- Sermon Notes
Keys for Your Calling
Illus. How to?
In Acts chapter 13 we are given details into the circumstances when Paul and Barnabas are sent out on their first missionary journey. The Lord sets them apart and sends them out for the work He is calling them to do.
This chapter represents a shift in the book of Acts. So far, the focus has been on Peter and the apostles in Jerusalem, but what we will see from Acts 13 on is the focus shift to the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Up to this point he has been referred to as Saul, but here in Acts 13 we will see him first referred to as Paul.
We saw Paul first give his life to Christ in Acts chapter 9, it is there that a man named Ananias is told to go to Saul and pray for him, it there that the Lord called him a chosen instrument of His, that Saul would bear His name to the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. He was chosen and called by God. He would go according to that calling.
Many verses in and throughout Scripture give us understanding and insights into the reality that the Lord has plans for His people. There are calls for all to “go” and then calls that come individually and the Lord makes known to us specifically.
Ephesians 2:10, We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Psalm 37:23-24, The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled down, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
There are works God has prepared, plans He has in place, and a race that He has for us to run. This morning we are going to see Saul and Barnabas respond to the call of God in and upon their lives. The Lord will direct their steps, and we will see that the response to what He directs, is “yes.”
The posture and response of Paul and Barnabas to the calling of the Lord on their lives is insightful for you and I. The insights shown will give you the opportunity this morning to understand and apply some aspects of Christian living that are “key for your calling.” Whether you find yourself in the place where His call has already been made clear and you know you are in the center of God’s will, or you are waiting for His call and will to be revealed, Acts 13 will give some important keys to either help you continue in the path you know God has called you, or will bring some direction associated with what you can do while you wait.
- Set Your Sights on Serving the Lord
Acts 13:1-2, Now there were prophets and teachers at Antioch, in the church that was there: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for the work to which I have called them.”
- Verse 1 by telling us where Saul and Barnabas were, and who was there.
- They were in the church in Antioch. We first read about the church in Antioch in Acts 11. It was a Gentile church that received the good news of Jesus Christ and gave their lives to Him.
- From there we saw the ministry begin, Barnabas had been sent from Jerusalem, then Barnabas went to get Saul and they spent a year there. Acts 11:24 tells us, “Considerable numbers were added to the Lord” there.
- At the end of Acts chapter 11, we see the church at Antioch send financial help to the church in Jerusalem in response to a world-wide famine.
- At the end of chapter 12, they return back to Antioch and bring a young man by the name of John Mark along with him. He is noted in Scripture at the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10).
- Here in Acts 13, after detailing where they are, we are given specifics as to who the leaders are of this Gentile church.
Illus. Descriptions of the five leaders.
- The description of who they are is powerful, but what they are choosing to do is key to a person’s calling.
- Verse 2, show us what the leaders and church were doing specifically, “they were serving the Lord and fasting…”
- There was much they could have been doing, but the picture we get is that they were “serving the Lord,” other translations say they were worshipping, or “ministering to the Lord.”
- In the different translations, it does not say serving for the Lord, or ministering for the Lord, rather it reads, ministering to the Lord.”
- The word used here for “serving” or “ministering” is a word that was used of the priest when they ministered in the tabernacle and temple. They would lift of prayers, thanksgiving, they would offer up incense, it was all for the Lord, and about the Lord.
Illus. Ministering to.
Illus. Ring, ring.
Psalm 34:1, I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
- Seeing the early church worshipping and ministering, helps us to sharpen our focus and set our sights on serving the Lord.
- There is a great importance in understanding that our ministry is first to minister unto the Lord. To minister to the Lord means we do what pleases Him and honors Him. We worship, draw near, praise, pray, and listen to what the Lord has to say.
Romans 11:36, For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Colossians 3:23-24, Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
- Make your ministry about the Lord, lean upon Him. 2 Corinthians 8:5 points to the Macedonian believers who first had to give themselves to the Lord and then to other believers. 2 Timothy 2:15 reminds us to present ourselves approved to God.
- When it comes to your calling from God, make sure you look to God. Give your heart to God, lean on the Lord, tie it all back to serving the Lord.
- We can so easily become self-serving and make God’s call upon our lives according to our own desires, or what other people think or see.
- And there is no question, there is strength in good counselors, but there is power, purpose in the wonderful counselor.
- If you are going to maintain in a calling or ministry from the Lord, you have to tie it all back to serving the Lord, to the call that has come from Him!
- This is key to your calling. Whether you are in the middle of a great ministry, or things are just beginning, set your sights on serving the Lord.
- Set Yourself Apart for Him
Acts 13:2-3, While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted, prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
- While the church leaders ministering to and serving the Lord, He spoke to them. It was a calling that would set Barnabas and Saul apart for a specific work.
- The words are “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for me, to the work which I have called them.”
- That word “set apart” is “to mark off from others by boundaries, to appoint, or separate for a purpose.”
- Throughout his ministry, Paul would write about his being “set-apart.”
- Being “set apart” is key for your calling because when you are set apart for the Lord, you are also set apart from the things that will keep you from the Lord.
2 Corinthians 6:16-18, what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell among them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.
- Prior to going according to the call, Saul and Barnabas first had to be set-apart for or separated to God.
- When it comes to the call of God, we also have to make sure that we are attached only to Him. We become attached to many different people, places, or things.
- Sometimes so attached that it is difficult to hear, see, or move toward that to which God is calling.
- They would need to be “set apart” from whatever might hold them back from His call.
Matthew 16:24, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.
Illus. I surrender all.
- I like that the Holy Spirit tells the people to set Barnabas and Saul apart for Him. Other translations read, “separate to me Barnabas and Saul.”
- This too is important for our understanding. Because in Christ, we have been set apart, given salvation and made holy.
1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
- The Lord has set us apart, but like Barnabas and Saul, we also must “set ourselves apart for the Lord.” For His work and remain available to His call.
- Verse 3, The people agreed with what the Lord was doing, the people fasted, prayed, laid hands on them, and sent them away.
- They were serving the Lord, set apart for the Lord, and now they are sent by and for the Lord.
- Remain Steadfast, No Matter Where You’re Sent
Acts 13:4-5, So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.
- Upon being sent, Barnabas and Saul end up sailing to Cyprus, which was an important Island in the Mediterranean, and they head to Salamis, which was a leading city on that Island.
- John Mark was there as their helper; he had come back with them from Jerusalem and is serving in support to their ministry.
- It is logical that their ministry would begin in Cyprus for several reasons: First, we know from Acts 4:36 that is was where Barnabas was from, so it would have been familiar territory. Secondly it was close to Antioch. And lastly, the place they ended up Salamis, had the largest population.
Acts 13:6-7, When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.
- Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark traveled the entire Island and arrived at Paphos.
- Paphos was a city that would present challenges for a Christian missionary.
- It was a city that was known for its immorality. It is regarded historically as great center for the worship of Aphrodite. It was a place where religious prostitution took place and it was infamous for the worship of Venus, the goddess of sexual love.
- It is in that city that they were confronted by a false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, which means son of Jesus. The literal meaning of his name was “son of salvation,” however, he was a deceiving false prophet.
- He was hanging around the Roman proconsul, or governor of Cyprus, a man name Sergius Paulus.
- Sergius Paulus is noted as an intelligent man and upon hearing about the message being spoken by Barnabas and Saul, he calls for them so that he can hear the word of God.
- The message of the gospel was proving powerful, it would have been a message this governor had never heard before, and it represented a great opportunity for these Christian missionaries.
- But there was a problem, Bar-Jesus (in verse 8 called Elymas) the false prophet, was opposing Saul and Barnabas.
Acts 13:9-13, But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, stared at him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not stop making crooked the straight ways of the Lord? Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord. Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.
- Three things take place in verses 9 to 13 that are key for ones calling. They face opposition, 2. Through their ministry comes a conversion, and 3. Someone who started with them, left the mission. In it all, Paul and Barnabas would remain steadfast in their calling which means settled, or unmovable.
- I want to first look at the conversion.
- The governor saw and heard it all. It was amazed at the teaching of the Lord.
- Paul and Barnabas were sent according to the call of God, and in the place went a powerful governor answered the call to come to Christ, and he believed.
- This was a great victory for Paul and Barnabas and represented fruit in what they were called to do, and where they were called to.
- There were fulfilling Jesus’ will. They were there in Cyprus, witnessing for Jesus, in an area that represented some of the remotest parts of the earth.
- But in verse 13, we see John Mark leave. We don’t know why he left. Some suggest that he was homesick, others suggest he may have lost confidence in Paul, or perhaps he didn’t like that he was not in the lead with Barnabas and Paul.
- What we do know from Acts chapter 15, is that Paul did not appreciate that John Mark did not want to continue as a part of the ministry team.
- In addition to John Mark leaving, they faced opposition.
- Bar-Jesus, also called Elymas, was against them. If the Roman governor began to believe in Christ, he would no longer have any need a false prophet in his life.
- This is the place they were sent. An immoral city, with a false prophet/sorcerer who is opposing them, they are attempting to do a good thing, but there is frustration in the city and now they are faced with a frustrating scene.
Charles Spurgeon – “Wherever there is likely to be great success, the open door and the opposing adversaries will both be found. If there are no adversaries, you may fear that there will be no success. A boy cannot get his kite up without wind, nor without a wind which drives against his kite.”
- Where they were sent had some difficulty, but it was where the Lord wanted them to be.
John 20:21, Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
John 16:33, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
- The Lord has sent us to this world, and in this world, we will have trouble, but we can also take heart, Jesus has overcome, and we overcome in Him.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9, We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
- For Saul, this was the beginning of it all. The Lord had said of Saul in Acts 9, he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; I will show him how much he must suffer in behalf of My name.”
- So, Paul and Barnabas in responding to the call, see a powerful conversion of a powerful person, with opposition on the one side, and a brother who chooses to divide on the other.
1 Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.