Acts 13:1-3, a surprisingly underemphasized text, is significant for three reasons. The passage marks a transition in: 1) the careers of Paul and Barnabas; 2) the focus of the early church; and 3) the direction of the book of Acts. Prior to the events depicted in this pericope, early Christians focused predominately on the conversion of Jews, with some notable exceptions (e.g., Philip’s mission to the Samaritans and his interactions with the Ethiopian eunuch; Peter’s ministry to Cornelius’s household). Acts 13, by contrast, introduces the first large-scale effort to declare Christ and his gospel to the Gentile world. Antioch served as the launching point for this remarkable effort, and there are two significant reasons why the Holy Spirit chose this body of Christians as the sending agents for Paul and Barnabas.
First, the church at Antioch embodied the Christian oneness that cuts across ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, and gender barriers (cf. Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). For example, Paul and Barnabas served alongside three other men at Antioch who hailed from strikingly diverse people groups, cultural upbringings, and points of origin. Second, the church at Antioch possessed a clear understanding of the fact that Christians have one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Eph. 4:5).
The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it explores the Holy Spirit’s partnership with the Christians at Antioch in the task of sending out missionaries who would present Jesus as the only Lord to diverse first-century Gentile groups. Second, it examines how early twenty-first century evangelicals can employ the principles of Acts 13:1-3 to realize in a practical and concrete manner the oneness that believers from various racial, spatial, and economic backgrounds should enjoy because they have one Lord and one Spirit.