Set Apart-sermon text version

When we last left off with the adventures of the early disciples known as the Book of Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles, James (the one who was the brother of John the beloved disciple) had just been put to death by the sword. Herod, the evil king, wanted to do the same thing to the apostle Peter. But God intervened and Peter did a Houdini, and escaped from prison because God sent an angel to free him. God is not done with Peter yet.

Do you remember our old cycle: Pure Church, Powerful Church, Growing Church, Persecuted Church?

It’s now being summarized by Growing Church, Persecuted Church. The purity and the power are evident in God’s presence and blessing of their work. Last week’s persecution might have been crowned with verse 24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.

I decided also to tie it in with this week’s passage because we see the word of God spreading and flourishing. As the church father, Tertullian, a theologian from 155 – c. 240 AD, famously wrote,

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Luke, the author of Acts, now picks up the story of Barnabas and Saul and will pick up with Peter again soon. Kind of like “Meanwhile back at the ranch”… and we will see how God grows His Church.

The growth process is worship, obedience, and mission by ones set apart, or called to ministry.

The Holy Spirit will show up 3 times in today’s passage “back at the ranch.”
The Holy Spirit speaks, He sends, and He fills His missionaries with words that save.

Way back when I first came here, some of you may remember that I talked about how God was most interested in our purity as a church. Purity before numbers, I said. If we are pure in God’s sight, if we worship Him with a right heart, putting our own human needs and desires aside to put Him first, He will bless us as He did the early Church. He will grow Plymouth, just as He grew the Church in verse 24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish. Spread and flourish sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

So, back at the ranch:

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

What mission was that? Paul and Barnabas had been bringing the alms from Antioch to help the church at Jerusalem because of the persecution. Now they’ve returned back to Antioch from Jerusalem. This time with a guy named John, also called Mark.   He’s Barnabas’ cousin and is widely thought to have been with Peter in Jesus’ final days and the one who was anonymously described in Mark 14:52 as a young man who fled naked when the soldiers arrested Jesus and tried to seize him too, but all they got were his clothes.

This John Mark has been affirmed by the early Church as the author of the Gospel according to Mark which many believe was the source material built upon by the other Gospels. Mark was no slouch when it came to the Gospel and following Jesus during His earthly ministry.

Barnabas and Paul bring him to Antioch and on Paul’s first missionary journey, but Mark will leave the mission trip early. He will abandon Barnabas and Paul in next week’s passage and there will be a significant disagreement among two intellectual and theological powerhouses (Barnabas and Paul) regarding what to do about him. Barnabas always the encourager. Paul says “No Way!” Barnabas and Mark, after the fallout with Paul, will not show up together again the Book of Acts. But Paul will mention them both and eventually come around to the point where he’ll ask for Mark to come to be with him during Paul’s final days on earth. Healed relationship. Mark would be as a son to him.

chosen outSo we’re still back at the ranch:

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

13:1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers:

Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) 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.”

Let’s look at these guys. Barnabas we know has been an encourager from the beginning. Simeon called Niger was a Jewish man, and perhaps as many theologians suggest, he had a dark complexion and came to Antioch from what is now northern Africa. Why do I offer this? Well, Lucius the next guy in the series is from Cyrene. Cyrene is the Libyan modern day Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown and where he was found hiding. It is the very same place where ISIS just took over the airport in Libya last week. It was a coastal town near Tripoli and Benghazi. The Coptic Christians who were killed were beheaded on the coast very near there. Manaen is a Jewish name and he was either related-to …or was a close friend of… the very same Herod who had John the Baptist’s head on a platter and was consulted in the trial of Christ. And lastly Saul.

It’s important to note the work that the spiritual leaders of this church, the prophets and the teachers, were doing. They were worshiping the Lord and fasting (which is one of the spiritual disciplines that spiritual leaders can do to focus their minds on the will of God). Worshiping here means ministering in a religious sense, as in prayer.worship1

Note this important principle: God spoke to them through His Holy Spirit while they were worshiping.

The growth process of any God-honoring church or God-honoring mission begins in worship.

Get worship right

and you’ve got the beginnings of growth.

3 So after they had fasted and prayed [more worship], they placed their hands on them [Barnabas and Saul] 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.

The second activity of the Holy Spirit regarding growth is He sends and we respond with obedience! Barnabas and Saul (the set apart and sent ones) and John as their helper go out in mission. They obey God. They don’t debate it. Form a million different committees to study it. They don’t open it up to a congregational vote. They worship. They hear. They obey, and they go.

They went to the island Cyprus which was Barnabas’ hometown, if you will. It will become known as Paul’s first missionary journey of which he will have 3 major ones and a final partial one from which he will not return. He will go to Rome where he will die.

6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named 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.

Our process, we said, involves worship and hearing, obedience and going, and finally the mission of telling the Gospel truth. And the truth is not always well received or easy to speak. Sometimes persecution comes along in all kinds of sneaky ways.

8 But Elymas 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 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 for a time, not even able 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.


You are a child of the devil.”

It’s strange to think of such harsh words as being spoken in a spiritual, religious, or evangelistic setting. Especially by someone godly like Paul. Aren’t you at all worried, Paul? That you’re going to blow it? That your words will be offensive to the listeners? They’ll tune you out because you’re saying stuff that’s hard to hear and could be interpreted as nasty? In case we’re tempted to view this as Paul having simply lost his cool, Luke takes great pains to state that this was a Holy Spirit deal. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit…before he spoke a word.

People who are gifted as prophets and evangelists like Paul sometimes communicate truth in a strong way because the outcome is so important. God is really serious about His Word, His Church, and salvation that cost Him the earthly lifeblood of His Only Son Jesus!

Can God be in such harsh words as “You are a child of the devil?” Absolutely! Those same words are in 1 John 3:10. Jesus, in speaking with the Pharisees, was even more emphatic in saying that same thing. And God was with Jesus. Jesus spoke some of the most offensive words ever spoken on this planet, yet none of it was sin. It had salvation as its goal. And sometimes those standing in the way of salvation need to have a harsh reality check like Paul gave this sorcerer. The salvation of Sergius Paulus was important to God. We’re told this proconsul was intelligent and he wanted to hear the Word of God. And Elymas was being the uninvited housefly at the picnic, the mosquito swarm, or hive of mean-bees trying to get in the way of the work of God. He had to be dealt with. So Paul did.

Missions—if a little opposition can somehow thwart it—will never produce growth. A miracle like what Sergius Paulus witnessed results in faith. It did with him.

So, if a church wants to grow, it will worship God and its spiritual leadership will take great pains to do worship well. That’s how a church hears from God!
If a church wants to grow, it will be obedient to what it hears from God.
And if a church wants to grow, it will not let the truth or the purity of the Gospel become sidelined, distracted, polluted, compromised, or taken captive by a little opposition.

In today’s passage, the Holy Spirit spoke. He sent. And He filled Paul with words that save. Where are you? Are you worshiping God with a whole heart? Are you listening for His voice? When He calls, are you willing to obey? And are you willing to take His salvation to the world outside our walls?

Let’s pray.

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on June 9, 2015

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