If you are just joining us today for the first time, we have been working our way through the book of Acts for the last several months. We are now in Acts chapter 19 and the start of Paul’s third missionary journey.
Paul had been commissioned by God to bring the message of the Gospel to Kings, gentiles, and his fellow Jews throughout the Roman empire. And this is the third major excursion that Paul has undertaken to accomplish this task. However, this third journey is little bit different from his first two journeys.
In his first two journeys, Paul was really a pioneer of the Gospel! He brought the Good News to places far from Jerusalem – places that had never heard the message of Jesus. But now in his third missionary journey, he actually spends most of his time strengthening the church – working in places where he had already planted churches earlier.
If you look at the maps of Paul’s journeys, you can see that journey number three includes many of the same places that he had already visited during journey number two. But this fits well with Paul’s desire not only to preach the Gospel – but to help people grow and mature in the Lord. As we’ve mentioned before, Paul didn’t want to merely make believers – but he wanted to make disciples – followers of Jesus Christ would who grow, mature, and make more disciples of Jesus. This is part of the reason why Paul wrote all those letters that make up a good portion of our New Testament today – these were written to give instruction and encouragement for those new believers in the churches that he had planted.
And this is really the expectation that Jesus has for all of us! Not to write letters that will one day become part of the Bible, but to help each other grow and mature in the Lord. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 28:19…
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Matthew 28:19-20a
The second part of this command – to teach these new disciples to obey all of the commands of Christ – is just as important as the initial step of making disciples and baptizing them! And so as Paul traveled the world preaching the Gospel, he was very intentional about helping these new disciples grow in their faith and understand of Jesus. And we’re going to see that very clearly in our passage today.