God has a plan. He does what He does with a motive in mind. As we survey Church Ministries, Outreach, Church Plants and Missions, it is interesting to see what our feeble beginnings lead to.
When we planted two Churches in the Free State Province, we had no idea where this would lead to. As the clergyman in charge and being used together with others to start two Church Plants, I had absolutely no clue what would become of these efforts … but God did. By the time I left the area, both Churches had a clergyman and one had a piece of land. Not too long afterwards, both Church had their initial building. In both cases the lay leadership of the Churches were the ones who, under the good hand of God, spearheaded the building programs. Today both Churches have vibrant ministries.
We don’t always know the plans God has in mind as He starts using us. All He wants is willing, faithful workers. In the Church at Corinth there were arguments as to who followed who. Paul picks this up and writes under inspiration:
1Co 3:5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Once one understand this simple Divine Strategy, Church Mission, Evangelism and Planting becomes easier and there are less interpersonal conflicts, which unfortunately hamper the Church’s efforts of reaching lost souls. Don’t get me wrong … even the best in the organized Churches where prayer and outreach top the agenda, they still find conflict arising because the enemy is always on the alert. You will remember that when Cornelius, his family and invited guests were converted. Back in Jerusalem, conflict was starting:
Ac 11:1 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
We shall this again in Acts, but for us, under the good hand of God we need to avoid this by putting self, pride and ego aside to enjoy Gospel spread, God glorified and Kingdom growth … as we rejoice that God used us in a small way to be part of souls being saved! Now we return to:
Ac 13:4 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 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. 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, 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.
1) The Spirit has a clear intention for this Missionary Team.
Ac 13:4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.
From Antioch they travelled to the port at Seleucia and went by ship to Cyprus. The first settlers on the Island seem to be Phoenicians, yet in 477 BC she fell to Greek domination becoming a Roman Province in 58 BC. She was famous for her commercial activities. Her corn, wine and oil boasted the class of “the greatest perfection”. She enjoyed huge timber and mineral wealth. By 2 BC there was a sizable Jewish presence on the Island. Barnabas himself was a native of Cyprus. We met up with him in:
Ac 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
As a converted Jew he must had had a passion for Jews in the community he came from. It’s possible this is the reason the Holy Spirit sent these missionaries there first! They landed at the closest port to where they set out from. Salamis in on the eastern side of Cyprus. After ministering there they travelled across the whole Island to Paphos. This was most likely the safest way to travel because of the sea currents as well as the strong winds and tides around the island.
2) Time is of the essence.
Ac 13:5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
We get the impression of urgency here. As soon as they arrived they proclaimed the Word of God. The word “proclaimed” means to speak or preach openly. These missionaries went to the Jewish synagogues to preach Christ because the Old Testament predicts the Messiah and the Jews believed this. The best place to start to preach the Gospel is within the organized Church because often there are many Christianized people there. They have heard the Word but have not been born again. Preaching the Gospel to them without holding back is when the Holy Spirit works best. He arrests the attention, opens the heart, wooing soul towards repentance and faith.
Let it be so Lord. As you worked in the Early Church, work in our day. Harvest many souls for Jesus. Amen.