by Carl McAulay =“https://uzn16h.infiniteuploads.cloud/2022/04/Carl-McAulay.png”>
What Does it Say?
Acts 13:1–3 (ESV) Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of 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 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
What Does it Mean?
Our text explains that in the church at Antioch there was a group of prophets and teachers, including Barnabas and Saul. While they were all worshipping the Lord and fasting, they heard the Holy Spirit speak. The text does not tell us how the Holy Spirit give this directive regarding Barnabas and Saul; what is most likely is that the Holy Spirit spoke this prophetic word through one or more of the prophets and teachers there. Then, after further fasting and praying, the group laid their hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off on their first missionary journey. Saul of Tarsus, who would later become Paul the Apostle, was finally walking in the fullness of his calling.
However, if we assume Saul’s calling started with the laying on of hands in Antioch, we miss the direction––the preparation––that proceeds the fulfilling of a calling. You see, Saul was called by the Lord more than a decade earlier. As Saul journeyed to Damascus to arrest believers, Jesus appeared to him in a great light and he fell to the ground and was blinded. He was later instructed to go to Damascus where he would be told want to do. Ananias, a disciple in Damascus, was sent to Saul and told by God that Saul was “… a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). When Ananias arrived where Saul was staying, he laid his hands on Saul; Saul’s sight was restored and he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
From Saul’s conversion to our text, Galatians 2:1, it is suggested that some 14 years transpired. During that time Saul lived in relative obscurity as he studied and came to recognize that God had set him apart to minister for Jesus since before he was born (Galatians 1:14–16). Scripture records Saul doing some ministry in Arabia, Damascus, Syria, and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21) but nothing that we know of that was significant. Near the end of this period, Barnabas went to Saul’s hometown of Tarsus and found him and brought him to Antioch to teach and preach the Word of God alongside him in a sort of mentorship (Acts 11:25–26). All of this was part of Saul’s direction for his calling.
What Does it Mean to Us?
“Callings” and “Direction for callings” are not just for people like Saul (Paul) and Barnabas, but their story helps us understand our story, because callings and direction are for us as well. Our salvation story like Paul’s includes a calling, a good work that we are called to walk in. In Ephesians 2:10 it says:
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) 10 For we are his workmanship (Greek poiema – creation, masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
As believers, we also have a promise that God is at work in us to put His will, His good works, His good things into our heart and to provide us the ability including the teaching and training to do His will as it says in Philippians 2:12-13.
Philippians 2:12–13 (ESV) 12 … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Psalm 144:1 (ESV) 1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
Remember that even the Apostle Paul was not only trained in the word of God under some highly regarded Jewish scholars like Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) but that he was mentored by his senior in the gospel, Barnabas, and he was part of an apostolic team of prophets and teachers in Antioch. We should also appreciate those whom the Lord uses to direct and grow us in our calling.
1. Remember that God has prepared a calling for every believer. (Eph. 2:10)
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) 10 For we are his workmanship (Greek: poiema – creation, masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- Remember that God is in the business of preparing us for our calling. (Phil. 2:12–13)
Philippians 2:12–13 (ESV) 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
- Remember we may not recognize that God is preparing us but be not weary. (Gal. 6:9–10)
Galatians 6:9–10 (ESV) 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
- Remember to be led by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:2–3)
Acts 13:2–3 (ESV) 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.”
- Remember the importance of walking with like-minded people.
- Acts 13:1–3 (ESV) 1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of 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 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
- Proverbs 13:20 (ESV) 20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Let’s pray for direction on our calling:
James 1:5–8 (ESV) 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV) Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.