|"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).
ACCORDING AS THEY THRIVED
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
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.
THE RANKS OF THE TWELVE BROKEN
"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
DIFFERENT FROM THE APOSTLES
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.
COMPLETING THE DISPENSING
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.
BEING SENT FORWARD
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.)
||They indeed, then, being sent forward by the ecclesia
||Yet they sent him forward into the ship.
||Now, when the days came to fit us out, coming away, we went, all sending
||I am expecting...by you to be sent forward there
||You should be sending me forward wheresoever I may be going.
||Now send him forward in peace that he may be coming to me
||I intended...by you to be sent forward into Judea.
||Zenas, the lawyer, and Apollos send forward diligently that
nothing may be lacking to them.
||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 those...be 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
MOVED BY GOD'S HOLY SPIRIT
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;
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.
REMAINING IN THE LORD
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
operating...to 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.
SENT FORWARD FULLY EQUIPPED
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.
WOE TO ME IF I SHOULD NOT
"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).
BESEECH THE LORD OF THE HARVEST!
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 teaching...now 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).
SUPERABOUNDING IN THIS GRACE ALSO
"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.
SHARING THE PROBLEMS OF THE CONCERN
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
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!