God’s Word for You
Acts 13:1-3 The call of Saul
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, May 11, 2020
13 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
The “and” in the phrase “prophets and teachers” seems to mean more than our simple conjunction “and.” In Greek, the kai can also explain the relationship between two listed things, and here the one term qualifies the next: “prophets who were teachers.” Their qualification was that they were all prophets. The work that they did also involved teaching. Not everyone who does the work of the church is able to teach, but the distinguishing qualification of pastors is that they should be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). We can’t say much more than this about the other three men in this list, because the Holy Spirit specifically called Barnabas and Saul to a special ministry. The other men would have stayed behind in Antioch.
Did the Holy Spirit speak in person, or through one of the assembled prophets? It’s possible that the Spirit spoke through a prophet, as he does in Acts 21:11. However, in Acts 10:19, there was no one else present while Peter was seeing his vision, so the Spirit was speaking to him there directly. Luke’s phrasing here matches that of 10:19, and I think it’s best to take this as one of the rare moments when the Holy Spirit speaks aloud in the Bible (the entire body of the Scriptures is of course the inspired work of the Spirit, 2 Peter 1:21). The early Christians had no trouble recognizing the divinity of the Holy Spirit; they understood the doctrine of the Trinity as it had been explained by Jesus. Jesus proved his own divinity by citing Psalm 110:1. He showed the Pharisees that the Messiah is not only David’s son but also David’s Lord (Matthew 22:41-46). In the same passage, Jesus also proves the divinity of the Holy Spirit by saying that David, “speaking by the Spirit, calls him (the Messiah) ‘Lord’” (Matthew 22:43). Jesus was simply applying David’s own words, who said, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me” (2 Samuel 23:2). So in one passage, Jesus cites two witnesses to prove his own divinity and that of the Spirit he himself would send.
For a long time, fasting remained as something of value to the church. In the book of Acts, it begins to fade away from this point, only appearing again once in chapter 14 (14:23). While the whole congregation might have been and were certainly praying, it would not be practical for all of them to lay hands on the newly commissioned missionaries. This would have been done only by a few leaders, perhaps the other three pastors in verse 1. Off they went to face a new opportunity, a new open door to the gospel.
Pray for those whom God has set apart for special service. Pray that they will be faithful, that God will bless their work, and that souls will be saved through the preaching of the gospel. As to those who are called or commissioned, let them remember that God works through his word, and not through theirs. A pastor might be exhausted, barely able to think straight on Sunday morning when he consecrates the elements of the Lord’s Supper because his baby was crying and fussing all night, but the sacrament doesn’t depend on the minister’s powers of concentration; it depends on the almighty power of God. It would be the same if the minister were so turned around in his doctrine that he didn’t know what the Lord’s Supper or the preaching of the gospel are for. If the congregation believes and hears the word of God, then their faith can grow. But this is why we should pray for our pastors and the young men studying to be pastors. O Mighty Holy Spirit, let them be faithful in their studies and faithful in their worship so that as their minds are filled with knowledge, their hearts are likewise filled with faith. Let them learn with prayer and with hard work so that one day working and praying for their people will be second nature to them. Let them serve you, and let us all serve you with whatever work you have given us to do.
Pastor Timothy Smith