Seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Introduction: As we move into Acts 13, I want us to look back from last Sunday to some important points that brother Bill made from Acts 12:
A Review of last week: The Word of God Grew—it was the result of God’s power, it was due to the faithfulness of God’s people, it was God’s success, it was for God’s glory, and, it was the fulfillment of God’s promise and faithfulness.
In our witness in the world today—we need to be faithful in our call, we need to realize that even in the face of conflict and trials, God is sovereign. Again, God’s Word will grow and multiply, and when it does, God always gets the glory. Let’s pray. Open you Bibles to Acts 13:1-3.
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:1-3, ESV)
Please note that the work of the church is always lead and directed by the Holy Spirit with our cooperation. It is God’s work—therefore it needs to be lead and directed by God—not by us.
The first thing that we see in these three crucial verses is the narrative of Acts will center now on Paul, who under the direction of the Holy Spirit, will evangelize much of the Roman world. The Church led mostly by Peter up to this point had evangelized Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria including Syria and Cyprus. Paul and Barnabas, under the direction of the Holy Spirit would now begin the witness of the church to the uttermost parts of the world.
John Polhill in his commentary on Acts says, “Paul and Barnabas would expand the witness on Cyprus and travel by sea to the mainland province of Roman Galatia. It was a bold new mission. The Spirit led, but Antioch sought the Spirit’s leading.”
A Bold new mission always requires the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. I think it is very important to remember this—when it is God’s work the Spirit ALWAYS leads, but we must seek the Spirit’s leading. As we look at these verses we see how Antioch sought the Spirit’s leading—by worshiping and fasting. We have taken a lot of time in the past few years to gain an understanding of worship and why it is important to the Church. It is through worship, that we get the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The Holy Spirit speaks out of worship. When our focus is on the goodness and greatness of God, our hearts are tuned to God’s heart. His focus can be come our focus—His work can become our work. It was the plan of God, the Father, to set apart Paul and Barnabas for his work through the voice of the Holy Spirit spoken to the Church at Antioch. God had already set apart a very diverse group of leaders for the Antioch Church. Look at verse 1, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Three of them are virtually unknown to us: Simeon, who was called the Black; Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen—literally one who shared the same nurse’s breast milk with Herod the Tetrarch. What were the qualifications of all of them for leadership—they were prophets and teacher “set apart” by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is clear about leadership—and how leaders are selected by God. Often the church selects leaders based solely on education and cultural standing. Leadership is not birthed in seminary—but in the heart of a man or woman wholly committed to do the work and will of God and whose character has been formed by the Holy Spirit.
The Church at Antioch will prove to be a very important church for out of it, will flow the whole church’s witness to the rest of the world. Antioch sought the leading of the Spirit through worship—and confirmed it through prayer. “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” The Antioch Church took serious time for worship and fasting—and for praying and fasting before laying hands on Barnabas and Paul and sending them off. Through worship, they heard the direction of the Holy Spirit, and through prayer they confirmed it. By the laying on of hands, they agreed with and partnered with Barnabas and Paul. By sending them off, they agreed to support them in the mission.
Finally, some important lessons for us—worship, prayer, and fasting as essential for witnessing: our direction of where, how, and who we will be a witness for Jesus to—must flow out of our worship of Him. He will confirm it through our prayer to Him. We seek the leading of the Holy Spirit, He leads—and we follow His leading and do His work.
Polhill, John B.: Paul and His Letters. Nashville, TN : Broadman & Holman, 1999, S. 75