Missional Living Part 3 – Boldly Go! (Acts 13:4-12; Romans 1:16; 2:9; 2:10)
Barnabas and Saul have been called and sent out of the church in Antioch for missionary work by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2, 4). In their company is the young man John Mark. He is young and unprepared for the challenges they face; but taking him along is a key part of keeping the command to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). The trio will boldly go where men have gone before with the grace and gall of the gospel. Earlier in Luke’s account it was the scattering of Jewish believers after the persecution that arose over Stephen (Acts 8:1,4) that saw Jesus followers going to Cyprus preaching the word (Acts 11:19).
Figure 1: The First Missionary Journey of Paul and Barnabas
As they step out into this new work they have a curious practice of preaching the word of God in the synagogues before going to the Gentiles (Acts 13:5). Wait. Wasn’t Saul called to reach the Gentiles? (Acts 9:11-16) Isn’t this preaching to the choir? Not really. Although the Jews had been prepared for the coming of Messiah by the tutelage of the Law (Galatians 3:23-24), many do not realize that He has come in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. By going to the Jews first Barnabas and Saul (Romans 1:16; 2:9; 2:10) are making the most of two opportunities: (i) a season of harvest and (ii) securing help.
The Lord Jesus Christ does not begin his ministry with large revivals. In relative obscurity he recruits a few Jewish men to just be with him (Mark 3:14). They were ready to be recruited because of the preparation by John the Baptist. (It had always been God’s desire to use the Jews to reach and change the world. See Genesis 12:1-3.) Going to the synagogues first, then, was in keeping with an ancient plan to get the help of a people specially prepared to promote the gospel.
Are you a missionary? Are you an evangelist? Do not miss the timeless principles presented in the examples of Barnabas and Saul.
- First, always look for people that can become helps with the harvest (Matthew 9:37). That might mean visiting with local churches in the region you are reaching before trying enter a culture with the gospel. Key Question: Who has God been preparing to participate in this work?
- Second, do not miss your Mark; there may be people willing to help you as you go. As they go with you there are lessons being caught through your conduct and conversation. Key Question: Who does God want with me as I work?
- Third, work your way out. Before going to the ends of the earth trying going to the end of the block, the neighborhood, and the city that you are in. Key Question: Have we reached our own region before going remote?
Acts 13:9 As a Roman citizen, Paul would have had three names —praenomen, nomen gentile, and cognomen. Paulos (Παῦλος) was his cognomen. The apostle’s praenomen and nomen gentile have, unfortunately, not been preserved; the nomen gentile would have indicated the circumstances in which his family acquired Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28).
(Acts 13:8-10; John 16:7-11) The sorcerer thinks he is opposing a competing cult leader. Actually he is taking on the Holy Spirit; when Paul speaks to the opposition Luke says he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:9).
- The Spirit Uses Jesus Followers to Convict the World 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7–11, NKJV)
- The Spirit Uses Jesus Followers to Disclose Deception and Deal with the Devil 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. (Acts 5:3–5, NKJV)
- The Cause of Condemnation – Recognizing and Rejecting the Truth (Acts 13:11; John 3:19-20; 9:39) 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:19–20, NKJV)
- How He Handles Haters 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:39, NKJV)
Making the Most of a Moment (Acts 13:12)
Three things have come together for the conversion of the proconsul Sergius Paullus – (1) the problem of a false prophet, (2) the miraculous handling of the issue, and (3) the teaching of the Lord. This is a pattern in the narrative. Earlier the apostles Peter and John came across a lame beggar; the handicap of the beggar was the problem. Peter looked intently at the man and released the miracle of healing him (Acts 3:1-9); that was the miraculous handling of the issue. The miracle amazed the crowds (Acts 3:11). Back then the gathering of astounded people was a platform for preaching and teaching that led many to faith (Acts 4:4). It is happening again with Paul and Barnabas on the island of Cyprus. Do you see it? There are three parts in the pattern. Let us look at them.
The Problem of the False Prophet (Acts 13:8)
The proconsul had called for Barnabas and Paul seeking to hear the word of God (ἐπεζήτησεν ἀκοῦσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ). In the act of answering the call the missionaries encountered opposition – a false prophet connected to the proconsul. Barnabas and Paul had been sent by the Spirit and called by the Roman official. However, Elymas the sorcerer withstood them.
The Miraculous Handling of the Issue (Acts 13:9-11)
And then there is the attention grabber. In the rebuke of the false prophet Paul gets the attention of the proconsul (Acts 13:9-11). The sorcerer and deceiver Elymas had opposed the work of the Spirit (Acts 13:8). Now the false prophet was being used by the Spirit to show that the faith being presented by Paul is
(i) Excellent – The God and power in Paul is greater than what was being presented by the false prophet.
(ii) Exclusive (1 Samuel 5:1-5) – There is no peace or fellowship with Christianity and the mystics of this world, and
(iii) Extended – that Paul should be heard while there is a chance.
Teaching Time (Acts 13:12)
That brings us to the next part in the pattern. It is the teaching time. Paul did not waste what he had been given – the undivided attention of the Roman official. What did Paul do? He taught the proconsul. The teaching of Paul amazed the student. It changed him. How much? That brings us to the final part in the pattern. There is conversion. (This does not always happen.) As it is presented in the text the belief happened as a result of (1) the attention grabber and (2) the teaching time. It was all used by the Spirit to bring about faith in Jesus.
Is there a timeless principle and probing question here? I see at least one of each. The Spirit of the Lord works through moments both good and bad to get the attention of people. The same Spirit then works through the missionary to explain the gospel and exhort people to make a decision. Finally, the Spirit of the Lord causes the listening person to believe in Jesus. Paul and Barnabas have been called away from the comfort of fellowship in Antioch to a mission of making Jesus known. Along the way amazing moments, good and bad, are being used to get the attention of the people they will meet. As effective missionaries they use such moments to make Christ known. The question is, on my missionary journey what am I doing with my moments?
Here is a small action plan for making the most of your moments:
- Pray (Acts 13:3) – Ask God to show you how to make the most of your moments, to reveal the nature of your missionary journey, to lead your travels, and to help you deal with your own fears.
- Prepare (Acts 10:38) – Moments good and bad come upon us. But some of them can be made. Consider making some good moments and then using them as a platform to present Christ. In this time also spend time with Jesus learning the gospel so that you can share it effectively.
- Present (Acts 13:12) – When the moment comes turn the attention to Jesus. Present the gospel – the good news – to the person while you have their attention. Let the Lord do the rest.
Questions for Group Discussion
- Where is God sending you? If you do not believe he is sending you anywhere consider what happened in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit was sent out. The apostles and other Jesus followers went to their fellow Jews in that city with the gospel.
- Who is going with you? Jesus sent them out by twos. And, when possible, the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas include others. Who is going with you into the mission field? When you are tempted to say that you do not see anybody consider close family and friends.
- How are you going? Are you going in the context of work, in the missions of your organization, or as just a loving neighbor to those around you? Give some thought to how you can be intentional in your going.
In His grip by His grace,
Roderick L. Barnes