While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. – Acts 13:2-3
In these verses from Acts 13 we learn a lot about how the early church sent out missionaries. The key thing is that Saul is set apart in the context of community to begin his missionary journey. Oftentimes we are so excited about a new spiritual venture that we never consider the health of our church community, nor our potential health while on mission. But we notice two things in Acts 13 about the church in Antioch. One, the church there was a healthy, multi-ethnic church with a plurality of leaders. In the church the spiritual gifts of prayer, teaching, worship and fasting were evidenced. Second, the church sent Saul and Barnabas. They went together as a two-man team. And they were sent—Saul and Barnabas did not leave just because of a personal calling. Rather the church affirmed and validated their call.
In Acts 13:3, the Greek word sent is appelusan, meaning released, set free, or liberated. The Holy Spirit and the church released Saul for ministry. Does this reflect the prevailing view on “receiving a calling”? Often the church is asked to limp after people who have received a call to ministry. In Acts 13, we see a beautiful picture: the Holy Spirit sets apart and man releases. Further beauty is added because Paul does not undertake his call alone. He is joined by Barnabas who will co-labor alongside him. Here’s a question: If you are set apart by God and sent (released) from your church to do ministry, are you doing ministry with a team? Have you experienced the benefit of laboring with others on a short-term mission trip? And if you face the highs and lows of an extended missionary journey, I believe co-laborers will make all the difference in the world.
One-Year Bible Reading
1 Kings 9:1-10:29
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