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” …
The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus …
Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said …
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (verses 2, 4, 9, 52)
We’ve just moved into a new home, and one of my sons wanted some help transforming dull walls with freshly hung pictures. Along with a number of his own paintings (he’s an artist), there were several retired football jerseys to hang (he’s an athlete). Hanging the jerseys was a little less precise (and a little more creative!), requiring an upholstery tack to be firmly planted in each jersey-shoulder, pinning it right through fabric into the firmness of the wall. Tack placement was crucial. If done right, the jersey would hang naturally, displaying team name and number clearly. Beauty.
I’m struck in this chapter by sightings of the Spirit that punctuate the unfolding narrative. Luke, telling the story, presses the tacks in firmly at beginning and end (plus a couple of points in between), riveting the story securely in the ongoing purposes of God and clearly displaying the continuing work of the Spirit in the lives of Jesus’ followers.
The first is driven firmly into the very centre of church life in Antioch. A meeting of the 5-member leadership team, gathered for worship, is immediately enlivened by the Spirit’s clear communication, directing them to a decision they might never have chosen on their own, namely the sending out of two of their key leaders. And so Saul and Barnabas are soundly launched into new kingdom ministry. The Spirit has spoken.
Hitting the road, Luke presses in again the fact they have been “sent on their way by the Holy Spirit” (verse 4). Later, as they encounter hostility toward the Gospel from a sorcerer named Elymas, we’re not surprised that the Spirit’s active presence pierces the narrative again, Paul experiencing a fresh infilling of his power to confront the situation.
Finally, after preaching the good news of Jesus passionately and clearly to those in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch (a sermon which Luke faithfully records so we ourselves can hear), hostility arises once again and Saul and Barnabas are expelled from the region. It’s a turn of events that would seem to be hugely discouraging, yet Luke again nails it by telling us that the newly established disciples who remained “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (verse 52).
Such riveting sightings of the Spirit drive home his ever-present activity. I am struck by the need to view my own story in a similar way, for it is the same Spirit who is present with me, as with you, as with all followers of Jesus.
Today, I choose to watch carefully for those sightings, looking for his active presence and pressing that truth home into mind and heart. May my story be punctuated, clearly, this day.
Dear Holy Spirit, thank you for your ongoing presence in my life. Thank you in advance that you will be active this day. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear. Help me to press home the sightings into my own awareness and memory, for your greater purposes and glory.
Praise your name.
Watch: Keep your eyes alert this day for the Spirit’s activity in you and through you and around you. Jot down each clear sighting in your journal. Press the points home.