Saul’s introduction to Antioch
The last time we found Saul, he was received into the assembly at Jerusalem being with them “coming in and going out” (Acts 9:28). We do not know how long he was there, but when they heard certain Hellenists were planning to put him to death, the brethren sent him off to Tarsus.
Here there is a lull in the book of Acts going back to Peter’s final recorded activities in scripture. I felt a little sad at this point but still rejoicing we have his epistles later for our blessing. God is now bringing in another man who will pioneer with the gospel to the Gentiles.
The need for visiting teachers
The next time we read of Saul, he was sought by Barnabas who brought him to Antioch. Barnabas wanted Saul because men who came from Cyprus preached the Lord Jesus. The effects were outstanding. A great number believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:21).
Assemblies should never devalue the importance of outside speakers preaching and teaching in their midst. Sometimes it’s said “we don’t need travelling men anymore” and we revert to a so-called pastor teacher (singular) or to any local warm body. I am eternally indebted to the men who came and left an indelible impact on my young spiritual life.
The spiritual needs of an assembly are often met by gifted men (plural) in a way that the local brother cannot do. It is important also to give opportunity for the local brethren to develop their gift.
Getting involved in local work
It is important to observe that when Barnabas and Saul came to Antioch they assembled a whole year with them and taught a great many people. (Acts 11:26). Saul was not only developing his gift but learning from and working with others in the ministry. This must have had a profound effect in preparation for what the Lord had in store for him.
I am troubled at times when I hear missionaries who with good intentions seek to publicly encourage young people to leave all and go to the mission field. It sounds so exciting but apart from a few exceptions it can be very detrimental to the young person and a hindrance to the work of the Lord.
Saul was with the church at Antioch for a whole year (Acts 11:26) and taught many people. It was now becoming known to the assembly how well he was gifted in the Word of God.
His call to the work
As Saul continued in the aspects of assembly life, teaching with others, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them.” (Acts 13:2).
It is good to observe they were not fulfilling their roles in the assembly with a view to being missionaries. Their overwhelming activity allowed the Holy Spirit to mark them out from local responsibilities to missionary service.
Being busy in ministry
The various men God called (Moses – David – Gideon – Timothy and others) were very busy at the time of their calling. Remember the others who ministered with them had a very important task on the home front.
My challenge to younger men and women is that how you conduct your life in the assembly, college, workplace, home or community is vital! Are you involved, trusted, and respected by your elders and the believers where you fellowship?
One final comment
While the elders are involved in interviewing and bringing to the assembly their recommendation, it is the whole church that commends someone to full-time service and missionary work. The assembly sent them out with their blessing, acknowledging they were sent by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:3-4)