Are you ready for apostolic ministry? God's first apostolic team confronted wizards in prophetic disguise in the Book of Acts. Let's get inspired by their apostolic lifestyle.
Barnabas, Saul and John Mark faced false prophets, demonic guards and territorial opposition to their ministry. Barnabas and Saul entered the apostolic dimension when sent from the local church in Antioch around 45 AD. John Mark also accompanied them as an assistant. "And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews, and they also had John to their minister" (Acts 13:5).
This is probably the same John Mark that would later author the Gospel of Mark. His mother Mary was a prominent woman in Jerusalem where many believers gathered during Peter's imprisonment by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:12). John Mark joined Barnabas and Paul after delivering famine relief to those in the Jerusalem church. John's ministry on the team probably included:
- Meeting the personal needs of the team.
- Praying for the team and mission.
- Making travel arrangements.
- Securing food and lodging.
- Perhaps some teaching.
TIMES OF PREPARATION
This was a time of training and ministry development for him. After being sent by the Holy Spirit from the Antioch church Barnabas, the Apostle Paul and John Mark began what is commonly referred to as "Paul's first missionary journey." Actually, this was the first apostolic team sent on assignment from the Antioch church. These were the Antioch apostles. They were a team.
The spread of the Gospel had been the result of persecution, but now its advancement is by apostolic design. Apostolic ministry is strategic and impacting. Half of the world's population is gathered in gateway cities. Gateway cities are recognized not only by a large population but their influence in the nation. This standing can be measured in many ways including:
- Historic significance
- Cultural and musical influence
As the Spirit of God continues restoring apostolic ministries the ability to identify gateway cities and major territories will increase. We can expect the Holy Spirit to set up Antioch model governing churches in these places. Apostolic churches are ministries of influence. Apostles are spiritual architects and master builders that carry strong governing authority. This team of Antioch apostles traveled inland to the seacoast town of Seleucia, then sailed on to Barnabas's homeland, Cyprus (Acts 4:36). Cyprus was a bridge for international trade and travel. It was a spiritual hub and would become the home base for Barnabas's ministry (Acts 11:19-20, 15:36-39).
At Salamis, the team preached the word of God first in Jewish synagogues. They established this as a pattern for ministry --preach to the Jews first, but not exclusively (Romans 1:16). This would be impractical for us today, and Paul later changed this.
"Then the Apostle Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation unto the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:46).
Even though Paul and Barnabas stopped taking the Gospel to Jews first does not imply we should restrict evangelism. The Gospel is for all both Jews and Gentiles alike.
WIZARDS IN PROPHETIC CLOTHING
At Cyprus, the apostolic team met heavy spiritual warfare and occult opposition. In Paphos, the capital city of Cyprus, they faced a sorcerer Bar-Jesus. His name translates Son of Salvation. He was a prophetic mystic, false prophet, and a Jew.
In Paphos was the great temple to the Goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of Jezebel. False apostles and prophets, religious spirits and the spirit of Jezebel will be the three main demonic powers to oppose the apostolic Church in the last days. Apostolic teams must be prepared to meet these demonic territorial representatives.
Since they are sent ones, they have the grace and anointing on their lives that cause these dark territorial rulers to manifest. Apostles are not peacemakers when it comes to spiritual opposition. They are instruments used to challenge demonic strongholds. The objective of spiritual warfare is to remove hindrances to the Gospel.
"And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus" (Acts 13:6).Satanic government resides in various territories to influence its leaders. Demonic rulers seek positions of power and influence. The false prophet Bar-Jesus was influencing Sergius Paulus, the Roman ruler of the island of Cyprus. Apostolic churches are called to influence their territories and are divinely equipped to hit Satan's leadership hard. Bar-Jesus was about to meet his match.
SELL ME YOUR SECRETS
Facing demonic territorial guards is part of an apostolic ministry. When Philip preached in Samaria, he too faced opposition from a sorcerer. Simon.
"But there was a certain man, called Simon, which earlier in the same city used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, this man is the great power of God. And to him, they had regard, because for a longtime he had bewitched them with sorceries" (Acts 8:9-11).
Simon accepted the preaching of Philip and joined the ministry team. Philip, however, could not see that spirit still operating in Simon's life. Could it be possible that it takes apostolic anointing to deal with this?
"Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John: Who, when they came down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen on none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost" (Acts 8:14-19).
Simon was a false prophet who attached himself to Philip's ministry. It's common for evangelists, revivalists, and others to have people with selfish ambition latch on to their ministries. Simon's heart was not right and was exposed in the presence of the apostolic team Peter and John. Simon saw something happen when the apostles laid their hands on believers. The people spoke in other tongues and prophesied. Simon pulled out his money, excited, and said, "Sell me your secret! Show me how you did that! How much do you want? Name your price" (Acts 8:18 Message Bible). They were able to see what Philip could not and the Apostle Peter revealed Simon's motives and rebuked him. Apostolic teams will confront these territorial guards.
In many parts of the world, false personal prophecy and judgmental cursing given by spirits of divination are confusing the body of Christ by mystifying the purpose of prophetic ministry. Prophetic ministry is not mystical, confusing, ambiguous, self-serving, enchanting, or bewitching. If it is, it's not prophesying, its sorcery! Many modern sorcerers have hijacked the prophetic ministry. The restoration of the apostolic church will bring fearless men who will not tolerate these demonic wizards that some label as God's prophets.
Apostolic ministry teams are sent into gateway cities to open a way for the Gospel. On the isle of Paphos, Sergius Paulus wanted to hear the word of God and called for Barnabas and Saul. "Elymas (the sorcerer) was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul and desired to hear the word of God" (Acts 13:7).
Elymas was a demonic guard that wished to keep the governor of the Island from hearing the Gospel of Christ. He opposed the apostolic team. "Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith" (Acts 13:8). The Greek word withstood is anthistemi, meaning to set against, withstand, resist and intensely oppose. This reveals Elymas' demonic objectives:
- Guard the territory against Christ' truth.
- Keep the people in spiritual ignorance.
- Influence the governing leadership.
- Oppose Christ' ministers.
- Turn hearts away from Christ and His truth.
Elymas postured himself as a prophetic voice to deceive the people. He was a voice, but a demonic one. Facing one another in fierce opposition were God's apostolic team and Satan's territorial representative. Governing authority versus governing authority. Elymas challenged Barnabas and Saul just as the magicians in Pharaoh's court withstood Moses and Aaron. Scripture describes demonic guards as men that resist truth with corrupt minds and reprobate concerning the faith" (2 Timothy 3:8). Scripture makes clear there are unseen battles raging in the spirit realm for the souls of mankind. Apostolic teams, however, are God's battle-ax to reach a lost and dying world with the truth of the Gospel (Jeremiah 51:20). Apostolic teams...
- Face demonic guards.
- Claim new territories for Christ.
- Restore forgotten truth.
- Preach the resurrection of Christ.
- Impart spiritual gifts (Romans 1:11).
- Demonstrate that the Kingdom of God has arrived.
- Spearhead Gospel operations.
- Equip believers for battle and victorious occupation.
- Get people baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Apostolic leaders are not ignorant of the devil's devices and have been gifted to see beyond the natural and into the spiritual. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
Saul dealt with Elymas. Saul, filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on Elymas. Saul was not trying to be a nice statesman for Jesus when dealing with this false prophet. He called Elymas a child of the devil and an enemy of righteousness. This is Holy Ghost boldness and apostolic authority in demonstration.
"Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtlety (subtlety means difficult to detect) and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is on thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand" (Acts 13:9-11).
This was a demonstration of the Spirit of God that sent this apostolic team into battle. A demonic government cannot stand against the purpose, power, and plan of God.
Paul "set his eyes on Elymas." The Greek word set is atenizo meaning to look steadfastly. The word is taken from the Greek root word teino meaning to stretch. Paul, empowered by the anointing on his life and the will of God locked onto and targeted Elymas resulting in temporary blindness for this false prophet. Paul later declares,
"And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
We can always stand fearlessly in spiritual battle as Scripture declares, "And they went forth and preached everywhere the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following" (Mark 16:20).
The Roman deputy, Paulus saw God's apostolic power in manifestation and believed being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. It wasn't just a power demonstration that turned this deceived ruler's heart toward Jesus but the teaching of sound doctrine. The apostolic team made such an impact on Sergius Paulus' life that for two generations his descendants served the Lord. Apostolic teams have lasting fruit, and their ministries affect future generations. "Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord" (Acts 13:12).
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