Summary: "Paul begins is ministry and those who have walked in darkness begin to see a great light. God's Kingdom is expanding.
Acts 13:1-3, 14:8-18 “Expanding the Boundaries”
May is soon upon us, the month of graduations and new chapters in the lives of people. Walking across the stage and receiving a diploma or degree is the end of years of effort. It is also the beginning as the graduates get out of their robes and step into a life with a new purpose, a new mission and expanded boundaries.
In today’s text we see the Holy Spirit’s movement to expand the boundaries of the Christian faith. In reading the story of Paul and Barnabas, we catch glimpses of how the Holy Spirit moves in our lives today.
CALLED BY THE CONGREGATION AND THE SPIRIT
The story takes place in Antioch, which was one of the first Gentile cities that that Christian church was planted and took root. It was a diverse congregation with Jews, Gentiles, Mid-Easterners and Africans, rich and poor. It is in the fellowship of believers that the Holy Spirit moved in order to send out the first missionaries to the Gentile world.
Our attention turns naturally to the individuals: Paul and Barnabas. These two men are not the focus of the story, though. The main actors of the story are the Holy Spirit and the congregation. The idea of being missionaries to the Gentiles was not originally Paul or Barnabas’. The idea came from the Holy Spirit through the leadership of the congregation.
We understand that we have been called at the time of our baptism. God announces that we are God’s children, new creations, and people who have been filled with the Holy Spirit. We are people who have been commissioned to let our lights shine before others that they may see our good works and give glory to our father who is in heaven.
Based on our baptism, the congregation calls us to serve. Some people receive the call to serve as members of the council, others VBS or X-Stream Kids teachers, and still others as musicians and tech table “techies”. These people are set apart and commissioned to serve in their various callings. The congregation supports them in prayer and encourages them in their ministries.
All of us have been called at the time of our baptism to be God’s witness; God’s shining lights in a world of darkness. We go about our daily lived not just as individuals, but also as members of the body of Christ—people called by the Spirit and the church to serve.
SENT BY THE CONGREGATION AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
In Antioch the congregation prayed and fasted. The congregation then laid their hands upon Paul and Barnabas, blessed them and sent them out. The Holy Spirit was in, with and under all of these actions—empowering Paul and Barnabas for their mission.
When Paul and Barnabas began their missionary journey they did not do so as merely two men with a little wanderlust. They were extensions of the congregation at Antioch and the Christian Church.
The church continued to pray for Paul and Barnabas and to support them. Paul identified himself as a tent-maker. He supported himself to a great extent, but it is entirely possible that the church supported them financially, also. Whatever the situation, Paul and Barnabas were not alone. The Holy Spirit was with them as were their brothers and sisters in Christ.