APR 14 2013PM The First Missionary Journey Part 1
Acts 13: 1-52
Tonight we come to the 13th chapter of Acts were Paul begins the first of his three meaningful adventures. Here I believe that we are going to see some of the things that we can all expect in our personal adventure for God.
READ Acts 13:1-3. The central character of the book of Acts has been Peter up until this point. Now it’s switching to Paul. As we read this story we’ll see the progress that Paul makes as a leader. The order the names are in is significant. Verse 2 says, "Barnabas and Saul." Verse 9 says, "Saul, who was also called Paul."
Verse 13 says, "Paul and his companions." Verse 14 says, "Paul and Barnabas."
Verse 46 says, "Paul and Barnabas." And it will continue this way throughout the book. The switch in the order from the beginning to the end is significant. What Luke is telling us is that Paul is taking on the responsibility of the leader now.
There were several cities called Antioch at this time. This one is about 300 miles north of Jerusalem in the region of Syria. Where as Jerusalem was the headquarters of the church in the first years of the church (up through chapter 7), now the church is scattered and Paul’s missionary work is going to be based in Syrian Antioch. There are still some events that will take place in Jerusalem, but Paul and the book of Acts will based in Syrian Antioch throughout the rest of the book.
Now about prophets and teachers. Luke says there were certain prophets and teachers in the church in Syrian Antioch. What is the difference between prophets and teachers? The dictionary defines the gift of prophecy as the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to His people through a divinely anointed utterance. The gift of teaching is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to communicate information relevant to the health and ministry of the Body and its members in such a way that others will learn. The Greek word for prophet simply means an inspired speaker, while the word for teacher means an instructor or professor. And this we know: if the church at Syrian Antioch had five good teachers and speakers, the church had good leadership and was being well-fed.
Verse two says that the church was worshipping and fasting. Worshipping or ministering here are interchangeable translations for the Greek. They’re worshiping or ministering to the Lord; corporately giving God the Glory. They were gathering together for the purpose of ministering to God by giving Him the praise and glory due His name.
They were also fasting. That means they were abstaining from food for a specific purpose. Fasting in a Christian since is to abstain from food for the purpose of seeking God’s Will in a particular area. Luke doesn’t tell us the specific thing they were fasting for, he just says they were fasting.
Not everyone should fast; Baptists because we like to eat so much, (not really), there are people who have health reasons that should not take illogical risks with their life in order to seek God’s will. But there are some great benefits that come from seeking God’s will because the Bible says three times, that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4)
There is something that happens when we abstain from food and seek God’s will and that something is that God begins to speak to us in new and specific ways. And while the church was worshipping and fasting, the HS did speak to them.
The HS gave them guidance into what God’s will was for Saul and Barnabas. God’s will was for them to be missionaries. God’s will was for them to travel the world preaching the gospel. God’s will was for them to preach first in the synagogues to the Jews. God’s will was for them to preach also to the Gentiles. While the church was worshipping and fasting, the HS called Saul and Barnabas to the mission field. This was something that was evident to the whole church and not just the two. And so the church fasted and prayed some more and then they had a laying on of hands ceremony to set them aside for the purpose to which God had called them.
Now let’s talk about the calling of God in our lives. God has a purpose for all of us. If you don’t know what that is yet, maybe you need to do some fasting and praying. But God calls all of us into some aspect of ministry. God calls all of us into some type of need-meeting. God calls all of us to help further the kingdom of God in some specific way.
And what God has called us to do, He has gifted us to do. God has given us the ability to do what He has called us to do. We may need to experiment with some different types of ministries. We will also need to develop those gifts with prayer and study and experience.
You may not be gifted in the area of youth ministry or children’s ministry, but you may do well in the area of adult ministry. You may not be gifted to preach, but God has gifted you with a compassion for people that exceeds others.
But when you discover the calling that God has for your life, you will find peace and fulfillment in your life that you have never felt before. You know that you are doing what God called you to do. You know that you are doing what you were meant to do. And God’s call on your life may change from time-to-time. Barnabas and Saul were among the prophets and teachers in the local church in Syrian Antioch. Then God moved them to the mission field. God may use you in a certain way for a number of years and then move you to a different area for a few more years.
Now there is no way that I can begin to answer all of your questions about this now because I’ve got three more points that God wants me to touch on. But I do believe God wants me to tell you that God has a plan for your life. God wants to use you in a specific way to help further His kingdom. God calls all of us to leadership in some specific ministry. It may be to the mission field like Barnabas and Saul or it may be to do something here at Southeast, but God has gifted you and God has called you to some type of ministry.
READ Acts 13:4-12. Here we see the predictable. Satan is predictable. We could have predicted this. Barnabas and Paul answered God’s call to the mission field, and the first place they went was to the Island of Cyprus and Satan hit them right away. They evidently got through the first town on the island (Salamis) and preached without any opposition, but in the second city (Paphos), Satan hit them hard.
Paul said that Elymas was not the son-of-Jesus, but the son-of-the devil. "Bar" means "son," so the man’s name was "Son-of-Jesus." Now there were lots of people in those days that were named Jesus and Paul knew that Elymas didn’t claim to be the son of Jesus of Nazareth but Paul got his point across in this way none-the-less.
But look at the descriptions that Luke gives of Elymas Son of Jesus.
- Jewish sorcerer—How in the world could this person be a believer in God and a sorcerer at the same time?
- false prophet—He claimed to be a Jew but Paul said that he was using deceit and trickery to make the straight paths of God crooked.
Paul used his gift of discernment to conclude that this man who claimed to be a Jew was really a child of the devil.
Now we see the predictable again. Even though Satan predictably hit Barnabas and Paul, God was still in control. God struck Elymas blind. Satan tried to oppose Barnabas and Paul and the proconsul with confusion, but God blinded Elymas to show him how blind he really was. And even though the proconsul’s attendant tried to prevent him from being saved, he believed because of this incident. Once again what the devil intended for destruction God used for the good.
And when you and I respond to the call of God in our life, we can expect the same things. When we respond to God’s call in our life, we can expect Satan to quickly hit us. When we respond to God’s call, we can expect Satan to hit us with confusion. But when we respond to God’s call, we can also expect God to bring victory. We cannot give up simply because we are opposed. The fact that we are opposed means that we are doing what God wants us to do. So we must continue to do what God has called us to do so that God can bring victory and not allow Satan to win. We must remain true to our calling in spite of opposition.
And I must also sadly tell you that often the opposition will come from those who call themselves believers, just like Elymas. There will be prophets (FALSE prophets) who will oppose those who simply want to follow the call of God on their lives. Just remember the story Jesus told in Matt. 13: 24-30 about the man who sowed good seed and while he slept, the enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. So the farmer let the wheat and weeds grow together. At harvest, the good and the bad were separated.
Jesus is telling us that we will find sons of the devil in every local church. Jesus is telling us that He will take care of them on judgment day. And we learn that if there are false believers in the church, we can expect opposition from them just like Paul received. So don’t be at all surprised that when you respond to the call of God on your life that even someone who calls them self a believer opposes you. Satan will oppose you when you begin to do what God has called you to do. He may use non-believers or believers, but he will oppose you-expect it. Persevere and God will work it out for the good.
READ Acts 13:13. Here again is something else that is predictable in a leader’s life: desertion by friends. Now the Scriptures don’t tell us why John Mark left. But we do know that it was a serious thing to Paul. Luke doesn’t make a big deal of it here, but he does tell us later that Paul was pretty upset about it. We will discuss this further when we get to Acts 15.
Paul was so ticked off that Mark left them here on this first journey, that when Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them on another missionary journey, Paul decided to take someone else with him and leave both Mark and Barnabas behind.
We don’t know why Mark left, but we know that it upset Paul. Paul clearly felt deserted by his friend.
And when we respond to the call of God on our lives, we can also expect desertion by family and friends. I’ve seen spouses leave. At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth where I went to school there was an alarming high percentage of divorces among ministry students.
I’ve seen old friends torn apart. When I decided to accept God’s call on my life, many of my friends at the time said they would keep in touch. None did.
I’ve seen relationships between parents and children destroyed. Not all people understand what it means to be called by God.
So what should we do when loved ones depart, should we give up the call of God on our lives or persevere, trusting God to work it out?
Matthew 10:37-40, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.
Jesus is telling us that there is reward and blessing for remaining true to the call of God when loved ones reject us. Jesus is telling us that if they do reject us, it is really Christ they are rejecting and not us. Jesus is telling us that we must remain true to the call of God on our lives even when loved ones desert us.
We will stop here for tonight. But I close with this statement. Many times in my pastorate here at Southeast I have made suggestions to the direction we should go because of God’s call—because of God’s leading. In making those decisions, we have lost some church members. I have lost some I considered to be close friends.
Do I regret it? Even though I never want to upset anyone, or lose church members, or part ways with long-time friends, I will never go against what God has asked me to do. I will always seek God’s will in the direction I take, and the direction I feel God is moving us as a church.
If that upsets you as we grow from a small church to a larger church, then I am sorry that you might get upset, but I will never sacrifice God’s will in the direction He leads. I would think and hope that you would respect a pastor like that knowing that God will never steer us wrong.