October 20, 2022

Encouraged by One Another Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: Encouraged by One Another
TEXT: Acts 28:11-31 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 10-23-22

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As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too. 


Can you believe it — this is it? We’re at the end of the book of Acts. For those of you who are newer to Gateway — this has been a multi-year journey through this book in the Bible. We started it way back in 2018 and are concluding our time in the history of the early church today. And — as a reminder — from this point forward — if you ever find yourself in the book of Acts and are wondering what’s going on — all of the sermons — audio, video, and the sermon manuscripts — are all available on our church app in addition to our recently redesigned website as a resource for you to use. So be sure to check out our website — gatewayepc.org — or app for Acts resources and many other resources we’ve made available for you. 

And — before we get to our passage for today — which is Acts chapter 28 — beginning in verse 11 — in case you want to find it — let me tell you about what’s coming up next week. But — first — let’s take a stroll down memory lane. We began this year with a series titled Prayers for the Church. Specifically — these were my prayers for us as a church — a pastor’s prayers for the church he shepherds. Then — in the summer — we did a series called From the Elders — where you heard from some of the elders of Gateway Church. Well — we thought having heard from me — your pastor — and your elders — that we’d end the year with a series called From the Church — meaning the capital “C” church — God’s church that’s found all over the world. 

So for the next four weeks you’re going to hear from pastors outside of Gateway — pastors who are part of the church — though they’re not pastors of our local church. 

  • Next week, pastor Craig Cramer will be back with us. He was an associate pastor here at Gateway for many years before becoming the senior pastor of Westside Church in Fort Pierce, Florida. 
  • In two weeks pastor Kevin Jones will be joining us from Cedarville University where he is the dean and assistant professor of education. But — if you have kids in Kidway — they’ll know pastor Kevin from our Gospel Project curriculum as he’s the guy on video who answers the questions sent in from kids. Pastor Kevin will also be doing a Saturday seminar equip class — focused on discipleship in the home — that you’ll want to sign up for if you haven’t done so already. 
  • Following Kevin, pastor Blair Hayward — of Living Hope Church here in Findlay — will be joining us. Blair and I are part of a local pastor’s group that meets monthly with a desire for there to be greater unity among the churches in our community. And as I was putting this series together — I thought, “What better way to show unity than to invite Blair to preach here at Gateway.” I’m excited for him to be with us.
  • Then the series will wrap up with a pastor from our denomination who has ties to Gateway. Pastor Adam Reasner will be joining us from Indiana where he serves the St. Andrews congregation. His connection to Gateway is that his parents are faithful members of this church. In fact, Adam’s mom was on the search committee that called me to be the senior pastor here. It’ll be good to have Adam back with us.

So that’s what’s coming up over the next few weeks as we head towards the Advent season. I hope you’ll make it a priority to be here as we hear From the Church as we near the end of 2022. The only guideline I gave the guys was to bring us a message that they believe the Church — not just Gateway — but to bring us a message that the global church needs to hear. So come with expectant hearts over the next few weeks. 


And — now — if you haven’t done so already — let’s turn to our passage for today. If you have your Bible please turn with me to Acts chapter 28. We’ll be looking at verses 11-31 — how about we finish the book of Acts today? We’re in Acts chapter 28. Beginning in verse 11

“After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. 17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar — though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” 23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:11-31 ESV)


As we finish Acts — once again — we’re reminded that we need each other. That’s what we see in these final verses. We — Christians — need each other — and we especially need to be encouraged by one another and need to encourage each other. Why? Because we all can use encouragement. 

Now — none of us like to think that we’re this needy or dependent on others. Thus some of us — these days — are trying to be online only Christians. Or — if you come to one of our campuses — you do your best to do so anonymously — where you try to not connect with others. But where has this kind of behavior left us, if we’re honest? 

People are more discouraged than seemingly ever before, more lonely and isolated than ever before, and more critical of others — even the church they’re part of — than ever before. And this has robbed all of us of encouragement and joy. Resulting in that — even when someone does try to encourage us — we’re so focused on the negative — that we quickly brush off their encouragement. And because we’re all so focused on ourselves — we’re blind to the needs of others around us — that they’re in need of encouragement.

The way I’ve described humanity — at least in our neck of the woods lately — is that we’re all like the kid at school waiting desperately to be picked for the team at recess. Not realizing that we’re all that kid right now. Meaning — we think everyone else has been picked for the team and is out on the playground having fun together — but none of us have been picked. We’re all standing against the wall, waiting for someone else to initiate, to invite us over, to plan the event, to write the thank you card or encouraging note, to say hi to us at church — all while we’re all just kind of stuck in loneliness and discouragement. And — what’s scariest of all — is that living with discouragement is becoming the new normal. We’re getting used to it. And this is not good. 

And what I want to show us — today — is that — as the people of God — we’ve been called to something so much more. We’ve been called to something beautiful as a community — to something that brings encouragement into all of our lives as a congregation. We’ve been called to be a group that others will want to be a part of because they want to be released from their chains of discouragement and loneliness and find the freedom and joy that Christ offers to all who follow him — freedom to live a life of encouragement. 

Let’s end our time in Acts by looking at one source of encouragement for all of us — the ministry of others — and how we’re to be encouraged by what God is doing in and through others in this congregation. 


When Paul and his team arrive in Puteoli they discover that other Christians have already taken the gospel to this area of the world. This is why — in verse fourteen — we read that, “There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.” (Acts 28:14-15 ESV)

In both Puteoli and Rome people had already heard and believed the gospel before Paul’s arrival. In Puteoli, the Christians there practiced hospitality and invited Paul and his team to stay with them for seven days. Strangers opening their house to strangers — where — the only thing they had in common — was their faith in Jesus. And look at how this commonality — look at how their faith in Jesus — was enough for them to open their homes to people they’ve just met. In a day and age where persecution and death were possible because of their faith in Jesus — where — as we’ve seen in Acts — people were trying to sneak in as spies to disrupt and make life difficult for Christians — here — with open arms — these Christians minister and serve Paul and his companions. 

How have you practiced hospitality — opening up your home — to connect with others here at Gateway? How have you responded to the invitation of others to come to their home and connect with them and others here at Gateway? How are you helping us model this kind of joyful, encouraging fellowship as a congregation?

Then — upon arriving in Rome — Paul discovers that the gospel had already been proclaimed in this city as well. And — again — notice how the Christians in Rome — upon hearing of Paul’s arrival — seek him out. There’s a draw to their fellow Christians even if they’ve never met them before. There’s a longing to be with fellow Christians — what we don’t see is Christians trying to follow Jesus on their own. Christians in both cities seek out Paul and their seeking him out was an encouragement to him. 

How are you encouraged by the ministry of others — by the faith of others? How often do you find yourself longing to be with other Chrsitians — discontent with isolating yourself or trying to live the Christian faith alone? In this age of online worship services and Christian resources galore available on the Internet — it’s easy to think that we don’t need to gather with fellow Christians — it’s easy to believe that we can do this Christian faith thing all by ourselves. And this is a lie both from our Enemy and selfish desires that too many Christians are falling for these days. 

Look at Paul. If anyone, he’s the guy who could’ve done this whole being a Christian faith deal all by himself if it was possible. He had more of the Bible memorized than you do, had multiple visions from God where Jesus literally spoke to him, and was called by God to be the author of about half the New Testament. His spiritual resume — if we’re comparing — is better than ours. Yet even Paul knew he couldn’t be a faithful Christian all on his own. He needed other Christians — he needed fellowship with them — he needed their gifts and talents — he needed to be encouraged by how God was using them to spread the gospel — Paul knew that he needed other Christians for the sake of his faith in Christ. And — if the apostle Paul needed others — who do we think we are today when so many Christians think they can do this all on their own — something not even Paul could do?

Afterall, he’s the one who writes, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 NLT)

God’s Word says that no part of Christ’s body — meaning no individual Christian can say — “I don’t need the rest of you” — that’s what God’s Word says. Yet how many of us are giving it a shot anyway? Trying to live our Christian lives as a part of the body amputated from the rest of the body. Maybe you’re the foot or the hand or the eye — pick your body part — how long will that foot live without being attached to the rest of the body — or that hand or eye or whatever? Not long! And the same is true for us as Christians — our spiritual life expectancy — detached from the rest of the body of Christ — doesn’t exist. That’s why — amputated from the rest of the body — meaning a local church — you don’t feel cared for. It’s why God seems distant to you. It’s why — if you’re honest — you have to admit that you’re not growing in your faith like you did when you were attached to the body of Christ. Amputated body parts die — and so do Christians who remove themselves from the fellowship of the church. And — for sure — you can join us each weekend while still being amputated from this body. Just showing up — while not being connected to others in this congregation — will still leave you in a spiritual mess. We’ve got to be in fellowship with each other — we’ve got to personally own being connected to others. We’ve got to stop waiting for the invitation — and start inviting others into fellowship. This is what a healthy body does — this is what a healthy church congregation does.

Now — I know there are reasons why some can’t gather with us. You may be a shut in — or have health issues — or be traveling for work — all kinds of reasons. Please don’t carry guilt or shame because you’re unable to gather with us for worship. Yet — might I ask — just because you can’t gather with us on Sunday morning — how are you gathering with the body of Christ? Surely there’s a way for you to be in fellowship with other Christians even if you can’t gather with us for worship. Maybe there’s a Life Group you can join, or an informal Bible study in the community you can be part of, or you can call the church office and request pastor Robert or one of our deacons to pay you a house visit on a regular basis so you’re in fellowship with others. Though there may be some ways you can’t be in fellowship — what ways can you be in fellowship with other Christians so you’re encouraged by them and they by you?

For most of us — these extreme cases are not our situation. Instead, complacency, apathy, and bad habits are our nemesis and have kept us from connecting to others. And this has not increased your joy and encouragement in Christ and — if you’re honest — you know it’s decreased your joy and encouragement. And the opportunity before you is to step towards encouragement — to step towards joy — to step towards your fellow Christians — the body of Christ — and reattach yourself to us so you can find the spiritual life, health, and joy you once knew. 


And — then — Acts just ends — kind of on a cliffhanger. Paul’s under house arrest in Rome. He’s making the most of his time — continuing to minister and proclaim the gospel to all who would give him a listen. But we never find out if he presents his case before Caesar. Is he let go? Does he die under house arrest? Luke — why are you leaving us in suspense?

Here’s why. Ultimately, Acts isn’t about Paul or Peter or the apostles. Acts is about the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the early church. So — what may seem like a cliffhanger to us — “what’s gonna happen to Paul?” — is actually more of a “to be continued” as the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through the next generation of Christians. And the next generation after that and the next generation after that — until we come to our generation in whom the Spirit of God is still at work. And the next generation of Christians after us — that we’re raising up here at Gateway — who the Spirit of God will continue to work in long after we’re gone. The book of Acts and the story of the church is the story of the Spirit of God using Christians to minister to one another. It’s the story of the Spirit using fellow believers to serve fellow believers. The Spirit using followers of Jesus to encourage other followers of Jesus as they spread the news about him to the world.

And — as we finish our time in the book of Acts — I can’t help but think of how Paul closes many of his letters with a personal acknowledgment of people who are important to him. They’re ministry partners — yes — but even more so — they’re brothers and sisters in Christ who he deeply cares about, is thankful for, and is encouraged by. In fact — nearly the entire final chapter of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome — ends with him mentioning name after name after name of Christians he dearly loves, is thankful for, and who he’s been encouraged by and wants to encourage. Many of these words of thankfulness were penned while he was in prison.

So — earlier this year — I began a practice of emulating Paul’s thankfulness for his ministry partners. For years, I’ve written cards to folks in the congregation — but this year — I was intentional about writing to people who are serving and doing ministry here at Gateway — people who are being purposeful about connecting to others. I wanted to express my thankfulness for what they’re doing and — so far — I’ve written to over 180 of you. I share this — not to brag about how many cards I’ve written — but to let you know that this habit has increased my joy in the work that God is doing in and through us as a church. Because — and maybe you can relate to this — it’s easy for me to focus on the negative — to see what’s missing — to dwell on the grumblers and complainers and walk right by the faithfulness of so many in this congregation — barely noticing the good that’s taking place. And this year — by simply making it a habit to catch people being faithful — I’ve been able to not only notice — but thank God for his work in and through your lives. 

And so — to end our time in Acts — I want to encourage you — this week — to watch for the faithfulness in others and to express to them your thankfulness. Not in an email. Not in a text. But in a handwritten note. I’ve had folks tell me — with tears in their eyes — that my note was the first thank you card they’ve ever received in their life. I was never expecting that to be the case — but was thankful for that streak to come to an end for them. 

And — as I said earlier — we can all use encouragement these days. So if you’re a parent — thank the kidway or youth volunteers who serve you and your child. If you don’t have kids, you’ve got the folks on the parking lot team, in the cafe, on the worship and tech team, greeters, security team folks, Life Group leaders, elders, deacons, staff members, and so on who you can thank this week. Like Paul — let’s be encouraged by one another and let’s express our thankfulness for each other to each other. Let’s be encouraged by each other and express our gratitude to God and to each other for the work he is doing in and through this congregation. Let’s pray. 


Heavenly Father, thank you for this congregation. Thank you for the gifts, talents, skills, and calling you’ve put on the individuals who make up this church. Thank you for the faithfulness of so many to not wait for the invitation of others — but have taken the initiative in connecting to others in this body.

Spirit of God, help us to encourage each other. We all desperately need the encouragement you give us through others. Remind us that one way to rediscover joy is by appreciating what you are doing in and through others. For encouragement is found not only in the thanks we receive, but encouragement and joy are also found in the thanks we give to others.

Jesus, thank you for making joy and encouragement possible in all circumstances. Inject us with your joy — which did not waiver — even as you looked at the cross. For this is the joy we need. A joy in all circumstances. A joy that remembers the people we’re surrounded by and is thankful for your work in and through them. Work we benefit from. Work we’re blessed by. Work that offers us joy. 

Father, Son, and Spirit — thank you for the gift that is each other in this congregation. What a precious gift you’ve given to us. May we cherish this gift, honor this gift, and be thankful for the gift that is your people who are part of this congregation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


We give thanks to God the Father that our Savior, Jesus Christ, before he suffered, gave us this sacrament of communion to remind us of his sacrifice until he comes again.

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:24-26)

With these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of his return in glory. In this supper God declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself finished on the cross once for all. He also declares to us that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ, who — with his very body — is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father.

Come, therefore, all of you who are truly sorry for your sins, who believe in the Lord Jesus as your Savior, have confessed his name, and desire to live in obedience to him. Come eagerly and joyfully, with assurance of faith. For Christ — our risen Lord — invites you as guests to fellowship with him and each other at his table.


At this time, I’d like to invite forward those who are going to be serving us. And — while they make their way forward — know that as the bread and cup are passed down your rows, you’re to take the bread on your own — but save the cup — which we’ll drink together. Also — in the trays with the bread — there’s a gluten free option in the center of the tray. Eat the bread on your own — but save the cup — which we’ll drink together.


The blood of Christ, shed for you.


Father, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ, for his willing obedience and suffering during his life on earth, and especially for his giving up of his body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are forgiven through his blood and may your perfect love drive out fear. Fill our minds with your peace and turn our eyes to heaven, where Christ is at your right hand interceding for us. Give us the strength and faith we need to offer ourselves in service to Christ and may no trouble or sorrow distract us from this loving service. And unite us with each other through your Spirit so we may continue in the living hope of our Savior's return which is sure to come. Hear us now through our Lord Jesus, who taught us to pray, saying — the words on the screen for any who need them…

Congregation:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)


May you go encouraged by each other and go encouraging each other because of all that God is doing in and through this congregation. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.

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