Acts – Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 3
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|We’ve seen Paul the man. Last time we saw Paul the Missionary – Part 1. This time we’re going to look at Paul the Missionary – Part 2. Next time we’ll look at Paul the Missionary – Part 3. We will finish that at some point, but there’s just so much that we’re trying to look at. Who is this man called Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God?|
Paul: The Missionary – Part 2
Turn with me to Ephesians 1:1. We’re not going to stay there, but I want you to get use to finding Ephesians. This our third message now on the first phrase of that verse. It says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” That’s what we’re looking at. We need to understand the man that God used to pen this letter before we actually get into it.
We’ve seen Paul the man. Last time we saw Paul the Missionary – Part 1. This time we’re going to look at Paul the Missionary – Part 2. Next time we’ll look at Paul the Missionary – Part 3. We will finish that at some point, but there’s just so much that we’re trying to look at. Who is this man called Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God?
Well, as I was introducing this last time I came across a passage of scripture. We hit it and ran off. You know, sometimes I do that, and then I go back and study. I want to lead in to what I’m going to say. I have really discovered how much I miss by just hitting it and running off from it. I want to come back to it. I want you to be patient with me. I guess you really have no choice. I want to see if we can understand something. When I come across something like this it’s just so far-reaching I want us to go back to it.
We teach in our church a received ministry, not an achieved ministry. Now, in our church’s By-Laws and Constitution we have what we call a philosophy of ministry. That’s what this church is based on. That’s sort of like the boundary lines in a football game. You know not to go out of bounds. How do you know when you’ve gone out of bounds? When you go against the grain of the philosophy of ministry that we have as a church.
What does it mean having a received ministry? Well, basically it means God initiates ministry, not man. In other words, from seeking after the will of the Lord, seeking with a surrendered heart, God leads an individual into ministry, not a committee sitting down and having a long range planning time and figuring out what they think God ought to be doing for the next five years. Rather, it’s getting on our face before the Lord, seeking Him and letting Him lead us. God initiates ministry. That’s what this whole church is based on.
Not only that, God empowers what He initiates. Once God starts it, God energizes it. It’s got to be Him from the beginning. Then thirdly, in our philosophy of ministry God holds us responsible and accountable to be obedient to that which He has raised up. We must be in on what He’s up to. Finally as a result, God, not us, not the church, certainly not the denomination, will get the glory for people who allow Jesus to be Jesus in them. That’s our philosophy of ministry.
Well, you say, “Well, now, thank you. We really appreciate you interjecting that. What has that got to do with Paul?” A whole lot. I want you to see in Paul’s life this very philosophy of ministry lived out. Not one single thing that Paul did was of Paul. It started with God, and even at the end of his life in 2 Timothy when he wrote Timothy, it ends with Him when he says, “I have fought the good fight. I’ve finished the course. I’m ready now to go on back home. I have not at all pulled aside from that which God raised up and God led and God empowered in my life.” Some of you may say, “Well, you can’t really do this because Paul was an apostle, we’re not apostles. There are no more apostles. So how could you say God’s going to work in our life like He worked in Paul’s life? How can you say that since he had a received ministry, we have a received ministry?”
Look with me in Colossians 4:17. Let me just show you what he says in closing out his letter as he addresses one by the name of Archippus. He makes a statement to him that shows and qualifies the fact that, not only did apostles have a received ministry, but every believer has a received ministry, that which begins with God, empowered by God and continues by God’s doing. Then the glory comes back to Him. In Colossians 4:17 Paul says, “And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have [what does your translation say?] received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.’” “Archippus, you would not have a ministry had you not received it from God.”
Look in John 3:26-27. Here’s the principle. John the Baptist is the one speaking here. His disciples come to him in verse 26, and look what they say: “And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, He who is with you beyond the Jordan [speaking of Jesus], to whom you have borne witness, behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him.’” In other words, “John, He’s baptizing more than you’re baptizing.” Look how John responds by saying in verse 27’ “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive [How much?] nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven.’”
Those are just two of the scriptures that I would like to make sure we understand. Whether you’re an apostle or whether you’re a believer, it doesn’t matter who you are. A man can receive nothing unless it’s given by God. A received ministry, first of all, has to have a surrendered vessel with which to receive it. Once a person has received and is open to God, God in and through that person ministers to other people. That’s the difference in a received ministry and an achieved. An achieved ministry is what man, because of his own schedule, can do for God and expects God to bless. A received ministry starts and ends with God. He gets the glory for all that takes place.
Well, now turn to Acts 13. Rather than get into his second missionary journey we’re going to do something else. I want you to see in Paul’s life when he was commissioned and when he was sent out. Let’s understand this was all of God. He was not of man. There are four things that I want you to see in Acts 13:14. The first thing I want you to see is the special choice that God makes here and asks the church to agree with. Verse 1 says, “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Look at verse 2. “And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” Now that’s the first thing I want you to see, a divine special choice that God makes and tells the church to make.
Now, before we get into it further, who does the Holy Spirit speak to? Well, we’ve read it in verse 1, but let’s go back over it. We have Barnabas. We know who he is. He’s the encourager who was the companion to Paul. Next was Simeon who is called Niger. That’s self explanatory. Then there was Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch. That shows you the upper class individual that he was to have been brought up with Herod the tetrarch. Finally we have Saul. So we have the group of men that were there. What did it mean when it said, “there were prophets and teachers?” Verse 1 says, “there were prophets and teachers,” and then it names the list of those prophets and teachers.
Some of you may get upset with the word “prophet.” You think the word “prophet” means “to foretell” as if these were people like Aggabus who came and predicted the famine that was going to take place over in Judea. No, the primary meaning for the word “prophet” is not a foreteller of the future. That’s a secondary meaning which is always found in isolated events in the New Testament. The primary meaning of the word “prophet” means “someone who speaks before others.” It comes from the word pro, which means “before,” and the word phemi, which means “to speak.” It says therefore, here you have your preachers and teachers in the church at Antioch of Syria that are gathered together when the Holy Spirit speaks.
Now, obviously, these are the leaders of the church, maybe not all of the leaders, but they certainly were noticed as leaders of the church. How do you know that? Look at verse 2. What were they doing? “They were ministering to the Lord and fasting.” Now that tells us something. The word for “minister” there really grabbed me. It’s not the word diakanos, which we normally think of. That’s the word we get “deacon” from. That is not the word used there. If it had of been that word it could have been anybody in the church and then gives you a list of those men. The word that is used there is the word leitourgeo. It’s the word we get the word “liturgies” from. As a matter of fact, it comes from two Greek words. One means “public” and the other means “work.” It had to do with those who were in the office of a particular position. In the church everybody serves.
Way back when the Catholic church began to have its influence upon the papal state, and this goes way back in history, they made a distinction between the laymen and the clergy. That is totally non-biblical. All of us are ministers. All of us are missionaries. All of us are equal in that sense of the word. Because the church made that distinction we have grown up in it even up to the twentieth century. We think that a person who is the preacher of the church must be the minister, everybody else is just down below them. No, we’re a body, and we just have different gifts within the body. The church messed our mind up years and years ago regarding this. The Bible does not teach that.
However, within any organization you’ve got to have a head. You’ve got to have a leadership. So there are offices of deacons and offices of elder. There are pastor-teachers within the church. These are those who minister, but they are in an official position of having been elected or put there by the church to which they minister. That would be the word leitourgeo. In other words, when they ministered they ministered from an official, appointed position. They were not any better than anybody else, but they were in an official position to do the ministering to others. So these men here are the leaders. They’re the preachers and teachers at the church at Antioch back at Syria who are gathered together. They are the official leadership of the church.
What were they doing? They were ministering, and they were fasting before the Lord. Now the term “fasting” tells us the gist of their ministry. Evidently they were at a time when they had come together to seek the Lord. Why did they fast? Many of you have asked me about fasting and have asked me to preach on it. Maybe this is a good time to say something about it. Fasting does not make you spiritual. I don’t know why people think that. “I’ve been fasting for three days.” Well, that may only mean you’re extremely hungry. That doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re doing anything spiritual. Fasting is the environment into which you put prayer. Now, say, for instance, you are having a burden about something, and you can’t seem to get an answer. You need to hear from God. Fasting becomes a very biblical means of sacrificing yourself from food and other things, dying to selfish desires and putting yourself wholeheartedly into the position of prayer so that you can be extra-sensitized to that which God is trying to say to you in that particular area of your life. It doesn’t mean you’re more spiritual. It probably simply means you’re more desperate. You need to hear from God. Fasting is that environment you put yourself.
So when you tag fasting on to the fact that they were ministering out of the official capacity that they have been appointed, they must have been seeking the Lord on behalf of the people who put them into those positions.
Who are they? Barnabas and Paul are just a part of the group. Please understand that. That’s very important. Now it was at this time when the leadership of the church of Antioch in Syria was seeking the Lord, as they sought the Lord, that the Holy Spirit could speak. Only then could they hear what He said. You’ve got to be in a position to listen before the Holy Spirit can ever speak. The Holy Spirit said to them, “‘Set apart for Me, Barnabas and Saul.’” Now, this was not something they had on their prayer list. This was not their agenda. They did not come together as a group and say, “Lord, what would You have Paul and Barnabas to do?” So the Holy Spirit met with them and said, “Set them apart for the work that I have called them.” No! From what I get from the text they were just simply seeking the Lord. As they were seeking the Lord He just didn’t speak to Paul and Barnabas. He spoke to all of them so that they could have the credibility and unanimity of the fact that He had spoken.
He said, “Now you separate for me, Paul and Barnabas.” The term “set apart” is a command. It’s an aorist imperative. They have no option. This is what they were told by the Spirit of God to do. It was God’s agenda, not their agenda. Now this is why Paul can say in Ephesians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus [How?] by the will of God.” Paul says, “Buddy, I had nothing to do with it. I wasn’t bothering anybody except for some Christians. I was on my way to Damascus, but God stopped me on my way. He turned me around. Now I am at a prayer meeting, and God said, ‘You set for me Paul and Barnabas. I want them to do a work I’ve already called them to do.’”
So the Holy Spirit told these church leaders what He wanted them to do, not just Paul and Barnabas. He told the group as they sought the Lord, all of them together, so that they could put their stamp of approval on it. He told them to make a special choice of Paul and Barnabas.
The second thing I want you to see is this choice was based on a special calling. Now remember, they’ve got to be in a position to hear. That’s the beauty to me of the variety of leaderships. When you put leaders together that love God and are surrendered to Him, when they all get together in seeking the Lord, it is incredible what God will say to them. It is incredible what God has on His agenda, not on ours, but on His. Well, this is a special calling. After telling of His special choice He says, “You set them apart.” The word “set apart” simply means “to choose out from among.”
Let me put it in terminology we can understand. Let’s say I’ve got a bench full of players. I want this player and that player, so I pick this player and that player specifically. I pull them off the bench, and I say, “I want you to play.” That’s what the Holy Spirit says. Out of this group, He wants this man and that man. He didn’t say, “I need someone. Are there any volunteers?” He said, “I want you, and I want you. I’ve made this choice.”
Now watch He says next: “to the work to which I have called them.” The Holy Spirit is simply saying to the church, “I’ve got some business here. I have an agenda. Now that you’re seeking Me, I want to tell you what I’m up to. I want you to pick out these two men, and here’s the reason: I have already called them.” That’s a perfect passive verb. Perfect tense means “way back over here I called them. In the councils of heaven We determined this a long time ago. Now it’s bearing a present result, and I want you, the church leadership; I want you, church; I want you to choose these two men based on what the Godhead has eternally designed. Way back here We made the choice. Now you choose out from among you.”
Well, the Holy Spirit tells them, “You select these two specific men because I’ve already called them to the work to which I have decided.” You know, this just gets me excited. Remember, we’re a church based on this very same kind of operation by the Holy Spirit of God. This helps us one more time to understand what we’re all about. What has God called you to? What has God designed for your life? He had a special design on Paul and Barnabas.
Well thirdly, I want you to see a special church. How many churches do you think would listen to the Lord to begin with? Secondly, how many churches, once they have heard Him, would turn them loose, especially since this was Paul and Barnabas? Paul and Barnabas were two of the most crucial people in the New Testament. They ministered to the disciples for over one year in one place. These are the two guys you’ve got to have with you all the time. We not only see a special choice and a calling, but here you see a very unique and a very special church.
Watch what verse 3 says. “Then, when they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Sometimes translations don’t quite bring it out the Greek correctly. I’m not knocking your translation. The Greek word used for “sent” in verse 4 is the real word for “sent,” not the word used in verse 3. In verse 3 it doesn’t mean they sent them away. The word is a beautiful word. It’s apoluo. It comes from two Greek words, apo, away from, and luo, to loosen, or to untie, to take the bonds off, to unbind.
I know when I was growing up one of the hardest things in the world was to tie my shoe. Once you learn to tie your shoes sometimes you would get them so tight you couldn’t untie them. My son did this all the time. It took him forever to untie his shoe once he had tied it. Sometimes he would just have to pull his shoe off with it still tied. I would have to untie that thing to put it back on him, but he had it tied so tight. How was I supposed to untie it?
Well, that’s exactly the word here, apoluo. It means “to cause to be untied, to unravel, to take away that which would cause to be bound.” What did the church do? The church recognized through its leadership that they had two men among them who leaders of the church that God had designed for something else. They were told to unloosen them, to untie them, to set them free. Now, to me that is a special church. They were told to loosen and set free two men of the caliber of Barnabas and Paul. What do most people do when you get that kind of caliber of men in their church? Buddy, they hang on to them tight. “We want them for ourselves.” No, sir, the Holy Spirit said, “You chose out from among you who I’ve already called, and you turn them loose. You unloosen them. You don’t put any bonds of them whatsoever.”
You see, we’re all uniquely different, just like Paul and Barnabas and all of the different Christians of that day. God has different callings on you. He has different callings on me. We have seven guys on our church staff. They’re not all called the same way I’m called, yet we’re all burdened for this body of believers. We’ve got several elders in our church. Some of them are in town. Some of them are not in town. Where are they? Man, they just have different callings and burdens.
I guarantee you this. Let’s just say I did leave. I may go down in an airplane. That’s not the way I want to go down. I mean, I’m gone. Do you think that catches God by surprise? Do you think this church is built on me? I guarantee you God will have somebody running right in behind me. I guarantee you he will be as different from me as night and day. Some of you, if you’re followers of me, are in big trouble. The guy who comes in after me won’t be like me. Thank God. Man, they threw the mold away when they made me. He’ll be totally different. It’ll take you six months to a year to adjust to the guy. Finally it’ll dawn on you, “Wait a minute. God’s called him differently than he called Wayne.”
“Well, how can you have a preacher that’s not like the preacher in the church that I came from?” I’ll tell you how. When you get about God’s desire, He just does it His own way. Most people think that I’m not the gift to the church anyway. I’m a booby prize.
What I’m trying to say is, all of us have a ministry. All of us have a calling. We need to be about the things which God has put before us. Listen, the church recognized this. The Holy Spirit spoke to them and said, “Listen, you choose these two men.” He didn’t just say that to Paul and Barnabas. He said it to the whole group. He said, “Hey, the reason you’re doing this is because I have already called them. I have a work designed for them that is different from the rest of you guys.” Why didn’t He call the other ones it mentioned? Why didn’t He call Simeon? Why didn’t He call Lucius? Why didn’t He call Manaen? I don’t know. The Holy Spirit just does whatever He does.
Therefore, you have to be about your calling and your purpose. That’s exactly Paul’s life. His whole ministry was based on that. It was a special, special church to untie him and release him to do what God had uniquely designed for him to do in that specific place.
I’ve tried to help with the leadership of our church staff. Listen, I want the guys on our staff to be who God called them to be, not what the church thinks they ought to be. I really mean that with all of my heart. To a fault I try to let other people be what God wants them to be because I believe that so strongly in my own life. I want our ministers to be what God wants them to be, not what I come up with, not what I’ve drug in from someplace else. “But God, what do you want these people to be?” As you continue in that route God begins to raise up the work. It’s received, it’s not achieved. I mean all you can do is stand back and be in awe and glorify Him.
So, we see a special choice; we see a special calling; and we see a special church. Well, there’s one more thing. We see a special commission. Now this commission is so different. It says in verse 4, “So, being sent out by the church.” Is that what your scripture says? No, it says that in verse 3. You know now that it doesn’t really say “sent out” there, it really says “unloosed.” They’re untied by the church. Verse 4 says, “being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus.” This commission was not a commission put upon man by man. This was a commission put upon man by God Himself. Now they’re following the Holy Spirit of God.
The term “sent out” there, ekpempo, means “to be sent out.” This is the right word to use when you send somebody out. Paul does not have an agenda. I love it. When we see his next missionary journey you’re going to see he had a plan. “Now, wait a minute, Paul. I thought you were on God’s agenda, not yours.” What does Proverbs say, “A man plans his way but God [What?] directs his steps.” You’re going to see that next time in the life of Paul. Buddy, he thought he had a plan. He thought he knew where he was going. No, sir, he was not commissioned by man. He does not have his own agenda. God has his agenda, and God begins to turn him and move him and get him over here. It’s incredible what you’re going to see him do as a result of that in his life. It was a very, very special choice, a very special calling, a special church and a special commission.
Can I ask you a question before I go on? What is your calling in life? If I asked you right now, could you stand up and tell me, “I believe I’ve come to this point in my life. I believe this is what God wants me to be, and what He wants me to do.”? See, some of you think that if you’re not on the mission field or in the pulpit or in some position in the church, you’ve missed God’s calling. Are you kidding? If we didn’t have plumbers, electricians, accountants and lawyers, where would we be? Everybody has a unique place in life. Whatever way God chooses to let you find the ministry He has in your life is His business. All of us have a design. All of us have a purpose.
You might be a housewife. You’re saying, “Well, all I do all day long is change stinky diapers. I have to wash clothes and dishes. I don’t even get to see the mirror to comb my hair. I don’t know how these women look so nice all the time. I’m just working all the time.” Hey, if that’s what God’s put before you, rejoice, friend. That’s just as good in His sight as the apostle Paul on a missionary journey. All He asks us is to be faithful to that which He has raised up in our lives. If it’s not what somebody else is doing, that’s alright. God doesn’t care about that. You’re only accountable for what He’s put in front of you. To him who is given much, much is required.
Well, what is your calling? Are you about your Father’s business, young people? You better listen to what I’m saying. What has God called you to do? Don’t fool around with your life until you get 30 years old and then try to get serious with God. If you’re a believer you’re just as accountable to God as I am. You need to be about what God’s purposes are in your life now. The more you’re surrendered, the more the Holy Spirit can speak. The more He speaks, the more you can hear and the more you begin to see God working in and through your life.
Well, it’s wonderful to know what it is and to walk in it. Most frustrated people do not know what God has designed for them in their life. They don’t know what their gifts or burdens are. They don’t know the direction God’s trying to take them in their life.
Well, okay. Enough of that. Turn to Acts 15. I want to lead you up to the second missionary journey. Paul is a unique man like all of us are unique. God has His own calling, His own choice, and His own commission on his life. In Acts 15:1-29 something unique happens. Paul is in Antioch of Syria. They’ve just now called him and sent him out. He’s just been on his first missionary journey. What did he do on that first missionary journey? Do you remember our last study? He left Antioch of Syria on a boat to Cyprus, crossed over Cyprus to Paphos, left Paphos and went to Asia Minor which is modern day Turkey. If you’ll get a map and look at it, you’ll see that. When he got to Asia Minor he went to Pamphylia which was one of the coastal provinces there. He went up through Perga. He went on up to Antioch of Pisidia, which was another province which set right above Perga in Asia Minor. He comes out of Antioch of Pisidia to Iconium. Iconium, Lystra and Derbe were the three places that almost beat Paul to death. That was the worse experience Paul had ever had. He turns around at Derbe and goes right back through Lystra, Iconium, back down through Antioch of Pisidia and right on down to Attalla. From there he catches a boat and goes back to his home base at Antioch of Syria.
Now you’re at Acts 15:1. In verse 1 it says, “And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.”
Now what happened? A group of saved Christian Jews from Judea came down and were trying to get these young Gentile believers to be circumcised, as if that had anything to do with their salvation. That sounds just like the twentieth century. It hasn’t changed, has it? People are still trying to get us baptized in order to be saved. They don’t even realize we’re saved by grace. That was Paul’s message then. That’s our message now. Paul says, “You’re wrong.” Boy, they went at it head on. So the people there said, “Hey, you had better go to Jerusalem and get a ruling by the council in order to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
So Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem. This is when they had the Jerusalem Council. Simon Peter and James had a lot to say in that meeting. The council came to this conclusion, “Leave the Gentiles alone. We’re saved by grace, not by works. Don’t you dare put them back up under the Law. Jesus fulfilled the Law.” Isn’t it wonderful that they came to that conclusion? We work out of that even up to this day?
After the council they went back home. They took two people back home with them from Jerusalem. This will be important to you later. One of the men was named was Silas. Remember Silas? “Well, I thought Paul went with Silas on the second missionary journey.” He did. “Why did Paul leave Barnabas?” You will find that out next time. The other fellow was named Judas, who some people called Barsabbas. We don’t know who that was. All we know is these were two men who came back with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch of Syria.
Thus we have the interlude between the first missionary journey and the second missionary journey. There were a total of four missionary journeys. We looked at the first one earlier. We’ve got three more to go.
Paul, the missionary. Make sure you understand he was a man who was on God’s schedule. He didn’t have a map. He only had the Guide, and the Guide had the plan. He had to stay surrendered to the Guide in order to be where God wanted him to be all the rest of his life.
You know, when you look at scriptures today, and you study the life of Paul, one thing you find very clearly. What was written of Paul? “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” After he’s dead now, and we’re looking back at him, what can be said of Paul? He never regressed. He wasn’t a John Mark that out of cowardice ran from Pamphylia. He wasn’t a Demas who loved this present world and bailed out on God. No, sir! He was a man that was God-called and God-initiated. He stayed true to that calling to the day that he died. What was written of Paul could now be said of Paul.
My question to you this morning is, what is written of you? What’s God’s choice in your life? What’s God’s calling in your life? What’s God’s commission in your life? It takes a special church to allow people to be who they ought to be under the anointing and leadership of the Holy Spirit of God. First of all, you’ve got to find out what it is God wants you to do. What is written of you? One of these days when you die, and we look back over your life, what was written of you? What were you, in the diary of heaven? What is written now that you’re supposed to be fulfilling as a vessel unto the Lord on this earth? What purpose is your life? One day when you die will we be able to look back and say, “What was written of you can truthfully be said of you?”
There are few people that I’ve met on this earth of which that can be said. Roy Hession from England was a man that was true to what God put before him while he was here on this earth. He was a man who lived it, a man who never wavered from what God asked of him, a man who knew his place. I use to ask Roy, “What do you think about this?” He would say, “I don’t know” I would say, “Well, I thought you knew everything because you’re famous.” He would just say, “I just know Jesus, and I know His blood cleanses me.” I loved the humility of that man. He knew where he fit in the body. He stayed with it until the day he died.
Listen, what has God called you to be in this body? Some of you are thinking about joining. Well, if you do, get serious with what God wants you to be. We’re not here to entertain you. We’re here to equip you so that you can be better at what God has raised you up to be in this world. We’re there to stand behind you.
Well, I could just go on and on, but I’m going to quit. Can it be said of you what is written of you?