Acts 13:1–4; 14:21–28comment (0)
November 15, 2012
By David Hogg
Related Scripture: Acts 13:1–4; 14:21–28
Bible Studies for Life
Academic Dean at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Engage in Kingdom Building
Acts 13:1–4; 14:21–28
Go Where God Sends (13:1–4)
“I guess you had to be there.” We have all either heard or said this when we have told a funny story that failed to gain the expected reaction. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all intuitively know that the context of an event or situation is integral to the event itself and helps us to understand and interpret what is going on. Here in Acts 13, context is no less important even though there is nothing humorous going on.
As we read this passage, among the first points to which Luke is drawing our attention is that we are entering into a church that is active in obedience and worship. We are not only told that Barnabas and friends are among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch, but (v. 2) that it is “while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting” that the Holy Spirit called these men out for missionary service. How often have you wondered what God’s will is for your life? The place to ask that question is in the church, and specifically in the midst of active worship and obedience among God’s people. Just as a car needs to be moving to be steered down a road, we must be active in our worship if we expect God to direct us.
Another point worth noting here is who God sent to be missionaries: the leaders. When God chooses who will go to spread the gospel, He chooses those who are prepared. While the Lord can do anything, He often chooses not to do just anything, but to work through the preparation His children have been undergoing for some time. If you were building a house would you hire workers who, while well-meaning and good-natured, had little or no expertise or training? How much more should we expect God to call people who are actively growing in Christ and being obedient to Him to build His Kingdom? An indispensable part of going where God sends us is having a willingness to prepare properly that we might be worthy of being sent.
Grow People Through Teaching (14:21–23)
When Paul and Barnabas and the rest of those sent out as missionaries left for far-off cities and lands, they did not have the modern methods of communication we now enjoy. There was no opportunity to call home, no opportunity to email or text or see family and friends. Apart from believers they met along the way or those who were converted under their ministry, these missionaries were alone. And I cannot imagine feeling more alone than when, as Luke records in 14:19, Paul was stoned almost to death. Getting hit by a stray pitch in baseball is one thing; getting pelted with a relentless barrage of stones and rocks on purpose from angry, vengeful enemies of the God you serve is an altogether different matter.
What a powerful reminder that being prepared by God and called by God is no guarantee that service for God will be easy or free of resistance. Nevertheless, Paul’s example in 14:20–22 shows us that commitment to our calling in spite of circumstances is part of what it means to trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding. Moreover, we see Paul became a living example of the very message he preached. There was no need to search diligently through books of illustrations to explain what it means to endure many tribulations in order to enter the kingdom of God (14:22). The joy and pain that belong to us can form a vital part of the gospel we spread.
Connect to the Kingdom (14:24–28)
After a year of missionary travel and enough danger and difficulty to last a lifetime, Barnabas and company arrived home in Antioch. What rejoicing there must have been. And what a beautiful reminder to them and to us that though the work of the Kingdom may become lonely, we are never alone in the work. As we labor for the King may we never need to say, “I guess you had to be there,” but “I’m glad you have always been there.”