Separated By the Holy Spirit & Sent Forth By the Brethren

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the early church of the Lord Jesus as it was written and recorded by the physician Luke in the book of Acts.  More specifically today’s passage is found in verses thirteen through forty-three 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. And they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, and 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 Paphos, 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 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 13:1-12).

 

            “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. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said” (Acts 13:13-16).

 

            “Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamín, by the space of forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled this course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm. Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by. Him all that believe are justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you” Acts 13:17-41).

 

            “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God” (Acts 13:42-43).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostolic ministry of the apostle Paul beginning to take shape after spending time in Damascus, Jerusalem and Tarsus. In order to understand the significance of what is found in this passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary to turn and direct our attention to the words which are found in the ninth chapter of this book. In the ninth chapter of this New Testament book we encounter a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus who continued to wreak havoc upon the church by breathing threats and slaughter against it. This man named Saul even obtained letters from the chief priests which were in Jerusalem that he might travel as far as the city of Damascus in Syria that he might bring any whom he found to be followers of the way bound in chains unto Jerusalem to be cast into prison. It would be while on the road to the city of Damascus a great light would appear before Saul and those who were travelling with him. So great and so bright was the light that was before Saul and his companions that it knocked each of them off their house and fell them to the ground. With Saul off his horse and completely consumed in this brilliant light a voice would speak from the midst of it, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest me?” Upon hearing the voice from the midst of the light Saul would proceed to ask, “Who are you Lord?” The voice which had first called Saul by name and spoken unto him declared that He was Jesus whom he was persecuting. Moreover this voice would proceed to declare unto Saul how it was hard to kick against the goads or against the pricks. Saul would immediately ask the voice what He would have him do to which he would be instructed to enter into the city of Damascus and it would be told him what he must do.

 

            The encounter which Saul of Tarsus had on the road to Damascus with Jesus of Nazareth now exalted and glorified at the right hand of the Father would completely alter Saul’s intention upon entering into the city of Damascus. The account of this encounter and interaction with Jesus would go on to reveal how after the brilliant light disappeared Saul would be led by the hand as the two companions who traveled with him would bring him into the city. It would be there in the city of Damascus where Saul would be in the house of one of the city where he would commit himself to prayer and fasting. It would be during one of these times in prayer Saul would see a vision of a man by the name of Ananias coming unto him and laying hands on him that he might receive his sight. For three days Saul would devote himself to prayer and fasting as he awaited the instruction which was spoken unto him by Jesus Himself while traveling on the road to Damascus. During those three days the Lord Jesus would Himself also appear unto Ananias and call him to do something that would change the trajectory of the church and the history of the church for generations to come. The Lord Jesus would appear unto Ananias and instruct to go to the street called Straight and inquire of a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus. Moreover, the Lord Jesus declared unto Ananias that this same Saul had seen a vision that a man by the name of Ananias coming unto him and laying hands on him that he might receive his sight. Initially Ananias responded to the Lord Jesus by rehearsing what he had heard concerning this man by the name of Saul and even what he had come unto Damascus to do. The Lord, however, would declare unto Ananias that Saul had been chosen by Him to be a witness unto the Gentiles, unto kings and even unto the house of Israel and would be shown what great things he must suffer and endure for the sake of the name of Jesus.

 

            As you continue reading the narrative surrounding the would be exchange between Saul of Tarsus and a disciple by the name of Ananias you will find that Ananias did in fact obey the voice of the Lord Jesus and came unto Saul there at the street called Straight. Upon finding Saul praying and fasting Ananias would speak unto Saul calling him brother and declaring how the Lord Jesus had sent him there unto that house that he might receive his sight, be filled with the Holy Ghost and be baptized. Ananias would lay his hands upon this man by the name of Saul and immediately there fell as it were scales from his eyes and he was able to see once more. I feel a great need to pause right now and consider what it must have been like as Saul would open his eyes and see for the first time in three days and look upon this man by the name of Ananias. What was it like when the scales fell from the eyes of Saul and he looked upon this man who was willing to be a brother to him as he came and laid hands on him that he might receive his sight, received and be filled with the Holy Ghost and be baptized? I would absolutely love to know what it was like as Saul would see for the first time in three days after spending that time in prayer and fasting before the Lord. What’s more is I can’t help but wonder what it was like when Ananias first came into that house at the street called Straight and beheld this man by the name of Saul of Tarsus. I wonder what went through his mind as he entered into the house and was perhaps directed to where this man by the name of Saul of Tarsus was. What was it like as Ananias laid his hands upon this man named Saul of Tarsus and as he prayed for him beheld as it were scales fall from his eyes? What was it like for Ananias to look into the eyes of this man named Saul of Tarsus whom he had heard so many negative reports about?

 

            WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK INTO MY EYES? WHAT DID HE SEE WHEN HE LOOKED INTO THE EYES OF SAUL AFTER HE RECEIVED HIS SIGHT? WHAT DID ANANIAS BEHOLD IN SAUL WHEN HE LOOKED UPON HIM FOR THE VERY FIRST AFTER HAVING RECEIVED HIS SIGHT? I can’t help but think about and consider this particular exchange between Ananias and Saul as I find myself wondering what Ananias saw in the eyes of Saul when his eyes were opened and he received his sight according to the word and promise of the Lord Jesus. There is a lot that be learned and beheld when looking into someone’s eyes and I can’t help but wonder what Ananias saw in the eyes of Saul when he undoubtedly looked into his eyes in that moment. Moreover, I find myself wondering what Saul saw when he looked into the eyes of Ananias and beheld this brother for the very first time. I am sure this exchange was absolutely incredible and powerful when you truly take the time to think about it and although anything we say concerning it might be speculation and conjecture it is worth considering. There is something truly powerful about this man by the name of Ananias coming unto Saul of Tarsus as he obeyed the voice and command of the Lord Jesus. Oh pause for a moment and consider what would and could have happened had Ananias chosen to give into fear within his heart and choose not to obey the voice and command of the Lord. What would the narrative of Saul have looked like had Ananias chosen not to follow and obey the voice and command of the Lord? The truth of the matter is that Ananias didn’t know it when the Lord appeared to him and perhaps didn’t even know it when he laid hands on Saul and baptized him in water but this man named Saul would become the greatest champion, voice and apostle for the Lord Jesus unto the Gentiles in the history of the church. Oh there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Ananias knew that the man who sat before him in that house at the street called Straight would become the apostle of Christ unto the Gentiles and would produce thirteen books in what would become the New Testament and would plant many churches throughout Asia and Europe.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the account of Saul of Tarsus and I find myself being absolutely astonished at what took place immediately after he had received his sight, received the Holy Ghost and was baptized. Luke writes and records how Saul would immediately begin preaching and teaching the Lord Jesus there in Damascus and so much so that it would confound and baffle those who would hear him preach. Ananias had heard the rumors and reports concerning Saul prior to the Lord Jesus appearing unto him and those who heard him preach in the name of the Lord Jesus were themselves astonished that this was the same man who had previously persecuted the church which was at Jerusalem. Undoubtedly many among those in Damascus had heard the reports of Saul of Tarsus and even what he had come unto the city of Damascus to do. Much to their astonishment and amazement this man named Saul of Tarsus would now preach the name of the same Jesus whose servants and followers he had previously persecuted. Pause for a moment and consider what that would and could have been like for Saul as he was previously one of the greatest persecutors of the early church and yet would be completely transformed into one who would passionately preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus unto the Jews which were present in Damascus. So incredible was this transformation of Saul and his preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus that those in Damascus sought to put him to death that they might be rid of him. Report of the desire and intention of putting Saul to death would be known and they would let him out of the city in a basket from the wall that he might escape the hands of those who would put him to death.

 

            Immediately after Saul departed from the city of Damascus having escaped the hand and murderous intentions of those who would put him to death he would return unto Jerusalem where he had previously unleashed havoc against and upon the church. The beloved physician Luke writes how Saul assayed himself to be joined unto the disciples until a man by the name of Barnabas came alongside him and presented him unto the apostles. Luke writes how this man named Barnabas who himself was a disciple of the Lord Jesus would come alongside Saul and present him before the apostles—not only as a man who had seen the Lord Jesus but one who had also preached in His name in the city of Damascus. Essentially what we find concerning this man by the name of Barnabas is how he was willing to come alongside Saul as a faithful brother and present him unto the apostles of Christ as a man who had been changed and transformed by the Lord Jesus having encountered him on the road to Damascus. What’s more is that this man named Barnabas would present Saul unto the apostles as one who had preached the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus at Damascus that they might be convinced of his conversion and transformation. The narrative and account of Saul would go on to reveal how after being presented unto the apostles Saul would come and go freely among the disciples and brethren which were present there in the city of Jerusalem. Moreover Saul would continue his faithful preaching of the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus and would in fact anger certain Jews which were present there in the midst of the city. So severe was this anger that there would be those in Jerusalem who would seek to put him to death just as there were those in Damascus who would put him to death. When report of these murderous intentions were made known disciples and brethren would bring Saul down unto Caesarea where he would eventually go on unto Tarsus.

 

            If you continue reading the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that there is not another mention of this man by the name of Saul of Tarsus until we come to the eleventh chapter. The entire tenth chapter of this New Testament book is devoted to the apostle Peter going in unto Gentiles as he entered into the house of Cornelius and entertained both he and his household and close friends. It would be there in Caesarea where Cornelius and his entire household would hear and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and as the apostle Peter was speaking unto them the Holy Ghost would fall upon them thus filling them as had been done in the city of Jerusalem and had been done in Samaria. Moreover the apostle Peter would also baptize in water Cornelius and his entire household and those who were with him thus making them the firstfruits of the Gentiles who would not only be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and hear the gospel of Jesus but would also receive the Holy Ghost and be baptized in water. There is no mention of Saul of Tarsus in the tenth chapter for this particular chapter was entirely devoted to the apostle Peter going in unto Gentiles that he might preach the name of the Lord Jesus. How absolutely incredible it is that while the apostle Peter was speaking unto Cornelius and his entire household the Holy Ghost would fall and come upon them and they would receive the Holy Ghost as had been experienced in the city of Jerusalem and in Samaria.

 

            As you come to the eleventh chapter you will find the report of the apostle Peter going in unto the Gentiles reaching the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem and those of the circumcision contending with this apostle of Christ concerning his actions. Upon being questioned concerning his actions the apostle Peter would rehearse everything that had happened—from the angelic visitation Cornelius had received while in Caesarea, to the vision which the apostle Peter himself had received while at Joppa, to the Holy Spirit speaking unto Peter instructing him to go with the three men who had come to Simon the tanner’s house inquiring of him, to recognizing that this thing was of the Lord. Moreover, the apostle Peter would also speak unto the apostles, unto the brethren and unto those of the circumcision, saying, “Who was I to fight against God?” After the apostle Peter had finished rehearsing the events which had taken place and how everything had been carefully and divinely orchestrated by the living God the apostles, the brethren and those of the circumcision not only held their peace but also rejoiced that the Holy Ghost had been given unto the Gentiles as well. Little did the apostles and the brethren which were at Jerusalem know just how far reaching the person and presence of the Holy Ghost would actually be as the Holy Ghost would be manifested among those churches which the apostle Paul would establish throughout Asia and Europe. In fact Luke himself records how the Holy Ghost came upon certain disciples which were at Ephesus after they had already been baptized in John’s baptism which was one of water unto repentance for the remission of sins. Moreover, it would be when writing unto the Corinthian saints the apostle Paul would speak unto them of the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and would even speak unto them of spiritual gifts which were in operation among them. How absolutely incredible it is to read how far reaching the person and presence of the Holy Spirit would indeed be as the Holy Ghost would be poured out and released upon Gentiles throughout Asia and Europe as a direct result of the preaching of the name of the Lord Jesus and men and women believing on the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            Beginning with the nineteenth verse of the eleventh chapter you find those who were scattered abroad upon the persecution of Stephen in the city of Jerusalem journeyed as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch as they preached the word to none but the Jews only. The physician Luke would go on to reveal how some of those who were scattered abroad were men of Cyprus and Cyrene who upon coming to Antioch spake unto the Grecians preaching the Lord Jesus. Moreover the hand of the Lord was upon them and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Report of those things which were happening in Antioch would reach and come unto the ears of the church which was at Jerusalem and they sent forth Barnabas that he should journey unto Antioch. This man named Barnabas who would first be mentioned towards the end of the fourth chapter would see and witness the grace of God being manifested and poured out upon those in Antioch and was glad and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. Luke would also write concerning Barnabas that he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith and how much people were added unto the Lord. What makes this all the more astounding when you consider it is when you begin to see how the Lord was carefully orchestrating the events which would take place during those days and would position His servants as a skillful chess player would on a chess board. Scripture records how Barnabas would depart from Antioch for to seek Saul whom he had previously presented unto the apostles as having seen the Lord Jesus and preached the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            As you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that when Barnabas found Saul in Tarsus he would bring him back to Antioch and how for a whole year they assembled themselves with the church and taught the people. Moreover, it would be there in Antioch the disciples of the Lord Jesus were first called Christians—a name and title which would be present among the disciples from that time unto this present generation. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the events which are found in the eleventh chapter for what we find here in the eleventh chapter serve as the foundation and even the catalyst for what we read in the thirteenth chapter. There is not a doubt in my mind that if we wish to understand that which is found in the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book we must turn our attention to the eleventh chapter. It is here in the eleventh chapter where we not only find additional language being written concerning Barnabas one of the disciples which was present in Jerusalem but also Saul who at that time was present in Tarsus. I find it incredibly astonishing how the Lord Jesus would bring Saul and Barnabas together again and unbeknownst to them they would be brought together for to serve together in a great apostolic work the Holy Spirit would set before them. In the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find Barnabas coming alongside Saul as he presented him as a man who had indeed seen the Lord Jesus and as a man who had faithfully preached the name of the Lord Jesus in the city of Damascus. Now here we find Barnabas and Saul being reunited together once more as Barnabas would deliberately and intentionally journey unto Tarsus that he might find Saul and bring him back to Antioch. It would be there in Antioch Saul and Barnabas would assemble themselves together with the church and would teach the people. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for this would be the beginning of these two men working together to accomplish and fulfill the work which the Holy Ghost would later call them to.

 

            FAITHFULNESS IN ARMS! FAITHFULNESS IN SERVING! LEARNING TO SERVE TOGETHER! BROTHERS REUNITED! SERVING TOGETHER WITH ONE COMMON PURPOSE! The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with how the Holy Ghost would work strategically in the lives of Saul and Barnabas as he would bring them together that they might not only faithfully serve during that period of one year’s time but also that they might be prepared for the work which was before them. Scripture reveals how Saul and Barnabas would assemble themselves together with the church which was at Antioch for a full year and would teach many people there in the midst of this city. What’s more is that in the final verses of the eleventh chapter you will find how in those days prophets from Jerusalem would come unto Antioch—one of them whose name was Agabus who signified by the spirit that there should be a great dearth or famine that would be present throughout all the world. This great dearth would come to pass during the days of Claudius Caesar and as a direct result the disciples which were at Antioch determined every man according to his ability to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea. This offering and gift which would be bestowed upon the brethren which were at Judaea would in fact be sent unto them by the hands of Barnabas and Saul who would deliver unto them that which was freely given unto and bestowed upon them by their brethren which were at Antioch.

 

            As you come to the final verses of the twelfth chapter you will find Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry and took with them John whose surname was Mark. Pause for a moment and consider the words which are found in the final verses of the twelfth chapter for what we find during those days in the city of Jerusalem is the word of God growing and multiplying and Barnabas and Saul returning from Jerusalem after they had fulfilled their ministry. A question I can’t help but wonder is if Saul and Barnabas took with them John whose surname was Mark with them from Jerusalem was it not possible that they were present at the house of his mother among the brethren who were gathered together. It is in the twelfth chapter of this New Testament book we find James the brother of John being put to death by the sword by Herod the king and how the apostle Peter would himself be seized by Herod and put in prison. Luke writes how much prayer without ceasing would be made unto the Lord on behalf of the apostle Peter. It would be in response to the prayers of the saints and brethren the Lord would send one of his angels who would smite Peter while in prison between two guards that he might wake up and rise. Immediately the chains and shackles which were upon his wrists and ankles would fall of and be removed. This angel sent by God would instruct the apostle Peter to gird himself with his garment and would proceed to lead him out of the prison. The narrative goes on to reveal how this angel of the Lord would deliver Peter out of the prison and how when they came to the gate it would open of its own accord. The angel of God would continue journeying with and leading Peter until he was eventually removed from his presence. Initially the apostle Peter thought this was a vision until he realized that what had taken place was in fact reality and was actually taking place in real time.

 

            Luke writes how after being delivered out of the hand of Herod and after being delivered from the prison where he was being held he would come unto the house of the mother of John whose surname was Mark. It would be there at the house of John Mark’s mother the apostle Peter would knock on the gate for to be let in to the house among the brethren. Initially a damsel by the name of Rhoda would come unto the gate upon hearing the knocking and upon hearing the voice of the apostle Peter with gladness returned unto the brethren without opening the gate. Rhoda would declare unto the brethren which were gathered together in the house of John Mark’s mother and declare unto them how the apostle Peter was at the gate of the house. Initially they viewed her as being mad and not speaking the truth for they knew that the apostle Peter had been in prison after being seized by Herod. The brethren knew the apostle Peter had been seized by Herod and delivered unto the prison until the opportune time when he too might be put to death. What I so love about this narrative is how even while they might have still been offering up prayers and petitions before the Lord on behalf of the apostle Peter the Lord had already answered their prayers. What’s more is that not only did the Lord answer their prayers but the Lord also brought and delivered Peter unto them after being released from prison and from the hand of Herod the king. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous reality of the apostle Peter being delivered from the hand of Herod and from the prison and coming knocking on the door where the brethren were gathered together. How absolutely incredible it is to think and consider how the apostle Peter would not only knock on the gate of the house but would continue knocking until those within realized their prayers had actually been answered.

 

            In the final verses of the twelfth chapter we find Saul and Barnabas taking with them John whose surname was Mark with them unto Antioch and I can’t help but wonder if these two brethren were present in the house of his mother at the time prayer was being made for the apostle Peter. Is it possible that during those days when prayers were being offered up unto the Lord on behalf of the apostle Peter Saul and Barnabas were gathered together among the brethren agreeing together in prayer for their brother? We know that these two men would bring John Mark with them when they returned unto Antioch and that they were in Jerusalem at this time. What an incredible thought it is to think about how Saul and Barnabas were not only present in Jerusalem delivering aid and relief unto the brethren from the church in Antioch during a great dearth but they also might have been in Jerusalem at a time when the apostle Peter was imprisoned by Herod the king after James the brother of John had already been put to death. It is something truly spectacular to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and to consider the fact that Saul and Barnabas might very well have been present in the city of Jerusalem at the same time the apostle Peter was imprisoned at the request of Herod the king. Moreover there is something incredibly powerful to think about and consider how it’s possible Saul and Barnabas were present in the house of John Mark’s mother at the time when the apostle Peter came knocking on the gate after being delivered out of prison and out of the hand of Herod the king. This small but simple statement of Saul and Barnabas bringing with them John whose surname was Mark unto Antioch seems to suggest how they might very well have been at the house of his mother at the time the apostle Peter was presented unto them both alive and free.

 

            PRESENTED AS ALIVE AND FREE! Oh before I delve into the events which took place in the thirteenth chapter I find it absolutely incredible to read the words recorded in the twelfth chapter for when the apostle Peter came unto the house of the mother of John whose surname was Mark—not only was he presented as being alive but he was also presented as being free. Stop for a moment and consider just how absolutely incredible this truly is when you read of how Herod the king had put to death James the brother of John with the sword. Consider how when Herod saw that this pleased the Jews he proceeded to seize and lay hands on the apostle Peter having delivered him unto four quaternions for to be held until after the feast that he might be brought forth and put to death as James had been. The apostle Peter would be asleep and bound in prison between two guards when an angel of the Lord would be sent unto the prison that he might be delivered from the hand of Herod the king. This angel of the Lord would not only deliver the apostle Peter from the shackles which were upon his ankles and wrists but would also deliver him from the prison as the prison doors would be opened before and unto him. In addition to this the angel of the Lord would continue to lead the apostle Peter through the city by night and unto a gate that would open of its own accord. Eventually the angel would disappear and be removed from the presence of the apostle Peter and he would realize that he had not seen a vision but was actually experiencing this in real life. The apostle Peter would ultimately come unto the house of the mother of John whose surname was Mark as not only being alive but also free.

 

            I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to the words which are presented here in the twelfth chapter for there is something to be said about this brazen prison break that was orchestrated by the living God. It was the living God who had heard the prayers and petitions of the saints and brethren which were in Jerusalem and had sent one of His holy angels to deliver the apostle Peter out of the hand of Herod and out of the prison where he was being held. It would be the angel sent by God who would cause the shackles which were upon the ankles and wrists of the apostle Peter to fall to the ground and open the prison doors before him as he led him out of that prison. Moreover it would be this angel of the Lord who would lead the apostle Peter unto the gate of the city which would open of its own accord. Eventually the angel would disappear from the presence of the apostle Peter and he would realize that what had taken place was indeed a live event within his life. What I so love about the apostle Peter coming unto the house of the mother of John whose surname was Mark is that when he came knocking he not only came knocking being very much alive but also being very much free. What’s more is that when the apostle Peter came knocking on the door of the house where the brethren were gathered together he came knocking as the answer and fulfillment to their prayers. We aren’t given any clue or indication as to what the saints and brethren prayed for the apostle Peter, however, we do know that their prayers were heard by the living God and that He had sent one of his angels to deliver the apostle Peter out of the hand of Herod and out of that prison. When the apostle Peter showed up at the house he showed up as the answer to their prayers, as being very much alive after James the brother of John had been put to death and very much free as no longer being bound in the prison where he was being held.

 

            The twelfth chapter of this New Testament book concludes with Saul and Barnabas returning from Jerusalem after having fulfilled their ministry and taking with them John whose surname was Mark. I am convinced it is necessary for us to read and understand the words found in the final verses of the twelfth chapter for there is something incredibly powerful about Saul and Barnabas “fulfilling their ministry.” Up until this point we know that Saul preached the word and the name of the Lord Jesus in Damascus as well as in the city of Jerusalem after Barnabas presented him unto the apostles as having seen the Lord Jesus and preached Jesus there in the city. We know that Barnabas would come unto the saints and brethren which were at Antioch and would teach and exhort the people that they be of one purpose as they clave to the Lord. Luke writes and records how Barnabas would first come unto Antioch and would teach and exhort the brethren which were there before journeying unto Tarsus for to seek Saul. It’s actually quite astonishing to consider how Barnabas would first come to Antioch and teach and exhort the brethren there that they cleave to the Lord before he would bring unto them Saul of Tarsus who together would assemble themselves with the believers which were present in that city. An entire year would be spent assembled together in the city of Antioch as Saul and Barnabas would faithfully teach the brethren the word of the Lord Jesus. For an entire year these two brothers would faithfully serve side by side together in Antioch as they taught and exhorted the brethren and saints which were present there in the midst of the city. How absolutely wonderful it is to think about and consider the awesome and powerful reality of these two brothers who would faithfully serve the church there in Antioch for an entire year.

 

            IT MUST FIRST BE THAT ONE BE FOUND FAITHFUL! The more I read and consider the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but see a pattern of faithfulness that was present within the lives of Saul and Barnabas. If we wish to truly understand that which is found in the thirteenth chapter it is first necessary that we understand and recognize the pattern of faithfulness that was demonstrated among them during those days. These two men would be faithful in teaching and exhorting the brethren for an entire year there in the midst of Antioch as they would preach the name of the Lord Jesus. Moreover these men would be those who would take the gift and offering delivered by the brethren that relief might be sent unto the church which was in Judaea. I am absolutely convinced there is something to be said about the faithfulness within the hearts and lives of Saul and Barnabas for not only did they teach and preach the brethren in the name of the Lord Jesus for a full year but they also answered and responded to the call to deliver the gift and offering which was to be bestowed upon the church which was at Judaea. This would not be the first time the apostle Paul would be directly linked and connected to offerings being given in the midst of the churches for if you read the epistles written unto the Corinthian saints you will find and discover him writing of Achaia and Macedonia and how they were saints and brethren which had answered the call to give that the needs of the brethren might be met. Oh there is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words presented in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts for in the twelfth chapter we find Saul and Barnabas returning unto Antioch from Jerusalem having fulfilled the ministry for which they were called and sent by the brethren which were in Antioch.

 

            HAVE YOU FULFILLED YOUR MINISTRY? HAVE YOU BEEN FOUND FAITHFUL IN THOSE THINGS THE LORD HAS CALLED YOU TO? I have to admit that the more I read the words which are found in the final verses of the twelfth chapter the more I am confronted with the tremendous need for faithfulness to what the Lord has called us to. What’s more is I am not only confronted with the need to be faithful in those things which the Lord has called us to but also fulfill the work and ministry He has indeed and has in fact called us to. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves when we examine our lives is whether or not we can indeed and can in fact be those who are found faithful to that which the Lord has called us to. What’s more is that we must needs ask ourselves whether or not we have fulfilled and are fulfilling the work and ministry unto which we have been called. Saul and Barnabas were called and sent by the brethren to deliver the gift and offering unto the saints and brethren which were in Judaea. Their entire purpose and ministry there in Judaea was to faithfully minister unto the needs of those in Judaea during a time of great dearth and famine. Agabus according to the Spirit had prophesied that a great dearth would come upon the whole earth and during the days of Claudius Caesar that which he had prophesied and spoken would indeed come to pass. Oh dear reader there is something to be said and noted about what is found in the final verses of the twelfth chapter for Saul and Barnabas were sent with an offering and gift in hand that they might faithfully minister among the brethren which were in Judaea during a time of great famine in the earth. Undoubtedly those days were such of great and tremendous need and these two men were sent by the brethren in Antioch that they might faithfully execute care and compassion unto those who were in need in the region of Judaea.

 

            I am absolutely convinced there is something to be said about Saul and Barnabas who were found in the city of Antioch and how they were sent forth from Antioch unto Judaea during a time of great dearth and a time of famine in the earth. These two men were sent forth with relief in their hands to faithfully minister unto the needs of the brethren which were present in the midst of Judaea. Scripture does not point to nor does it reveal how long Saul and Barnabas were present in the midst of Judaea, however, we can be absolutely certain these men faithfully executed this ministry there in the midst of Judaea. The Holy Spirit is careful with the words which are presented in Scripture and if the beloved physician Luke wrote how Saul and Barnabas returned to Antioch from Jerusalem AFTER or WHEN they had fulfilled their ministry then we have to recognize and understand that they did just that. These two men would depart from Antioch unto the region of Judaea and would come unto Judaea and Jerusalem where it all started that relief might be bestowed unto the brethren. Isn’t it wonderful to read how that which began in the second chapter, that which was continued in the fourth chapter, and that which is still found in the sixth chapter would still be manifested among the brethren here in the twelfth chapter? What a truly wonderful and powerful picture it is to read of these two brothers in Christ delivering unto the brethren there in Judaea relief which had come directly from the brethren which were in Antioch. Those disciples and brethren which were present in Antioch would indeed purpose and determine according to their own ability to deliver relief and aid unto the saints and brethren which were present in Judaea.  Perhaps the greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is what would happen if we as the church moved and operated in the earth in this same manner. What would happen if we as the saints and brethren before the Lord purposed according to our ability to give unto those who are in need that they might receive the kindness, the goodness, the grace and the mercy of the Lord?

 

            When we come to the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts we find Saul and Barnabas having returned from Jerusalem after they had faithfully fulfilled the ministry for which they had been called. It is absolutely necessary that we understand and recognize this for there is not a doubt in my mind that it was this faithfulness which was proven and demonstrated before the Lord that would lend to the Holy Ghost speaking unto and among those who were at Antioch concerning the separation of Saul and Barnabas for the work which they had been called. It’s quite remarkable to read the words found in the eleventh chapter for in this chapter we find Saul and Barnabas being sent forth by the brethren which were in Antioch unto the saints which were in Judaea that they might bestow upon them the gift and freewill offering given unto them by their brothers which were in Antioch. In the eleventh chapter we find Saul and Barnabas being sent out by the brethren while in the thirteenth chapter we find Saul and Barnabas being separated by the Holy Ghost for the work unto which they had been called. SENT OUT FOR MINISTRY! SEPARATED UNTO THE WORK! Oh there is something truly awesome and powerful about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find here in these two portions of the book of Acts is two men being sent out by the brethren and two men being separated by the Holy Ghost for and unto the work they had been called to. Saul and Barnabas were initially sent forth from Antioch unto the church and brethren which were in Judaea and not long after they returned unto Antioch and the Holy Ghost would speak unto the brethren in the midst of their prayer and fasting that these two men be separated unto Himself for the work they had been called to.

 

            SENT FORTH BY THE BRETHREN AND SEPARATED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT! As I sit here today thinking about what is found in the eleventh and thirteenth chapters of this New Testament book I can’t help but see a powerful picture of men and brethren being sent forth by the church unto a ministry of relief and compassion, grace and mercy. It is in the eleventh chapter of this book we find the church and the brethren sending forth Saul and Barnabas with relief in their hands that they might effectively minister unto and among the brethren which were at Judaea. This was especially necessary because of a great dearth that had come upon the whole earth according to the prophetic word spoken by Agabus who was a prophet from Jerusalem. It’s actually truly amazing to read the words found in these two chapters for what we find within these chapters is an account of these two men being sent forth by the church for the ministry which was before them and then being separated by the Holy Spirit for the work whereunto they had been called. I have to admit that I have often wondered what this experience and encounter was like and whether or not Saul and Barnabas had an clue of what was about to take place within their lives. These two men were united in the bond of brotherhood in Christ in the city of Jerusalem and they had served together in Antioch and then in Judaea and now the Holy Ghost was separating them unto the work whereunto they had been called. It is absolutely necessary we pay close and careful attention to these words as they call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding these men and how they were indeed called by the Holy Ghost unto a work that was much greater and larger than anything they might had expected. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about it is that when the Holy Ghost spoke and instructed the brethren to separate unto Him Saul and Barnabas for the work whereunto they were called He did not define or reveal what that work was.

 

            I read the words which are found in this passage and I can’t help but be reminded of Abraham when he was still called Abram and dwelling in Ur of the Chaldeans and how the Lord spoke unto him and called him forth from that land unto a land which he would show him. The Lord did not immediately reveal the land unto which he was bringing him nor did the Lord immediately reveal the promise of a child and even the land in which he would be brought and dwelling being an inheritance for his descendants. Moreover you will recall that later on in the life of Abraham—after his son Isaac was born unto he and Sarah—the Lord tested him by instructing him to take his only son Isaac whom he loved and sacrifice him upon a mountain which he would show him. It’s actually quite astounding to read the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Genesis for they reveal the truth the Lord can indeed speak unto us and call and invite us into something and yet not reveal all the intricate details surrounding what lies before us. The Lord called Abraham forth from Ur of the Chaldeans and yet the revelation from the Lord would in fact be one of progression as the Lord would speak to him of a son being born, of descendants being numbered as the sand of the shore and the stars of the sky, and a land being given unto his descendants as an inheritance. In a similar manner—when the Holy Ghost spoke unto the prophets and teachers which were present at the church in Antioch He called for the separation of Saul and Barnabas unto the work whereunto they had been called.

 

            We know from Scripture that after those in Antioch had prayed and fasted they sent Saul and Barnabas forth once more from the church. This would now be the second time these two men would be sent forth from the church at Antioch and yet there was something different about this time. The first time these men were sent forth from the church and brethren which were at Antioch was because of a great dearth that had come upon the earth and the desire of the brethren to send relief unto those in Judaea. The second time these men were sent forth from this church, however, they would be sent forth not solely by man but by the Holy Spirit. What is truly astonishing about this passage is that it was the Holy Ghost who separated Saul and Barnabas unto Himself and unto the work He had called them to and it was then the brethren which sent them forth from their midst. SEPARATED BY THE HOLY GHOST, SENT FORTH BY THE BRETHREN! It is truly awesome and powerful to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and to see how the separation of the Holy Ghost and the sending forth of men worked in tandem and conjunction with each other. Saul and Barnabas had previously been sent forth by the brethren unto Judaea that they might bring relief unto the brethren which were there and this would be a second time the brethren would be sent forth. There is something much different about this time these two men were sent forth for this time they would first be separated by the Holy Ghost for a work that was appointed unto and before them. It was the Holy Ghost who had spoken unto the brethren, the prophets and teachers which were at Antioch and called for Saul and Barnabas unto the work He had called them and it was the brethren themselves who would send them forth according to will and command of the Holy Spirit.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely incredible to read the narrative surrounding Saul and Barnabas and how they were first separated by the Holy Ghost and were then sent forth by the Holy Ghost. There is something to be said about being separated and set apart by the Holy Ghost and even being sent forth by the brethren. These two men were sent forth from the brethren which were at Antioch to bring relief, care and compassion unto those which were in Judaea and now more than a year later we find the Holy Ghost speaking unto the prophets, unto the teachers and unto Saul and Barnabas themselves concerning their separation unto Himself. What’s more is that Saul and Barnabas weren’t merely separated unto the work whereunto they were called but they were separated by and unto the Holy Ghost. This is important for us to recognize for first came the separation unto the Holy Ghost and secondly came the separation unto the work. There would be those who like to think and feel as though they are and can be separated unto the work first without and/or apart from separation unto the Holy Ghost. The truth of the matter is that it is this separation unto the Holy Ghost which serves as the catalyst and foundation for the separation unto the work. What’s more is that any work we think we have been separated unto and/or any work we would separate ourselves unto is absolutely nothing without and apart from first being separated unto the Holy Ghost. If Saul and Barnabas were first separated unto the Holy Ghost then it would signify that they were going forth as those who were to be led, guided and directed by the Holy Ghost. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something to be said about this separation unto the Holy Ghost first and separated unto the work second.

 

            Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves when reading these words is whether or not we are willing to be separated unto the Holy Ghost. What’s more is that we must not only ask ourselves whether we are willing to be separated unto the Holy Ghost but are willing to be separated unto His will, His purposes, His plans and His desires. To be separated unto the Holy Ghost first and the work second means that our top priority will always be the Holy Spirit and His leading and guidance within our lives. If we would dare be those who would separate ourselves unto the work first we run the risk of placing the work and our own agenda above the will and mind of the Holy Ghost. It is absolutely necessary that we separate ourselves unto the Holy Ghost first and foremost for it is when we submit ourselves to and separate ourselves unto the Holy Ghost that we are able to move with the heart and mind of the Lord. Oh there has been far too much damage that has been done by those who have sought to separate themselves unto the work first and the Holy Ghost second or even separating themselves unto the work without and apart from the Holy Ghost. I would dare say those who seek to separate themselves unto the work first before, without and/or apart from separation unto the Holy Spirit are those who run the risk and play a dangerous game of fulfilling their own desires, serving their own needs, and pursuing their own agendas. Saul and Barnabas were separated unto the Holy Ghost and it was the Holy Ghost and not themselves who was responsible for the work which was before them. Moreover the work which was before them was not their work but rather it was the work which belonged to God and was governed by the Holy Ghost.

 

SEPARATE ME BARNABAS AND SAUL FOR THE WORK WHEREUNTO I HAVE CALLED THEM! There is a great need within our hearts and lives to recognize this separation unto the Holy Spirit first as well as the truth that the work belongs to God and is orchestrated by Him. It is absolutely necessary we recognize the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and understand that Saul and Barnabas were not only separated by the Holy Ghost but were separated unto the Holy Ghost. Moreover Saul and Barnabas were separated unto the work whereunto the Holy Ghost had orchestrated and called them unto. We must needs recognize and understand this for the language of “the work whereunto I have called them” suggests the work had been pre-ordained and orchestrated by the Holy Ghost before He ever spoke unto the prophets, unto the teachers and unto Saul and Barnabas themselves. The Holy Ghost had a work which had already been prepared for them and now the time had come for them to be separated unto and step into it. Oh that we would recognize and understand this within our hearts and lives and recognize that we are first and foremost separated unto the Holy Ghost and are secondly separated unto the work whereunto we have been called. What’s more is we must needs realize that the work has never and will never belong to us and we dare not think and/or assume that it does. We have been called to be separated unto the Holy Ghost as His servants and those who can be led and guided by Him and the work whereunto we have been called and which is before us belongs to the Holy Ghost. It is He alone who turns us where He wishes and it is He alone who purposes where we should go and what we should say. The minute we elevate the work above the Holy Ghost and/or the minute we seek to separate ourselves from the Holy Ghost or exclude Him from the work is the minute we elevate ourselves into the role of God. Such a place is incredibly dangerous and we must needs be entirely and altogether eradicated from our hearts, our minds and our lives. Oh that we would be men and women who are ready willing and able to commit ourselves to and separate ourselves unto the Holy Spirit and that we would allow the Holy Spirit to divinely orchestrate our lives and any work that we attempt to set our hands to.

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