God’s Message goes to All Nations

Unit 11

Paul’s Desire to Spread the Good News about Jesus

An EasyEnglish Study Unit (2800 word vocabulary) on the New Testament from Acts to Revelation


G. Barrie Wetherill and M. P. H. Stear

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

This commentary has yet to go through Advanced Theological Checking.


1. Introduction

Paul was an extraordinary man. His energy astonishes us. His determination to tell people the good news about Jesus Christ impresses us. His enemies wanted to hurt him. They wanted to stop him. But he still continued. Some passages in his letters show his strong desire to continue. We can study these and they will encourage our own *faith. We must believe and obey as Paul did. If we call ourselves Christians, we must care about the spread of the *gospel.

This desire to spread the *gospel should show up in many ways. What we pray should show it. What we do should show it also. The money that we give should show our love for Christ. Paul is an *apostle. God chose him to lead his church, with 12 other men. He shows us how to do this. He encourages us to be more eager as Christians. One passage that shows his feelings is in Romans 9:

Romans 9:1-5 I speak the truth in Christ - I am not lying. The Holy Spirit agrees with my conscience. I am very unhappy all the time. Because I could even wish that God would *curse me. He could separate me from Christ, if it would help my *Jewish brothers. I am speaking about my own nation, *Israel. God has adopted them as sons, and has given them so much. He has given them the *heavenly *glory and the *covenants. They have received God’s law, and he taught them how to *worship in the *temple. He has made promises to them. Theirs are the *patriarchs, and from them comes the human family of Christ. This is the same Christ who is God over all. Praise him for ever! *Amen.

Paul was the *apostle to the *Gentiles. But here we see that he is very worried about his own nation, the *Jews. He shows this great worry, which continued all his life.

2. The people whom Paul was anxious about

(a) His worst enemies

The *Jews hated Paul. They had respected him as a leader and a teacher. Now they thought that he had changed his *faith. That is why they hated him. They *beat him five times or more, (2 Corinthians 11:24). Several times, they made plans to kill him. The *Gentiles often listened well to Paul, but the *Jews chased him from town to town. They encouraged angry crowds to attack him.

A good example of this is the account in Acts 13 and 14. Men chased Paul from Antioch to Iconium and to Lystra, where they hurt him with stones. Even after this, Paul continued to love them. Paul was following his *Lord. Jesus said that we must love our enemies. The Spirit was helping Paul to do this.

Matthew 5:43-48 You have heard people say, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you. Then you will be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to shine on bad people and on good people. He sends rain on bad people and on good people. Do not love only those people who love you. If you do, you cannot expect a reward. Surely even the *tax collectors are doing that! And if you greet only your brothers, that is no good. Even those who do not love God do that. Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.

But these words in Romans 9 show us the depth of that love. Paul would be ready for God to *judge him instead of these people, the *Jews. He would be ready to take their place in front of God. This love was not just for his friends, or even for those whom he liked. He also loved his worst enemies.

(b) His own nation

Paul was the great *missionary. He helped many people to become Christians. Many of them lived far away from his own country. But we cannot be interested in *missions and not care about our own people. Here we see Paul’s great desire. He wanted men everywhere to know the *Lord Jesus as their *Saviour and *Lord. In the *Lord’s prayer we pray, ‘May your *kingdom come. May men do what you want on earth.’ We see that this desire was great in Paul’s heart. He cared especially for his own people.

Think about OUR care for our own nation and for the nations that surround us.

(c) A very special people

Paul’s care for the *Jews was greater because God had blessed his nation in a special way. This gave them a responsibility to reply (see Romans 9:4, 5). God had freed the *Jews from Egypt in a wonderful way. By Moses, God gave them the *law. Men like Joshua and David were excellent leaders. *Prophets like Elijah and Isaiah brought them messages from God. This continued until the time of John the *Baptist and Jesus himself. Where God is especially good to people, he requires them to reply (Luke 12:48). It is a terrible thing for such people to lose their God. Paul understood that.

Let us think about Britain or America. We can freely read the Bible and men *preach the good news about Jesus freely. There are many churches. There are also broadcasts on radio and television. There are many Christian books, and there are many witnesses.

Let us think about other people. There are many people who cannot read the Bible in their own language. They have no churches near them. They do not have the good things that we have. A famous *preacher once said this:

‘There are some people whom we ought to pray for more than other people. I think that they are the people who do not know Jesus. They live in light, but will not see. They have the bread of heaven on the table before them, but will not eat. [This means that these people could understand that Jesus loves them. They have chosen not to understand.] God speaks to them about his free *grace. He tells them that Jesus loved them and died for them. But they refuse him.’

Surely, that describes our own nation! But there is something worse. There are people who know the good news about Jesus. They are happy about that, but they do nothing. They do not take the message to other people.

d) Paul saw the great choice before them

Paul loved the good news about Jesus. It was the most important thing in his life, and gave him great joy. Let us remember some of the things that he said:

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the *gospel. It is the power of God, to *save everyone who believes: first the *Jew, then the *Gentile.

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is reward.

Those people who do not trust in Christ have no future. Jesus spoke about the difference between those who trust and those who do not trust. He told a story about a rich man and a poor man (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man went to *hell after he died. The poor man, who had sat at the rich man’s gate, was in *paradise. In Matthew chapter 16 also, Jesus warned about the important choices that we all have to make.

Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to his *disciples, ‘If anyone wants to follow me, he must not love his own life. He must choose me, and follow me. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for me will find it. A man could gain the whole world, but lose his *soul. That will do him no good. There is nothing that a man can exchange for his *soul. Because the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s *glory with his *angels. Then he will reward each person for what that person has done.

The *apostle Peter made a statement to the *Jewish *Council which explains this well:

Acts 4:12 No one else can *save us. There is no other name on earth which can *save men.

We can choose. We can either trust Christ and enjoy him. He will bless us now and give us a certain future with him. Or we can decide not to trust him. Then we have nothing to wait for. But God will *judge us. If we really believe this, we must care deeply. We must want as many people as possible to hear the good news about Jesus. We must want them to have a chance to trust Christ. First, we must care, and then we must act. Our lives must show this care in our efforts to tell about Jesus. This was why Paul said what he did say in Romans 9:2, 3. Let us compare our thoughts with his.

3. Paul’s description of his feelings

(a) It was true

Paul did not pretend. He was very anxious, (9:1). It was one of the reasons why he returned to Jerusalem on that last occasion. He knew that he would suffer on this visit.

(b) It was sincere

Paul says that he feels and always feels very sad. This sad feeling was an inner emotion, which showed itself in his life.

(c) Paul’s feelings were like Christ’s own feelings

Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He knew that God would be a judge of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-45). Like Jesus, Paul felt sad all the time, because many *Jews did not believe. He said, ‘I could wish that Jesus *cursed me and cut me off….’ But Jesus did that exact thing for us. God the Father *cursed him, and Jesus suffered for us. Paul was showing the same feelings that Jesus had for his own nation.

(d) It grew from Christ’s love and command

The passage in the Bible which is from 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2 is very important. It helps us to understand Paul and his actions. Notice this. As Paul writes, he shows his reasons.

·           He gave honour to the *Lord, ‘We know how to GIVE HONOUR TO THE *LORD. We try to persuade men.’

·           He knew the love of Christ, ‘For CHRIST’S LOVE ENCOURAGES us. We are sure that one man died for all people.’

·           His attitude to other people, ‘We look at everyone in God’s way.’

·           He knew that Christ can change people, ‘If anyone believes in Christ, that person is NEW. The old person has gone, and the new person has come!’

·           He knew who had told him to go, ‘All this is from God, who makes us belong to himself through CHRIST. GOD GAVE US THE TASK. WE HAVE TO BRING OTHER PEOPLE TO HIM.’

·           and, ‘he has given us the message about his love through Christ.’

·           He thought that he was speaking for Christ, ‘We are therefore speaking for CHRIST. It is as if God was making his appeal through us. We urge you, AS IF CHRIST URGED YOU.’

·           He knew that it was a great honour to work with God, not just with other Christians, 2 Corinthians 6:1, ‘AS WORKERS WITH GOD we urge you not to receive God’s *grace in vain.’

·           He thought that men must answer quickly, ‘I tell you, now is the time when God will bless us. Now is the day when God will *save us.’

These were Paul’s reasons for all his journeys. He travelled round all the world that he knew. He told the good news about Jesus everywhere. Now we must ask ourselves a question. Why do we not think and act as Paul did?

4. Why we Might not Think and Act as Paul did

(a) Perhaps we are afraid. People will think that we are strange

Paul was happy to become a fool for Christ. He did not care about what men thought. He did not care what men said. He cared much more about what God thought. This means that he was like our *Lord.

(b) Perhaps it is because of fear

We are afraid. We will not be able to speak the right words. We will not be able to answer difficult questions. We will not know how to explain important facts about our beliefs.

(c) Perhaps we do not really believe that God will send people to *hell

People often teach that our God is a God of love. So he is, but he is also *holy, good, and completely fair. This is why Jesus had to die on the *cross. It was the only way for God to forgive *sin. The cross shows God’s deep love for us. It also shows God’s *righteousness. In the *Gospels, there are many passages in which Jesus warns about the *future judgement. If we do not believe in *hell, we should read the *Gospels again.

(d) Perhaps we do not think about *sin as we should

Perhaps we do not really think that we are *sinners. We do not think that we need the death of Christ. Perhaps we live too much like people who are not Christians. The world is full of people who want power. People want what is wrong; they enjoy *evil. We do not realise what a *holy God thinks about *sin. Perhaps we have never really seen ourselves as God sees us. Isaiah did this in his great *vision, (Isaiah 6).

(e) Perhaps we do not want this to bother us

Perhaps we live in a nice comfortable way. We do not want to bother. Perhaps God will send someone else. Moses thought like that, and he asked God to send another man. However, at God’s command Moses went back to Egypt. Think about this: Jesus could have stayed in heaven. Instead, he came to die for us. Think about whether we are like him.

(f) Perhaps we want God’s love only for ourselves

We are ready to accept God’s love, if that is all. We do not want to do anything more. We like to have good times with other Christians. If we are leaders, we are important. We enjoy friendship. These are all things that we enjoy. If these are the most important things for us, then one day we shall discover our mistake. Then it will be too late. Jesus said this:

Luke 14:27 Anyone who does not *carry his cross and follow me cannot be my *disciple.

(g) Because we do not trust God to provide for us

Jesus commanded his *disciples to go into all the world. He promised to be with them always (Matthew 28:20). He promised to send the *Holy Spirit, to be with them at all times. He never promised us an easy time. In fact, he promised us that it would be very hard (John 15:18-21). But he gave us another promise. Whatever happens to us, he will be with us. All things come together for good, for those people who love God (Romans 8:28).

(h)     Perhaps we do not realise that the work is important and urgent

Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, about…

·           the need to honour God, and to know the love of Christ,

·           the exact task that God asks us to do,

·           the fact that the task is important and urgent.

It is sad that we do not have an experience of the love of Christ. We do not have the power of the Holy Spirit. We need both of these every day. One church has a statement, ‘*Passion for God, *compassion for people’. That could well describe Paul’s great plan, which is in these chapters.

(i) Perhaps we have too many church events

The longer a person has been a Christian, the less time he or she has to be with *non-Christians. He becomes too busy with events in church. This is very sad.

(j) Perhaps we do not recognise that people need God

In Britain, for the last 10 or 20 years, people have begun to think this. They think that the Good News about Jesus is less important. Perhaps that has happened in other European countries too. Society does not seem to be interested in God. We do not expect people to want God. They do not want to know about God. Sometimes people have a great desire for God, but we do not recognise that.

5. What we should do

After Peter’s first *sermon, the people asked him, ‘What shall we do?’ The command is very clear. Jesus gave it 2000 years ago.

Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus said, ‘God has given me all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make *disciples in all nations. *Baptise them with the authority of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey. They must obey everything that I have commanded you. And certainly I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

Be a good friend to those who are not Christians. You will have to take time for this. You may have to give up some events in church. Many churches that are growing have discovered this. First of all, people have a good friend who is a Christian. After that they begin to be interested in *Christianity. The friendship comes first.

May the *Holy Spirit help us to follow, wherever God leads us.

A Story

The drums sounded all through the night. The darkness round me seemed to be alive. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake. I looked. This is what I saw. This is what it seemed like. I stood on a grassy field. At my feet was nothing but space. I looked, but saw nothing, only cloud shapes. They were black and very strange. There were great holes and shadows. They were too deep to measure. I stepped back. I was afraid because it was so deep. Then I saw the shapes of people, who were following each other along the grass. They were walking towards the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms. Another little child held on to her dress. She was right on the edge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step; she stood on air. She fell in, and the children fell with her. Oh, the cry as they fell!

And the people fell into this space because they were blind. No one warned them. The green grass seemed red like blood to me. The space seemed to be like the way to hell. Then I saw, like a picture of peace, a group of people who were under some trees. They had turned their backs to the space. They were picking flowers. Sometimes a loud scream sounded in the air and disturbed them. They thought that the noise was a nuisance. Sometimes one of them would stand up. They wanted to help. Then all the other people would pull that one down. ‘Do not get so excited about it! You must wait for a definite command to go! You have not picked all your flowers yet’, they said.

G. Barrie Wetherill

Michael P.H. Stear

April 2001

Word List

Amen ~ let it be so; a word often used at the end of a prayer.

angels ~ servants from God who bring messages to men.

apostle ~ one of the 12 men whom Jesus chose to be his helpers. He chose them to teach people about him; Christians call Paul an *apostle.

baptise ~ put a person in water, or put water on a person; this shows that the person belongs to Christ and his church.

Baptist ~ someone who *baptises people.

beat ~ hit, punished.

carry the cross ~ obey God, even when you are having a very hard time.

Christianity ~ what men teach and believe about Jesus.

compassion ~ when you care for someone who needs help; pity and love together.

Council ~ a meeting of leaders.

covenants ~ agreements between two people, or between God and a person or people.

cross ~ two pieces of wood fixed together. Jesus died on a cross, and so the cross is now the sign of the church.

curse ~ say bad words; to wish evil upon someone.

disciples ~ people who believe in Jesus and obey him.

evil ~ things or people that are very bad; there is no good in them.

faith ~ belief and confidence in someone or something; trust in God and his Bible.

future judgement ~ the time when Jesus will return. God will decide who is good and who is bad. He will reward the good people and punish the bad people.

Gentiles ~ people who are not *Jews; people who do not know God.

glory ~ the power and greatness of God.

gospel ~ the good news for everybody that God saves people from *sin.

Gospels ~ the parts of the Bible that tell about the life of Jesus.

grace ~ a gift of God that we do not deserve and cannot earn; his help and protection.

heavenly ~ from heaven, the place where God lives and rules.

Hell ~ a place away from God; the state of punishment of the wicked after death. They are away from God.

holy ~ description of God; perfect, completely good.

Holy Spirit ~ God’s Spirit; Jesus sent him to help people.

Israel ~ the home country of the *Jews. God gave a man called Jacob the new name, Israel. The children of Israel are *Jews or *Israelites.

Israelite ~ a *Jewish person (see Jew).

Jew ~ a person that is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children; a person that believes the *faith of the Jews, called Judaism.

Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.

judge ~ to decide if a person is good or bad.

kingdom ~ land that a king rules.

law ~ God’s rules for they way that he wants people to live.

Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call them Lord when we do what they say.

mission ~ the organisation that arranges work for *missionaries.

missionary ~ a person who goes to another country to tell people about Jesus.

non-Christians ~ people who are not Christians.

Paradise ~ the place of God where people who know God go when they die.

passion ~ great love.

patriarchs ~ the first leaders of the *Israelite people, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

preach ~ tell and explain the good news about Jesus Christ to someone or to a group of people.

preacher ~ a person who *preaches about Jesus.

prophets ~ people who can tell other people what God wants.

righteousness ~ with no *sin at all.

save ~ free a person from the results of wrong beliefs and actions.

saviour ~ Jesus, who rescues us; he brings us back to God from the bad things that we have done.

sermon ~ a speech, telling people about God.

sin ~ evil that is in us from birth; when people do not do what God wants.

sinners ~ people who do not do what God wants.

soul ~ the part of us that we cannot see. It is in us during life, and lives on after death.

tax collectors ~ men who had to collect money for the government. They were not honest, and people did not trust them.

temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews went to *worship God.

vision ~ a dream; sometimes a dream that comes to a person who is awake.

worship ~ to honour God; to pray; to sing his praise.

Book List

Craig Keener ~ Bible Background *Commentary NT ~ IVP

B. M. Newman and E. A. Nida ~ A Translators Handbook on The Acts of The *Apostles ~ UBS

F. F. Bruce ~ The Book of The Acts ~ MMS

Donald Grey Barnhouse ~ Acts – An expositional commentary ~ Zondervan

In the Footsteps of Paul ~ CWR (Daily Bible Readings 1988)

I. Howard Marshall ~ Acts ~ Tyndale

Campbell Morgan ~ Acts of the *Apostles ~ Pickering and Inglis

Paul Barnett ~ ‘Bethlehem to Patmos’ ~ Biblical Classics Series ~ Paternoster ~ ISBN 0-85364-874-3

Werner Keller ~ ‘The Bible as History’ ~ Hodder and Stoughton

F. F. Bruce ~ ‘Israel and the Nations’ ~ Paternoster ~ ISBN 0-85364-762-3

Also: Personal notes and material from many other sources


© 1999-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

July 2003

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