First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, October 17, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Many People … One Mission!”
Acts 20:1-6 & Colossians 4:10-15
“Many People … One Mission!” That’s the title that I gave to my Meditation this morning. As you may remember, right after Easter this year, we launched a new sermon series in the Book of Acts. For a little bit over six months now, we have been following together the movement of Jesus of Nazareth and the expansion of His Kingdom. For me, it’s been a hope-filled journey because it reminds us of a God who is so actively working in the world. In Acts we are reminded of the power of the gospel. Over the course of our study in the Book of Acts we got to learn that when the gospel of Christ is faithfully proclaimed, it has the power to transform hearts and transform communities. I have been personally blessed by this study and I hope you feel the same.
One of the things that deeply touched my heart and continues to inspire me in our study of Acts is how the Early Church collectively worked together to make it happen; to spread the message of Jesus. The message didn’t spread primarily by the professionals, but by the witness of the Body of Christ together.
As we get to Luke’s account in Acts chapter 20, we are told that Paul is near the end of his life. In just a few months, Paul will be arrested in Jerusalem, get sent to Rome for trial, where he will spend the last two years of his life under a house arrest before he was executed in 64 AD. It’s typical for the New Testament writers to include “greetings” in their letters to individuals they met in places where the gospel had been proclaimed. The couple Scripture lessons I picked for this morning reflect this truth.
Why? Have you ever asked yourself why all those names are mentioned in the NT letters? To tell you the truth, most of us would probably skip over those names. Most of us will not bother to read through them. They are hard to pronounce anyway. Right? Church, there must be a reason to include all those names in God’s Word. Why does the Bible mention Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus Trophimus, Mark, Barnabas, Justus, Epaphras, Luke, Demas, Nympha, and many others? Why all those names?
I truly believe that there is a purpose behind throwing in all these personal names and information in the New Testament letters. As we consider this thought today, please allow me to suggest two reasons for the Holy Spirit’s emphasis on mentioning all those names.
First: The Lord Keeps Record of our Sacrifices for the KingdomThis is a theme that we saw at least once when we looked at the life of Cornelius. In Acts 10, the Lord sent an angel in a vision to Cornelius, a God-fearing man, saying: “Cornelius, your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” God takes note of our prayers and our sacrifices for the gospel. Our love to Jesus and our sacrifices for His Kingdom will not go unnoticed.
In listing all those names in God’s Word, God not only honoring all those faithful followers of Jesus and rewarding their faithfulness, but also God wants to remind all of us today that our contributions to the Kingdom count. Our faithfulness today paves the way for the next generation to follow in the way of Christ. May we never underestimate our efforts today for the cause of the gospel. They are precious in God’s eyes.
Second: God Uses Many People to Accomplish His PurposesBut there is a second reason why all these names are mentioned in the Scripture. God wants to remind us that He uses different people to accomplish one purpose. God uses young and old, rich and poor, males and females, Jews and Gentiles, educated and not very educated, gifted and not very gifted. There is a place for everyone in God’s vineyard. The harvest is great, but the workers are few.
If you look at some of those final greetings in the Bible, you will see how God uses many people to accomplish one purpose. For example, in Colossians 4:11 Paul names three individuals: Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus. Paul describes them as “they have been a comfort to me.” In Colossians 4:12, Paul speaks of “Epaphras.” He says about him, “He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills.” Paul continues his list by commending “Nympha” and how she showed hospitality by hosting the church in her house. There were others who financially supported the work.
Friends, we are invited to collectively carryout the mission of Christ and to invest our talent, time, and treasure in the work of the gospel. Whatever your gift might be, God can use it. Our Nominating Committee has some vacancy to fill in. If you got a note from them, seriously consider it as an invitation from God Himself to engage in the work of the kingdom in a deeper level.
And when you come across any of lists of names in the Bible, never pass too quickly through them because each one of them had a story to tell of the outworking of God’s grace in their lives. The story of God’s grace is not over yet. It will continue to unfold in the ministry and mission of the Church today. May we continue the good work the Lord began many centuries ago. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.