Acts 13

This is a long chapter!  Of course it would have to be, in order to chronicle the teachings of Paul and Barnabas. Those two were traveling companions who got around Asia Minor in the first centuries. You should really have a map when you are reading these chapters in Acts.

The chapter starts with the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas. We see some of those from earlier, particular Simeon (called “the black man”) who we know is from Africa. However, we see something somewhat interesting when it comes to the commissioning of these two. Particularly in the order in which they were commissioned. Their commissioning happened as they were sent out to do the ministry to which they were called. Rather than being an affirmation of their ministry, as it is often is within the SDA faith tradition, it was something that inspired and innervated their ministry at the very beginning.

As I am sure you know, many other traditions of the Christian faith ordain or commission their clergy at the beginning of their work, rather than as a denominational stamp of approval for ministry already completed. It is true that many seminarians, as they leave, are ordained into Gospel Ministry by their governing bodies. We, as Seventh-day Adventists use this ordaining or commissioning, one for one gender, and one for the other gender (which is a whole other conversation) as a denominational stamp of approval that they are solid workers for God.

I’m torn, to be honest. I love the biblical model of ordaining for ministry as it begins. But I also understand withholding that denominational credential to be sure of the competency and solid nature of the ministers that we ordain/commission. I wonder, if we should fight so hard, ostensibly from scripture, to keep some people out of gospel ordination when we have strayed from what seems the biblical principle of ordination in its inception. I have often wondered about this.

Now, obviously, the laying of hands happened at the beginning of this chapter, so it is clearly not all that this chapter is about. In fact, in this chapter we see a clear gospel presentation, the frustration of those Jews who did not accept the message, and Paul’s continued call to ministry to the gentiles in the region. There is truly a great deal going on. And perhaps, this is why there are a few people mentioned at the top of the story, prophets and preachers, diverse in their nature, in order to the Gospel out to all the world. There were people from other places, other cultures, other ethnicities, and we know of the great gospel work that was carried out by women in the first century as well.
I guess my point to all of this is simply this: When you read the accounts of those in the early church who were doing the work of ministry, ordained or not, we see a diverse group of people who had the organizing principle of the gospel as the hallmark of their fellowship. We see synagogues that were overrun with Gentiles who were interested in hearing the gospel and wouldn’t be excluded, and we see the predominant faith tradition (Jewish) feeling as if they were being threatened a bit by this new teaching that threatened to change what they had become used to.

Honestly, the first century doesn’t seem so different from the times  we currently live. There are those who would like to restrict who can preach the gospel, would withhold permission, and would feel threatened by the multiplicity of personalities and ethnicities and genders that God is willing to use to grow the kingdom of God. Some things never change.

But the heart of the Gospel has never changed, and it remains good news.

Acts 13:32 “And now we are here to bring you this Good News. The promise was made to our ancestors,33 and God has now fulfilled it for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus. This is what the second psalm says about Jesus:‘You are my Son,Today I have become your Father.
I don’t know that we should care too much about who God is calling to preach the good news. We should be worried that we are listening to when he calls us. Then, let us preach, with or without permission from anyone else. For when God calls us to give the Gospel of Jesus Christ in community, it is truly a blessing to those around us. And if we worry about someone not having the right credentials, know that we will know their hearts by the fruit of those who hear.

By Timothy Gillespie

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