 21st-century church: we ask whether or not we HAVE to do something – like, “Is it a Heaven or Hell issue?”  They didn’t seem to ask that question.  Timothy knew he didn’t have to do this.  Paul fought the Judaizers so that Gentile converts wouldn’t have to do this.  The 1st-century church didn’t seem to ask what they HAD to do as much as “WHAT WILL BEST MINISTER TO OTHERS?” – even if it was an “unnecessary” and painful personal sacrifice. Doing the work of God’s kingdom and turning the world upside down was worth it to them. They understood, “It’s not about me.”

6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.

A personally painful ministry insight that emerges from this passage:  The apostles were almost always moving, doing, active… they took very few times to just wait around for specific direction.  I’ve wasted so much precious time over 20 years, waiting for God to speak specific direction in terms of His desired place for me in the kingdom.  The apostles didn’t sit around for months and years praying for a direction-sign, they just did it.  DON’T WASTE YOUR LIFE WAITING FOR GOD TO SPEAK A “GREEN LIGHT” TO EVANGELIZE AND SERVE THE CHURCH – IF IT’S REASONABLE, MOVE AND ACTIVELY DO IT UNTIL HE PUTS UP A STOP SIGN!  Notice how God was able to put up a stop sign when the timing of a particular avenue of ministry wasn’t right?  The 1st-century church rarely waited for God to give them the OK to go, they listened for Him to tell them to stop!  That’s apostolic.  That’s the Great Commission.  Jesus already said, “Go!”  Waiting around, procrastinating, and not doing the work of evangelism or serving the church – under the guise of “praying about it” or getting more information – is not apostolic.  It’s a waste of your life.  I know.

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