The Holy Spirit Set Paul and Barnabas Apart: Part 2 of 3
by John Lowe
And Lucius of Cyrene
“Lucius of Cyrene” (a country in Africa) was very probably one of the synagogues of the Cyrenians, and seems to be one of the men of Cyrene, that went abroad (Acts 11:20) when persecution arose at the death of Stephen (Acts 6:9). He is said to be with the apostle Paul when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:21).
He is called the bishop of Cyrene; and some believe him to be the same Lucius mentioned in Romans 16:21—“Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.” Others think he is Luke the Evangelist: on the ground that Cyrene was famous for its School of Medicine, some writers have identified him as the author of the Acts, but the two names Lucius and Lucas are radically different: Lucius may be an abbreviation of Lucanus. It has been conjectured that Luke was born and instructed in medicine in Cyrene, and left that place for Tarsus, where he made Paul's acquaintance, and was, perhaps, converted by him.
And Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch
“Manaen” may be thought of as the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch. He is called “the son of King Herod's nurse” in the Ethiopic version; which explains their being brought up, nourished, and suckled together; so, we may assume Menaen’s mother was Herod’s nurse. He appears to have been brought up at the court of Herod the Great. Manaen seems to be the same as Menachem, or Menahem, a name used frequently by the Jews. There was one with this name, who was very intimate with Herod the great, and was in his service, though that was prior to him being vice president of the Sanhedrim. This is all that we know about this man, because he is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.
How differently these two foster brothers turned out—the one, abandoned to a lustful life and stained with the blood of the most distinguished of God's prophets, though he had his periods of reformation and seasons of remorse; the other, a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus and prophet of the Church at Antioch! That this man became a Christian and a prophet is something remarkable.
Saul (Paul) is listed last of all, but soon he will become first. After this, the book of Acts is almost exclusively occupied with him; and his influence on the New Testament, on Christendom, and on the world is unmatched. The position of Saul’s name at the end of the list seems to indicate that it was copied from one which had been made before he had become the most prominent of the whole company of the prophets. Saul was an apostle; and yet he is mentioned here among the “prophets and teachers,” showing that these words denote “ministers of the gospel” in general, without reference to any particular order or rank.
Saul was ordained long before this was written, but that was not of men, or by man (Galatians 1:1). At his conversion he was expressly called to preach to the Gentiles; and that call was renewed at the time Jesus appeared to him during his trance in the temple.
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.
As they ministered to the Lord
“As they,” that is, the five prophets and teachers mentioned in verse 1; and whose ministry included preaching the Gospel, teaching the people the doctrines of it, expounding prophecies, and leading in prayer. They, the prophets and teachers, ministered at an assembly of the Church. The word translated here as ‘they ministered’ (from which the word "Liturgy" is derived), signifies any solemn ministration or holy service. In the Old Testament the word rendered, ‘to minister’ (usually with the addition of “to God,” or “to the Lord”) is often applied to the ministrations of priests and Levites (See Exodus 28:35; Numbers 8:26). The word is used in Hebrews 10:11—“And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (Also see Luke 1:23; Hebrews 9:21) Joshua is called Moses’ minister in Joshua 1:1, and the angels are called “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14). Its classical use was to designate any office performed by an individual for the public good. Hence in the New Testament, it is applied to Church alms (2 Corinthians 9:12), to gifts for the support of the ministry (Philippians 2:30), to the office of magistrates (Romans 13:6), etc. The restricted application of the term minister to the service used in the celebration of the Eucharist came along much later.
“As they ministered to the Lord”—the word “ministered” denotes the performance of official duties of any kind, and was used to express the priestly functions under the Old Testament. Here it signifies the corresponding ministrations of the Christian Church. It is probable that this took place on some day set apart for fasting and prayer. The expression "ministered to the Lord" means as they were engaged in prayer to the Lord, or as they were engaged in divine service.
Fasting was done as a solemn act of devotion to the work which was before them. The Jews practice of fasting went far back in their history, and those who came to believe in Christ had not yet left it off; their custom was to fast on Mondays and Thursdays: “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:12).Whether it was on one of those days, that these men were ministering and fasting, is not certain; but this we may be sure of, it was not on the Jewish Sabbath, for on that day they never fasted. The Sabbath was not a fasting, but a feasting day with the Jews; for they were obliged to eat three meals, or feasts, on a Sabbath day, one in the morning, another at evening, and another at the time of the meat offering: even the poorest man in Israel, who was maintained by alms, was obliged to keep these three feasts. The whole seven days, or week, were commonly called the Sabbath by the Jews; hence, “the first of the Sabbath,” and the second of the Sabbath, and the third of the Sabbath; that is, the first, second, and third days of the week. Now the two days in the week on which they fasted were Monday and Thursday, the second and fifth days; on which days the Law of Moses, and the book of Esther were read, by the order of Ezra; and fasts for the congregation were held on those days.
The Holy Ghost said
“The Holy Ghost said”—by direct revelation to some of the prophets mentioned in verse 1, either with an articulate voice, or by an internal impulse, upon the minds of the prophets. The mode of communication may have been, as in Acts 20:23—“Save that the Holy Ghost witnesses in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me”—through the lips of the prophets, speaking as by a sudden burst of simultaneous inspiration—“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you, that you by them might war a good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18).This is the origin of the question in the Ordination of Deacons, “Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office?”
Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them
“Separate me Barnabas and Saul”—now the Lord would have them separated from their brethren, as Aaron and his sons were from theirs, and be sent from Antioch to perform a new work: this shows the Spirit to be a person, since speaking and commanding in an authoritative way, and calling to a work, are ascribed unto Him; and that He is a divine person, and truly God, and equal with God, since calling to a sacred office is attributed to Him; and a separation to it is ordered for “Barnabas and Saul”—for His service, honour, and glory; He does not say separate them to the Lord, or to God, but to Me. The separation by the Holy Ghost, at least as it pertains Saul had been from his mother's womb—“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace” (Galatians 1:15). This is another case of the very close resemblance between parts of the Acts and the Epistle to the Galatians, which looks as if Paul was writing about the same time as he was giving to Luke the details of his own history (see Acts 8:19). Their ordination was to the apostolic office. Barnabas and Saul are never called apostles until after their ordination or consecration—“Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out” (Acts 14:14).
This clause seems to indicate that the command given was in answer to a prayer, and that it was to be acted on at once. The implication is that they were to be set apart for a new work. Up to this time they had been among the prophets and teachers of the Church. Now they were to receive a solemn visible mission, after having received the inspired command, and consecrating them to the work of the Apostleship to the Gentiles. Saul had from the first been a “vessel of election,” and so specially severed for this work, and we can see why Barnabas, who had been the first to introduce Saul to the Church at Jerusalem, and whose education may have been very like Saul’s, was appointed to be the sharer of Saul’s labors.