Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the church of the Lord Jesus as it was written and recorded in the book of Acts by Luke. More specifically today’s passage begins with the forty-third verse of the thirteenth chapter and continues through to the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book. “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:43-52).
“And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together intot he synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and grantes signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, they were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region thast lieth round about: and there they preached the gospel” (Acts 14:1-7).
“And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: the same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycanoia, the Gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from the vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them” (Acts 14:8-18).
“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (Acts 14:19-20).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the first apostolic and missionary journey of the apostle Paul being underway after the Holy Ghost had spoken unto the prophets, teachers and brethren which were present at the church in Antioch. It is actually quite remarkable to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it marks a tremendous transformation within the life of this man who was previously known as Saul of Tarsus. The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful transformation which took place in the life of Saul of Tarsus from the time he encountered the Lord Jesus while traveling on the road to Damascus. It is truly incredible to read the words which are found in the ninth and eleventh chapters of this New Testament book and to see this man who was once a champion of persecution of the church would become a champion of preaching. This man who once wreaked havoc upon the church of the Lord Jesus and sought to tear it down and destroy it would now be the single greatest proponent of growth for the church. This man who once so vehemently and passionately sought to destroy the church of the Lord Jesus would indeed encounter Him on the road to Damascus and would be entirely and altogether transformed in His presence. It would be there on the road to Damascus the Lord Jesus would call Saul by name and ask him why he was persecuting Him. When Saul responded by asking him who He was He declared that He was Jesus whom he had been persecuting. Arrayed in and surrounded by brilliant light perhaps brighter than that of the sun the Lord Jesus appeared and spoke unto Saul and instructed him to journey into the city of Damascus where it would be told him what he must do.
As you read the words which are found within this particular portion of Scripture it is quite remarkable to encounter this mighty and powerful transformation which took place within the life of this man who was once known as Saul of Tarsus. This man who studied under the man named Gamaliel in the city of Jerusalem and was himself a Pharisee would in his zeal and fervor unleash a torrent of persecution against the church of the Lord Jesus. It would be Saul who would consent to the death of Stephen and upon the death of the church’s first martyr would begin unleashing a tidal wave of persecution against the church in the city of Jerusalem. So great was this persecution which would break out against the church of the Lord Jesus that all but the apostles would be scattered unto the various regions of Samaria and Judaea. At the time of Stephen’s death there would be a great persecution which would break out in the city of Jerusalem against the church of the Lord Jesus as Saul would enter into houses and homes dragging men and women out as he committed them to prison. When you come to the ninth chapter of this book you will find Saul continuing to wreak havoc against and upon the church as he continued to breathe threats and slaughter against it. Moreover Saul obtained letters from the chief priests in Jerusalem that he might travel as far as Damascus and if he found any who were of this way was authorized to bring them back to Jerusalem bound that they might be cast into prison.
What you find in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, however, is something entirely and altogether unexpected. If you read the New Testament book of Acts for the first time and did not know the outcome of this book in advance you would think and believe that this man named Saul would continue to wreak havoc upon and against the church of the Lord Jesus. If you didn’t have any advance knowledge of what would take place on the road to Damascus and how Saul would encounter and experience the Lord Jesus you would think that this man would continue to unleash a torrent of persecution against and upon the church. If you didn’t know the outcome of the story you would think that for all of his days Saul would continue persecuting the church of the Lord Jesus and would both commit men and women to prison and possibly even contenting to and even carrying out their deaths. When, however, you come to the ninth chapter you will find something entirely and altogether unexpected taking place—something which no one in Jerusalem, no one in Judaea, Samaria or even Damascus itself would have anticipated and expected. I would even argue and contend that Saul himself did not expect to experience the Lord Jesus while journeying on the road to Damascus. What’s more is I would dare say there was absolutely nothing in Saul that would have caused him to think and believe—much less accept the fact that he would encounter the Lord Jesus on this road to Damascus and would forever be changed and transformed. The truth of the matter, however, is that is exactly what happened as this man who was previously known as Saul of Tarsus would encounter the Lord Jesus who would appear unto Him surrounded and enveloped by brilliant and radiant light such as undoubtedly eclipsed the sun in all its strength.
It would be there on the road to Damascus this man named Saul would encounter the Lord Jesus and would learn that the one whom he was truly persecuting was Jesus Himself. This man named Saul of Tarsus undoubtedly thought he was simply persecuting flesh and blood and yet when he encountered the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus you will find that he was doing so much more than simply persecuting flesh and blood. There on the road to Damascus Saul of Tarsus would be thrown from his horse and would hear for the first time that the one he was really persecuting was the Lord Jesus. While it might very well have been true Saul thought and believed he was only persecuting flesh and blood it would be the Lord Jesus who would emphatically declare unto him that he was actually persecuting Him. It’s actually quite remarkable and astounding to read the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the book of Acts for the Lord Jesus would reveal Himself unto Saul as the one he was truly persecuting and then would send him into the very same city he was originally intent on journeying to. It’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider how the Lord Jesus would appear unto Saul on the road to Damascus and would not return him back to the city of Jerusalem from whence he came but would rather allow him to continue into the very city he sought to enter with letters from the chief priests to bring men and women of the way bound unto Jerusalem to be cast into prison. Oh Saul would eventually and would still enter into the city of Damascus, however, when he did indeed enter into the city it would not be with the same intention and desire as he had previously experienced.
I absolutely love how the Lord Jesus appeared unto Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and after declaring unto him that it was He whom he was persecuting would instruct him to journey into the city. There in the city of Damascus Saul would be told and it would be revealed unto him what he must do and Saul would have to be led by the hand into the city for the blindness which had come upon him. What is all the more fascinating about the words in this passage of Scripture is the contrast between that which Saul originally intended on doing and that which he would be told to do. Please do not miss the incredible importance of what is found in this passage of Scripture for what we find in it is a powerful picture of a man who was originally journeying unto the city of Damascus seeking his own desire and his own agenda and yet after encountering the person of the Lord Jesus on this road would enter into the city awaiting instruction and word on what he ought to do. Oh please don’t miss this for there is a vast difference for what we ourselves want to do and what ourselves think we ought to do and that which the Lord Jesus intends on us doing. Saul journeyed unto the city of Damascus with his own agenda, his own plan and his own purpose and yet it would be there on the road to Damascus he would encounter the Lord Jesus who would completely destroy and eradicate his agenda, his plan and his purpose. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and find Saul entering into the city—not seeking to carry out his own desire and that which he had previously intended on doing but rather awaiting instruction which would reveal unto him what he must do. Oh it is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for there is a stark contrast between that which Saul himself thought to do and that which he would be told and instructed to do.
When Saul entered into the city of Damascus that which he had previously thought to do and that which he had previously intended on doing would no longer be a thought in his mind as he had just experienced an encounter that would not only dramatically transform him but would also radically transform the history of the church. As Saul entered into the city of Damascus he would enter into it awaiting instruction on what he was to do for no longer would he carry out what he thought he ought to do or even what he desired to do. Saul would enter into the city blind and needing to be led by the hand by those who had accompanied him on the journey from Jerusalem unto Damascus. There in the city of Damascus Saul would commit himself to prayer and fasting and would see in a vision a man by the name of Ananias coming unto him and laying his hands on him that he might receive his sight. During those three days Saul tarried and abode in Damascus in prayer and fasting the Lord Jesus would Himself appear unto Ananias with a very specific set of instruction. The Lord Jesus would appear unto Ananias and instruct him to go into a street called Straight and inquire of a man by the name of Saul Tarsus for he had seen a vision of a man named Ananias coming unto him and laying hands on him that he might receive his sight. Ananias responded to the Lord Jesus by rehearsing the great atrocities this man named Saul of Tarsus had committed against the church in Jerusalem and Judaea and how had come unto Damascus with letters authorizing him to bring bound unto Jerusalem any man or woman he found to be of the way that they might be cast into prison. The Lord Jesus would speak unto Ananias and declare unto him that Saul was a chosen vessel of him to preach the gospel unto kings, unto the Gentiles and unto the house of Israel. Moreover the Lord Jesus would reveal unto Ananias that He would personally show Saul what great things he must needs suffer for the sake of His name.
The narrative continues with Ananias faithfully obeying the voice and command of the Lord and going unto the exact place where Saul had been tarrying and praying. Upon entering into the house and seeing Saul Ananias would call him by name and refer to him as brother and would proceed to declare unto him how the Lord Jesus had sent him that he might receive his sight. Ananias would lay his hands upon Saul and immediately there would fall from his eyes as it were scales and he would see for the first time in three days. What’s more is that Saul would be filled with and receive the Holy Ghost and would be strengthened after eating something. Saul would then be baptized and would begin preaching the name of the Lord Jesus there in the city of Damascus. Oh there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what it was like for Saul when Ananias laid his hands upon him and the scales fell from his eyes. I find myself wondering what it was like for Saul to see for the first time in three days and behold this man—yea, this brother—who would faithfully obey the voice of the Lord and come unto him that he might receive his sight and the Holy Ghost. There in that house Saul would not only receive sight but he would also receive the Spirit and would be set on an entirely new and different path than the one he had previously intended on journeying. How absolutely and utterly fascinating it is to read the words presented here in this passage of Scripture and consider how Saul of Tarsus would not only receive his sight after being without it for three days but would also receive the Holy Spirit and be baptized. There in Damascus—there in the very city where he originally intended on binding men and women in chains, in shackles and fetters that he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem—Saul of Tarsus would preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus.
It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize that which took place in Damascus—and not only that which took place in the city of Damascus but that which would take place in the city of Jerusalem as well—for in both of these cities we find Saul preaching the name and gospel of the Lord Jesus and experiencing direct opposition as a result. You cannot read the ninth chapter of this New Testament book without and apart from encountering and coming face to face with the persecutor not only being transformed into the preacher but also becoming the persecuted. WHEN THE PERSECUTOR BECOMES THE PERSECUTED! There in the city of Damascus—there in the very city Saul would seek to bring men and women forth bound in chains and fetters unto Jerusalem—Saul would preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus only to find himself experiencing tremendous persecution as a result. What makes this persecution all the more astonishing and intriguing when you take the time to consider it is that this persecution would come from the Jews. As you read the words presented before us in the ninth chapter of this New Testament book you will experience the tremendous truth that Saul would preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus there in the city of Jerusalem and yet his preaching would anger, infuriate and enrage the Jews which were present therein. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that had Saul been permitted to carry out his original desire and intention the Jews would have had no reason to raise themselves up against him in opposition seeking to put him to death. What we find in this passage, however, is the Jews which were present in the city of Damascus raising themselves up against Saul seeking to put him to death.
There is not a doubt in my mind we have a great need to pay attention to the words found before us in this passage of Scripture for the words we see hear bring us face to face with the beginning of the suffering Saul would experience for the sake of the name of Christ. We know how the Lord Jesus revealed unto Ananias that He would show unto Saul what great things he must needs suffer for the sake of His name and almost immediately after he began preaching the name of the Lord Jesus Saul would begin to experience this opposition. We don’t know if the Jews which are mentioned here were Jews by birth and were actually of the seed of Abraham and the stock of Israel or if they were proselytes who had given themselves to become Jews through circumcision and the like. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear whether or not the Jews which were here were Jews directly descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, however, what we do know is the Jews which were present there in Damascus were moved with envy, filled with raged, and acted out their intentions and desires against Saul seeking how they might put him to death. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that there might very well be times within our lives when as a direct result of our encountering the person and presence of the Lord Jesus and experiencing a radical shift and transformation within our lives we go from being the hunter to the hunted. There are times within our lives when encounters with the Lord Jesus might very well set us against and place us at odds with others around us—particularly and especially when we commit ourselves to preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus.
It is absolutely incredible to read the words presented in the ninth chapter for within this particular chapter—not only do we find Saul experiencing direct opposition from the Jews in Damascus but he also found himself experiencing this same opposition from the Jews which were in Jerusalem. It was made known how the Jews sought to put Saul to death and as a direct result of this knowledge Saul was let down from the wall of the city in a basket that he might be delivered out of their hand. After departing from the city of Jerusalem having escaped the murderous intentions of the Jews present therein Saul would journey unto the city of Jerusalem where he had originally set forth from. Luke writes and records how upon entering into the city of Jerusalem Saul assailed himself of joining himself unto the disciples and brethren—perhaps knowing the fear which might be present within their hearts concerning him. During this time, however, there would be a man by the name of Barnabas who would come alongside Saul as a faithful brother and would present him unto the apostles and brethren which were there in Jerusalem. Not only did Barnabas present Saul unto the apostles and brethren there in the city of Jerusalem but he had presented Saul unto them as one who had seen the Lord Jesus and who had preached the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus with all boldness in the city of Damascus. That which Barnabas did for Saul cannot and must not be overlooked for not only would he present Saul unto the apostles of Christ as a man who was changed and transformed but he would also begin setting in motion something which would come to pass in the eleventh chapter. In the ninth chapter of the book of Acts we find Barnabas presenting Saul as a man who had seen the Lord Jesus and as a man who had faithfully and boldly preached the name of the Lord Jesus in the city of Damascus. It would be as a direct result of this act of kindness on behalf of Barnabas that Saul would be able to move freely among the brethren which were present in the city of Jerusalem.
As you continue reading the words which are found in the ninth chapter you will find that there in the city of Jerusalem—there in the city where his persecution of the church originally began—Saul would now preach the gospel boldly and without fear or reservation. Luke goes on to write and record how Saul would preach the gospel even unto the Grecians and yet how the Grecians were moved with envy and outrage at his preaching and sought to kill him. Upon reading the words found in the ninth chapter you will find that the Grecians which were present there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem were moved with envy and rage against Saul and sought to put him to death. Once more Saul would find himself as being the target of those who would seek to kill him and once more he would find himself with a target on his back for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. What makes this passage so incredible is when you read how the disciples and brethren would learn of the desire and intention of killing and putting Saul to death and would take him down unto Caesarea before sending him on his way unto Tarsus. Saul would originally return unto the city of Jerusalem as one who had been filled with the Spirit, as one who had been baptized, and as one who would faithfully and boldly preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. The preaching of Saul, however—much like it did the Jews in Damascus—would anger and enrage the Grecians which were present in the city of Jerusalem. So vehement was their anger, their malice, their rage and their envy toward Saul that they would actually seek to put Saul to death. Once more, however, Saul would be delivered out of the hand of those who would put him to death as he would journey unto Tarsus where he was originally from. Now a second time we find Saul being delivered out of the hands of those who would have sought to slay and put him to death for preaching the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus.
I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need on our part to recognize what took place within the ninth chapter of this New Testament book for what we find here is a powerful picture of one who would come alongside Saul as a faithful brother who would present him unto the apostles as having seen the Lord Jesus and as one who had boldly and faithfully preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus. The ninth chapter cannot be overlooked—particularly and especially when you come to the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of this New Testament book—for it is in the ninth chapter where we not only find Saul and Barnabas being connected but we also begin seeing the persecution and opposition that would be raised up against Saul. It is in the ninth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts where after Saul’s encounter with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus he would faithfully, fearfully and boldly preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus in the cities of Damascus and Jerusalem. Although Saul had encountered the Lord Jesus and would preach His name and gospel in two of the oldest cities in the world he would find himself angering and infuriating men and women which were present therein. In Damascus Saul would find himself at odds with the Jews who sought to slay and put him to death while in Jerusalem Saul would find himself at odds with the Grecians who would seek to put him to death. There in each of these cities Saul would find himself angering others simply because he preached the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. Oh it is important for us to realize and recognize this for Saul would anger the Jews in Damascus and the Grecians in Jerusalem for no other reason than his preaching the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. It would be his preaching of the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus that would cause him to be the target of both the Grecians and the Jews who would seek to put him to death.
I am absolutely convinced we must needs pay close attention to the words which are found in the ninth chapter for not only do they introduce us to the tremendous opposition Saul would experience in Damascus and Jerusalem but they would also introduce us to this bond, this friendship and this brotherhood between Saul and Barnabas. I would dare say that when Barnabas came along Saul there in the city of Jerusalem and presented him unto the apostles as one who had seen the Lord Jesus and had preached the gospel of Jesus in Damascus he had absolutely no clue the bond and the brotherhood that would be forged between them. What’s more is I would dare say that neither Saul nor Barnabas could have anticipated the partnership that would be created between the two of them as they would not only faithfully serve the brethren of the church in Antioch but would also deliver relief unto the brethren in Judaea at a time when a great dearth was present upon the earth. I am sure Barnabas simply sought to be a brother and advocate for Saul there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem that he might be able to connect himself with the brethren and the apostles. I am sure Barnabas sought to be an advocate for Saul there in the midst of Jerusalem that he might be able to connect and associate himself with the brethren without their being fearful and afraid of him. What makes this all the more incredible is when you consider the fact that what would begin with Barnabas being an advocate for Saul would ultimately transition into a place where he would be a partner in ministry. How absolutely powerful it is to read the words found in the ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chapters and consider how that which would begin as simply Barnabas being an advocate for Saul before and unto the apostles and brethren in the city of Jerusalem would eventually transition to his being partner together in the work whereunto they had been called by the Holy Spirit.
I sit here today thinking about the words found in the ninth, eleventh, thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of this New Testament and how they are all interconnected and intrinsically linked to each other. I am absolutely convinced you cannot understand what is presented in chapters thirteen and fourteen without understanding what is presented in the eleventh chapter and you cannot understand what is found in the eleventh chapter without understand what is found in the ninth chapter. What we find in the ninth chapter is essentially the catalyst and the foundation for what we would read in chapters eleven, thirteen and fourteen as these two men would be separated by the Holy Ghost unto the work whereunto they had been called. These two men who were no stranger to working together in the work of the ministry would eventually and ultimately be separated by the Holy Ghost in Antioch among the brethren unto a work whereunto He had prepared and called them. What makes this all the more captivating is when you consider that not only were these men no stranger to working together in the work of the ministry but these men were used to being separated and sent forth by the brethren. It is in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book you find the church at Antioch being established by those who would journey from Jerusalem at the time of the great persecution which came about after the death of Stephen. It would be there in Antioch the word and name of the Lord Jesus would be preached and where much people would believe and be added unto the Lord. When word of the work taking place in Antioch would reach the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem they would send Barnabas as far as Antioch that he might partner together with the work.
What we find in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book of Acts is Barnabas being sent by the apostles and brethren which were at Jerusalem that he might come alongside of and partner together with the work there at Antioch. Oh we must needs recognize and pay close attention to this for the Lord would first send Barnabas unto Antioch to join himself to and partner himself with the ministry which took place there. It would be there in the city of Antioch where Barnabas would see the grace of God present among them and was glad and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. Luke would record of Barnabas that he was a good man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost and how much people were added unto the Lord as a direct result of his teaching and exhortation. The longer Barnabas dwelt in Antioch the more the desire might have been presented within himself for Saul whom he had come to know and love in the city of Jerusalem. As a direct result of this Barnabas would journey unto Tarsus that he might seek after and find Saul. Upon finding Saul there in Tarsus Barnabas would bring him back unto Antioch with him that together they might exhort and encourage the church. It is in the eleventh chapter of this book we find Saul and Barnabas abiding a whole year there in Antioch as they assembled themselves together with the church. It would be there in Antioch Saul and Barnabas would teach the people and where the disciples and followers of the way would first be called “Christians.” It would be there in Antioch where Saul and Barnabas would faithfully serve together among the brethren as they would teach and exhort them in the things concerning Lord. During that year Saul and Barnabas would undoubtedly preach the name and word of the Lord Jesus unto the brethren and even unto those who would be added to the church according to the will of the Lord.
Eventually during those days there would come prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch—one whose name was Agabus who would signify by the Holy Ghost that a great dearth would come upon the earth. The word which Agabus would proclaim would indeed come to pass during the days of Claudius Caesar and as a direct result the disciples which were at Antioch—every man according to his own ability—determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea. Undoubtedly an offering would be taken and a gift would be presented unto Saul and Barnabas who would be sent by the brethren unto the disciples which were in Judaea. Having dwelt in Antioch for a full year these two men would be sent forth from Antioch by the hand of the brethren unto Judaea that they might bring relief unto those who were in Judaea. They had faithfully taught and preached the gospel unto those who were in Antioch and now the time and opportunity came for them to partner together in the work of compassion as they would bring relief unto the brethren who dwelt in Judaea during a time of great famine in the earth. Scripture is entirely unclear how long Saul and Barnabas dwelt in Judaea and of their activity among the brethren which were present therein. When the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book draws to a close we find Saul and Barnabas being sent forth by the elders which were present in Antioch that they might deliver the relief unto the brethren which were in Judaea. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and consider how these two men were not only found faithful but were also entrusted with the gift and offering which would be delivered unto the brethren which were in Judaea.
In the final verse of the eleventh chapter we find Saul and Barnabas departing from Antioch being sent forth by the elders of the church that they might bring the gift and offering unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea. In the final verse of the twelfth chapter we find that after Saul and Barnabas had fulfilled their ministry in the midst of Judaea they would return unto Antioch and would take with them John whose surname was Mark. The thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book would open with a powerful description that there were in the church of Antioch certain prophets and teachers along with Saul and Barnabas. It would be while they ministered to the Lord and fasted the Holy Ghost would speak and call for them to separate unto Him Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto He had called them. After those at Antioch had fasted and prayed they would send them away having been sent forth by the Holy Ghost. Pause for a moment and consider the words which are found in the second and third verses of this thirteenth chapter for within this chapter we not only find the Holy Ghost speaking and calling for Saul and Barnabas to be separated unto Him for the work whereunto He had called them but we also find these two men being sent forth by the Holy Spirit. SEPARATED UNTO THE HOLY GHOST, SENT FORTH BY THE HOLY GHOST! SEPARATED AND SENT FORTH! Oh there is something truly powerful about what is found in this passage of Scripture for there is something to be said about those who are not only separated unto the Holy Ghost but also those who are sent forth by the Holy Ghost. It’s important to realize and understand that not only were Saul and Barnabas separated by and unto the Holy Ghost but they were also sent forth by the Holy Ghost. There is something to be said about those who are both separated unto the Holy Ghost and those who are sent forth by the Holy Ghost for such individuals must needs go forth that they might fulfill the work whereunto they had been called by the Holy Ghost.
I am sitting here thinking about and considering the words which are present in this passage of Scripture and I am absolutely captivated with the fact that there in Antioch—after Saul and Barnabas had returned from fulfilling the ministry in Judaea—the Holy Ghost would speak unto the brethren as they ministered unto the Lord concerning Saul and Barnabas. Scripture is unclear whether or not these men had any clue or idea what was about to happen and that they would be separated by the Holy Ghost unto a work whereunto they had been called and yet that is precisely what would happen there at Antioch. Saul and Barnabas would faithfully minister before the Lord there in Antioch and it would be while they were ministering the Holy Ghost would speak and call for them to be separated unto Himself for the work whereunto they had been called. It would be this encounter with the Holy Ghost that would set in motion the first of three apostolic and missionary journeys the apostle Paul would engage himself in during and throughout his life in Christ. That which is present here would be the first of three missionary journeys the apostle Paul would engage in and undertake as he would be sent forth according to the word and will of the Holy Ghost. It would be the Holy Ghost Himself who would call for them to be separated unto Himself and it would be the Holy Ghost that would send them forth from the midst of the brethren which were at Antioch that they might enter into that work whereunto they had been called. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading these words it’s that Saul and Barnabas had undoubtedly been found faithful in the sight and presence of the Holy Ghost and it was as a direct result of this faithfulness they would be separated unto the Holy Ghost unto the work unto which they had been called.
Upon reading the thirteenth chapter you will find Saul and Barnabas being sent forth by the Holy Ghost and embarking on a work and ministry which they had been called to by the Holy Ghost. Saul and Barnabas would indeed be sent forth by the Holy Spirit unto a work unto which they had been called and would immediately begin journeying and traveling unto different places teaching and preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus. It is absolutely astonishing to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words we find here bring us face to face with these men who were not only separated by and unto the Holy Ghost but were also sent forth by the Holy Ghost unto the work whereunto they were called. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and powerful truth surrounding these two men and how the Holy Ghost would continue to join them together for the work of the ministry. These men had already faithfully served together in the work of the ministry in Antioch for a year and had even partnered together in the work of relief unto and among the brethren which were in Judaea. These two men were already partners together in the work of the ministry and yet what we find here is the Holy Ghost and not man separating them unto Himself and sending them forth according to His will. I have to admit I am absolutely and utterly fascinated with and by the words found in this passage of Scripture for there is something to be said about the Holy Ghost who spoke unto the brethren which were at Antioch and would call them to separate unto Him Saul and Barnabas for the work whereunto He had called them. The Holy Ghost did indeed have a work which He had ordained and appointed for and unto them and the Holy Spirit called for them to be separated unto Himself that they might go forth and engage in that work.
What you find in the thirteenth chapter as well as the fourteenth chapter is Saul and Barnabas faithfully teaching and preaching the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. With that being said, however, it is important to recognize the tremendous opposition they would experience in the midst of this work and ministry whereunto they had been called. Despite the fact these two men were called of and separated unto the Holy Spirit for the work whereunto they had been called that work would not be without opposition. What’s more is that opposition would not only come from the physical and natural realm but would also come from the spiritual and supernatural realm. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that hell itself would array itself against Saul and Barnabas to assail and assault them in this work whereunto they had been called. You cannot read the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of this book and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding Saul and Barnabas and the tremendous opposition that would be raised up against them. This opposition would initially be manifested within the life of one man who would seek to dissuade another from hearing the word of the gospel and believing on the name of the Lord Jesus. It would be in Salamis Saul and Barnabas would preach the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews as they had always done. When they had gone through the isle unto Paphos they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jews whose name was Bar-Jesus. This sorcerer and false prophet was with the deputy of the country—Sergius Paulus—who was a prudent man. This deputy would call for Barnabas and Saul desiring to hear the word of God but Elymas the sorcerer sought to frustrate the work. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the thirteenth chapter beginning with the fifth verse:
“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 Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus: which was with the deputy of the county, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas 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 fell 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” (Acts 13:5-12).
It is important for us to recognize what is present in this passage of Scripture for what we find here is a powerful picture of opposition that would begin to raise itself up against Saul and Barnabas as they fulfilled and carried out the work whereunto they had been called by the Holy Spirit. Despite the fact they faithfully and boldly preached the word and name of the Lord Jesus unto those into whose cities and regions they came there would be opposition that would be raised up against them. Luke writes and records how there in Paphos Saul and Barnabas would find a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus. This sorcerer would be joined unto the deputy of that region and would raise himself up in opposition against Saul and Barnabas as he withstood them seeking to frustrate the grace of God and turning away the deputy from the faith. This man named Elymas would be the first of many who would lift himself up in opposition against Saul and Barnabas during this missionary journey and the first of many who would through their actions not only resist the Holy Ghost but also fight against God. Thus far within this New Testament book we have encountered truth surrounding fighting against God and of persecuting Jesus and now what we have here is the beginning of opposition Saul and Barnabas would experience during this apostolic and missionary journey. The apostle Paul would already experience opposition and persecution in Jerusalem and Damascus as Jews in Damascus and Grecians in Jerusalem sought to slay and put him to death. The apostle Paul would be delivered out of the hand of the murderous threats raised against him in each of those cities and would now experience a sorcerer who would seek to withstand them and attempt to frustrate the grace of God in the life of this deputy by the name of Sergius Paulus. Paul, however—being filled with the Holy Ghost—would pronounce blindness upon this sorcerer for a season and immediately a mist and darkness would come upon him and so much so that he had to go about begging for someone to lead him by the hand.
The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous amount of opposition the apostle Paul would experience while fulfilling the work whereunto he had been called. We know from the Scripture that he had already been sought by the Jews in Damascus that they might put him to death and we know that while in Jerusalem the Grecians also sought to put him to death. Scripture reveals unto us that he was delivered out of their clutches and grasp and that he would simply transition to another location. This is actually something that is truly unique when reading the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts for there is something about moving on from opposition, something about moving on from affliction, something moving on from persecution, and even something about moving on from suffering. With this being said, however, it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand that just because we move from opposition in one place does not mean we cannot and will not experience and move on to opposition in another place. There are times within our lives when we seem to escape and be delivered from opposition in one place only to find the opposition continuing in a different form in another place. If there is anyone who knew and recognized this more than anyone it was the apostle Paul for very early on in his walk with the Lord Jesus he would experience deliverance from opposition in Damascus only to find it resurfacing in a different way in a different city. Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding the narrative and life of the apostle Paul is that although he was one who was delivered from opposition, affliction and persecution in one place he would arrive in another place to find it there. It’s almost as if suffering, affliction, opposition and persecution was ordained and appointed for him in many of those places he journeyed and it was even the apostle Paul himself who declare that it is through many afflictions and trials we must enter into the kingdom of heaven.
I am sitting here thinking about the words which are found in the ninth chapter of this New Testament book as well as the words which are found in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapter and I am brought face to face with the fact that the apostle Paul was one who would experience suffering, opposition, affliction and persecution in one place and might be delivered from it in that place only to come unto another place and experience it again. What makes the ninth chapter of this New Testament book so incredibly interesting is when you consider how the Jews in Damascus sought to put to death the apostle Paul and how the brethren there in the city delivered him out of their clutches and grasp. Although the apostle Paul would be delivered from the murderous threats and intentions against him in Damascus they would again resurface in the city of Jerusalem in a different way. In all reality I would dare say there are times when we not necessarily delivered from our sufferings, from our afflictions, from our opposition and from that which we face but rather delivered through them and unto the next. There is not a doubt in my mind there are times in our lives when we are delivered through and out of afflictions, troubles, trials and sufferings in one place only to find ourselves experiencing the very same thing in an entirely different place. It’s almost as if we are delivered from one affliction to prepare and make us ready for another set of afflictions which awaits us in a new place. More often than not we move from place to place seeking to escape the afflictions, the trials, the sufferings, and the troubles of this life only to find that we simply move from afflictions to affliction and from sufferings to sufferings. We know that we are brought from faith to faith and from glory to glory, however, with that being said it is absolutely necessary we recognize that with that might also come our being brought from affliction to affliction, from suffering to suffering, from opposition to opposition.
Scripture makes it very clear that we are brought from faith to faith and from glory to glory and yet I am absolutely convinced that more of than not in order for us to be brought from faith to faith we must needs also be brought from affliction to affliction. There are many of us who desire to be brought from faith to faith in our lives and yet we don’t realize and understand that to do so might very well require us to be brought from affliction to affliction and from suffering to suffering. We would like to think that moving from faith to faith cannot be directly and intrinsically linked to moving from suffering to suffering and yet this life is not and has never been about being delivered from suffering but oftentimes delivered through suffering and delivered from one suffering to another. Please note that this isn’t to say that we are destined and purposed to spend all our days engaged in a perpetual state of suffering and affliction but rather that rather than seeking to be delivered from suffering we ought to recognize that we might very well be called to be delivered through our suffering. The three Hebrews in the land of Babylon were indeed delivered from the fiery furnace, however, they were not delivered from the fiery furnace in that they didn’t have to walk through and face it. Oh far too often we expect the living God to deliver us from suffering by allowing us to not experience or walk through it at all and yet that which He desires and purposes for our lives is to deliver us through the suffering. Please note and be aware of the fact that there is a vast difference between being delivered from suffering and being delivered out of and through suffering. The three Hebrews in the land of the Chaldeans would indeed be delivered from the fiery furnace yet their deliverance would come in the midst of the fiery furnace as well as their being brought forth from it. The three Hebrews in Babylon were delivered from their bonds in the midst of the fiery furnace as they walked in the midst of it with one likened unto the Son of man and were eventually brought forth from the midst of it. The same reality goes for Daniel whom the Lord did not deliver from the den of lions but rather delivered him in the midst of the den of lions as he not only shut the mouths of lions and preserved Daniel but also allowed Daniel to come forth from the den of lions completely unscathed and untouched.
As you read the words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book as well as the words in the fourteenth chapter you will encounter the apostle Paul continuing to fulfill the work of the ministry whereunto he had been called. In the midst of that ministry, however, the apostle Paul would encounter and experience tremendous resistance and opposition from the Jews who would seek to frustrate the work of God and dissuade men from believing on the name of the Lord Jesus. If you begin reading with and from the forty-fourth verse of the thirteenth chapter you will find a whole city coming together to hear the word of God. When, however, the Jews saw the multitudes they were filled with envy and spoke against those things which were spoken by the apostle Paul contradicting and blaspheming him. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with the continued opposition the Jews would raise to the gospel and message of the Lord Jesus. The more you read the words presented within the book of Acts the more you will find and encounter the awesome truth that the Jews were undoubtedly the greatest source of opposition towards the gospel and message of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus revealed unto Ananias and unto Paul that he would be an ambassador unto the Gentiles and yet the means of bringing this about would not merely be a matter of geography but also through the resistance of the Jews. It would be the hard-heartedness and stiff-neckedness of the Jews that would ultimately cause the apostle Paul to purpose to preach the gospel unto the Gentiles alone.
I have to admit that I find it absolutely incredible to read the words which are found in the final verses of the thirteenth chapter for within it we find the continued opposition and resistance of the Jews to the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. We know through reading the fourth and fifth chapters of this same book the religious leaders and rulers in Jerusalem sought to silence and frustrate the name and gospel of the Lord Jesus, however, the apostles purposed to obey God rather than man. The further you delve into this New Testament book the more you will encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the opposition and resistance of the Jews. In fact much of the opposition and resistance the apostle Paul and his companions would face would come directly from the Jews as it would be the Jews themselves who would vehemently oppose the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. Time and time again the Jews would themselves rise up against the apostle Paul that they might frustrate the word and message he preached. What’s more is that the Jews didn’t merely raise themselves up against the work but they also sought to stir up the crowd against the apostle Paul and his companions. What we find in the thirteenth chapter is the beginning of not only the resistance of the Jews but also the Jews seeking to stir up the crowd like an angry hornet’s nest that is disturbed. It was the desire and intention of the Jews to not only frustrate and oppose the word and work of the Lord Jesus but also to stir up the Gentiles and all those before and around them against this word and message. We must needs recognize and pay attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the unbelievable opposition that would be raised up against the apostle Paul. With this being said, however, we must needs recognize that the opposition wasn’t ultimately against the apostle Paul but against the One whom he served. Just as the apostle Paul had persecuted Jesus Himself and not just flesh and blood so also the Jews would not merely oppose the apostle Paul and his companions but would oppose Jesus Himself.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the final words recorded in the thirteenth chapter. Beginning with the fiftieth verse we find how the Jews continued to stir up devour and honorable women and the chief men of the cites whereunto Paul and Barnabas came and raised persecution against them. What’s more is you will also read how the Jews would expel Paul and Barnabas from their coasts that they might rid the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus from their midst. What is found in the fifty-first verse of this chapter is actually quite powerful when you consider it for Luke writes how the apostle Paul and Barnabas shook off the dust of their feet against them as a witness unto and against them. Please don’t miss the incredible importance and significance of this particular truth as it calls and draws our attention to the act of shaking off the dust of your feet—and not only shaking the dust off your feet but in essence shaking off the opposition, the resistance, the affliction and the persecution you experienced in that particular place. When Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet as a witness unto and against them—not only were they in essence signifying their moving on from them but they were also signifying their moving on from that particular place. You will recall that it was Jesus Himself who instructed the disciples to shake the dust off their feet if they entered into a city, town, village and home and were not received by those unto whom they would come.
There is something absolutely tremendous and something we must needs understand when reading the words presented in this passage of Scripture—particularly and especially when we read of the opposition and resistance of the Jews and the apostle Paul and Barnabas moving on from city to city. In many cases the apostle Paul and those who would travel with him would experience opposition, resistance and persecution in one city only to leave that city and experience it in the next. As we will later see in this New Testament book—specifically the seventeenth chapter—the apostle Paul and his companions would experience the resistance and opposition of the Jews in one city, would venture to another city and would find themselves experiencing the same resistance of the Jews there. One thing which is important to note within this life is that more often than not we are not delivered from and even through suffering into a place of rest and peace but rather unto another suffering and affliction in a different place and with different places. In fact there are times when it might very well be the same suffering, the same affliction, the same opposition, the same persecution, the same trials and troubles and yet just a different place with different names and faces. There are times within our lives when the only thing that changes is not necessarily the affliction, the suffering, the opposition, the trials and the troubles we face but rather the names, the faces and the places. What I so absolutely love about the instruction of Jesus—and not just the instruction of Jesus but also the life of the apostle Paul—is that it is okay to shake the dust off our feet. It’s okay to shake the dust off our feet and essentially brush our shoulder off when we face opposition, affliction, suffering, persecution. As we shake the dust off our feet we not only do it as a witness against those we have encountered. It was the Lord Himself who instructed us to shake the dust off our feet in those cities, towns, villages and homes we entered which haven’t received the word or name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul recognized the resistance and opposition directed against the preaching of the gospel and turned it back upon those who did in fact engage in resistance against them. The apostle Paul recognized that it wasn’t them they were resisting but rather the living God and the person of the Lord Jesus. Oh that we would not only be those who recognize the Lord’s desire to deliver us through our suffering but also those who are able to shake the dust off our feet and move on from such places—even if it means in the process of moving from faith to faith and glory to glory we also more from affliction to affliction and suffering to suffering.