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We all have our own callings. Acts 15.30-41

The Gentiles Question Resolved (5)

Pray Psalm 96.1-4.

Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.

Sing Psalm 96.1-4.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
Sing to the Lord! O, bless His Name! All nations tell His glory!
Salvation’s tidings loud proclaim; let earth rehearse His story!
For God is greatly to be praised; His throne above all gods is raised.
Fear Him, and sing His glory!

Read Acts 15.1-41; meditate on verses 30-41.

Preparation
1. What did Paul propose to do?

2. What caused Paul and Barnabas to split up?

Meditation
We note that the Gentile believers in Antioch did not feel put upon by the directive of the Jerusalem council. They rejoiced and were greatly encouraged to receive this word of clarification and instruction (vv. 30, 31). Following the delivery of the council’s decision, Judas and Silas were given the opportunity to speak, and not just once. They stayed around for some time, doubtless so that they could answer questions, observe the situation in Antioch, and help Paul and Barnabas deal with any issues that might arise from the implementation of the council’s directive (vv. 32, 33).

Their work completed, they were sent off in peace, and Paul and Barnabas were able to get back to business as usual, preaching and teaching the Word of God, together with many others who were teachers in the churches there. It seems that preaching and teaching are a continuous need in the churches (v. 35).

John Mark obviously showed some potential for missionary work – perhaps even some skills as a writer? – and Barnabas was probably hoping to encourage his further growth and development by some on-the-job training. Paul, on the other hand, remembered Mark’s failure during the first mission. He could not know what troubles they might encounter on this return journey, and he did not think it wise either to expose John Mark to such uncertainty or to risk being hindered by his failing again in some way (vv. 36-38).

So Paul and Barnabas argued with one another. Sometimes believers must argue, even disagree sharply, to discern the Lord’s will in a situation. As it turns out, both men were right in this dispute, but for different reasons. Paul was right to expect more difficulty on this second journey. But Barnabas was right, too. His investment in John Mark’s development helped to prepare him as a useful servant (2 Tim. 4.11) in the Lord’s work.

Agreeing to disagree, Paul and Barnabas set off on their different, but complementary, missions, continuing the ongoing work of the Lord according to their separate callings (vv. 39-41).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Paul’s idea was a good one. Let’s go back to all the cities where we have preached the word of the Lord. We can visit the churches and see how everyone is doing (Acts 15.36). OK, says Barnabas. That sounds workable. How about this idea? Let’s take John Mark with us so he can improve his ministry skills. And that is where these plans came to a screeching halt.

We are not charged with deciding who was right and who was wrong in this situation; but what we can see is that Barnabas is ever the encourager. This man’s given name was Joses. But the apostles, early on, had renamed him Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement (Acts 4.36). He was living up to his nickname. As always.

So many personalities make up the Church. Each one, when filled with the Holy Spirit can be used by the Lord. We needn’t try and duplicate someone else; we merely need to be our best us, obediently serving in our Personal Mission Field with the personality and resources that we have been given.

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (Prov. 12.25). We can offer that good word to encourage others in their calling from the Lord.

“…God anointed Jesus…with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good…for God was with Him” (Acts 10.38). Since we are filled with the Holy Spirit and power, and God is with us, we too can go about doing good, though the good we do may differ dramatically from what others do.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12.21). We are commanded to love, even to feed and give drink to our enemies (Matt. 5.44, 45; Rom. 12.20). We can only do this by the Holy Spirit’s power that is within us. But if we can do it for an enemy, we surely can do it for a friend in the faith.

It does not matter if our personality leans toward being a Paul, or a Barnabas; what matters is that we are doing exactly what God has called us to do. “But in every great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. 2.20, 21). This is a workable plan.

Our brother Paul, later wrote, these words: “…that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Rom. 1.12). Whoever we are, and whatever we are like, we can all do this for the sake of the ongoing and united work of the Kingdom.

For reflection
1. How would you summarize the calling God has for you?

2. What will that calling require of you today?

3. How can you encourage your fellow believers in their own callings today?

The point is not that they differed in their opinions but that they accommodated themselves to each other. Thus a greater good resulted from their parting, for which this provided an excuse. What then? Did they withdraw in enmity? God forbid! Recall how after this Barnabas received much praise from Paul in his epistles. John Chrysostom (344-407), Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 34

Pray Psalm 96.8-13.

Offer praise and thanks to God for all His goodness, and for the work He has set before you this day. Pray that He will show you more of His goodness, beauty, and glory in the creation, so that you praise Him throughout the day. Praise Him that He is coming again soon.

Sing Psalm 96.8-13.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
Bring off’rings sweet to Him, our Lord, in holy garments praise Him!
Tremble before Him, all the earth; among the nations raise Him!
The earth is fixed, it will not move; the peoples will His justice prove.
Exalt the Lord and praise Him.

Let heaven sing with lusty voice; let earth and sea sing sweetly!
Let fields and trees in Him rejoice, for He is coming swiftly
to judge the world in righteousness, the peoples in His faithfulness.
He comes; exalt Him greatly!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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