CERTAIN PROPHETS AND TEACHERS
Acts 13:1 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. 2 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.
We now enter into the last of the three divisions of the Book of Acts. For chapters 1 – 7 reveal the church among the Jews. Chapters 8 – 12 reveal the church in transition from the Jews to the Gentiles. And now chapters 13 – 28 deal with the church among the Gentiles.
This is the point in Christian progress where the gospel now begins to find its way to your street, dear reader! For we shall read of the apostle to the Jews (Peter), but once more in this book. (See Acts 15:7). And such personalities as Pharisees, Sadducees and high priests shall now also disappear off its pages. And the Hebrew names shall be replaced by persons with Greek names. Even the Hebrew name, “Saul” shall be replaced with the Latin name of “Paul.” (see 13:9). The Lord is now grafting in the Gentile wild olive branches onto the previously Jewish tree. Romans 11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
And the Lord God deals with these great and glorious matters in progressive revelation. Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. 2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. Just like the s-u-n comes up gradually and increases until the brightness of noon day, so the revelation of the S-o-n begins as tender as a bruised reed faith, (Matt. 12:20), and increases until we shall see him as he is! (1 John 3:2). This is so absolute that the Incarnate One veiled his wisdom to himself, only rationing it out to himself in daily increments, for he would be made like unto his brethren! (Hebrews 2:17). He would “grow” in both wisdom and stature, (Lk. 2:52), allowing himself to be governed by daily revelation and prayer. For in order to be a faithful high priest, he must be in all points tempted like as we are! (Hebrews 4:15).
Therefore we have five different and distinctive ministering “gifts” lumped under the heading of our title in this first verse of this last section of the Book of Acts. For although their names are all listed individually, they are everyone only given the titles of, certain prophets and teachers. But just observe that last one named in verse one. It simply says, and Saul! Not even, Paul! Much less, Paul, the Apostle! And the only titles available for him are the same for the other four – prophets and teachers!
So we see that the full manifestation of the spiritual gifts were not yet known to these in these early stages of their being set forth. For it is only in the exercise of the spiritual gift that its character is fully manifest! For you do not even know a false prophet, much less a true one, except by his expressed “fruit,” and not by the outward appearance! Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
The false prophet has on sheep’s clothing. That is, he, being raised up on a church bench with everyone else, and having learned the outward demeanor of “church-anity,” can pass himself off as one of the Lord’s people. But that is only the outward appearance upon which man sees! (1 Samuel 16:7). The Lord sees his heart, and will manifest him to those anointed eyes of his true children by causing him to reveal himself to them by the exercise of his spiritual gift. For the fruit always reveals the root! If a tree brings forth apples, “it ain’t no orange tree!” 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
And since a good tree CANNOT bring forth evil fruit, these five spiritually gifted men, and the church which they serve, will come to see them as the Lord, who sees the heart, sees them. And they will be identified by their particular ministry to the church! For if he is a prophet, he will preach! If he is a teacher, he will reveal it by his teaching. (Prophets can teach, but teachers are not prophets! And we have a lot of Sunday School teachers in our pulpits today!)
Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy). Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
And we see by that ninth verse, (just listed), that in the true church, among true ministers the overriding and controlling force for the absence of hypocrisy is the love of God within their hearts. For, as the Apostle Paul comes to write, love is the more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31).
This progression into the identifying of the character of these various gifts is also seen in the setting forth of the names of the two who are separated and sent out. For from the outset even the Holy Ghost refers to them as, Barnabas and Saul! (Acts 13:2). This is also how they are referred to in Acts 11:30, 12:25 and 13:7. And in Acts 11:26 they are simply identified as “they”!
But as the progressive revelation continues we next read of them referred to as Barnabas and Paul! (Acts 14:12, 15:12, 25.) And these two spiritual gifts were at first so vague that the citizens in Iconium and Lycaonia referred to them both as “apostles.” (Acts 14:4, 14). Then lastly, and in the final stage, we come to see them referred to as, Paul and Barnabas. (See Acts 13:43, 46, 50; 15:2, 22, & 35.)
Also notice the progression of the identity of Barnabas by the Holy Ghost as he exercises his gift. He, as Joses, has his name changed to Barnabas when the apostles saw his expressed character in Acts 4:36. And at that time his title was “a Levite.” Then he is listed in our text among those titled, prophets and teachers. And as we have already pointed out, due to his relationship to Paul’s ministry, he even has the Gentiles in two cities linking him to Paul’s title of an apostle!
Now let us carefully consider the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the younger minister, Timothy, regarding how his youthful expression is perceived. 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
Here he very clearly informs Timothy that any false judgments men may make, by looking only upon his outward appearance, are to be overcome by his exercising of the inner, spiritual qualities afforded him by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is even to give himself completely to the developing and to the expression of such spiritual qualities, for this will reveal the identity of his calling. And when this is done, his “profiting,” or his “furtherance” (same Greek word as listed in Phil. 1:25), that is, his maturing will then “appear to all.”
But how did the man, who was listed under the heading of prophets and teachers only as, “and Saul,” come to be known and approved as a true “apostle?” We can see it began to materialize in a couple of verses in this very chapter. For this is the main part of the reason that the Holy Ghost separated him and sent him forth on this journey! (For there was certainly not much evangelism done by them on Cyprus!)
Acts 13:9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, The Holy Spirit actually stamps upon this verse His development of the apostle from just being numbered with prophets and teachers, into the revelation of his being one of the twelve foundations of the true church! (Rev. 21:14). He even does so by ordaining this time of a filling of the Spirit by the notification, “that I have even changed his name!” The inward, progressive changing is noted by this outward change.
Also consider this verse: Acts 13:16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. Dear soul, what is the difference in this, with Paul and that of verse fourteen in chapter two of this same book, showing that the disciple who actually denied his Lord (Peter), is now the Apostle to preach the very first gospel message on earth? Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
For both are “stood up,” in the boldness of the Holy Ghost! And both have a commanding voice of effectual power to beckon the very hearts of God’s elect that are among the crowd of humankind standing before them! If you can accept this of Peter, on Pentecost in Acts 2:14, you must also accept this as being the time when the bud, listed only as a teacher, became the blossom of Paul, the apostle! For it is on this maiden voyage, far away from the comforts of the nurturing church of Antioch, and far away from the gentle hands of a God-sent Ananias, now having faced a demonic sorcerer among a sea of strange faces and spirits, he is raised up to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might! (Eph 6:10). He was being formed into an apostle who learned to stand with God! 2 Timothy 4:17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
And is this not in the pattern of Abraham, who also had his name changed and was given the requirement of separation? Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: Genesis 17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
And what of you, dear reader? Have you been given a new name? (Rev. 2:17; 3:12). And have you had to leave the comforts of your nurturing youth, departing from the feathered nest of some comfortable religious position, and now stand in the icy winds of reality, with nought but God on whom to rely? Have all the older trees of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3), that were once around you been removed, whose limbs once sheltered you, making it now your turn to stand in the heat of the noon day sun, to endure the twisting winds, and to bear up under the weight of winter’s ice and snow? Then it’s time to grow up! And now your bud comes to blossom! And then you shall learn just what it is that the Holy Spirit has invested within your heart.
We shall be allowed no more to walk in, or be known in the flesh! We must now become a man, and put away childish things! 2 Corinthians 5:16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Just like Samuel, the prophet, whose mom dropped him off at the house of one of the most wicked priest’s families we have ever known, so there is an appointed time for our own pacifiers and security blankets to be removed in order that the inner spiritual fortitude becomes our sustaining help. Listen to these verses concerning Samuel’s rise to become God’s prophet: 1 Samuel 3:19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. 21 And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
He survived, as do all true ministers of the Lord by giving himself wholly to the development of his inner spiritual gift. The Lord God of Israel sustained both His prophet and His word among His people! There is no difference regarding the ministers of the gospel in Christ’s kingdom today! They must both take heed to themselves as vessels of a gift of God to minister the word, and to that very word itself. For only in this shall both they, and the true revelation of God in his word, be able to survive. Let me reprint Paul’s words to Timothy for you: Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
May God save this poor religious generation!
Pastor Gene Breed, February 8, 2013