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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012




JULY 3, 2011

The thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts is the story of the Tale of the Four Cities-Antioch of Syria, Paphos of Cyprus, Perga of Pamphylia and Antioch of Pisidia. Let us go to Antioch of Syria first.


There were at Antioch in the church prophets and teachers. Several are mentioned. As they ministered unto the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Separate me, Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." Listen to that. The Holy Spirit actually said something. The Holy Spirit has something to say. I don't know about you, but when the Holy Spirit speaks there is no argument, there is no sane reason for any sane person to say, "Well, I will tell you what I think." The Holy Spirit's words are in the Bible. The Holy Spirit said. That indicates that the Holy Spirit is not just an idea, He is a person. Here, the Holy Spirit said that they should separate Barnabas and Saul for this particular work. Actually the Holy Spirit has a talent for separating. He will separate you from drugs if you let Him. He will separate you from the person who is shacked up with you, if you let Him. He will separate you from the weed if you let Him. He will separate you from booze if you let Him. And not only is it true that He is a person, but it is also true that He has His own identity.

Check me now and see if I am getting this right. They then, when they had fasted and prayed, asked the archbishop if it would be all right to send out Barnabas and Saul. If this sounds strange, then try this on for size, They then, when they had fasted and prayed, asked the synod if it was permissible to send them out. Perhaps I should try once more. Did they ask the conference if it would be all right?

It seems, if we can believe the Word of God, that they sent out Barnabas and Saul without getting permission from anybody, apart from the local congregation. It seems that the Church of Antioch ran its own affairs without any help or interference from anybody. What a strange way to do it. But that is the way it was in the Church of the New Testament. It does seem a little strange, when you compare it to modern day denominations.

The Church at Antioch was a self-governing church. 'Is there any reason why every congregation should not do that today? The archbishops, synods, church councils

and conferences have taken unto themselves authority that God never gave them. That is, if we can believe what the New Testament has to say about the original Church.

It seems that the Holy Spirit is the one who calls a preacher. The Holy Spirit said, "I have called them." The church does not make a preacher, the Bible College does not make a preacher, the Holy Spirit decides who is to preach. The church may encourage, and then send out those who are called. The Bible College may prepare, but it is the Holy Spirit that calls. When the church at Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas the church had no idea where they would go. The preacher when he is sent out by the church must decide what area of ministry and into what location he will go as he tries to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. The church that sent me out over fifty years ago had no idea that I would be involved in this radio ministry heard in many parts of the world. But they did send me out to preach.

There are a lot of preachers who claim they have been called by the Holy Spirit who may not be preaching what the Holy Spirit has called them to preach and teaching what the Holy Spirit has never called them to teach. Would the Holy Spirit call one preacher to tell people to be immersed for the remission of sins and then call another to the them they did not have to do it? Would the Holy Spirit call one preacher to advise people to observe the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day and then tell another preacher to serve it on Saturday night or just once in a while? Would the Holy Spirit call one preacher to tell people to be immersed and then call another to tell them that is all right to be sprinkled? Does the Holy Spirit tell one person to do one thing and then tell another to do something else? Separate Me, Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And now the second city in this tale of four cities is Paphos of Cyprus.


In this Tale of Four Cities, Paphos of Cyprus is next. Perhaps the reason Paul and Barnabas went to Cyprus is because the first time we meet Barnabas he is introduced as a man of Cyprus by race. It is natural for us to want to see our relatives and friends of our native land won to Christ. There is no greater sorrow than to have a brother, sister, child, or parent go out into eternity with no hope of eternal life with us in heaven. It saddens us much to think someone's mother or father may spend eternity in Hell. That may be part of the reason they went through the whole Island of Cyprus.

It was at Paphos that Saul and Barnabas met Elymas, the sorcerer. Elymas had a good name; it was Bar-Jesus. Today, Jesus is a popular name in Latin countries. I saw an article in the paper one time that urged people not to name their children Jesus, because too many people named Jesus were being put in jail. This Bar-Jesus did not do the name of Jesus any good either.

It is said that he was a sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew. For a man of this background to be a sorcerer and a false prophet was a great crime. Here was a man who knew the law. He was aware of Malachi "And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against false swearers and against the adulterers..." He was aware of the prophet, Isaiah, and his statements about sorcerers and astrologers and the judgment of God against them. For a man of this heritage to be a sorcerer and a false prophet was unthinkable. How can a person who is a Christian be involved in these things? We see everywhere the astrological signs on the car windows as they proudly proclaim to all about the glorious sign under which they were born. Isaiah says it won't save you from the things that are to come, the fire shall burn them; they shall be stubble. They have no power to deliver from the power of the flame.

In Revelation we read, "But for the fearful and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and fornicators, and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." John, the revelator, puts the sorcerers in the same category as murderers and fornicators and liars. The first recorded words of Paul on this missionary tour were a curse he placed on this false prophet. He said to Elymas, "Thou son of the Devil; thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season." The proconsul, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

There are many people who would be astonished at the Lord's teaching if they were ever privileged to hear it. Most good folk are not allowed to hear some of the teachings of the Lord. Most preachers keep a very low profile on some of the doctrine. I was in a congregation once and during the sermon I pointed out that immersion baptism is not necessarily a scriptural baptism. I told them of millions of people who are immersed, but they believe they are saved before they are baptized. One lady on the way out of the services that day said that she had been playing the organ for 15 years

at that church and that she never knew that. The reason she never knew was because the preachers for the last 15 years had kept a low profile on doctrine.


The next stop in the Tale of Four Cities is Perga of Pamphylia. This is the place where John Mark left the evangelistic party and went home to Jerusalem. If a person is going to quit the ministry, I can't think of a better place to go than to Jerusalem, especially at that time.

It was at Jerusalem that John Mark would be reminded of the Cross. He could go out to Calvary, visit the place of a skull, and see the very place where the Lord was crucified. He could remember how he had followed the Lord that night with nothing but a sheet around his naked body and someone had snatched the sheet. He could visit the empty tomb. He could go to the Mount of Olives and see the place of the ascension, and be reminded again how the Angels said, "This same Jesus shall so come again as ye have beheld Him going into heaven." He could visit Bethlehem and see where Jesus had been born. He could see and be reminded in Jerusalem how the Church began and remember the way that the 3000 were immersed on the day of Pentecost. He could see all this and remember. It would be a good place to go.

We don't know why Mark left Paul and Barnabas, but whatever the reason, he did not have a good one. Perhaps it was because he was homesick or feared the danger that was evident everywhere. Paul mentioned one time that he had been in peril of rivers and robbers. Travelling with Barnabas and Paul was not your usual Sunday school picnic, but whatever the reason, Paul did not consider it valid. On the next trip he wanted nothing to do with a quitter and refused to take him.

However, before Paul died, he would refer ,to John Mark and say that he was profitable for ministering. Mark came back. This is encouraging for all of us who sometimes get depressed and quit or perhaps think about it. Go to Jerusalem. Look again at the place where Jesus died. See again the empty tomb. Go again to the Mount of Olives and hear the promise of the Angels again. Go to Jerusalem


The last city in this Tale of Four Cities is Antioch of Pisidia. Paul went to the synagogue. He went because that is where the people were. He did not go .on the Sabbath because that was the day he worshipped the Lord, but because the Jews

would be in the synagogue on that day. They asked him to speak and he did. What a speech it was. He told them about the glorious history of the past. He told about Moses, Samuel, Saul, David, John the Immerser, and then the rulers who with Pilate crucified the Lord. But no matter where he started he always wound up talking about Jesus. The same should be the aim of our preaching today. No matter where you start or on what theme you preach lead them to the cross, lead them to Jesus. He mentioned that David served his generation and then fell asleep. The same should be true for us. Serve your generation before you fall asleep. I served my generation back in the nineteen forties. The service continued into the fifties then the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and now into the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Sometimes people write and ask me when I'm going to retire? I tell them I have no plans to retire; the Lord will make that decision for me. Our job is to serve our generation before we fall asleep. It is said that the early Christians did not bid their brethren who fell asleep good bye, but good night. That is a scriptural thought and true. At the stoning of Stephen we are told he fell asleep. Again it is written, "Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." So regarding our Christian dead we can say:

"Sleep on beloved, sleep and take thy rest; lay down thy head upon thy Saviour's breast.

We loved thee well but Jesus loved thee best. Good night! Good night! Good night!

Only good night beloved, not farewell.

A little while and all His saints shall dwell; in hallowed union indivisible, good night!

Until we meet again before His throne clothed in that spotless robe He gives His own.

Until we know as we are known. Good night!"

David served his generation and then fell asleep. But if David served his generation and fell asleep, and if we serve our generation and fall asleep, what generation does Jesus serve considering the fact that He also fell asleep? His life span in the flesh was only thirty-three years. The difference in the Lord and us is that although Jesus served His .generation and fell asleep, He also arose from the dead and thereby He has served His Heavenly Father with every generation since that time.

There were many that profited from the message. They even told Paul they would like to hear it again the next Sabbath day. So he preached the same sermon the

next week to a crowd that included almost everybody in town. There are many truths in the word of God that need to be preached over and over again. Use the hammer of the word of God to pound the truth into our sensibilities. In this day and time when you hear on most television programs that to be saved all that is required is a simple assent that you believe in Jesus. And then they say that's all you need to do; without mention of repentance or obedience to the gospel command given on the day of Pentecost. I believe the terms of pardon need to be repeated again and again.

I was preaching a revival one time and after the sermon on Friday night, the preacher told me I ought to preach it again on Sunday morning. I did not take him too seriously. Someone else said the same thing. The next night he said are you going to do it? I still did not think he meant it. On Sunday morning I overheard a man say to the preacher, "Is he going to do it?" They told me that many would be there who had not heard it, and that those who were there who had heard it needed to hear it again, so at their request I preached the same sermon on Sunday morning that was heard on Friday night.

There are some things that need to be preached over and over again. It is not enough to tell people about being baptized for the remission of sins once in a while. In this denominational world where the pressure is on to conform, they need to hear it over and over. They need to hear about the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day over and over again. They need to hear about the New Testament Church over and over. Constant repetition is the watchword. However something happened at Antioch of Pasidia when Paul repeated that sermon the next week that will happen to us today when we repeat the same truths over and over again and again. When he preached that same truth the second time many were filled with jealousy and contradicted the things that were spoken by Paul and blasphemed. Many a person hears the gospel of Christ on this broadcast and continues to contradict the words of Peter and Paul. Many a preacher in the Church of Christ and or Christian Church may come close to blasphemy by soft pedaling the terms for the sake of popularity.

Have you noticed how most people can attend services for twenty or thirty years and most of them don't know any more than they did when they started? They can recite batting averages, scores of ball games that took place ten years ago, and yet

they could not tell you if their life depended on it five verses about the Lord's Supper or the plan of salvation.

I hate to use sports illustrations in this sports-crazy world, but I will sneak one in. A famous football coach was asked the reason for his success. He said that he stressed fundamentals-passing, kicking, blocking, and running. This was done over and over. We need to do this in our congregations, and they would become people who know the score, and who can succeed in winning the world to Christ. Stress the fundamentals-faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins. There is a very revealing statement that Paul made in that sermon at Antioch of Pasidia. He referred to the rejection of Jesus as the Son of God and said, "They knew Him not, nor the voices of the prophets who are read every Sabbath."

Tell them over and over about the Church that Jesus died for. Describe it in detail. Tell about its name. Tell about its officers. Tell about its mission to carry the Gospel everywhere. Tell it again and again. If we do, it will be true of our congregations; even as it was in Acts chapter thirteen, in the Tale of Four Cities. The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.