In our study of the book of Acts, we have come to the end of chapter 12. At this point, there is going to be a major focus change as Dr. Luke directs our attention off of Peter and the apostles and places it squarely on the missionaries being sent out from the church in Antioch.
Back in chapter 11, we read that a prophecy was given which said a terrible famine was coming. The church in Antioch responded not by storing up provisions for themselves, but...
Acts 11:29-30 ...in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
Barnabas and Saul delivered the contribution to the brethren living in Judea by way of the elders. While in Jerusalem, it appears that they picked up Barnabas' cousin John Mark (Col. 4:10) and brought him back with them to Antioch.
The church in Antioch was very diverse, being made up of both Jews and Gentiles. There were several men who had been gifted by God with the ability to teach and to prophesy.
We talked about the gift of prophecy in our study of chapter 11, in which God miraculously causes people to speak by divine inspiration. This isn't as off-the-wall as it might sound to our conservative ears. After all, God established the church this way to build it up:
Eph. 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ
One of the guys mentioned in this group was Man-ah-ANE, who was raised in Herod's house, probably as a foster brother.
We run into a multiplicity of Herods during the age of the New Testament, and they're nearly impossible to keep track of without a playbook. Here's a quick rundown:
1) Herod Antipater was a regent during the days of Julius Caesar.
2) Antipater's son was King Herod the Great. He initiated the temple building project, and was the one who had the babies in Bethlehem killed after Jesus was born (Matt. 2:16).
3) Herod the Great's son Herod Archelaus was the leader of Samaria and Judea. He was the one who was ruling when Joseph and Mary returned from Egypt, and moved up to Galilee (Matt. 2:22).
4) Herod Archelaus' brother Herod Antipas was the tetrarch of Galilee who had John the Baptist beheaded. Jesus warned against the leaven of Herod Antipas (Mk 8:15), calling him a fox (Luke 13:31). Ultimately, Antipas would preside over one of Jesus’ trials (Luke 23:7-12)
5) Herod Agrippa was the grandson of Herod the Great, and nephew of Antipas. He was given the title of King by the emperor Caligula. Agrippa was the one who executed James, and arrested Peter. Luke told us about his death of being eaten by worms.
So, with all that under our belts, we know that Man-ah-ANE was raised in Herod Antipas' house - the Herod from the days of Jesus and John the Baptist.
The word "ministering" is "li-toorg-EH-o," and it means to serve the Lord, usually by offering sacrifice (Heb. 10:11). The church leaders were sacrificing and fasting.
We know how they would fast, but how would they sacrifice? Most likely through the act of worship and prayerful praise. The writer of Hebrews encouraged...
Heb. 13:15 ...let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
I envision this as the church leadership getting together in a time of worship, prayer, and fasting.
While these leaders were ministering to the Lord, the Holy Spirit spoke. Since Luke doesn't mention a vision or an audible voice, it is most likely that this was through a word of prophecy given by one of these men.
This message was the Spirit calling out Barnabas and Saul, commending them to His grace for a certain work (Acts 14:26).
Notice that these leaders didn't say, "Okay, well we got a word, so let's send these guys on out!" No, they continued to fast and pray to confirm that this was in fact the Lord's direction, because the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets (1Cor. 14:29-33).
Church leaders who make intellectual decisions instead of spiritual ones have long lists of frequent failures. (Trust me on this one!) Choosing a man merely based on conversation, compatibility, and convenience is a sure way to end up with confusion and conflict.
When Jesus chose His apostles...
Luke 6:12-13 ...He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles
Similarly, when the first deacons were selected,
Acts 6:6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
This is the biblical precedence we've been given: seek God before setting people in position. If we're not praying and fasting, before we're laying our hands on leaders, missionaries, and ministry workers, we're following the ways of the world.
And there is a familiarity of fellowship that should take place as well. Remember that Barnabas and Saul had spent over a year in Antioch (Acts 11:26) being faithful. My biggest mistakes have been not knowing guys inside and out before appointing them to ministries.
1Tim. 5:22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
Verse three said the church sent them away, while verse four says that they were sent out by the Holy Spirit. Every sending the church does should just be a confirmation of the sending that the Spirit is doing.
I have had many guys over the years tell me, "I feel led to be a pastor. I feel led to be an evangelist. I feel led to plant a Calvary Chapel."
That's great, but often they're not willing to wait for the church to confirm that it is a sending of the Holy Spirit. They cop an attitude of, "Send me out now, commission me now, ordain me now, sponsor me now."
Hey, if the Holy Spirit is sending them, I want to confirm that and send them. But if it's not the Spirit, I don't want to be anywhere near that ministry.
Notice too that Saul and Barnabus were sent, but John Mark just went. I see John Mark being brought along in the ministry without being set apart by the Holy Spirit, or by prayer, fasting, and laying on of hands. This is going to play out badly in the future. I personally believe that allowing John Mark along on this trip was one of the biggest mistakes the early church made.
And so Barnabas and Saul start their first missionary journey. Their focus is to proclaim the Word of God in the synagogues.
Next week, we'll see them confronted by specific opposition, and how they address it...