The section of Acts concerned with propagation (2:1— 28:31) has two main parts: the propagation in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria through the ministry of Peter’s company (2:1—12:24) and the propagation in Asia Minor and Europe through the ministry of Paul’s company (12:25—28:31). In this message we shall first consider the initiation in 12:25 and then begin to consider 13:1-12.
Acts 12:25 says, “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, having completed the dispensing, taking along with them John who was surnamed Mark.” Acts 12:1-24 is a parenthetical section, a record of Peter’s persecution. Acts 12:25 is a continuation of 11:30, which, with the preceding verses from 11:22, is a narration of Paul’s full initiation into his apostolic ministry. We have seen that Paul was saved by the Lord directly (9:3-6) and was brought into the identification with the Body of Christ through Ananias (9:10-19). Later he was introduced to practical fellowship with the disciples in Jerusalem through Barnabas (9:26-28). Later, also through Barnabas, he was initiated into the Lord’s move in spreading the gospel of His kingdom to the Gentile world (11:25-26; 13:1-3). The passage from 11:19 to 12:25 is a transitional record between Peter’s apostolic ministry to the Jews in chapters two through eleven and Paul’s apostolic ministry to the Gentiles in chapters thirteen through twenty-eight (see Gal. 2:7-8).
In 13:1-12 we see the Lord’s move among certain of His gifted ones. Here we do not have a new beginning—we have a new turn in the Lord’s move. The beginning had already taken place in Jerusalem, and the stream flowed from there to Antioch. Now at Antioch there is a new turn.
Jerusalem was a center of the Jewish religion. Antioch, however, was a center for the Gentile world. As such a center, Antioch was strategic. Therefore, this city was chosen by the Lord for a new turn of His move on earth, the turn to the Gentile world.
Acts 13:1 says, “Now there were in Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian, and Manaen, foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Prophets are those who speak for God and speak forth God by God’s revelation. They sometimes speak with inspired prediction (11:27-28). Teachers are those who teach the truths according to the apostles’ teaching (2:42) and the prophets’ revelation. Both prophets and teachers are universal as well as local (Eph. 4:11).
When the flow started with the one hundred twenty in Jerusalem, only typical Jews were involved. But according to the record in 13:1, the prophets and teachers in the church in Antioch were from a number of different sources. Barnabas was a Levite, a Cyprian by birth (4:36). Niger, whose name means black and should denote a Negro, was probably of African origin. Lucius the Cyrenian was from Cyrene in North Africa. He may have been a Jew if he was the Lucius in Romans 16:21, who was Paul’s kinsman. Manaen was the foster brother of Herod and was governmentally related to the Romans. Hence, Manaen must have been Europeanized. The Herod in 13:1 was the one who killed John the Baptist (Luke 9:7-9). It was the Lord’s sovereign doing that the foster brother of John the Baptist’s murderer became one of the leading functioning members in the church. Finally, 13:1 mentions Saul, a Jew born in Tarsus and taught by Gamaliel according to the law of Moses (22:3).
The five prophets and teachers recorded here were composed of Jewish and Gentile peoples with different backgrounds, education, and status. This indicates that the church is composed of all races and classes of people regardless of their background, and that the spiritual gifts and functions given to the members of the Body of Christ are not based upon their natural status.
Here in 13:1 the Lord set up a pattern. From Antioch the Lord’s move turned to reach the Gentile world, and in the Gentile world there are many different kinds of people, people of different cultures, races, and status. Therefore, at the very beginning of this turn the pattern was established to indicate that the churches are composed of all races and classes of people.
Among Christians today, boards and committees are appointed to raise funds to support certain activities. In addition, there is a great deal of organization. But in Acts 13 the situation is very different. Here we do not see boards, committees, fund raising, or organization.
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