CULTURAL SENSITIVITY CONTRIBUTES TO CHURCH GROWTH —
INTEGRATION OF NEW TEAM MEMBERS MAY REQUIRE ACCOMMODATION TO CULTURAL PRACTICES
Some people are all about Convictions. They have no problem discerning right from wrong. They are not squeamish about taking a stand for what they believe. But if their convictions are not tempered with sensitivity towards others they tend to come across as “My way or the highway” type of intellectual bullies. Other people are all about Accommodation. They base their actions on how it will impact others. They don’t want to create any offense. But without a solid anchor in biblical truth they come across as “wishy-washy.” The Apostle Paul demonstrates the perfect balance between maintaining biblical convictions and yet being sensitive to the culture around him. There are those things worth fighting for and there are other matters where deference to personal preferences should be shown.
How sensitive are we to the culture around us in our harvest fields? We have all been sent out as ambassadors for Jesus Christ to represent our Lord and Savior to a world that is lost and is perishing. Yet too often Christians seem to have a lack of understanding and compassion for some of the cultural barriers that might cause people to shut their ears to the message of the gospel. Does it have to be all about our type of music; the order of service that is most comfortable to us; the amount of emotional expression or inhibition that we grew up with …
BALANCING CONVICTION WITH ACCOMMODATION — ADDING TIMOTHY TO THE MISSIONARY TEAM
CULTURAL SENSITIVITY CONTRIBUTES TO CHURCH GROWTH —
INTEGRATION OF NEW TEAM MEMBERS MAY REQUIRE ACCOMMODATION TO CULTURAL PRACTICES
Today’s message has a Labor Day slant to it as well. In business we are always trying to locate the right people to put on the right seats in the bus – very difficult to find good people; no one is indispensable; graveyard is full of indispensable people; life moves on; God provides for other qualified workers. We just saw Paul and Barnabas splitting up over whether John Mark should be included on the missionary team. Now we see how God sovereignly adds Timothy into the mix as an emerging new leader.
3 STAGES IN TIMOTHY’S INTEGRATION INTO THE MISSIONARY TEAM
I. (:1-2) PROMISING RECRUIT — PREPARATION
A. (:1a) Church Itinerary
“And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra.”
1. Providential Route to Take
Providential route allows Paul to add Timothy to the team at the beginning of this second missionary journey
Travelled through the Salitian Gates = a fissure in the mountain-chain of Taurus, extending from north to south through a distance of eighty miles
MacArthur: Now where are they gonna go? They’re gonna go to Galatia. How’d they go last time? Last time they went to Cyprus, remember? To the island, crossed the island, went north and came through this way. Who’s already at Cyprus? Barnabas and Mark. No sense in going that way so they took off this way and they were gonna go to Galatia backwards. Do you know that the Holy Spirit had that whole thing laid out? Do you know why? Because as soon as they got into the back side of the plateau when they crossed the Salatian gates there was massive mountains and there was an area they had to climb through called the Salitian Gates to get into this plateau area and as soon as they had climbed into that area they came to these towns. They wouldn’t have reached those towns until the end of their journey. Instead they reached them at the very beginning and you know who they met and the first one they came to? Verse 1, “They came to Derbe and Listra and behold a certain disciple was there named Timothy.” God wanted to add another member to the team. If they had gone the other way they wouldn’t have gotten him until the tour was over.
Application: God goes ahead of us and directs our steps; Next week as we look at the Macedonian Call we will see that the Holy Spirit is very active in allowing us to go through certain open doors as well as closing off other doors to us; we need to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading
2. Courageous Route to Take
This was dangerous territory to revisit; Paul still had the scars from his earlier stoning and near death experience. I wonder what Silas was thinking when he was presented with the itinerary; but there were good reasons to put themselves into harm’s way; these young believers needed encouragement and edification; they needed as well to hear the determination of the Jerusalem Council on this important issue affecting church relations between Jews and Gentiles
The place of greatest opposition is often the place of greatest opportunity
Application: The Lord can open doors for us in witnessing, but are we bold and courageous to take advantage of our opportunities??
Steven Cole: We read that Paul came to Derbe and to Lystra (16:1). That was a radically courageous thing to do! Lystra was where Paul had been stoned, dragged out of the city and thrown on the garbage heap as dead. If I were he, I would not be inclined to go back to Lystra. But here, where he had suffered so terribly, and while he was still grieving over the falling out with Barnabas, God graciously brought into Paul’s life this young man, Timothy, who would become like a faithful son to Paul. . . Just as witnessing the stoning of Stephen had made an indelible impression on Paul, so watching Paul get stoned had made a profound impression on young Timothy.
B. (:1b) Cultural Challenges – What made Timothy such a Promising Recruit??
“And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,”
1. Already a Genuine Disciple
You cannot get the cart before the horse; someone must be a learner and a follower of Jesus Christ before they can be considered for leadership; they must have proven they know how to submit to spiritual leadership and take instruction and develop their gifts before they can be elevated to more responsibility; young man who was ready for the hardships of ministry and travel – Paul will later entreat Timothy to keep the faith and a good conscience and to fight the good fight against the enemies of Christ and of the cross – 1 Tim. 1:18-19
2. Godly Heritage and Training
Influence of godly mother and grandmother – saved under their ministry or under ministry of Paul? Had the Jewish background which would be a plus as Paul started his ministry in each city in the synagogue; well trained in the OT Scriptures
Henry Alford: He had probably been converted by Paul during his former visit, as he calls him his son in the Lord; 1 Cor. iv. 17; 1 Tim. i.2; 2 Tim. i.2; perhaps at Antioch in Pisidia, see 2 Tim. Iii. 10, 11. His mother was Eunice, his grandmother, Lois, — both women of well-known piety.
3. Significant Cultural Challenge
Mixed parentage of Jew and Greek put Timothy in a special category;
Does not mention that his father was a believer; everybody knew his father was a Greek; they knew the religious tension that had been in his home; they would have known that he had never been circumcised; did he really embrace the Jewish culture?? Father had probably passed away by this time so his mother was a widow
MacArthur: Now people say, “How old was Timothy when this started?” The best guess would be between 16 and 25 years old. He was a young man and I think Paul enjoyed the opportunity to disciple young men. . . the particular imperfect tense that is used in relationship to Timothy’s father indicates that Timothy’s father was perhaps dead. . . son of a widow; 1 Tim. 4:14 – commissioning service; 2 Tim. 1:6
[12 years later still referred to as a very young man]
C. (:2) Character References – Consistent recognition of his spiritual maturity and giftedness
“and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.”
Demonstrated fruit of the Holy Spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23) – this was the measuring stick Paul would have used – somehow he was attracted to the young man because he could see Christ in Timothy
Already displaying significant spiritual giftedness in evangelism and preaching and encouraging others – 1 Tim. 4:14-16
Humility and Servant Heart – look at the character requirements for leadership in 1 Tim. 3
II. (:3) PRECAUTIONARY RITUAL — COMMISSIONING
A. Enthusiastic Appointment
“Paul wanted this man to go with him;”
Quite an endorsement on the part of the great apostle; especially since he had just been so adamant against taking John Mark
Not a matter of self promotion and selfish ambition on the part of Timothy; endorsed by the Apostle Paul himself
Think about the corporate recruiters that come around to college campuses and offer internships to those who seem to have the most potential; How would you like to be recruited by the Apostle Paul? Think back to how Jesus Christ chose the 12 Apostles – not always using the criteria that the world might have found impressive; Paul had insight into Timothy’s character and knew that he would be a faithful servant for the Lord
How would the Lord evaluate your readiness for spiritual service? Are you someone that spiritual leaders can count on; do you want to sit on the sidelines or be deployed to the front lines?
Opportunity for training someone gifted in preaching and teaching and leadership;
Opportunity for gaining a valuable resource that would help them in their ministry
B. Expedient Accommodation – Surprising Action on Paul’s Part
“and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”
– Point of submission and sacrifice on the part of Timothy – not something he especially wanted for himself – not dying at age 21 to be circumcised – test of his character and desire to serve
– Act of love and accommodation to reach out to the Jews in effective ministry – not an issue regarding salvation here (later Paul refused to order Titus, a Greek, to be circumcised); not confusing the decree from the Jerusalem Council
Kent: Paul has been criticized for having Timothy circumcised in the light of the recent controversy at Jerusalem. However, it is clear that neither Paul nor Luke saw any inconsistency, for the very next sentence states that Paul conveyed the decisions of the Council. It should be remembered that the Jerusalem Council dealt with requirements for gentile converts, but Timothy was partly Jewish. Furthermore, this circumcision was not for salvation but was performed to make Timothy acceptable to synagogue audiences (not to placate Judaizing Christians). The operation regularized his status and increased his usefulness to Paul in Jewish areas.
Barnes: It was an act of expediency for the sake of peace, and was in accordance with Paul’s uniform and avowed principle of conduct. 1 Corinthians 9:20, “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews.” Comp. Acts 21:23-26.
Stott: Little minds would have condemned him for inconsistency. But there was a deep consistency in his thought and action. Once the principle had been established that circumcision was not necessary for salvation, he was ready to make concessions in policy. What was unnecessary for acceptance with God was advisable for acceptance by some human beings.
Bruce: It was Timothy’s mixed parentage that made Paul decide to circumcise him before taking him along as a travel-companion. In the eyes of Jews, Timothy was a Gentile because he was the uncircumcised son of a Greek. In Gentile eyes, however, he was practically a Jew, having been brought up in his mother’s religion. Paul therefore regularized his status (and, in Jewish eyes, legitimized him) by circumcising him.
Steven Cole: In Galatians 2:3, Paul states that Titus, a Gentile, was not required to undergo circumcision. So why circumcise Timothy, but not Titus? With Titus, it was a question of whether a man is justified by grace through faith alone, or whether he must also keep the Law of Moses. It would have compromised the very gospel to circumcise Titus. But with Timothy, who was half-Jewish, it was a matter of causing needless offense to unbelieving Jews. Circumcision would allow Timothy to accompany Paul and Silas into the synagogues where they often preached. So it was a matter of becoming a Jew to the Jews, so that he could win the Jews (1 Cor. 9:20). Paul did not want anything to hinder Jewish people from hearing and believing the gospel.
MacArthur: In every kind of missionary endeavor we need to be very careful that we acknowledge certain priorities in terms of being careful about things. Every culture has its own uniqueness and any missionary who goes into any culture; any evangelist who goes into any situation must understand that there are characteristics about that situation which he has to be aware of. There needs to be precaution, and best of all it is saying to us we need to be sensitive to people so we can adapt to the most advantageous approach in evangelism, the right precautions.
III. (:4-5) PROGRESS REPORT — SERVICE
A. (:4) Ensuring Gentile Compliance with Jerusalem Council Decrees
“Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees, which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe.”
What did Paul say when folks asked him about Barnabas??
Authority inherent in these decrees from the apostles and elders at the Jerusalem Council
Able to balance being a man of biblical conviction with being able to accommodate the cultural preferences of those he was trying to reach with the gospel; nothing soft about Paul; but not insensitive either – knew how to speak the truth in love with a gracious spirit and from a servant heart
B. (:5) Edifying and Enlarging the Churches
“So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.”
Another one of these progress report notations sprinkled throughout the book of Acts
Stott: So wise and healthy was the Jerusalem Council’s decision, incorporated in their letter, that wherever its good news went, the churches grew in stability and steadfastness.
Church growth scenario
As Paul closes out his ministry, he wants to encourage young Timothy to continue to take up the mantle of leadership and press on – his confidence in Timothy to include him on the missionary team has been proved out on the battlefield of spiritual warfare – look at what Paul has to say in his final words to Timothy:
2 Tim. 3:10 – 4:2