Acts 13:1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch), and Saul. 2While 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.” 3And after they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

How does the Holy Spirit speak in Acts 13:2? Is it a new phenomenon? Never happened in the OT? Is it an audible voice? Why doesn’t Dr Luke elaborate? He seems to assume that it is an obvious phenomenon.

3 Answers 3


The best answer to this is exactly the same way that the OT prophets were also spoken to, or carried along by, or influenced by the Holy Spirit -

  • 2 Peter 1:19-21 - And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture [m]becomes a matter of [n]someone’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
  • 2 Tim 3:16, 17 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God a may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  • 2 Sam 23:2, 3 - The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me:
  • Neh 9:30 - You were patient with them for many years, and Your Spirit admonished them through Your prophets. Yet they would not listen, so You gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples.
  • Eze 2:2 - And as He spoke to me, the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me.
  • Eze 11:2-5 - And the LORD said to me, “Son of man, these are the men who plot evil and give wicked counsel in this city. They are saying, ‘Is not the time near to build houses? The city is the cooking pot,a and we are the meat.’ Therefore prophesy against them; prophesy, O son of man!” And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me and told me to declare that this is what the LORD says

... and so forth. There are many cases of God and the Spirit speaking to prophets who then relay the message to the people.

  • When I went to the interlinear translation for 2 Peter 1:21 and at the same time checked out Strong's regarding "phero", I got the sense of men being 'borne along' by a regular noun in the genitive/NEUTER/singular. How therefore can you agree with the translators 'egregious' personification of the holy (A-GNS) spirit (N-GNS). I find it astounding that one such as you can be so easily swayed by the translators simple capitalizing of the (H)oly (S)pirit. Then in 2 Tim 3:16,17 - 'God-breathed' is exactly right. His 'spirit' emanated from His mouth in influencing all scripture. Same story in OT. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 3:56
  • @OldeEnglish - I think we have been here before, and often. This is not the place for debate. The doctrine of the Trinity depends on far more than this verse.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 4:27
  • You are right. This is not the place for debate and you and I have been through the matter of 'doctrine' before, for sure. I just feel like I have to bring the issue to the 'fore' with you every now and then, otherwise you might think I've finally come over to the land of....Well, I'll just leave it at that. Until the next time, but now it's bed time. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 4:53

How does the Holy Spirit speak in Acts 13:2?

The question implies personification in the speaking thereof. The personification of the Holy Spirit (capitalizations not mine), while widely accepted in the Christian hierarchy (and then down through) is, however, not the implication here, nor is it the implication in most other instances for that matter if the truth was known. So let's look at Acts 13:2, here in question, a little closer.

...As they were publicly ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: "Of all persons set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them." [NWT]

The subject of the sentence is...the spirit the holy...to pneuma to hagion...case/gender/number in utilization, nominative/NEUTER/singular, so why capitalize the noun (spirit), or the adjective (holy), particularly as they too are rightly declined in the nominative/NEUTER/singular.

It's not that the holy spirit 'spoke' with an articulate 'personalized' voice, as how could that be 'NEUTER', it is more likely that the spirit/breath of God (all 4 mentioned in this verse were ministering directly to Jehovah/Yahweh after all) was an internal impulse, infused by God. For comparison see Acts 13:9, which talks about Saul/Paul becoming 'filled' with holy spirit.

Dr. Luke doesn't elaborate because it 'is' an obvious phenomenon, just 'like' in the OT.


The Holy Spirit is the spirit of the Father. So said the disciples/Apostles who should know what they write about.

for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." Luke 12:12

for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:20

These man were taught by Jesus all that they understood. Jesus promised that they would be guided by the spirit on his departure. Here they are worshipping and praying - we know that this is a matter of the spirit in them guiding, and granting them awareness of what they should be focussing on.

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But you, remain in the city until that you should be clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49

What is that 'power'? They don't have super-human strength or strange magical abilities - they have the presence of God within them (just as Jesus did), which opposes the natural human spirit of self and enables the works of God which are not part of the natural man.

They hear the word of God in their spirit as God joins His spirit with them - knowing the things of God, the truth of His word, the correct way to deal with matters at hand, the words to use at each opportunity.

The spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God Rom 8:16

the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

The spirit is the Father - sometimes there is record of an audible message, mostly there is not, but we understand by drawing near to God (as they were doing) what our path and words should be - as they did.

The whole reason for fasting and prayer is to seek God's will in an important matter. They subsequently, and apparently, collectively, understood how God wanted them to proceed by the word He placed in their minds.

  • You throw me a little with your capitalizations of God's spirit and none of us know which Bible you are quoting from. Nevertheless, you could have said capitalizations not mine. And why do you say..." The spirit 'is' the Father" - when the scope of your answer suggests that the (holy) spirit 'emanates' from the Father? Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 3:05
  • The preferred standard (which I have been careless with) is Holy Spirit for when the Father or God is referenced or speaks, and spirit for when it is referenced as a gift or other provision. "Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour..." - is God, or the Father as the Matthew points out. The Spirit is not another 'person' (per trinity) but simply another expression of God Himself - One God who expresses in spirit and word.
    – Steve
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 3:18
  • One shouldn't be capitalizing (H)oly (S)pirit regardless!!! You walk right into the 'Trinitarians' camp unopposed when you do this. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 4:06
  • If it is another term for God actual, then I disagree. LOL, they see me coming! Drawbridge UP! Really, caps are just a smokescreen - if people wanna use that as their filter, no amounts of truth will change it. Like "Word", oh it MUST be a person then.
    – Steve
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 4:12
  • Caps change a 'regular' noun into a 'Proper' Noun. Word, (the) Word, wasn't capitalized for no good reason, but I'm not going to get into yet another debate with you on that one. I was just trying to help you out. I thought you had just been a little careless. Over and out (it's 10:30 at night here and time for bed). Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 4:32

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