December 18 I Wednesday
“While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” —Acts 13:2
The Church of Jesus Christ is on a mission. To think of it in any other terms is not to think of it biblically. It is on a mission given to us by Jesus, and affects what we do in our personal lives and within the corporate body of the church. The Holy Spirit is empowering, and it is vital for us to understand how He works. We are given a clear illustration of this in God’s calling of Barnabas and Saul to their first missionary journey.
The early church in Antioch is the first to engage in God’s global mission. There are three dimensions that come together: the role of the Holy Spirit, the role of the church and its leaders, as well as the role of the workers being sent out. These three work together with the central player being the Holy Spirit. We find that firstly, the Holy Spirit speaks. Secondly, the Holy Spirit sets apart those whom God has called. Thirdly, He sends them out to accomplish a task.
Saul and Barnabas neither volunteered for missionary service nor were they doing their own thing. The initiative for their ministry was the Holy Spirit. Having called them personally, the Holy Spirit confirmed that by speaking separately to the church in Antioch, who then became the commissioning body that recognized God’s calling on these two men. It was not simply the opinion of the elders in Antioch that Barnabas and Saul would make fine missionaries; rather, it was something the Holy Spirit said to them as they waited in prayer and humility for His instructions that were to be understood apart from any persuasions or prejudices of their own.
Leadership in the early church is always plural and the way the Holy Spirit speaks to them is by consensus. The New Testament church is not democratic because they did not act on what the majority wanted. Neither is it autocratic, that is, only one person discerns the will of God. Autocracy is usually dangerous and democracy is rarely right. Although God does raises up individuals, as a church, it is theocratic, which is God leading and He leads by speaking to several people.
Scripture does not tell us how the Holy Spirit speaks, as that would reduce Him to being predictable, which stifles the originality that the Spirit of God loves to enjoy. Intimacy with God is crucial, because we learn to discern His voice and recognize a familiar ring to the way God has led us before. When we begin to follow, confirmation will grow as we sense and see the power of the Holy Spirit at work.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for Your church that is not led by humans but by Your Spirit. May You continue to speak, encourage and confirm Your will in my life.