Study No. 14 - Calling it What it is Chapter 12:25 – 13:13
So far in Acts:
-After ten days of waiting … the promised Holy Spirit comes and empowers the church.
Three thousand persons are baptized and added to the church after the sermon preached by Peter on that day.
- Spiritual gifts are seen to be more than the ability to speak in languages that were foreign to them. Peter and John are used to heal a lame man. The result of this was five thousand additions to the church!
- The church continues to function in a daily ministry, with members sharing all of their possessions in common.
- God removes two persons from the church because of their deceit.
- Racial tension in the church is corrected by selecting seven men to maintain equality and fairness.
- Stephen (one of the seven men chosen as deacons) preaches a convicting message to a group of unbelievers. The result is persecution and death for Stephen. This starts a wave of persecution that causes the church to scatter.
- Philip, another of the Deacon group, preaches in Samaria. This results in a ‘day of Pentecost’ type of experience for these ‘half-Jews’. This may be as much as a year after the day of Pentecost.
- Philip is directed to speak to an Ethiopian who is traveling from Israel to Egypt. He leads him to saving faith in Jesus, baptizes him and sends him on his way.
- Saul the persecutor meets up with Jesus in a most unusual way. He becomes converted, associates with the church in Damascus, Syria and begins preaching/evangelizing in the city. Because he is not trusted by other believers Barnabas advised him to ‘go home’ to Tarsus until he is called for.
- The persecution against the church comes to a stop after Saul is converted and Peter takes this time to visit the many churches that have sprung up all over Judea and Galilee and even up to Syria.
Several years may have elapsed by now.
- Peter is directed to go to a gentile by the name of Cornelius. He lead him and several others to faith in Jesus. They have a day of Pentecost type of experience. Peter is questioned by the other apostles regarding this and he is forced to defend his actions.
- A church has been established in Antioch, Syria. Barnabas goes there from Jerusalem, evaluates the situation and sees a place to put Saul to work, and he goes and brings him back to Antioch.
- A famine in predicted and the Antioch church collects money to help the Jerusalem believers. Barnabas and Saul take the gift to Jerusalem.
- While they are there in Jerusalem, Herod has been harassing the church and proceeds to take the life of apostle James. He then attempts to take the life of Peter but is foiled in his attempt. God then takes his life.
- Barnabas and Saul return to Antioch taking with them Barnabas’ nephew, John Mark.
This brings us to our present study.
The Holy Spirit opens the door to World missions.
The First Missionary Journey of Barnabas and Saul.
The Holy Spirit has been very active in each chapter of the book of Acts, as we have seen. This “call” of the Holy Spirit is a major one in the overall ministry of the church in the world. The church has been pushed out of Judea, into Samaria … then into the home of a Gentile. We had a study recently which showed believers reaching out to other Gentiles in Syria and area. But this “call” of the Spirit will bring the gospel into Asia and then into the whole world. This is what we often refer to as Paul’s first missionary journey.
The church in Antioch would have been a nice church to belong to. As we read the opening verse of the chapter we discover that they have several gifted teachers.
(note: three names are here given in addition to Barnabas and Saul. Why do we need to know their names? For one reason, we are given a small insight into a church’s leadership team. These men were called prophets and teachers. In Paul’s list of gifts of the Spirit he always lists prophets right after Apostles. 1Co 12:28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
The meaning of the word, Prophecy does not always mean predicting the future. In the Old Testament the phrase ‘thus saith the Lord’ occurs 413 times. This is often how a prophet began his prophecy. Today when a preacher stands up and says, God says …! he is likely referring to a scripture. This is every bit as powerful as ‘thus saith the Lord’ in the Old Testament. Prophecy is the only New Testament word for what we call preaching today. The men in the Antioch church are spoken of as being both prophet and teacher. Both of these are required to be in a pastor’s ministry.)
The church leaders are serious in their commitment to Christ. They serve the Lord, they spend time in the Word. They fast. What a wonderful environment for new believers to grow in their faith!
In the midst of this time of spiritual prosperity the Holy Spirit does something unexpected.
The Holy Spirit speaks.
We read that the Holy Spirit speaks to someone. “Separate to me Barnabas and Saul for a specific work that I want them to do”. Is He speaking to the whole church? To just the pastor? He at least is speaking to this group of five ‘prophet/teachers’. We are not told if they heard an audible voice or just a clear impressing of their minds and hearts.
The Church responds.
I am assuming that this was brought before the whole church, but it does not actually say so. In verse 3 we read, Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. The leaders respond in this 3-fold simple manner:
- Fasting (perhaps this is referring to the fasting already mentioned in verse 2.)
- Laying on of hands. This signifies total endorsement by the leaders, that they are behind them one hundred percent and in no way do they consider this disruption of their church life as in any way negative. They sent these two men away … that is, they are saying, Go with God! May God bless you mightily in the work to which He has called you.
The First Missionary journey begins. 4,5
Looking at a map gives us an idea of their route and the extent of the mission. The Orontes river passes through Antioch and runs into the Mediterranean ocean. The city of Seleucia, a seaport, also has the Orontes river running through it. It sits about 5 miles from the seacoast. From there this team took a boat ride over to Cyprus, arriving at the eastern city of Salamis. As they go they preach the word in Jewish synagogues. The island of Cyprus had an exceptionally high percentage of Jews living there at the time.
Why would these men speak in Jewish synagogues when they were well aware that God was now accepting the non-Jews? The simple answer is often the right one. Jesus had earlier asked the disciple to follow Him (and they did, literally) and allow Him to show them how to become fishers of men. Mark 1:17 Then Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him. 21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.
These men are following Jesus’ example of fishing for men. When the Holy Spirit called them, He did not specify which particular people to target, nor even which direction to head out. Therefore they are only, after fasting and prayer, using the wisdom God had given them to go where they think best. God gives very specific instructions at various times in the Bible, but a vast majority of the time He speaks through the wisdom He gives us when we ask. The Holy Spirit does not speak to believers as often or as freely as some persons claim to experience. Some people have a strong impression or feeling and they will often say that God spoke to them. What we are encouraged to do as a regular way of Christian life is to pray for wisdom and then practice what Paul says in Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there if any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy——meditate on these things.
Barnabas and Saul go right through the island to Paphos. We are about to read about an incident that occurred there, but before we do I think it is important to notice that no results of any kind are mentioned as the team went from place to place speaking in the synagogues. It would be wrong to assume that they had no results at all. I think what we can say is that there were no experiences like the one about which we now read: 6-12
They discover a Jewish man named Bar-jesus and in the next verse called Elymas. The word sorcerer is in Greek, Magus. From this we get Magi, as in the three wise men. The understanding we are to gain from his description is not that he is some kind of a possessed nut, but rather a very intelligent advisor to the Proconsul named Sergius Paulus.
We read that the Proconsul sought out Barnabas and Saul. From this it is easy to imagine what kind of rumors are spreading around as these two go from place to place preaching.
As this man came to them desiring to hear the Word of God, Bar-jesus, no doubt using his powerful brain, tries to get Sergius Paulus to steered away from the gospel. Note, this is always Satan’s desire. What Paul does next is quite remarkable.
Recognizing that Satan was at work here, he confronts the man in a most direct way. Notice Paul’s words in verse 10!
Paul uses the power of the Spirit in a negative way. This is almost a first. When Ananias came and lied to the Apostles and Peter confronted him with the lie … he dropped dead. Peter may have been just as surprised as Ananias was. But when Saphira came in Peter fully expected the same thing would happen to her. And it did. But we wonder whether Paul had ever done anything like this before. He says, You are going to be blind for a while … starting … now.
Let’s take a look at Paul’s language:
Ac 13:10 and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?
Of all the things Paul calls this man, the one that stands out to me is, “You son of the devil”. Is Paul just super heated … or is this accurate?
When you think about it, you are either a child of God or a child of the devil. There are no other choices. Most often we try to soften this when we are evangelizing a person. We emphasize the need for the new birth. We will try to make it clear that the person is ‘lost’, or that they are ‘unsaved’, or that they are ‘dead’ in trespasses and sin. But how often do we call it like it is? You are a child of Satan. We have been conditioned by certain movies and books to think that a person is only a child of the devil if they become demon possessed.
Jesus used similar language to Paul in John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
God’s word tells us that, not only were the Pharisees at Jesus’ time children of the Devil, not only was Elymas a son of the Devil, but also anyone who fits the next verse:
1John 3:8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
(Sins= makes a practice of sinning as a life style as a natural way of living.)
But we can leave the Devil family and become part of God’s family. Sometimes the scripture calls it a birth and in other places it is called adoption.
Colossians 1:12 ¶ giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (13) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,(14) in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
1Jo 4:4 ¶ You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.