Separate, that's a pretty harsh word...

“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.” (Acts 13:2)

The word used here for set apart here is aforizo (ἀφορίζω).

That same word is used to describe the angels separate the wicked and the righteous at the end of the age. (Matt 13:49)

…and for the shepherd separating the sheep from the goats. (Matt 25:32)

It’s used to talk about people excluding and ostracizing persecuted people in Luke 6:22.

… and to describe how Paul walked away from people who were obstinate and publicly maligning the Way.

That same word, aforizo is used in 2 Cor 6:17, where we read again the command to “come out from them and be separate.”

…and it’s used in Acts 2:12 to describe how Peter would draw back, separate himself from the Gentiles and avoid hanging out or being seen with them.

Later on, in the early church, it was used to describe the action of excommunicating the someone from the church, and barring them from fellowship.

It can even mean ‘to banish.’

This Greek word has even entered everyday Turkish speech, and to this day people use it to describe a decisive, deliberate exclusion or cutting off ties with someone.

Aforizo is a pretty harsh word.

But that’s the word that the Holy Spirit used to pry Paul and Barnabas away from their normal life and fellowship, and send them off into the nations.

It’s the word that Paul uses when he talks about being “set apart” for the Gospel in Romans 1:1.

And God is still calling people out in the same way today. Most of the time, people don’t just ‘end up’ in the harvest fields in places where no-one knows Christ. They have to deliberately let go, be released of everything, and move! People need to be set apart, cut off, even ripped away from their current family, work, and ministry involvements, so they can live for the work God has for them.

We have to abandon many good and beautiful things to get to His best.

This “setting apart” can be quite difficult. People have to say goodbye to their beloved communities. Young parents have to take their children away from their grandparents for years at a time. Men often have to let go of their businesses or livelihoods. Many need to leave critical, thriving ministries, or walk away from pressing needs in their home church. None of this is easy.

But the reward, God’s glory in the nations, is worth it all!

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