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  • Nik Lingle

Prayer, Fasting and Missions (Sermon)

Updated: Apr 25

Acts 8:1-8; 13:1-3


Introduction: An Orientation to the Acts of the Apostles

We’re concluding today a brief series on prayer and fasting, and if you were here last week, you heard us that we want to set aside the second Tuesday of each month this year to fast together as a church. We’ll focus our attention each month on a different aspect of church's mission: loving God’s glory, God’s people and God’s world.

And my hope today, as we wrap up this series, is to tie prayer and fasting together with missions. And so we’ll begin in Acts 8, talking about the earliest progress of belief in Jesus, and then near the end we’ll turn to Acts 13, the next phase in that progress, to see the critical role of prayer and fasting.

I know we’re just dipping into Acts today, so let me help you catch your bearings. The book of Acts records the early life of the Christian movement. The four gospels (Matthew, Mark Luke, John) are the story of life and work of Jesus, and the book of Acts, the Acts of the Apostles, is the story of the early church. Focusing on the movement of the apostles, but really showing God uses the church to spread the story of Jesus to all the nations. How God gets the gospel to people. God has unleashed his people on the world to go and do their work, which is carrying the good news of Jesus to every last nook and cranny among people.

So at the beginning of this record, Luke recalls the words of Jesus to the eleven disciples (the Twelve, minus Judas who betrayed Jesus then committed suicide). This is what Jesus says to them, if you’re open to Acts, look at what Jesus says in Acts 1:8. Right at the beginning of this historical record, Luke gives the words of Jesus, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[1]

Jesus gives three fixed descriptions of all his followers (not the three points of the sermon), not just the first eleven, but permanent dynamics of all who would follow Jesus. The first 1) empowered by the Holy Spirit. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” 2) They will be witnesses to the person and work of Jesus. When he ways “you will be my witnesses” it simply means, they should be witnessing (sharing personal experience) about who Jesus is and what he has done. 3) follower of Jesus are globally minded. They are empowered, as witnesses, then Jesus says in Jerusalem (where they were standing when Jesus said this), and in all Judea and Samaria (Judea would be southern Israel, Samaria central Israel, Galilee northern Israel). So Jesus is saying in this city, in the area surrounding this city, then to the end of the world. Concentric circles, moving outward. Collectively the followers of Jesus are Spirit-empowered, witnesses, to all the world.

The rest of Acts records the fulfillment of that commission from Jesus. They receive the Holy Spirit, they begin announcing to their fellow Israelites, the Jews in Jerusalem that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah deliverer that God had promised to Israel. But he was a deliverer not from Roman government, but from sin and death. The witnessing was really just announcing a set of historical events, Jesus died and then was raised from the dead, and offered that same life after death to all who follow him. Witnesses of Jesus announce his resurrection and invite people to follow him.

That’s what preaching is, that’s at the core of what I’m doing this morning, announcing Jesus has been raised from the dead. And for all of us that historical event stands as an invitation to follow Jesus through death into life.

So these Holy Spirit empowered witnesses are speaking of Jesus, now what about that third part, the expansion? That’s exactly what the rest of Acts records, how this small group moved from eleven to fifty to crowds of thousands there in Jerusalem, then eventually to other cities in Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. And that brings us to chapter 8, the passage that was just read.

This morning as we reflect on the dynamics of the early Christian movement, Acts 8 and 13 show us a paradigm that should remain true of Christians and churches today: they were scattered abroad, they were sharing the gospel, and fasting for gospel advance.

1. Scattered Abroad (vv. 1-3)

You see in vv. 1-3 that they were scattered abroad, specifically in this case, because of persecution. “And Saul approved of his execution,” referring back to the previous chapter and the story of Stephen who was stoned, martyred. And something about Stephen and what Saul saw at that execution (the boldness of his preaching, the courage with which he faced death), radicalized Saul; he became a zealous persecutor. So he and other Jewish leaders instigated a persecution against those Jews that had begun to follow this new teaching.

So that v. 1 goes on to say, “And there arose a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria… [4] Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. [5] Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.”

Persecution and Propagation

Jesus had said you will be my witnesses in Judea and Samaria. Interesting the apostles to whom he said that stay in Jerusalem, and the witnesses in Judea and Samaria end up being, not the apostles, not the official leaders, but rather the thousands, the crowds that just believed the preaching of the apostles, the laypeople. This persecution ends up producing a great force of gospel expansion as the announcement, this good news, is pressed/displaced out of its initial geographic container and begins to overflow into all the surrounding area. So that the attempts of the Jewish leaders to contain and suppress this new movement backfire tremendously.

As Tertullian the early church historian would later observe, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”[2] It’s not a strict law, but it is a pattern. “The wind increases the flame” (Bengel, via Stott, 146). In God’s mysterious purposes, that persecution often backfires. In 1950 the communist party in China expelled all western missionaries trying to suppress and erase Christianity. But after the final western missionaries were expelled (early 50s), the vacuum of leadership left by all those western missionaries leaving, Chinese Christian leaders stepped into those roles, and the effect of the communist suppression effort was that the Christian church became indigenized. And that’s when it really exploded, estimates today 50 years after the suppression are that there are between 70 and 100 million practicing Chinese Christians.

Oh and by the way, out of the 637 missionaries forced out of China, 286 of them had been redeployed in South East Asia and Japan within four years. What seemed like disaster at first, turned out to have great gospel effect.[3]

I’m sure you’ve heard in the news that currently the communist party is repeating its policy of suppression of religion, which is historically naïve. The communist party in China today, ironically, is repeating the same basic pattern that catalyzed the very first Christian movement in Jerusalem. Persecution and propagation go hand in hand.

Called In, Sent Out

But notice the outward movement of the church is the basic pattern that Jesus called for, extending outward through concentric circles so that with a centrifugal force the gospel keeps pressing further and further out. Jesus had said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…and in Judea and Samaria…and to the ends of the earth.” They wouldn’t have guessed this would happen as a result of persecution. They wouldn’t have chosen it that way. And it doesn’t always happen that way.

This is the paradigm, Jesus calls you into the gospel so that you might go out with that message to others. He calls you in to send you out. When Jesus first called the twelve disciples, the gospel of Mark says, “And [Jesus] called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. [14] And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach…” (Mark 3:13-14). And it remains the same for all followers of Jesus. He calls you in to be with him, and then he kicks you out, in order to send you out.

Occasionally, adult eagles will push their two-month old eaglets out of the nest (80-100 feet in the air) forcing them to the fly for the first time.[4] And Jesus has been kind of spoon feeding the disciples, but there came a point where he says, “Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt 10:16). And this is the pattern for all who would follow Jesus. Get in line behind him, follow him, be with him, but then go out and talk about him.

So there’s persecution that results in scattering/going out.

Not an Organized Movement

And notice at this point in Acts, its not the apostles who are being sent out. The small group of leaders they were in hiding. It says the church in Jerusalem, “they were all scattered throughout the regions…except the apostles.” They stayed in Jerusalem, went underground. In fact, other than Peter, none of the apostle are even mentioned again after Acts 1.[5] And all the laypeople, those crowds that just over the past couple months had begun believing this message, so that they didn’t even have an official name for their new movement yet, it was those novice laypeople, who are the very ones who are scattered as witnesses. This is not an organized movement. Its chaotic scattering. Trying to find a safe place wherever they can get to.

Not some mission plan that was approved and put into action by the leaders of the church. It was ordinary believers taking opportunity to share the message wherever they went. The gospel came into new areas without their planning or control.

This story describes the essentially missionary character of the early church (Neill/Wright, Interp of NT, 292). We are a collection of Christians with missionary spirit. Let’s reserve the word missionary to distinguish those who go across barriers and cultures. Cross-cultural gospel advancement. But there is still a missionary spirit. I may be staying put, but I’m not staying silent. Do you exhibit a missionary spirit in the places you live/work/play? Are you thinking I’ve been scattered to this spot by the good hand of God with a purpose. Lesslie Newbigin, What would a genuinely missionary encounter with Western culture look like? You could make that question personal, What would a genuinely missionary encounter with the places God has put you look like?

We want to develop a missionary spirit, and for some that will lead to a missionary calling. But for all, we should have that sort of expansive concern. John Stott said, “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God”

The movement of Christianity is always an outward dynamic. At times this is forced by opposition from surrounding or “host” culture, but always, and for us, where we’re not forced by persecution, it should be voluntary radiating outward in all the places God takes you. Called in to be sent out.

TRANSITION: So they were scattered abroad, but then we read, they were sharing the gospel. God used the persecution to scatter the Christians. That is followed by the Christians scattering the good seed of the gospel. “The scattering of the Christians was followed by a scattering of the good seed of the gospel.”[6] You see this in vv. 4-5.

2. Sharing the Gospel (vv. 4-5)

In vv. 4-5, “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. [For example] Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.”

Those Who Were Scattered

Persecution may have seemed like a setback to the strategy, to the expansion there in Jerusalem, but it was no setback at all to the divine plan to extend the reach of the gospel into every place. As the crowds scatter because of persecution they went about preaching the word. You see who is preaching the word? It’s those who were scattered. Think about that.

You normally associate “preaching” with what’s happening right now, with this context. A church gathering in a room, and a trained preacher getting up week by week and explaining to primarily Christians the meaning of the Bible. But that’s not the picture we have here. In this case its laypeople going about their business, now in new locations, announcing good news. “Guess what’s happened!” Ordinary, daily conversations becoming the context in which the content of the gospel is shared. Who’s doing the preaching in this case? Not the apostles, but the new believers.

If you’re newer to Christianity, if you’ve just recently become a Christian, pay attention to this. It’s actually new believers who are the driving force of this early movement. Sharing the good news of the gospel is not an eventual step for the mature, developed Christians. It’s a basic element of following Jesus. In fact, it’s often new believers who are in the best position to do this personal witnessing, witnessing to a change that has just happened. Mature believers have often developed lots/most of their relationships within the Christian community. But newer believers usually have the advantage of having a wide variety of close relationships with non-Christians.

The important point though is that preaching/announcing the gospel is fundamental to being a follower. Everyone was doing it, everyone was involved. This was a grassroots, lay movement.

One pastor said, “Never teach a person the Bible without having them share their faith. If you teach without sharing you’ll produce arrogance. Because the only people who care about how much you know is other believers. But when you go out and share your faith, you realize ministry is not based on how much you know, but you rely on a supernatural act of God to bring people to saving faith.”[7]

Whether you’re a new Christian with lots of relationships with unbelievers, or a mature Christian trying to be faithful with the few opportunities you feel like you have, this is the pattern we’re trying to follow.

Preaching the Word

But what does this look like? “Those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” Announcing the word, and “the word” refers to what happened, telling the story. Announcing the announcement. Wouldn’t it be great to go back and listen in on one of these conversations? We actually get to do that a little bit. The example that Luke records for us at this point, one of these who were scattered and is going around announcing the good news, is a man named Philip. Phillip comes across a person, a government official of Ethiopia, who is reading the Bible, the OT book of Isaiah. And Phillip asks him a very simple question, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” And the man asks Phillip for help. “Then Phillip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (8:35).

What a simple entry point! It won’t work this way every time, of course. It’s not every day you run across someone reading their Bible. But maybe you could be on the lookout for opening in conversations to say something very simple, “Do you think you understand the Bible? Would you like to? I can help. I think I know a verse that captures the most important message of the Bible in a single sentence. Can I show that to you…and explain it to you?” Maybe God would use something that simple to give you an opportunity to preach the word.

Michael Green observes, “This must often have been not formal preaching, but informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously, and the movement spread, notably among the lower classes… There was no distinction in the early church between full time ministers and laymen in this responsibility to spread the gospel by every means possible, there was equally no distinction between the sexes in the matter. It was axiomatic that every Christian was called to be a witness to Christ, not only by life but lip.”[8]

And then we should point out that preaching the word, means announcing an event. Something has happened in the course of history that must be proclaimed. Jesus was dead, and then he rose again. The resurrection of Jesus, this is most important event to which we point and it is the right starting point in any culture at any time for the delivery of the Christian message. “You must start from the resurrection of Jesus” (Vedanayakam Samuel Azariah, Neil/Wright, Interpretation of the NT, 292). And invite people to believe that and follow the one who was raised. If the church is to grow and spread in the world

Edmund Clowney observed, “In the mission of the church, it is the Word of God that calls the nations to the Lord: in the teaching of the Word we can make disciples of the nations. The growth of the church is the growth of the Word.”[9] And the word grows as the people of Jesus faithfully announce his resurrection. You will be my witnesses.

Personal Fear and Cultural Skepticism

Two of the biggest challenges to doing this are personal fear and cultural skepticism. One is personal and the other is cultural.

The personal challenge is social fear, fear of rejection, ridicule, embarrassment. The fear of not fitting in. We’ve all been pretty accustomed to easily being able to be a Christian, and not really receive much opposition for that. Stacy and I moved into a new neighborhood five months ago and we without really thinking about expected we would be warmly welcomed. We have secular neighbors, liberal progressive neighbors, nominally Christians neighbors. I told them all I’m a pastor at a church around the corner, and we have been warmly welcomed as we expected. We expect that, and we’re hesitant to do anything that would ruin that acceptance. Harm our image. As one person said, Most of the rest of the world fears the raised fist. American Christians fear the raised eyebrow.[10]

Exclusion, disdain, ridicule, ostracism…we dread that. And we assume its quite possible to be a faithful Christian and not experience that. So that for the most part we just don’t expect opposition. Sure we know Jesus says, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” But the wolves won’t bite will they? Of course they will. Jesus came to save us from the wrath of God, not to spare us from the wrath of man.[11]

Two different Christian books published this year. One called Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist (Scott Sauls). And the other simply called Irresistible (Andy Stanley). I listened to the podcasts with the authors. And one of the thoughts I had was that, yes, we want to be a community of love that is a compelling embodied apologetic to non-Christians, and yet “irresistible” is not the expectation that Jesus established. “I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” I guess maybe sheep are irresistible to wolves, but not quite in the way the authors of the books were suggesting.

So this personal fear of rejection is one that we should embrace, set our expectations for it, recognizing we’re following the most rejected man in the history of the world. Acceptance happens here in this community, but out there we should expect rejection.

The cultural challenge is skepticism. We live in a secular age.[12] Secular meaning rejection of the transcendence. So that myth or legend or fairytale is the primary lens through which the Bible is increasingly understood. So when you try to talk to someone about staking their life on the Bible. It may feel to them like you’re asking them to believe something “everyone just knows” to be false. There is no Santa Claus, the earth is not flat, and there was no resurrection. Those are all equally rational for the secular person.

This situation calls for a combination of boldness, don’t neglect to announce the good news. Hospitality, patiently welcome non-Christians into your home and life, your backyard and your dining room table. So that the beliefs of the Christian faith make sense as they see the effect of Christian faith embodied in your life.

And then and dependence. Skepticism may be the cultural spirit, but that’s no threat to the Holy Spirit’s power. Paganism dominated the Roman Empire. Religious superstition dominated the middle ages. Skepticism has reigned since the enlightenment. But the Holy Spirit has never stopped opening blind eyes and bringing dead hearts to life. So as you face skepticism walk in boldness, hospitable openness, and dependence on God’s Spirit to give faith.

Joy in the City

Look at the result of this gospel spreading ministry in vv. 6-8, “And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.”

They receive his preaching, and his good works in serving the city vindicate his message and the result. The result, there in v. 8, “There was much joy in the city.” Now there was a lot of opposition as well, but that doesn’t change the fact that where the gospel is lived out by Christians, and received by new believers, there is much joy in that city.

TRANSITION: Acts 8 shows us a movement of scattered infant Christians, simply sharing/announcing that Jesus was raised from the dead. This movement keeps pressing further and further out, till it comes eventually to a city called Antioch.

Listen to Acts 11:19-21, Luke says, “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.”

So as that scattering movement migrates north, it comes to Antioch. Now Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, and it attracted people from all over. One NT historian observed, “The Jesus movement shifts from a predominantly rural movement in Galilee to an urban movement in Jerusalem to a cosmopolitan movement in Antioch.”[13] This was a “breakthrough” for the fledgling movement.[14]

You see what just happened in Antioch? The gospel had started scattering geographically, but now its crossing cultural lines as well. It had been Jews talking to Jews. And now it moving to Hellenists, Greek speaking Jews, who would have had more than a few conflicts with the more conservative Hebrew speaking Jews.[15] And the Hellenists will take the gospel to the Greek-speaking world. The gospel is progressing geographically and ethnically.

And a few chapters later we get another snapshot of this church in Antioch, as another movement is about to unfold. So we see in Acts 8 the followers of Jesus were scattered abroad, that they were sharing the gospel, and as we look at Acts 13:1-5, we see them fasting for the advance of the gospel. Read 13:1-5 with me.

3. Fasting for Advance of the Gospel (Acts 13:1-3)

Acts 13:1-5, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. [2] 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.’ [3] Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. [4] So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. [5] When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.

They’re on the verge of a new phase in the gospel going out. Jesus said they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, that happened right away. And then in all Judea and Samaria, which Luke records in Acts 8, what we just looked at. And here in Acts 13 Luke shows us the next decisive phase of the advance of the gospel, as this church in Antioch carries the gospel to the Greek speaking world.

When the gospel moved into Judea and Samaria, it was forced, as a result of persecution, but in Antioch the gospel begins to move now to the ends of the earth voluntarily as a result of the Holy Spirit’s leading. And notice now the role of fasting and praying as the congregation in Antioch gears up for this new work.

There are two separate occasions of fasting mentioned. They are fasting before the plans are made, and they are fasting again after the plans are made. And in both cases, fasting doesn’t occur alone, it has a partner. They were worshiping and fasting before the plans were determined. Then after the Spirit sets apart Paul and Barnabas for the work, they were praying and fasting. So the fasting is never an end in itself, its aim is to accompany and sharpen worship and prayer. As John Stott says, fasting “is a negative action (abstention from food and other distractions) for the sake of a positive one (worshiping or praying).”[16] The church in Antioch is an example of this dynamic.

When we fast, fasting is not merely cutting something out of our routine, it’s adding something into our routine, specifically prayer and worship. The fasting points to something beyond itself which is our dependence on God and earnest desire to see his work.

For the church in Antioch the fasting indicates these two things. First their dependence upon God as they formulate a plan. They are in the planning phase. Before they know who is going, before they know where they’re going, they are fasting and worshiping with a dependence on God for some direction. And that’s exactly what they get: their dependent fasting is met by the Spirit’s direction. They’re fasting and worshiping, and then in response the Spirit shows up and calls two particular people (Paul/Barnabas), and gives them a specific direction, “the work that I have called them to.” So fasting shows their dependence.

And second, their fasting also demonstrates their earnest desire to see the plan accomplished. Once they know who’s going and where, they fast and pray again, now they’re in the commissioning phase, with an earnest desire for the plan to succeed, see v. 3, “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” They’re fasting now is related to the success of the plans that have been laid.

And in both cases, God responds. They fast and worship, and the Spirit speaks with direction. Their dependence was met by the direction of the Spirit, and their earnest desire in fasting is met by the reward of their labors. There was suffering and opposition to come, but the gospel goes to the ends of the earth.

These, our brothers and sisters in Antioch so long ago, demonstrate the heart of fasting, we want to see God’s Spirit move. And they are an example to us then not only of fasting, but in particular how fasting relates to the progress of the gospel as that story unfolds in Luke’s record here in Acts. Fasting demonstrates dependence as we lay plans and sharpens our desire as we commission gospel workers for particular callings.

We want to fast as a church this year, and toward the end of 2019 we’ll focus the attention of our prayers and fasting on loving God’s world, seeking God to call more workers from our body, like Saul and Barnabas, to voluntarily respond to the Spirit’s leading go out to new places. If you were at the members meeting this past Wednesday you heard Sarah Snow share about the desire the Holy Spirit has given her to head back to East Asia (or wherever else he may direct) to teach English and work for the advance of the gospel. Let’s fast and pray with her, and let’s fast and pray for more to go.

Conclusion

Well, in these two passages I’ve brought together two topics that Christians feel perpetual guilt over: prayer/fasting, and speaking about Jesus with non-Christians. I’m sure you all want to be doing more on both fronts. I am with you. I wish I were an inspiring model of these things. But notice that these new believers in Acts are not guilted by a pastor into sharing the gospel with more people, as if they’re merely trying to meet evangelism quotas to report back to an accountability partner.

They have encountered truly good news. Too-good-to-be-true kind of news, and in joy, they announce that to others. May God give us hearts so happy in the hope of the gospel, that we find within us an eagerness to share the gospel in all the places he’s put us, even fasting and praying for the opportunity and success as we do it.


This sermon was originally preached at Christ Covenant Church on January 13, 2018.


Endnotes

[1] Consider how this relates to Matthew 28. [2] Tertullian was a second century theologian in Carthage. Morgan Lee reports in 2014 that across 221 nations and territories, Operation World’s tally of church growth does not strongly correlate with Pew Research Center’s tally of government and social persecution (“Sorry, Tertullilan,” Christianity Today, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/december/sorry-tertullian.html) [3] Some details of this story come from Stott, The Spirit, the Church and the World, 146. [4] The idea for this illustration came from Dhati Lewis, Among Wolves, 101, but I looked up further details from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, https://www.fws.gov/uploadedfiles/region_5/nwrs/central_zone/montezuma/eaglefacts.pdf [5] As pointed out by James D. G. Dunn, Beginning From Jerusalem: Christianity in the Making, vol. 2, 243. However, Acts 12:2 does mention that Herod “killed James the brother of John with the sword.” [6] Stott, The Spirit, the Church and the World, 145. [7] Tom Nelson, cited by Dhati Lewis, Among Wolves: Disciple-Making in the City, 83 [8] Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, 243, 245. [9] Edmund Clowney, The Church, 199-200. Cited by Mike McKinley, Church Planting is for Wimps, 48. [10] Mack Stiles, Marks of the Messenger, 83. And a comments Stiles made at the DG Pastor’s Conference 2013, “Most of the world fears the raised fist. We fear the raised eyebrow.” [11] Idea from Piper, as related by Dhati Lewis, Among Wolves, 114 [12]Secular, in terms of contemporary sociological and intellectual conversation, refers to the absence of any binding theistic authority or belief,” Albert Mohler, “The Advance of Secularism” in Tabletalk, March 2017 vol. 41 no3, p. 11. Burk Parsons described secularism this way, “Secularism is the belief that man does not need God or God’s laws in man’s social, governmental, educational, or economic affairs. Ironically, secularism rejects religion, yet is itself a religion.” [13] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 354. [14] James D. G. Dunn uses the term “breakthrough” to describe what happens at Antioch in his early church history, Christianity in the Making: Beginning from Jerusalem, vol. 2, 292. [15] For more on the Hellenists, see James D. G. Dunn, Christianity in the Making, vol. 2, “Who Were the Hellenists?”, 246. [16] Stott, The Spirit, the Church and the World, 217.

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