The Work of the Holy Spirit
Saul must have felt at home in Antioch, the work was fruitful, but the whole world waited. Saul itched to finish his slow apprenticeship and start as the master builder.
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).
Pious Jews fasted twice each week, and early Christians may have continued the custom. The Mosaic Law commanded one annual fast on the Day of Atonement. Fasting is nowhere in the Bible commanded for Christians, although it was clear that some Christians voluntarily did so.
Until now, Jerusalem had been the center of ministry, and Peter had been the key apostle. But from this point, Antioch would become the new center, and Paul would become its chief missionary. The Gospel was on the move.
In reality, the call had been given a long time ago. Saul himself had received a clear and definite call to the Gentile work, and now he is engaged along with Barnabas. They were called by God to be pioneers— to plow new ground, reach out to new people, and new places; to reach the unreached with the Gospel of God.
In the lists of prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1), the name of Barnabas heads the list and Saul comes last. Luke names Barnabas before Saul until the two are into their first missionary journey, then Paul takes over and the names are reversed. At the Jerusalem Council, he reverses the order again. The order reflects leadership and influence.
One need not be surprised at the fact that Barnabas is called by the Holy Spirit to the head of the new work. He was the older man and was in charge of the church in Antioch. Certainly, Saul would feel no jealousy toward Barnabas who had done so much for his ministry. Luke is a true historian and preserves the right perspective.
The church began in Jerusalem, and then spread to other cities, including Samaria, Damascus, Caesarea, and Antioch in Syria. From Antioch, Paul and his partners, over the next twenty years, would carry the Gospel to the major cities of the known world. At least forty different cities are named in Acts.