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Barnabas and Saul Commissioned


Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. 2While 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.” 3Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

The Apostles Preach in Cyprus

4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. 6When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. 7He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. 12When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia

13 Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; 14but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.” 16So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak:

“You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. 17The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance 20for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. 21Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ 23Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; 24before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’

26 “My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. 27Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. 28Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30But God raised him from the dead; 31and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. 32And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors 33he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,

‘You are my Son;

today I have begotten you.’

34 As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,

‘I will give you the holy promises made to David.’

35 Therefore he has also said in another psalm,

‘You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.’

36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; 37but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. 38Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; 39by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you:


‘Look, you scoffers!

Be amazed and perish,

for in your days I am doing a work,

a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.’ ”

42 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people urged them to speak about these things again the next sabbath. 43When the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. 46Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. 47For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles,

so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. 49Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. 50But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. 51So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. 52And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Here followeth an history, not only worthy to be remembered, but also very profitable to be known, how Paul was appointed the teacher of the Gentiles; for his calling was, as it were, a key whereby God opened to us the kingdom of heaven. We know that the covenant of eternal life was properly concluded with the Jews, so that we had nothing to do with God’s inheritance, forasmuch as we were strangers, (Ephesians 2:12;) and the wall of separation was between, which did distinguish those of the household from strangers. Therefore it had profited us nothing, that Christ brought salvation unto the world, unless, the disagreement being taken away, there had been some entrance made for us into the Church. The apostles had already received commandment touching the preaching of the gospel throughout the whole world, (Mark 16:16,) but they had kept themselves until this time within the borders of Judea. When Peter was sent to Cornelius, it was a thing so new and strange, that it was almost counted a monster, [prodigy.] Secondly, that might seem to be a privilege granted to a few men extraordinarily; but now, forasmuch as God doth plainly and openly appoint Paul and Barnabas to be apostles of the Gentiles, by this means he maketh them equal with the Jews; that the gospel may begin to be common as well to the one as to the other. And now the wall of separation is taken away, that both those who were far off and those which were nigh hand may be reconciled to God; and that being gathered under one head, they may grow together to be one body. Therefore Paul’s calling ought to be of no less weight amongst us, than if God should cry from heaven in the hearing of all men, that the salvation, promised in times past to Abraham, and to the seed of Abraham, (Genesis 22:17) doth no less appertain unto us at this day, than if we had come out of the loins of Abraham. For this cause is it that Paul laboreth so much 772772     “Multis locis,” in many passages, omitted. in defense and avouching of his calling, (Galatians 1:17, 12-24;) that the Gentiles may assuredly persuade themselves that the doctrine of the gospel was not brought to them by chance, neither by man’s rashness, but, first, by the wonderful counsel of God; secondly, by express commandment, whilst that he made that known to men which he had decreed with himself.

1 There were in the church. I have declared in the fourth to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 4:11) and in the twelfth of the First to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 12:28,) what difference there is (at least in my judgment) between doctors and prophets. It may be that they are in this place synonyma, [synonymous,] (or that they signify both one thing,) so that this is Luke’s meaning, that there were many men in that church endowed with singular grace of the Spirit to teach. Surely I cannot see how it can hang together, to understand by prophets those which were endowed with the gift of foretelling things; but I think rather that it signifieth excellent interpreters of Scripture. And such had the office to teach and exhort, as Paul doth testify in the fourteenth of the First to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 45:37.) We must mark Luke’s drift: Paul and Barnabas were ministers of the church of Antioch; God calleth them thence now unto another place. Lest any man should think that that church was destitute of good and fit ministers, so that God did provide for other churches with the loss of it, Luke preventeth this, and saith, that there was such store there, that though it did help others, yet did there remain sufficient for the use thereof; whereby appeareth how plentifully God had poured out his grace upon the Church, whence rivers, as it were, might be deducted and carried into diverse places.

So even in our time God doth so enrich certain churches more than others, that they be seminaries to spread abroad the doctrine of the gospel. It must needs be that Manaen, who was brought up with Herod, came of some noble family. And this doth Luke recite of purpose that he may set forth to us his godliness who, despising worldly pomp, had coupled himself to the simple and despised flock of Christ. He might, indeed, have been a principal courtier if he had been ruled by ambition; but that he may wholly addict himself to Christ, he refuseth not to change those smokes of honor with [for] reproach and ignominy. For if we consider in what state the Church stood then, he could not give his name to the gospel, unless he should make himself subject 773773     “Quin se... subjiceret,” without subjecting himself. to common infamy. Therefore the Lord meant to teach us, by his example, to despise the world, that those may learn with a valiant and lofty mind to despise the world, who cannot otherwise be true Christians, unless they cast away those things which are precious to the flesh, as hurtful lets and hindrances.

2 And they ministered to the Lord. The word which Luke useth doth not only signify to be occupied about holy things, but also sometimes to bear public offices. And because the holy rites of the Gentiles did for the most part consist upon [of] burnt-offerings and sacrifices, it is oftentimes taken for to offer sacrifice; which sense did well like the Papists, that they might prove that the apostles did use some sacrifice. But admit it were so; yet do they foolishly pretend for defense of their mass, that the teachers of Antioch did sacrifice. First, forasmuch as the word is of the plural number, it followeth that every one of them did say mass. But letting toys pass, I say we must consider what manner of sacrifice Christ commended to his Church. The Papists feign that the office of priesthood is enjoined them, to sacrifice Christ and by sacrificing him to redeem peace with God. There is so little mention made hereof in Scripture, that the Son of God doth rather challenge this honor to himself alone. Wherefore Christ’s Church hath another priesthood, to wit that every man may offer himself and his to God; and that the public ministers may sacrifice to God, souls, with the spiritual sword of the gospel, as Paul teacheth, (Romans 15:16.) Moreover, the prayers of all the godly are the spiritual calves of the lips, (Hosea 14:2,) wherewith God is well pleased, when they are offered up upon the holy altar; that is, in Christ’s name, [as] in the thirteenth to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 13:15.) Therefore, when Luke saith that the prophets and teachers ministered to God when the Spirit spake to them, I understand nothing else but that they were in the public action. He addeth fasting, that we may know that their minds were then free from all impediments, that nothing might hinder them from giving attendance to prophesying. But the question is, 774774     “Dubium est,” it is doubtful. whether they kept a common fast, or Luke doth only signify that they were fasting then until that time. This is, without question, that these circumstances were expressed, that Paul’s calling may carry the more credit amongst us.

Separate to me. God commandeth that Paul and Barnabas be sent by the consent of the Church, thither whither he had appointed them to be sent; whereby we gather that there is no lawful election of pastors, save only wherein God is chief. For whereas he hath commanded that the Church should elect pastors and bishops, he hath not therefore granted men so much liberty, but that he will bear the chief sway as the chief governor. The ordinary election of pastors differeth from this appointing of Paul and Barnabas, because it was requisite that they should be appointed by the heavenly oracle to be the apostles of the Gentiles; which is not necessary to be done daily in ordaining pastors. But they agree in this, that as God did testify that Paul and Barnabas were already appointed by his decree to preach the gospel, so none may be called unto the office of teaching save only those whom God hath already chosen to himself after a sort.

Furthermore, there is no need that the Spirit should cry to us out of heaven, that he is called of God about whom we are, 775775     “Divinitus vocatum esse eum de quo agitur,” that he of whom we treat (whose election is in question) is divinely called. because we receive those, as it were, from hand to hand, (as they say,) whom God hath furnished with necessary gifts, forasmuch as they are framed and made fit by his hand. But whereas Luke saith in this place, that Paul was appointed by the voices and consents 776776     “Suffragiis,” by the suffrages. of the Church; it doth seem not to agree with Paul’s own words, where he doth deny that he was called of men, or by men, (Galatians 1:1.) I answer, that he was made an apostle long before, (and that by no voices [suffrages] of men,) before such time as he was sent unto the Gentiles; and he had now already executed the office of an apostle many years, when he was called to go unto the Gentiles by a new oracle. Wherefore, that he may have God for the author of his apostleship, it is not without cause that he excludeth men. And he doth not now command that he be ordained by the Church therefore, [viz.] that his calling may depend upon men; but God publisheth that his decree, which was as yet known to a few, and that with a public commandment, and he commandeth that it be sealed with the solemn subscription of the Church. Therefore, this is the meaning of the words, That this is the time wherein Paul must preach the gospel among the Gentiles, and the wall being pulled down, he must gather a Church of the Gentiles, who were before strangers from the kingdom of God, (Ephesians 2:14.) For although God had used him hitherto at Antioch and elsewhere, this was now added as a peculiar thing, that God did intend to adopt the Gentiles into the same inheritance of life with the Jews. But and if he were thus created a teacher of the Church from the beginning, he should not then have been called at that time by men. For, seeing the Lord doth pronounce that he had called him, what doth he leave for the Church, save only that they subscribe obediently? For men’s judgment is not here put as in a doubtful matter, neither have their voices and consents any freedom. But we must mark what I have already said, that Paul and Barnabas are not now only appointed teachers, but they have an extraordinary office enjoined them, that they may begin to bring the grace of God commonly unto the Gentiles. And that do the words import, when it is said, Separate to the work For undoubtedly he speaketh of a new work, and which had heretofore not been used.

But how is Barnabas in this place appointed to be Paul’s companion and fellow in office, who, as far as we can read, did never execute the office of teaching? yea, who did always give Paul leave to teach, without saying anything himself? I answer, that he had occasions enough offered him to speak in Paul’s absence, so that they had both of them enough to do. For one could not always be present in all places. It is not to be doubted but that he did faithfully discharge that duty which God had enjoined him, and that he was no dumb looker on. And why should we wonder that Luke doth not set down his sermons in plain words, seeing that he scarce repeateth one of a thousand of Paul’s?

The Spirit said. Whatsoever Macedonius and his sect object that they may turn their backs, 777777     “Tergiversandi causa,” for the sake of tergiversation. yet we have a more plain and sound testimony of the divine essence of the Spirit in this place, than that they can escape it and make it frustrate. There is nothing more proper to God than with his power and commandment to govern the Church alone; but the Spirit challengeth this right when he commandeth that Paul and Barnabas be separated to him, and testifieth that they were called by his beck. Assuredly we must needs confess that the body of the Church is lame and without a head, unless we confess that it is God who ordereth the same at his pleasure, who setteth teachers over it, who governeth the proceedings and order thereof. We shall have afterwards chapter 20, in Paul’s sermon, (Acts 20:28,) that all bishops are placed by the Holy Ghost, which govern the Church; but no man is to be counted a lawful pastor of the Church, as the same Paul witnesseth, save he which is called of God; neither doth God point out false prophets by any other mark, save only by this, that he hath not sent them; therefore, we gather that the Holy Ghost is God indeed, whose authority is sufficient to choose pastors, and who hath the chief rule in choosing them, which is likewise confirmed out of the words of Isaiah,

“And now, behold, the Lord hath sent me, and his Spirit,”
(Isaiah 48:16.)

Furthermore, we must note out of these words, that he is a person truly subsisting in God; for if we admit Sabellius’s invention, that the word Spirit importeth no person, 778778     “Hypostasin non designet,” does not designate a hypostasis. but that it is a bare adjunct, [epithet] that shall be a foolish and absurd speech, that the Holy Ghost hath said, 779779     “Inepta et absurda erit loqutio, quod Spiritus Sanctus dixerit,” the expression, “that the Holy Spirit said,” will be absurd and inept. Isaias also should foolishly ascribe to him the sending of a prophet.

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