Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
The Heroism of Foreign Missions.
I. The first element of heroism is the quality of ideality—the power, that is, of getting hold of the idea of any cause or occupation, or of life in general, so that the cause, the occupation, or life becomes a living thing to which a man may give himself with all his powers. That quality of ideality is the essential thing in heroism. Along with this primary quality of heroism there go two others, closely related to it. They are magnanimity and bravery. These qualities make the heroes. These are what glorify certain lives that stand through history as the lights and beacons of mankind.
II. If Christianity is heroic life, the missionary work is heroic Christianity. This arises not from any mere circumstances of personal privation which attach to the missionary life, but because the missionary life has most closely seized, and most tenaciously holds and lives by, the essential central life-idea of Christianity. What is that idea? That man is the child of God. The true Christian idealist is he whose conception of man as the redeemed child of God has taken all his life, and moulded it in new shapes, planted it in new places, so filled and inspired it, that, like the Spirit of God in Elijah, it has taken it up and carried it where it never would have chosen to go of its lower will.
III. The missionary life is heroic, not because of the pains it suffers, but because of the essential character it bears. Pain is the aureole, but not the sainthood. So they have marched of old, the missionaries of all the ages of the religion of the Incarnation and the Cross, idealists, believers, magnanimous and brave, the heroes of our faith. They have been heroes because of their faith, because their souls supremely believed in and their lives were supremely given to Christ.
Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 163.
References: Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 24. Acts 13:4.—Ibid., vol. v., p. 308. Acts 13:7.—J. M. Charlton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 113; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 429.
Acts 13:9The assumption of the name of Paul instead of the name of Saul stood in some relation to his missionary work, and was intended in some sense as a memorial of his first victory in the preaching of the gospel.
I. The new name expresses a new nature. The central heart of Christianity is the possession of a new life, communicated to us through faith in that Son of God who is the Lord of the spirit. Wheresoever there is a true faith, there is a new nature. A change which needs a new name must be a profound change. Has our Christianity revolutionised our nature in any such fashion?
II. We may take this change of name as being expressive of a life's work. Paul is a Roman name. He strips himself of his Jewish connections and relationships. His fellow-countrymen who lived among the Gentiles were in the habit of doing the same thing; but they carried both their names—their Jewish for use amongst their own people, their Gentile one for use amongst Gentiles. Paul seems to have altogether disused his old name Saul. It was almost equivalent to seceding from Judaism. We may, from the change in the Apostle's name, gather this lesson, never out of date, that the only way to help people is to go down to their level. If you want to bless men, you must identify yourself with them.
III. The change of name is a memorial of victory. The name is that of his first convert. He takes it, as I suppose, because it seemed to him such a blessed thing that at the very moment when he began to sow God helped him to reap. Paul names himself from the first victory that God gave him to win, and so, as it were, carries ever at his breast a memorial of the wonder that through him it had been given to preach, and that not without success, amongst the Gentiles the "unsearchable riches of Christ."
IV. This change of name is an index of the spirit of a life's work. "Paul" means "little"; "Saul" means "desired." He abandons the name that prophesied of favour and honour, to adopt a name that bears upon its very front a profession of humility. His very name is the condensation into a word of his abiding conviction, "I am less than the least of all saints." So, for all hope, for all success in our work, for all growth in Christian grace and character, this disposition of lowly self-abasement. And, above all, learn this—that unless you have the new life, the life of God in your hearts, you have no life at all.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, May 7th, 1885.
Reference: Acts 13:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1781.
Acts 13:13I. Consider first the apostasy of John Mark. It was not a departure from Christ, but it was a departure from very plain duty. And if you will notice the point of time at which Mark threw up the work, you will see the reason for his doing so. The first place to which the bold evangelists went was Cyprus. Barnabas was a native of Cyprus; therefore, no doubt, partly, the selection of this place to begin their assault on heathenism. For the same reason, because it was the native place of his relative, it would be very easy work for John Mark as long as they stopped in Cyprus among his friends, with people that knew him, and with whom, no doubt, he was familiar. And, as soon as they crossed the strait that separated the island from the mainland, and set foot upon the soil of Asia Minor, so soon this man turns tail,—like some recruit that goes into battle full of fervour, but, as soon as the bullets begin to "ping," makes the best of his way to the rear. How like this story is to the experience of hundreds and thousands of young Christians! Let us all ponder the lesson, and see to it that no repetition of the apostasy of this man darken our Christian lives and sodden our Christian conscience.
II. Look next at Mark's eclipse. Paul and Barnabas differed about how to treat the renegade. Which of them was right? Barnabas' highest quality, as far as we know, was a certain kind of broad generosity and rejoicing to discern good in all men. He was a "son of consolation." The gentle kindness of his natural disposition, added to the ties of relationship, influenced him in his wish regarding his cousin Mark. He made a mistake. It would have been the cruellest thing that could have been done to his relative to have put him back again without acknowledgment, without repentance, without riding quarantine for a bit and holding his tongue for awhile. He would not then have known his fault as he ought to have known it, and so there would never have been the chance of his conquering it. Mark's eclipse teaches us the lesson that the punishment for shirking work is to be denied work.
III. Consider the process of recovery. There is only one road, with well-marked stages, by which a backsliding or apostate Christian can return to his Master; and that road has three halting-places on it, through which our heart must pass if it have wandered from its early faith and falsified its first professions. The first of them is the consciousness of the fall, the second is the resort to the Master for forgiveness, the third is the deepened consecration to Him.
IV. Notice the reinstatement of the penitent renegade. Even early failures, recognised and repented of, may make a man better fitted for the tasks that he once fled from. The past is no specimen of what the future may be. The page that is yet to be written need have none of the blots of the page that we have turned over shining through it. God works with broken reeds, and through them breathes His sweetest music.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Dec. 23rd, 1886.
References: Acts 13:16-21.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 490. Acts 13:19, Acts 13:20.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 198. Acts 13:24.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 99. Acts 13:26.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 189. Acts 13:32.—J. Aldis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 353.
Acts 13:36Life the Service of a Generation.
I. "He served his generation." The expression is vague till we interpret it. To one of us it may seem a small thing to have the possibilities of life confined within the limits of a single generation. We may have formed a grander conception of the capabilities of a life—our own or another's. We may have dreamed of far-reaching consequences to a church or a country, to literature or history, and thus to the world itself, from the fact that a certain person has lived and moved and had his being upon the face of the earth from which he was taken. But, speaking of average men, and of men above the average, it is true, painfully true, that they can at the best serve but one generation, and then must see corruption. Great ability, great knowledge, great sagacity, great personal influence, great oratory, great generalship, great statesmanship—all are of the generation.
II. Shall we count this a small thing? Is it not enough if it can be said with truth of any man? If there is here the reproof of human vanity, is there not also here the repose of human restlessness? The service of the generation is capable of every possible variety. It is to fill the post assigned with diligence, with seriousness, with unselfishness, with God in sight. No one touches his generation at more than a few points; most touch it but at one. That point of contact is the place of service.
III. "He served his generation." In doing so he served God's counsel concerning himself. David, in his shepherd vigils in the hills around Bethlehem; David, exiled and outlawed by the king whom he loved through all; David, meditating his psalms, immortal in their use for churches and solitudes; David, at last anointed king, to reign seven years in Hebron and thirty and three in Jerusalem, was the subject, all through these vicissitudes, of a changeless will and counsel, which he persistently, though with frightful aberrations, served through all. So has it been with lesser lives and less illustrious fortunes. We, we ourselves, in our childhoods and manhoods, in our advancements and disappointments, in our little enterprises and less achievements, have been serving a counsel, and that of God. Oh, let us feel as we ought the mighty honour! These lives are trivial and uneventful, but they have been the subject of thought in heaven: let us live them well. Let us fulfil their high destiny. Enough, if of one of us this may be the record: "He served the counsel of God, and he fell asleep."
C. J. Vaughan, University Sermons, p. 511.
References: Acts 13:36.—W. Arthur, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 97; W. Braden, Ibid., vol. v., p. 152; J. P. Chown, Ibid., vol. ix., p. 113; S. G. Matthews, Ibid., vol. x., p. 8.
Acts 13:38I. How little the word "forgiveness" is understood! There cannot be forgiveness until there has been the consent of two parties. We sometimes have said, in our ignorance, "Why does not God forgive all men and make an end of sin?" He cannot. You yourself cannot. It is a moral impossibility. There is an immoral nobleness. Do you care nothing for sin? Then you are immoral. Do you treat crime lightly? Then you are not to be trusted with the interests of society. Forgiveness is not a one-sided affair. There must be consent of parties. This is plainly declared in the revelation of Divine truth. Our hearts must be melted into contrition; there must be tears of penitence in our very hearts; there must be a sob of contrition, a sigh of self-accusation, an utter renunciation of self-help. Then will take place, in the name of Christ, and at the foot of the cross of Christ, the great transaction which liberates men from the captivity of sin.
II. When God forgives—what happens? When God forgives, God forgets. That is complete forgiveness. Where there is no forgetting there is no forgiving. What does God do with our sins when He has forgiven them? He casts them behind Him. "Behind God?" Yes. Where is that? These are figures—poor and lame, as all figures must be in such a case—which, however, are meant to indicate the utterness, the completeness, the grandeur of the great act of Divine pardon. We are saved by love. Love, when truly understood, will be found but another term for faith—faith completed, faith alive, faith at its sublimest point. It does appear to be infinitely impossible that sin can ever be rubbed out. But the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin; gets into the secret places of our heart, finds out our hidden iniquities and our concealed desires, and works its gracious ministry there, until we become without spot or wrinkle or any such thing—a glorious Church.
Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 193.
References: Acts 13:38, Acts 13:39.—J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 141. Acts 13:39.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 136. Acts 13:42.—J. W. Lance, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 261. Acts 13:43.—J. Kelly, Ibid., p. 324. Acts 13:46.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 29; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 292. Acts 13:48.—Legge, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 291. Acts 13:49.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 76. Acts 13:52.—J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 136. Acts 14:2, Acts 14:3.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 220. Acts 14:3.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 390. Acts 14:8-20.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 430. Acts 14:9, Acts 14:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 559. Acts 14:11.—A. P. Peabody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 170. Acts 14:13-15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 374. Acts 14:17.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 226; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 124; Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 28.
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.
And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:
Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.
But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.
And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:
When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.
Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.
And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
But God raised him from the dead:
And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.
And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.