13:1-2 Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen (a close friend of Herod the tetrarch from childhood ) and Saul. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Barnabas and Saul are listed among the prophets and teachers that were in the church at Antioch. As they were worshipping and fasting the Holy Spirit revealed that he had called Barnabas and Saul to do a special work and that they were to set them apart to do this. (Note: that the Holy Spirit made this known when they were in fellowship together and not just to Barnabas and Saul).
13:3 Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.
They did not hastily help them to pack their bags and send them on their way but continued to wait upon the Lord in prayer and fasting for this matter. After this they prayed for Saul and Barnabas , laid hands on them and sent them on their first missionary journey.
There calling came to them in the local church, they were sent out by the local church and received the blessing and prayer backing of the local church.
Opportunity and Opposition
13:4 So Barnabas and Saul, sent out by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
Being led by the Holy Spirit they set sail from the port of Seleucia for Cyprus, Barnabas' home land. They wasted no time, arriving at the port of Salamis they went to the synagogues and preached the gospel message, John Mark helping them.
13:5-7 When they arrived in Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. (Now they also had John as their assistant.) When they had crossed over the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. The proconsul summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God.
They traveled overland until they reached the capital Paphos which was known for the worship of Venus, the goddess of love , and all the immorality connected to it. Here they encountered opposition in the form of a sorcerer/wizard known as Bar-Jesus or Elymas - an Arabic word meaning the skilful one. The Roman governor of the island was Sergius Paulus and although an intelligent man he was bound by superstition and employed Elymas as his personal soothsaying/fortune teller. Hearing of Saul and Barnabas' arrival he desired to hear the word of God and gave them an opportunity to bear witness to him of Christ.
13:8 But the magician Elymas (for that is the way his name is translated) opposed them, trying to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
However Elymas I fear of losing a follower , his job and all the benefits attached to it opposed all that Saul and Barnabas were saying. He could see that Sergius Paulas was responding to the Gospel message.
13:9-10 But Saul (also known as Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at him and said, "You who are full of all deceit and all wrongdoing, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness -- will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
Up to this time Paul is called Saul, from this moment on he is only referred to as Paul (Saul, his Hebrew name, Paul, his Greek name). Being filled with the Holy Spirit he fixed his eyes intently upon Elymas and exposed him for what he was, a deceiver, a fake, an enemy of righteousness, in fact a son of the devil always seeking to pervert and plot against the saving purposes of the Lord.
13:11 Now look, the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind, unable to see the sun for a time!" Immediately mistiness and darkness came over him, and he went around seeking people to lead him by the hand.
Because of his wicked opposition to the word of God and his seeking to turn others away, the hand of the Lord moved against him in judgment. The man who was in spiritual darkness was struck physically blind immediately. He who had led others into darkness and bondage now had to be led by others.
13:12 Then when the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, because he was greatly astounded at the teaching about the Lord.
The moving of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God upon his heart and conscience and the demonstration of the Divine power which he saw confirming it brought Sergius Paulas to the point of excepting Jesus Christ as his Saviour.
13:13 Then Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.
In this verse there are two significant things that happen which had a bearing on the future activities of Paul. The first one is that Paul becomes the leader of the missionary expedition. Up to now it had always been Barnabas and Paul, in that order, now it becomes Paul and his friends. Barnabas was a man prepared to take second place and did so without complaint just as John the Baptist did regarding the Lord (John 3: 30 see Rom. 12: 10). The second thing is the turning back of John Mark. John Mark was a young man whose mother's house seemed to be the centre of the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 12: 12). Paul and Barnabas had taken him along as an helper, for he was a relative of Barnabas. No reason is given why he deserted them perhaps the thought of the dangerous journey ahead of them might have put him off. Perhaps he was one of those people who start off well but when the going gets tough do not go on to finish the task they had put the hand to (Luke 9: 62). Later on (Acts 15: 38) we find that Paul refused to take him on another missionary journey for he could not trust him. John Mark disappears from sight and there is no mention of him until 20 years later where he appears as a man who has redeemed himself (2 Tim. 4: 11).
13:14 Moving on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
Unless we are familiar with the country that Paul and his companions now undertook, on foot , we would not know how perilous the journey was from Perga to Pisidian Antioch. It would have been the constraining love of Christ within them for reaching the lost that would have enabled them to keep going (2 Cor. 5: 14). They would have to cross the Taurus range of mountains by one of the hardest and most dangerous roads in Asia Minor, it was notorious for robbers. It is to be noted that Paul did not preach the Gospel in Pamphylia at this time but immediately left the coast and faced this hazardous journey. In his letter that he later wrote to the Galatians ( which covered churches in Antioch Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe) he says "You know that it was because I was sick in body that I first brought the good news to you" (Gal. 4: 13). The low coastal strip of Pamphylia was malaria infested and is thought that Paul had fallen a victim to a deadly recurring malaria fever and needed to leave this area as quick as possible. We know that Paul had a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12: 7 - 8) — was it the recurring malaria fever ? According to his pattern on the Sabbath Paul goes to the synagogue where he is invited to speak to the people.
13:15 After the reading from the law and the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, "Brothers, if you have any message of exhortation for the people, speak it."
13:16 So Paul stood up, gestured with his hand and said, "Men of Israel, and you Gentiles who fear God, listen:
Present in the congregation were not only Jews but Gentiles converted to Judaism. BY the action of his hand he makes it known that what he has to say embraces everyone present. This is the only full length sermon by Paul that we have and there are five main points to.
(i) The coming of Jesus is the conclusion of history.
13:17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay as foreigners in the country of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.
He outlines the history of the Jews from the call of Abraham (chose our fathers) to their deliverance from Egypt.
13:18-19 For a period of about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave his people their land as an inheritance.
Their journeying through the wilderness to their entering into and possessing the promised land.
13:20-22 All this took about four hundred fifty years. After this he gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing him, God raised up David their king. He testified about him: 'I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my heart, who will accomplish everything I want him to do.'
From the time of the judges to the choosing and anointing of David as king of whom God bore testimony that he was "a man after My own heart, who will do my will" (1 Sam. 13: 14).
13:23 From the descendants of this man God brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, just as he promised.
From David's descendants God brought forth in the fullness of time according to His promise a Saviour, Jesus Christ.
(ii) Rejection and death of Christ.
13:24-25 Before Jesus arrived, John had proclaimed a baptism for repentance to all the people of Israel. But while John was completing his mission, he said repeatedly, 'What do you think I am? I am not he. But look, one is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the sandals on his feet!'
John the Baptist came preparing the way preaching repentance and bore testimony that Jesus is "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1: 29).
13:26 Brothers, descendants of Abraham's family, and those Gentiles among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us.
Paul makes it known that this word of salvation obtained through Jesus Christ is not for the Jews only but for all who fear God.
13:27 For the people who live in Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize him, and they fulfilled the sayings of the prophets that are read every Sabbath by condemning him.
He was rejected and condemned by those in Jerusalem and the rulers of the people because they did not recognize Him although every Sabbath the Scriptures that made Him known were read.
13:28 Though they found no basis for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.
In spite of the fact that they could find no cause deserving death they asked Pilate to crucify Him.
13:29 When they had accomplished everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb.
Having done all things that were written concerning Him culminating in His death on the Cross "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3) they buried Him.
(iii) The Resurrection.
13:30 But God raised him from the dead,
Although men rejected and crucified the Lord Jesus Christ the purposes of God were fulfilled and the proof of this is the Resurrection (Rom. 14: 9; Rom. 4: 24).
13:31 and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are now his witnesses to the people.
There were many witnesses who saw the risen Christ as He made Himself known for many days before His Ascension.
(iv) The Resurrection is the fulfillment of prophecy.
13:32-35 And we proclaim to you the good news about the promise to our ancestors, that this promise God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second psalm, 'You are my Son; today I have fathered you.' But regarding the fact that he has raised Jesus from the dead, never again to be in a state of decay, God has spoken in this way: 'I will give you the holy and trustworthy promises made to David.' Therefore he also says in another psalm, 'You will not permit your Holy One to experience decay.'
Paul quotes from the Psalms and Isaiah to show that the Resurrection was foretold, in the first instance by David and then by Isaiah.
13:36-37 For David, after he had served God's purpose in his own generation, died, was buried with his ancestors, and experienced decay, but the one whom God raised up did not experience decay.
He goes on to show that the words spoken by David could not refer to him because he died, was buried and his body decayed. Although Christ died and was buried His body did not decay in anyway.
(v) The Message of Salvation.
13:38 Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,
It is clearly made known that so all may understand that through Christ the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed.
13:39 and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you.
That everyone who believes and receives Him as Saviour is justified, acquitted from every charge from which he could not be justified and made free by the Law.
13:40-41 Watch out, then, that what is spoken about by the prophets does not happen to you: 'Look, you scoffers; be amazed and perish! For I am doing a work in your days, a work you would never believe, even if someone tells you.'
To reject this Salvation, to scoff at it, is to bring damnation upon oneself (1 Cor. 1: 18).
13:42-43 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people were urging them to speak about these things on the next Sabbath. When the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and were persuading them to continue in the grace of God.
Note that it was after the Jews had left that the Gentiles responding to the Gospel Message implored Paul and Barnabas to tell them more. There were however many of the Jews who also followed them out of the synagogue whom they continued to witness to and they were encouraged to continue to trust themselves to and stand fast in the grace of God.
13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city assembled together to hear the word of the Lord.
Rejection and Acceptance
13:44-45 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city assembled together to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and they began to contradict what Paul was saying by reviling him.
Having received a response to the gospel message from the Gentiles and some of the Jews in the synagogue in Antioch Pisidia Paul return the following Sabbath to find that whole city had come to hear them. This infuriated the Jews who were envious at the response of the people, particularly the Gentiles. So they continually heckled Paul and Barnabus, contradicting and opposing everything they said to the point of blasphemy.
13:46 Both Paul and Barnabas replied courageously, "It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles.
This did not deter either of them but did the opposite they became bolder and spoke directly to these opposing Jews. They had been given the first opportunity to hear the gospel message but had rejected it, even as they rejected Christ. By their rejection they had passed judgment on themselves that they were not worthy of eternal life and by their blasphemous words they will be judged by God. This is so by all who follow in their footsteps.
13:47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: 'I have appointed you to be a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' "
To show that it was according to God's will and purpose for him to preach the message to the Gentiles he quotes from Isaiah 49: 6.
13:48-49 When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed. So the word of the Lord was spreading through the entire region.
On hearing this the Gentiles praised and gave thanks to God for His Word and many believed and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Saviour thus receiving eternal life according to Christ's words (John 3: 15). As a result the Gospel message spread right throughout the area.
13:50-52 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high social standing and the prominent men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their region. So after they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, they went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Because of this the Jews incited men and women of high standing and influence in the city to persecuted and drive Paul and Barnabus away. But the apostles did as Jesus instructed His disciples (Math. 10: 14) and went on to Iconium filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5: 41).
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