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Message – Saul sent as Paul to the Gentiles
Saul sent as Paul to the Gentiles
Last week we started Acts 13 and didn’t get very far at all before we needed to spend some time covering the role fasting plays under the New Covenant.
To highlight what we learned…
Fasting was to abstain from food and included…
- Removing ourselves from sin
- Praying for others who are struggling against sin
- Sharing your food you would have eaten with the hungry
- Providing for homeless and oppressed
- especially those of your own family (some when fasting distance themselves from their family as if solitude during a fast is somehow more godly and yet here we are told the opposite! DO NOT HIDE FROM OR TURN YOUR BACK ON YOUR OWN FLESH AND BLOOD!
- Stop speaking lies and pointing the finger at others
- ACTIVELY help the hungry and oppressed
- Seeking God
- Knowing what He desires
- Drawing Near Him
- To be heard by Him
- To please Him
- Honor the Sabbath & look forward to it!
The promises associated with fasting were…
- Even the darkness will be light around you
- Your godly behavior will go as a testimony before you and God’s splendor will protect you from behind
- The Lord will continually lead you
- He will feed your heart – you will not god hungry for righteousness
- He will strengthen you and renew you
- He will use you to restore others
- You will find Joy in your relationship with Him
These are great rewards and they are all rooted in relationship!
With that short review, I want to say that I hope that you all made an attempt to put into practice what we learned last week by fasting.
We have a few more points to make regarding fasting before moving on in chapter 13.
First – Jesus Himself said fasting the right way and with the right heart comes with a reward,
“When you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting.
I tell you the truth, they have their reward!
(17) When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, (18) so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father Who is in secret.
And your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you.” – Matt. 6:16-18
With all the failure to obey God’s command to fast which you see in the modern church, we are left with only four conclusions.
- They don’t know their Bibles
- They don’t believe their Bibles
- They are unconcerned with obeying God
- They don’t care if God rewards them or not.
Now… we have learned the what and the why of Fasting.
There is just one other thing about fasting that I want to cover.
For the longest time I thought fasting required a time of celibacy in marriage which was agreed to, but that is not really what the scriptures say.
Let’s look at it…
1Cor. 7:1-6, “(1) Now with regard to the issues you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” (2) But because of immoralities, each man should have relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband.
(3) A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband.
(4) It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband.
In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife.
(5) Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.
Then resume your relationship, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (6) I say this as a concession, not as a command.”
Some translations say, “…that you might give yourselves to fasting and prayer” but the word “fasting” is clearly added and is completely missing from the earliest manuscripts. Beyond that it would run contrary to Isaiah 58 which says we are NOT to hide ourselves from our own flesh!
So when would someone obstain from sex when fasting?
If the fast was one where your focus needed to be single-minded and mentally devoted and this MUST be met with the agreement of your spouse.
That most fasts are not this type is inferred by the existence of this exception and by all Isaiah 58 said regarding a fast. Not to mention we just read how Jesus told us to dress and act normal around others while fasting…not drawing undo attention to ourselves, which would be an unnecessary instruction if all fasting was in seclusion.
So, why did we look at fasting both this and last week?
Because the beginning of Acts 13 tells us that prophets and teachers were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.
(3) Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.
(4) So Barnabas and Saul, sent out by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
The last question I want to address this morning is, how did they go out “by the Holy Spirit” rather than just “going out”?
Because they were of the habit of looking to and listening to the Holy Spirit. They sought Him and involved Him in every aspect of their lives and one of those ways was by fasting.
In THAT environment of obedience and prayer the Spirit told them to separate Saul and Barnabus and so they did this by fasting, praying and laying their hands on them and then sending them out.
Obedience and familial involvement is the way in which these prophets and teachers sent them and was also the way in which Saul and Barnabus went out “by the Spirit”.
Saul begins his first missionary journey
“(4) So Barnabas and Saul, sent out by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
(5) When they arrived in Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. (Now they also had John as their assistant.)
(6) When they had crossed over the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus, (7) who was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man.
The name Bar-Jesus simply means ‘son of Jesus’. This had no reference back to the Lord Jesus since the name Jesus was a somewhat common Jewish name due to its origins in the name of Joshua.
If you remember, later one of Paul’s fellow-laborers and traveling companions’ names was Jesus whose surname was Justus.
A consul, was named as such by the Greek writers because after the expulsion of the kings, the Consuls had the supreme or highest authority in the Roman government.
A Consul was an official appointed by a government to live in a foreign city to protect and promote the government’s citizens and interests.
A pro-consul, was a person sent as governor into a Roman province with consular power which was very intensive.
The proconsul summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. (8) But the magician Elymas (for that is the way his name is translated) opposed them, trying to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
The name Elymas means “sage”.
(9) But Saul (also known as Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at him
This word filled is plḗthō. On a whim I looked into the etymology of our word plethora which means overabundance and sure enough it comes from this ancient word.
However, this word filled when used in this context means to be completely imbued, affected or influenced by something or someone.
It is in fact part of the relationship we were designed for, from the beginning which should offer the Christian great solace and reassurance.
The net result is a control towards outcome without control of personality or will. It is a control that is GIVEN by deliberate surrender to God’s will.
Why should this offer either solace or reassurance?
Solace in that if God so wanted, He could force His will upon us all, making us nothing more than sock-puppets to His inner control – but He rather desires to influence. This offers reassurance because we know more about the God with Whom we will spend an eternity. He loves, and deserves absolute obedience and control, but He also desires relationship.
This can only be realized within the context of a relationship of love where willing surrender is given over out of love and mutual commitment.
This is one of the very purposes of the female gender. Women were designed for submission, NOT due to any failure or inward weakness on their part. Nor is it due to any frailty of mind or spirit or even a lack of ability. No, it is their highest place and therefore the place they experience the greatest fulfillment.
Even in today’s world, studies in human behavior and sociology prove time and again that women prefer men who are strong. They desire to follow his lead, and surrender to his way – but this is only truly satisfying if the man loves her more than himself, is a provider and is decisively leading somewhere.
She longs for the safety and security to be found in strong, confident male leadership. Knowing they are heading somewhere good. In fact, in recent surveys, confidence and strong leadership are among the most attractive traits women look for in men.
As God’s beloved we ALL fall into that category and we therefore can learn much from the female gender – men in particular since it is their counterpoint.
In a study I did of James a number of years ago I found a connection to this idea which I was unable to track down yesterday in my studies. The idea is found in James 4 where we are told that the Spirit dotes over us and craves us jealously. The context is that of grace – that God desires to offer His influence over our hearts and therefore, the Holy Spirit Who dwells within the believer generates that influence over those who are humble – who willingly surrender their control to Him.
Remember grace means God’s influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life including gratitude.
The passage is James 4:4-6 and I read from the Wuest translation here,
“(4) O, adulteresses, do you not know that your friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore would desire after mature consideration to be a friend of the world is constituted an enemy of God.
(5) Or, do you think that the scripture says in an empty manner and to no purpose,
‘The Spirit Who has been caused to make His permanent home in us has a passionate desire to the point of envy?’
Moreover, He gives greater grace. For this reason He says, God sets himself in battle array against the arrogant and haughty but gives grace to the humble and lowly.”
So when surrendered to, the Spirit exercises a strong influence over the believer, driving their behavior in accordance with the will of the Father and the Son.
Under that influence Paul turned and stared right at this false prophet…
(10) and said,
“You who are full of all deceit and all wrongdoing, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness – will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? (11) Now look, the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind, unable to see the sun for a time!”
Immediately mistiness and darkness came over him, and he went around seeking people to lead him by the hand.
(12) Then when the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, because he was greatly astounded at the teaching about the Lord.
(13) Then Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.”
From this time forward Saul is referred to as Paul
This was NOT Saul changing his name. Saul was of Jewish birth, but his parents had obtained Roman citizenship before Saul was born since he claims to have been born a citizen of Rome. This inferred upon Paul MANY advantages which would not have been available to a Jew under Roman rule. As such, Saul’s parents gave him two names which were quite customary in that day, Saul was his Jewish name and as a shout back to Israel’s first king. Paul was his Roman name and being latin in origin was a far more familiar name to the Gentiles than Saul.
Choosing to take on this name full-time as it were, not long into his first missionary journey which was largely to the Gentiles was almost certainly a socio-political move on Paul’s part in order to aid in his receptiveness before the Gentiles and in his appearance within the Roman Empire.
“(14) Moving on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
(15) After the reading from the law and the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent them a message, saying,
“Brothers, if you have any message of exhortation for the people, speak it.”
(16) So Paul stood up, gestured with his hand and said, “Men of Israel, and you Gentiles who fear God, listen: (17) The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay as foreigners in the country of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.
(18) For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. (19) After He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave His people their land as an inheritance.
(20) All this took about four hundred fifty years.
After this He gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.
(21) Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.
(22) After removing him, God raised up David their king. He testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after My heart, who will accomplish everything I want him to do.’
(23) From the descendants of this man God brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, just as He promised.
(24) Before Jesus arrived, John had proclaimed a baptism for repentance to all the people of Israel. (25) But while John was completing his mission, he said repeatedly, ‘What do you think I am? I am not He. But look, One is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the sandals on His feet!’
(26) Brothers, descendants of Abraham’s family, and those Gentiles among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us.
(27) For the people who live in Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Him, and they fulfilled the sayings of the prophets that are read every Sabbath by condemning Him. (28) Though they found no basis for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have Him executed.
(29) When they had accomplished everything that was written about Him, they took Him down from the cross and placed Him in a tomb.
(30) But God raised Him from the dead, (31) and for many days He appeared to those who had accompanied Him from Galilee to Jerusalem.
These are now His witnesses to the people.
(32) And we proclaim to you the good news about the promise to our ancestors, (33) that this promise God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have fathered You.’
(34) But regarding the fact that He has raised Jesus from the dead, never again to be in a state of decay, God has spoken in this way:
‘I will give You the holy and trustworthy promises made to David.’
(35) Therefore He also says in another psalm,
‘You will not permit Your Holy One to experience decay.’
(36) For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died, was buried with his ancestors, and experienced decay, (37) but the One Whom God raised up did not experience decay.
(38) Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this One forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, (39) and by this One everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you.
(40) Watch out, then, that what is spoken about by the prophets does not happen to you:
(41) ‘Look, you scoffers; be amazed and perish! For I am doing a work in your days, a work you would never believe, even if someone tells you.’”
(42) As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people were urging them to speak about these things on the next Sabbath.
(43) When the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and were persuading them to continue in the grace of God.
(44) On the next Sabbath almost the whole city assembled together to hear the word of the Lord. (45) But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and they began to contradict what Paul was saying by reviling him.
(46) Both Paul and Barnabas replied courageously,
“It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first.
Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles.
(47) For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
‘I have appointed you to be a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
(48) When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed.”