In Acts 13:1-3, we find a list of men who had high standing and reputation either socially or spiritually.
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 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.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
Notice who was in the room. Barnabas, previously called the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). Being first in the list he was probably the person of highest standing in the room, along with two men whom even though we don’t know any details of their lives, seem to be important being mentioned so close to Barnabas. Then, Manaen is mentioned, a man who has high political connection. We can assume that these men were of high standing in the church because they are mentioned without explanation, as if the writer, Luke, expects his audience to know who these men are. Then Saul is mentioned as last in the list.
In the midst of their meeting, the Holy Spirit spoke to these men to set apart Barnabas and Saul for missionary service. God selected the man of highest reputation, Barnabas, and the man of lowest reputation, Saul. Yet, from this moment on, the book of Acts is primarily preoccupied with the ministry of Saul, also known as Paul, the apostle. Paul was the man who not only had the lowest reputation in the room, but was a man who formerly, “Breathed threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). He was someone who had been feared. As one reads the book of Acts it becomes apparent that the man of highest reputation ended up spending part of his ministry serving the man of lowest reputation. And he saw Paul’s ministry expand beyond anything he could have imagined.
How is your reputation? What kind of standing do you have in the church? Do you use your reputation to serve or to be served? Like Barnabas, do you relish in a ministry of encouraging others or like Paul, do you bring others to Christ and leverage your reputation for the sake of the Gospel?
God has built into our lives the experiences, failures and successes, disappointments and joys, that we need to serve him in the world around us. Barnabas served and encouraged while Paul pleaded and preached. Eventually, the text moves away from Barnabas’ ministry and focuses on Paul, who, in his own eyes, was a small man, once saying of himself, “I am the least of the apostles” (I Corinthians 15:9).
How is your reputation? Submit your standing before God, who is the one who calls and empowers us for the tasks before us. For whatever role you play, as an encourager or preacher, God will build into you the reputation you need for the task at hand.