January 5, 2022

January 5, 2022

Author: Pastor Bernard Ibrahim
January 05, 2022

“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 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.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”

Acts 13:1-4

This passage has often struck me as instructional for us. There is a lot in Acts. This is a place that teaches us a lot about what we should be as Christ’s church in the early days of what it meant to be those first couple of churches. There are a lot of foundational lessons taught there.

You may remember in your history at this point, Paul is saved by Christ on the road to Damascus. People are scared of him a little bit but Barnabas takes him under his wing. Paul goes back to Tarsus and then we start seeing the Gentiles get saved and get the Holy Spirit. When the church in Jerusalem hears this they send Barnabas and Barnabas goes and gets Paul from Tarsus which is down in southern Turkey and they go to Antioch. That’s where we find them.

What often strikes me in these few verses is you can imagine it’s a new church. What are they praying? They may be praying for the growth of the kingdom. They probably received that instruction from Matthew 6, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” They were most likely a mixed church in Antioch, probably people who were prior Gentiles and people who were prior Jews brought to faith. They may have even seen the Great Commission, either spoken to them or someone had relayed it to them what Christ said in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and behold I am with you always to the end of the age.”

They or you might deduct that we are a result of that. We are a church, we have been baptized, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We have been made disciples and probably are from a variety of nations. They are a distance north of Jerusalem, north of Lebanon in that little corner there in modern day Turkey (it was part of Syria at the time). They might be thinking, “We are a new church though not a huge church. We have only five pastors, elders, teachers and the Holy Spirit comes along and says, “Separate to me two of your teachers to go somewhere else.” We don’t know exactly what the Holy Spirit said to do other than to “set these two men apart for the work which I called them.” That’s the only phrase we have.

Then what strikes me is, them knowing the Scriptures, having been saved by the gospel, knowing that the gospel is relayed, but they pray. They pray, they lay hands on these two men and they pray. You might step back and say, “Well, wait a minute. They have their Bible and not only that, they received direct, real time revelation from God the Holy Spirit to them in particular. It’s not a general revelation, it’s not like someone would read Genesis or Exodus to them or Isaiah and they would know it is specific for them. Their names are called out, these two men, in this location at this church at this time, I want you to act on it. They received specific revelation on the will of God. We often yearn for that ourselves in our own lives.

I find it instructive that even with specific revelation and whatever portions of the Bible that they had there, they prayed. It’s important for us to see that we need to pray. Even if we have the whole Scriptures. We have experience, we have good Christian counselors, and we have pastors and teachers and good and godly friends in our church. We need to pray. We might have the general revelation, we know what the Lord wants us to do either as a church or individually for our lives. We know what the will of God is. It is clearly spelled out for us in the instruction of the Bible, both Old and New Testament. We need to pray and they needed prayer even before they acted, even before they have specific revelation from God on what to do. I find that not only instructive but reassuring that when we stop to pray, when we pray before making a decision (yes, we get counsel, yes, we go to God’s Word), but we need to do everything. Even if we know it is what God has for us to do we need to precede it by prayer.

This I found not only instructional but encouraging to us that this is a practice we should do. It should never be perfunctory. We’re sure that when they laid hands on them they prayed, they fasted, they were sincere even though they knew. But they didn’t know everything. They might not have known where they were supposed to go next or what they were going to face, or what decisions they had to make. If you keep reading along, they went to a dozen cities. They probably interacted with hundreds if not thousands of people. They had hundreds if not thousands of decisions those two men had to make in that first missionary journey that they took together. They needed prayer, they needed wisdom, they needed help from the Lord for protection, for guidance. So there is always much to pray for even if we have God’s word and direction from the Lord there is much to pray for on our journey in doing the will of the Lord. Just like they did.

That is my encouragement to you and to myself that we would pray and we would pray in faith even when we know what the Lord has for us to do. He would strengthen us, help us, go with us, guide us, direct us, provide wisdom and go before us.