Cannon. 1 each. Vermont Capitol.
Tuesday, 13 December 2022
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
Chapter 13 began with a note concerning the prophets and teachers at Antioch, naming each. The last one named Saul (who is Paul) will become the central point of focus concerning the ministry from this point on. Although still veiled, that begins to be revealed with the words of this verse which begins with, “As they ministered to the Lord.”
The verse begins with a conjunction. Also, the verb is a present participle. It rightly should read, “And as they were ministering to the Lord.” Here, the verb translated as “ministered,” leitourgeó, is introduced. It will be seen two more times, once in Romans and once in Hebrews.
It signifies being a public servant. Thus, by analogy, it signifies “to perform religious or charitable functions (worship, obey, relieve) – minister” (Strong’s). It is a word commonly used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament when referring to the work of the priests and the Levites. Its use in Hebrews 10:11 is specifically referring to the service of the Old Covenant priests. It is the basis for our now commonly used word “liturgy.” Along with serving in this capacity, it says they also “fasted.”
Again, it is from a present participle. They “were fasting.” The word signifies abstaining from food, but the implication is that it is for religious reasons. It is during this time of ministration and fasting that “the Holy Spirit said.”
In other words, a message from God is conveyed to the men mentioned in verse 1. We are not told if one of them received this message and then passed it on to the others or if all received the same message. But the text is clear that God spoke to them for a specific purpose, saying, “Now separate to Me.”
In the Greek, there is an alliterative particle, dé, that is in the text, but which is ignored by most translations. It is intended to give emphasis or urgency to a statement. It is included to provide an underlying affirmation of the surrounding words. The Weymouth New Testament brilliantly translates these words as, “Set apart for Me, now at once.”
And this message, whether received by one or by all, is intended for all. The verb translated as “separate” is plural, “you all separate to me.” It is the same word, aphorizó, Paul uses to open his letter to the Romans (and elsewhere) –
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.” Romans 1:1
The word itself comes from apo (away from) and horizó (to set boundaries). One can see the etymological root of the word “horizon” in this word. The holy spirit is directing the setting apart of “Barnabas and Saul.” In other words, they have been counted among the prophets and teachers of Antioch, but now they are being called for a special purpose, which is – as the Holy Spirit states – “for the work to which I have called them.”
Of these words, Cambridge says, “…we may perhaps be warranted in concluding that the whole course of this first great missionary journey was pointed out also by the Spirit. There is no notice of a deliberation in the Church about the best way for the Apostles to set forth.”
This is surely the case. The Holy Spirit has called, and so it can be expected that He will also direct. And this is just what is later seen on these missionary journeys, such as –
“Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Acts 16:6-10
Though the specifics of the calling are not yet seen in this verse, when they are, it must have been the greatest of comfort to these men that they were being sent out knowing that God had called and would, therefore, direct.
Life application: It is a common question for people to ask if fasting is required for believers. The answer must be, “No.” Though it is referred to in Scripture, and even though Jesus speaks of it as something that was commonly done, His words were to Israel, under the law. As such, those verses cannot be considered prescriptive for the church.
Likewise, in Acts, fasting is mentioned, but Acts is a descriptive account of what was occurring. It prescribes nothing. On the other hand, in the epistles – from where we are to derive our doctrine on such matters – fasting is never explicitly directed. It is mentioned once in 1 Corinthians 7:5, but it is not a prescription. Rather, it is an allowance.
The other two times fasting is mentioned are in 2 Corinthians 6:5 and 11:27. Both are involuntary fasts. Paul was forced to fast because of a lack of food. Other than these three references, fasting is never addressed, and it is certainly not prescribed. As this is true, any fast you conduct – for whatever reason – is between you and the Lord, between you and your doctor, or between you and your spouse (see 1 Corinthians 7:5).
If fasting is something that interests you, study up on it. A water diet, meaning a diet that consists of only drinking water for a set amount of time, is something that has benefitted many. The longest recorded water fast was by Angus Barbieri (1939 – 7 September 1990). He was a Scottish man who fasted for 382 days, from June 1965 to July 1966. He went from an immensely overweight and unhealthy person to a slimmed-down, healthy person in this manner. His fast, and many others, can be seen on YouTube or through general internet searches.
Study up on fasting, but: 1) It is not required according to a proper study of the New Testament. 2) It should never be mandated by a Christian leader. 3) If it is mandated by someone, you should consider not fellowshipping with that person any longer as this may lead to a form of tyrannical authoritarian leadership. 4) You will have to give up bacon. In the end, the plusses and minuses must be personally weighed.
Lord God, thank You for the freedoms we have in Christ. What a joy it is to know that we are sealed with Your Holy Spirit, and You are as close to us now as will ever be the case. Because of this, help us to open up to You, removing all walls and hindrances, and learning to fellowship with You intimately all our days. Amen.