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How did the apostle Paul make disciples?

What did Paul and his team do to make disciples in the places they had been sent to by the Holy Spirit?

Throughout this article I’m going to dive into how Paul and team made disciples in three distinct places; Thessalonica, Philippi and Corinth

We will specifically draw out what the traveling team/foundation layers did, and what the new disciples/new churches did as a result

Hopefully this will lead us to asking the question;

How are we making disciples in the places and amongst the people we’ve been sent to by Jesus…

MAKING DISCIPLES IN THE CITY OF THESSALONICA

A. What the apostle Paul and His Team did…

When they visited Thessalonica to begin their work, their visit was not a failure but a success. Why?

Because, despite already having previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, with the help and courage of God, they dared to tell the people of Thessalonica the gospel, even in the face of strong opposition

Paul and team brought them the Good News, not only in words but also with power

The team showed the new disciples their concern for them from the way they lived when they were with them…

For example Paul reminds the new disciples that;

“We were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery…

We speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people.

Never once did we try to win you with flattery, […] and God is out witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else…”

Instead of making demands of the new disciples, they were like children among them, or like a mother feeding and caring for her own children…

They loved them so much they shared with them not only God’s Good News but their lives too

Paul and team worked hard among them, toiling day and night to earn a living so that they would not be a burden to the new disciples as they preached the gospel to them…

The team were devout, honest and faultless towards all the new disciples; treating each of them as a father treats their own children. Pleading with them, encouraging them and urging them to live their lives in a way that God would consider worthy

In the very early days, they instructed the new disciples regarding the resurrection of the dead and told them about Christ their Lord’s Second Coming

After the team separated from the new disciples due to heavy persecution, their hearts never left them, and they tried hard to go back to see them again out of intense longing…

Paul and team had to leave Thessalonica and the new disciples/church behind due to persecution so they sent back Timothy, one of the team members, to strengthen them in their faith and to keep them from being shaken by the troubles they were going through

They made sure the new disciples knew that they would face persecution

Being away from them for some time…Paul and team decide to write back to the new disciples in their letters (entitled 1 and 2 Thessalonians in our bibles) , saying…

They view the new disciples and church as their pride and joy; their reward and crown as they stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns

Since making these disciples, Paul always thanks God for them and prays for them constantlynight and day the team pray earnestly for them, asking God to let them see them again to fill the gaps in their faith

The team urged the new disciples in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, just as they had taught them face-to-face

They instructed them to live a quiet life, minding their own business and working with their own hands and to live at peace with each other

They also instructed them to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in every circumstance

They exhort them to honor those who are their leaders in the Lord’s work…(so new leaders must have emerged in their context)

And finally they encouraged them to stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching Paul and the team had passed onto them both in person and by letter

B. What the New Disciples did as a result…

And what did the new disciples do in response to this input from Paul and his team?

The new disciples engaged in faithful work, loving deeds and had an enduring hope because of Jesus Christ (see HERE)

The Holy Spirit gave them full assurance that what Paul and team said was true

They received God’s message from the team and didn’t think of their words as merely human ideas but accepted what they said as the very word of God

They received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought them [they suffered persecution from their own countrymen]. In that way they imitated both the team, [the believers in God’s churches in Judea] and the Lord

As a result, they became an example to all the believers in Greece

The word of the Lord is now ringing out from them to people everywhere, even beyond Greece, for wherever the team go, they find people telling them about the new disciples faith in God

The team don’t need to tell others about it, for everyone they meet keep talking about the wonderful welcome they gave the team and how the new disciples turned away from idols to serve the living and true God

They speak also about how these disciples are looking forward to the coming of God’s son from heaven- Jesus- whom God raised from the dead!

They remember the teams visit with great joy and want to see them again

They remain strong in their faith…standing firm in the Lord

They live in a way that pleases God, just as the team taught them

God himself has taught them how to love one another and they already show their love for all the disciples throughout Macedonia (Northern Greece)

Are we both sharing the gospel and our lives with the disciples we are making?

MAKING DISCIPLES IN THE CITY OF PHILIPPI

What Paul’s Team Did/What the New Disciples Did

A. What the apostle Paul and His Team did…

Paul and team visited Philippi after receiving a heavenly vision of a ‘Macedonian Man’ (native) calling the team over to help them.

The team started by going to a river where women were praying and shared the gospel. Lydia, a business woman, opened her heart to receive their message and her and her household were baptised. She then invited them to stay at her house.

Paul and team continued to share the gospel, this landed them in prison. Whilst there, they led the prison officer and his whole household to Jesus and baptised them all there and then.

The church then all met together at Lydia’s house…(see Acts 16)

After leaving Philippi, later Paul writes back to the church in Philippi and addresses the people and the church leaders and deacons who have emerged in the process

Everytime Paul thinks about the disciples/church in Philippi he gives thanks to God. Whenever he prays he makes requests for them all with joy

He prays that their love will overflow more and more, and that they will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding

He wants them to understand what really matters, so that they will live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return

Paul encourages them to pray also for him

They have a special place in Paul’s heart, he says to the disciples; “God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.”

Paul says to them;

“You always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important…”

“Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.”

B. What the New Disciples did as a result…

The disciples/church in Philippi have been partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time they first heard it…

They share with Paul in the special favor of God, both in his imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News!

They are concerned for Paul in terms of his living situation and they support Paul financially, even when he is traveling to other places to share the gospel!

They are the joy and crown Paul receives for his work!

MAKING DISCIPLES IN THE CITY OF CORINTH

I’ve already written about the apostle Paul’s First Five Disciples HERE…but I want to go into a bit more depth on what his process was in terms of making disciples. How did he begin?

A. What the apostle Paul and His Team did…

When Paul first went to share the gospel with them, he didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom, but decided to forget everything except Jesus Christ who was crucified

He went in weakness – timid and trembling and his message and preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches he relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit

He did that so they would trust in the power of God rather than human wisdom

Paul baptized the first 3 households, but after that others did the baptizing and Paul focused on preaching the cross of Christ

However, when he was among mature believers, he speaks to them with spiritual wisdom

However, when Paul was with them, he couldn’t talk to them as spiritual people. He had to talk as though they belonged to this world or as though they were still infants in Christ

He had to teach them with milk, not solid food, because they were not ready for anything stronger because they were still controlled by their sinful nature. For example, they are jealous of one another and quarrel

Though Paul is a free man with no master, he became a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When he is with those who are weak, he shares their weakness, because he wants to bring the weak to Christ.

He finds common ground with everyone, doing everything he can to save some. He does everything to spread the Good News

Paul tells them;

“I too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10:33-11

Paul and team left the new disciples/church in Corinth after a year-and-a-half of being with them and later wrote letters to them

He always thanks God for the church plant in Corinth

B. What the New Disciples did as a result…

They have and practice every spiritual gift they need as they eagerly wait for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ

Few of these new disciples were wise in the world’s eyes, powerful, wealthy or high-born when God called them

God chose those who are ‘low-born;’ things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important

After Paul leaves these new disciples to head on to the next place, they write a letter to him asking many questions…(see 1 Corinthians 7:1 & 8:1 for example)

He responds by writing back to them and answering their questions

Some of the first disciples Paul led to Christ are now leading the church through their service (see 1 Corinthians 16:15-18)

They pray for Paul

Paul says this about the disciples/church in Corinth;

“The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.” -2 Corinthians 3:2-3

[You can read HERE more about the first disciples that the apostle Paul made in Corinth, Greece]

HOW ARE YOU MAKING DISCIPLES?

All scripture is God-breathed and useful to equip us for every good work!

So what can we learn from how Paul and his team made disciples in Thessalonica, Philippi and Corinth?

What are you and your team doing to make disciples?

What are your disciples doing as a result?

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Peter J. Farmer

Peter J. Farmer is a church planter working with teams and networks to catalyze new forms of church that murmurate into movements...

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Lee horsfall

    An interesting challenge
    It seems that when we are preaching and looking to make disciples that we are in fact looking for co-workers!

    1. Peter J. Farmer

      Great insight Lee.

      Yes, when Jesus sent the 72 disciples out (Luke 10:1-12) they were to pray for more workers in the harvest! When they found the Person of Peace (see Matthew 10:11), they found their worker, who would in turn empower more workers for the harvest

  2. Godwell Nyanjagha

    Thank you for such a great teaching. As Disciple makers of today we must emulate the example of the first church. I pray that this teaching reaches more and more Gospel preachers so that they do the work according to the Scriptures. God bless you.

  3. Paul Cameron

    Thanks Peter for what you’ve highlighted. I pray that God continues to raise up ministers (5 fold) who work in line with these principles rather than in line with the spirit of this age, & I pray that I am among them.

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