The Holy Spirit Set Paul and Barnabas Apart: Part 1 of 3

by John Lowe
(Laurens, SC)

August 11, 2014


Acts of the Apostles


Lesson: IV.A.1: The Holy Spirit Set Paul and Barnabas Apart (13:1-3)


Scripture (Acts 13:1-3; KJV)

1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.


Introduction

Acts 13:1-14:28 tells of Paul’s first missionary journey, which he made in the Company of Barnabas; but, in this lesson (Acts 13:1-3), Barnabas and Saul, are Divinely called to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, are set apart and Sent Forth by the Church at Antioch.

The first seven chapters of this book might be titled, The Church among the Jews; the next five (chapters eight through twelve), The Church in Transition from Jews to Gentiles; and the last sixteen (chapters thirteen through twenty-eight), The Church among the Gentiles. Though Christianity had already spread beyond the limits of Palestine, still the Church continued to be a stranger to formal missionary effort. Casual occurrences, particularly the persecution at Jerusalem (Acts 8:2), had up till then brought about the spreading of the Gospel. It was from Antioch that teachers were first sent forth with the definite purpose of spreading Christianity, and organizing churches, with regular organizations and traditions—“And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed” (Ac 14:23).In every church implies that there were elders in each church; that is, that in each church there was more than one. See Acts 15:21, where a similar phraseology occurs, and where it is evident that there was more than one reader of the Law of Moses in each city. Compare Titus 1:5, “I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst ...ordain elders in every city;” Acts 20:17; “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.” It could not mean, therefore, that they appointed a single minister or pastor to each church, but they committed the whole affairs of the church to a bench of elders.


Commentary

1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch” may be restated as, “Now there were at Antioch in the church that was there.” This was Antioch in Syria, where there was an existing Gospel church, and where the disciples were first called Christians; from there Saul and Barnabas had been sent to Jerusalem during a time of famine, with a collection taken-up for the poor saints there, and now they had returned to Antioch. Prophets were a regular part of the ministry of the Church at that time (see Acts 11:27; Acts 21:9, 10; Romans 12:6, 7; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Corinthians 14:22, 24, 31, 32; Ephesians 4:11; Acts 4:26). Remember, Luke is writing from the standpoint of many years later. The mention and naming of the prophets and teachers in the clauses which follow are intended to indicate how rich Antioch was in prominent resources for sending forth messengers of the Gospel, which was now to take place. Thus the mother-church of Gentile Christianity had become the seminary of the mission to the Gentiles.

In this chapter and forward the scene of the great drama of Christianity is transferred from Jerusalem to Antioch. The role, which has previously been played by Peter and John and James, is now taken up by Barnabas and Saul, soon, however, to be classified as Paul and Barnabas. The completeness of the details in this narrative suggests that the writer himself was at Antioch during this period.

We have now come to the history of those three great journeys which the Apostle to the Gentiles undertook in his special work. It is fitting that the point of departure should be Antioch, the city in which Gentiles had first been joined to the Church in large numbers, and where, as of yet, there had risen no difficulty about the way in which they were received.

Certain prophets and teachers
The “teachers” would appear to differ from the prophets in that they were not under the rapturous influence of the Holy Spirit, and did not utter encouragements or prophecies, but were instructors of Christian truth, under the teaching of the Spirit. Some of them, it seems, were the acknowledged pastors of the church, and some only occasionally resided at Antioch: Paul and Barnabas were of the latter group.Teachers are mentioned several times in the New Testament, as an order of ministers. (See 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Peter 2:1) Their precise rank and duty are not known. It is probable that those mentioned here as prophets were the same persons as the teachers. There were some at Antioch, such as Agabus and others, who were both prophets and teachers; who had both a gift of foretelling things to come, which implies a more direct message from God, coming from the Holy Ghost, and of explaining the prophecies of the Old Testament, through systematic instruction, in which reason and reflection had a part, and of teaching the people evangelici truths; these, at least some of them, came to Antioch from Jerusalem—“And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem to Antioch” (Acts 11:27). The higher gift of prophecy commonly included the lower gift of teaching. Jesus said this about John the Baptist, “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet” (Luke 7:26).John was known to be a prophet; and his fame drew vast numbers to see and hear him, since there had not been a prophet among the Jews for hundreds of years.

It was forbidden for women to teach; “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12), though they might prophesy; “And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy” (Acts 21:9).

The prophecy of Joel was now to receive a wider fulfilment—“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Acts 2:17).

As Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger
“Barnabas” was a Levite, from the country of Cyprus—“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”)” (Acts 4:36)—who sold his land and brought the money to the apostles; and who was sent to Antioch by the church at Jerusalem, when they heard that many there believed, and turned to the Lord. Barnabas was a preacher according to Acts 4:35-36, Acts 9:27, Acts 11:22, and Acts 11:26. His name is placed first (the arrangement appears to have been made according to seniority) and Saul last; it was only due to his missionary labors, which were only now beginning that he acquired his superiority.

Little is known of “Simeon,” for no mention of him is made elsewhere; but, by his first name he appears to be a Jew, who was called Niger by the Romans; very likely from the blackness of his complexion, for that word signifies “black.” The nickname was probably given to him to distinguish him from the many others with the same name, possibly, in particular, from Simon of Cyrene—“Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). Jews were, and are still, in the habit of having another name beside their national one, for use when they mixed with people from other nations.

The five men named are not to be regarded only as a part, but as the whole body of the prophets and teachers at Antioch, in keeping with the idea that the Spirit made the selection. To what individuals the designation “prophet” or “teacher” belongs, is not, expressly said; but if it is in accordance with Acts 4:36, the prophets are mentioned first and then the teachers—the three named first are to be considered prophets, and the other two teachers.

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