Truth Tribe with Douglas Groothuis
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Overcoming Spiritual Opposition: Lessons from Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13

June 03, 2024
00:00 42:48
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ACTS 13:1-12

I.      The Desperate Need: Power in Gospel Outreach

A.    Truth decay and the reality of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18)

B.    Handling opposition in evangelism and apologetics

C.    Finding spiritual power for the proclamation and defense of the gospel

II.     The Spreading Flame: The Acts of the Holy Spirit

A.    The birth of the church through the work of Jesus Christ, Lord of all.

B.    Jesus: “You will receive power from the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:8; John 14:16-17)

C. Beginning of great gospel adventures—and conflicts (Acts 14:22)

III.     Preparation for Ministry (Acts 13:1-3)

A.    Prophets and teachers: Spirit-empowered ministry positions

B.    Multi-ethnic ministry (Galatians 3:26-28)

C.    Fasting and prayer before God and with the church (Acts 2:42; 3:1; 4:24; 6:4; 10:31; 14:23; 28:8)

D.    Prayer and fasting in the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-2; 6:16-18; 9:5)

E.    God’s corporate call for mission (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:45-49: Acts 1:8)

F.    Paul’s individual call to mission (Acts 9:1-19; Galatians 1:11-24)

His first excursion to the Gentiles

G.    Power principle #1: We need a God-ward orientation to discern God’s call to mission and to receive God’s power over error.

H.    Power principle #2: We need the wisdom of the church to discern God’s call to mission and to receive God’s power over error.

IV.     Beginning the Mission (Acts 13:4-5)

A.    The importance of Paul’s first mission; door opened to the Gentiles

B.    Sent out by the Holy Spirit (second reference to the Holy Spirit)

C.    Proclaimed the Word of God by the Spirit (2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12)

D.    John was their helper (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28)

E.    Power principle #3: We need to proclaim God’s word to find power over error.

F.    Power principle #4: Behind the scenes helpers are vital for powerful ministry.

V.     The Power of Error: Enter the Sorcerer (Acts 13:6-8)    

A.    Team traveled a long distance for the gospel; sacrifice (Matthew 10:37-38)

B.    Bar-Jesus: Jewish sorcerer and false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, 20; Acts 8:9-11; Revelation 22:15)

C.    Sergius Paulus: intelligent Roman political leader. Wanted to hear the Word of God. This is an open door for the gospel.

Considering Sergius Paulus’s authority, the mission team probably could not have refused his offer; that adds extra pressure. 

D.    Elymas wants to shut the open door for the gospel. Conflict and controversy ensue. 

E.    Power principle #5: The power of error opposes the truth of the gospel.

VI.     Power Over Error: Enter Paul (Acts 13:9-11)

A.    Saul, called Paul (Roman version of the Semitic Saul)

B.    “Filled with the Holy Spirit” (third reference to the Holy Spirit)

C.    Stared him down with condemning truth. He is a:

1.    Child of the devil (John 8:44)

2.    Enemy of everything right (Matthew 13:39)

3.    Full of deceit and trickery (Matthew 13:19)

4.    Paul’s question…not answered by the sorcerer.

5.    Blinded, for a time (Isaiah 44:25-26)

D.    Power principle #6: A Spirit-filled and biblical-informed Christian challenges error courageously.

VII.     Power Over Error in Evangelism (Acts 13:12)

A.    Sergius Paulus was amazed at God’s truth and power; he believed

B.    Miracles and teaching work together through the Holy Spirit, all backed by prayer and holy living.

C.    Power principle #7: God’s work in God’s way finds power over error, but this does not eliminate hardships and setbacks in our mission (Acts 14:22).

VIII.     Finding Power Over Error Today

A.    Spirit-led and biblically informed mission generates opposition to its mandate. 

B.    Prepare for spiritual opposition as you explain, proclaim, and defend the gospel.

C.    Applying these seven power principles today

1.    Find godly fellowship (Acts 2:42)

2.    Seek God in prayer and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18)

3.    Study and share God’s Word (Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:15-17)

4.    Expect opposition and controversy (Matthew 10:34-39)

5.    Find humble helpers—and be a humble helper

6.    Expose error courageously in God’s timing (Joshua 1:6-9)

7.    Expect God to vindicate God’s truth, but not without hardships.

Recommended reading:

1.    Sharon Beekman, Silencing Satan (Wipf and Stock, 2012). Major academic study by one who understands the demonic world by experience and through study as a Christian. 
2.    Mark Bubeck, Overcoming the Adversary (Moody Press, 1984). On spiritual warfare. An updated version is called Warfare Prayer.
3.    Ajith Fernando. The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Zonderv

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Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary. He is the author of nineteen books, including Fire in the Streets (a critique of critical race theory or wokeness) and Christian Apologetics, A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith.

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