Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, September 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/10/16 Sermon - Be a Missionary

“Be A Missionary”

Acts 13:1-13

 

Today we begin the section of the Book of Acts where Luke tells us about the missionary trips of Paul. The closing verse of chapter 12 picks up the story when Barnabas and Paul had traveled to Jerusalem to deliver the relief fund we had read about in chapter 11. Luke doesn’t give any details about this relief fund delivery, however in chapter 12 Luke tells us that Barnabas and Paul return to Antioch after their relief visit. Luke also mentions that they took John Mark along with them. His presence will be significant later as it will become a sticky point between Barnabas and Paul.

Many have dated Paul’s trip to Jerusalem after Herod’s death, as it would have been the death of Herod that would have allowed Paul to travel to Jerusalem safely. Think about it, if Herod imprisoned Peter to please the Jews, had he been able to imprison Paul, the Jews would have been even more delighted.

It is in chapter 13 of Acts the gospel starts to make a pivotal move. The growth of the church thus far has been centered around Jerusalem and Judea with Peter as the main figure in the narrative. Luke begins to shift his interest to the church of Antioch. There is a map in your bulletin to give you an idea of where the city of Antioch exists. Luke starts by describing what type of Christians are in the church at Antioch. He tells us that there were both prophets and teachers.

Many of us have taken a Spiritual Gifts survey to see which gift or gifts we have been given. I thought I would share the definition for each of these gifts.

The gift of prophecy means “to speak forth the message of God to His people.”

The gift of teaching means “to instruct others in the Bible in a logical, systematic way as to communicate pertinent information for true understanding and growth.”

Luke names five prophets and teachers in Antioch:

Barnabas

Simeon called Niger

Lucius of Cyrene

Manaen (who had been raised with Herod) and

Saul

This diverse list of names reveals that these men came from a wide variety of social and ethnic backgrounds.

Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus

Simeon, with a nickname that means “black”, was Jewish so it is doubtful he came from Africa, but he must have had dark skin and perhaps his nickname helped distinguish him from other Simeons, such as Simon Peter.

Lucius, was a Latin name, who may have been Gentile as he came from Cyrene in North Africa. He may have been part of the Cyrenian group that first preached the gospel of salvation to the Gentiles of Antioch.

Manaen, was the Greek form of the Hebrew name, Menahem, which means “comforter”. He was brought up with Herod the tetrarch, who was the Herod of the Gospels, whom Jesus once called “that fox”. He was the Herod that imprisoned and killed John the Baptist.

It was quite possible that if Manaen grew up with Herod, he would have been one of the boys that was brought to the royal court in order to be a companion of the prince, these boys were called, “foster brothers”.

Saul was mentioned last. Notice Luke continued to use the Jewish form of his name rather than the name Paul. He was probably listed last because at this point he was a relative new comer to the Christian church but he won’t be for long. In fact, he will soon take center stage over all of the men mentioned here, even Barnabas.

After listing the prophets and teachers in the church of Antioch, Luke tells us that they were “worshiping the Lord and fasting”. He doesn’t tell us exactly why they were doing these things but in the course of the worshiping and fasting the Holy Spirit decided to speak.

I don’t know about you, but I wish Luke had given more details on exactly how they saw or heard or recognized it was the Holy Spirit speaking.

These guys were prophets so it would not be too outlandish to think that one of the five men spoke up and declared that God wanted to set apart Barnabas and Saul for work that He had called them to do.

As far as what the work was they were called to do, it had to be connected to prophesying and teaching, as well as evangelizing, another one of the gifts of the Spirit. They definitely were messengers of the good news of the Gospel, or evangelists.

No sooner had the Holy Spirit spoken, then the men continued to fast and pray and then they placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off.

It is important to recognize that these two men were part of the continuity of the church. They were not sent out on their own, but were representing the church as missionaries of the gospel message. The church in Antioch and the church in Jerusalem were the center of the movement, even if it was Paul who became the one who preached the revolutionary message to the Gentiles.

The first missionary journey began with Barnabas and Paul and they decide to take John Mark along with them. They went down to Seleucia, the port city about 16 miles west of Antioch and aboard a ship which took them to the island of Cyprus, in the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. This boat journey is about 130 miles and with favorable weather one can make the trip in one day. The island of Cyprus is about 140 miles long and 60 miles wide. It makes sense that they would start their journey in Cyprus as this was where Barnabas was from and there were most likely already some Christian communities on the island that could be used as their base of operations.

John Mark, who was taken along with the two men was actually related to Barnabas and he too probably had relatives on the island. He also would have been familiar with the island. Therefore it makes sense that Barnabas and Paul would have brought him along as a helper.

Luke has them landing in the city of Salamis, where they proclaimed the word of God, beginning in the Jewish synagogues. There was a substantial Jewish population in this city and several synagogues for them to visit.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Barnabas and Saul were Jewish preachers, with a message based on the Jewish Scriptures, about the Messiah, the Jewish nation had been waiting for, forever. The synagogue would have been the logical place to begin their mission.

Luke tells us that they traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. Paphos was the provincial capital, 90 miles southwest of Salamis. When they arrive, they meet, Bar-Jesus, an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. Bar-Jesus was a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet. As it turned out, the proconsul, was an intelligent man and requested to have Barnabas and Saul come to speak with him because he wanted to hear the word of God. Luke makes a point to show that the Roman officials were sympathetic to the gospel message. We are not told here whether Sergius Paulus became a Christian, but we are told that his false prophet, Bar-Jesus, or Elymas, his other name, does his best to keep Sergius Paulus from the faith but was unsuccessful. Luke doesn’t seem to focus on the conversion of the proconsul, but rather the confrontation Paul had with the sorcerer.

You can almost sense the frustration Paul must have experienced as he and Barnabas are sharing the gospel with this person who was eager to hear the gospel and Elymus kept interrupting and trying to create a diversion. The Holy Spirit filled Paul with the superiority of God’s power over the magic of the pagan world. With words from the Holy Spirit, Paul called  a spade a spade. By focusing on this reaction of the Holy Spirit, Luke was able to help his readers understand that the power behind the gospel was superior to that of the magician’s magic. We have read similar incidents like this in the Bible. Moses performed his miracles in the land of Egypt and there was also Elijah who confronted and defeated the prophets of Baal.

It is also at this point that Luke refers to Saul as Paul. This change seems to be more of a casual occurrence rather than an official change. The name Saul would have been an appropriate Jewish name, whereas the name Paul was more suitable in the Gentile and Roman world. As we continue to read, Paul and Barnabas will continue their mission trip into more Gentile and Roman parts of the world.

In verse 13 we read that they sailed next to Perga, in Pamphylia, on the southcentral coast of Asia Minor. Perga was a river port on the Cestrus River about 12 miles inland from the seaport of Attalia. Two things occur that are worth noting.

First, from this point on Luke will no longer refer to “Barnabas and Saul” but will begin placing Saul’s name before Barnabas. Luke will now refer to the group as “Paul and his companions” which literally means, “those around Paul”. This was Luke’s way of demonstrating that Paul had become leader of the group. Luke does not go into any explanation for this change. It could be because it had become evident that the Holy Spirit was working through Paul in a mighty way. Paul’s speaking produced results, like what was described with Bar-Jesus becoming blind, just as Paul had stated.

The second significant event that occurred was that John Mark left the evangelizing team at Perga and returned to Jerusalem. We are left to read between the lines as to why John Mark went back.

There could have been many reasons, maybe he didn’t like the fact that his uncle was no longer the man in charge, or he may have had a disagreement as to how things were being done as they preached to the Gentiles. He may have been homesick. Regardless of the reason, Paul did not like it and called John Mark a deserter. His departure will lead to a disagreement between Barnabas and Paul and end in a permanent split between the two, revealing they were both human.

Where do we put this story into our lives today?

I think it is important to recognize that God’s church today is not that different from God’s church in Antioch. We still need missionaries, those who are called by God to take the message from the church to the people and who are willing to do it.

I am convinced that each one of us is called by God to take the Gospel message out of this building to the place where God puts us during the week. Maybe God sends us to other countries, Quinn, you are off to Russia this week.

More commonly He may send us across the street, or to a work environment. He may even send us to the kitchen sink to do the dishes or the laundry room to wash our family’s clothes. Wherever we are called to go, we are expected to take the gospel. The key point we are reminded here in today’s Scripture, is that the message we are taking comes from the church. The idea is that the church as a whole, not just the leaders or individuals is motivated by the Spirit. We are to be working together under the direction of the Spirit. We are not to be like “islands” out sharing the gospel all by ourselves. We should also be partnering with someone else. Notice the Spirit called two men, Barnabas and Saul, to go. They even managed to take a third. This was done to provide companionship and support, as well as accountability.

So right now, think, who is your Barnabas?

Who can you trust to support you and lift you up to love and good works?

Who is going to be honest enough with you to share with you the things they see that may look like you are walking in a harmful way?

Whoever that person is, I encourage you to talk with them and seek out a partnership where you can help each other walk in the manner in which you have been called.

Another point I see in this passage that is important to remember is that Barnabas and Saul began their ministry in the synagogues. Those who were in the synagogues were quite familiar with the story of the Jewish religion. They knew all the stories and from the Old Testament so when Barnabas and Saul began sharing the gospel, they did not have to explain the foundation of their faith.

Today, we do not have the same luxury. For many of the people we talk with today, under the age of 50, they have not heard the Old Testament stories. They are not familiar with Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, or Shadrach, Meshach and Abendigo. If we start right in with the gospel we begin speaking a language many do not have a connection to. They do not have a base or foundation to build upon. It’s not that the gospel message won’t change their lives, much like it has changed ours, it is often important to realize we may have to come with the gospel message from a different vantage point.

We should not assume that those around us have a scriptural base rather we may need to explain things in a different way, and lean more on the Holy Spirit to give us discernment.

This is where the third point comes in that I have recognized.   

At all times we need to be open to the discernment of the Holy Spirit and be prepared to expect that by doing so there will be great power. Saul’s confrontation with the sorcerer in this passage is an excellent example. Saul allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal to him exactly what was happening with the meddling tactics of Bar-Jesus the false prophet. Rather than get into a debate with the man, Saul looked him in the eye and called like it was.

How often are we dragged into conflicts and arguments that are clearly not Godly only to find ourselves resorting to the same tactics and behaviors that we are disgusted with?

Rather than remembering the battles we are in are first, spiritual. The enemy would like nothing better than to get us arguing and full of discouragement.

Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Cor. 10:3-5

"This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's." 2 Chron. 20:15

What a different place our world would be if all of the Christians recognized the Holy Spirit desires to speak through us.

If we would only let Him.

Don’t think that for one minute that what I am suggesting is easy.

No way.

Our humanity so often gets in the way.

It wasn’t easy for Barnabas, Saul and John Mark. We read today how John Mark decided he had had enough and went back to Jerusalem. Paul becomes the leader and it won’t be long before he and Barnabas split up and go their separate ways.

The goal here isn’t perfection, that only happens when we reach heaven.

No, the goal is focus.

Focus on God’s Word.

Focus on the Holy Spirit.

Find a fellow believer to help you keep your focus or help bring you back to your focus.

And as we continue our missionary journey may we remember, just as God said to Joshua, He says to us,

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Josh. 1:9

Let’s pray.