The work of evangelizing the world belongs to the Holy Spirit. He it is who moves the pieces so that the mission might be fulfilled. Already in the book of Acts he causes evangelists and listeners to find each other (Acts 8-11).
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.”
Acts 13.2 ESV
While they were worshiping the Lord. There are specific moments when the congregation worships God. This worship occurs during its meetings. Although there is a certain truth to the statement that “all of life is worship to God,” this verse shows that there exist acts of worship in community that must not be dispensed with.
And fasting. We have an example of fasting by the body of Christ, as the Lord said his disciples would do. We ought to follow the example, since it is approved by Jesus. Fasting here was an act in community. The purpose is not mentioned, but it was likely related to what follows, the evangelization of the world. The Bible does not specify specific days for fasting. Each congregation must determine the times according to its need.
The Holy Spirit said. The Spirit, and not the congregation, chose whom he wanted for the work. His communication to the congregation was for identifying the people whom he had chosen. Here we had a supernatural choice, as was Saul’s calling. It is not by chance that his communication came during a meeting for worship of the disciples. It probably came through one of the prophets.
Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul. The congregation was to recognize, in the act of this separation, the decision of the Holy Spirit. The separation implies dedication for the work. The choice made was of “his best men for the pioneer work” (Alexander). Today, when a congregation separates and sends people for such works, it ought to follow this example of choosing the best, that is, those who demonstrate spirituality and selfless dedication. It is clear from what follows that the work to which the Spirit called them and in which the congregation participated is that of proclaiming the gospel to every creature, what we call the Great Commission.
To which I have called them. The calling belongs to the Holy Spirit. Although the calling comes in a different manner today, after the cessation of the miraculous era, he continues to call people to be involved in this work.
Of five prophets and teachers in the Antioch congregation, the Spirit chose two. Not everyone is called to go out for the missionary work, but all participate in that work, as verse 3 makes evident.
The decision for mission does not come from the congregation, nor does it have the option to involve itself in the work or not. The decision is God’s and the order comes from Christ in his last words on earth. So each congregation should follow the example of Antioch. It was a model congregation in its obedience (v. 3).
WORK CITED: David e Pat Alexander, O mundo da Bíblia (Paulinas). English ed.: Lion Handbook to the Bible.