We invite the reader to follow along in their Bibles as we go through the text if the 13th chapter of Acts. It will be a longer study than most. Please be willing to let the Holy Spirit guide you.
THE ANTIOCH CHURCH SENDS FORTH BARNABAS AND SAUL: ACTS 13:1-3
This was Antioch of Syria. The text tells us that there was a church of the Lord located there. It also informs us that there were prophets and teachers present. The record then gives a listing of some of the prominent individuals in the church at Antioch. The first one mentioned is Barnabas. The next is Simeon who was called Niger. Next, we have Lucius of Cyrene. Still further is mentioned Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch. And last of all, Luke mentions Saul of Tarsus. He is the major character in the remainder of the Book of Acts as the church fulfills the command of the Lord Jesus to go into all the world. The thrust to the Gentile world is beginning with Antioch of Syria as the jumping off point.
In verse 2 we’re told that those assembled in Antioch were ministering to the Lord and fasting. It was at that time that the Holy Spirit spoke to them saying, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the works I have called them.”
In verse 3 we have the ordination of the two men for service to God. It says they fasted, prayed and laid hand on them and then sent them on their way to do the work the Holy Spirit had directed. Thus, begins the First Missionary Journey.
THEY REACH SALAMIS: ACTS 13:5
The text makes it clear that they were sent out by the Holy Spirit. We’re told that they went down to Seleucia. Garreth Reese writes the following,
“Seleucia was founded in 300 B.C. by Seleucis I Nicator to provide a seaport for Syrian Antioch. This city was located near the mouth of river Orantes where it falls into the Mediterranean. The distance from Antioch to Seleucia by water was 41 miles; while overland it was 16 miles.”
They sailed form here to Cyprus the native home of Barnabas where a work had already been established. This would prove to be a fertile place to spread the Gospel.
THE MINISTRY AT PAPHOS (ACTS 13:6-12)
They went through the island to the city of Paphos. They had evangelized all the way there. Here they came in contact with a magician whose name was Bar-Jesus. Verse 6 makes it clear that he was a Jewish false prophet. According to verse 7 he was on the staff of the Proconsul, Sergius Paulus. He was a very intelligent person. He called Barnabas and Saul to him so he might hear the Word of God. In verse 13 we’re told that the magician’s name is translated Elymas. He is found trying to oppose the two evangelists and is found trying to turn the proconsul from the faith.
Acts 13:9 is the last time Paul is referred to as Saul. The record says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He fixed his gaze on the magician and said, “You are full of deceit and fraud. You son of the devil, you enemy of righteousness. Will you not cease to make crooked the straight way of the Lord? And now behold the hand of the Lord is upon you and you will be blind and not see the sun for a while.” Luke wrote that this happened immediately. He could not see and could not get around without assistance. J. W. McGarvey wrote the following,
“And he groped about, calling on one then another of the frightened bystanders to lead him by the hand, the falsity and iniquity of his pretensions stood practically confessed; and the divine mission of the apostles was demonstrated.
Verse 12 informs us that the proconsul believed. He was amazed at the teaching of the Lord. The Lord’s body upon the earth had gained a new member that day because of the preaching of the Word.
THEY GO TO PERGA: ACTS 13:13
Luke tells us that Paul and his company put out to sea from Paphos and come to Perga in Pamphylia. This is in present day Turkey. It was here that John mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. Why did he leave’ We’re not told the reason?
THE WORK IN ANTIOCH OF PISIDIA (ACTS 13:14-52)
This section will take us through the remainder of the chapter. Leaving Perga they arrived at Pisidian Antioch. Verse 14 finds them in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. This was in keeping with Romans 1:16, “To the Jew first…” They sat down in the synagogue. The synagogue official offered them the chance to exhort the people. Paul was the speaker. He stood up and said, “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.” In verse 17 we’re told that he begins his lesson dealing with the history of Israel and her dealings with God.
Paul tells them how the One True God chose our father, i.e., Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The He made them a great people. God then led them out of Egypt. In verse 28 is the 40 years wilderness wanderings of the Israelites. Paul tells them how God put up with the wanderings of the children of Israel. Paul further tells them how God put up with them in the wilderness. In verse 19 we have the account of the destruction of the seven nations in Canaan. Further in that verse is the mention of the redistribution of the land. All of these events took about 450 years.
Verse 20 reads, “And after these things.” What things? The events are mentioned in verses 17-19. Paul tells his hearers how God gave the people judges. This lasted until Samuel who was the last judge. In verse 21 he tells them that their fathers asked for a king. God gave them Saul, the son for Kish who was from the tribe of Judah. His rule was for 40 years. Paul mentions that it was God who removed Saul and put David on the throne. He said that God regarded David as “a man after My heart.”
Paul goes on in his discourse about the descendants of David. In verse 23 he says, “According to promise God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus.” Paul used the scriptures available to use as springboard to preach the Good News to these Jews.
In verse 24 he tells them of the ministry of John the Baptist. He relates how John prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah. He refers them to the fact that John was not the promised Messiah. He was a voice crying in the wilderness.
In verse 26 he exhorts them to accept Jesus as their Messiah. He also urges those among them who fear God to join in. Those who fear God has reference to proselytes of the gate. He then shows how the rulers in Jerusalem and the people in general refused to recognize Him as Messiah and even condemned Him to death. In verse 28 they asked Pilate to execute the Messiah.
Paul says in verse 29 that after all in the New Testament was fulfilled concerning the death of the Messiah they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in the tomb. But in verse 30 God raised Him from the dead. In verse 31 we have the accounts of the post resurrection appearance of the Risen Jesus.
In verse 32 Paul says the “we” preach unto you the Good News. The Good News is that God raised Jesus from the dead. He then quotes the 2nd Psalm and in verse 35 he quotes from another Psalm showing that the Psalmist prophesied the Messiah’s death and resurrection. Verse 36-37 show that the Psalmist was not speaking of himself.
In verse 38 we have the beginning of the conclusion of Paul’s message. He tells his hearers that is through Jesus that the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed. In verse 39 Paul informs them that through Jesus everyone who believes is freed from all things. He tells them that the Law of Moses could not accomplish this. In verse 40 he warns them to “take heed therefore so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you.:
Verse 42 tells us that Paul and Barnabas were going out of the synagogue and the people wanted to hear more the next sabbath. In verse 43 we’re informed that many of the Jews and God-fearing proselytes followed after Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas spoke to them urging them to continue in the grace of God.
Verse 44 recounts the events of the next Sabbath. Luke tells us that nearly the whole city came out to hear the Good News being proclaimed. In verse 45 we find the opposition arising. Some Jews in the crowd were trying to contradict the things spoken by Paul. They were blaspheming.
In verse 46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the Word of God should be spoken to you first. Since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” They say that this is what the Lord commanded them to do.
When the Gentiles heard this they were rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord and many accepted the Lord Jesus. Verse 49 tells us that the Word of the Lord spread through the region.
Then we are told that “the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas.” They were then driven out of the city. Here we see the work of Satan manifested. Paul and Barnabas left and went to Iconium. There the disciples were filled with Joy.
The work done on the First Missionary Journey was true to God. Many had been reached with the Good News. Many had been won to the Lord and identified with the Church that is spoken of in the New Testament.
In the next article we will take up the events in the 14th chapter of Acts which finishes up the First Missionary Journey. Please be with us as we study together in the Book of Acts. When we finish the 14th chapter we will be half way through the book. Until next time, MARANATHA!