'APPOINTED A PREACHER, APOSTLE AND TEACHER'
Series: Paul, An Instrument Of The Risen Christ
by Ron Ritchie
One day in 1962 while I was pursuing a graduate degree at Dallas Theological
Seminary, I went to one of my professors, Howard Hendricks, to ask him what
I would be when I graduated. Engineering schools graduate engineers, music
schools graduate musicians, but what does a graduate of a seminary call
himself? A pastor? A teacher? A scholar? An author? Dr. Hendricks responded
by asking me what my spiritual gifts were. I like to sing, I told him. I
like to write, paint, act, and work in radio and on television. "No,
no," he said, "those are natural talents. I'm talking about spiritual
gifts. When you became a Christian, God gave you spiritual gifts. Do you
know yours?" I told him I had no idea what they were. He said that
until I discovered them, I would not know where I fit in the body of Christ.
Furthermore, no one else would know either, he said. I could end up thinking
I had all the gifts, and that would result in competition and jealousy among
the body. He encouraged me to study First Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and
Ephesians 4 in order to define, identify and study the gifts, and then to
come and see him again. I remember my amazement at finding myself, a second-year
student at seminary, just discovering the concept of spiritual gifts.
I did my homework and returned to speak to Dr. Hendricks. We had a great
discussion. For the first time, I found myself excited at the whole idea
of discovering and using the gifts which the Holy Spirit had bestowed upon
me. I spent the next two years writing a master's thesis entitled, "A
Proposed Program for the Development of Spiritual Gifts in the Local Church."
That has been the foundation of my life ever since. As I studied, I discovered,
and others confirmed, that God had gifted me with the gift of pastor-teacher.
One of the functions of a pastor-teacher is to equip the saints to do the
work of the ministry. Through the years since those days at seminary I have
had the privilege of participating in that plan which God has ordained for
his people. I have also had the joy of helping others discover and use their
In our study of the life of Paul this morning, beginning in Acts 13, we
will see how the Holy Spirit developed his gifts, following his years of
training for his ministry to the Gentiles. In our last study we saw that
the newly converted Saul had to learn the same lessons that all new Christians
must learn. He had to learn the difference between ministering in the flesh
and ministering in the Spirit; he had to learn that God did not want to
use his talents, his background, etc. What God wanted, rather, was Saul
himself. That is when he discovered, as he would later write to the Corinthians,
that "...we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing
greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves" (2 Corinthians
4:7). Saul was treated just like any new Christian. He had to submit himself
to the maturing process, just like each one of us. He was forced to leave
Damascus, concealed in a basket, because the Jews were plotting to kill
him. He traveled to Jerusalem, where Barnabas introduced him to other Christians.
There he conferred with Peter and James. He proclaimed Jesus boldly, arguing
with the Hellenistic Jews, and in return received more death threats. Some
brothers took him to Caesarea, from where he took a ship to his home town
of Tarsus. As a result of his departure, Acts declares, "...the church
throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace..."
The year was 35 A.D. Saul had, in a sense, been set aside for the moment
as far as the church was concerned. But that does not mean that the church
stopped growing. The Holy Spirit continued to build the body of Christ mightily
during the intervening years, as we see from Acts 9:32 and following, which
takes up the story of the ministry of the apostle Peter in Lydda and Joppa.
Acts 10 goes on to give the story of Peter's encounter with Cornelius, the
Roman centurion. The apostle had just had a vision in which various foods
were displayed before him and he was commanded by the Lord to eat. This
was to teach him, as he would later say, that "...God is not one to
show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what
is right, is welcome to Him" (Acts 10:34, 35). The apostle, in obedience,
went to the home of Cornelius, where he preached the gospel and witnessed
the centurion's whole family come to faith in Christ. While all this was
going on, Saul was back in Tarsus, and we have no record of any activity
on his part.
Acts 11 gives the story of Peter's return to Jerusalem, where he shared
what God was now doing among the Gentiles. This upset the Jewish believers,
but when they had heard the whole story they concluded, "Well, then,
God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life"
(Acts 11:18). Luke, the writer of Acts, continues the story of the early
church in Acts 11 by referring once again to the scattering of the followers
of the Way that occurred following the death of Stephen. Here is Luke who
says, "So then those who were scattered because of the persecution
that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus
and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there
were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began
speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the
Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord"
(Acts 11:19-21). When news of what was happening among the Gentiles reached
Jerusalem, the Jews dispatched Barnabas to Antioch, some 350 miles away,
to investigate. When he witnessed the grace of God in action, Acts 11:23
records, Barnabas "...rejoiced and began to encourage them all with
resolute heart to remain true to the Lord." He discerned the need for
a shepherd and teacher for the new church in Antioch, so he went on to Tarsus,
hoping to find Saul. He was successful, and they both returned to Antioch
where they ministered together for one year. It was in that city of Antioch
that disciples of Christ were first called "Christians."
Acts continues with the story of certain prophets from Jerusalem who came
down to Antioch, including one Agabus, who prophesied that a great famine
would occur throughout the world during the reign of the Emperor Claudius.
The Christians in Antioch immediately took up a collection of money to send
to the brethren in Judea, and Barnabas and Saul were given the task of delivering
what had been collected. The year was 44 A.D., some nine years after Saul's
conversion on the Damascus Road.
In Acts 12 we read that King Herod had James, the brother of John, put to
death, and had Peter arrested. Peter was later dramatically rescued from
prison by an angel, and the apostle arrived at a prayer meeting of the brethren,
where he told them, "Report these things to James and the brethren."
Herod himself was later struck dead by an angel because, as Acts records,
"he did not give God the glory." Acts 12 concludes with these
words, "But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their
mission, taking along with them"., John, who was also called Mark."
The year was now 4~7 A.D., some 12 years after Saul's conversion.
It is important for young believers to dearly see from this account of the
early life of the church that,
The Lord is building his church in the age of the Spirit.
The Lord has a plan of redemption which he offers to the whole world until
he comes again.
The Lord's plan began in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and spread to the
uttermost parts of the earth. It began with the Jews, but then was expanded
to include the Gentiles.
Even though God's key man, Saul, is seemingly out of the mainstream of God's
plan of worldwide evangelism for some nine or ten years, God is using this
time to mature Saul for a coming 20-year ministry to the Gentiles.
That when the time is right, and when all the players are in place, Saul,
the chosen instrument of Christ, will be called to service and the door
of faith will be opened to the Gentiles.
At times we find it difficult to recognize that we are part of the bigger
picture. We are blinded to what God is doing in the age of the Spirit and
we fail to recognize that these things take time. I enjoy watching each
one of our fifteen pastors grow in his own time. Through the years different
pastors have cried out to the elders, asking to be used, only to hear the
elders respond, "Your turn is coming. Just wait" Ray Stedman has
said to me year after year, "You're a kite, but you need a string."
I'm glad the elders know that kites need strings. I didn't know that The
"string" he was referring to is the Board of Elders, under the
direction of the Holy Spirit, and the message was, "Trust these men.
They love you." My heart would respond, "But you don't understand.
I have so much zeal and energy. If you knew the Bible like I do, if you
had my gifts and talents, you'd let me fly now." "Yes," I
can still hear the reply, "and fifteen elders would have to follow
you and pick up the pieces."
God does have a plan to use us, and he has given us his Holy Spirit to empower
us so that we may play our part in that plan. But we must play our parts
in harmony and in unity with the rest of the body; then we will be filled
with joy as we see how he uses us. At the end of his life, some 20 years
later, Paul wrote to Timothy from his prison cell in Rome, ". . . I
was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the gospel of Jesus
Christ." He is saying, "As I look back now, I can see what God
was doing during all those years when he did not seem to me to be using
me. That is why I can encourage you now to wait on the Lord." Timothy
would later minister to a whole generation whom Paul would never see. "A
preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. . ."
There we have Paul's own job description. Today we come to see how God commissioned
him to this three-part task. In order to see how these gifts developed in
the life of Saul, I have put them in the following sequence: teacher, preacher,
I. Appointed . . . A Teacher
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets
and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene,
and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And
while they were ministering to 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, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on
them, they sent them away.
Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire, was the capital of
the province of Syria. A city of natural beauty, it was known as the "Heathen
Queen." It was a center of government, commerce and theaters. Roman
emperors, Greek poets and Chaldean astrologers were frequent visitors. In
the midst of that spiritually darkened city, however, God had his fellowship
of believers who were faithfully spreading the spiritual light of the good
news of Jesus Christ. Among them he had placed spiritually gifted leaders,
prophets and teachers, to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry
throughout the city and within the church.
A prophet speaks the word of the Lord, sometimes proclaiming a future event,
sometimes explaining the Scriptures, but always unfolding the truth about
God. The work of a teacher, on the other hand, is to apply the truths of
Scripture to those who sit under his teaching. The original text reveals
that there were three prophets and two teachers among the leadership of
the church in the city. Barnabas, formerly a Levitical priest, had been
a follower of the Way for about 14 years. Simeon, who was called Niger,
was an African Hebrew, as was Lucius of Cyrene. These men were the prophets
in the church. The teachers were Manaen, the foster brother of Herod Antipas,
the son of Herod the Great, and Saul of Tarsus. We could call these men,
therefore, the pastoral team of the church at Antioch. This multiple staff
worked together for about four years, and the church prospered as a result
of their ministry. Note that Saul is now ministering as part of a team,
unlike his work in Damascus and Jerusalem where, it seems, he acted alone.
According to the text, these prophets and teachers were "ministering
to the Lord and fasting." They were using their spiritual gifts to
equip the saints to do the work of the ministry; and they were penetrating
the life of the city, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with the gospel of
Jesus Christ. Their motivation stemmed from knowing that they were serving
their Savior by playing their part in his plan of redemption.
At our weekly staff meetings I am continually amazed at what the Lord is
doing through the pastors of this church. It seems that the Holy Spirit
is always leading them into one adventure after another. We don't hear people
saying to one another, "Why don't you do this?" Rather, we say
to one another, "Would you consider this?" "Do you sense
that God is doing such and such?" We compare notes the following week
and usually discover that God has done a whole series of things that had
nothing to do with what we talked about at our meeting. That is because
the Holy Spirit is residing within each one of our pastors and he is in
charge of what we do. The Spirit works as we work in unity with one another,
as we pray for one another and build each other up. A large part of our
work is equipping you to do the work of the ministry. Ed Woodhall and I
are presently training a group of eight men, several of whom are here today.
They will be involved in this discipleship training for 18 months. And every
pastor on our staff has a group of people he is discipling. That is very
much part of our ministry in this church. Furthermore, there are many evening
classes, and an internship program, where more training is offered to those
in the body. We are constantly training people to do the work of the ministry.
But, just when we have completed the training, it seems the Holy Spirit
takes those who are trained and mature and sends them out to other places.
We have much joy later when we hear reports about them from all over the
world. Then we start all over again, discipling and training.
These prophets and teachers in Antioch were also fasting, according to verse
2. First century Christians set aside times to pray and fast in order to
free their minds of earthly matters and find the mind of Christ. They appointed
Wednesdays and Fridays as days of half-fasts to commemorate the passion
and crucifixion of Jesus, remembering the words of the Lord "When
the bridegroom is taken from them, then they should fast" (Matthew
Here we are given insight into the work of the Holy Spirit among these men.
We read, "the Holy Spirit said..." How does the Holy Spirit speak
to his people? In this instance, he probably spoke through one of the prophets
present as he did in Antioch when he spoke through Agabus and prophesied
the great famine which would soon occur. Then, as now in this instance,
a prophet was used by God to speak his word. When that word was uttered,
these men were in agreement that it was time to set apart Barnabas and Saul
for this new work to which they were being called. They were being called
in line with the Lord's words in Acts 1:8, to go to the "uttermost
parts of the earth." Barnabas and Saul were fasting, and were listening
for the word of God for their directions. When the Spirit spoke, they were
ready. The Holy Spirit is not given to the church to be used for selfish,
secret enjoyment, but to enable the church to bear witness to Christ. G.
Campbell Morgan writes:
The actuate of the Church was to be that of submission to the
Holy Spirit, not an independent activity...the Spirit works through the
assembly, but the assembly has no power to move save under the inspiration
and impulse of the Spirit. There is one body and the body must cooperate
with the Spirit.... There is one Spirit and that Spirit must direct, control,
suggest, choose, elect, equip, all who are to do His work.
If you were to visit our Board of Elders meetings, you would see a group
of men listening for the voice of God in order to determine the mind of
God. As a Board, we have just come through a long, difficult time in seeking
a solution to a certain problem. We met last Thursday evening, ready to
make certain crucial decisions. And, of course, those decisions have to
be made unanimously; all fifteen elders have to be in agreement. The church
must wait on the Lord before acting. After much debate and argument, one
of the elders said, "I would like to make a motion." You could
hear a pin drop. The moderator asked for a vote, and fifteen voices said,
"Aye." What a joy to work in that kind of an atmosphere! There
was a sense of oneness and peace, and a sense of excitement for the people
involved in the decision that had been made. One of the key players was
telephoned and told of the decision. He related that he had just returned
from a walk during which he prayed that God would prepare his heart to receive
whatever decision the elders would make that evening. That is the church
of Jesus Christ in action.
When the group in Antioch heard the voice of the Holy Spirit they once more
fasted and prayed, and then laid hands on Barnabas and Saul, confirming
what the Spirit had conveyed to them. In Antioch, Saul was known as a teacher,
having been occupied in teaching the Scriptures for an entire year. The
time has now come when, together with Barnabas, he is ready to be sent out
on another ministry during which he will have opportunity to develop his
II. Appointed . . . A Preacher
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia
and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And 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. And when they had gone through the whole
island as far as Paphos, they found a certain 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. But Elymas the magician (for thus his name is translated)
was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
Saul and Barnabas have embarked on the first of Saul's three missionary
journeys. The travels of the apostle will continue for the next twenty years,
but this first journey will take approximately two years to complete, from
47 to 49 A D. The two men land first at Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean
Sea some 150 miles off the coast of Syria; then they head north to the southern
part of Turkey where they eventually establish several churches in Galatia.
Cyprus had already been penetrated by the gospel, which was carried there
by some of the believers who were scattered following Stephen's death. As
yet there was no established opposition to the gospel on the island, so
Barnabas and Saul proclaimed the good news from synagogue to synagogue along
the main highway towards the capital of Paphos. As was the case in Damascus,
Jerusalem and Antioch, however, there is no record of any converts to Christ
in Cyprus. There is much activity but no converts. Notice that John, the
cousin of Barnabas, accompanies them. His unfaithfulness will later be the
cause of the break-up of this missionary team.
When they enter Paphos, the administrative capital of Cyprus, they encounter
Bar-Jesus ("son of Jesus"), a magician, who apparently had some
influence over the governor of the city. Bar-Jesus is a Jew who had heard
and rejected the gospel. He seems to have taken a part of it, however, mixed
in a little magic, and kept the unenlightened crowds in Paphos amazed. The
governor, Sergius Paulus, was a Gentile, and a man of intelligence who hungered
for spiritual truth more than he was receiving from Barlesus. He sends for
Barnabas and Saul to check out what these visitors have to say about the
word of God. The Holy Spirit worked behind the scenes to set up this lunch
date between these parties. Meanwhile, Elymas ("the skilled one, the
magician") was seeking to turn the Gentile governor away from the faith.
We have already seen how the Holy Spirit has used Saul's spiritual gifts
of teaching in Antioch, and of preaching in the synagogues of Cyprus. Now
we are about to see, in his response to this magician, his gift of apostleship
III. Appointed . . . An Apostle
But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit,
fixed his gaze upon 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
cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? "And now, behold,
the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and will 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.
This is the occasion when Saul, who had been chosen some twelve years earlier
to be our Lord's witness to the Gentiles, finally begins to proclaim the
word. He does so before a Gentile governor whose heart has been touched
by the Holy Spirit. Here we also encounter the apostle's name change. From
now on Saul will go by the Roman name Paul, to match his Roman passport.
He is filled with the Holy Spirit who controls his actions and words and
gives him the ability to understand the situation he is facing. The result
of this filling by the Spirit is that he can clearly discern that this magician
is a spiritual enemy of Christ. Paul says that Bar-Jesus is "full of
deceit and fraud," a "son of the devil," "an enemy of
righteousness," and one who "makes crooked the straight ways of
the Lord." It should be encouraging to note that this occurred twelve
years after Saul had come to Christ.
Here we see the full powers of an apostle of Jesus Christ at work. Paul
would later write to the Corinthians, "The signs of a true apostle
were performed among you with all perseverance by signs and wonders and
miracles." The result of Paul's fixing his gaze upon this magician
and saying these things was that Bar-Jesus was blinded for a season. Paul
knew that God had called him an apostle, but it took all this time before
he was recognized as such by the body. This sign is the first evidence of
his appointment. Paul may have hoped that by striking the man blind he too
might come to faith one day. Meanwhile, Sergius Paulus is observing everything
that is happening in this exchange between a son of God and a son of the
devil. It is interesting to note that what impressed him was not the miracle,
but, as the text says, the teaching of the word. This then is the story
of Paul's first recorded convert in Scripture. The man was Sergius Paulus,
a Roman governor, a Gentile.
What a word of encouragement this is to believers young and old alike! Let
us look again at the process which our Lord used with his "chosen instrument."
God saved Saul on the Damascus Road, forgave his sins, filled him with his
Spirit, commissioned him, and gifted him to fulfill that commission. He
introduced him to the fellowship in Damascus; led him to the Arabian desert
to teach him; allowed him to preach in Damascus again; but then saved him
from the Jews who were trying to kill him. Then Paul was welcomed into the
of believers in Jerusalem; a vision he receives helps him decide to leave
the city and forsake his arguing with the Hellenistic Jews who are also
seeking to kill him; then he returns to Tarsus to spend ten more years growing
in the Lord. Following that time, Saul is invited to join a multiple staff
of prophets and teachers in Antioch and begins to use his gift of teaching.
Following that he is allowed to use his gift of preaching on the island
of Cyprus; and he finally comes into the full bloom of his apostleship in
Paphos where he makes his first Gentile convert. Now he is ready to become
the leader of the outreach to the Gentiles, thus fulfilling the Lord's words,
"He is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles
and kings, and the children of Israel, and suffer much for My name's sake."
Twelve years after his conversion this former enemy of Christ is now a humble,
faithful, trustworthy team player, knowledgeable in the Word, walking in
the Spirit, and willing to go wherever the Spirit leads him. Writing to
the Corinthians later in his ministry he would say, "You are not your
own; you were bought with a price." The apostle himself was living
proof of the authenticity of those words.
God has given spiritual gifts to every member of the Body of Christ. I want
to encourage you that he wants you to develop those gifts by his power and
through his Spirit God wants each of us to know our spiritual gifts, and
he wants each of us to know each other's spiritual gifts so that we can
work in harmony in the age of the Spirit. He wants each of us to be a fully
functioning member of his body. And that takes time. We all need the Holy
Spirit, our "kite string."
While I was getting ready to come to church this morning, I was thinking
about my family and tears came to my eyes. I want to encourage you by telling
you what God is doing in their lives. Spiritual gifts are not inherited.
Just because I have a certain gift does not mean my family members will
have it. I am teaching at PBC this morning; my wife is teaching at Mt. Hermon
this morning; my elder son just finished teaching our High School department;
and my younger son is on a surfboard in Santa Barbara! You can't win 'em
all! But I'm close!
It takes years and years for God to mature us. He gave Paul twenty wonderful,
fruitful years. But we want it all now. God is saying to us, however, "I
want you. Ministry I have. Opportunity I have. Gifts I have. Power I have
given you by my Holy Spirit. Trust me. Do not be anxious. Do not mess up
the plan. You are included. Wait on me." When Paul led Sergius Paulus
to the Lord, at that moment everything must have made sense to the apostle.
"So that is what those twelve years were all about," he probably
said to himself. "I'm glad I waited."
Catalog No. 4034
Ron R. Ritchie
March 22, 1987
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