Tag Archives: Daily Truth
Last time we saw the early church in Antioch fasting and praying and ministering to the Lord. The Holy Spirit called for Paul and Barnabas to be separated from the others to take the message to the gentiles.
Let’s talk for a moment about a Spirit-filled church. Many times we hear folks refer to themselves as a Spirit-filled church. The proof they offer can be the handling of snakes without getting bitten, the speaking of tongues, the manifestation of various healings and miracles… and so forth. But, what is a Spirit-filled church, really?
John MacArthur says that a Spirit-filled church is one in which its members walk in obedience to the will of God. God reveals His will through scripture so a Spirit-filled church will be deeply committed and obedient to the word of God. An examination of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 shows how being filled with God’s Spirit and allowing the word of God to richly dwell in one’s life produce same outcome.
I’m afraid at this point that I must detour for a moment in order to hit upon an important topic. Many people today talk about “God showed me” or “God spoke to me and told me” and other such things. These things that “God spoke or showed” usually result in you being asked to send money to the one who received the revelation. Don’t do it! God reveals Himself in His word. Every claim of revelation or inspiration must be thoroughly examined against what is taught in scripture.
There is also a rising tide of false teaching existing today. Much Emergent, Prosperity, Word of Faith, Roman Catholic, New Age, and other teachings are competing against the truth. And since the word of God is not richly dwelling in the lives of people, many are falling headlong into deception.
Our scripture today shows an excellent example of this. Verse 6 says that Paul and Barnabas had been across and throughout the entire island of Cyprus preaching and teaching Jesus. Luke makes a point, however, of mentioning this next bit of information as opposed to anything else that occurred on Cyprus. A local Roman official, Sergius Paulus, summoned Paul and Barnabas so that he could hear their message.
Luke notes that Sergius Paulus was a man of intelligence. His job as a local leader would have required him to learn of the teachings of traveling evangelists. He doubtlessly kept himself informed of all the news about the happenings in his area. The scripture seems to insist, however, that this man was interested on a deeper level that simple curiosity about Paul and Barnabas. Regardless of his reason, he seeks to hear from God’s men.
Now note how the proconsul is flanked by a messenger of Satan. A Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. I remember in school when studying math that sometimes a problem would have variable noted as A and another noted as Bar A (A with a bar above it). There was a huge difference between the value of the A and the Bar A. As a matter of fact, there was no relation at all between A and Bar A.
There was also no relation at all between Jesus (the real and only Son of God) and Bar-Jesus (a false prophet of Jewish descent). This Bar-Jesus was attached to the proconsul for some reason. Scripture says that Bar-Jesus (also known as Elymas which was a Greek word for magician) opposed Paul and Barnabas. He tried to stop them from giving the word of God concerning Jesus Christ to the proconsul.
We are told in Ephesians 6 that ” our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Telling someone about Jesus will be met with resistance by the enemy forces because hearing the gospel message is the method God uses to call His elect unto Himself. ” Faith comes from hearing the word of God” we are told in Romans 10.
So Paul and Barnabas are opposed outwardly by Bar-Jesus but spiritually, they are opposed by Satan and/or his emissaries. This is very important to understand. I will end today’s lesson with this truth and pick up next time with it as a reminder. Giving someone the word of God about salvation through Jesus is not an academic exercise where someone simply weighs the information intellectually and makes a decision. Heaven and hell are in a struggle that God allows to take place when someone is confronted with the gospel. We will look more deeply into this in the part 3 of this text.
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The 13th chapter marks a change from being focused upon Peter and what was occurring in Jerusalem to being focused upon Paul and his taking of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen are mentioned as being prophets and teachers in Antioch.
Of notable importance, followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. It was a derisive term used by those who were not sympathetic to the calling of the people who followed Jesus but the Christians of Antioch wore the name proudly as it identified them with their Savior.
Now, when the scripture says of the men previously mentioned that they were prophets and teachers, it means exactly that. The terms prophet and teacher get thrown around rather loosely today. The men mentioned in verse 1 of chapter 13 fit the Biblical definitions. Prophets received and proclaimed direction from God and teachers rightly schooled others in God’s revelation of scripture.
Another thing notable about the 13th chapter is that Saul becomes known by his Roman name Paul. He would lead the charge of taking God’s word to the Gentiles. Now, let’s take the remainder of today’s lesson to discuss why and how Paul became the leader to take God’s word to the Gentiles. This is of great importance.
Modern day workings differ from Biblical workings many times. Today, we see people being chosen to lead organizations and ministries for all sorts of reasons. MBA education, leadership-oriented and/or experience, popularity as a former athlete or entertainer, ability to generate a following, ability to separate people from their money… all serve as reasons for people to be selected to head some types of ‘ministries’ in modern times. What do we see in the book of Acts?
Verse 2 says, ” As they ministered to the Lord and fasted…” which implies that these men diligently sought God and ministered to Him through worship and correct handling of God’s truth. They had a correct understanding of who God is. They apparently were not devising techniques and methods in order to sell books to those who did not want to spend time reading God’s word but wanted a Reader’s Digest version instead. These men were diligently serving God.
Verse 2 continues by saying that the Holy Spirit told them to separate Barnabus and Saul/Paul for a special work to which He was calling them. Notice the response of those who were not selected. They fasted, prayed, and laid hands on the chosen ones and sent them on their way. The implication is that the ones not chosen for this specific duty served those who were and supported them as they began their journey.
Notice there were no difficulties with the selection of God’s chosen. The others did not have a tantrum for not being selected. The church did not split. People did not withhold their offering money in protest. Everyone did their part according to their calling. Why must things be so hard today? I think the answer lies in the activities of these early church people. These people were devoutly seeking to serve God. There was no room for them to worry about their image, prestige, notoriety, reputation in the world or any of that type of nonsense.
When people focus upon God and do His work, God is honored. There is not room on a throne except for one. Either God is on the throne of a person’s life or they are on it themselves. God chose Barnabus and Paul for a special purpose and they obeyed. We will contiue this study next time.
I thank the John MacArthur Commentary on the Book of Acts for notes and insights for this study.
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After reading the Bible text, look at verse 1. We see the introduction of Saul (who would later be known as Paul). At this time, he is the vehement enemy of the Church. He consented to Stephen’s death. This is another way of saying that he also killed Stephen, maybe not with hands, but with his thoughts, intentions, and desires. He was heartily glad the deed was done, in other words.
Go back in memory to Matthew 5:21-22 where Jesus said that hatred and anger are the same as murder because the heart and mind has done the deed, not the hands. This was said to show how a self-righteous person cannot avoid the spirit of law by heeding the letter of it only. There are no not-guilty-by-technicalities with God.
So Saul as much as killed Stephen himself. This is what the people of the day likely understood. Saul was probably avoiding becoming ceremonially unclean even though he was spiritually unclean and did not know it.
Verse 3 says Saul made havoc of the church by entering every house and dragging off the men and women and throwing them into prison. Let’s camp out here for a while. Notice it did not say that he made havoc with the church by destroying the building. The Church was not a building…it was people. It would be a long time before the Church would be thought of as a church building. When people talked about the Church during this time, everyone knew the people were the Church.
Please allow me to digress for a moment. Many years ago, I traveled to a work location where one of our industrial buildings was located in a town that had been devastated by a tornado. Less than a quarter mile from our plant, a church was leveled. Now, when I say leveled, I mean the only thing visible about the church building was the hardwood floor. Even most of the pews were gone. (Don’t ask me what a pew is…that is a discussion for another day)
The majority of the building and its former contents were scattered across the small town. However, when Sunday morning came, the Church met on the lawn where the church building had been. Why? Because the Church is the people God has redeemed not the building inside which they meet.
Saul (and others) attacked God’s forming Church by attacking the people. Prison would be the home of those captured by Saul. Wow, what would happen today if people were thrown in prison for being found to be members of God’s Church? I will leave this as a rhetorical question.
The result of Saul’s persecution was a scattering of the people. Yet verse 4 says that those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Uh oh, apparently God not only withstood the assault against His work, He also used it to prime the pump, so to speak. Now the scattered people are not cowering in the corner, they are preaching everywhere!
Praise God! His work cannot be stopped. I will leave you with a question…where is the power found? May God bless the study of His word.