“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.” (Acts 13:1-3)
Acts 13:1-3 provides the reader with a further glimpse of the leadership within the early New Testament church. These leaders included prophets and teachers of God’s Word.
The prophets were preachers, or heralds, of the Scriptures. In the early years of the church, they were responsible for the instruction of local congregations. Sometimes, God gave them new revelation to share with the believing community (Acts 11:28; 21:10). Eventually, God appointed pastors, elders, teachers and evangelists in their place.
Teachers were also instructors of God’s Word. (Matthew 10:24, 25; 23:8; John 1:38; 13:13, 14; 20:16; Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28, 29; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:3; Hebrews 5:12; James 3:1). Although not all teachers were pastors, all pastors were to be teachers of the Word of God (I Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:1-2). In the church at Antioch, the prophets and teachers included Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Today’s text reveals that these individuals were worshipers of the One, True God. Worship involved the priestly service of prayer, oversight of the flock along with preaching and teaching.
They also practiced the discipline of spiritual and biblical fasting, which is also accompanied with vigilant and passionate prayer (Nehemiah 1:4; Psalm 35:13; Daniel 9:1-3; Matthew 17:21; Luke 2:37). It was while they were involved in these two practices that the Holy Spirit communicated to the church leadership to separate, or appoint, Barnabas and Saul for the work which He had sovereignly called them to do.
In obedient response, the church leadership laid hands on the two friends and colleagues, following their fasting and praying. As in Acts 6:1-6, the laying on of hands was a symbolic gesture affirming, supporting, and identifying with someone and their ministry (I Timothy 4:14; 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6). The Antiochian church affirmed the new missionary ministry of Barnabas and Saul.
The LORD prepared these two for this moment. All of their experiences thus far, alone and together, contributed to their being the right people, at the right time, for God’s righteous purpose. Such remains the case with you and me.
Soli deo Gloria!