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The First Missionary Journey

Acts 13:1-3 

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"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. [2] 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.' [3] Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." (NASB)

Acts 13 is a milestone text because it marks a radical shift in strategy for the young church.  Perhaps strategy isn't the best word because the change didn't result from hours of studying data, analyzing trends and debating the best course of action.  Instead, in the midst of a season of worship they heard the voice of the Holy Spirit and they obeyed Him.  Please don't let the importance of that statement get lost in this sermon introduction.  These Christians were in love with the Lord and put their heart and soul into worshiping him.  Their worship service wasn't a church growth opportunity or a performance tailored for those who gathered it was a time of "ministering to the Lord."  That unusual phrase appears elsewhere in scripture.  It is used of young Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:1 "Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent." (NASB) and of Aaron in 2 Chron. 13:10 "But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him; and the sons of Aaron are ministering to the Lord as priests, and the Levites attend to their work." (NASB) 

In the midst of their worship, God stood up and spoke to the church telling them to "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."  The church entered into a time of prayer and fasting, obeyed the words of the Holy Spirit and commissioned Barnabas and Saul for the work God had for them to do.

God called, the church set them apart and sent them.  These events mark the beginning of a new era for the church a missionary sending era. 

 The spread of the gospel began with CENTRIPETAL PROCLAMATION.  The Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples at Pentecost, empowering them to proclaim the gospel to the thousands of people who were making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  The people assembled together, the church and the Jewish prospect for the church, Peter preached and 3000 men were added to the church.  With the waves of persecution we've studied over the past few months continued the spread of the gospel through FORCED CENTRIFUGAL PROCLAMATION.  Instead of the prospects gathering with the believers to hear the word, the church was thrust out into the world where they proclaimed the gospel and brought Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles to faith in Christ.  But now a new strategy surfaces, INTENSIONAL CENTRIFUGAL PROCLAMATION.  The strategy was not to try to entice the prospects to attend their worship gatherings, but to send out some of their worshipers to proclaim the gospel to the prospect.  They didn't go because they were forced from their homes, they went because the Spirit of God told them to go.

 They didn't have a polished sales pitch or predetermined talking points, they just went where the Lord sent them and they spoke the truth.  For instance, on one occasion they encountered an advisor to the governor, a Sorcerer who was telling the governor not to pay any attention to them. Their response was to say, "You son of the Devil, full of every sort of trickery and villainy, enemy of all that is good, will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10 NLT) When I read their words, I don't get the impression that they were running for a political office or trying to get people to like them.  It is obvious to me that telling the truth was more important to them than being popular.

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