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Skilled Christians (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
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December 19, 2023 6:00 am

Skilled Christians (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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December 19, 2023 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the book of the Acts


Hell feared this man for good reason and the church at Philippi was an example of the reasons why they feared him. The work he achieved in Philippi with those believers and that he was duplicating here in Thessalonica and will go on to do Berea and so forth. Hell was afraid of this man and they had good reason to be so. Hell was afraid of me for anything.

Does it have good reason to be so? It's because Paul and the men with him, they labored in the Spirit. This is Cross-Reference Radio with our pastor and teacher Rick Gaston. Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville. Pastor Rick is currently teaching through the book of Acts.

Please stay with us after today's message to hear more information about Cross-Reference Radio, specifically how you can get a free copy of this teaching. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in the book of Acts chapter 17 as he begins his message, Skilled Christians. We continue our walk through the book of Acts, so if you have your Bibles, chapter 17. We'll find out how the church at Thessalonica came to be. Acts chapter 17, we will review verses 1 through 9, but I will read verses 1 through 4. Acts chapter 17, the first four verses. Now when they had passed through Phibolus and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as was his custom, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures. Explaining and demonstrating that Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, this Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.

I figure if I don't read so much, I can talk more. Skilled Christians, that's what we're going to consider. Paul, he was a moving target. A moving target is harder to hit than a stationary target. And he was just always on the move, and therefore always targeted by Satan. Not that he was on the move, made him such a threat to hell, that was just one part of it. It's that skills that he had, that he retained, that he learned and developed. To gain a skill, one has to spend time using that discipline, that skill that they have. It's not automatic, even for Paul.

It took him time to really get a grasp on how to get the most out of his ministry. And we're going to see that when we now look at verse 1. Now when they had passed through Amphibolus and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

Well, Amphibolus and Apollonia, they miss out for now. Paul and his team just passed through. But this Thessalonica, they came there. Well, you know, in our scripture, in the New Testament, we have Paul's letters, which is God's word through Paul, to the churches in Galatia, to the church at Philippi, and to the church at Thessalonica. Now there are others, but we've already considered the church in Galatia, in chapter 13 and 14, where Paul was stoned in that region. And the church at Philippi was the last chapter, where he was beaten with rods. And now he comes to Thessalonica, where he will eventually have to leave to save his life, and he'll leave there, get to Berea, have to leave there too, and then he goes 192 miles to Athens, and then moves forward to Corinth. On the move, chased from many cities, caused a riot because of his preaching.

How every pastor, no, not every Sunday, but we do envy that it caused a riot by his preaching, but you couldn't do it every Sunday. Anyway, Thessalonica, we're now 19, 20 years after the resurrection of Christ. Paul is likely in his mid-fifties at this time, and as he traveled, going the Ignatian way from a road that cut across Macedonia, ancient Greece there, as he went that route, let's just look at how he was on the move, from Philippi to Amphibolus, 22 miles. From Amphibolus to Apollonia, 18 miles.

Now, he's walking, he may have hitched a ride on a cart from time to time, but that would have been a bumpy ride. From Apollonia to Thessalonica, 35 miles. Then from Thessalonica to Berea, 35 miles again. Leaving Berea for his life, he goes to Athens, 192 miles.

And then from Athens to Corinth, 38 miles. This is just this ministry that he entered into in Europe, 340 miles, taking the Gospel with him, and highly effective. He paid for it.

He paid for it physically. It says here in verse 1, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. This was his custom, Christ did it, Paul's doing it.

The wisdom and the logic is very important. This demonstrates that he understood how to bring the Gospel into a place where the Gospel was never heard, and how to leave that place with the church behind him. And talk about behind him, we're going to find out in just a moment how the church at Philippi was behind him while he was in Thessalonica. The synagogues allowed Paul to reach not only the Jews, but Paul knew there was a large number of Gentiles who became Jews who were in the synagogues too.

That would facilitate his work. And here in Thessalonica, not only will he reach Jews and Gentiles in the synagogues, but then after that, he begins reaching Gentiles who are stone-cold pagan. And so we have learned from Acts that there were a healthy amount of Gentile converts belonging to Judaism because they were sick of the paganism. And when Paul comes and preaches from the Scriptures, showing them that your Messiah has come, and they murdered him, but he's coming back.

And that's a big part of the problem and a big part of the solution. Paul knew that all men could be saved. He knew that everyone could be saved if they heard the Gospel. He writes to Timothy years later, speaking of God, our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2.4. That's an important verse. It's sort of overlooked.

And I don't know why. Way to go, Paul. Taking the Gospel, taking the beatings that come with bringing the Gospel to the lost souls. I mean, we get bent out of shape when someone has the audacity to mock our faith a little bit. The prophecies that Paul preached to the Jews and the Gentiles that were converted to Judaism were very interesting to them, but that's not enough. It's not enough to be interested by what you hear concerning God.

It has to be, at some point, it has to be action. And therefore, by reason and logic, they should have been ready to understand that this Jesus of Nazareth was their Messiah. You can reference Acts 13, verses 32-39, and there he does it again.

He had already done it many times, but there it is documented also. But he goes to the synagogues first because the Jews had the advantage at this point in history. They had the advantage and they were privileged. They had the advantage of the Scriptures. They knew the origins of man, of sin. They had been exposed to the revelation of God through the prophets and the writings that we call the Old Testament, because again, the New Testament was being formed. It was not yet here, not as we know it. And this allowed the Jews who were raised under the teachings of the Old Testament to have this heightened understanding of Messiah when Paul comes along and he puts it all together for them. It's like he takes the pieces of the puzzle, the individual pieces being the prophecies concerning Messiah, and he puts them together right in front of them during his sermon. And many believed, which meant those who didn't believe had no excuse. Well, why didn't you get it?

He got it. We read in Romans chapter 1, which he hasn't written yet, the Roman letter, but when he does write it, he says, What advantage then has the Jew? Or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way, chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. So when he entered into a synagogue and began preaching Christ, he did not have to explain who Isaiah was, what the book of Genesis was about. He did not have to tell them about Bethlehem and the prophet from Micah. They would have been familiar with those things. Had he just gone out to pagan Gentiles and said, Let me tell you what the prophet Isaiah said, they would be bogged down.

Who's Isaiah? Maybe they would have more questions than they could listen to the answers. It wouldn't allow them to.

They had so many questions going on. So the synagogue cut all that out of the way. Things have changed since then. In America, everybody knows the name of Jesus Christ. They even use it as a borderline expletive. Blasphemy of Jesus Christ, I can't believe it. There's that ignorance, born of hell, that people have embraced.

Use it daily, that's where we should come in and explain to them, Listen, do you even know what you're doing? How come you don't say, you know, Mohammed, I can't believe it. How come it's Jesus Christ you got to pick out? Well, what advantage has the child born in a Christian home, or those who receive solid preaching, if they don't do anything with it? Paul was taking advantage, he knew these Jews again, they were raised under the scriptures. What are they going to do with it now?

So this is all relevant. You sit in church, especially you who are still, who have been raised in Christian homes, what are you going to do with this advantage that you have? You can mess it up, the Jews did, many of them did, the majority of them did here in Thessalonica, but the Jewish morals, they surpassed the Gentile religions. The Gentiles had nothing like what Judaism had to offer, and then when Christ comes along and begins to develop all of that, it is even better. All of the Lord's apostles were Jews, because again, they were raised with the prophecies.

It eliminated a lot of explanations and waste of time. And evidenced by the church growth in Jerusalem in the early days, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, which is documented in the book of Acts, we see that it was very effective and can be very effective. And so if you're raised in a Christian home, the lessons you gain from Christ can be very effective for Christ, or it could work against you.

It's your choice. You can turn from Christ to the world, or you can turn to Christ and be used in the world. And so again, the Jews did not have to learn or relearn or unlearn in the same way that the Gentiles had to. And the Gentiles, of course, they were raised with idolatry and paganism, but when it came to Judaism, a lot of that was filtered out. Verse 2, then Paul, as his custom was, went into them, for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, as was his custom, and had said the same about the Lord Jesus. Now, three Sabbaths, it's almost a month. It gave them plenty of time to think about what he was preaching. But also, it's important to understand that the three Sabbaths does not mean Paul ministered in Thessalonica for only three weeks.

Not at all. He began in the synagogues, but when the majority of the Jews rejected the message that he preached to them, then Paul turned and invested his ministry with the Gentiles. And some of the Jews came out of the synagogue, and the Gentile Jews with them, but then the pagan Jews began to come. And he writes about that in the Thessalonian letter, which maybe I'll get to or not, I don't know yet, but the Jews who received Jesus were with him, as well as the converts. Paul began winning Gentiles outside.

Well, maybe this is a good time. See, when he writes the Thessalonian letter, not long after he was chased out of the city, is one of the most beautiful verses in Scripture. He's talking about what other Christians are saying about this new church in Thessalonica that he was forced to leave. So chronologically, I'm moving forward a few months from this moment here in Acts 17, 2. He says, Well, they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you and how you turned to God from idols and served the living God and the true God. So that little verse in 1 Thessalonians 1, 9, he's making a distinction between the Jews who believed, the Gentiles who believed who were going to the Jewish synagogue, and then the Gentiles who were just flat-out pagan. And the devil can't handle this.

He's not going to stand for this. But the skill, the spiritual skill of Paul was developed because he exercised his faith. He put it to work.

And this is a remarkable thing about what's going on here. We know he was there for a while because when he writes to the Thessalonians, he tells them that he worked as a tent maker, and he lets them know he was there for a while. But here's something that's quite remarkable concerning the church at Philippi that he was chased out of before he gets to Thessalonica. They sent money to him from Philippi in Thessalonica no less than two times. We read that in Philippians 4, 15, and 16. That little church that was a fledgling church, a new church, remember he left Luke and some others there, they're sending money all the way to some 75 miles to Thessalonica.

Why did they do that? Well, the Spirit of God was opening their eyes to the need that they belong to the body of Christ, and word must have gotten to them. Paul's working on making tents and sails, working with those heavy canvases, materials, and then going on to preach, and they said, no, we can't have that. We need to help him. He has too much to give to a congregation.

So they did something about it. They sent money more than once, and it moved him because, again, when he writes to the Philippians much later, he recalls this with them. Hell feared this man for good reason, and the church at Philippi was an example of the reasons why they feared him. The work he achieved in Philippi with those believers and that he was duplicating here in Thessalonica and will go on to do Berea and so forth, Hell was afraid of this man, and they had good reason to be so. Is Hell afraid of me for anything?

Does it have good reason to be so? It's because Paul and the men with him, they labored in the Spirit, and it showed up in the life. It's not enough to go to church and enjoy a sermon. That's all you do.

You're just getting your ears tickled. You're not really doing anything with what God is pouring into you through this system of preaching that he has ordained. This man was skilled at his Christianity, the question is, am I skilled with my Christianity? And if not, what do I have to do to become a skilled Christian in preaching the Word and leaving an example?

And I would submit the first step after, of course, plugging. Look, the local church, Christ died for it, gave his blood for the church. That should instantly alert us how important this is. What should also alert us to how important it is to be loyal to the local church is how often Satan attacks it. Satan often gives more attention to the local church than the believers in the local church. Well, getting plugged in is a big help because there's a process of discipleship. But using, applying your faith according to the Scriptures in your devotional time will help with that very much.

These are big deals. But I fear a lot of Christians don't think they're big deals. I think a lot of Christians go to church because they have to go to church because the Bible tells them to go to church.

But they'd like to stay home and eat Cheez-Its or something. Well, he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, it tells us here in verse 2, faith from truth calls for reason to commit to its logical conclusion. What does that mean? If you, by faith, faith is receiving the truth, it is never a jump into the dark, it is a jump into the light based on information.

You have enough information to make a move. You've taken enough parts of the puzzle and put them together to know what the picture is, and you act on it. You commit to what you see is true. Intellectual dishonesty, which is lying to oneself, somebody's come up with another way to say lying to yourself, it's a subtle fall.

And a lot of people exercise it. When they don't care for something, that's true. They become dishonest with themselves and they don't connect. They don't draw the conclusion to commit to it. And the Jews in this church that were hearing him preach from the Scriptures, things that were inescapable, many of them were dishonest, refusing to form logical conclusions that were glaring at them.

This happens to this very day. You don't have to be Jewish for this, you'd be anybody. Reason from the Scriptures is so important because no one stumbles into salvation on their own. Paul wrote to the Romans, how then shall they call on him whom they've not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they've not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Now when he says preacher here, it's not in the context of pulpit preaching alone, it is also individual Christians sharing the faith. And then he adds in that same section of Romans 10, so then, this is his conclusion from that logic. Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God. Well, how did he get to that?

Because he's so skilled at doing it, it became him. Here he is doing the very thing, creating faith in those who are honest enough to receive it from hearing the word. Faith links our fallen intellect to God, and that intellect is no longer fallen.

You become a new creation. Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers among men, he makes this comment. He's talking about Jeremiah's comment to God that God can do all things, nothing's impossible.

And then Spurgeon comments, this gave a majesty to the early saints that they dared to do at God's command things which carnal reason would condemn. In other words, they acted on faith, and the world would mock them for this, and then he qualifies it. He says, whether it be a Noah who is to build a ship on dry land, now remember, when Noah built that ship, there was no such thing as rain.

It had not rained until that ark was completed and they were in it. And Abraham, who is to offer up his only son, of course the world would go at that one. Or Moses, who is to despise the treasures of Egypt, or a Joshua who is to besiege Jericho seven days using no weapons but the blast of ram's horns, they all act upon God's command, contrary to the dictates of carnal reason. And the Lord gives them a rich reward as a result of their obedient faith.

And so there's carnal reason and there is spiritual reason. Paul, reasoning with them from the Scriptures, was successful with those who spiritually reasoned through it. And he was telling them that Christ has come. He has fulfilled many of these prophecies and no one else can. And to this day, the Messiah cannot come. Because how would you tell He is from the top tribe of David? All the records are lost.

That window of opportunity has come and it is gone. Christ is either the Messiah or He ain't coming, according to your Scripture, is what Paul could have said had he listened to this sermon. Verse 3, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead and saying, This Jesus whom I preached to you is Messiah.

Remember, the Greek word Christ, by the time it gets to the English, and it's the same as the Jewish word Messiah. And explaining and demonstrating that Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead. So he's expounding on Scriptures.

He's opening up. He's taking a verse and he's applying its meaning. He's saying to them, Jesus not only fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, but He also fulfilled the Old Testament types. And the types were that which illustrated the great truths of Christ's coming. And we know He did this because when He wrote the Galatian letter, which was already written by this time, He does the very thing.

He says, Hagar is a type of the flesh. And He says, Sarah is a type of the spirit. And He goes into how Christ has put it all together for the Jews. And you can reference Genesis 3, which is the seat of the woman, which is the virgin birth, Genesis 22, the offering of Isaac, Psalm 22, Psalm 69, Isaiah 53, Jeremiah 31, Daniel 9, 26, Messiah being cutting off, and then the end times prophecy, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Zechariah 9, 9, Zechariah 12, 10, just on and on and on.

The Old Testament Scripture verses were available to Him and these are the very things He was preaching. But the cross, which offends sinners, it is supposed to offend sinners because sinners are guilty. Everybody's thinking about, oh, I'm so offended.

I'm so, what about God? Does God get to get offended at anything? God is offended. And the cross is an emblem of that, part of that. Matthew 11, 6, and blessed is He who is not offended because of me. So when a person is offended by Christ, they're in trouble. But when they're not offended and they see their sin, they are going to be blessed.

That's not entirely what that verse means, but that is an application of the verse. You've been listening to Cross-Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit That's We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross-Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at or simply search for Cross-Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts right here on Cross-Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-19 08:24:51 / 2023-12-19 08:34:43 / 10

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