Last night, I spoke on this question, and did a brief survey of Paul’s ministry in order to see if there were some practical advice for the church as we inquire of the Lord concerning accommodation for our Sunday morning service. Here are the passages and the principles that I drew out.
Principle 1: Remember God is sovereign over the hearts of men and women. The “Saul” who approves at the stoning of Stephen is none other than the apostle Paul. In all this we need to remember that God is very powerful indeed. Seeking his will should not be an anxious activity but full of confidence. (See proverbs 16:1, 16:9 19:21)
Principle 2: Be informed by the gospel. Right from the very beginning, Paul’s ministry is informed by the gospel. If you are seeking God’s guidance then you have to be about business that interests God.
Principle 3: Be busy in the work of the Lord. Paul used his embryonic giftedness. There are two two errors we can make. One, the error of presumption that works without praying and seeking guidance, and the other of hyper-spirituality, that prays seeking guidance but does not work.
Principle 4: Observe what God is doing. This is an important development in the flow of Acts and a preparation for Paul’s Gentile ministry. Seeing that God has been at work in the Greeks of Antioch, Barnabus fetched Paul and thus began his ministry among gentile believers.
4. Acts 11:27-30
Priniciple 5: Be open to prophetic words. We need to believe in the sufficiency of scripture and recognise the depravity of the human heart. We need to test prophetic words in the light of Scripture. Grudem’s definition is useful “Speaking merely human words to report something that God brings to mind.”
Principle 6: Test prophesies carefully and remember to distinguish between word and response. In the Acts 11 example, the church was not told what to do in the prophesy merely what would happen. The church respond in a Godly way. For another example see Acts 21:10-13.
Principle 7: Have a good theology of a church meeting. (Acts 6:1-6 & 15:6 & 15:22) Church meetings are not democratic. Neither the will of the majority or the person speaking loudest should be the one most listened to. Jesus should.
Priniciple 8: Be prepared to embrace strategies that are blessed by God. Paul’s consistent pattern is to preach the gospel in the synagogue.
Principle 9: Have a Biblically informed world view and a Biblically faithful ministry. Paul is not ‘proof texting” here but a a Biblical summary of one of the major truths of Scripture.
Principle 10: Be prepared to be shaped by circumstances. When significant opposition to their ministry reared its head, Paul and his companions moved on.
Principle 11: Understand that the process of discovering God’s will is a corporate affair.
Principle 12: Understand that the process of discovering God’s will is led by the leaders. V6
Principle 13: Remember that God works out his purposes. This happens even in difficult and painful circumstances
Principle 14: Be open to the possibility that God shuts doors in order to make new opportunities evident.
Acts 20:22-23 & 23:11
Principle 15: Be open to the inner witness of the Spirit