The 13th chapter marks a change from being focused upon Peter and what was occurring in Jerusalem to being focused upon Paul and his taking of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen are mentioned as being prophets and teachers in Antioch.
Of notable importance, followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. It was a derisive term used by those who were not sympathetic to the calling of the people who followed Jesus but the Christians of Antioch wore the name proudly as it identified them with their Savior.
Now, when the scripture says of the men previously mentioned that they were prophets and teachers, it means exactly that. The terms prophet and teacher get thrown around rather loosely today. The men mentioned in verse 1 of chapter 13 fit the Biblical definitions. Prophets received and proclaimed direction from God and teachers rightly schooled others in God’s revelation of scripture.
Another thing notable about the 13th chapter is that Saul becomes known by his Roman name Paul. He would lead the charge of taking God’s word to the Gentiles. Now, let’s take the remainder of today’s lesson to discuss why and how Paul became the leader to take God’s word to the Gentiles. This is of great importance.
Modern day workings differ from Biblical workings many times. Today, we see people being chosen to lead organizations and ministries for all sorts of reasons. MBA education, leadership-oriented and/or experience, popularity as a former athlete or entertainer, ability to generate a following, ability to separate people from their money… all serve as reasons for people to be selected to head some types of ‘ministries’ in modern times. What do we see in the book of Acts?
Verse 2 says, ” As they ministered to the Lord and fasted…” which implies that these men diligently sought God and ministered to Him through worship and correct handling of God’s truth. They had a correct understanding of who God is. They apparently were not devising techniques and methods in order to sell books to those who did not want to spend time reading God’s word but wanted a Reader’s Digest version instead. These men were diligently serving God.
Verse 2 continues by saying that the Holy Spirit told them to separate Barnabus and Saul/Paul for a special work to which He was calling them. Notice the response of those who were not selected. They fasted, prayed, and laid hands on the chosen ones and sent them on their way. The implication is that the ones not chosen for this specific duty served those who were and supported them as they began their journey.
Notice there were no difficulties with the selection of God’s chosen. The others did not have a tantrum for not being selected. The church did not split. People did not withhold their offering money in protest. Everyone did their part according to their calling. Why must things be so hard today? I think the answer lies in the activities of these early church people. These people were devoutly seeking to serve God. There was no room for them to worry about their image, prestige, notoriety, reputation in the world or any of that type of nonsense.
When people focus upon God and do His work, God is honored. There is not room on a throne except for one. Either God is on the throne of a person’s life or they are on it themselves. God chose Barnabus and Paul for a special purpose and they obeyed. We will contiue this study next time.