December 19 I Thursday
“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen…and Saul.” —Acts 13:1
Several men were set apart by the Holy Spirit as leaders in the church at Antioch. None of them were elite or a cut above the rest. In fact, Scripture speaks about a general “setting apart” that applies to every Christian. In Paul’s epistles to the churches, the word “saint” is a name frequently used for Christians, which means “to be set apart.”
We are first called to God Himself, to fellowship with and enjoy Him. In the commission of Barnabas and Saul, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me…” (Acts 13:2). We cannot brush over this lightly. It is out of our communion with God that we are set apart for a task God has designed for us. If we neglect our communion with Him, we may enlist in Christian service, but will discover it to be dry and lifeless as our energy and direction are derived from our relationship with God.
Barnabas and Saul had personalities and backgrounds suitable for their mission. Barnabas’ real name was “Joseph,” but the apostles called him “Barnabas,” which means “son of encouragement.” Taking Saul under his wing, convincing the apostles of his conviction and devotion to Christ, Barnabas plays the encourager all the way. Saul is a complex man who came from Tarsus up in Cilicia, which is present day Turkey. He lived in various countries, exposing him to different cultures, languages and worldviews. While Barnabas is the pastor and encourager, Saul is the one with world experiences. Both will prove invaluable in bringing the Gospel to a Gentile world.
The Holy Spirit sets apart people for tasks uniquely suited to them. Within the church of Jesus Christ, there is not one who functions more importantly than the other. Paul uses the analogy of our physical bodies like the body of the church saying, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Every part is interdependent on one another with some having a higher profile than others, but every part is vital. Paul tells us the lesser parts are treated in heaven with special honour because the more obvious roles are given honour all the way. He even mentions, “…God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession…” (1 Corinthians 4:9).
In whatever way we are gifted by God, the effectiveness of Christian ministry will derive from the quality of our relationship with Him. Our first order of business is to be with God, and out of that, we are energized and directed for the work in which the Holy Spirit sets apart.
Prayer: Lord God, all that I can do stems from my relationship with You and not my own strength. Thank You for setting me apart for Your ministry and work.