“One day as these men were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work I have for them.’ So, after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way”. Acts 13:2,3
Chapter 13 is another pivotal chapter in this exciting, unfolding story of God working through the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
A few things that jumped out at me on my way through Chapter 13.
Firstly, I noticed that Barnabas has been a mentor and guide for Saul, up to this point. Luke introduced Barnabas in Acts 4:36 as ‘the Son of Encouragement’, who was from the Tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He was generous, kind and caring (4:37). Since Saul’s conversion in Chapter 9, Barnabas has been Saul’s constant companion and it was Barnabas who convinced the apostles in Jerusalem that Saul’s conversion was legit and he wasn’t trying to kill them (9:27,28). Barnabas and Saul have spent a significant period of time together – in Antioch for a year (11:26), a short mission trip to Jerusalem (11:30, 12:25) and then back to Antioch of Syria for their Holy Spirit launch into their ‘First Missionary Journey’.
Secondly, what was happening in the Church in Antioch of Syria? It’s worth noting that in the Antioch Church, the believers first were given the name, ‘Christians’ or “little Christ’s” (11:26). It would seem to me that the Church in Antioch was experiencing an incredible time of transition and growth. It was a nexus for people from many backgrounds (13:1). It was focused on worshiping the Lord. Fasting was practised (13:2). The Holy Spirit was active in the form of a ‘person’. ‘The Holy Spirit said…’ (13:2) and ‘Sent out by the Holy Spirit, Saul and Barnabas went…’ (13:4).
Thirdly, in verse 9, Luke identifies that Saul’s name has changed to Paul. This is another of the (not so) subtle markers of God acting in transformation. People’s names and natures are transformed and changed by God. The Holy Spirit has ‘commissioned’ Saul into mission and now he has a new name for his new role. Also note that they are dedicated or commissioned by their ‘sending leaders’ (13:3) with prayer and the laying on of hands.
Fourthly, Barnabas & Paul arrive at another Antioch – Antioch of Pisidia (13:14). Paul preaches his ‘first missionary sermon’ in the Synagogue to Jews and devout Gentiles (16-41). It’s a cracker and has a powerful effect on those who hear the message. He finishes with this summary – “Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus, there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God – something the Jewish law could never do (13:38,39).
Finally, the last sentence in this chapter – ‘and the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (13:52).
Apply – Who is your mentors and who are you mentoring?
Are you committed to regular worship? What spiritual disciplines do you practice? – regular quiet times, REAP, J35, Fasting, Small Group, prayer etc? Do you know Holy Spirit as an active person in your life?
Can you identify or articulate your transformation, your change of name or nature?Are you filled with Joy and The Holy Spirit? If not, pray to God and speak to someone who you trust will be able to lead you to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are amazing. You transformed Saul from being a God hater and a murderer, into Paul, the man who loved you with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Please transform me too. May others see me more like Jesus. AMEN