Saul, Barnabas, and John Mark, having been commissioned by the church in Antioch, set out for the island of Cyprus. They make their way from their original port to to the captial, where the governor wants to hear what they have to say; however, a sorcerer understands who they are and resists. Through their efforts, we see three ways God leads His people to victory and draws others to Himself.
The church at Antioch did something that no other church had done up to this point in history - they commissioned a team of men to go evangelize other areas. Through this, we see how God uses specific people for specific tasks, encourages His people with spiritual confirmation, and uses the same principles even while working in varied ways with varied individuals. We must not “audit” the Christian life!
The early church is, once again, facing persecution. James, the brother of John, has been captured and killed, and Peter is in prison, awaiting trial after the holy days surrounding Passover. The church is praying for him, while at the same time, he is being freed from prison; when he appears, they do not want to believe it! This story shows us how God can move beyond our expectations when we pray, often not directly answering our specific prayer, but answering the underlying need. He knows the dangers that exist in life, He listens to the cries of our heart, and He works through our less-than-perfect faith to accomplish His will through us.
As believers were scattered, after the persecution that started after Stephen’s martyrdom, a group of believers made it to the city of Antioch. While others had sought out Jews to convert, this group went to Greeks - and had great success! The church in Jerusalem learned of it, and sent Barnabas to them. Through this, we seen how God wants us to broaden our vision, how He will encourage us wheverever we go, and how He rewards our hearts when we reach out with compassion for others.
Every so often, someone preaches a sermon that changes the course of history; Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” kicked off the first Great Awakening in the United States, and Dr. R. G. Lee’s “Payday Someday” saw massive results wherever he preached it. In today’s passage, we read about the first sermon preached directly to the Gentiles, and it had massive results as well.
(At the end of the message, there was a snippet from Dr. S. M. Lockridge’s “He’s My King” message that is not in this recording.)
In today’s passage, Luke pivots from Saul/Paul to Peter and Cornelius; the former is “the rock” who followed Christ while He was on the earth, and the latter is a Roman centurion. These two me would seem to have little to nothing in common with one another; however, through the power of God, the wall separating these two men is torn down, and they are both better off because of it.
When Saul was converted, the members of the church did not trust that his conversion was real. Barnabas stepped up, though, and vouched for him and his teaching. Through their story, we can see how friends can help us maintain hope, keep strength in the face of opposition, and accomplish more together for the Kingdom of God than we could have accomplished alone.
God had a plan to turn Saul into Paul, and that plan involved training from a devoted follower of Jesus named Ananias. Ananias knew Saul’s reputation, though, and was quite surprised when God’s call came. Through his story, though, we see that even though God may call us to difficult circumstances, but result in more good than we expect, and even healings we wouldn’t have imagined.
There’s no way to sugar-coat it - Saul was a bad guy. He meant well, but he was persecuting followers of the very God he thought he was defending. As he traveled to Damascus, God miraculously appeared, extending Saul His grace, and demonstrating that no one is too far gone for God to rescue.
We tend to think of “mighty moves of God” as times when large numbers of people came to a saving knowledge of Christ. Today, though, we look at an occasion where God called Philip away from a flourishing work, to a one-on-one opportunity with an Ethiopian eunuch who was trying to understand Isaiah. Through this, we see how God calls each of us to be witnesses for Him wherever we go.