Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PROTOTYPE MISSIONARIES”

Acts 13.1-4 

I am titling this message “Prototype Missionaries.” In the message, I deal with the circumstances surrounding the calling out of Barnabas and Saul from the Church at Antioch to an even greater and more far-reaching ministry of Church planting as missionaries.

As I have mentioned so many times before, I genuinely feel that missionaries are God’s heroes. And although most missionaries dismiss the notion that they are any type of hero, I am still of that opinion. For that reason, I believe that we as a Church ought to treat missionaries as if they were heroes. I cannot imagine ever allowing missionaries to pay for coffee or a meal when I am with them.

I know missionaries have feet of clay. I also understand that what any good missionaries do is directly the result of God’s grace in their lives. But I am still convinced of the old-fashioned notion of giving honor to whom honor is due.[1]

Missionaries are special people in that God has called them to minister the Gospel in places and under conditions where most of us could not or would not serve. We ought to recognize that fact. Furthermore, we ought to try and remember that God has done marvelous work in missionaries’ lives to motivate and equip them for their challenging ministries.

If I sound biased, it’s because I am biased. Many Christians of late have lost the missionary zeal which characterized the great missions movements of past generations. Missionaries, nowadays, are looked down on by some and are pitied by others. Some parents’ worst nightmares arise from the fear God might call their children to serve as foreign missionaries.

This should not be, beloved. We ought to thank God for our missionaries. We ought to point children toward the thought and idea that maybe if God so-called, they would have the rare privilege of going to a foreign mission field.

Why don’t parents train their children to think of missions work as a privilege? Why aren’t more preachers, more Church workers, more students, more laymen surrendering their lives to go to the mission field? I think, in part, it is due to the low opinion many people have of missionaries and mission work.

I hope this message leaves you with a new appreciation of missionaries, with a new appreciation of their work and ministry. This will happen if you grasp and appreciate the plain truth of the Bible which shows that missionaries are very special people.

My text is Acts 13.1-4. Let’s read God’s Word together. Will you read of and learn some things about God’s very first Christian era missionary team? 

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.

3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 

In our text, we find the divine description of the prototype missionary. Three qualifications show missionaries, not to be the dregs, but the choicest, of God’s servants. Three qualifications, not just of Barnabas and Saul, but of every missionary who aspires to do great things for God. 

First, WE SEE THAT THESE FIRST TWO MISSIONARIES WERE QUALIFIED AS GIFTED MEN 

In verse 1, we read of the field of men from which Barnabas and Saul were chosen: 

“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.” 

That this group of spiritual congregational leaders was prophets and teachers clues us into the fact that the first qualification that must be found in the true missionary’s life is that he be a gifted man. These missionaries, like the other congregational leaders, were gifted men. Notice two things about these gifted men: The first thing we note about Barnabas and Saul being gifted men is that gifted men were available for missions.

Let me run down the list of names given to us by Luke and make some observations about this pool of gifted men. We do know that they are all gifted men from Ephesians 4.11, which lists prophets and pastor-teachers as two of the four gifted men that Christ gives to Churches.

The first man is named Barnabas. You might remember him as the man who probably had the gift of exhortation. This enabled him to be highly effective in the counseling and discipling aspects of the ministry. It seems to have been Barnabas’ involvement in the Church at Antioch, which brought dynamic numerical and spiritual growth on a large scale. And since there had to be a senior pastor at the Antioch Church, I think it might have been this man sent to Antioch from Jerusalem by the apostles.[2]

The second name given is Simeon, who was called Niger. This word “Niger” means black and strongly supports the belief that this man, who apparently was one of the pastors serving with Barnabas, was a black man. Perhaps Simeon was a name that was difficult for some people to pronounce, so he told people to call him what he looked like, “Black.” I say this because the text says he “was called Niger,” not that he was named Niger.

The third man is Lucius of Cyrene, which is a region of North Africa. Being a Cyrenian, and not a native of Antioch, suggests that he was one of the believers who fled from Jerusalem to Antioch when Stephen was persecuted and then killed.[3] It may even be that Lucius was a leader of that original group of witnesses who worked to gather the group of believers in Antioch and then turned the leadership over to Barnabas when he arrived from Jerusalem to organize the group into a duly constituted Church.[4]

Fourth is a man named Manaen. Manaen had been raised with Herod, the tetrarch. This suggests Manaen was either of noble blood or wealthy parentage. Although not many noble are called, there are a few who turn to Christ.[5]

The last man, of course, was Saul, later known to us as Paul. Destined to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Spain, Saul was, at this time, one of at least five gifted men serving in the Church at Antioch ... available to the Lord for whatever He might call on them to do.

Having noted that gifted men were available for missions work, we should now note that gifted men are absolutely necessary for missions work, Ephesians 4.11-14: 

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. 

This passage informs us that four kinds of gifted men are given to Church congregations, though not every congregation always has all four types of gifted men. They are called apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.

Be mindful that there are three kinds of apostles in the Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ is identified as the apostle of our profession in Hebrews 3.1. We are most familiar with the apostles of Jesus Christ, such as John, Paul, Peter, Andrew, and so forth. Then there are apostles of the Churches, Second Corinthians 8.33, where the Greek word ἀpostόloV is translated, messengers. Missionaries are among those sent forth from Churches. Verse 12 explains that the ministry of these gifted men is to perfect or mature Christians so that Church members will be capable of doing the work of the ministry, and so Church members won’t be confused by bad doctrine, verse 14. It is essential to be a Church member. Amen?

I ask you, isn’t what gifted men do exactly what a missionary must also do? He must bring men and women to Christ. Then he must teach them enough of the Word of God to enable them to function as an independent and self-sufficient congregation. Should a man go to the mission field who is not a specially equipped gifted man, then the maturation process of those he ministers to will be stunted, and the Church he starts will have problems with doctrine or growth or both.

So you see, not just anybody can be a Church planting missionary. They are special people. Not special as in better, but special as in gifted. They are gifted men, equipped by God for a ministry of making other Christians more mature and able to serve Christ ... all the while starting a Church. 

BUT BEING GIFTED MEN IS NOT ENOUGH TO QUALIFY THEM TO BE MISSIONARIES. IN ADDITION TO BEING GIFTED MEN, SPIRITUALLY GIFTED MEN, MISSIONARIES, AND ANYONE TRAINING TO BECOME MISSIONARIES MUST BE SEPARATED MEN. 

When their call to the mission field came, Barnabas and Saul were already separated unto the ministry. We see, from verse 1 and the first part of verse 2, both the kind of ministry they had and their devotion to it. The kind of ministry they had was what we now refer to as a pastoral ministry. That is, both Barnabas and Saul, along with the others named, were preachers and teachers of the Word of God in the Church at Antioch. The devotion with which they served God is seen in the phrase, 

“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said ....” 

When called to go to other regions, missionaries are people best called by the Lord when they already serve Him or are preparing to serve Him in the place they are already at. Some folks want the Lord to call them to do great work for Him but are quite content to sit back and do nothing until He calls them to do it. Others are fearful that God might call them to do important ministry and spend much of their Christian life avoiding meaningful ministry.

I’m afraid that is not the way God wants the Christian life to be lived. I’m convinced God calls only those people to do bigger things who are already faithfully serving Him in little things. It is interesting to note, as well, that pastoring in the second greatest Church in the world at that time was not the height of service to God. For two of the pastors, God had greater heights to start small Churches in strategic cities and towns.

Know what I think? I think maybe we don’t understand what truly great ministries really are. So often, we see Church pastors in the USA and elsewhere conducting themselves as though they imagine themselves to be really important and that missionaries should be subservient to them. I think Scripture shows that thinking to be backwards.

But being separated to full-time service is just not enough. And being a pastor is never even hinted to be a qualification for missions work. What further qualifies Barnabas and Saul is not just their initial separation to a life of full-time service to Christ but separation to the specific ministry of missions. This happened when the Holy Ghost said, 

“Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” 

A man must be a gifted man to be adequately equipped for missions work. But even that isn’t enough to get the job done unless he has been set aside by the Holy Spirit of God and empowered to function as a missionary. Too many missionaries come home after a short stint on the mission field because they are not gifted men. Too many come home because the Spirit of God doesn’t call them to go there in the first place.

Who does the calling to such a ministry? Not the Church. The Holy Spirit of God must do that. There’s no use going without His calling. After all, from Him comes the grace to serve and gain results in the form of fruit. And without His grace, everything is for naught. I am sure that many people can and should help missionaries and perform vital and useful functions that are beneficial to missions work, but we must understand that the missionary is both a gifted man and a separated man for the ministry to which he has been called. 

THE THIRD QUALIFICATION FOR MISSIONARIES IS THAT THEY BE SENT MEN 

3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 

In verse 3, Barnabas and Saul are recognized and released by their congregation. The Spirit calls, but the Church separates to service. The Spirit of God and not the Church that must call missionaries is quite clear in the New Testament. But it is also clear that the Spirit of God directs the Church’s leadership to recognize their calling and to release them to serve in this new capacity.

So, we know that when the fasting and praying mentioned in verse 3 occurred, they were not trying to discern God’s will in the matter. The Spirit’s will had been expressed in verse 2. No, the prayers and fasting resulted from a desire to secure God’s richest blessings to be poured out on this new ministry. This was a prayer meeting in which the power of God was being called down onto the lives and ministries of these two special servants of God, these two new missionaries.

After the prayers and fasting had concluded, they laid hands on them. And although frequently, this is looked upon as an ordination service, it really isn’t an ordination service. These two men had already served for some time as pastors. If ordination services were properly observed, they would have already been ordained, unless this is understood to be an ordination to a new ministry.

Whether it is or isn’t an ordination, the laying on of hands is very practically a means of identifying with the ministries of these two. Just as laying on of hands meant identification with an animal sacrificed in the Old Testament, or to publicly identify with another person.[6] With their formal recognition and release by the Church, Barnabas and Saul are sent away in obedience to the revealed will of God.

Then, in verse 4, we read that the missionaries are removed to the field by the Holy Ghost: 

“So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” 

This is actually necessary for any kind of ministry to be successful, especially a missionary’s. In Romans 10.15, Paul wrote, “How will they hear except they be sent?” People can’t just go. Of course, they can just go. But God makes use of means. Such men must be sent. They must be sent by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit sends them by having congregational leaders He leads dispatch those He has called.

In our day, there are multitudes in the ministry who were never recommended in this way by their Churches. The attitude I have heard expressed is that regardless of their home Church’s opinion, they are doing to do what God has called them to do without any permission from mere men. Such folly fails to recognize that frequently congregations are hesitant about endorsing men for the ministry because those men have not yet demonstrated their calling to those who know them best or have not yet demonstrated that they are yet qualified in accordance with First Timothy 3.1-5 and Titus 1.6-9. Already serving in the Church in Antioch as pastors, it is clear that Barnabas and the man who would be known as Paul were already well-qualified. 

Are missionaries special people? You’d better believe they are. They are specially gifted to bring their new converts to spiritual maturity. They are separated to the ministry of starting Churches. And they are especially sent by the Holy Spirit of God, Whose grace and enablement they need to be successful in their life’s work.

How many of us think of missionaries as the dregs of Christian service? I have known some Christians and pastors who do. They think of missionaries as hard-working and faithful men, but who can’t preach their way out of a paper bag. I know missionaries who believe this, thinking of missionaries as men who have ministries that are somehow inferior to the big pastors of great and wealthy Churches here at home.

We need to remember that Barnabas and Saul were pastors in the greatest or second greatest Church of that day. Then God specifically called them to even higher service as missionaries. And don’t think it’s any different nowadays.

God calls His best to do His greatest and most demanding work. A child of God ought to be excited at the thought that God might choose him or her to render special duty, to be of special service, to be the recipient of the special grace it takes to be a missionary.

Is it possible that God might be interested in making you into one of His finest? Could it be that except for some things in your life you might be missionary material? There’s only one way to find out. Turn your entire life over to God and let Him do with it what He will.

In the final analysis, we know that most Christians will not be called into the Gospel ministry, and far fewer will be called to become missionaries. Where does that leave those of us who are not missionaries? It leaves us with an opportunity—an opportunity to co-labor with both the missionary and with God. Remember, the third qualification of being a missionary is that they be sent. Recognized and released by the Church, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Then removed to the field, also under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Where you and I fit into this equation, where we are positioned in this scheme and plan of God, isn’t in the being sent part of it, but the sending part of it. We are the ones who pray for, encourage and support, and do everything we can to help those who serve as missionaries.

We have seen God’s Word clearly describe the prototype missionaries. Every other God-called missionary follows in their path. That being so, they are very, very special people in the sight, in the mind, and in the heart of God.

If you and I are right with God, they will be special in our sight, in our mind, and in our heart, as well. We will pray for, encourage, and support their ministries as God gives us opportunity.

Are missionaries special to you? I hope they are. Are they special enough that you are willing to do your part to get them where they need to go, and keep them there when they arrive? I hope they are.

That is what missions giving is all about. A good thing to know, in light of the fact that we identify as a missionary Baptist Church.

__________

[1] 1 Timothy 5.17

[2] Acts 11.22

[3] Acts 8.1

[4] Acts 11.26, Luke does not identify the Antioch gathering as a Church until after Barnabas’ arrival, suggesting he was dispatched by the apostles with the authority to organize the Church in that city.

[5] 1 Corinthians 1.26

[6] Leviticus 3.2, 8, 13; 4.4, 15, 24, 29, 33; 16.21; Numbers 8.12; 27.18

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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