Saturday, August 12, 2017

170813 Faith, Love and Hope

1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
I have chosen to begin our study of Paul’s relationship to the churches by looking at the first letters that he wrote instead of the first churches he founded. On his first missionary journey he and Barnabas ministered among the Galatian people. It was on his second journey that Paul traveled to Thessalonica. Paul wrote at least 13 letters and the Thessalonian letters were probably the first. He had been driven out of the city by jealous religious leaders and he wrote the letters in Corinth to encourage the Thessalonians. He assured them that he was…
Praying constantly. Let’s look at the next verse 1 Thessalonians 1:2. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
What kind of thanks did Paul give for the Thessalonians? Looking down to verse four we see that Paul rejoices that God has chosen them. In the second letter Paul states that he was bound to give thanks for them because God chose them from the beginning to be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:13). We too should praise God for the people he is choosing in our communities and around the world. We cannot praise people for being saved because we know that salvation is ultimately due to God’s choice not ours. We need to constantly be praying for those whom God has chosen to step forward and acknowledge Christ. For those who think prayer should be short and sweet we have the words of Jesus found in…
 Luke 18:1-5 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ”
We are reminded that twice Moses stayed alone with God on the mountaintop praying for the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 9:25-26; 10:10-11). Jacob wrestled with God all night seeking his blessing (Genesis 22:26). Jesus himself often withdrew and at times prayed all night (Luke 6:12). So he teaches us to be encouraged by our ability to pray continuously. When we are seeking God’s wisdom on a particular matter we should repeatedly bring the subject up with him in prayer. Paul, himself, pleaded with the Lord three times that his thorn in the flesh should be taken away (2 Corinthians 12:8). And then, of course, Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane asking the Father to remove the cup of suffering and separation from him (Mark 14:36-40).
Paul was following in an excellent tradition when he constantly praised God and prayed for the Thessalonian Christians. Part of his praise was…
Remembering their faith. Let’s look ahead to 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.
In chapter 1, verse three, Paul speaks of their “work of faith” by the choice of his words he indicates that faith is not some simple thing. In order for us to exercise faith we have to work against all the forces of this world and our flesh, strengthened by the devil, our spiritual enemy.
In the middle of the first letter we see that Timothy has brought a good report to Paul concerning their faith. Being separated from them caused him to be anxious about their spiritual needs and growth. With this report from Timothy he could stop being anxious and instead be comforted because of their faith.
Paul was also…
Remembering their love. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9. Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
Obviously these new believers in Christ were able to work at their faith and then, note the change in the word, “labor” of love. We should all recognize that love should not be taken for granted — instead love should be worked at.
It is encouraging to me that Paul’s gospel fit the pattern established by Jesus. Jesus had told his disciples to love one another as evidence of their faith in him (John 13:35). Loving one another is evidence of the work of God in our lives. At the same time, we need to make an effort to show love. Today, many people, when they speak of love, speak of it as a noun. The word offered to us most often in Scripture that is translated “love” is a verb. Or as Don Francisco would have it, “Love is not a feeling it’s an act of your will!”
Now, let’s consider what loving action will result in. When you act lovingly you will ultimately feel a feeling of love that is the result of your choices. When we choose to love one another an outgrowth of that choice will be feeling love for one another. Paul would later write to the Corinthians telling them to, “Pursue love” over spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1).
As Paul was remembering their faith and labor of love he was…
Encouraged by their hope. Let’s look at 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Right through the Thessalonian letters we find this emphasis. Faith and love result in hope! The grace of God granted to us through our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father gives us hope to continue lives of faith. The kind of hope that is built on our relationship to God, through Christ, is steadfast and sure. And that kind of hope always gives us comfort and peace in this life.
Faith, love and hope guides us towards…
Following a godly pattern. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
When Paul preached to the Thessalonians he reminded them that God will lead them in the truth. It wasn’t just a matter of speaking the gospel there was a need for Holy Spirit conviction. That might occur in many ways! There could be miracles of healing and deliverance. There should be the miracle of changed lives. There will be a desire to imitate those who have shared the gospel with us. Not practice an imitation faith but pattern our faith after those who have taught us.
Many years later Paul would write to Timothy and tell him to take what he had learned from Paul and teach it to those around him so that they would then be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul did not hesitate to say, in many different ways, “If you are having difficulty in the Christian walk, follow my example until it becomes your pattern of life.” (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:7 are a few examples).
This confidence these new Christians were gaining allowed them to begin the process of…
Spreading the gospel to their neighbors. Let’s read on 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
One evidence of salvation in a person’s life is the desire to tell others. One example we can look to is what happened when Jesus delivered the man who had 1000 demons from his bondage. He, quite naturally, wanted to stay with Jesus and enjoy his presence. However, Jesus did not allow him to do that. Instead, he said to him “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)
There are so many examples that we can turn to. An example that has always fascinated me is that of the Karen people in Burma, or Myanmar as it is now called, when our missionaries first went there they concentrated their efforts on the ruling class and ignored the many tribes out in the hill country. The Karen people had always known a story that a white man would come and bring a book to tell them about the eternal God!
Adoniram Judson had been confronted by a wild tribesman who was known to be a murderer and thief. Over a period of time Judson led this man to faith in Christ. However, he continued his effort to reach the upper class.
When a new missionary couple arrived, George and Sarah Boardman, they took on this wild man and began teaching him how to grow in Christ. When the Boardman’s moved out into the country to live the man whose name was, Ko Thah-byu, begged to go with them. He asked Boardman to baptize him and then he set out on a journey into the hills of southern Burma. As he entered each village he preached the gospel and virtually every person who heard it repented of their sin and turned to the Lord Jesus Christ! Very soon Boardman was being asked by the hill tribes to come and teach them! He was amazed to find village after village with many believers and a building set aside to worship God.
The Thessalonians had heard the gospel and made it their responsibility to carry the gospel all across what is modern day Greece. It was then known as Macedonia and Achaia. Paul had left behind a small embattled group of believers and when he wrote his two letters to them they had already been busy carrying the gospel to all the surrounding countryside even though they were constantly being opposed.
Their faith, love and hope caused them to be…
Looking forward to the coming of Christ. Let’s go back to the beginning and see what was said to the disciples after Jesus ascended into heaven. Acts 1:10-11 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus had told the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). To the amazement of the angels, these men did not begin looking for a way to fulfill the command! Instead, they settled into Jerusalem and only left when severe persecution came upon them. The angels could ask, “why do you stand looking into heaven?” So far as they were concerned, “Go” meant “Go”!
The Thessalonians caught on quickly and became witnesses to their city and all of the surrounding areas.
Next week, God willing, we will look at the letters of Paul to the Thessalonians. Since they were his first letters they’re going to teach us what he emphasized in his early preaching. Later, his writing would become more theologically mature. However, we must remember that all of the preserved writings of Paul and the other apostles are inspired Scripture. From Paul’s writings inspired by the Holy Spirit we learn that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We come to know that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Have you put your faith in him that is your only hope of eternal life and a home in heaven when you die.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Monday, August 7, 2017

170806 Remember the Source

Deuteronomy 6:10-15 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.
The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last message to his people before he was taken up into heaven. He was concerned that Israel would forget who provided for them. He was especially concerned that the people would begin to believe their material wealth came from their own hand. As God’s Holy Spirit guided Moses he warned his people about turning away from God. The negative consequences of such a decision include much suffering, a return to slavery, and even death.
It is hard for me to imagine how the Hebrew people could forget all that they had seen. The ones that Moses were writing to where the children of the ones who came out of Egypt. Many of them might have witnessed the events in Egypt as children. After they came into the desert they found God was able to take care of them in every way. If they needed to take care -- who had seen with their own eyes that God could supply their needs -- we are certainly in danger. By our lifestyles we seem to be saying that God is not capable of taking care of us. Since Moses was deeply concerned for the future safety of his people…
The warning is issued a second time. Let’s move on to Deuteronomy 8:11-14. “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,
Take care! You must not forget that God is your supply. How would they forget him? By failing to keep his commandments, his rules, and his laws. Going from the desert into the land of Canaan would change them from a very poor nation to an exceptionally wealthy one. When God drove the people out of the land there would be left behind houses, herds, flocks as well as much material wealth. These people might very well forget that they did not earn any of this but they received it as a gift.
Folks! The possibility put forth by Moses is a very real possibility today. People who obey God in financial matters will always be blessed financially as well as spiritually. It is an easy thing to fall into Satan’s trap. It is easy to begin to think that we have earned it. Remember anything that we have we have because of God’s goodness toward us. We must never forget! James, our Lord’s brother, said, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” James 1:17
It was God who led them through the desert. It was God who delivered them from the serpents and scorpions. It was God who took them through a dry and thirsty desert. It was God who provided for them meat to eat when they complained. It was God who provided the bread of angels (Psalm 78:25). So as Moses goes ahead. He issued one warning and then a second…
And a third time with harsher consequences. That’s look as God raises the stakes Deuteronomy 8:18-20. You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.
They are warned again against forgetting God. If Israel forgot God they faced the possibility that they would be put back into slavery.
Moses wanted them to understand the danger they were in. Not only might they face losing many of the material things that they would receive. Not only would they suffer sickness and disease, even death! If they did not walk with God he would return them to slavery. He had waited 400 years for the iniquity of the Amorites to be complete before he would consider removing them from the land. If Israel should choose to forget God they would equally be removed from the land. How were they to avoid the traps that lay ahead of them?
Israel knew that God owned all things. Let’s look at Leviticus 27:30-31.  “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it.
The tithe was not a tax on the people it was the evidence that God owned everything. Returning the tithe to God was an acknowledgment that God owned all. Certainly God did not need their money nor does he need ours! We need to give evidence that everything we have belongs to God. We have to be careful, just as they did, to remember that God is in charge. We need to give God the tithe and then some more because we are under grace not under the law.
God had given them the command to tithe while they were in the wilderness and instructed them to teach their children what this is all about (Deuteronomy 6:7). Time and again Israel failed to fulfill the basic obligation of teaching their children. The people of Israel did not faithfully follow the book that Moses gave them. In fact, we are told that during the reign of Josiah they found the Book that apparently have been lost for generations. Restoring the Book to its proper place led to a revival. If we will do the same in our lives God will bless us with a revival.
They had the law of God…
Yet, they were unfaithful. Let’s turn to Malachi 3:8-11. Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.
The Old Testament wraps up with the words of the prophet Malachi. Soon after the Temple was rebuilt Malachi called the people to repentance. He saw that the priests were offering polluted sacrifices. He called for repentance. Malachi points out the need for godly instruction and encouraged the priests to move in that direction. He called on the people to have strong marriages with the husband loving his wife. And then he pointed out that they have been robbing God. Apparently they were complaining that God was not blessing them properly. And so he wanted them to know that God does not change. If they were not sensing God in their life it was their problem not God’s.
He called on the people to “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” Then he goes into the passage I have just read. The people were robbing God they had departed from him in their lack of giving. God challenges the people to test him and see if he would not open the windows of heaven and pour down on them a blessing that would fill their baskets to overflowing.
Over 400 years later, Jesus said these words “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38) the length of time between these two quotes illustrates the truth that…
God is patient. Let’s see what Peter had to say in 2 Peter 3:8-9. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Folks, this is not a math problem! This is simply evidence that God is unconcerned about the passage of time. From the time of Abraham to Moses God was patiently waiting on the iniquity of the Amorites to be full so that he could bring his people into occupation of the Holy Land. During the 40 years in the desert God patiently waited on his people to come to the place where they could occupy the land. During hundreds of years between Moses and David God patiently waited on the time to give Israel a king. Then God patiently cared for his people from King David to carrying away to Babylon…
After hundreds of years. Let’s look at 2 Chronicles 36:20-21. He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
Israel went into captivity for 70 years in order to allow the land to experience its Sabbaths. Part of the law of the Old Testament said that the land should be allowed to rest every seventh year. This had not been adhered to by the people of Israel and their captivity in Babylon allowed the land to enjoy its Sabbaths. The disobedience of the people of Israel included the truth that they had robbed a God in many ways. However, many people say that tithing is all about the Old Testament. Some would say that it has nothing to do with the New Testament. Well, let’s take a look and see…
What about the New Testament? What better source than the words of Jesus? Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
This passage is often used to argue that the tithe is not important. It actually teaches the exact opposite! Jesus comes down hard on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. How were they hypocrites? They were neglecting the very heavy matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness, while at the same time they tithed the herbs in their garden. Jesus did not hesitate say that they should have given the tithe of everything. After all, God is the source of everything for them.
In the same manner…
God is our source and supply. Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Paul has been encouraging the Corinthians to help meet the needs of other Christians. To do so he used the example of the Macedonian church. Those believers, coming from a poorer part of the world, gave themselves first to the Lord and then pleaded with Paul to allow them to take part in the offering he was taking (2 Corinthians 8:1-7). I can seriously say that I have never had anyone plead with me to participate in an offering! But I do remember a time that may seem to be less important. I was about eight or nine years old, and had just become a Christian, I came to church with a nickel that I wanted to put in the offering plate. I sat on the back row in the church holding the nickel. When the offering plate was passed it was not sent by me because no one expected me to give.
I can honestly say that my heart was broken by the simple act of being ignored in the offering. We need to remember that giving is an important part of the Christian life.
Yes, God loves a cheerful giver. Jesus commended the Pharisees for tithing their garden herbs. At the same time he reprimanded them for overlooking the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness. For those who lived under the law tithing was their standard. I believe that since we live under grace tithing is a good beginning. God has given us all things that we have and we should be generous with what he has given us. I have always been hesitant to say too much about money. I never want the world around, or our people, to believe that the church is all about money! However, the material things God has supplied have a purpose. The greatest gift of God is Jesus Christ our Lord. The least we can do is return to him a portion of what he has given us. Are you doing what God would have you give financially? If not, why should you expect God to continue to bless you?

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

170723 Son of Encouragement

After his conversion Saul immediately began to preach in the synagogues at Damascus. Instead of proclaiming that the followers of Jesus should be arrested he testified that Jesus is the Son of God. He soon found that his life was in danger and his disciples helped him to escape through a hole in the wall. Saul went into Arabia until it was safe for him to return to Damascus. He continued in Damascus for about three years and then went up to Jerusalem.
There was a disciple in Jerusalem who had proven himself to be an encourager. His name was Joseph but we shall always know him as “Barnabas”. “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement” We know that he was of the tribe of Levi and that he was a native of Cyprus. The disciples in Jerusalem were afraid of Saul. They knew that when he left Jerusalem he was an enemy and they did not know how to trust him.
In spite of the fears Barnabas came to help. Let’s read about that event in Acts 9:26-28. And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.
Barnabas knew some of Saul’s history and was confident that he was safe. Since he did not fear Saul he was able to bring him to the apostles. In his letter to the Galatians, Saul, by then called Paul, told about this encounter. Luke did not know how many apostles he met with but Paul tells us that he met with Peter and spent about two weeks with him. And almost as an afterthought, he said that he met with James, the Lord’s brother. Within a very short period of time it became obvious that Saul of Tarsus could not stay in Jerusalem if he wanted to stay alive.
For his protection, Saul was sent away. Let’s continue to read in Acts 9:29-30. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
So, within the first four or five years of his life in Christ Saul returned to his home district in what is now Turkey. For several years Saul traveled around the regions of Syria and Cilicia preaching the good news of Jesus. We have no record of the time that Saul spent absent from the Holy Land. Knowing what we do about him in his later years, as well as in the immediate years after his salvation, we can be sure that Saul went into the synagogues and preached the good news about Jesus. In fact, there may have been churches founded during that time. I can’t believe that he would have failed to bear witness anywhere he went. Saul/Paul was consistently a witness for the living Lord Jesus Christ. His isolation would come to an end when God was ready to use him.
Fourteen years later Barnabas came to Antioch. Let’s read Acts 11:20-22. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
The church in the region that Saul was operating in began to have an influx of Gentile believers. We do not know if there was any connection between Saul’s life in Tarsus and the growth of the church in Syrian Antioch. What we do know — Antioch was rapidly becoming a large center of Christianity. Within the first 300 years we are told that the church there grew to more than 100,000 disciples. Obviously, this early response to the gospel concerned the apostles in Jerusalem. After all, Jesus himself had told them that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them (this occurred almost immediately and is recorded in Acts 2). And when this powerful spirit came on them they would become Christ’s witnesses beginning in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and would continue to the end of the earth.
You recall the event I’m sure. Immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven two angels appeared to them and, in effect, asked why they were standing there looking up into heaven. Angels are always prepared to do the will of God without question and without hesitation. I am fairly sure that the angels do not understand how we can be so hesitant when we have a clear instruction from God!
When Barnabas was sent to Antioch by the apostles, still huddled in Jerusalem, he saw right away that the grace of God was manifest there. Barnabas was pleased at what he saw but he needed help in deciding how to present the report to the apostles. Barnabas needed someone who could relate to the people of the region. After he had given it some consideration, and a lot of prayer…
Barnabas knew who could help. Let’s continue to read Acts 11:25-26. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
I would really like to be able to see a record of the things that Saul had done in Tarsus and the surrounding region. I do not believe for one moment that he was able to be quiet about his newfound faith. At the same time, he needed to study and pray to understand the tremendous changes that had come into his life. After all, he had persecuted the church! Wouldn’t that disqualify him? He had to know, from God, that he was acceptable. It mattered little what men thought. Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Accepting Barnabas’ call for help must have been very refreshing to the man who had persecuted the church. He went gladly to see what he could do to bind the church together.
We are so impatient! It’s true that we rush in where angels fear to tread. Saul and Barnabas settled into the role of teaching pastors for this rapidly growing church.
For an entire year they taught the new church. My how good it would be to see the outlines of their Bible teaching. How good it would have been to sit in on their leadership discussions. They had a definite problem! The church was rapidly becoming a mixture of Greeks and Hebrews. God was preparing his two servants for their future ministries. During the time that they were in Antioch a prophet named Agabus reported that there was going to be a famine that would particularly harm the church in Jerusalem.
The Christians in Antioch felt an obligation to help those who had sent the gospel to them. In order to help solve the problem…
Barnabas and Saul became a team. Let’s read on Acts 11:29-30.  So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
First, they helped to organize financial relief for the elders in the home church. The leaders of the church in Antioch knew they couldn’t do better than sending these two fine Christian men to Jerusalem with the offering.
By this time, Barnabas and Saul were inseparable. Wherever one went the other went. They worked well together. It seems to me that Saul was the teacher and Barnabas was the worker. Barnabas could bring people together and organize them and Saul could teach them. This mission team would finally began to fulfill the words of Jesus on the day of his ascension. God was preparing them to bring the gospel to the end of the earth. Up until that time it seems that there was a Christian presence in Rome and also along the far eastern coast of the Mediterranean. Most of the believers were organized in such a way that they were led by the church in Jerusalem.
We cannot know if there were any other centers of the faith. We have no record to rely on but there are stories told about the expansion of the gospel beyond what Luke recorded for us in Acts.
On their trip to Jerusalem…
They added to their team. Let’s read on Acts 12:25. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.
We do not know much about John Mark. It appears that he was a cousin of Barnabas. We know also that his mother had a sufficiently large house where the church could meet. The church was meeting for prayer in the house of John Mark’s mother when Peter was rescued by an angel.
It would appear that John Mark was not with them very long before the church at Syrian Antioch came together to be an entirely new phase outreach. Barnabas
The team then became traveling missionaries. Let’s look at Acts 13:1-3. Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
The title “prophet” is not used a lot in the New Testament. It usually refers back to the Old Testament prophets. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he speaks of prophecy in its place in the church there. Whatever their role was at Antioch they were listed among the teachers. When I consider what was happening in the church in Antioch I am reminded of one of J. Edwin Orr's more colorful phrases, which he repeated time and again, was: "Whenever God gets ready to do a great work, He always sets His people a-praying." Orr was one of the faculty members at the Fuller Seminary School of World Mission a generation ago. He was a great evangelist as well as a prolific writer. Incidentally, he wrote the last verse of Amazing Grace – “When we been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
While they were fasting and praying the church in Antioch began to sense a new direction from God. As they understood God’s direction they set aside Paul and Barnabas for the special ministry. After fasting and praying they laid hands on them and sent them away. The next few months were exciting times for Paul and Barnabas and John Mark.
As we have seen from the earlier experiences of the disciples, the gospel was spreading fairly slowly across the world. At his ascension into heaven Jesus had announced that they would receive power and were expected to carry the gospel out into the world. They would begin in Jerusalem but they were not to stay there. We are not told exactly how much time had passed but it was certainly more than seventeen years since Jesus had left the earth. The gospel was being spread but it was almost accidently rather than intentionally. Now it was time to get serious about spreading the good news!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.