Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gifts that Complete

A reflection by Ezra Connection

Acts 13:1-2 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
Acts 13 1
NOW IN the church (assembly) at Antioch there were prophets (inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God) and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger [Black], Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.


Somehow, I could picture the five men mentioned, and see them earnestly praying in a group in the church in Syrian Antioch—a church a long walk north of today’s Lebanon and Israel.

The paired concept of “prophets and teachers” leaped out at me, and almost on its heels another pair, “Barnabas and Saul.” I looked back to Acts 11:19 to reread what had happened after Stephen was stoned. At that time, believers spread from Cyrene in North Africa (Libya), and from Cyprus, and took the Gospel to Antioch, the third city of the Roman Empire, situated on the routes of trade.

When Barnabas was sent from the church in Jerusalem to check out the group of new believers, he suddenly found a good niche where Paul could minister and grow, and went to seek him out. The vision Barnabas held included others. He exhibits a relationship that is complEmentary (spelled with an E, as in complEte). Even Luke’s comments about “prophets and teachers” seems to imply relationships in team work.

William MacDonald’s “Believer’s Bible Commentary” defines a prophet as a person “specially gifted by the Holy Spirit to receive revelations directly from God and to preach them to others.” In contrast, he states that a teacher was someone “to whom the Holy Spirit had given the ability to expound or explain the Word of God in a simple and understandable manner.”

These opening verses in Acts 13 bring out the importance of differences. Differences we experience every day: male/female, husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee, teacher/student, left brain/right brain, logical/artistic, objective/subjective, organized/scatterbrained…

I see that God fulfills His work because of the diversity He created. No one around me is lesser or more—we complement one another, to enable God’s work to go forward. I wonder if I can follow in the footsteps of Barnabas? Though for 2000 years we have known of Paul’s preaching, and have read his letters, I am so glad that Barnabas saw a need, and acted on his vision of seeing a partner established in the right niche!

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