Herman R Rocke

"They were given over
to the grace of God
for the work which they fulfill"
                      -- Acts 14:26

THIS passage of Scripture refers to the severance of Barnabas and Saul for the work to which the Lord had called them (Acts 13:2); their missionary journey was ordered and directed by the holy spirit of God, their task was understood by the disciples in Syrian Antioch who had given them over to the grace of God "to be bringing the evangel where Christ is not named" (Rom.15:20).

      The genuineness of these disciples' love had been tested at an earlier occasion which we are going to discuss in more detail. Their example was later followed by other believers in other ecclesias who also displayed their love to the Lord and to the brethren; a love which superabounds to the riches of their generosity. This term is used to describe the attitude of the poverty-stricken ecclesias in Macedonia who, in the midst of extreme affliction and after having been deterred from contributing by Paul, had entreated for the privilege of "the grace and the fellowship of the service for the saints" (2 Cor.8:2,4,8).


      When the disciples in Syrian Antioch had learned about the great famine in the Mediterranean world and the adjacent areas, their hearts were broadened in compassion and pity towards their fellow believers in Judea (compare 2 Cor.6:11, Phil.2:1). We have a short description of the action taken by them in Acts 11:29. "Now, according as any of the disciples thrived, they each of them designate something to send to the brethren dwelling in Judea, for dispensing, which they do also, dispatching to the elders [in Judea] through the hands of Barnabas and Saul".

      We may well say that at this occasion, too, Barnabas and Saul "were given over to the grace of God for the work which they fulfill." We may be sure that they were sent forward after much prayer, and that the disciples in Syrian Antioch did not cease in their petitions for them, especially when they learned of the events which are chronicled in the twelfth chapter of Acts.


      "Now at that season Herod, the king, put forth his hands to illtreat some from the ecclesia [in Jerusalem]. Now he assassinated James, the brother of John, with the sword. Yet, perceiving that it is pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to apprehend Peter also (now they were the days of unleavened bread), whom, arresting also, he placed in jail". When we read on in the twelfth chapter of the book of Acts, we are struck by the fact that the twelve are no longer sustained by divine power as had been the case during the "great persecution", mentioned in Acts 8:1, which followed the assassination of Stephen.

      When Herod puts James to death, no effort at all is made to fill his place and maintain the due number of apostles, such as had been done before Pentecost (Acts 1:21,22). James had been one of the intimate group of three who had been with the Lord ever since His baptism. It had been Peter and his mates (Luke 5:10) James and John who were privileged to hear their Lord calling the dead girl back to life ("Talitha, coumi!" Mark 5:37, 41), and to witness His glorification, though dimmed so as not to hurt their eyes. However, they missed the real meaning of this event, His exodus which would be followed by His actual glorification (Luke 9:31,32). At that time their eyes "were heavy with sleep", as was also the case when their Lord took the three aside with Himself in Gethsemane (Mark 14:33,37).

      The death of James broke the ranks of the twelve, and John does not seem to have taken an active part in the leadership at that time. After his deliverance from Herod's jail through the intervention of a messenger of the Lord, Peter went "underground", as we would say today. Before fleeing from Jerusalem, he bade the believers, assembled in the home of Barnabas' relative Mary, "Report these things to James and the brethren". It is they who henceforth have the controlling voice in the Jerusalem ecclesia, and not the eleven remaining apostles of the Lord.


      Saul had met James in Jerusalem after his return from the Arabian desert retreat, and had referred to him with these words, "Yet I became acquainted with no one different from the apostles, except James, the brother of the Lord" (Gal.1:19). The wording of this sentence is easily understood, once we recognize that James did not qualify as an apostle according to the rules laid down by Peter in Acts 1:21,22. For none of the Lord's brothers and sisters after the flesh had believed in Him while He was yet on the earth. When the ranks of the twelve were broken and even Peter left Jerusalem for some time, James' influence became predominant and he remained prominent enough so that his brother Judas (Matt.13:55) emphasized the human relationship in his epistle, as part of his credentials (Jude 1). James is further mentioned in Acts 15:13; 21:18; Galatians 2:9,12.


      While king Herod illtreated some members of the Jerusalem ecclesia, Barnabas and Saul seem to have supervised the dispensing of the contribution in Judea, together with the local elders there (Acts 11:29,30). After Herod's death, the two are reported to have been in Jerusalem where they met John Markus. The latter was not Barnabas' nephew as the King James Version suggests, but rather his cousin.

      It may be that it was here at the house of Mark's mother, Mary, the meeting place of some of the brethren (Acts 12:12), that Barnabas and Saul got a firsthand report about the events which resulted in the shifting of power in the Jerusalem ecclesia, from the hands of the apostles of the Lord, especially Peter's, into the hands of James. It is conceivable that this turn of events, in the perspicacity of the mind of the two observers, Barnabas and Paul, added greatly to their understanding that Jerusalem was not fit to serve as a home base from whence missionaries to the nations might be sent forward.

      When Barnabas and Saul left Jerusalem, after having completed their dispensing, they took John Mark with them. Even though the Word of God does not specifically say so at this juncture, it would be in harmony with the facts in evidence here to state that they returned to Antioch in Syria, whence they had been given over to the grace of God for the work which they had just completed.


      The disciples in Antioch had shown the genuineness of their love by contributing so generously toward the needs of their fellow brethren in the family of God. At a later occasion this attitude is again apparent whenever the simple term being sent forward is used. The implication in this expression will no longer remain indefinite or ambiguous to us, once we study it in its nine occurrences, as shown in the Full Typewritten Concordance. (Since the various forms of the Greek verb do not enter our present discussion, any references to grammar are intentionally omitted in the following survey.)

Acts 15:3 They indeed, then, being sent forward by the ecclesia
20:38 Yet they sent him forward into the ship.
21:5 Now, when the days came to fit us out, coming away, we went, all sending us forward
Rom 15:24 I am you to be sent forward there
1 Cor. 16:6 You should be sending me forward wheresoever I may be going.
16:11 Now send him forward in peace that he may be coming to me
2 Cor. 1:16 I you to be sent forward into Judea.
Titus 3:13 Zenas, the lawyer, and Apollos send forward diligently that nothing may be lacking to them.
3 John 6 to whom you will be doing ideally by sending them forward worthily of God

      The Greek verb propempo is listed under its English standard BEFORE-SEND in our Lexical Concordance (page 302), and under its variant send forward in our Keyword Concordance (page 265). Eight of its occurrences are found in Acts and in Paul's epistles, another one in the third letter of John.

      Brother A. E. Knoch, in his German edition of the Keyword Concordance (page 572), gives the explanation that this Greek verb propempo is used to express all the help given to those embarking on a journey, as was necessary in those days, also accompanying them part of the way. This explanation is confirmed by the usage of the word in other literature, outside the New Testament Scriptures, as well as by the above quotations.

      Wherever Paul or his helpers went, they used to be escorted by the local brethren to the ship which was to take them away, or to some point outside the city where they were bidden farewell. But most important, the brethren used to fit them out for the journey with everything that was necessary, both with money and food. They also made the financial arrangements when the missionaries left by boat. All this was done, in such a way "that nothing may be lacking to them," or, as John puts it, WORTHY OF GOD.

      It should be noted that Paul's charge in Titus 3:13 is followed by an explanation which, in the Greek, contains an unmistakable order or command; this Greek imperative means, "they ought to learn." Its force may not be easily recognizable from the English wording, "let learning". We should keep this fact in mind whenever we read Titus 3:14: "Now let those who are ours also be learning to preside over ideal acts for necessary needs, that they may not be unfruitful".


      Prayerfully reading the pages of Acts may stimulate a passionate longing in our hearts to recapture the experiences of the early disciples, their perseverance "in the teaching of the apostles, and in fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers...with exultation and simplicity of heart...[for] the multitude of believers was one heart and soul" (Acts 2:42,46; 4:32).

      We are moved by the loving obedience of faith, displayed by the Antioch disciples when God Himself, through His spirit, orders them to send forward Barnabas and Saul: "Sever, by all means, to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" (Acts 13:3). We should note, however, that it was just this one time that God intervened in this manner in order to pave the way for all future ventures in the mission field. Also we should remember that in all probability, not even the four gospels were at that time available in writing, at least not in their present form. Paul had not yet written any of his epistles, nor had Luke penned the book of Acts.

      The situation, however, became quite different as soon as the Word of God was completed (Col.1:25). From then on, even with some parts of the New Testament still missing, God's holy spirit has been speaking to His children through the written records of the New Testament Scriptures. Through them, He speaks to us today.


      When Barnabas had first come to Antioch in Syria, he had rejoiced about the display of the grace of God in this ecclesia. Since this was no shallow grace of the inward-looking kind which is so widely spread in our days, Barnabas could really rejoice in his heart and entreat the disciples "to be remaining in the Lord" (Acts 11:23). From what we have heard about them, the grace of God which was in them "did not come to be for naught" as Paul would have put it (1 Cor.15:10).

      In Syrian Antioch, we recognize "God Who is will as well as to work for the sake of His delight" among a sizeable group of believers who lived "in the midst of a generation crooked and perverse." But as "children of God" they were "appearing as luminaries in the world, having on the Word of life". Even though they were not able to personally bring the evangel where Christ was not named, they made it possible financially for Barnabas and Saul to bear His name before the nations of the Mediterranean world (Acts 9:15).

      We may well say that "remaining in the Lord" meant for them that their salvation was no longer just a personal matter between God and a man's own heart. Talking about faith and grace was much more for them than an academic hobby. Apparently no prodding on the part of Barnabas or the other teachers was needed; they were "carrying their own salvation into effect...with fear and trembling...[yet] without murmurings and reasonings" (compare Phil.2:12-15). We never hear that any member of this ecclesia ever objected to the missionary ventures because of a strong personal feeling, or an unarguable conviction of his own that this was not the right thing to do under the circumstances and that the funds of the ecclesia should not be used for the purpose under consideration.


      From what we have read in the pages of Acts, we may be sure that the Antioch disciples never dismissed (Acts 13:3) their own apostles with empty hands. Paul and Barnabas were sent forward by them to attend the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:3). At a later date, Paul and Silas were "given over to the grace of the Lord by the brethren" in Syrian Antioch (Acts 15:40), i.e. they were fully equipped for another missionary journey. Over the years, these disciples were remaining in the Lord and willing to serve Him, according as any of them "thrived" (Acts 11:29). Possibly none of them would make great claim to spiritual understanding. As Christians with a Jewish background, be it Hebrew or Hellenist, they may have never grasped what it means to be complete in Christ (Col.2:10). When we (the "knowing ones") meet such "unenlightened" believers today, we should make every effort in our search for common interests; and we might easily find that remaining in the Lord and serving Him effectively will make us acceptable to them, as long as we put the emphasis on love, and not on doctrine.


      "For necessity is lying upon me, for it were woe to me, if I should not be bringing the evangel" (1 Cor.9:16). Saul may have talked this way, or may have used words to this effect, during his ministry as fifth teacher in Syrian Antioch. When the disciples there learned to love him, as he certainly loved them, their hearts were also warmed to this necessity which was lying on his heart. Even if they never heard from him the words, WOE TO ME IF I SHOULD NOT, the implication of this phrase apparently never left them. Similarly, it should never be forgotten by us since God's holy Word bids us become imitators of Paul and of the Lord. A very simple step toward this goal is remaining in the Lord, as we have just seen it being done in Antioch. Both times the emphasis is on the word LORD, indicating a walk and service "for all pleasing" (Col.1:10).


      The world is still as hungry as ever for the true Bread of life. And for each believer today, Paul's suggestion is still valid, "You should be an ideal servant of Christ Jesus, fostering [nourishing yourself] with the words of faith and of the ideal you fully follow me in my teaching, motive, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance..." (1 Tim.4:6; 2 Tim.3:10). Hence our Lord's statement and advice still applies today, "The harvest, indeed, is vast, yet the workers are few. Then beseech the Lord of the harvest, so that He would be ejecting workers into His harvest" (Matt 9:37,38). We may have forgotten about the many opportunities in our day, hence the following reminder may be appreciated.

      This summer, a widely read pictorial magazine of the secular type, in an article about growing religious activity in the U.S. A., stated among other things that hundreds of prayer groups are springing up in the churches and outside of them, and many honest Christians are no longer satisfied with the easy-going type of Christianity. It was further stated that there are now well over thirty new plain-English versions of the Bible on the book market, and Bible sales rose over forty per cent last year. In view of such facts we can only beseech the Lord of the harvest to eject honest believers so they may be led to join their local prayer groups and extract out of their spiritual treasures good things, both new and old, and share them with others as any good householder should do. We are beseeching the Lord to evacuate our brethren from their own self-made doctrinal corrals, and to cast them out from there, right into the midst of the "unenlightened" members of the family of God. The present writer wants to apologize if the italicized words seem to be harsh; however, these thoughts suggested themselves, in view of the variants for the Greek verb ek-ballo, OUT-CAST, which our Lord used in Matthew 9:38 (compare Keyword Concordance, page 45).


      "But, even as you are superabounding in everything -- in faith and word and knowledge and all diligence and the love that flows out of you into us -- that you may be superabounding in this grace also. I am not saying this as an injunction, but, through the diligence of others, testing also the genuineness of this love of yours" (2 Cor.8:7,8).

      Recently we had the privilege of enjoying a few hours of fellowship with a dear brother who is concerned about a number of things. His main concern is the glory of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence he seizes every opportunity to talk to unbelievers about God's power for salvation. He gives generously both to his local church and to a foreign mission which is sponsored by this church. In addition, he donates to a well-known Bible Society, and to the Concordant Publishing Concern. He does not believe in tithing, for he gives much more than a tenth of his time and of his income as his contribution that the Word of the Lord may race in his home town as well as on the mission field, and that it may be glorified by the printing of conventional Bibles as well as Concordant Versions. He was surprised when he learned that he has been one of our largest donors for years.


      Our brother showed genuine concern about our foremost problem which is to publish concordant translations of the Word of God, together with concordances and commentaries, while at the same time struggling to issue this magazine regularly, and with the contents well balanced, so as to help our readers "fostering with the words of faith and of the ideal teaching".

      Since most of our readers would want to know more about this, we will share our problem with them at this juncture: it is not so much because of the lack of competent helpers that the publication of the above mentioned books was so often promised and only partially fulfilled while year after year has gone by. It was rather the diversified workload that made such heavy demands on the time and the strength of the staff members. In order to keep things going and meet the deadlines, they had to do so many things outside their domain. D.V., plans may be worked out so that they can, in the future, concentrate on the work for which they are qualified, without undue distraction.

      As has been pointed out in a recent editorial, we do not solicit funds for the furtherance of our work. The Lord has laid a necessity on the hearts of many of our friends, so that there are sufficient funds available to publish the forthcoming edition of the Concordant Version of the New Testament. Another group of our friends will contribute to the costs of reprinting the Concordant Commentary which was part of the Complete Edition, now out of print for a number of years.

      The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will bless those richly who have sent us forward to do what we have done so far. But much more than that could be published in the future, if our friends would want us to concentrate on the tentative translations of the Old Testament, left to us by our senior teacher, Brother A. E. Knoch, and on the so-called "Full Typewritten Concordance" which he had had his helpers prepare.

      Only a limited supply is left of the Keyword Concordance, and with the Lexical Concordance (part of the Complete Edition) out of print, there should be a demand for another Concordance which would combine the excellencies of both. As we have seen, there are many new Bible translations on the book market, and Bible sales have risen as never before. The Lord willing, the forthcoming edition of the Concordant New Testament could be placed in the hands of many who are interested in a more literal translation. There should be a demand for it in the book stores of this country, once they learn about it. Later a concordance may be sold through the same channels, as has been done in Europe for many years.

      In its present typewritten form (sample is shown on page 359 of the International Edition of our New Testament) the Full Concordance has been used to test and improve the Concordant Version. Since this Full Type-written Concordance was prepared many years ago, the wording of numerous passages in our New Testament editions has slightly changed. Hence a thorough checking will be necessary. Greek words might be typed in Latin letters (as on the sample page) as well as in Greek uncials and/or conventional Greek script, whatever may be available.

      Printing would have to be done by photo-offset, as has been the case with the typewritten Greek-German Study Sheets.

      Are you concerned about this new venture of ours? It might keep one staff member busy for many, many months to come, even with the help of our dear friends who, during the current year, have spent hundreds of hours on the proofreading of the galley sheets for the forthcoming Concordant New Testament. We know they will assist us again if the Lord will lay the necessity on their hearts.

      He may lay it also on the hearts of others to provide the funds at the right time, so as to send us forward on this new venture. If this be His will, the staff members are willing to go forward and concentrate on both the magazine and this Full Concordance at the same time. WOE TO US IF WE SHOULD NOT!

      While the work on the new Concordance may take years, our plans for 1966 include, D.V., the publication of the CONCORDANT COMMENTARY and the book of DANIEL. There is also the possibility of the publication of some or all of the MINOR PROPHETS, to be followed by the PSALMS.

      How are we going to know for sure that we will be in the will of the Lord with these plans for future publications? The answer will be found in the hearts of many of our dear friends who will read these lines. If our Lord will lay the necessity on their hearts, they will make the foremost problem of the Concordant Publishing Concern their own concern, they will continue to pray over it and, D.V., they will encourage us to go ahead as has been suggested. They might even say to themselves, WOE TO ME IF I SHOULD NOT!

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