Partnering With the Lord, Partnering With Each Other: Jesus Neither Walked Alone, Nor Did Ministry Alone

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament narrative of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Church, as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters fourteen and fifteen of this New Testament book. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. And when they had gone through the isle unto Pahpos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus: which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Banabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fall on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on” (Acts 13:1-15).

            AS THEY MINISTERED TO THE LORD! WHEREUNTO I HAVE CALLED THEM! AND WHEN THEY HAD FASTED AND PRAYED! LAID THEIR HANDS ON THEM! THEY SENT THEM AWAY! SO THEY, BEING SENT FORTH BY THE HOLY GHOST, DEPARTED! FROM THENCE THEY SAILED! THEY PREACHED THE WORD OF GOD IN THE SYNAGOGUES! THEY HAD ALSO JOHN TO THEIR MINISTER! WHEN THEY HAD GONE THROUGH THE ISLE! In order to truly understand the words which are found in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters it is absolutely necessary that you first recognize and understand the words which are found in the thirteenth chapter. The words which we find in the thirteenth chapter directly confront us—not only with the calling, the appointment and the sending out of Paul and Barnabas, but also with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding community and fellowship. It’s interesting and worth noting that the thirteenth chapter begins and opens up with the words “Now there were in the church”—and not only “Now there were in the church,” but also “there were in the church that was at Antioch.” We must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for the words which are before us not only bring us face to face with the presence of the church in Antioch, but it also presents us with the reality of who was present within that church—namely, prophets and teachers such as Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul. In order for us to understand that which transpired in the thirteenth chapter—and not only what transpired in the thirteenth chapter, but also that which was found in chapters fourteen and fifteen—it is absolutely necessary that we call and draw our attention to the presence of the church in Antioch, as well as the prophets and teachers which were found there within the church. Immediately upon reading the thirteenth chapter you are confronted with fellowship and community, and it was in the midst of that community and fellowship you see something absolutely astounding and remarkable taking place.

            IN THE PRESENCE OF COMMUNITY AND FELLOWSHIP! IN THE PRESENCE OF COMMUNITY AND RELATIONSHIP! Perhaps the first thing we are met with when we read the words found in the thirteenth chapter is the presence of the Church—the church which would undoubtedly be made up of more than just prophets and teachers, but also disciples, followers and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing we are met and confronted with when reading the words contained in this thirteenth chapter is an absolutely wonderful truth—namely, the presence of the church as a collective body of disciples, followers and believers in the way of the Lord Jesus. It would be in the context and framework of the church there would also be certain prophets and teachers present among them. Please don’t miss this, for it would be in the context of the church, as well as in the context of prophets and teachers we find something beyond simply community and fellowship. There would be something much greater that would take place within the church at Antioch—even greater than the presence of prophets and teachers. We would like to think that it was solely and simply because of the presence of prophets and teachers we find transpiring and taking place that which is before us, however, there is something found and contained within this text which must needs be carefully considered when seeking to understand the events that took place. In the opening verse of this chapter we find and read of the church in Antioch, and we also find and read how there were certain prophets and teachers which were present in the midst of the church. What we also find within this text—what we also find within this context and framework—are these prophets and teachers, together with those disciples and believers which were there ministering unto the Lord and fasting. It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to and consider this, for what we find here within this passage is an absolutely wonderful and remarkable picture—not only of community and fellowship, but also ministry before and unto the Lord. Please do not miss and lose sight what is found within this passage of Scripture, for there is within this text the very heart and foundation of all ministry.

            There would be those who would like to confuse ministry with ministering unto the Lord, and yet there is not a doubt in my mind that before we can effectively minister for the Lord we must first minister to the Lord. The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that there is a vast difference between ministry and ministering—and not only ministry unto men, but also ministering unto the Lord. It should be noted and given careful consideration how in the context of the church, and in the context of leadership (prophets and teachers), and in the context of fellowship there was also this underlying ministering before and ministering unto the Lord. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must needs recognize and understand just how incredibly important this ministering and ministry unto the Lord truly is, for there are countless among us who would like to think and believe that they can effectively minister unto others and minister unto men without having first learned, and without having first given themselves to ministering before and unto the Lord. It was indeed true the Holy Ghost would speak within this church among the prophets and teachers that were there concerning the separation of Saul and Barnabas, however, it would be in the context of ministering unto the Lord the voice of the Holy Ghost would be able to speak within and among them in the church there at Antioch. It would be in the context and framework of their ministering unto the Lord that the Holy Ghost would be able to speak. Not only would it be in the context and framework of their ministering unto the Lord the Holy Ghost would be able to speak, but it would also be in that context and framework a separation could occur.

            IN THE CONTEXT OF COMMUNITY, IN THE MIDST OF MINISTERING UNTO THE LORD THE HOLY GHOST CAN SPEAK! IN THE CONTEXT OF COMMUNITY AND IN THE MIDST OF MINISTERING UNTO THE LORD THOSE APPOINTED AND CHOSEN BY GOD CAN BE CALLED AND SEPARATED! There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture that two of the most powerful realities found in this text are the context of church and community and ministering unto the Lord. We know from reading the words which are found in this text that the Holy Ghost would call for the separating of Saul and Barnabas for the work whereunto He had called them, however, it would be in the context of community and ministering unto the Lord this would even be made possible. The more you read the words found in this text the more you will discover the absence of certain singular and individualistic words such as “I” and “me” Despite how much you might scan and read the words found within this passage of Scripture you will not find anywhere within it any type of context for individualism within the church at Antioch. As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find, discover and notice the use of the words “they” and “them,” which thus indicates the direct link to community, to fellowship, to partnership, to relationship, and the like. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that we must not only recognize and understand the context and framework of ministering unto the Lord, but we must also understand the context and framework of community and fellowship. Perhaps one of the most powerful and profound truths that is found within this chapter is in the second verse when Luke writes how “as THEY ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said.” Please do not miss the incredible importance and significance of the word “they” in direct connection to ministering unto the Lord. It doesn’t say that while Saul and Barnabas ministered unto the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost would speak unto them concerning the work whereunto they had been called. The words we find here in this text wonderfully and powerfully suggest that it was while “they”—the collective body of believers and disciples which were present in the church at Antioch—ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost would speak. It would be in the context of “ministering” and “they” the Holy Ghost would be given a space and atmosphere with which to speak. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found in the third chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel which further helps illustrate and explain this:

            “AND THE CHILD SAMUEL MINISTERED UNTO THE LORD before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision. And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; and ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; that the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, here am I. And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down. And the LORD called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him. And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. IN that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth: because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever. And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision. The Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I. And he said, What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thin gfrom me of all the things that he said unto thee. And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, it is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth good. And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with Him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD” (1 Samuel 3:1-21).

            AND THE CHILD SAMUEL MINISTERED UNTO THE LORD! THE LORD CALLED SAMUEL! I can’t help but think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for the words which are written and recorded here offer a profound and powerful confirmation of that which we find in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. It would be in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts we find those of the church at Antioch ministering to the Lord with fasting, and how it was in that context and framework the Holy Ghost would speak. It would not only be in this context the Holy Ghost would speak, but it would also be in this context the Holy Ghost would speak and separate Saul and Barnabas. Oh that we would truly take time to carefully consider and ponder the words which are found here, for it would be in the context of church—the context of community—and in the context of ministering unto the Lord with fasting that the Holy Ghost was given room to speak and to separate. When we think about and consider the words which are found in the third chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel we find that it was while Samuel ministered unto the LORD He would call unto him by night. What’s more, is that the LORD would not only call unto Samuel during the night, but the LORD would call unto Samuel four times. It would take three times of Samuel coming unto Eli during the night before Eli perceived that it was the LORD who called the child, and once he perceived and realized that it was the LORD who called Samuel he instructed him to respond to the LORD the next time he called by declaring, “Speak, LORD, for thy servant heareth.” The words which we find here in this passage of Scripture is absolutely necessary for understanding what would take place during the days of Samuel, for it would be as Samuel ministered to the Lord—even during days when the word of the Lord was precious, and even during days when the lamp of God had gone out—the LORD would speak unto Samuel. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider this truth and reality, for what we find within this passage of Scripture is the LORD speaking, and speaking in the context of ministering unto Him. Despite the fact that the word of the LORD was rare, and despite the fact that there was wickedness and corruption in the house there in Shiloh, and despite the fact that the lamp of God went out there would still be one who would minister unto the LORD. There would still be one who would commit himself to ministering unto the LORD, and it would be in that context the LORD would indeed and would in fact speak.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the text which is found in the third chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel, as well as the text which is found in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome truth and reality surrounding the context and framework—not only of church and community, but also of ministering to the Lord. We must needs recognize and understand when reading the words and language found in the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book that the Holy Ghost was given room and space to speak and to separate because within the context of community, as well as within the context of ministering unto the Lord. It was in that room and in that place and space of ministering unto the Lord the Holy Ghost was able to speak unto and among those prophets and teachers which were present in the church at Antioch calling for them to separate unto Him Saul and Barnabas unto the work whereunto He had called and chosen them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly awesome and powerful truth, for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful reality of just how important community and ministry before and unto the LORD truly is. There are many among us who would like to think that there can be ministry unto men without and apart from ministry unto the Lord, and I am absolutely and completely convinced that such a thought is not incredibly naïve, but is also false, deceptive and dangerous. We dare not and must not think and consider—even for a moment—that we can separate ministering unto and among men from ministering unto the Lord. In fact, I would dare say that the single greatest act of ministry one can perform within this life is that of ministering before and unto the Lord. In fact—more often than not it is in the context and the atmosphere of our ministering before and unto the Lord that space and room is given unto the Holy Spirit to speak unto us in our midst. What’s more, is that not only is the Holy Spirit given room to speak unto and among us, but the Spirit is also given space to separate unto Himself those whom He had called and appointed for the work ordained for them.

            With all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the use of the words “they” and “them” found within this passage of Scripture, for not only did the manifestation of church center around and upon the plurality of “they” and “them,” but so also did ministering unto  the Lord. As much as the context and framework of church center upon the manifestation of “they” and “them,” so also would the context of ministering unto the Lord center upon that same context and framework. What’s more, is that even when the Holy Ghost spoke unto and among the prophets, the teachers, the disciples, and the believers which were present in the Church at Antioch, He would not separate Saul alone unto Himself. We must needs recognize and understand that there was indeed a work which needed to be performed during those days, and there was a work that needed to be done in the earth, however, that work was much greater and much bigger than one man. We must needs recognize and understand that church took place in the context of “them” and “they,” ministering unto the LORD took place in the context of “they” and “them,” and separation unto the work ordained and appointed would also take place in the context of “they” and “them.” Oh dear reader, there are far too many men and women who would like to do church in the context of “I” and “me,” and there are many who would like to do ministry unto the Lord in the context of “I” and “me.” Not only this, but there are others who feel as though they can do the work of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the earth in the context of “I” and “me.” Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that such a way of thinking is not only incredibly deceptive, but it is also incredibly dangerous. We dare not think and believe—even for a moment—that we can do church, that we can minister unto the Lord, and that we can perform the work of the ministry whereunto we have been called in the context of “I” and “me.” What’s more, is I would dare ask if it would shock and surprise you to think and consider that the work—even the work for which you feel and believe you have been called—is much greater and much bigger than yourself? Would it shock and surprise you to think and consider that the work whereunto you have been called and separated is so much bigger than you yourself, and cannot be accomplished simply and solely by you yourself?

            THE CONTEXT OF “WE” AND “US!” THIS IS US! THE CONTEXT OF “THEY” AND “THEM!” THIS IS US! THESE ARE THEY! THESE ARE THEM! When we think about the apostolic and missionary journeys of the Saul of Tarsus whose name would later be changed to Paul we tend to think about these journeys as being undertaken simply and solely by Saul alone. If there is one thing the New Testament book of Acts reveals—specifically and especially concerning the apostolic and missionary journeys of the apostle Paul—it’s that he never engaged in any of these journeys without and apart from those who had been called alongside him to help with the work of the ministry. What’s more, is that we must needs recognize and understand that the Holy Ghost either provided those who would accompany Paul on those missionary journeys he was to undertake, or the Holy Ghost would bring alongside him in those places he would journey the ones who would assist him in ministry. We must needs realize and recognize that there are times when the Holy Ghost can and will give us those who will accompany us on the journey(s) we have been called to undertake as we carry out the work of the ministry of the Lord, and there are other times when the Holy Ghost can and will raise up others in those places we journey to assist in and with the work of the ministry. The more you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more you will find that there were those who would accompany the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys and would make the journeys with him, and there were other times when those who would assist with the work of the ministry would be present in those places he journeyed. This would indeed be true concerning Silas, concerning Luke, concerning Timothy, concerning Titus, concerning Aquilia and Priscilla, as well as others. There were times within the apostolic and missionary journeys undertaken by the apostle Paul that those co-laborers, and those who would come alongside him to help would not be present with him in and along the journey, but would actually be before him in those places he would journey and travel. Oh there are times when we look for—and perhaps even expect—those who would partner together with us in the work of the ministry to be with us and accompany us the whole time, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case.

            The more I take the time to think about and consider this reality the more I am brought face to face with the truth that there are those who can and will accompany us in our journeys, there are those who will be present in those places we have been sent who will partner together with us, and there will also be those times within our lives when there will be a separation and a parting of ways of those who had previously partnered together with us in the work of the ministry. If you continue reading the words which are found in these chapters within the book of Acts you will find that there would eventually and ultimately be a sharp schism and division that would take place between Saul and Barnabas—and so much so that Saul and Barnabas would part ways. What’s more, is that while we find and read how John Mark would be minister with Saul and Barnabas, we find John Mark moving on with Barnabas. It’s interesting that in the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book we find the Holy Ghost calling for Saul and Barnabas to be separated together unto the work of the ministry for which they had been called, and yet only two chapters later we find a different separation. It’s quite astonishing and remarkable to think about and consider the fact that what would and what could initially begin with a separation of brethren together for the work whereunto they had been called of the Holy Ghost may very well result in a different separation—a separation between these brethren as they each go their own separate ways and continue on the work of the ministry whereunto they had been called. Oh it is absolutely necessary and important that we understand this powerful truth, for it has the awesome and undeniable ability to help us understand—not only the context of “them” and “they,” and not only the context of “we” and “us,” but also the context of separation occurring between those individuals. WE must needs pay close and careful attention to what is before us in these chapters, for it demonstrates and reveals unto us the very real possibility of a different separation occurring between and among brethren—one that would result in a parting of ways. Consider if you will the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts concerning a second separation that would take place—one that would occur as brethren and joint-ministers would separate from each other:

            “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner; the apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: it seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. AND THE CONTENTION WAS SO SHARP BETWEEN THEM, THAT THEY DEPARTED ASUNDER ONE FROM THE OTHER: AND SO BARNABAS TOOK MARK, AND SAILED UNTO CYPRUS; AND PAUL CHOSE SILAS, AND DEPARTED, BEING RECOMMENDED BY THE BRETHREN UNTO THE GRACE OF GOD. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (Acts 15:22-41).

            IT is something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words which are found in these chapters that in the opening verses of the thirteenth chapter there would be this separation of Saul and Barnabas unto the work whereunto the Holy Ghost had called them, while in the final verses of the fifteenth chapter we find a different separation that would take place—a separation of brethren who had previously labored and worked together. In the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters—even in the fifteenth chapter—we find Paul and Barnabas laboring together in Antioch. What’s more is that we even find John whose surname was Mark laboring with them there in Antioch together with Silas and Barsabas. Eventually, however, there would be a contention, a schism, a strife, and a division that would take place between Paul and Barnabas as Paul thought it wise and necessary to return unto the churches whereunto they had preached the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven to see how they fared and to obtain a report concerning and among them. This is important for us to realize and recognize, for there are times within our lives when those who we journeyed with, those whom we laboured with, those whom we toiled with, those whom we worked with will no longer be a part of what the Lord is doing in our lives—and not only what the Lord is doing within our lives, but also what the Lord has called us to. We must needs realize and recognize that Paul and Barnabas didn’t disagree with whether or not it was necessary to visit again the churches whereunto they had previously labored and ministered. The contention and dispute among them would center around whether or not John whose surname was Mark should accompany them. This is important for us to think about and consider, for it calls and brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that there are indeed and there will indeed be times when although we began in ministry with certain individuals—even those individuals whom the Holy Ghost might have separated with us—it is possible that there will come a point when a separation can and will occur between parties.

            It’s truly something unique and astounding to think about and consider the words and language we find in both the thirteenth and fifteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts, for in the thirteenth chapter we find the Holy Ghost calling for the separation of Saul and Barnabas from the prophets, the teachers, and the believers which were in the church at Antioch for the work whereunto He had called them. It would be in the thirteenth chapter we find the Holy Ghost separating from “we” and “us” those who were called unto “they” and “them” for the work whereunto He had called them. What is important to note concerning this passage is that it wasn’t a work whereunto Saul and Barnabas undertook themselves, nor was it something they appointed for and unto themselves. The work whereunto Saul and Barnabas was a work which the Holy Ghost had appointed, ordained and separated them unto it. Oh we must needs recognize and understand these two distinct elements presented before and unto us within this experience, for not only do we see the separating of Saul and Barnabas, but we also see the assignment of Saul and Barnabas. There was the separating which would take place within the church among the prophets and teachers, and there would be a separating unto the assignment that would be before them. A SEPARATION FROM AND A SEPARATION UNTO! Oh that we would recognize and understand that what is before us within this passage is not only the separation of Saul and Barnabas from among the Church there within Antioch, but it was also a separation unto the work, the assignment and the ministry the Holy Ghost had called and chosen them. Saul and Barnabas were ministering unto the Lord with the other prophets, teachers and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it would be in the midst of that ministry unto the Lord the Holy Ghost would speak and call for their separation from among them. It would be in the context of community—essentially in the context of “with unity”—the Holy Spirit would be given place to speak, and it would be in that speaking the Holy Spirit would call for the separation of Saul and Barnabas unto the work for which they had been called.

            Oh the more I think about and the more I consider the words and language that is found within these passages of Scripture the more I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fascinating truth that there must needs be both a context and framework for “we” and “us” as it pertains to the church—and not only as it pertains to the church, but also as it pertains to the work of the ministry. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will quickly notice and discover the awesome and powerful truth that it would be in the context of “they” and “them” as it pertains to ministering unto the LORD the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit would continue along those same lines of “they” and “them” as He would call for the separation of Saul and Barnabas unto the work whereunto He called them. I find it to be truly captivating and challenging when I think about the words which the Holy Ghost spoke unto the church at Antioch, for not only did the Holy Ghost speak and instruct the church to separate unto Him Saul and Barnabas, but He also instructed them to separate unto Him Saul and Barnabas for the work which He had called them. Notice that It wasn’t the work whereunto Saul had been called, nor was it the work whereunto Barnabas was called to. The work and the ministry which Saul and Barnabas would be a work whereunto they would both be called collectively and together as one team and one partnership. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it brings us face to face and confronts us with the awesome and powerful truth that there are times when the work whereunto we have been called is not a work which we have been called to individually, but a work which we have been called to collectively with others whom the Holy Ghost has separated together with us.

            I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the events surrounding the separation of Saul and Barnabas from the church there at Antioch, and I can’t help but be drawn into the truth that the work unto which both men would be called was a joint-effort and a combined partnership before and unto the Holy Spirit. It would not be Saul who would be called to the work which the Holy Ghost had chosen him for, and neither would it be Barnabas who would be called to the work which the Holy Ghost had called him to. This work which the Holy Ghost would speak about would indeed and would in fact be a work they would both be called to carry out and complete. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth, for it demonstrates and reveals something we must needs understand as it pertains to understanding the importance of community—and not only the importance of community within the spiritual body of Christ, but also the need we have to recognize and understand that the work and ministry has never been about us as individuals, but rather as us as a corporate and collective body. There are far too many individuals who living, moving and operating in this “I” and “me” mentality when it comes to church, when it comes to ministry, and when it comes to ministering unto the LORD, and there is absolutely no room, nor is there any space for anything or anyone else but themselves. I am so absolutely appreciative of the text we find in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts, for there was indeed a work that needed to be done, and yet it was not a work that was designed for one man. In fact, if you read the text you will find that Saul and Barnabas were sent forth from the church at Antioch, and they would have John whose surname was Mark who would be minister unto them. It is incredibly important that we recognize and understand this powerful truth, for it brings us face to face with the fact that there was indeed a work which needed to be done in the midst of the earth, and yet it was not a work which Saul would be able to handle alone and by himself. Neither was this work able to be carried out and completed by Barnabas, for the two of them would need each other to carry out and complete the work. What’s more, is this would be the first time where the Holy Ghost would specifically speak unto the Church and call for individuals to be sent out into the harvest, and with that being said the Spirit would send them out together. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it powerfully and wonderfully demonstrates the truth that the work we have been called to is far too great for us to accomplish in and of ourselves. The work which we have been called to accomplish is much greater and much bigger than us ourselves alone.

            The more I read and consider the words which are found within this chapter the more I am confronted with the awesome and tremendous reality that we must needs recognize and understand that in the kingdom of heaven there is very little place for “I” and “me,” and that one of the most destructive and dangerous mindsets among Christians and those within our churches is this individualistic mindset. It is absolutely and incredibly dangerous to allow ourselves to get caught up in this mindset, for those who allow themselves to get caught up in it find themselves with absolutely no room or place in their hearts and lives for others. Please hear me and pay close attention to me when I write these words, for I speak from personal experienced when I emphatically declare that one of the most dangerous and destructive mindsets is that of living our lives solely, exclusively and specifically for ourselves. It is an incredibly dangerous place to be in when we think and believe that we can do the work and ministry of the kingdom. What’s more, is that even Jesus Himself demonstrated the reality that the work was too great for a single person to handle—even Jesus Christ Himself who was the Word became flesh and dwelling among us. If you read and study the four gospel narratives you will find that Jesus didn’t undertake, nor did he engage Himself in ministry alone and by Himself, for almost immediately after He returned unto Galilee full of the Holy Ghost He called Simon and his brother Andrew, as well as James and his brother John to follow Him. It would be a little later when Jesus would also call Matthew who was at that time a publican and a tax collector. What’s more, is that when you read the gospel narratives you will find that when Jesus engaged Himself in ministry He was always accompanied by the twelve disciples, and even when it came to feeding the five thousand, as well as the four thousand He would enlist the assistance of the disciples. Not only this, but if you continue reading in the gospels you will find that Jesus surrounded Himself with twelve men who would partner together with Him in the ministry, and when He sent those twelve men out into the harvest to preach the gospel concerning the kingdom He did not send them out as individuals, but as pairs who were partnered together with

            I sit here tonight thinking about this partnership in ministry and I can’t help but think about the fact that not even Jesus attempted to do the work of the kingdom alone and by Himself. Nowhere in the gospels will you find Jesus even remotely thinking He could do the work in and by Himself. In fact—if you truly take the time to think about it you will find that the work which Jesus engaged in upon the earth would be according to the will of the Father, by and according to the power of the Holy Spirit, and with the help and assistance of twelve disciples. THE LEADERSHIP OF THE FATHER, THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT, AND THE PARTNERSHIP OF THE DISCIPLES! If you take the time to think about it there is an incredibly powerful model that is found in the work and ministry of Jesus which He engaged in upon the earth, for Jesus would not only live out how ministry should be done, but Jesus also gave us an example for how we ought to conduct ourselves and engage in ministry and the work of the kingdom within our generation. It is truly and utterly fascinating to think about and consider the powerful truth that when you look at, examine and study the public life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find Him engaging in the work under the leadership of the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with the partnership and the assistance of the disciples. Not only this, but you will also find Jesus enlisting another seventy individuals whom He would also partner together with in the ministry. This is quite the interesting concept to think about it, for Jesus sent the disciples out in groups of two which would essentially be six groups of ministers working in the harvest. When Jesus sent the seventy out He would also send them out two by two which would be thirty-five different groups. Essentially we know how six plus thirty-five and Jesus the Christ Himself who would engage in the work of the ministry. We dare not and must not think even for a moment that Jesus was able to do the work of the ministry of the kingdom, for had Jesus been able to do the work of the ministry—not only would He have chosen twelve who would walk with and follow Him, and not only would He choose and send out an additional seventy, but He also would not have left one-hundred and twenty in the upper room waiting and tarrying from the promise of the Father to be sent by Jesus from the right hand in heaven. It is worth noting and considering that not only would Jesus enlist the partnership and the fellowship of the twelve disciples who would be His companions and partners in ministry, but He would also enlist the partnership and fellowship of the seventy whom He would send out. With this in mind, consider if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel of Luke, as well as the New Testament gospel narrative of Matthew:

            “And when He had called unto Him his twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease…These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your pace come upon it: but if it by not worthy, let your pace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Matthew 10:1-15).

            “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: and heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off again you: notwisthanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty work had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. HE that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirit are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:1-20).

            We must needs pay close and careful attention to the words found within these two passages of Scripture, for that which is contained therein brings us face to face with the awesome truth that even though Jesus was Emmanuel God with us and even though Jesus was the Word made flesh, He would not and could not do the work of the kingdom all by Himself. Oh we must allow the weight and significance of this to sink down within our hearts and our spirits, for when Jesus walked upon the earth He didn’t walk alone. JESUS DIDN’T WALK ALONE! The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and yet the Word did not walk alone within and upon the earth. The Word became flesh, and God dwelt among and with us, and yet the Word walked together for three and a half years with the disciples—and not only walking with them, but knowing those who doubted and did not believe, and knowing that one who would betray Him. Stop and think about this for a moment, for Jesus walked with the twelve disciples for three and a half years in fellowship and in ministry knowing those who did not believe and that one who would betray Him. Despite this, Jesus still walked with them in fellowship and walked with them in ministry—a reality we must needs recognize and understand, for we have been called to the same reality and manifestation within our hearts and lives. We have not been called to walk alone, and we have not been called to do the work of ministry alone. Heaven help us if we think and believe that we can walk alone, and if we can engage in the work of the ministry alone and by ourselves. Oh that we would recognize and understand that if not even Jesus could walk alone then we ought not and must not think that we can walk alone. What on earth would make us think and believe that we could somehow walk upon this earth alone and without fellowship, without community and without relationship if not even Jesus Himself could do so? We know and understand concerning Jesus that He was the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we must needs understand the reality surrounding that single word mentioned in this declaration—the word “us.”

            Pause for a moment and think about the fact that when we read the prophetic word and declaration concerning Jesus being Emmanuel, this word “us” would be used, for the word “Emmanuel” literally means “God with US.” What’s more is when we think about and consider the words which the apostle John wrote we must needs understand that he wrote concerning Jesus that He was the Word made flesh and which dwelt among “US.” GOD WITH US! THE WORD DWELLING AMONG US! The underlying theme of the Word made flesh and God dwelling in the earth was centered upon the reality of us—of you, of me, of us as a collective and corporate body and fellowship. What’s more is that this same reality holds true when we think about and consider the reality that it applies to the work and ministry of the kingdom, for just as much as fellowship and community is centered upon the demonstration and manifestation of “us,” so also is the work and ministry about “us.” The work and the ministry of the kingdom has never been, nor will it ever be about “I” and “me,” but it will always be about “us” and “we,” as well as “they” and “them.” In fact, one of the hardest places to be in within our lives is transitioning from the reality of “I” and “me” to “us” and “we.” It is absolutely and incredibly difficult to transition ourselves out of an individualistic mindset where we choose to live for ourselves and within ourselves. Oh in all reality I would dare say that if we choose to live for ourselves we might also be living within ourselves—within our own heads and within our own hearts. The problem with living in this place is that there is absolutely no room for anyone else—there is no room for anyone else to come alongside us and/or for us to come alongside someone else. Mark my words and mark them well when I say that one of the hardest things within our hearts and lives is to move beyond and move past ourselves and invite others to walk alongside us and to allow ourselves to walk alongside others. Oh I am absolutely and completely convinced that it is just as much about our inviting others to walk alongside us as it is about us allowing ourselves to walk alongside and with others.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering these words and how there is a great need within our hearts and our lives to transition into a place of “we” and “us” that we might truly learn to walk in the fulness of fellowship and community. Oh I continue to be absolutely and completely captivated with and by the fact that not even Jesus could do the work of the ministry alone and by Himself. Nowhere in any of the four gospels do you and will you find Jesus doing the work of the ministry alone, for He always had His disciples which were there present with Him. Within the four gospels you will find Jesus calling the twelve disciples unto Himself to walk with and follow Him, but you will also find Jesus sending the disciples into the harvest two by two that they might be partners together with Him in the ministry. Pause for a moment and think about how awesome and powerful this truly is, for here we have the Word made flesh which dwelt among us sending out his twelve disciples—not only that they might be partners together with Him, but that they might be partners together with each other. THE PARTNERSHIP WITH CHRIST, THE PARTNERSHIP WITH EACH OTHER! There is not a doubt in my mind that we have indeed been called to partner with Jesus the Christ, however, it is also true that we must needs partner with each other—and partner with each other in the work of the ministry. There is a great and tremendous need within and among us that we might wholeheartedly walk with, follow and partner together with Jesus the Christ, and there is a great need for us to walk with and partner together with others. Not only did Jesus send the twelve disciples out two by two as partners together with Him and partners together with themselves, but Jesus also sent the other seventy out in twos that they too might be partners together with Him, and that they might be partners together with each other. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for it brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that we have indeed been called to partner together with others, and that we dare not, we cannot and must not think that we can and somehow have been called to do this thing called life, and this thing called ministry alone and by ourselves.

            Perhaps one of the single greatest truths surrounding the gospel narratives is when you think about and consider the fact that not even the Word which was made flesh, and not even Emmanuel God with us could carry out and complete the work and assignment for which He had been called to do. What’s more, is that when Jesus returned unto the right hand of the Father He still left a great work untouched and He still left a great work undone. It is true that when Jesus hung there upon the cross He emphatically declared and proclaimed that “It is finished,” however, we must not think and consider for a moment that had anything to do with the work that needed to be done within and upon the earth. If there was not still a work which needed to be done, and if Jesus had truly and indeed finished and completed the work which needed to be done in the earth there would have been no need for the Holy Spirit, and there would have been no need for the body of Jesus the Christ in the earth. Not only this, but if you read the final chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will find the apostle declaring that if all the works which Jesus performed while upon the earth were written down in a volume there would not be enough books to contain it. Even with that being said, however, we must needs recognize and understand that there was still a great work that was left undone when Jesus departed from this earth. Stop and think about the fact that there was still a great work that was left to be done in Judaea, there was still a great work which needed to be done in Samaria, and there was most certainly a great work that needed to be done among the Gentiles. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that despite the fact that we have four gospel narratives found within the New Testament which were written to describe all that Jesus began to do and teach He still did not finish and complete the work which needed to be done upon the earth. When Jesus departed from this earth and returned unto His Father which was in heaven He still left a great harvest and a great work which needed to be done among us. What an absolutely tremendous and astonishing thought and concept it is to think about the fact that even though Jesus performed many great signs, wonders and miracles among us within the earth He still left a great work undone within and upon the earth.

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we recognize that there was indeed a great work that was left done after Jesus departed from the earth—a great work which would need to be carried out and completed by the disciples. What’s more, is that not only would this work be carried out be the apostles, but we also learn that the work would be carried out by others such as Philip in Samaria, such as Apollos, such as Aquila and Priscilla, such as Timothy, such as Titus, such as the apostle Paul, such as Barnabas, and others. Not only this, but even within this generation in which we are presently living there is a great work which needs to be done, for within and throughout each generation there is and there has been a work that needs to be fulfilled and completed. Within each and every generation there is a work that has been left undone and uncompleted, and we have been called to enter and step into that void. When Jesus departed from this earth and returned unto His Father in heaven there was a great void that was left within the earth as no longer would the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us be among us, and no longer would Emmanuel God with us be with us. All of a sudden there was a great void which was left in the earth, and we must needs recognize and understand how that void was not to be filled with and by the person of the Holy Spirit. Oh this is not to say that the person and presence of the Holy Spirit does not come into the midst of that void, but that you and I are the ones who have been called into that void. It is you and I who have been called to enter and step into that void, and it is you and I who have been called to rise up and enter into the harvest which is white and ripe for the gathering. Oh that we would understand and acknowledge that when Jesus departed from this earth and returned unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven He left a great work undone and unfinished, and not only would He raise up and send His spiritual body into the midst of that work, but He would also send the person and presence of the Holy Spirit into and upon that body. How absolutely necessary it is for us to truly understand and recognize that we as the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ have been called to step into that void which has been left by the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us. In fact, this is what we begin to see in the book of Acts, and this is what Saul and Barnabas were separated unto, for they were called and separated by the Holy Ghost to step into that void and to step into that work whereunto they had been called. Oh we must needs allow ourselves to recognize and understand this, and that we would faithfully and wholeheartedly step into the void that was left when the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us departed unto the right hand of the Father and left a great work undone within and upon the earth. Oh that we would be those who would rise up in the midst of the void and in the midst of the unfinished work to carry out and continue the work which Jesus the Christ began while He walked and dwelt among us for three and a half years.

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