GOD ESTABLISHES HIS CHURCH IN THE WORLD
Sent Out by the Holy Spirit
Jerry A Collins
ō Does the Holy Spirit call us to a ministry?
ō When does God extend our ministry?
ō Why do we experience opposition to our ministry?
While we plan, pray and prepare for ministry, it is the Holy Spirit who places us in it.† The first is our job and the other is Godís job.† We should constantly be preparing, praying and planning for ministry while the Holy Spirit provides ministry for us to do and more of it as we develop our ability and experience in it. Acts 13 marks a turning point in ministry. The first 12 chapters has focused on Peterís ministry and the remaining will be on Paulís ministry. The emphasis has been on the Jerusalem church and now on the spreading of the church throughout the Roman world. It is the Holy Spirit who provides both ministries and sovereignty directs the ministry they are doing and will do. He still does the same today.
First, we learn that God places a premium on spiritual leadership. The five men mentioned in verse 1 were the heart of the ministry in Antioch. This group is described as prophets and teachers. Both descriptions identify their ministry as primarily proclaiming and teaching the Word of God. It was thru this ministry that the church was being built up in faith. If they are listed in order of prominence or experience, observe that the first and the last are taken, vs. 2 and the middle three are left. That means that Barnabas seems to have been the leader here while Paul was the newcomer. Up to this point Barnabas has always been mentioned ahead of Saul implying precedence of some kind. Both of them brot their unique Christian experience to their ministry. Simeon called Niger was an African, Lucius of Cyrene in North Africa and Manaen who was reared in Herod the Greats household along with Herod Antipas. The church, believers, in Antioch was cosmopolitan with leaders from many lands and variety of backgrounds. They had learned to serve together because they were together in Christ. Contrast this with the church in Jerusalem which was Jewish and focused on her Jewishness. Second, it was while these men were serving that God redirected them vs. 2. Their ministry was not to a congregation but to the Lord. It is crucial to understand that God is the audience for all spiritual ministry we do not people. If our goal is ministering to people we may be tempted to compromise to achieve that. Making God the object of our ministry will eliminate that temptation (2 Tim 2:15). The combination of ministering and fasting conveys self denial and sacrificial dedication to the Lord. This is the spiritual atmosphere in which the call of God can be heard. Third, spiritual men with effective spiritual ministry will see God extend their spiritual mission vs. 2-3. God chooses for further ministry those already actively serving Him. God is not likely to take idle Christians down from the shelf, dust them off, and entrust them with important work. Saul and Barnabas had been deeply involved in ministering to the Lord when their call for further service came. God chose experienced, proven men for this important mission to the Gentiles. This call was not the outcome of a working agreement between these men. It was a call thru the direct agency of the HS. None can call us to our work for God but the HS. A church cannot do it, nor any group of gifted spiritual leaders--but the Spirit alone. Here the HS speaks with sovereign authority. It is not separate to God but separate to Me. It is not the work the Lord has called them but the work to which I have called them. The HS is God and within the church He acts in divine authority and calls as He wills. There are three results this call produces in these men:
(1) Fresh dependence upon the Lord† and when they had fasted and prayed vs. 3. They had been doing this and after this call they do it again. Ministry God calls you to is ministry that will bring you to your knees because without Godís help it cannot be done effectively. God given ministry always produces a†† need†† for dependence upon God to do it.†††††††† (2) The full agreement with the Lord† and laid their hands on them.†††† This simply
signified identification as a sign of consent and fellowship and agreement in this thing. (3) Faithful obedience to the Lord† they sent them away. They released them from their duties in Antioch so they could be available for this new work. These are the only proper responses when one receives a call for ministry to the Lord.†
Fourth, God initiates the ministry of His church in the world. The sovereignty of the HS is prominent as already noted in vs. 1-3. (a) It becomes evident again in vs. 9 when the Spirit does not permit a Satanic agent to succeed in turning aside a seeker after the truth. (b) The Spiritís sovereignty chooses to perform a miracle thru Saul who becomes Paul vs. 11. Paul has been mentioned second up to this point but now comes to take precedence. God now lays His hand on His chosen vessel to the Gentiles. His first known convert is Sergius Paul, typical of the Gentiles to whom Paul will go vs. 12. Both of these incidents are orchestrated by the HS. While we are doing ministry and available and prepared for more of it, the HS is ordering and orchestrating the circumstances and situations which will make that ministry effective. That is His job. For Paul that meant going to Cyprus first to the synagogues as was his custom in each place he traveled vs. 4-5. This began the 1st missionary journey and John Mark, Barnabasís cousin traveled with them vs. 5.
Fifth, God-given ministry will be successful in spite of opposition to it vs. 6-12. This passage is typical of the Gentile ministry toi which Paul had been called. (a) Sergius Paulus was an understanding man vs. 7, in contrats to the blindness of this Jewish opponent (typical of the spiritual blindness of Jews). God will go to the prudent gentile rather than the blind Jew. (b) Bar-Jesus typical of Jewish opposition to Gentile faith which becomes evident from this point on (13:45). (c We find in Sergious Paulas and Elymas the typical seeker after and opponent of the truth. The latter afflicted by mist and at last darkness unable to guide himself dependent upon man for direction. The blinding of the false prophet opened the eyes of a seeker. The seeker sees and believes the truth.
(1) God plans and provides ministry for us to do.
(2) We prepare and pray for the ministry God has for us to do.
(3) This ministry will be effective and successful.
(4) God will give us more ministry to do as we are faithful in the ministry we already have.