SET APART FOR A PARTICULAR WORK
My brothers and sisters when it comes to doing work for the Lord, we all have a particular job to do. Even though many in the church would rather do someone else’s job, we must realize that the Lord had already picked us out for a particular mission that has nothing to do with what we want to do. That is why as Christians we must learn to know when the Lord is speaking to us or not. One of the ways you can tell when the Lord is speaking, is when He tells us to do something that is not on our agenda. And the other is that He would give us a job that will not bring glory to us, but to Him. I’m reminded how the Lord sent me to my first pastorate. It was not a church of convenience, because I had to travel one hundred and four miles one way and three quarters of those miles were in some kind of traffic or another. It was not a church of celebration, because they did not revere the time they spent in worship, they would rather come to church, go through the motions of the program, then go home. They would arrive late and expected to leave early. And it was not a church for change, because they were set in their ways. But many of them loved their pastor and the Lord gave me the words, the strength, and the patience to endure these things the three years I was there. And if it was one thing they learned while I was there, it was to embrace the time they had with the Lord and their pastor. And what I learned was that “He that is faithful over a few things, the Lord will make him a ruler over many.” And I believe I am still reaping the blessings for being faithful to that congregation.
Last week’s message dealt with the dangers of arrogance. We saw how Herod the king, while in leadership, thought of himself to be greater than he really was. Earlier in the chapter he vexed certain brethren of the church, killed James with a sword and seeing how it would please the Jews, proceeded to take Peter as a prisoner. He even manipulated other cities and countries, during a famine that the prophets said would happen.
Last week’s lesson picked up with the king being displeased with the cities of Tyre and Sidon. It is not known what it was all about, but one thing we do know is that the cities wanted to have the matter resolved so they could continue to depend on Herod and his kingdom for their economic provisions. It took a friendship between one of the king’s chamberlains and the delegations from the two cities to get an audience with the king and an audience they did get. He showed up in his royal garment, and sat on his high throne to make his speech unto them. And afterwards they stroked his ego by shouting that they had just heard the voice of a god, and my brothers and sisters that was the beginning of Herod’s end, because in verse 23 it said that immediately an angel of the Lord smote him because he gave not God the glory.
This lesson starts a new chapter in the lives of those prophets and teachers in Antioch. They are found ministering to the Lord through worship and fasting. They were not settled with just being the church at Antioch, but they knew that there was more to do so they sought the Lord for guidance. That is when the Holy Spirit stepped in and said, “Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work unto which I have called them.”
So, let’s go to the lesson and maybe the Lord will show us our particular work for His church.
First of all . . .
1. THERE WERE SERIOUS WORSHIPERS IN THE LOCAL CHURCH (v.1)
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers, as Barnabas, and Simeon, who was called Niger, and Lucius, of Cyrene, and Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod, and Saul.”
First of all we see that those at Antioch were men and women who did not mind being in the service of the Lord. The text gave the names of those who were there. It was Barnabas and Simeon, Lucius and Manaen, and they were all prophets and teachers that gave structure to the church at Antioch. They continued in fellowship at Antioch seeing the move of God and being used of God. They were not settled with what the Lord had done there at Antioch, because they believed that the Lord had greater things for them and the Antioch church to do. So they continued to exhibit Christian fellowship and worship. Isn’t it sad to see how slothful we the new millennial church has become in comparison to the early church? The early church hungered and thirsted after the word of God and to minister in His presence, but the new millennium church hungers and thirst after the things of the world and a convenient way to hear the word of God. The early church did not have the comfort of air conditioning or plush cushioned seats, but they gathered for fellowship wherever they could, often bearing the heat of the day. But the new millennium church with all the creature comforts, would rather make fellowship secondary in their lives regardless of all the convenient comforts the building has, and what amazes me is that they can spend hours upon hours in the heat for recreation but do not want to spend two hours in worship in an air-conditioned church. I tell you we have placed Christian fellowship way down a long list of things to do. But at the church in Antioch there was true fellowship going on with sincere people of God shaping the foundation of the worship.
Secondly . . .
2. THEY SOUGHT THE LORD FOR THEIR GUIDANCE (v.2)
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work unto which I have called them.”
I think that one of the things that modern congregations do not understand is the loneliness of being led by the Holy Spirit. The talk we all know, but the actual walk many are not familiar with. Intellectually, the church is on target. Some are well versed on regeneration, sanctification and justification, while others may be well versed in scriptures. And still in the church, many are well versed in church polity. But as Charles Stanley puts it in his book The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life, “We are note rich and application poor.” Because the average person in a modern congregation really does not know what it means to seek the Lord’s guidance. They might know the motions to go through in seeking His guidance but they do not know the patience and the loneliness of waiting on the Lord and presenting His vision to a people that feel that enough has been done in their lives and church. This was not the case with this young church. With the prophets and teacher of the Way on board, they sought the Lord for the next move of God for the church. Look what they did. First of all they ministered to the Lord, or as the NIV says they “worshiped the Lord.” In other words they ministered to the Lord through their worship. I ask how many of us actually minister to the Lord during worship? I mean simply forgetting that anyone is around and actually partition the Lord for His next move for the church or to pray that the Lord would deliver someone during the service. Now most of us know that everyone has their own way of worshiping Him, and that statement is an excuse for our complacency. But I’m talking about worshiping Him the way they did at Antioch. Can I ask something? How come we all can feel and respond to pain alike, but we cannot worship our King alike? Sports fans cheer for their favorite team alike. Party people celebrate alike. I just want to know why the church cannot celebrate our Savior alike? I tell you if you want the Lord to move in your life, you cannot get involved with what people would say about your worship style. Secondly, they fasted. They were serious about their worship, so serious in fact that they turned their plates down in order to hear from the Lord. And when they were on one accord in their worship, the Holy Spirit spoke.
Finally, after ministering to the Lord and hearing from the Holy Spirit . . .
3. THE CHOSEN WERE CONSECRATED AND SENT OUT TO DO THE WORK (v.3)
“And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”
One of the things that the new millennium church has gotten away from is laying on of hands to consecrate those set apart for ministry. I can see some of you with your thinking hats on saying that we don’t lay on hands in the Baptist Church, and that might be true, but it also could be the answer to the problems of erratic servants in the church. Look what they did in the text. They fasted, prayed and laid their hands on them. Now I think I should explain the laying on of hand and what it means in every situation. In the text the Antioch church was praying for the Lord’ guidance in the church. The Holy Spirit spoke to them and said “Separate Barnabas and Saul for the work unto which I have called them.” then the church again fasted, prayed, and laid their hands on them, then sent them off to do the work. Now in this situation the laying on of hands is symbolic of them touching and agreeing that they the church and those who are sent had been given from the Lord full authority and power to do the work in which they were called. Then there are the situations in the bible when the laying on of hands had occurred, that the person that is laying his hand on another is the point of contact that the Lord uses to get his power through to a person of little or no faith. In other words the power is not in the point of contact but the power comes through him from the Lord. It is like electricity going through a cable. You have the power source, the connected cable, then the receiver or switch to turn it on.
In the text we see them fasting, praying and laying hands on Barnabas and Saul. There was no doubt in their minds that the Holy Spirit had charged them for a work to be done. So they being sent and filled by the Holy Spirit as found in verse four, preached Christ in the synagogue of the Jews with power.
Well, when you’ve been chosen to do the work of the Lord. You’ll discover that it is a lonely coarse. There will be some who will hear the Spirit speaking in your message, then there are others who will battle you because of the message. But I want you to be encouraged in what you do for the Lord. Paul and Barnabas didn’t find the coarse easy, because for one moment in this chapter the Jews and the religious followed Baranbus and Paul and encouraged them to continue in God’s grace, then the next thing they were opposing them for preaching to the Gentile on the Sabbath. I tell you, when you’ve been chosen to do a work you can expect opposition. But I want you to keep a song in your heart and every time you feel dejected. Everytime you have to stand alone, I want you to remember this song in your heart. It says . . .
You may build a great cathedral large or small, You may build a sky - scraper grand and tall, You may conquer all the failures of the past, but only what you do for Christ will last.
Re-mem-ber on-ly what you do for Christ will every last. Re-member on-ly what you do for Christ will last. On-ly what you do for Him will be count-ed at the end; On-ly what you do for Christ will last!