Acts 13:2
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
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(2) As they ministered to the Lord.—The verb so translated (leitourgein) is commonly used, both in the LXX. and in the Now Testament, of the ministry of the priests and Levites in the Temple (Luke 1:23; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:21). In Hebrews 1:14, the corresponding adjective is used to distinguish the ministry of worship from that of service to man. When St. Paul uses it figuratively of himself (Romans 15:16), it is in connection with the idea of a sacrifice or oblation. In later ecclesiastical language, it was connected specially with the celebration of the Supper of the Lord, and the order for that service was, strictly speaking, the “Liturgy” of the Church. It would, perhaps, be too much to say that the word necessarily conveys that meaning here; but it is, at least, probable that a solemn meeting, such as is here described, would end in the “breaking of bread,” and that, up to that point, those who were so engaged would naturally be fasting.

The Holy Ghost said.—The mode of communication we may believe to have been, as in Acts 20:23, through the lips of the prophets, speaking as by a sudden burst of simultaneous inspiration. (Comp. 1Timothy 1:18.)

Separate me Barnabas and Saul.—In the Greek a particle follows the imperative, which has no exact equivalent in English (the illative “then” being, perhaps, the nearest), but which seems to indicate that the command given was in answer to a prayer, and that it was to be acted on at once. The verb implies that they were to be set apart for a new work. Up to this time they had been among the prophets and teachers of the Church. Now they were to receive a solemn visible mission, following on the inspired utterances, as those had followed on personal intimations, consecrating them to the work of the Apostleship to the Gentiles.

13:1-3 What an assemblage was here! In these names we see that the Lord raises up instruments for his work, from various places and stations in life; and zeal for his glory induces men to give up flattering connexions and prospects to promote his cause. It is by the Spirit of Christ that his ministers are made both able and willing for his service, and taken from other cares that would hinder in it. Christ's ministers are to be employed in Christ's work, and, under the Spirit's guidance, to act for the glory of God the Father. They are separated to take pains, and not to take state. A blessing upon Barnabas and Saul in their present undertaking was sought for, and that they might be filled with the Holy Ghost in their work. Whatever means are used, or rules observed, the Holy Ghost alone can fit ministers for their important work, and call them to it.As they ministered to the Lord - It is probable that this took place on some day set apart for fasting and prayer. The expression "ministered to the Lord" means as they were engaged in prayer to the Lord, or as they were engaged in divine service. The Syriac thus renders the passage.

The Holy Ghost said - Evidently by direct revelation.

Separate me - Set apart to me, or for my service. It does not mean to ordain, but simply to designate, or appoint to this specific work.

For the work whereunto I have called them - Not the apostolic office, for Saul was called to that by the express revelation of Jesus Christ Galatians 1:12, and Barnabas was not an apostle. The "work" to which they were now set apart was that of preaching the gospel in the regions round about Antioch. It was not any permanent office in the church, but was a temporary designation to a missionary enterprise in extending the gospel, especially through Asia Minor, and the adjacent regions. Accordingly, when, in the fulfillment of this appointment, they had traveled through Seleucia, Cyprus, Paphos, Pamphylia, Pisidia, etc., they returned to Antioch, having fulfilled the work to which they were separated. See Acts 14:26-27. "Whereunto I have called them." This proves that they received their commission to this work directly from God the Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas had been influenced by the Spirit to engage in this work, but they were to be sent forth by the concurrence and designation of the church.

2. As they ministered to the Lord—The word denotes the performance of official duties of any kind, and was used to express the priestly functions under the Old Testament. Here it signifies the corresponding ministrations of the Christian Church.

and fasted—As this was done in other cases on special occasions (Ac 13:3, 14, 23), it is not improbable that they had been led to expect some such prophetic announcement at this time.

the Holy Ghost said—through some of the prophets mentioned in Ac 13:1.

Separate me—So Ro 1:1.

for the work whereunto I have called them—by some communication, perhaps, to themselves: in the case of Saul at least, such a designation was indicated from the first (Ac 22:21). Note.—While the personality of the Holy Ghost is manifest from this language, His supreme divinity will appear equally so by comparing it with Heb 5:4.

Ministered; the word importeth the exercise of any public office, sacred or civil. But in the former verse mentions being made of prophets and teachers, these words are in sense too conjoined with them; and inform us, that they were preaching to and instructing of the people, (for there is no ministry or service which God likes better than to convert and save souls), and, that all might be more effectual, as being done with greater earnestness and intention of mind, whilst they fasted.

The Holy Ghost said; by some inward instinct in those prophets before spoken of, who had warrant to declare it as from him.

Separate me Barnabas and Saul; these two were to be separated: as the first born under the law, Exodus 13:12, and after them, or in their stead, the Levites, Numbers 3:12; so were Paul and Barnabas in especial manner separated for the calling in of the Gentiles, that great ministry or service which God had for them to do. As they ministered to the Lord,.... That is, the five prophets and teachers before mentioned; and whose ministry lay in preaching the Gospel, teaching the people the doctrines of it, and expounding prophecies, and also in prayer; to which latter the Syriac version restrains their ministry, rendering it, "as they prayed to God"; but the phrase seems to be more extensive: "and fasted"; which the Jews were much used to, and the believing ones had not yet left it off; their custom was to fast on Mondays and Thursdays: See Gill on Luke 18:12. Whether it was on one of those days, that these men were ministering and fasting, is not certain; but this we may be sure of, it was not on the Jewish sabbath, for on that day they never fasted; very likely that this was a fast appointed and fixed among themselves, on some particular occasion; it may be on account of the famine, which was at this time, Acts 11:28.

The Holy Ghost said; either with an articulate voice, or by an internal impulse, upon the minds of three of the prophets:

separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them; the work which the Holy Ghost had appointed, and called them to before this, was to go and preach the Gospel among the Gentiles, distinct from the Jews, of which we read in the latter part of this chapter; and now he would have them be separated from their brethren, as Aaron and his sons were from theirs, and be sent forth from hence directly, upon that work: this shows the Spirit to be a person, since speaking and commanding in an authoritative way, and calling to a work, are ascribed unto him; and that he is a divine person, and truly God, and equal with God, since calling to a sacred office is attributed to him; and a separation to it is ordered for himself, for his service, honour, and glory; he does not say separate them to the Lord, or to God, but to me.

As they {b} ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have {c} called them.

(b) While they were busy doing their office, that is, as Chrysostom expounds it, while they were preaching.

(c) The Lord is said to call, from which this word called comes from, which is common in the Church, when he causes that to be which was not, whether you refer it to the matter itself, or to any quality or thing about the matter: and the use of the word call has come about because when things begin to be, then they have some name: and furthermore this also declares God's mighty power, in that he spoke the word, and things were made.

Acts 13:2. Λειτουργούντωντῷ Κυρίῳ] λειτουργεῖν, the usual word for the temple-service of the priests (LXX. Exodus 28:31; Numbers 4:38; Exodus 40:38; Jdt 4:14; Hebrews 10:11; comp. on Romans 15:27), is here transferred to the church (αὐτῶν) engaged in Christian worship,[3] in accordance with the holy character of the church, which had the ἉΓΙΌΤΗς, the ΧΡῖΣΜΑ of the Spirit (1 John 2:20), and indeed was a ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ ἍΓΙΟΝ (1 Peter 2:5). Hence: while they performed, holy service to the Lord (Christ) and (at the same time) fasted. Any more specific meaning is too narrow, such as, that it is to be understood of prayer (Grotius, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Olshausen, and many others,—on account of Acts 13:3, but see on that passage) or of preaching (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, and others in Wolf). Both without doubt are included, not, however, the mass (as Catholics hold); but certainly the spiritual songs (see on Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

εἶπε τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον] the Holy Spirit said (comp. on Acts 20:28), namely, by one or some of these λειτουργοῦντες, probably by one of the prophets, who announced to the church the utterance of the Spirit revealed to him.

δή] with the imperative makes the summons more decided and more urgent; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 104 f. Comp. on Luke 2:15.

μοι] to me, for my service.

ὃ προσκέκλημαι αὐτούς] for which (description of the design) I have called them to me (Acts 16:10), namely, to be my organs, interpreters, instruments in the propagation of the gospel. The utterance of the Spirit consequently refers to an internal call of the Spirit already made to both, and that indeed before the church, “ut hi quoque scirent vocationem illorum eique subscriberent,” Bengel. The preposition is not repeated before (=εἰς ὅ), because it stands already before ΤῸ ἜΡΓΟΝ, according to general Greek usage. See Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. ii. 1. 32; Stallb. ad Phaed. p. 76 D; Winer, p. 393 [E. T. 524 f.].

[3] The reference of αὐτῶν not to the collective ἐκκλησία, but to the prophets and teachers named in ver. 1 (Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, and many others, including Baumgarten, Hoelemann, neue Bibelstud. p. 329; Laurent, neut. Stud. p. 146), is not to be approved on account of ἀφορίσατε and on account of ver. 3. The whole highly important missionary act would, according to this view, be performed only in the circle of five persons, of whom, moreover, two were the missionaries themselves destined by the Spirit, and the church as such would have taken no part at all, not being even represented by its presbyters,—a proceeding which neither agrees with the fellowship of the Spirit in the constitution of the apostolic church, nor corresponds with the analogous concrete cases of the choice of an apostle (chap. 1) and of the deacons (chap. 6). Comp. also Acts 14:27, where the missionaries, on their return, make their report to the church. Moreover, it is evident of itself that the prophets and teachers are included in αὐτῶν.Acts 13:2. λειτουργούντων: “as they ministered to the Lord,” A. and R. V., ministrantibus Domino, Vulgate. It would be difficult to find a more appropriate rendering. On the one hand the word is habitually used in the LXX of the service of the priests and Levites (cf. Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 10:11), although it has a wider meaning as, e.g., when used to describe the service of Samuel to God, 1 Samuel 2:18; 1 Samuel 3:1, or of service to man, 1 Kings 1:4; 1 Kings 1:15, 2 Chronicles 17:19, Sir 10:25. So too in the N.T. it is used in the widest sense of those who aid others in their poverty, Romans 15:27 (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:12), Php 2:25; Php 2:27, and also λειτουργία τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν, Php 2:17, of the whole life of the Christian Society. But here the context, see on Acts 13:3 (cf. Acts 14:23), seems to point to some special public religious service (Hort, Ecclesia, p. 63, but see also Ramsay’s rendering of the words, and Zöckler, in loco). In this early period λειτουργία could of course not be applied to the Eucharist alone, and the Romanist commentator Felten only goes so far as to say that a reference to it cannot be excluded in the passage before us, and in this we may agree with him. At all events it seems somewhat arbitrary to explain Didaché, xv. 1, where we have a parallel phrase, of the service of public worship, whilst in the passage before us the words are explained of serving Christ whether by prayer or by instructing others concerning the way of salvation; so Grimm-Thayer. In each passage the verb should certainly be taken as referring to the ministry of public worship. In the N.T. the whole group of words, λειτουργέω, λειτουργία, λειτουργός, λειτουργικός, is found only in St. Luke, St. Paul, and Hebrews. See further on the classical and Biblical usage Westcott, Hebrews, additional note on Acts 8:2. Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 137, from pre-Christian papyri points out that λειτουργία and λειτουργέω were used by the Egyptians of the sacred service of the priests, and sometimes of a wider religious service.—αὐτῶν: not the whole Ecclesia, but the prophets and teachers: “prophetarum doctorumque qui quasi arctius sunt concilium,” Blass.—νηστευόντων, cf. Acts 10:30, Acts 14:23, Acts 27:9, and in O.T. 1 Samuel 7:5-6, Daniel 9:3, on the union of fasting and prayer. In Didaché, viii. 1, while the fasts of the “hypocrites” are condemned, fasting is enjoined on the fourth day of the week, and on Friday, i.e., the day of the Betrayal and the Crucifixion. But Didaché, vii., 4, lays it down that before baptism the baptiser and the candidate should fast. The conduct therefore of the prophets and teachers at Antioch before the solemn mission of Barnabas and Saul to their work is exactly what might have been expected, cf. Edersheim, Temple and its Services, p. 66.—εἶπε τὸ Π.: we may reasonably infer by one of the prophets; it may have been at a solemn meeting of the whole Ecclesia held expressly with reference to a project for carrying the Gospel to the heathen (Hort, Felten, Hackett). Felten sees in δή an indication of an answer to a special prayer. But it does not follow that the “liturgical” functions should be assigned to the whole Ecclesia.—Ἀφορίσατε, cf. the same word used by St. Paul of himself, Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:15, LXX, Leviticus 20:26, Numbers 8:11. μοι. Such words and acts indicate the personality of the Holy Ghost, cf. δή emphatic, signifying the urgency of the command (cf. use of the word in classical Greek). A. and R.V. omit altogether in translation. In Luke 2:15 both render it “now,” in Matthew 13:23, R.V. “verily,” Acts 15:36, “now,” 1 Corinthians 6:20, A. and R.V. “therefore,” to emphasise a demand as here. With this force the word is thus peculiar to Luke and Paul (in other passages, reading contested). The translation of the word may have been omitted here, since the rendering “now” would have been taken in a temporal sense which δή need not suggest.— for εἰς ὃ, cf. Acts 1:21, Luke 1:25; Luke 12:46. Grimm-Thayer, Winer-Moulton, l., 7 b, so in Greek writers generally.—προσκέκλημαι, cf. Acts 2:39, Acts 16:10. Grimm-Thayer, sub v. b. Winer-Moulton, xxxix. 3.2. As they ministered to the Lord] The word is the one usually employed by the LXX. for the ministerial services in the Temple, as it is also Hebrews 10:11, but the parallelism with the next verse, where the service here mentioned is described as “fasting and prayer,” shews us that we are not to attach the former strict signification to it. Such has been the mind of the Church also, for from this verb comes our word “Liturgy.” The old order is giving place to the new, and the terminology is receiving a new sense.

and fasted] as a solemn act of devotion in the prospect of the work which was before them.

the Holy Ghost said] Speaking to and through the prophets who were there.

Separate me Barnabas and Saul] Saul had from the first been a “vessel of election,” and so specially severed for this work, and we can see why Barnabas, who had been the first to introduce Saul to the Church at Jerusalem, and whose education may have been very like his own, (for there was much inter-communication between Cyprus and Tarsus,) was appointed to be the sharer of Saul’s labours.

for the work whereunto I have called them] As the one portion of this admonition was from the Holy Ghost, 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.Acts 13:2. Λειτουργούντων, as they ministered) by the exercise of the word and prayer, and by fasting: Acts 13:3.—ἀφορίσατε, separate) They did so: the foll. verse. It was on this very word that Paul relied, Romans 1:1, “Separated (ἀφωρισμένος) unto the Gospel of God.” “All things tend to prove this truth, that no one should teach in any place, to which lie is not called by GOD.”—Justus Jonas.—δὴ, therefore) viz. since ye otter yourselves.—καὶ τὸν) The article puts Saul on a level with Barnabas, as contrasted with (as superior to) others, who in Acts 13:1 are joined to him without the article.[68]—ΕἸς ΤῸ ἜΡΓΟΝ, for the work) It was not the custom of the apostles to remain very long in one place: ch. Acts 11:26.—) The accusative depends on the preposition in ΠΡΟΣΚΈΚΛΜΗΑΙ.—ΠΡΟΣΚΈΚΛΗΜΑΙ, whereunto I have called) Therefore some internal call had come to Barnabas, and Saul himself; which now is reiterated by the mouth of others (comp. note on Luke 24:34, “Appearances of Jesus took place on both sides, whereby they mutually confirmed one another”), in order that these latter also might know the call of the former, and might subscribe their assent to (might confirm) it. The correlatives are προσκέκλημαι and ἈΦΟΡΊΣΑΤΕ, I have called, Separate. Often things which appertained to Paul himself, were intimated to him through others. The same verb occurs, Exodus 5:3, ὁ Θεὸς τῶν Ἑβραίων προσκέκληται ἡμᾶς, the God of the Hebrews hath called us.

[68] Unfortunately for Bengel’s remark, the oldest authorities ABCDE have no article before Σαῦλον in this verse.—E. and T.Verse 2. - And as for as, A.V. They ministered; i.e. not, as Meyer explains it, the whole Church, but the prophets and teachers, doubtless at an assembly of the Church. The word λειτουργούντων, here rendered "they ministered" (from which the word "Liturgy" is derived), signifies any solemn ministration or holy service. In the Old Testament the LXX. use it as the rendering of שֵׁרֵת, to minister (often with the addition "to God," or "to the Lord "), which is a general word applying to the ministrations of priests and Levites (Exodus 28:35; Numbers 8:26, etc.). Hence its use in Hebrews 10:11 (see too Luke 1:23; Hebrews 9:21). Joshua too is called Moses'minister (מְשָׁרֵת) in Joshua 1:1, etc., and the angels are called λριτουργικὰ πνεύματα, "ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14). Just as the Church transferred from the Jewish congregation so many other words and things, so also the use of the words λειτουργία λειτουργεῖν, to Sicily "Divine service," without specifying the particular office, whether prayer, or preaching, or Holy Communion, or ordination, or any ether part of the worship of God. Its classical use was to designate any office performed by an individual for the public good. Hence in the New Testament its application to Church alms (2 Corinthians 9:12), to gifts for the support of the ministry (Philippians 2:30), to the office of magistrates (Romans 13:6), etc. The restricted application of the term λειτουργία to the service used in the celebration of the Eucharist was of much later growth, as is evident from Chrysostom explaining the word here of preaching. "What means ministering? Preaching" (Hom. 27.). It seems to have arisen from the fact that the first forms of prayer were those come posed for the office of the Holy Communion. This passage, therefore, does not give the slightest support to fasting Communion. What was the exact occasion of the service and fast here spoken of it is impossible to say. The Holy Ghost said, etc. This is the origin of the question in the Ordination of Deacons, "Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office?" Separate me (ἀφορίσατε). The act of separation, or ordination, would be by the laying on of the hands of Symeon and Lucius and Manaen, as Chrysostom says (at least of the two last named), in the presence of the whole Church, but the separation by the Holy Ghost, at least as regards Saul (ὁ ἀφορίσας με), bad been from his mother's womb (Galatians 1:15). Observe, too, the καλέσας of Galatians 1:15, and the προσκέκλημαι here. This is another instance of the very close resemblance between parts of the Acts and the Epistle to the Galatians, which looks as if St. Paul was writing it about the same time as he was giving to St. Luke the details of his own history (see Acts 8:19, note). The ordination was to the apostolate (Chrysostom). Barnabas and Saul are never called apostles till after their ordination or consecration (Acts 14:14). Ministered (λειτουργούντων)

See on the kindred noun ministration, Luke 1:23. This noun has passed through the following meanings: 1. A civil service, especially in the technical language of Athenian law. 2. A function or office of any kind, as of the bodily organs. 3. Sacerdotal ministration, both among the Jews and the heathen (see Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:21). 4. The eucharistic services. 5. Set forms of divine worship (Lightfoot, "On Philippians," ii., 17). Here, of the performance of Christian worship. Our word liturgy is derived from it.


The Greek adds δή, now, which is not rendered by A. V. or Rev. It gives precision and emphasis to the command, implying that it is for a special purpose, and to be obeyed at the time. Compare Luke 2:15; Acts 15:36; 1 Corinthians 6:20.

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