Summary: I preach expository messages, and this is the 23rd in my series on the Book of Acts.
“People God Uses”
November 11, 2007
“People God Uses” – Even as I gave this message that name, I had this thought: God uses whomever He pleases! He used contrary kings and evil empires. He used murderers like David and doubters like Moses, confused people like Samson, liars like Abraham. He used a talking donkey, even (Numbers 22). And He uses people like each of us. Amazing…amazing grace!
o When you think of “people God uses”, who comes to mind? Why?
o What are some characteristics of “people God uses”?
We go back two weeks to get the context for this message. Remember, last week we looked at events related to the “mother church” in Jerusalem, the significance of that being that Luke, the writer, wants his readers to know that, even though the gospel is radiating outward from the Jerusalem center, and most of the rest of the book will focus on Paul’s missions to non-Jews, God is still at work on the homefront there. Two weeks ago, we looked at the incredible differences that the gospel made in the lives of the non-Jews at Antioch, and we ended by seeing how their commitment to Christ led to their sacrificial giving to their famine-impoverished brothers and sisters in Christ. It was Barnabas and Saul, we read in the last verse of chapter 11, who were deputized to take this gift to the Jerusalem church. This wasn’t the last traveling that this pair was destined to do…
Today’s text represents a turning point in the book of Acts. From now on Saul, who’d soon become Paul, is the chief figure, his missionary journeys taking center stage. These events take place in A.D. 46-48, fifteen to twenty years following the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Remember that the chapter/verse divisions were not inspired by God. For our understanding, I found this online from Daniel Fuller: “The present chapter divisions in our Bibles were invented in 1205 by Stephen Langton, a professor in Paris (he later became Archbishop of Canterbury), who put these into a Vulgate edition of the Bible...It was Robert Stephanus, a Parisian book printer, whose versification of the Bible has prevailed to the present…through Stephanus the versification of the Old Testament found its way into the Hebrew Bible printed first in 1571.” Neither man always made the best call, though their has proven immensely helpful. But today’s text is one case in which, had I been doing the work, I’d have done it differently, and thus we begin with the last verse of chapter 12, and continue from there. READ TEXT, PRAY
People God uses are
I. Servants - :25
“completed their service”
John Mark is the cousin of Barnabas, and his mother Mary was a very prominent woman in the early church. We suggested last Sunday that it was likely Mary’s home where the church was gathered to pray for Peter’s release, and it’s also likely that this is where Paul and Barnabas stayed during their time in Jerusalem. We are left to surmise that what likely happened during their stay was that John Mark’s character and testimony commended him to them, and thus when the two leave Jerusalem to head back to Antioch, there is John Mark, journeying along with them.
Pretty good trade, if you look at it that way; the church at Jerusalem received much-needed financial help from their Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch; the Antioch church received John Mark, an able and educated individual who knew the apostles’ teaching and could communicate it well.
But the point I want to emphasize here, as we consider the kinds of people God delights to use, is that these men, Saul and Barnabas, had already successfully served the Lord, completing the mission given to them by the church at Antioch. They were trustworthy; they’d established credentials of service. They had a track record; they’d served the church effectively. Now and again, you’ll find an individual in church who wants to lead, who pines for a position of influence, but who has not shown himself willing to serve others. We’re reminded by Christ that the emblem of the Christian worker is not the scepter, nor the gavel, but the towel, the equipment of one who’d stoop to wash the feet of his fellow believers. Such men were Saul and Barnabas.
Prophets and teachers were part of the very foundation of the early church. Prophecy involved both the forthtelling of a message from God, and the foretelling, at times, of events yet to come, revealed by God. In this age, prior to the establishment of the canon of Scripture, the Word of God came through the mouths of inspired prophets; the prophet would speak in response to a very direct word from the Holy Spirit. The more “mundane” task of the two, teaching, had the most lasting effect, though, as the teacher would take the prophecies given, connect them with Old Testament Scriptures, and nourish the fledgling church thereby. Both ministries were needed.