“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.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” - Acts 13:2-3
The commissioning and sending out of Paul and Barnabas from the marvelous and healthy church in Antioch was a key moment in redemptive history. The local church at Antioch was blessed with a multiplicity of gifted men teaching the word of God. Of those, Paul and Barnabas were the best, amazing men whom the Spirit had blessed abundantly. Barnabas was introduced in Acts 4 as Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles had nick-named “Son of Encouragement” (Barnabas). In Acts 9, it was Barnabas who put an arm around Saul of Tarsus in Jerusalem after his conversion on the Road to Damascus. Saul had been a bitter persecutor of the church, but his conversion was an act of sovereign grace. It was understandable that the church had a hard time believing that Saul was not trying to spy on them and turn them in to the Sanhedrin. Barnabas spoke vigorously for Saul (Paul) at that point, and the church at Jerusalem welcomed him in. It was also Barnabas whom they had sent to see what the Lord was doing in the church at Antioch, when they were vigorously reaching out to Gentiles in that significant and cosmopolitan city. In Acts 12, Barnabas arrived in Antioch and saw evidence of the grace of God in the Gentile conversions that were happening there. He also did what he usually did: encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. The account tells us “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a large number of people were brought to the Lord.” It was also Barnabas who had gone to Cilicia to look for Saul, and brought him to Antioch to teach the church there. Of course, this Saul was none other than the Apostle Paul, the greatest teacher of the gospel the church has ever known.
It was these two men that the Holy Spirit singled out and sent to Cyprus to begin the missionary/church planting work that He had determined that they would do. This was a huge sacrifice for the church at Antioch—to give their “best and brightest” to a new work in another place. Acts 13:1-4 describes this process very poignantly: while they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to the church very clearly, saying “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The church did not delay nor did they disobey. They were willing to make this sacrifice so that many more new churches could be planted—in Cyprus and throughout Asia Minor.
"Churches that are generous with their people, time, energy, money, and prayers in the spread of the gospel both locally and to the ends of the earth will never regret that generosity."
This passage speaks of a local church having a generous attitude toward new works—whether in missions or in church planting closer by. Churches that are generous with their people, time, energy, money, and prayers in the spread of the gospel both locally and to the ends of the earth will never regret that generosity. The Lord will make up the difference abundantly, and the sending church will continue to flourish.