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Friday, December 30 2011
Two weeks ago, we looked at some Dos and Don'ts through the pleasant experiences of Peter in the hand of Herod and the resultant prayers of the rest of the Apostles and disciples. We were able to learn from this encounters and I am sure that we will continue to apply the lessons learnt when we go through pleasant situations too and we will surely overcome and grow stronger even as we do in Jesus Name, Amen.
This week, we will be looking at the encounters of two of the Apostles (Barnabas and Paul) as they were specially sent on a life transforming journey by the Holy Spirit. Just as we have been doing, we will be focusing on the acts of the Apostles in parallel with the acts of the church today.
PLURALITY OF GIFTED MEN - Ideal for the Church (Vs 1)
The chapter begins with an introduction to the church's leadership composition. Leadership by a plurality of gifted and godly men is an ideal for any church that will fulfill God's purpose (Eph 4; 11-14). This church did not depend on just a single gifted man! Five gifted men were mentioned. From our previous lessons on Barnabas, he was probably the most gifted (Leader) of them all with Paul probably being the rookie of the five. This ideal leadership structure will pave way for church growth which will result in sending out quality missionaries for church growth.
SOUND AND TESTED MEN TO THE RESCUE! - (Vs 2-4)
"Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
There are important lessons that the present day church can learn from this.
1) Unlike the disciples that were scattered due to the persecution of the church in Acts 8, these two Apostles were called and sent out by the Holy Spirit (Vs 4). Let us parallel this with what is obtained in the present church (Discuss)
2) The two that were sent out have been tried and tested. These are not baby Christians! They are gifted and godly men that have been effectively equipped by the Holy Spirit!
3) The Holy Spirit spoke while the church was ministering to (serving, worshiping) the Lord and fasted. The church (as her custom was) was very faithful in what they were doing. There is need for faithfulness in what we have been called to do before we can move on to the next level.
SYNAGOGUES AND JOHN MARK - (Vs 5)
The Synagogue is usually the first point of call for the Apostles whenever they get to any city (Acts 9:20, 13:14, 14:1, 17:1,10). The reason being that this is where God fearing Jews and Gentiles congregate.
Although John Mark (Barnabas cousin - Col 4:10) joined the two Apostles at this point, he later forsook them at Perga in Pamphylia (Vs 13). This was to cause a very sharp contention and subsequently separation between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:39. The lesson here is in recognizing the differences in the temperament of these two Apostles who have achieved so much together.(Discuss)
FILLED AND CONTROLLED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT - (Vs 6-12)
An interesting event happened here. The sorcerer (a Jew) must have some relationship with the proconsul (a Gentile) to have been with him. Called Bar-Jesus (Son of Jesus) whose real identity was revealed by Paul under the influence of the Holy Spirit as son of the devil!
I believed that the proconsul would have had some questions to ask and probably not made up his mind to believe immediately (following the influence that the sorcerer must have had on him) but for Paul "filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit" Vs 9, and the Elymas Blindness, that made him (proconsul) believed on the spot.
I believe when things are done under the very influence and proper promptings of the Holy Spirit, results manifest instantly! Also note how God orchestrates things! Imagine if Elymas has not been with the proconsul.
PAUL TAKES THE LEAD! - (Vs 13 - 41)
Notice the shift from Saul to Paul. Paul is the gentile translation of the Hebrew Saul. Also notice that Paul was the more outspoken of the duo. This is a reflection of his temperament (Discuss).
The emphasis of Paul in his word of exhortation is found in the following;
"But God raised Him from dead" Vs 30
"...in that He has raised up Jesus" Vs 33
"And that He raised Him from the dead,." Vs 34
"But He whom God raised up..." Vs 36
The contention by the Jews is borne from the fact that they find it hard to believe that Jesus is raised from the dead. See Paul's outrage in Acts 23:6-8
The core of our message should be the risen Jesus!!!
IMMEDIATE RESPONSE - (Vs 42-44)
A Holy Spirit led message will convict the heart of sinner anytime, anywhere. Remember that the duo was sent by the Holy Spirit. So there is no doubting what the result will be.
"...the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath." Vs 42
Not only the Gentiles, Vs. 43 mentioned that;
".many of the Jews and the devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas," (AMP)
OPEN DOOR ALONG WITH ADVERSARIES- (Vs 44-51)
"For a wide door of opportunity for effectual [service] has opened to me [there, a great and promising one], and [there are] many adversaries."[1 Cor 16:9 AMP]
Crowds were gathered by the next Sabbath day because the news had spread. This was not without tribulations and adversaries, though. Most times, when we are being persecuted, provided we are in tune with God, it's not because we have done things wrongly, but mainly because we are doing things rightly and achieving results!
An interesting portion to ponder and meditate upon is verse 48b;
"and as many as were destined (appointed and ordained) to eternal life believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Jesus as the Christ and their Savior)."[AMP]
BETTER IS THE END OF THE MATTER - (Vs 52)
This verse shows the faithfulness of God. And I love the way the chapter ended;
"And the disciples were continually filled [throughout their souls] with joy and the Holy Spirit." [AMP]
There is quite a lot to learn as a church from this chapter especially in the area of missions and leadership. The church in Antioch was an ideal church with a very rich leadership base. So expansion was not a problem at all as they were well overripe for one. With Solid leadership base, letting go of two prominent leaders into the mission field was a sweat less effort especially when initiated by the Holy Spirit. There was no pressure involved here.
The results obtained at the field was outstanding, but not without challenges. But they were able to finish well because they embark on the mission based on the request and command of the Holy Spirit!