We're beginning something new in our sermons here at McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church. We're beginning a series on the book of Acts continuing from where we left off last fall. Today we will be starting out on Acts 13. So, I hope you will enjoy this series. It's going to last for a month. It's not a long series.
Just before Joe Crews, the head of the Amazing Facts program died, he personally chose Doug Bachelor to be his replacement at Amazing facts. Doug was to be his replacement as head of Amazing Facts. Prior to Acts 13, Peter and Barnabas had been the leaders of the church. And now, you see in Acts 13 that actually Barnabas and Saul are bring appointed to be the leaders. And so, there's a change here. Saul moves to the front position.
I wish I could have been alive for awhile at the time of the early church. I think it would have been so exciting, so stimulating. The early church was just dynamic. I want you to look at the first verse of Acts 13. In the church of Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch) and Saul. So, you had quite a number of people here that are listed, important people.
How exciting it would be to go to church and sitting right there in a pew next to you or ahead or behind would be a prophet. Wouldn't that be great? These godly apostles and prophets, they were there, full fledged prophets. Five of the saintly leaders are named. These giants of the faith were leaders in the Antioch church. Barnabas was the Joseph of Acts 4:36, the wealthy Levite who sold a field to finance the early church. Do you have some muscle power? Do you have a field? Do you have something that you could donate to advance the work of Jesus Christ? If so, you could be a Barnabas. That's what it took to get h\the early church going. And that's what it take to get the church in the last days going. So that's what we need. He was an asset. He went about helping, pastoring, and doing the work of God there in Antioch. What an asset to the work!
Then next person we hear about, we don't know a whole about, but it calls him Simon, called Niger. Acts 13:1) And from my study, I feel that this godly black man was none other than the man who carried the cross for Jesus (Mark 15:21). You study that through. He had been forced by Roman soldiers to carry the cross when Christ was unable to carry it on the way to Golgotha. He must have stayed by to see what would happen, he saw them hang Jesus on that cross that he had carried. He was able to watch as they nailed Jesus' hand and feet to the cross. I believe at that point he gave his heart to Jesus. Every church needs a man like this. Simon, one who has been to the foot of the cross, one who has met Jesus, one who has carried the cross and for evermore finds all spiritual burdens are light.
Another remarkable man that you could see here is Manaen. Notice what the Bible says about Manaen. I think this is the only place in the Bible where his name is mentioned. Acts 13:1 says, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch). [Herod the tetrarch was the same as Herod Antipas who was tetrarch of Galilee during Jesus life on earth.]] This is Herod's foster brother, apparently. They grew up in the same home. They were brought up together. "As boys, Herod Antipas and Manaen went to school together, played together, studied together, romped together. Manaen became a believer and Herod became a beast. Manaen became a minister and Herod became a murderer."1
Two boys living in the same house can go in different directions. Two girls can live in the same house and one can be sweet, hard working, loving, and the other can be sour, lazy, and hateful the rest of her life. Living in the same house, eating at the same table eating the same food. What a difference. What makes that difference? Choice. We choose.
I read about two paraplegics who were in the news. One was Kenneth Wright, a high school football star and later, an avid wrestler, boxer, hunter, and skin diver. He excelled at many different kinds of sports. One day (1979) in a wrestling match his opponent somehow broke his neck that left him paralyzed from the chest His arms worked, his head worked, but that's all. He underwent a lot of therapy, and his doctors were hopeful that one day he would be able to walk with the help of braces and crutches. But, apparently, this former athlete could not reconcile himself to his physical disability. He prevailed upon two of his best friends to take him in his wheelchair to a wooded area with his twelve gauge shot gun. They left him there and as they were almost back to their car, they heard a blast, and he had killed himself. Kenneth Wright, twenty-four, committed suicide.
The second paraplegic in the news was Jim McGowan. At the age of nineteen, Jim was stabbed by a robber. Stabbed and paralyzed from the middle of his chest down. His arms worked, his head worked. The newsmen became aware of him when he made a jump out of an airplane. He was a paraplegic, his parachute opened and he glided down to a perfect landing right on the target. But he made the news when he made a successful parachute jump, landing on his target in the middle of Lake Wallenpaupack in the Pocono Mountains. News people learned that Jim lives alone, cooks his meals, washes his clothes, and cleans his house. He drives himself in his specially equipped automobile. He has written three books, and he did the photography for our country's first book on the history of wheelchair sports. He was a remarkable person, a positive person.
Two men with the same condition, both paraplegic, poles apart on their reactions. Two men with handicaps; one chose life and the other one didn't. As Robert Frost wrote: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one less traveled by--and that has made all the difference."2 Why? Because of choice.
Acts 13:2. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." The Holy Spirit wanted them separated in the church.
These two men, Barnabas and Saul, ministered to the early church, they served God's church. That's the kind of person the Holy Spirit wants to choose. The Holy Spirit chooses somebody who is busy, somebody who is ministering, somebody who is active and is already serving. The Holy Spirit does not choose somebody who is immersed in laziness, but somebody who is working, who is sacrificing his time energy and his means to advance the cause of the church of Jesus Christ, somebody who is already doing the best they can. Right where he is.
Verse 2 says the Holy Spirit personally spoke to the early church. That would be so stimulating! If I was here preaching and all of a sudden you heard a big deep voice, "I want you, and you, and you, and you, and you to do this," and it was the Holy Spirit speaking, wouldn't that be awesome? That'S what happened in the early church. What if today the Holy Spirit spoke out loud to us? It is better than having the Urim and Thummin! They had direct connection with heaven. Somehow I think the last day church will have the same thing that the early church had, don't you? They had the early rain; we're supposed to have the latter rain. They started the work: We're going to finish the work. It's got to be the same. We've got to have the greatest things that they had.
I think somehow we're too focused on ourselves today. We need to get off of the pew-warmer menu and get on to the convert-make agenda. We need to be active for Jesus Christ. We call our church service a "Worship" service, but I really wonder how much of what we do in the 21st century would even be recognized by the first century church. We are too focused on ourselves. We must get off the pew warmer menu and onto the convert maker agenda.
They had fervency in their worship. They had fear. Fear of the Jews who might stone their pastor or other leaders at any time. And they had Fasting. We don't do that any more. Did you break your fast this morning? I think the only time we fast is when we are sleeping. And we break our fast in the morning when we eat our shredded wheat. We are too focused on ourselves. Notice what they were doing. 'They' were fasting. The whole church was fasting. We just don't do that any more. Maybe a few people do, but the whole church was fasting. A growling stomach does not particularly call the Holy Spirit, but it indicates what and where our priorities are. Serious Christians are willing to give up food to focus on developing a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. A clear stomach clears the mind to think about God's agenda.
Acts 13:3. So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
They gave themselves to prayer. You've all seen a bird sleeping on its perch. It never falls off! Why not? The secret is the tendons of the bird's legs. When the leg is bent at the knee, the claws contract and grip like a steel trap. The claws refuse to let go until the knees are unbent again. The bended knee gives the bird the ability to hold on to his perch so tightly.
From sleeping birds we can learn the secret of holding things which are most precious to us. The secret in the spiritual life is the knee bent in prayer. When you bend your knees in prayer you are seeking to get a firmer grip on those values which make life worth living like honest, purity, thoughtfulness, honor, character, Christ-likeness. The early church was so strong because it was a praying church. We need to be a praying people.
The New Testament church was similar to Cape Canaveral in Florida. They were a launching pad from which to send out missionaries. Remember your Bible history. First it was zealous Christians from Cyprus that went to Antioch. And later, Antioch sent Christians over to Cyprus. Here in the United Sates we were the great sender of missionaries all over the world. Now, don't you know it, other countries are sending missionaries to the United State because we are becoming more and more of a heathen country here in this place. It also says, They placed their hands on them, they sent them off. as missionaries. What did that accomplish? I don't think it gave them any special gift. Both were already apostles anyway. Remember the Old Testament Jews, before they had a sacrifice, before they would kill the animal, what would they do? Before they slit the animal's throat they would lay their hands on the head of the animals to transfer their sin upon the animal, but it was also accepting that animal as their substitute. And when the early church laid their hands upon Paul and Barnabas, it was as if they were saying, "You are our substitute. We're going to support you, we're going to pray for you, we're going to keep in contact with you, We're going to send you money and do whatever it takes, we're going to be involved in this and you are our surrogate, substitute here in lieu of us going. And so they pledged their support for them.
Outreach was their goal. The whole unreached world lay out there. Ninety-nine percent of the world had never even heard of Jesus. So they sent out missionaries.
When you are sent by the Holy Spirit you have a lot of confidence. You know that God chose you and that God will be behind you to give you success. Many of you are considering mission work. Over 4 dozen from our church here at McDonald Road have or will be going to mission fields to hold full evangelistic efforts overseas. Many others are doing Maranatha mission projects. Our youth are going to Belize in March of next year. I think that's exciting. Our youngsters are going over to do evangelism. You know, I think evangelism was a yardstick of the early church. And if you can't go, then lay your hands upon those who do go and lay your money upon them, support them, pray for them. What a joy to be involved! If you can't go, them be involved in supporting them. Paul and Barnabas were going to be the missionaries. I think we must either evangelize or we will fossilize.
During their missionary journey they had some exciting experiences. Come to Acts 13:4-8. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John (Mark) was with them as their helper.
They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.
I want to stop right there. When you set out to preach the gospel, you give the devil a headache. He gets excited. And he's going to send somebody to block the work of the Holy Spirit. This Roman governor on the island was hungry to hear the gospel. Now, remember he is the one who was preceded by the famous Cicero; you've all heard of Cicero. Well, this one is the next one in line, and he was the equivalent of Pontius Pilate there in Palestine. And he had a burning desire to hear the gospel. Do you have a burning desire to know the gospel? Let me show you how you can measure that. When you turn on the television d the remote control is in your hand, do you choose something that is going to help you to hear the gospel? When you're in the magazine store, Barnes and Noble, or Books-a-million, or some place, and you see there's ten thousand different magazines this way and ten thousand different magazines that way, and you're going to choose one, do you choose one that will help you hear the gospel? Think about that. Do you have a burning desire to learn more about Jesus? It always seems that the devil wants to stop us from our goal. It always seems to be more of a rigamarole than we would ever want. The devil sent one of his false prophets to obstruct the good governor from hearing the gospel. And, it almost worked.
The evil sorcerer was a fallen Jew named Bar-Jesus. I think he lived up to his name. He barred people from coming to Jesus. [Actually Bar-Jesus really means 'son of Jesus.' Bar means 'son'.] That was his goal. Another name, a Greek name, of his was Elymas. He must have rejected the Scriptures which condemn sorcery, Deuteronomy 18:9-13. This miniature antichrist was like the local witch doctor our missionaries sometimes confront in the jungles. His name meant salvation, but he was a counterfeit of salvation. He was a poor copy. Satan cannot create anything new. All he can do is copy. So he twists and perverts truth. He takes something good and makes it bad.
Acts 13:9,10. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?
Paul had to be forceful. He called sin by the right name. He did not exercise the principles of the Carnage course on how to win friends and influence people. He condemned the man publicly. Paul must reach the governor with the gospel of Jesus and if he had to call this man a son of the devil, then so be it. As a church today we must call sin by its right name. Do you agree? We should stand for the truth and not water down our beliefs by compromising with the Ecumenical movement. We need to stand for what is right. Our doctrines come from the Bible. We believe in them, we know they're right. Let's stand for them. Let's not change them. Elijah did not compromise with the prophets of Baal. And we should not compromise today.
The Holy Spirit that sent Paul and Barnabas now stepped up to bat. Acts 13:11. "Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun." Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Blindness came upon him.
Is blindness a good thing, or a bad thing? The apostle Paul benefitted from his blindness. The blindness of Saul enabled him to see Jesus. This man was stricken with blindness and what did he see? Well, we never hear from him again. He did not become a Christian because of that.
You know, if we are wise, we will be blessed by our handicaps instead of being cursed by them. If you've got a handicap, utilize it for something positive. Don't be negative about it. Never forget that the gospel, the good news, is available to you, and focus on Jesus Christ.
In Acts 13:12 it makes this statement: When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord. He believed. And he became a Christian. He was amazed at the teaching about the Lord. What if they had refused the Holy Spirit? What if Paul and Barnabas would have said, "You know, we're pretty busy here. We've got a lot to do here." I think we as a modern church we need to be involved in outreach. We need to be involved in spreading the truth and giving the message in your neighborhood, to your colleagues, where you work, to your community, and to your world. Because these three people went, Paul, Barnabas and John Mark the work was established and many churches were built throughout Asia minor. They turned the world upside down. Paul began a writing ministry which gives us over half of the New Testament. All because they answered the Holy Spirit's call. Are you willing to go for Jesus? If the Holy Spirit calls you, will you says "Yes?" Are you willing to help out and do something to further the work? If you see something that's in need, be involved. If your youth can go to Belize in March. Get involved. Do something for Jesus Christ in these last days. Be involve in your home and in your world and God will bless you. The world is ripe for harvest. We're living in the last days. You believe that. Then you need to do something about that.
1. Exploring Acts, an Expository Commentary, by John Phillips, 1986, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids.
2. James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 276.
Hymn of Praise: #16, All People that on the Earth Do Dwell Scripture: Acts 13:1-3 Hymn of Response: #358,
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last updated 14/10/06 by Bob Beckett.