1The church at Antioch had several prophets and teachers. They were Barnabas, Simeon, also called Niger, Lucius from Cyrene, Manaen, who was Herod’s close friend, and Saul.2While they were worshipping the Lord and going without eating, the Holy Spirit told them, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have chosen them.”3Everyone prayed and went without eating for a while longer. Next, they placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul to show that they had been appointed to do this work. Then everyone sent them on their way.
4After Barnabas and Saul had been sent by the Holy Spirit, they went to Seleucia. From there they sailed to the island of Cyprus.5They arrived at Salamis and began to preach God’s message in the Jewish meeting places. They also had John as a helper.
6Barnabas and Saul went all the way to the city of Paphos on the other end of the island, where they met a Jewish man named Bar-Jesus. He practised witchcraft and was a false prophet.7He also worked for Sergius Paulus, who was very clever and was the governor of the island. Sergius Paulus wanted to hear God’s message, and he sent for Barnabas and Saul.8But Bar-Jesus, whose other name was Elymas, was against them. He even tried to keep the governor from having faith in the Lord.
9Then Saul, better known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit. He looked straight at Elymas10and said, “You son of the devil! You are a liar, a criminal, and an enemy of everything that is right. When will you stop speaking against the true ways of the Lord?11The Lord is going to punish you by making you completely blind for a while.”
Suddenly the man’s eyes were covered by a dark mist, and he went around trying to get someone to lead him by the hand.12When the governor saw what had happened, he was amazed at this teaching about the Lord. So he put his faith in the Lord.
This passage preserves for us the account of the beginning of the great missionary movement that has continued to our day. It is a watershed moment in the book of Acts. Within a matter of years, Paul was able to say, “The good news is spreading all over the world with great success” (Colossians 1:6).
It is striking how vividly the Holy Spirit made known his will to the church. God’s people were abundantly clear and certain in their minds what they were supposed to do. He called the church into activity with himself. Here is evidence that God is able to make known convincingly his will to his people. Here is a picture of the church intent on intimacy with God through studying his Word, prayer and fasting. Here is evidence that the church is able to discover God’s will without doubt or dissention. G. Campbell Morgan calls this “a picture of the Spirit and the assembly, working in perfect harmony, and the results are seen in all the missionary triumphs which follow.” (The Acts of the Apostles. Fleming H. Revell Company, 1924, p307)
God still speaks to his church. There is too much at stake for us to be confused or disoriented to God’s will and purpose. The conditions for intimacy with God have not changed. Spiritual disciplines like studying his Word, praying together and fasting sharpen our capacity to discern his voice and understand his will. The early church got it. The church today similarly mobilized by the Holy Spirit will have an explosive impact on the world for Christ and his kingdom.
God who speaks, You make yourself and your ways known to us. You reveal to us what you are doing so that we can be participants in your kingdom movement to spread the good news all over the world. We are intent to grasp the watershed moments that you orchestrate in our lives. Through Jesus, who is the head of the church, Amen.