We are called. We are sent: Taking our Savior’s Gospel to the end of the world requires us to change as well as requiring the Church to change. God has given each of us has the opportunity to change and grow until our very last breath.
Every living thing must change to survive and fulfill its purpose.
Change is absolutely necessary to life.
If we choose or decide we are unwilling and we steadfastly refuse to change, what we do is we elect to live the balance of life in stagnation.
Many lives could be drastically improved if people would only embrace change.
To change, first there must absolutely be a change of heart, body, soul, mind, a change attitude, an acceptance of change of lifestyle and a change of direction.
The church at Jerusalem had begun a good work but were slow to embrace change.
Yes, they willingly sent representatives to Samaria and then to Antioch, but control was limited.
The church at Jerusalem was basically a Jewish congregation whose background limited their vision for expansion.
Yet the church with a vison for worldwide ministry, must embrace a broader vision.
The book of Acts can be divided into three areas: The ministry of the church at Jerusalem, the ministry of the Church at Samaria and Antioch, and the ministry of the church to the world.
In today’s devotional lesson, we see the early church in transition. This is the beginning of missionary ministry to spread of the gospel message around the known world. Paul now replaces Peter as the central figure in the book of Acts.
This lesson begins the first of the Apostle Paul’s three missionary journeys.
After delivering the famine relief money to the elders at Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch.
They took with them John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas.
The Church at Antioch now became the base of operation for Paul’s missionary ministry.
Jerusalem was still the mother church, but the missionary church was Antioch.
The Mother Church was basically Jewish, but the Missionary church was filled with men of diverse background.
Two things stand out about this diverse church.
First, they were people committed to the leading and working of the Holy Spirit, and secondly, they were Spirit gifted prophets, teachers who gave themselves to humility, prayer and fasting, seeking God’s will for the next move of the church.
These prophets and teachers disciplined themselves, were actively seeking out God’s will for their callings, Ministry plan, Missional direction for the Church.
What is the plan?
What is the next move?
Read Acts 13:2
2 While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.”
The Holy Spirit of God was preparing people, getting people ready to take His Church and their calling their ministry and their mission unto the next level.
“Take it to the Next Level!”
Today that phrase has become a common expression.
What does it mean?
What does it require?
Do we have the right stuff to take ministry to the next level?
The church at Antioch was positioned to take the gospel to the next level.
Acts 1:8 Amplified Bible
8 But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”
In the book of Acts, Chapters 1-7 deals with the gospel in the city of Jerusalem.
Chapters 8-12 Learning whom God has “Set Apart,” “Called and will be Sent.”
Being introduced to who the “major players” of the early church, tasked with the Mission and Ministry, taking and proclaiming and teaching the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ “into, unto the whole world”- into Judea and Samaria.
Chapter 13 marks the beginning of Mission and Ministry taking the gospel unto the utmost part of the world, the whole earth.
Chapter 13 marks a clear change in the direction of the church.
They had one Message – the unchanging truth of the Word of God.
The church at Antioch were willing to take that unchanging truth into the “known world,” to communicate change, embrace Christ, embrace change.
Many of us realize that change inevitable.
Growing and maturing things must inevitably embrace change.
The Church must embrace change to survive and fulfill their purpose.
Embracing Christ, embracing change is necessary for the life of the church.
If the church is unwilling to embrace their Savior Jesus Christ, embrace change, she elects to embrace the world, live the balance of her existence in stagnation.
Many Churches could drastically improve their outreach, if only they would embrace their Savior Jesus Christ and embrace the change, He gave His life for.
Embracing real change means really embracing a change of mind, a change of attitude, a change of style and sometimes even their environment or location.
The early church at Jerusalem had begun a good work, it would always be the foundation, they were embracing their Savior and God was now on the move.
Now once again, the church must embrace change because God is on the move.
Remember unchanging, relentless God is always and forever is on the move.
God still on mission and His church still has a mandate.
In the early days of Christianity, Jerusalem was the center of operations.
But now God is moving his center of operations to Antioch.
Why would God move the headquarters, his center of operations?
Many historians and Bible scholars say that the Church at Jerusalem were narrow and restrictive in its focus.
They were unsure about the limitations of the gospel message.
They were perhaps too reluctant to move too fast because they were unsure of what it meant, how mightily it would genuinely impact their personal futures.
God simply moved on. God always moves on when a church loses its missions mindedness and compassion for souls.
Many today have lost their mission mindedness, thinking only of themselves, pursuing self-gratification.
Many “pew warmers” fail to realize that the fulfilment they seek, the joy they hunger for is found is found beyond the dust in their pews, in obeying the call of Holy Spirit, giving instead of receiving. That’s another lesson for another time.
Antioch was a newly formed nimble church, so God choose to use it as the launching pad to take ministry to the next level!
Throughout history, God’s mission has been to take the Gospel message to the whole world that all could be saved.
The book of Acts reveals God’s pattern for advances His mission and expanding His Church.
God had “set apart” and chose to use these men – Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Peter.
God began at Jerusalem with a small group of men, but they became narrow in their focus and God moved on.
Then a fresh move of God began at Antioch with a small group of multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic men, “Set Apart” “Called and Sent” to be His servants.
God selected men who accepted the call and embraced His mission.
There are several things that positioned the Church for missionary ministry.
First, they were called out by God.
Not every believer, follower in the church at Antioch would or could be used for this special kingdom Expansion.
Acts 13:2Amplified Bible
2 While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.”
God selected Barnabas, a Levite from the island of Cyprus, cousin to John Mark.
The name Barnabas means “son of Consolation” or “son of exhortation.”
When we first learn of him, Barnabas had moved to Jerusalem, and acquired property there.
He sold “a field,” and contributed its price to the support of the poorer members of the church at Jerusalem.
His unique gifts would be extremely valuable in carrying gospel to unknown regions of the world.
Then God selected Rabbi Saul, a brilliant scholar and Pharisee fully devoted to God, maximumly zealous for the Word of God, for God’s full, complete truth.
On the Damascus Road, the Resurrected Jesus Himself touched Saul’s eyes.
Completely blinded and helpless, Saul rested, fasted and prayed for three days.
Jesus himself called and sent his servant Ananias to Saul/Paul, to touch his eyes and release him from his sudden condition of blindness. (Acts 9:10-17)
10 Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called [a]Straight, and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul; for he is praying [there], 12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him, so that he may regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, especially how much suffering and evil he has brought on Your saints (God’s people) at Jerusalem; 14 and here [in Damascus] he has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on Your name [confessing You as Savior].” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a [deliberately] chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will make clear to him how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came [to Damascus], has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles].”
Saul became Paul the apostle to the Gentiles who speaks several languages.
Acts 9:18-25 Amplified
18 Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took some food and was strengthened.
Saul Begins to Preach Christ
For several days [afterward] Saul remained with the disciples who were at Damascus. 20 And immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “This Man is the Son of God [the promised Messiah]!” 21 All those who heard him continued to be amazed and said, “Is this not the man who in Jerusalem attacked those who called on this name [of Jesus], and had come here [to Damascus] for the express purpose of bringing them bound [with chains] before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed).
Paul was a visionary Christian statesman and strong evangelist with the shepherd heart.
Paul grew up as a prominent citizen of Tarsus.
The city of Tarsus surpassed all other universities, such as Alexandria and Athens, in the study of philosophy and educational literature.
Paul was a well-educated, free born Jew with an expanded world view.
God selected, “Set Apart,” these two men for this special assignment.
In our zeal to share the gospel, we will sometimes seriously underestimate the importance of the call of God upon our lives.
God had uniquely gifted Barnabas and Paul for the beginning phrase of this ministry expansion.
They were uniquely gifted with the right educational background, linguistics skills, openness with a consuming desire, physical strength and the spiritual sensitivity necessary for this critically essential, vitally important assignment.
I believe all the men in the church at Antioch were gifted, but not all were chosen for this special assignment.
Not all believers can do effective street ministry.
Not all ministers can plant new churches and new faith communities.
As the saying goes,
“If God guides, He will provide.
If it’s God’s choice, it’s God invoice.
If it’s God’s will, then its Gods bill.”
The church at Antioch prayed and fasted, and then God selected Barnabas and Paul for the new expansion of the growing and maturing church.
A side note, John Mark, who was a cousin to Barnabas chose to accompany them on their journey soon became homesick and turn back.
Not everyone can be used in the pioneering stage of laying the groundwork for new ministry.
God must select them.
To be commissioned, often “seasoned” for ministry and missions,
we must be prayerfully open to the timing of the Holy Spirit.
1. These Believers Were Prayerfully Open.
The Believers at Antioch was open to God. They were opened to one another, and they were opened to Change.
This church did not follow the exact pattern of the Church at Jerusalem.
They used a leadership team of prophets and teachers to guide the church.
They all expected to hear from God.
They understood and appreciated their Jewish background but did not allow it to hinder the flow of the Spirit.
They were opened to one another, appreciating the gifts and abilities of one another.
Even though they were enjoying the fellowship, they were opened to the Holy Spirit.
If we are going to be commissioned for ministry, we must be prayerfully open.
If we are going to be commissioned for mission, we must be prayerfully open.
Acts 13:1, 2a Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said….
Isaiah 43:18, 19 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
This church was willing to embrace God was definitely doing something new.
There are still some new things in God.
God has new styles, new approaches, new songs, and even new dances.
God never changes, compromises his standards, but his methods often change.
Message and the mission are the same, but the methods always changed.
Transportation is still transportation, but the methods of transportation has changed.
Church is still the church, but its methods of reaching the masses have changed and will always and must continually and must continuously change.
If we are going to be “called and sent,” “set apart,” used today (2022), we must embrace new effective methods of spreading the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, the church uses simple and complex websites, social media, podcast, radio, television, books, tapes and CDs, DVD’s a monthly, quarterly newsletter, giant screens, multi-media, power point and a host of other techno things.
Ministers are using every available means to spread the gospel.
I believed Jesus would be using everything at his disposal, so did Paul and Peter.
The Church at Antioch was open to new things.
The church must remember to gather to glean and then scatter to sow.
There is a time to gathering to learn and grow.
However, there must also be a time to scatter and sow.
There must also be a time of harvesting what was sowed and for gleaning.
The church at Antioch was open to God and it was also open to one another.
2. These Believers Recognized God’s Voice, Embraced the Door of Opportunity
Acts 13:2 “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”
The Church at Antioch was able to recognize God’s voice and embrace this new door of opportunity.
They did not see their church as an end.
Their church was a means to an end.
God was calling leading members of their church to enter new harvest fields of kingdom enterprise.
It would be a ministerial opportunity and missionary journey fraught with great risks, with little creature comfort, long days, long walks, sleepless nights, much opposition, relentless persecution, and threats of great suffering – even death.
It was an assignment full of possibilities.
Barnabas and Paul saw it as a great door of opportunity.
1Corinthians 16:9 Paul describes his work, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”
Paul recognized it as “a great door for effective work.”
We too must be prayerfully open to see the wonderful doors of opportunity in our generation.
This commission would take these believers to many major cities and regions like Corinth, Ephesus, and Macedonia.
God working with them confirming his word with signs and wonders.
These were areas where few Christians would venture.
Some cities were major financial and commercial center, rich and cultured.
These cities were full of idolatry, wonders of the ancient world filled with immorality, polytheism and legalized prostitution.
Yet Paul saw these cities with thousands of lost souls as opportunities for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The difference between a pessimist and an optimist is that a pessimist sees a problem in every opportunity…an optimist sees opportunity in every problem.
God provides gifted ministers and wonderful ministry opportunities that lives can be touched with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Each believer must catch the vision of reaching the lost in their personal world, seize the opportunities by sharing the gospel with other as the Holy Spirit leads.
Are you and I ready to do our part in this kingdom of God enterprise?
I pray you and I will embrace Christ’s voice and embrace our opportunities.
3. These Believers Accepted the Challenge as Their Life’s Obligation.
Acts 13:3Amplified Bible
3 Then after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them [in approval and dedication] and sent them away [on their first journey].
The believers at Antioch embraced this new call of God as their life obligation.
Barnabas and Paul became spiritual debtors.
When the church had prayed for them and laid hands on them, they release them to the work of ministry and mission.
Barnabas and Paul accepted their new assignment as a divine obligation to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
I wonder if believers today feel an obligation to take the gospel to the world?
Or do most believers step back and decide to leave it to the ordained clergy?
It is wise here to carefully note there was no ordained clergy in the church at Antioch, just prayerful believers who took the great commission seriously.
Every believer has a vital part to play in carrying the gospel to all the world.
If you cannot go, at least assist in sending some faithful evangelist.
These believers accepted their ministry and mission as their life’s obligation.
Each and every believer has been uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit to fulfill their respective roles in the kingdom.
I cannot do your part of the work for you, and you cannot do my part of the work for me.
We are all “set apart” “called and sent and commissioned” to do God’s work.
Paul didn’t say here that “a great door” had opened for Barnabas and Timothy.
Paul said, “a great door has been open unto me.”
He felt the obligation.
He was obligated to God, to the church that sent him and unto the lost people everywhere.
Paul embraced the mission and did the work. God is still opening doors, but it is our responsibility to go through them.
Do we really care what happens to the unsaved people around us?
Barnabas and Paul embraced the challenge by declaring, “Yes, we care and yes we can!”
The church at Antioch was positioned, was “set apart” “called and sent and commissioned” for missionary ministry because they were prayerfully open: open to God, Savior Jesus, the Spirit, open to change, and open to one another.
The church was positioned for ministry because they recognized the voice of God and His door of opportunity.
The need was great, the crowds were massive, and the laborers were few.
This church answered the call.
They embraced the mission and accepted the challenge as an obligation.
Each person accepted their assignment as an obligation. Paul felt himself a debtor to Christ for all the grace he had received. Regardless of the opposition, Paul was willing to press on. He was willing to face opposition if necessary.
Romans 1:14-17Amplified Bible
14 I have a duty to perform and a debt to pay both to Greeks and to barbarians [the cultured and the uncultured], both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am ready and eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation [from His wrath and punishment] to everyone who believes [in Christ as Savior], to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed in a way that awakens more faith]. As it is written and forever remains written, “The just and upright shall live by faith.”
4. These Believers Faced the Problems but Saw Possibility in Every Problem.
They move in faith, willingly faced every problem because they could see the possibility.
Whenever God moves, there are always people who want to oppose Him.
Some oppose the work of God without realizing what they are doing.
Others knowingly oppose the word of God and good.
The first problem, Barnabas and Paul was Elymas, a sorcerer who withstood the faith and the Message of the gospel.
Later, at Ephesus, it was open opposition from the worshippers of Diana and businessmen who made their living by selling idols of Diana.
Opposition will always come from outside forces that resist the advancement of Christ and His Kingdom message.
Then came opposition from within the movement.
Immature Christians who will oppose other Christians because of the lack of knowledge.
Paul and Barnabas were opposed by Jewish Christians who should have been glad to see the spread of this new movement.
God was working among the Gentiles was a concept that many Christian Jews could not receive.
Barnabas and Paul pressed on because the saw the possibility in every problem and in every sin darkened soul when Savior Christ was added to their kingdom.
But perhaps the worst opponents of the gospel today, we face is not persecution from our enemies from without or within,
but its nominal Christians who hear the messages, understand the mission, see lost people, but do nothing, “waiting for all those others” to make a difference.
Those who never ask themselves, “What am I doing to make a real difference in our church, our community, our work, our school?”
Am I really a soldier of the cross? Maybe it is time to Re-Think our assignment.
Those commissioned for the mission are:
Christians prayerfully open to God,
Christians prayerfully open to change,
Christians who are prayerfully open to one another;
Christians, who are recognizing the voice of God,
Christians who are recognizing His door of opportunity is always open,
Christians who always see the need, value people and will seize the moment.
Christians who are positioned for ministry will embraced the opportunity and accept the challenge as an obligation.
Finally, Christian believers must expect opposition and be willing to labor and work and press on towards the upward goal of Christ, despite the opposition.
All kinds of doors will always be open before sincere Christians.
Christians must be disciplined, must prayerfully consider every opportunity.
Some are just distractions.
Others are good ideas masquerading as God ideas designed to consume precious resources.
There will be always and forever be opponents, from within and without, but Christians should neither meditate nor ponder on the problem, they must seize the opportunities within the problem, embrace the greater truth of their Savior.
Christian must choose to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
I choose to do my part!
I choose to be open to the Holy Spirit and to other Christians;
I seek to hear God’s voice and recognize His doors of opportunity:
I choose to embrace that opportunity as a divine obligation;
and I choose to do my part in the Kingdom of God even in the face of opposition.
1 Corinthians 15:58Amplified Bible
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].
As born-again, baptized believers we are “set apart.” by God.
As born-again baptized believers we are “called and sent” by God.
As born-again baptized believers we are commissioned for ministry.
As born-again baptized believers we are commissioned for missions.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
All-Knowing God, thank you that you are our shield and strength. Your word says that you will bless your church abundantly. Please protect our church leaders, both ordained and laity, from attack and fill them with fresh vision as they labor to shepherd your people. Strengthen their spirit and restore their souls through the work of your Holy Spirit. May they find rest in your loving care. May the love of the Father, the tenderness of the Son, and the presence and intercession of the Holy Spirit, quicken, gladden our hearts and bring peace unto our souls, today and for all days. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior, Gloria! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.