2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
The ministry team of three now began the first missionary journey of 1200 miles with their return to Antioch.
As they [the Antioch church] ministered to the Lord and fasted,
The five men of verse 1 and the entire church ministered to the Lord and fasted, seeking God’s will for them. The word “ministered” carries the idea of priestly service. Serving the Lord is worship. This church found God’s will in the context of worship.
the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
The Spirit commanded the church to separate two men for missions, the apostles Barnabas and Saul. The “work” was the mission God had in mind for these two men (Acts 14:16). They had a divine “call” to ministry. It is the Holy Spirit who appoints people for ministry (Acts 20:28).
Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they [the congregation] sent them away.
The Antioch church fasted and prayed to determine God’s guidance for world missions. Once they determined the will of God, they commissioned Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for mission service. They formally charged them by the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands acknowledged that the Antioch church committed these men to the Lord. Then the church sent the team to the isle of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea.
Antioch of Syria was the headquarters for the mission to the Gentiles. Paul and his colleagues departed from Antioch for western missions three times. They went to the major cities of the Roman Empire to launch evangelism to the Gentiles. They stayed in Corinth and Ephesus for extended periods, making those cities temporary headquarters for their missions in that area.
Worship is the foundation of all ministry.
The Christian leader is to give himself first to the Lord, then to his followers (2 Co 8:5). The approval of God is first and foremost to any ministry (2 Tim 2:15). A missionary does his work as to the Lord, not men (Co 3:23-24). The Lord will extend the ministry of the man who puts God first. It is these kinds of men that the church should commend for ministry.
The strategy of Paul and Barnabas was to first go to cities, then their synagogues (Ro 1:16), and finally to the Gentiles of that area. They functioned as a team. The missionary method of the first century is still valid and vital for today. All mission work must begin with worship and have clear strategy and tactics to fulfill God’s vision for the church. The local church also must recognize the divine call to missions with its missionaries.