Saturday, September 03, 2022

2022.09.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 12:25–13:12

Read Acts 12:25–13:12

Questions from the Scripture text: To where do Barnabas and Saul return in Acts 12:25? What were they doing (cf. Acts 11:30)? Who comprised the leadership of the church in Antioch, when they get back from Jerusalem (Acts 13:1)? What was Simeon called? From where was Lucius? With whom had Manaen been brought up? Whom were they worshiping in Acts 13:2? What else were they doing? Who spoke to them? What were they to do with whom? For what? What two things do they do after the Spirit says this (Acts 13:3)? Then what two things do they do to them? Whom does Acts 13:4 say had sent them out? Where did they go? Then where did they sail? Where do they arrive in Acts 13:5? What do they do there? Where? Who was their assistant? Through where do they go in Acts 13:6? To where? What four things does verse 6 say about the man they find there? Whom was he with (Acts 13:7)? What sort of man was Sergius Paulus? For whom did he call? To do what? But who does what in Acts 13:8? What fifth thing is said about him now? Why did he withstand them? Who is called by what new/matching name in Acts 13:9? With Whom is he filled? What does he first do at the end of verse 9? Now what four things does Paul call the man in Acts 13:10? And what question does he ask? What does he say is upon Elymas (Acts 13:11)? With what effect? Then, what happens, and how quickly? And what does Elymas now go around seeking? Then what does the proconsul do (Acts 13:12)? What had he seen? But by what was he astonished?

What does the Lord’s work look like? Acts 12:25–13:12 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these thirteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that even to do miraculous, spiritual work, the Lord uses ordinary men and ordinary means. 

The Holy Spirit speaks through ordinary men. Barnabas and Saul return to Jerusalem when they fulfill their ministry, taking John Mark with them. This was the promised trip from Acts 11:30 with the gift from the famine. What’s wonderful is that over the course of their teaching time in Antioch, the church has been built up to the point that they can do without them. Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen each have something about them that might have made them unlikely candidates to be prophets and teachers, but it is the Spirit Who makes the difference.  

Acts 13:2 tells us the Holy Spirit spoke, and the question is “how? What does that look like?” The answer comes not only by the fact of their having prophets among them but that “they lay hands, and they sent” in Acts 13:3 is further summarized as “sent out by the Holy Spirit” in Acts 13:4. The Holy Spirit speaks through men in Antioch, and He is calling Barnabas and Saul to be men through whom He speaks elsewhere.

The Holy Spirit uses ordinary means. One great mistake that we could make would be to despise ordinary spiritual exercises and graces, and wish instead that the Holy Spirit worked among us more miraculously. But even after the Spirit speaks specific words and gives a specific command, the church leadership continue fasting and praying in Acts 13:3

Even at the end of the passage, the miraculous afflicting of Elymas was not what had moved the proconsul to faith, but rather amazing teaching from the Lord. The missionary work in between was largely ordinary, almost tedious. Foot travel to Seleucia. Sailing to Salamis in Cyprus. Preaching in the synagogue, Traveling the length of the island on foot. The same glorious Word that the Lord still uses today was the great means by which the Spirit was working even in that first missionary journey.

The Holy Spirit uses holy boldness. While seeking out Jews to preach the gospel to first (which will be a theme in Paul’s ministry, cf. Acts 13:5), they find a Jew in Paphos who is a false prophet. With him happens to be a man whose second name he shares in common with the apostle from Tarsus. A proconsul had absolute military and judicial authority, locally, so there is some fulfillment here already of Acts 9:15. When Elymas opposes them, Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit to answer.

What does this Spirit-filled speech sound like? “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness!” Though gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, it must not be confused with timidity. The eleventh commandment is not “thou shalt be nice.” When men oppose the gospel to turn others away from the faith (Acts 13:8) by twisting the straight Word of the Lord (Acts 13:9), the called servant is to minister in the Spirit as a Spirit of boldness. The miracle is stunning (or blinding, if you are Elymas), but it is the boldness not of the rebuke but of the straight, true teaching that the Spirit uses to convert Sergios in Acts 13:12

What ordinary men and ordinary means does the Spirit use in your life? How do you seek from God for them to be holy and bold, and how do you encourage it and respond to it when you receive it?

Sample prayer:  Lord glorify Yourself by doing almighty work among us through ordinary men and ordinary means. Especially, let Your Word be preached straightforwardly and boldly, and give us to be amazed and to believe, we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

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