Acts 13:1-25: Proclaim that God Is Good
January 22, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
We have already seen the remarkable nature of this church at Antioch. Here we see this godly church take a momentous step forward. It sets aside Barnabas and Paul for missionary work. We will consider that and their ministry in Cyprus, leaving the ministry of Pisidian Antioch (a city in modern day Turkey) for tomorrow.
What can we learn from how the church at Antioch set aside Paul and Barnabas for the work to which God had called them?
First, that the call of God took place within the context of worship. The description is too brief to know exactly how it happened, but the atmosphere and approach is still clear. They were worshipping God and fasting, and in that context, God made it clear to them that he was calling Barnabas and Paul to some sort of missionary work. We should then as we seek God’s leading or guidance over a particular matter do it in the context of worship. Certainly, we are to be prudent and strategic too. But all godly discernment should have a worshipful intention and approach behind it and running through it.
Second, though there was an informal, intuitive, inspirational aspect to the calling, there was also a more formal, disciplined aspect in the public confirmation. They were set aside for the work by the leaders who confirmed their sense of the Spirit’s leading by placing their hands on the missionaries and sending them off for the work they had been called to in a public manner. Calling today should also have this dual aspect: both an internal sense of God’s leading and also an external confirmation through the local church and its leadership.
So Paul and Barnabas set out on Paul’s famous first missionary journey. They go first to Cyprus. What can we learn from their ministry there?
First, they begin by ministering to the synagogues. This was always Paul’s approach. He started with the Jewish community and with his compatriots. There was a ready-made audience who were ready to hear arguments from the Scriptures, and so he began there. It is important for us to not immediately bypass the ready-made traditional structures that are in place but to start with them. If in the end (as happened in Pisidian Antioch) the gospel is rejected, then we move on. But we start with the setup structures and organizations as they are in place.
Second, they proclaimed the Word. This was not merely a conversation. This was not simply a discussion. This was proclamation evangelism. That does not mean that they had three points and a poem to their sermons. But it does mean that they were preaching evangelists. Today, we sometimes think that proclamation of the gospel is the last thing people need to hear when we are trying to reach them for Christ. But in our evangelistic strategies, we should have a central place to proclamation.
Third, their good progress was opposed. When we venture out with the gospel, there will be opposition. Jesus predicted it. Paul experienced it. We should expect it and not be surprised by it.
Fourth, Paul was not afraid to confront such opposition head on. Obviously, there is an aspect to his rebuke of Elymas the sorcerer that is apostolic in tone and power and not given to us. But nonetheless, there is a place for not simply backing down when there is a spiritual power encounter but being willing to stand up before the prophets of Baal and proclaim that God is God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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