July 21, 2019
Pastor Ricky Smith
We’ve been going on this journey through the book of Acts, looking one chapter at a time and one verse at a time. We have seen this big story of God’s plan as Jesus, all the way back in Acts chapter one, stood before his disciples, and right before He ascended, He said, “Hey look, you’re going to be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the outermost parts of the world.”
We’ve seen this story unfold. Here we come all the way to chapter 13, and more exciting things are going to happen. In fact, Acts chapter 13 resonates for me personally a little bit. Prior to you guys inviting me and choosing me to come and lead as your pastor, I served as a missionary for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, leading Next Gen ministry throughout the state, and I remember well, having being a part of this church for a long, long time (some of you were perhaps in the room in 2016), when you as a church gathered around me and sent me as a missionary from this church throughout the state of Georgia.
So, this idea of being a missionary sent out from a local church is something that I connect with personally because I’ve seen that happen in my life, and we see that communicated through the Scripture. So, we’re going to begin this process of seeing what begins with Paul and Barnabas in this missionary journey where they began to be sent out by the church, and there are a couple of things that I want to point out that will become common principles that we see over and over through this journey, and you’ll even see some of them today. There is this pattern that they tended to work in that was very strategic.
They would strategically begin in larger cities and then begin to work out into the sub-regions around that. They would begin consistently working in the synagogues first. We’ll talk about why that’s important today, and we’re even going to begin to see in Acts, this is the first local church sending out of missionaries, and it’s exciting to see.
I. Call to Missions
So, we’re going to dig right in. That call to missions is what we see here, and let’s read, beginning in the last verse of chapter 12 through the third verse of chapter 13.
25 After they had completed their relief mission, Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, taking along John who was called Mark. 13:1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.
A. Mandated for the local church
There are a couple of observations I think are worthwhile for us to pay attention to in these verses because they apply to us as a church. They also apply to us as individuals in our own pursuit of following Jesus on this journey we call the Christian life. The first thing I notice is this: Missions, or this call to missions, is mandated for the local church. We see this in the first three words of chapter 13.
“Now, in the church…” This is a contextualized, intended mission for the local fellowship of Believers. This faith family even represented here at Calvary in Columbus, Georgia, has this mandate to be in missions. It’s not an option. The reason I wanted to pick up at verse 25 of chapter 12 is, we see Saul and Barnabas were on this task of this relief mission effort, and this was just a continuation of the way that they lived. They were just carrying on this mandate, and I think the other point in this mandated mission is that it was an idea of multiplication.
Now, we could take the time to dive into as much background on these people who are mentioned and find their story. Suffice it to say, for the interest of time, each of these men who are mentioned had their own story. They had their own giftedness. They had their own history. They had their own personality that God had hardwired into them and gifted them each in a unique way to be a part of the mission of God. That’s applying to us as well.
All of our backstories are different, our personalities are different, our giftedness…they are unique to us, and God invites all of us together to be a part of this mission that He has called us to be in that flows out of the local church. But this is the most important part of these verses we have to pay attention to. This mandate for the local church to be on mission came as a result of the message delivered from the Holy Spirit.
B. Message from the Holy Spirit
We see it in verse two of chapter 13. The Holy Spirit said, “This is the plan.” The Holy Spirit called them onto this mission. See, this is a reminder for us of who is in charge, who is leading the church, who is leading my life. It’s God Himself who is guiding. It is God Himself who is leading, and the quest for us, individually and collectively, is that we keep our eyes fixed on Him and we follow His leadership.
Do you remember as a child, you used to play the game, Follow the Leader? Remember that little game? You would follow friends around, and you’d do the same wacky motions? I’m just naive enough to think that life is just like a game of Follow the Leader. If I’m keeping my eyes on the Holy Spirit, I’m following the direction of God Himself and following His leadership. He will speak, and He will lead me where I should go. But the question is, how do I get myself in the position so that I can hear that? How do I put myself in the place so that I’m postured to receive this command from the Holy Spirit?
I think the text speaks to this because, what does it describe these believers as doing? They were worshipping and fasting. So, here’s what’s important for us to know: The Greek word that’s used for worship here is the idea of continual service. So, here’s the point: These believers were active in obeying the command of God put in front of them. They were serving. They weren’t just busy for the sake of being busy. They weren’t saying yes just because they were in the habit of saying yes. They were in the business of worshipping through being the hands and feet of Jesus right where they were in that moment. They were worshipping as they served, and they fasted.
So, I put these ideas together. They were actively serving in obedience to God, and they were faithfully following the spiritual disciplines to help them grow. In this moment it was prayer. This week, it’s fasting. Last week in chapter 12, it was praying. They were actively pursuing Christ through the exercise of spiritual discipline, getting themselves in a posture, in a position, so that when the Holy Spirit spoke, they were ready to listen and willing to act. Do you see that?
So, in that moment, we understand that missions is mandated. This message comes from the Holy Spirit, and what it affirms then, is that the members are missionaries. What does the Holy Spirit say? “Take Saul and Barnabas, and set them apart for this specific task.” He sends them on a mission of a targeted, strategic, intentional missions experience to go somewhere for a specific purpose.
This is important for us to understand. One, I think this is noteworthy because in the arching grand story of the establishment of the church through Acts, this is the first time that we see a local church sending missionaries out into the world. That’s really important. Here’s the second thing that’s noteworthy: As we go harken all the way back to Acts chapter one, verse eight, “You’re going to be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria…” we’ve seen that play out through the last several chapters. Now, to the ends of the earth we go.
Now, we’re fulfilling that last segment of Acts 1:8, “And to the ends of the earth, I’m going to set apart these people to take the message to the world.” This is really, really exciting. This doesn’t just apply to Acts in the fulfillment of Jesus’s commandment; this applies to us. As Jesus’s Church, we are fulfilling the same mandate, that we will be witnesses of God in Jerusalem (Columbus), Judea (The Valley), Samaria (The state of Georgia and the United States), and to the ends of the earth we will go. We’re committed to that.
C. Members are Missionaries
All around here, you see the words “Reach, Build, Send”. That’s woven into the fabric of who we are as a church and how we execute this mission. We’re committed to making disciples, and we’re going to do that by Reaching, Building and Sending to the nations, because we believe (and we say this often around Calvary. If you’ve been around here a long time or even recently, I hope you’ve heard us say this), we believe that every member is a minister, and every minister should have a ministry. Why? Because, you and I are everyday missionaries who carry hope to the world.
Let me unpack the intentionality of this statement. We, at Calvary, you and I in this faith family, as fellow believers, are everyday missionaries. This does not just apply to the person who has yielded to a call, is selling everything and moving to Southeast Asia to be a missionary. Praise God for those who do! And He may call you to do that one day, but right now, He has called you to be an everyday missionary right where you are.
What are you doing in that? I’m carrying hope because I have put my faith and trust in God and the Savior of the world, who lives in me, who has promised to never leave me or forsake me, has now given me the privilege of carrying this message of hope to the world, a world that desperately needs it, a world that’s crying out for it. You and I are positioned and privileged to be His hands and His feet.
You may read that statement, and you may say, “Okay, that sounds great, but uh, where am I to go? What am I to do?” I would say this: Say yes to Jesus, and let Him choose where to place you on the map. Just say yes to Jesus. Let Him choose where to place you. He may place you nowhere different than where you already are. He may have for you, the mission is in that classroom where you teach or in that office where you work or in that neighborhood where you live or in that home next to that spouse who has not yet given his or her heart to Jesus. That’s where I want you to be a missionary.
It may be that He wants you to go on mission with a group of people and take the Gospel to the nations…Whatever He tells you, just say yes to Jesus. Let Him choose where to put you on the map. See, this is one of the reasons why I love Calvary Baptist Church. -because we’re committed to doing this. We do it on our campus through the ministries that are present. We do it off our campus, into this community, throughout the Valley, and to the nations. I love it. I’m celebrating what God is doing.
In fact, we are celebrating just this month 30 years of Calvary Community ministering in this community. Can we celebrate that? That’s something worth celebrating. It’s awesome. We had a member of our church in the 8:30 service who just got back from a missions effort in Nigeria, where we’re going to the nations. I’m so excited to see what God is doing both on this campus, off this campus in the city, and to the nations.
What are some ways that we do that? Well, let’s start really big and funnel down. We are unapologetically a Southern Baptist church, and in being that, we give to missions, and part of our giving into the church, we send to the Cooperative Program, which is where all Southern Baptist churches share our resources together to send the Gospel to the nations, and we’re proud of that.
We also go a step further, and we strategically partner with missions organizations throughout the world. Living Hope in Haiti, Hopegivers in India… always looking for ways that we can be relational and connected and not just send resources, but we can go and be a part. We partner with those people strategically. Right now, we’re planning, what are the mission trips that we, as a body, are actively going to go on throughout the next 12 months? -and we invite you to begin praying now.
Begin praying now. “God, where can I go?” Yes, I’m an everyday missionary now, but is there a place that I’m being sent that you want me to go be the hands and feet of Jesus? And we live on mission. It’s one of our core values. -living on mission every single day in the everyday, being on mission with God. Why? -because we’re everyday missionaries carrying hope to the world. As we look into the text, clearly there is this call to missions that originates from the Holy Spirit, and the local church was the mechanism to send people out for a specific purpose and a targeted mission.
II. Evangelism in Action
Now, we continue to move and we see this evangelism in action. Let’s read verses 4 through 12, and I will just make some observations for us this morning.
4 So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 Arriving in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They also had John as their assistant. 6 When they had traveled the whole island as far as Paphos, they came across a sorcerer, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (that is the meaning of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul—also called Paul—filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at Elymas 10 and said, “You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery, you son of the devil and enemy of all that is right. Won’t you ever stop perverting the straight paths of the Lord? 11 Now, look, the Lord’s hand is against you. You are going to be blind, and will not see the sun for a time.” Immediately a mist and darkness fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then, when he saw what happened, the proconsul believed, because he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
We begin to see evangelism in action. Evangelism, for those of you who, maybe this is a church word you’re not familiar with, can I just give it a working definition for the sake of clear communication and understanding? Evangelism is this idea that I have hope; I have a message, and I intentionally and strategically share that message with others. This is the idea of evangelism. I have hope; I have a good Word, and I’m going to intentionally and strategically share that hope and share that good Word with others for this sake and the hope that you also believe. That’s the idea of evangelism, and here we see it in action.
Some of you have had the privilege of doing this. Just two weeks ago, I was on a mission trip to New York City, where we were trying to engage people in conversation, having gospel conversations with people for the sake of evangelism. I’m taking this message of hope in the Gospel, trying to engage people in conversation so that they hear and may choose to believe. Evangelism in action.
A. Act where God is working
We see that same thing beginning to happen here. Here’s the first thing that I think is noteworthy, and I want to make these observations because these apply to your life and mine as we step into this role of being an everyday missionary carrying hope to the world. Here’s the first one: We see that they begin to act where God is already working. What do we mean by that?
Let me drill down into the text just for a little bit. We see two things: We see both a personal connection and a practical connection. Let’s begin with the personal connection.
1. Personal connection
See, if I go back to Acts chapter 11 and go back to Acts chapter 4, what I begin to see is that Barnabas already had family and had a relationship in these cities where they were going. So, it’s a personal, or a natural thing, like, “Hey, I’ve got some family and some friends over there. Let’s go there first.” That’s a very personal connection, and there is a lot that you and I can learn from that. If we’re looking for a place to be a missionary, let’s start within the relationships that we already have.
But go into that just being fully aware that it’s the most difficult place in which to minister. Those people who know you the best are sometimes the hardest to reach. You know why? Because they know you the best. I mean, let’s just be honest; if I were to get on a plane and fly to another country and boldly proclaim the Gospel, my level of fear as it relates to rejection is different because I know I’m going to speak the truth, and some people are going to reject that message, but I can just shake off my hands and go on to the next person because I’m leaving.
When it’s within a personal connection where this is somebody I’ve got to lay my head down next to at night or this is a neighbor I need to go borrow an egg from next week, there’s this personal connection that when they reject, I still have this fear of awkward tension, right? We’ve just got to own the reality. We’ve got to begin to work where we’re planted. That means in your home. That means in your neighborhood. That means in your office.That means in your workplace. That means on your little league baseball team. That means wherever you may be, begin in that personal connection.
2. Practical connection
There’s also a practical connection to the way that they begin. We read in the text, where did they go first? They went to the synagogue. Now, I think there are two reasons why this is important. One, they’re fulfilling this mandate that Christ predicted. – to the Jew first and also to the Greek. So, they’re trying to live that out. Every time we see them go into a new community, they’ll start in the synagogue, but I think there’s also a very practical reason for this because I’m going to begin where there are some presuppositional understanding and knowledge of God. So, it seems to make sense.
It’s like if you’re a gardener (I’m a wannabe gardener). It’s the difference in difficulty of virgin soil versus a raised bed. If I take virgin soil that’s never been plowed, and I want to turn it into a garden, it’s a lot more difficult, especially in Georgia, to break up that red clay and to get that soil turned over so that it is now ready to be planted. Let’s just be honest; it’s a lot easier if I’ve got a raised bed. I go buy bags of soil from Lowe’s, dump it in there, and it’s ready to go. Why? Because it’s already prepared. So there is a practical connection of being intentional to begin conversations with some people who at least have some presuppositional knowledge of who God is.
But just be ready for rejection because in that soil that’s already torn, there are also thorns I have to work through. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It’s just a natural place to start, and as I began to work through and I began to see evangelism in action and act where God is working. Then secondly, I anticipate that God will move.
B. Anticipate that God will move
See, let’s understand the context a little bit historically, of what is happening in these verses that we’re reading. See, Saul and Barnabas, they’re going now to the ends of the earth. They’re getting farther and farther away from Jerusalem with Judaic influences, and now they’re getting more into a pagan, Roman- influenced world. And here’s what we see in chapter 13: Sergius is the proconsul. Think of him as the appointed leader of Rome in that area. But what we notice about him is that at least he recognized the need for a higher power.
We could see this in that he was at least somewhat aware of spiritual things, and he had even hired a sorcerer to come in to help him. Maybe he was intrigued by the idea of miracles. Maybe he was influenced in trying to see the world around him as he brought in some of these Roman influences of their idea of gods and Greek mythology, and all those things are influencing the culture at this time, the farther we get out from Jerusalem.
1. Recognize man’s need for a higher power
But here, we at least recognize man’s need for a higher power. Why is this important? You, as you choose to be a missionary, even in Columbus, Georgia, you will come across people who do not believe in God. In fact, they may even say, “I’m an atheist; I don’t even believe God exists,” or, “I’m an agnostic.” Now, we’ll not take the time to dive into this. I’ll just throw this nugget out there for you. The very fact that we’re debating the idea of God suggests that there is a God. Theologians and apologists would call this the ontological argument for God’s existence. The very idea of God suggests that there is a God to pursue.
We’ll hold the phone on that idea, but recognizing this need for a higher power is at least a starting point to having a gospel conversation. What Sergius had to work through was recognizing the need to repent from a temporary satisfaction. See, he maybe had this idea of God. He at least had enough of an idea of God that he was willing to ask Saul and Barnabas. “Hey, come talk to me more about these things that you believe. I’m intrigued.” But we see evidence that he had short-wired the process for a temporary satisfaction.
2. Repent from temporary satisfaction
“Man, I hear about these miracles; I hear about God. Let me just get a sorcerer in here to make it all happen.” Well, I think it’s probably safe to say that none of us is going to go hire a sorcerer to live with us, but I do think if we’re not careful, we’re all guilty of short-changing the process and looking for temporary satisfaction.
For the person who has never given his or her life to Jesus, maybe it’s “I realize that there is a God, and I realize that I may even need Him, and I try to work my way to God by being kind or giving to the poor or serving or volunteering. Or I’m going to go build a house with Habitat for Humanity. I’m going to do some good things, and maybe that’s enough. Or maybe I’ll even read my Bible, or maybe I’ll even say The Lord’s Prayer. I might even get wet through baptism, and I’m going to do some things, thinking that that’s going to give me temporary satisfaction.”
And all the while, that person finds that they’re still empty because the only thing that can fill that emptiness is a personal relationship with the Creator of the world that’s only made possible in their having faith in His Son, Jesus. -that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Or Ephesians 2:8-9: “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God. [Why?] It’s not by works, so that you can’t brag or boast about it.” Or maybe, can I request permission to step on toes? Permission granted. Got it. Okay, so even those of us who have a relationship with Jesus, we really have a relationship, we know him, we still fall into this trap of seeking temporary satisfaction.
Maybe we’re seeking it in the size of our 401k. Maybe we’re seeking it in the number of “likes” we’re getting on that post that we put on Instagram, and we need this satisfaction; we need the affirmation and appraisal from others to make us feel valid. What we need to understand as sons and daughters of God is, He is all we need. He is our satisfaction. He is our everything, and we find our identity in Him and in Christ alone.
3. Respond to the Spirit’s call
Anticipate God will move. So, what begins to happen? In the proconsul, we see in verse 12 in Sergio, he’s watching all this. He begins to see the Gospel communicated in fullness for the first time, he responds to the Spirit’s call in his life.
See, God’s word demands a response. We say that unapologetically around here. We believe that firmly around here. When we open God’s Word, whether it’s as a faith family in this worship environment on Sunday, or it’s in your own personal pursuit of Jesus in the morning or in the evening, when you’re opening God’s Word alone, God’s Word is alive, and it demands a response. He wants to teach us and reveal Himself to us through His Word, and He wants us to put it into action. So, we should anticipate God to move. Expect God to move.
C. Guard the Gospel
But if we’re choosing to buy into this idea that I’m an everyday missionary carrying hope to the world, I’ve got to also recognize it’s just hard. I don’t know how else to say it. Being a missionary in the world is hard. We fear rejection. It’s hard. It’s awkward. How am I going to bring God up in a conversation with somebody? And in that challenge, in that quest that is not easy, I’ve got to be committed to guard the Gospel. I have to guard the Gospel. I have to protect the purity of the Gospel.
1. Expect opposition
I’ve got to be aware that there are people in opposition. In this story, the opposition that comes is from this sorcerer. He is doing his best to manipulate the truth, manipulate the facts. So expect that opposition to come, and in doing so, I’ve got to guard the purity of the Gospel. How do I do that? One, expect opposition to come, and two, understand it. Understand the Gospel. Be able to articulate the fact that God created the world, and He created man to have a relationship with Him.
2. Understand the Gospel
That was His original design and intent from the very beginning. But man, in his selfishness and in his disobedience, disobeyed God, and sin entered into the world. And that sin from Adam and Eve has carried on to you and to me. Sin is a real problem, and it separates us from God. There’s nothing that I can do to overcome the nature and reality of sin other than to fully submit to God and trust that He sent his Son, Jesus, to pay the price for that sin, and His death, His burial, His resurrection.
And He now is on the throne forever, having absorbed the wrath and punishment of God that I deserve and made it possible for me to have a relationship with Him, just the way God intended it to be from the very beginning. As a believer, I have to understand that. I have to be able to articulate that.
3. Allow the Lord to defend Himself
I have to guard that and realize that opposition will come, and I’m going to trust and allow the Lord to defend Himself. Here in the text, He defends Himself by blinding the sorcerer. We read last week how He defended Himself by just killing Herod, and He just wiped him off the face of the earth. The Lord is full of vengeance, and He will repay.
So what do we do? “Okay Ricky, this is great. I hear all this stuff, Man. I’m called to missions. The church, I get it; I understand. I’m supposed to be an everyday missionary carrying hope to the world. Got it. It makes perfect sense. And I need to watch God work and see evangelism in action. I get the whole personal connection, all that kind of stuff. What do we do?”
Here’s what we have to be aware of. Forewarning: This might hurt your feelings. Just listen, please. We have to push back, in the American church especially, which is where we are. This isn’t popular, and this isn’t easy. See, in our church culture (yes, it exists at Calvary, but it’s widespread throughout the church in America), there is this idea of consumerism, like, “I’m not here to Reach, Build, Send. I’m here to get.” And this mentality of consumerism causes me to get all upset because the air conditioner doesn’t work right, and I don’t like that song; it was too loud. Why are we doing it this way? I wish that it could be done this way. And then the seats aren’t comfortable, and I wish they would do this this way…
Let me help. I love Japanese food. (Just follow me; I know that was a weird, hard turn.) I love Japanese food, and when you go get Japanese food and you go to hibachi and they give you that yum yum sauce, it’s just like, that’s the secret sauce, right? It’s just like everything on my plate just became heaven. It’s beautiful.
Okay, let me tell you about the church. Here is the secret sauce. Are you ready?
It is not about you.
This isn’t for you. This is Jesus’s church. It is for His glory and for His Name’s sake. And you and I are just His hands and feet commissioned, challenged, mandated, and called to take this Gospel to the nations. Whether it be the community that I live in, the neighborhood I’m in, the house that I’m in, the place in the world that He may take me to… All around, I am called to make His Name known because it is not about me. It is about Him. And if that bothers you, you’ve got a problem with Him, not me. -because that’s who we’re here for. Everyday missionaries, carrying hope to the world.
- Today, I commit to identifying as a missionary in order to advance the Gospel.
- Today, I confess a need to prioritize a discipline of prayer and fasting.
- Today, I repent of my sin and choose to put my faith in Christ alone.
- Given that members of a local church are called to be on mission, what should this look like in your everyday life?
- Do you find it easier or harder to share Jesus with your friends and family? Why, or why not?
- Acts 13:7 suggests man’s innate desire to recognize a higher power. How could this be used to argue for the existence of God?