intimacy with god leads to missions with god
"While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, (a picture of worship/intimacy with God the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" (a picture of missions with God -so others can know Him and experience intimacy with Him and missions with Him. We can wrongly think of missions for Him rather than with Him. Note how Jesus was on missions with the Father. "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19) "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father." (John 8:38a). "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works." (John 14:10) "Abide in Me, and I in you (intimacy). As the branch cannot bear fruit (inward character and outward ministry/missions) of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)
Intimacy with God leads to a vision from God to carry out with God. If we try to carry out the vision God has given us without ongoing intimacy with Him we lose the power of God to fulfill His mission. Marriage is a good example of this idea. Spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy can lead to "being fruitful and multiplying" – having children. Husbands and wives have the joy and privilege of intimacy but are then called to spiritual and physical reproduction. On the other hand if the husband and wife focus all their time and energy on loving and serving their children and friends/disciples then the marriage loses its joy and power. Jesus even sent the disciples out two by two to show our need for interdependence both with God and with others.
When we read the Scriptures we are seeking to know the Person of God not just principles to live by. "When You said, "Seek My face," my heart said to You, "Your face, O LORD, I shall seek." (Psalm 27:8) From the beginning of the book of Acts (and the whole Bible) and to the end we see God's nature – relational intimacy within the Trinity and with His people, and His missionary heart as He is always seeking His lost children to gather them to His heart.
(See Map on last page). In Acts 13 we come to a new division in the focus of this book; chapters 1-12 were primarily focused on Peter and his ministry to the Jews in Jerusalem/Judea and chapters 13-28 are primarily focused on Paul (note his name change for Saul (Hebrew name) to Paul (Greek/Gentile name) as he begins his missionary journeys to reach Gentiles (although he always preaches first to the Jews in the synagogues within these Roman/Gentile cities.) As we look at God extending His salvation and love to "the utter ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8) let's not forget that Jesus later rebukes the church at Ephesus (planted by Paul during his missionary journeys) because they "left their first love" to do work for Him (versus with Him) and the work took precedence over intimacy with Him. (Rev. 2:1-6)
"So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John (Mark) as their helper." Barnabas was from Cyprus (Acts 4:36) and surely wanted his friends there to know Christ. Likewise, our family and friends are our first missionary outreach. Also he and Paul used what they shared in common with the Jews (their love for God and the OT Scriptures) to point them to the fulfillment of the OT Scriptures – Jesus their promised Messiah. Likewise we can use what we share in common with family and friends (family gatherings, shared hobbies/sports, deepening relationships at work through taking a personal interest in our co-workers, etc.) to lead them to Jesus.
"When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith." We can also expect opposition from Satan (see v.10) who works to blind people from seeing the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). God worked through Paul to temporarily blind Elymas as a sign to the proconsul that, along with God's Word, lead him to salvation. ["Elymas might be taken as a picture of the nation of Israel, not only unwilling to accept the Lord Jesus, but seeking to prevent others from doing so as well. As a result, Israel has been judicially blinded by God, but only for a time. Eventually a repentant remnant of the nation will turn to Jesus as Messiah and be converted." MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995,] Our most powerful weapon against Satan's lies is God's truth. God's Word has spiritual power! (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:17)
"Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down." There is a lot to note in these verses. Up until now Barnabas' name preceded Paul's (actually Saul but now changed to the Greek/Gentile name Paul) but now Paul's name precedes Barnabas' (in most cases) for the rest of Acts. Barnabas advocated for Saul/Paul when the apostles did not trust him (Acts 9:27) and mentored this new disciple of Christ until it was clear to him (and to Luke the writer of Acts) that Paul was to take the lead from here. We see Barnabas' servant heart and humility as an example for us as we mentor new disciples to help them reach their maturity in Christ. If God chooses to use them more than us we should be glad and certainly not jealous or competitive.
John Mark left Paul and Barnabas for some reason and later Paul refused to let him go on a mission trip with him because of this. But Barnabas once again advocates for the underdog and asks Mark to join him (Acts 15:37-39). Barnabas and Paul remain friends and later work together and Mark is reunited with Paul and is there with him near the end of his life as a cherished friend and worker. "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2 Tim. 4:11)
"But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." 16 Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen." Paul, like Stephen in Acts 7 rehearses the history of Israel and then shows them how the OT Scriptures point them to Jesus. He speaks of His sinless life (as the Lamb without blemish seen in Exodus), of His sacrificial death for forgiveness of sin (as seen in Isaiah 53 and other OT passages) and His resurrection from the dead for eternal life (as seen in Psalm 16). He also warns them from the OT not to scoff and doubt the truth that Jesus is Messiah. What a powerful message and one we need to share today. That all of us are sinners (Rom. 3:23) and need a perfect blood sacrifice (Jesus the Perfect Man) for forgiveness of sin and a resurrected Lord for eternal life- the hope and promise of heaven. Man must know the bad news before they want to hear the good news. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood."(Rom/ 3:23-25)
"When the Jews saw the crowds, (mainly Gentiles) they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. "Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 8 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. "The Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district." (See vv.44-52)
Beginning with Paul's first missionary journey seen here to the end of the book of Acts we see the church going from a primarily Jewish church to a primarily Gentile church. Thanks to God's missionary heart the gospel moved outside of Jerusalem and Judea to the utter ends of the earth and reached you and me. But as God used Paul and Barnabas then, He calls you and me now to be on mission with Him as He seeks out His lost children to gather them to His heart.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1) Based on vv. 2-3 who does God call to go on mission with Him? What qualifications does He look for?
2) Intimacy with God leads to missions with God. How did Jesus model this truth? How did He communicate this truth to us (John 15:5)?
3) Rate yourself on 1) intimacy with God and 2) being on mission with God. (1- low; 10- high) How can you grow in each of these?
4) Where did Barnabas and Paul begin their missionary journeys and what is the lesson for us?
5) Paul by the Spirit dealt strongly with Elymas (and Satan) and kept the door of the gospel open to the proconsul. What is the most powerful weapon we can use to deal with Satan? How did Jesus model this when He defeated Satan?
6) What are we to learn from Barnabas' example in relating to Paul and his example seen in other portions of Acts?
7) How did Paul use the OT Scriptures to present the gospel? Do you know and use the OT Scriptures to lead people to Jesus?
8) Do you want to be like Paul – a man on mission with God? What would that look like in your life today?
http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/pauls-first-journey-map.html (See for map).