Acts 13:1-4 - Barnabas and Saul Released
Welcome to our Bible Study today! We are studying Spiritual Applications from the Book of Acts. Today my text is Acts 13:1-4. Here, Luke tells the story of how Barnabas and Saul were released to go to the mission field by the church in Antioch. They had already been called to take the gospel to the world, but our text tells us how they were sent. Luke's story explains both the role of the leaders in the church and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We can apply this story to our lives in several ways.
1. Prophets and teachers are a blessing to us.
Luke names five prophets and teachers in the church in Antioch. In addition to Barnabas and Saul he names (verse 1) "Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch." A tetrarch was a ruler of a part of a province. The Herod mentioned here is Herod Antipas. Manean was like a "foster-brother" to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch. It is interesting that Luke notes this connection. The church was having an impact in high places. This was an added benefit for Barnabas and Saul as they started their journey.
Here, Luke emphasizes the importance of the prophets and the teachers. Today, we put a lot of emphasis on administration, and administration is very important. However, we should not overlook the vital role of the prophets and teachers. Obviously, these leaders were people of strong missionary vision and passion. And, as we will see, they were open to the leading of the Spirit. It was important for Barnabas and Saul to know that the church had strong leaders and that these leaders were supportive of them. All who are going to the mission field today will be blessed when their leaders are sensitive to the Spirit and support their efforts. These leaders include administrators, prophets, and teachers.
2. Like the prophets and teachers we should minister to the Lord.
The prophets and teachers "were ministering to the Lord and fasting." One may minister to the Lord in several ways, including worship, prayer, and service performed. As far as the text is concerned, the prophets and teachers could have been spending time privately in fasting and prayer or in leading worship a public service. Probably they were doing both. These prophets and teachers were totally committed to God and to His work. Without doubt, this was reflected in public worship and praise to God..
When we worship the Lord, either privately or publicly, it can be a time of great blessing. Very often, the Spirit of God will move upon us in powerful ways. In worship we submit our hearts to God in humility and praise. In that atmosphere, God can do great things among us. Given all this, it is extremely important that the leaders in a local church take time to minister to the Lord in worship, fasting, and prayer. God uses our praises to make possible great things among us.
3. The Holy Spirit spoke to the prophets and teachers.
As Luke declares, while the prophets and teachers "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.'" It stands out in Acts that believers were especially sensitive to the leadership of the Spirit during a time of fasting. The prophets and teachers were fasting and their hearts and minds were open to God. All who would hear from the Spirit must be aware of this. Many today find that fasting is an important element in hearing the Spirit's voice.
Luke does not tell us exactly how the Holy Spirit spoke. We can only surmise that He spoke to the prophets who were with Barnabas and Saul. It may be that the Spirit spoke through one of them with a prophetic word. Obviously, they had no doubt that the Spirit had spoken to them. Certainly, the Spirit can direct us through prophecy. However, when others think they have a prophecy for us, we need to search our own hearts and know the mind of the Spirit. We ourselves are responsible for our actions.
4. Barnabas and Saul were sent to the mission field.
This was not the time that the Spirit called Barnabas and Saul. They were simply to be "set apart" for the work "to which I have called them." The Holy Spirit had already called them for their future ministry. With regard to Saul, this is clear from Acts 9:15. Here, the text indicates that this was true of Barnabas as well.
The prophets and teachers, and perhaps the entire church, were to set them apart. Again they fasted and prayed. Then, they laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them out. Luke says that Barnabas and Saul "went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus."
The other prophets and teachers were in full agreement with the Spirit's directive, but Luke makes it clear that ultimately Barnabas and Saul ultimately were sent out by the Holy Spirit. The verb sent out means to set free, to let go, or to release. The emphasis is on letting them go, not on choosing, calling, and appointing them.
In summary, great things were about to happen! Barnabas and Saul, who became Paul, were setting out on a mission. This mission would expand the gospel witness to major sections of the world. Barnabas and Saul would remember always that they were sent out when the Spirit spoke. In addition they had the blessing of the prophets and teachers in the church in Antioch. When God calls us, we must have the same leading of the Spirit today!
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