The book of Acts is a marvellous book to study. it is a book of action. It is the book which presents to us the great establishing of God’s new regime; the church. The church starts in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and spreads as a living organism through the known world.
The first twelve chapters, in many ways, lay the foundations for the work of the Lord’s grace down the ages to the Lord’s return. In these chapters the work of God is established in all groups of people. From starting out as a Jewish entity by the end of chapter twelve the church has well and truly become an entity where all are accepted into the same group. Jews and Gentiles of whatever, race and background come together as one on the basis of being accepted by God through faith in Jesus Christ.
In chapter 13 there is a transition. Paul and Barnabas are set apart (see vv1-3) to be the chief leaders in bringing forward, under God, the spread of this church. I want then briefly to look at what happens in ch 13 vv4-12 as the work of God begins to move forward and outwards:
- The Holy Spirit works through the church. In v3 we read that “So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. the church sent Paul and Barnabas off to their new ministry,” However, in v4a we read “The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit. ” So we ask who did the sending? The church and the Holy Spirit did. The Holy Spirit works through the church to move forward his work. It is essential to remember this as we engage in the work of the Lord’s grace. The Holy Spirit works with and through the church. This is the normal way of God’s workings.
- They preached the Word of God. in v5 we hear that “They proclaimed the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues,” Their priority in starting out in mission was to preach the Word of God. And so it should be for us. The Word of God should have priority.
- Strange things happen and strange people appear. There is a Jewish man who is a sorcerer. We might say what is he doing there? A Jewish man involved in sorcery; that cannot be! And not only that he was a false prophet as well (see v6). For the Jews, a sorcerer and a false prophet should have had been completely rejected, but there he was. There are many things that are not explainable, Paul and Barnabas are not preoccupied by this strange development; they get on with the work. Yes, they rebuke him (see vv9-11), but this was because they were set on the Word going forward to the proconsul. We need to be fixed on getting on with the work ourselves. Odd things happen and incongruous situations transpire, but these should not divert us. We must continue with the work of getting the Word out.
- However, there is an intelligent man there who wants to hear the Word (see v7). Truly intelligent men always want to truly hear the Word. People may have a poor intellect, but if they want the Word they are intelligent. Let us be praying that we find them.
- Barnabas and Saul were together and known to be together. In v7 the pro-consul called for both of them. It is good to work in fellowship with others.
In these verses we see certain patterns set for how the work of God will progress to the nations through the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. In many ways patterns are set that do well to follow today. In our ministry we should have the same priorities of Paul and Barnabas:
- Fellowship with the Lord’s Church.
- Dependence on the Holy Spirit working through the church.
- Preaching the Word.
- Not being diverted from the ministry.
- Finding “intelligent” men.
- Working with other godly believers.