A call within a call – Wednesday, 4th Week in Easter – Acts 12:24-13:5a

The first seven chapters of the Acts of the Apostles might be titled, the Church among the Jews. The next five chapters, eight through twelve could be titled the Church in transition from Jews to Gentiles and the last sixteen chapters, chapters thirteen through twenty-eight, could well be titled the Church among the Gentiles.

Today’s text draws chapter twelve to a close while opening a whole new world to evangelisation as we step into chapter thirteen. In chapter thirteen we will hear of the first of the three ‘missionary journeys’ of Paul. Notice that at this stage the Bible mentions his name as Saul and not Paul. This indicates something rather beautiful; that conversion is not a moment but a journey. When Saul fell off his horse on the road to Damascus, he did not rise us as Paul. The journey to the Lord, very often, is still fraught with the sins of our past, sins we need to address. So, don’t be too disheartened when you fail in your resolve to be ‘converted to the lord’; remember conversion is a journey not a moment.

But before we come to the first missionary journey itself, chapter 12:24 tells us that “the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.” As I have often said, a line in scripture has a lifetime beneath it. Sure, we are told that the word of God began to advance and while it did it experienced both trials and triumphs. We know that Saul the zealous persecutor has been converted; that was a triumph. We also hear of trials. So far, we have read of two major persecutions that have taken place in the Church; and we are only in chapter twelve and we know that there would be more. Then we read of another triumph in the midst of the trials, the ‘royal persecutor’ King Herod was struck down by an angel because he did not give glory to God. Clearly, we learn in just one verse 12:24 that God is in charge of his Church, he is her protector and no weapon formed against her will prosper.

All this sets the stage for the first missionary journey that we read in the Acts of the Apostles. The first missionary journey is recorded in Acts 13:1-14:28. From now on we hear of the labours of Paul and no other. Luke will be his companion and hence he writes what he sees. We have now come to the history of the first of the three great journeys which the Apostle to the Gentiles undertook in his special work. It is fitting that the point of departure should be Antioch, the city in which Gentiles had first been joined to the Church in large numbers. We know that Barnabas and Saul have returned to Antioch from Jerusalem and brought John Mark the writer of the Gospel with them. Now, the first Missionary Journey begins with the trio, Barnabas, Saul and John Mark. Let’s be clear, they are not setting off for a tour but the missionary work.

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