The Spirit-Led Church (Acts 13:2)

Here is the second point to the sermon I preached last March on Acts 13:1–3. This section covers Acts 13:2 and provides the description of the Spirit-led missions-minded church.

The Missions-Minded Church is a Spirit-Led Church (v. 2). The following verse provides for us a description of the Spirit’s work among the church in Antioch. The verse’s main idea is expressed when the Spirit speaks up to separate Paul and Barnabas for the work of ministry, the Holy Spirit said. This divine interruption in the flow of the local church likely occurred through one of the prophets. This is divine revelation that was likely unique to this era of the local church. Still, even with the divine revelation we will see the church still moving with wise caution in verse 3.

The Spirit led the church to, Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. The Spirit’s command to set apart Paul and Barnabas is done for the benefit of the Spirit.[1] This work is a God-glorifying task. It is not a task of self-promotion or local church promotion. The Spirit calls these two men forward with urgency.[2]

The Spirit called for the church to set apart or to appoint these two men for the work of ministry. While the context may argue that the command is given to the five men identified as prophets and teachers, we can assume that this would have occurred with the involvement of the local church.[3] This task was not an option for the local church, but was understood as a divine mandate.[4] If the church were to refuse this divine calling they would have been in disobedient to the clear revelation of God.

For whatever reason these men were called is left undisclosed. But, we do know that Paul, since his conversion, was going to be used for ministry among the gentiles (Acts 9:15). While he had ministered among gentiles, this calling would bring this calling to fruition. What is interesting is the timing of such the work. Paul’s conversion had occurred some 15 years prior to this time. In some ways, this indicates that Paul had waited some 15 years to begin his life’s calling. The time in between was likely spent for Paul’s preparation for such a task. He spent 3 years in Arabia and some time with the disciples (Gal 1:10–2:10).

What should be noted is the character of the church when the Spirit intervenes. The passage describes two activities that were occurring in the life of the church when the Spirit calls for Paul and Barnabas. First, we find that the church that Spirit uses is a church that worships. Second, we find that the church the Spirit uses is a church that expresses humble dependency.

Spirit-Led Churches are Doxological: Ministering to the Lord. The Spirit intervenes, While they were ministering to the Lord. The term here used for ministering was used to describe the responsibility of the priests in the Old Testament. While in the secular world it referred to any services rendered for free, it did have religious connotations.[5] While the individuals who were ministering were probably the five men listed above, the word itself implies the presence of the congregation.[6]

These men, along with the present congregation, were ministering to the Lord. This is a reference to the gathered worship of God’s people, likely taking place on the Lord’s day. This church was serious about their worship and they prioritized serving and worshiping God.

Spirit-Led Churches are Dependent: Fasting. As serious as they were about serving and worshiping God they knew they could not do it on their own. These individuals were deeply dependent upon God and this was expressed through their discipline of fasting. This discipline was common in the Jewish community and was common in the NT early church.

In the OT, the concept of worship (specifically on the Day of Atonement) was paired with the discipline of fasting (Acts 27:9; cf. Lev 16:29–31; 23:27–29; Num 29:7).[7] This practice is maintained in the early church. The spiritual discipline of fasting is an outward manifestation of one’s entire trust in God for all things.

Despite their gifted leaders and zeal for worship and service this church understood their need for divine dependence. They knew that they could not be faithful as a local church if they were depending upon their own abilities. These people understood grace. They embraced grace. They lived in grace!


[1] The μοι is a dative of advantage [Parsons, p. 244].

[2] The untranslated δή is a conjunction that communicates emphasis and urgency. It is rarely used in the NT (Matt 13:23; Lk 2:15; Acts 13:2; 15:36; 1 Cor 6:20), but occurs in contexts of emphasis [Bock, p. 439; Lenski, p. 495].

[3] Lenski, p. 495.

[4] Ἀφορίσατε AAImp2P.

[5] This is the only occurrence of the term in the book of Acts even though it is seen elsewhere in the NT (Rom 15:27; Heb 10:11; and a cognate noun in Lk 1:23) [Bock, p. 440].

[6] Lenski, p. 494. This is debated because exegetically the pronoun αὐτῶν strictly refers to the five men above.

[7] Ibid., 494. The fast on the Day of Atonement was related to work and not necessarily food. Still, it was an outward expression of a life that trusts God to provide.

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