Series 52


by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Acts 13: 1-14)

In the opening verses of this section of scripture we have the record of the calling and sending out of two missionaries, Barnabas and Saul. The church at Antioch was the cradle of Christian missionary enterprise. The question to ask is this: What were the qualifications possessed by these two missionaries? And in speaking of them as missionaries, let’s remember that it is the plan and purpose of God that every Christian should be a missionary. We outline here the qualifications needed for any servant of the Lord who is called to any specific work, whether at home or overseas. What are these qualifications?

1. A missionary must be in the Church (verse 1)

Notice the significance of the words “in the church”, because a missionary must first be a Christian. This is the first qualification for Christian service. Barnabas and Saul were not only in the local church at Antioch, but they were in the Church (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The Holy Spirit had brought them out of the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His Son (Colossians 1:13). No-one can bring others to the Lord who does not know the Lord himself.

2. A missionary must prove that he has some gift (verse 1)

We read here about prophets and teachers; that is to say, those who preached and those who taught. Surely this emphasises the fact that those whom God calls to His service must have some gift. In the Antioch assembly there were five men and they all had a specific gift. Every Christian is called to be a missionary, but only when that Christian manifests some special gift is he called to specific missionary service. Generally speaking, the Holy Spirit does not call and commission dull, slow men who give little evidence of possessing any gift. Usually, it is advisable and beneficial to undertake a period of special training before entering upon special ministry or missionary service.

3. A missionary must be an utterly dedicated man or woman (verse 2)

Notice three important things about the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: (1) “they ministered to the Lord”; (2) they “fasted”; and (3) they were ready to be separated – available for the Holy Spirit to use. The fact that they ministered to the Lord shows us that they were deeply devoted people. The fact that they fasted tells us that they were willing to sacrifice time, pleasure and necessities so that they might seek God’s face and do His will. The fact that the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me…” tells us that He was able to select them and set them aside for the special task He had in mind. Today God requires men and women who are fully surrendered and available for the Holy Spirit to use.

4. A missionary must receive a definite call to service (verse 2)

How definite the call was – even their names were mentioned! It was to engage “in the work to which I have called them”. How else would they have known where to go? It is a presumption for anyone to go out without God’s specific call. Please note the following:

  1. 1. The need is not the call. The need is great but does not constitute a call.
  2. 2. The ability is not the call. God wants men and women with ability, because He is worthy of the very best, but the ability is not the call.
  3. 3. The desire is not the call. Many desire to serve the Lord, but it’s not enough.
  4. 4. The willingness is not the call. We should all be willing to do anything, go anywhere for God, but willingness is not the call.

The Holy Spirit’s call is clear and unmistakable, though sometimes inexplicable!

5. A missionary must be willing to work with others (verse 4)

Notice the words “the two of them…went…” This refers to Barnabas and Saul, very different men but called to work together. In missionary service one of the first requirements is that we are willing and able to work with others. The biggest test is not relating to our health, the language, or the resources: it has to do with human relationships. Could Saul work harmoniously with Barnabas, and vice versa? Would they be willing to give-and-take?

6. A missionary must be in fellowship with the local church (verse 3)

We read that it was the local church who sent them on their journey and that they identified themselves with the missionaries. In effect they said, ‘You go out as one of us, as our representatives, and as you go we go with you!’ Now there are many good freelance workers whom God has called, but generally speaking those He calls should be in fellowship with a local church.

7. A missionary must be a Spirit-controlled man (verse 4)

Not only did the Antioch Christians send them out and identify themselves by the laying on of hands, but they were sent out by the Holy Spirit, who was now the Administrator in this missionary enterprise, and because of this four things resulted from their obedience:

  1. 1. They could discern God’s will about their place of service (verses 4-6): “Seleucia…Cyprus…Salamis…Paphos”
  2. 2. They were empowered to preach the gospel (verse 5) – “They proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues” – so that is why they were sent.
  3. 3. They knew victory over the powers of darkness. See verses 6-12.
  4. 4. They were able to overcome discouragement. All missionaries meet this. Barnabas and Saul were deserted by Mark, but they pressed on – read verses 13 and 14.