Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Thanks for joining us on episode 179 of Missions On Point. We're in a series on missions insights from the New Testament, and today we're going to be talking about Paul's impact and teammates. We have been dwelling in the Book of Acts primarily as the narrative backdrop of the history of the development of the church and the history of development of missions. We're not trying to go deep in terms of exposition or historical theology. We are talking about personal insights which may help you understand and put some pieces together in a better way as you read through your New Testament and as you consider the elements of missions and biblical missiology. In this episode, we're talking about Paul's impact and teammates. We're not going to go chapter by chapter through the Book of Acts at this point because all of the rest of Acts and the letters of Paul we call the epistles of Paul are collectively the backdrop for what we're going to review today.

Just remember where Paul came from. He was an astute and leading student of Gamaliel in the Jewish training of leaders, so he had the equivalent of at least a master's degree, maybe a doctorate degree, in Old Testament and Jewish theology. He was radically converted after becoming a persecutor and even murderer of Christians. Jesus Christ appeared to him personally at his conversion and confirmed to him that Paul was chosen to be a special emissary - we would say a missionary - to the gentiles. Just imagine when Paul first heard that, he must have had revulsion at the idea that he was to dedicate basically the rest of his life to winning gentiles to salvation to the Lord through Jesus Christ and the salvation provided in him. Paul had this startling 180-degree turn of repentance and faith in Christ that changed his life, and then Christ met with him personally and tutored him in the things of salvation, the doctrine, and of the church, the practical outworking of the church.

Here's how Paul reflected on that in Ephesians Chapter Three. Paul writes, beginning in verse eight, "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given. To preach to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." So he realizes his radical change. That's why he calls himself the very least of all the saints, and he knows that this is a rich, heavenly grace bestowed upon him to preach to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. But he also says the second thing that he was called to, to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery, which is that the church would show the manifold wisdom of God.

This plan is the word that means household administration. He's talking about the organization and the implementation of a Christian church culture in the churches which he has planted. He reinforces this concept that his second main purpose in calling was to deliver to the churches the administration of the church. In this benediction, at the end of Chapter Three, he says in verse 20 these familiar words of benediction. "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." So Paul had these two main things in his mind all the time: to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in its richness and beauty and glory, and to magnify Jesus Christ clearly and powerfully, but also to organize churches and to teach them what it was to do church together, with church leaders and teaching, preaching, praying, singing, fellowship together. To minister to one another and to their community and beyond.

And in so doing, to demonstrate this radical Christian culture that is attractive to people because they see Jesus Christ proclaimed and portrayed through the fellowship of the church. How they live together and sort out their problems together and fix issues together within their fellowship, how they together pay the price of unity to show the world that we are unified under the cross of Jesus Christ. These are the things that became the hallmark of Paul's teaching and even correction to local churches everywhere he went. Through the course of Paul's life, some 30 to 35 years after his conversion, he touched in almost all the areas of the Roman Empire on the eastern and northern half of the Mediterranean, and he had aspiration to go to the far-flung frontiers that had not yet received the gospel. Before he was arrested and eventually sent to Rome, he writes this to the Roman church in Romans Chapter 15, starting in verse 17.

"In Christ Jesus then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God, for I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. To bring the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum" - that's present day Croatia - "I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ. And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand. This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I have no longer any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain and to be helped on my journey thereby you once I have enjoyed your company for a while."

That term, helped on my journey thereby you, is the Propempo word. It means to send forward, to send ahead. Paul is still longing to go to the pioneering areas of unreached peoples. Saturated in his letters to the churches, those letters we have in our Bible we call the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, is this idea of pressing to the edges of taking the gospel to places where it has not yet gone. Even as he instructs Titus at the close of his ministry about ministry on the island of Crete, he's suggesting to Titus to meet him at Necropolis, which is that part of Croatia at the beginning of that area that has not yet been reached. So Paul has this drive, this inner compulsion, and externally confirming gifts that enable him to keep pressing toward completion of the Great Commission by reaching every unreached people group within his grasp.

And as we read the book of Acts and those letters, we're reminded that Paul didn't do it all alone. He started under the sponsorship, if you will, of Barnabas, and then in that first missionary journey took over as the leader of that team. In his second missionary journey, Paul picks up another colleague, Timothy, as an assistant. Notice that Timothy didn't have a missionary call. In fact, you would say he was drafted. Paul asked the leaders at the church at Derby and Lystra to give him an assistant, and they chose Timothy and Paul took him. Timothy was likely only about 16 years old at the time. Paul went through that area of Galatia that Timothy was from and strengthened the churches in the faith, and they increased in number daily. Then they hit this confusing time when they're heading west across what is modern-day Turkey, and it says they were prevented in several different ways from going toward the coast, and they kept on going until they reached the city of Troas, which is on the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea.

In Acts 16, verse nine, it says, "A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia was standing there urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." So who's involved in the we in those verses? Well, we know that Paul left with Silas from Antioch and then Timothy joined them, and then the author, Luke, includes himself in the pronoun we. He was a part of that group. There was at least four of them. One of the key insights of this passage is that Paul didn't go alone. He had a team, he had teammates with him, and they were included in this consideration and discussion about whether or not it was God that was sending him to Macedonia.

They had a team meeting and they had to decide, number one, was it God who was speaking to Paul? Number two, was it just to Paul or did it include all of them? And number three, what should they do about it? They decided it was from God and that it included all of them, and that they should go, so they did. Over the course of time, there are some 80 to 90 different people that are described as Paul's coworkers through the Acts and the Letters that Paul wrote. Some are colleagues or associates like Barnabas and Apollos and Ephesus, and Aquila and Priscilla. Others are clearly teammates that are under Paul's authority as teammates, Timothy and Titus and Tychicus. Some of them seem to have stayed around with Paul a very significant amount of time. Timothy and Titus. Others seem to work in primarily one single location, like Philemon or Euodia or Epaphras.

Paul mentions a number of women that have been useful to him and/or in service of the churches. Damaris and Lydia, Priscilla, Phoebe, Mary, and then in Philippians, Euodia and Syntyche. Most of them that Paul mentions didn't stay with him long-term, but maybe were involved in a particular assignment or a particular area geographically. Here are the kinds of words that Paul uses to describe all these people. He says, coworker, apostle with a small A, brother, fellow servant, fellow soldier, fellow prisoner. Paul lists a couple of them as being virtually co-authors of the letters that he wrote to individual churches. And apparently, from what he says, he used a secretary to be his transcriber for some of the letters. He mentions his love and concern with these colleagues. He prays for them. He remembers how they ministered to him. They cared for him, and the churches cared for him and sent him support and specific information about how they were doing and what questions they had. Wouldn't you like a team leader like that?

Then think about the incredible impact that Paul has had on us and on the Christian Church throughout the centuries. Paul's letters describing so much about church life, clarifying the gospel, explaining theology and practical theology. Romans was written not just to explain the gospel, but to ask them to send him to take the gospel to Spain. First and Second Corinthians deal with tough church problems and good church instruction. Galatians clarifies the gospel of grace. Ephesians, such a high mountaintop experience of tremendous depth of theology and understanding of the whole breadth of God's big plan, including the church being in the middle of it all. Philippians is both a thank you letter for their support and a wonderful emotional bonding appeal to the Philippian church. Colossians is the twin epistle to Ephesians and has such rich, practical teaching for us to grow in Christ.

First and Second Thessalonians were among the earliest books that Paul wrote and give us a wonderful glimpse of the perspective of Christian life in view of Christ coming again. First and Second Timothy and Titus are amazing pastoral epistles to the pastors of churches that are formed or being formed in Ephesus and Crete. Philemon is this wonderful personal account, asking Philemon to show grace as he has been shown grace. This legacy of Paul by the Holy Spirit is in our hands today for our instruction as if Paul were standing right in our church telling us these same things. Missiologically, Paul is not only a good example, but he has delivered to us the truth that we need to do the job. We train church leaders using the Epistles of Paul. We know the gospel and proclaim it clearly because of Paul's life and writings. We have a priority on planting churches because of his example and his teaching. It's fair to say that Paul, his life and ministry, is a gift of God to us to understand and do missions.Thanks for joining us today on Missions On Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.

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