24 July 2019Acts 13:1-12
The Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ (v. 2)
Psalm: Psalm 11:1-5
This passage illustrates very well for us how things began to develop in the early Church. Those who followed Jesus had taken his words seriously - the gospel message was now being intentionally taken out of its Jewish homeland into the world. And every step was taken under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Today's passage speaks of prophets and teachers each having slightly different roles. Prophets were not usually attached to a particular group of believers but were, in Methodist terminology, itinerant. Teachers, on the other hand, exercised their role within their local congregation. The list of names in this passage shows how the gospel was already having an appeal beyond its Jewish heartland: Barnabas was a Jew, but from Cyprus; Lucius from Cyrene in North Africa; Simeon's alternative name, Niger, shows that he had moved in Roman circles.
Saul (Paul) himself was from Tarsus in Cilicia, in modern Turkey. Despite all these differences in background and role, this group of believers found their togetherness in Christ.
As this group sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit, people were set aside for particular tasks. In this way, Barnabas and Saul became missionaries and set off for Cyprus where they met all the challenges that every generation of pioneer missionaries have faced - suspicion, local cults and practices.
- Is it your experience that the diverse community which constitutes the church where you are has a togetherness in Christ which transcends all the differences? Or are there challenges?
- We have read that Barnabas and Saul were 'set aside' for their work. To what extent should we take more seriously the 'setting aside' of people for a variety of roles within each local church?