Putting together a team (in a business or an organization) usually follows one of two paths. Either the team is made up of very similar people or the team is composed of people with widely varying backgrounds and gifts.
God’s plan seems to be the latter.
God used the church at Antioch in Syria to send out the first missionaries into the Mediterranean world. God the Holy Spirit spoke to the church and told the believers to set aside Saul (Paul) and Barnabas for the work God had called them to do (Acts 13:1-5).
As you study this passage, one of the areas that stands out is the differing backgrounds of the prophets and teachers of the church.
This is what we know of the leaders of the church at Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).
Barnabas was a Jerusalem Jew who came from the island of Cyprus (Acts 4:36). Notice that Cyprus was the first stop after Saul and Barnabas sailed from Seleucia.
Simeon is a Jewish name but he was also called Niger which means “black.”
Lucius was from Cyrene in Northern Africa. You will also recall that Simon of Cyrene carried the cross of Jesus before the crucifixion.
Manaen had a close association with Herod the tetrarch who beheaded John the Baptist.
Finally, Saul, the strict Pharisee and the persecutor of Christ and the church, rounded out the list.
What does this mean?
First, the gospel breaks down the barriers which divide people. Several people have noted that this little band of disciples is the only place in the Roman Empire where Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free, men, and women could gather together.
Second, God seems to delight in the variations in people. He uses our backgrounds and differing gifts to glorify Him. We should appreciate our differences as well.
Finally, God used these gifts for the total good of the church and the preaching of the gospel. When we have differing gifts, we can do so much more to reach people for the gospel.
May God use our gifts to please and honor Him.
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