In this message we shall continue to consider 13:1-12. In 13:1-4a we see that Barnabas and Paul were set apart and sent by the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:4b-12 describes their journey to Paphos of Cyprus.
Acts 13:1 and 2 say, “Now there were in Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian, and Manaen, foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And as they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Here we see that these prophets and teachers were not conferring with men and organizing; rather, they were ministering to the Lord and fasting.
These five were ministering to the Lord directly. This means that, spiritually speaking, they were not at the altar in the outer court, but were at the incense altar in the Holy Place. In the Old Testament the priests ministered at two places. When they served the people, they ministered at the altar in the outer court, offering sacrifices to God for the people. But when they served the Lord directly, they were at another place—at the altar in the Holy Place burning incense. These five brothers in Antioch were at the incense altar in the Holy Place ministering directly to the Lord through their prayers.
As they were ministering to the Lord in this way, He as the Spirit came in and spoke to them, saying, “Set apart for Me now Barnabas and Saul.” This indicates that here the Holy Spirit is the Lord.
However, many Christians think that the Spirit is separate from the Lord. Some even say that the Spirit is the agent or representative of the Lord. If the Spirit is merely the Lord’s representative, then in 13:2 the Holy Spirit should not have said, “Set apart for Me now Barnabas and Saul.” Instead, the Spirit should have said, “I, the Spirit, am an agent of the Lord. I represent the Lord and work for Him. Therefore, I do not say that you should set apart Barnabas and Saul unto Me. I tell you to separate Barnabas and Saul unto the Lord, for whom I am working.”
In 13:2 we have the Lord, the Holy Spirit, and “Me.” Who is this Me? Is this Me only the Holy Spirit and not the Lord? Surely the Me in this verse is the Lord.
The five prophets and teachers were ministering to the Lord. As they were ministering, the Lord as the Holy Spirit spoke to them. This corresponds to Paul’s word: “And the Lord is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17). Hence, the Spirit could tell them to separate Barnabas and Saul “for Me.” This Me is both the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should not think that the Holy Spirit is separate from the Lord. No, the Holy Spirit is the Lord to whom we minister. When we minister, we minister to the Lord. But when the Lord responds to us, He responds as the Holy Spirit. Because He is the Lord, He could say as the Holy Spirit, “Set apart for Me now Barnabas and Saul.”
In 13:2 the Holy Spirit as the pneumatic Christ, the Head of the Body, told the five to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which He had called them. This was a giant step taken by the Lord for the spread of the gospel of His kingdom to the Gentile world. It was begun from Antioch, a Gentile center in Syria, without organizing a mission, without raising funds, without human ordination, and without any human plan and method. It was initiated by five faithful and seeking members of the Body, who afforded an opportunity, through their ministering and fasting, to the Head of the Body that He, as the Spirit, might set them apart to carry out His great commission to spread His kingdom for the establishment of His church in the Gentile world through the preaching of His gospel.
This major step had nothing to do with the church in Jerusalem organizationally, and it was not under the authority and direction of Peter and the other eleven apostles in Jerusalem. It was begun solely and purely from a Gentile center, far away from the atmosphere and influence of any Judaic background and practice, and even from the practice and influence of the church in Jerusalem. It was absolutely a move by the Spirit, in the Spirit, and with the Spirit through the coordination of the faithful and seeking members of the Body on earth with the Head in the heavens. This was not a religious movement with a human schedule. From Antioch the Lord’s move on the earth for God’s New Testament economy had an entirely new start. Although the flow of the Lord’s move began from Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and later came to Antioch and went on from Antioch to the Gentile world, it had a purified start by the Spirit at its turn in Antioch.
© Living Stream Ministry All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.