Sermon Summary - The Preaching Call and Missions - Acts 12:25-13:3
The Preaching Call and Missions - Acts 12:25-13:3
Jesus came into the world in order to save the lost and to gather His people to Himself through the cross. And then He sends His people (the church) out into the world with the message of salvation (John 20:21). The church is not merely an organization we go to get our needs met. The church is God’s people, a community of people who gather for worship, prayer, singing, praise, fellowship, teaching, and serving one another. And the church is here in this present darkness as a light to the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Acts 12:25 sets the stage for the major shift in the focus of the book of Acts from the acts of the Apostles to the acts of Paul. Acts 12 was a detour of sorts to the happenings of the Jerusalem church with James’ martyrdom, Peter’s deliverance, and Herod’s death. The church at Antioch was introduced in Acts 11:19-30, and Acts 12:25 notes Barnabas and Saul returning there with Mark, after delivering the offering for Jerusalem collected because of the famine. The church at Antioch is the springboard that the Holy Spirit uses for the early missionary movement into the Gentile world with the gospel. Acts 13:1 mentions 5 church leaders who were both prophets and teachers, and were likely preaching and teaching all over the city: Barnabas, one of the earliest converts, a Jew in the Jerusalem church; Saul, once the great persecutor of the church, and now 14 years into honing his craft as a preacher; Simeon, likely a black man from Africa; Lucius of Cyrene, probably one of the original evangelists from Acts 11:20; and Manaen, who grew up with Herod the tetrarch.
In Acts 13:2, God Himself communicates to the church. The Holy Spirit spoke. Luke also finds it important to give us the context in which the Holy Spirit spoke. It happened while they were worshiping the Lord and fasting. They (which could refer either to the 5 leaders or the whole congregation) were very serious about seeking the Lord. They were worshiping in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Their fasting caused them to hunger for the presence of the Lord and for answer to prayer (Cf. Is 58:6-9). Then the Holy Spirit spoke, “Set apart (devote) for Me Baranabas and Saul for the work (world missions) to which I have called them.” Remember Acts 1:8 - those words apply to Barnabas and Saul as well.
Then the church obeyed the Spirit’s command in Acts 13:3. Once again they fasted and prayed, and then sent Barnabas and Saul off with their blessing and with money. And we see in Acts 13:4 that it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who sends them out. Question: How did the Holy Spirit speak? Was it through an audible voice? Likely it was through the Holy Spirit dropping those words into the spirit of one of the prophets, who then spoke them out. When words like these are spoken in the church by a prophet, they usually confirm what’s already there. For Barnabas and Saul, this was clearly not the first time they knew God was calling them to the Gentile mission field (Cf. Acts 9:15, 11:22, 26:16-18). Paul had this missionary call for 14 years at this point. He had been developing his calling by preaching and teaching in the regions of Cilicia and Syria. And now the Holy Spirit directs Barnabas and Saul to travel much further than they ever had before. And they were ready. They had been preparing for years. Why? They had a particular call that the Holy Spirit gave them as missionaries and church planters to unreached peoples.
These kinds of calls usually develop over long periods of time, and through steps of preparation. This type of calling throughout the history of the church has usually not come through an audible voice, but through a strong sense that grows over time. Martin Lloyd Jones said, “I have always felt when someone has come to me and told me that he has been called to be a preacher, that my main business is to put every conceivable obstacle that I can think of in his way.” He wanted to make sure that their call was a real call from God.
The Holy Spirit’s directing Barnabas and Saul to the work of spreading the gospel to unreached peoples is the beginning of the fulfillment of Hab. 2:14 (Cf. Ps. 46:10, Rev. 5:9-10). The church’s task of carrying on this work of preaching the gospel starts in every one of our personal lives. It continues in our family lives, our church lives, our schools, our neighborhoods, and in the culture at large. And then it extends to evangelism, to missionary work, and to the unreached. Every one of us Christians have calls - marriage, singleness, raising children (homeschooling), fostering/adoption, hospitality, personal or public evangelism, serving the local church or community, giving, and full time pastoral ministry. And as in Luke’s day and throughout the centuries, many today are sensing the Holy Spirit’s call to go to the world as missionaries.
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