Pastors BLOG
June 12, 2018, 12:04 PM

The Adventure Begins 44: Lessons From the Early Church - Acts 12:20-13:12



The last two posts we looked at Acts 12:1-19 where King Herod Agrippa I – the grandson of Herod the great had arrested and killed James – the brother of John and had arrested Peter with similar likely intentions only to have his plans disrupted by a praying church and the intervention of God through His angel. Here is where we left off…

Acts 12:19-25 (NIV)
19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him (Peter) and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while.
20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply.
21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people.
22 They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man."
23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
24 But the word of God continued to increase and spread.

25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

(This is picking back up from where we left Barnabas and Saul back in chapter 11 – where they had taken gifts from the Antioch church to meet the needs of their Judean brothers in Jerusalem during an impending famine that was predicted prophetically to be coming).

Acts 13:1-12 (NIV)
1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger (pronounced “neeger” which means black), Lucius of Cyrene (pronounced Kurene – which is in northern Africa), Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) [Manahane] and Saul.

2 While 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 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.
5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet Bar-Jesus,
7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas (eloomas) the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.
9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas (eloomas) and said,
10 "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?
11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun." Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

As we survey these three passages together there emerges a dichotomy of foundations by which we choose to live our lives - one is illustrated by the example that is sandwiched in the middle of the other two passages which illustrate the second underpinning well. Jesus said…

Matthew 6:24 (KJV)
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (confidence in money and material possessions deified/ personified to the point of them becoming your god) .

The two possible foundations for life are either following God or living for anything else (yourself, your family, your job, money, the devil, creation, etc.).

How do we align ourselves then with God as our foundation?

The middle passage here illustrates for us the priority of worship in our lives to that end…

Acts 13:1-12 (NIV)
1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger (pronounced “neeger” which means black), Lucius of Cyrene (pronounced Kurene – which is northern Africa), Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) [Manahane - He grew up with the Herod who took part in the trials of Jesus, was the son of Herod the Great <who tried to have Jesus killed as a baby> and the uncle of Herod Agrippa <who killed James and imprisoned Peter and who we just saw die in the last chapter] and Saul.

Notice the great diversity of these leaders it is not about background, breeding, education or social standing – God moves through those who are committed and submitted to Him – this is the only requirement – saying yes Lord. Notice what it says they were doing -

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting (The priority of Worship - Loving God), the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Born out of Worship is Evangelism – Loving The People of our World)
3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Born out of Worship is the Ministry of the Body as they lay hand on them in prayers of anointi8ng and equipping – Loving Each Other)
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia (Seleukeia
) and sailed from there to Cyprus.

Notice that their plans were not self-directed – they were God-directed. They were not purpose-driven, program-driven or strategy-driven – they were presence-driven.

We like to claim that verse in…

Romans 8:28 (NIV)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…

This quoted by itself is misleading – we need the whole context…Paul wrote…

Romans 8:26-30 (NIV)
26 …the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

The conforming, justifying and glorifying work that He does in us so that we are in accordance with His will and purpose takes place in the presence of God as we worship Him.

Isaiah 46:9-10 (NIV)
9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.

Psalms 37:23-24 (NIV)
23 If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm;
24 though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Jeremiah 10:23 (NIV)
23 I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.

We discover this through worship – laying oneself down – prostrating oneself before God in an act of humility (What worship literally means).

Proverbs 3:34 (NIV)
34 He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.

James 4:6 (NIV)
6 …"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (From Proverbs 3:34 also found in 1 Peter 5:5)

Psalms 146:5-9 (NIV)
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-- the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free,
8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

 

God frustrates the ways of the wicked – that is all who do not surrender to and submit to the patterns of His will for their lives. It is like taking on a Tsunami – lacing up your shoes and running as hard and as fast as you can against it, but you will get nowhere.

According to the Jewish historians Herod Agrrippa wasn’t a bad guy. In fact he intervened on the part of the Jewish temple when Emperor Caligula wanted to erect his statue there for worship. He was part Jewish and had an affinity for Judaism, however in protecting the interests of Judaism (Like Saul before his conversion) he found himself in opposition to the followers of Jesus Christ - and as we know he began pursuing the apostles James (who he had killed and Peter who was jailed but miraculously set free).

It was not until Herod further maligned himself by accepting the accolades of others as a god that God indeed intervened. Josephus writes about this account saying…

Josephus Antiquities 19:8.2 – “Presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another…that he was a god…Upon this the king neither rebuked them nor rejected their…flattery. But he shortly afterward looked up and saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, just as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain arose in his belly, striking with a most violent intensity. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, "I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner." When he had said this, his pain became violent… All places were also full of mourning and lamentation... And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age and in the seventh year of his reign.”

Herod had good intentions, but Good-intentions are not enough to be aligned with God’s will.

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
21 Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.

Billy Graham famously posed the question “Is sincerity enough?” when it comes to faith – Then He told the story about when he was sick as a child and his mother mistook a bottle of iodine for a bottle of cough medicine in the medicine cabinet and almost killed him. He went on to say that her intentions were sincere in that she wanted to take care of him, but that sincerity wasn’t enough – that though she was sincere – she was sincerely wrong.

We can be sincere but not be aligned with the truth

The other story is of this sorcerer Elymus (Eloomus)

Acts 13:6-12 (NIV)
6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet (pseudoprophētēs) Bar-Jesus,
7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas (eloomas – wise/wizard/ sorcerer/ magician) the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.
9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul (this is the first time that Saul is referred to as Paul and from here on out he is Paul interestingly this arrives in the story of Paul reachiong out to the governor of the same name Paulus) , filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas (eloomas) and said,
10 "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?
11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun." Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

 

Job 5:12-14 (NIV)
12 He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.
13 He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.
14 Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night.

Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

This man had in fact aligned himself with the enemy and his own interests and was bent on disrupting the mission of God being carried out by Barnabas and Paul

In this instance we learn also that – Ill intentions are impotent against God’s will.

Proverbs 21:30 (NIV)
30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.

Psalms 33:10-11 (NIV)
10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Saul becomes known to us here by his adoptive greek name Paul, which means “small” and I think this is significant, because in worship and fasting he found his calling and here in the face of a powerful sorcerer and a governor of the same name “Paulus” he identifies with the authority that has been given to him in the presence of God by God to carry out the designs that God has for him – Saul has become “small” (Paul) and now because of this humility the God of the universe has become great in him, and in that moment he understood that…

When you are aligned with God and submitted to His authority in your life you will begin to understand your position of authority over what He has called you to do and nothing can stop you.

Isaiah 54:17 (NIV)
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.

Psalms 105:15 (NIV) warns -
15 "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm." (taken from 1 Chronicles 12:22)

We are the Priesthood of the saints – the anointed ones – we are His prophets to the world.

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

(God’s intention for Israel to be priests/prophets - the church to be the priests/ prophets)

Matthew 16:18-19 (NIV)
18 …on this rock (The truth of Jesus as the Christ confession of this truth and submission to this truth) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

By Pastor Carl Friedel

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