Acts 13


“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. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3

The church in Antioch was blessed with inspired men who delivered God’s Word. Luke tells us that the church in Antioch was blessed to have Barnabas, the son of consolation, Simeon, whose nickname was ‘black’, Lucius, who was somehow closely associated with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

And as these men were carrying out their various ministries for the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit called for Barnabas and Saul to be set apart for their specially chosen work.

According to Luke the whole church fasted and prayed as they sent them on their way. We’ve already noted several times that the laying of hands was done for one or two reasons.

The apostles would lay their hands on some people to pass on miraculous capabilities but sometimes they would also just lay their hands on people to show their approval of the person they are laying their hands on. In other words, it wasn’t always done to pass on miraculous gifts.

The reason I brought this point up is because the laying on of hands mentioned here was not done to pass on any special gift but it was done as a sign of the agreement they had with the good work to be done. In other words Barnabas, John Mark and Saul were being shown that the other disciples approved of what they were about to do.

On Cyprus

“The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.” Acts 13:4-5

Luke says that they first went to Seleucia, which was the port city of Antioch. It was located about 16 miles downstream.

And then they sailed approximately one hundred miles to Salamis, the largest city on the eastern end of the island of Cyprus. And Luke tells Theophilus that Barnabas and Saul preached in the synagogues within the city and John Mark served as their attendant.

Just as a matter of interest, history tells us that around 50 years after Barnabas and Saul were there, there was a Jewish uprising in which 240,000 Gentiles were slaughtered. And a famous man named Hadrian, who would be a future Roman emperor, put down the rebellion and expelled the Jews from the city.

“They travelled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.” Acts 13:6-7

It seems as though after they crossed over the island to Paphos, which was the capital city and the home of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus who Luke tells us was a wise man.

Sergius Paulus had a Jewish adviser known as Bar Jesus or Elymas, who Luke tells us was a false prophet and sorcerer, or one who used magic and incantations.

But when Sergius Paulus heard that Barnabas and Saul were in town, he sent for them because he wanted to hear God’s Word. Luke tells us that Sergius Paulus was an intelligent man and we’re going to see why in a moment.

The most intelligent people are those who recognise there is a God and want to search for and obey the truth of our Creator. Sergius Paulus was an intelligent man because he wanted to hear God’s Word.

“But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. “When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord”. Acts 13:8-12

Luke tells us that Elymas did everything he could to deter the proconsul from hearing these preachers. Why he didn’t want the proconsul to know about God, no one is sure, possibly because he feared he might lose his influence.

But Luke also tells us that Saul, who was also known by his Greek name, Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit when he challenged the sorcerer.

Magicians are nothing new in the Scriptures, Exodus 7:10-12 / Exodus 7:20-22 / Exodus 8:6-7 / Exodus 8:16-18, but no one can beat God in a power display war.

And although sorcerers have got a lot of influence on people by using magic to convince them that they are someone powerful when they are not, they cannot beat the power of God. Paul says that Elymas was a deceiver who opposed righteous living and so Paul, by the power of God struck him blind for a season.

The word ‘mist’ here, is used to describe a dimming of the vision brought on by cataracts or disease but notice something important in this text too. This is another text which shows us the purpose of miracles during Biblical times.

The teachings of Jesus which had been presented and the power of the miracle convinced Sergius Paulus to follow Christ in full obedience. In other words, the miracles performed in the Bible were to prove that the words which were being preached were true and from God.

In Pisidian Antioch

“From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.” Acts 13:13-15

After blinding the sorcerer and convincing Sergius Paulus that Jesus was who He claimed to be, they would have landed at the port of Attalia and then gone on the short distance to Perga.

We don’t know the reasons why but for some reason, John Mark decided to leave Paul and his companions at Perga as the rest of the group went on to Antioch in Pisidia, which, at that time, was considered to be part of Galatia.

And look where they went to? The missionary group went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and listened to the reading of the Scriptures.

And it was then that the rulers of the synagogue asked if they had some instruction to give them. And so Paul like we all should do seized the moment and addressed the men of Israel and God-fearers assembled there.

What an opportunity that is to share the Gospel with some people, they were ready to share that good news and they seized the moment, Colossians 4:2-5 / Ephesians 6:19-20 / 1 Peter 3:15.

We all need to seize the moment, and that’s exactly what Paul did next because all he ever wanted to let people know about was Jesus and he wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip from him.

“Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years. “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: `I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: `Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’” Acts 13:16-25

Paul did basically what Stephen did in Acts 7, he shared with them a Jewish history lesson. He talked about how God delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage.

He reminded them of the forty years of wilderness wandering and how God defeated seven nations so Israel could have a home in Canaan.

He also reminded those assembled that God had ruled in Israel for 450 years using judges. And when the people asked for a king, God gave them Saul, then, David, after Saul was removed.

He says it was from the seed of David, that God raised up a Saviour for His people named Jesus. But before He sent the Saviour of the world, He sent John the baptiser to prepare the Way for the Saviour by preaching a baptism of repentance.

And so Paul finally reminds them that John had told the people he was not the Messiah, but the One coming after him was.

“Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb”. Acts 13:26-29

Luke tells us that Paul proclaimed that the message of the salvation brought by the Messiah was being delivered to them. Luke says that the Jewish leaders and other people fulfilled the prophecies about Christ’s death because they did not recognise the Saviour.

And Paul tells them that they didn’t understand what the prophets had foretold. And so, Paul tells them that they had crucified an Innocent man named Jesus but they had also fulfilled all the other prophecies concerning His rejection, death and burial.

“But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “`You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’  The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “`I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’  So it is stated elsewhere: “`You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” Acts 13:30-38

I love those two little words, ‘but God’ and while Paul is talking about the rejection, death and burial of Jesus Christ, he continues using those same two little words.

He says that the Jews rejected Christ, ‘but God.’ He says they murdered the innocent Christ, ‘But God’. He says they buried Him in a tomb, ‘But God’. In other words, all the events which happened concerning the Christ were prophesied many years before they actually happened.

And Paul says, ‘But God’ did not abandon Jesus, but raised Him up from the grave. And Paul asks do you want proof?  He says many witnesses could tell you how they personally had seen the resurrected Lord.

And so Paul quotes two Old Testament passages to prove his case, Isaiah 55:3 / Psalm 16:10. Paul says this is what the Old Testament prophets were saying. The Old Testament prophets were saying that the Holy One promised by God was coming and His Name is Jesus.

If the Jews wanted to visit a grave of a loved one, they could simply go down to the local graveyard and visit the tomb. And Paul says, if they wanted to go down to the local graveyard, they can still see the tomb of King David and if they were to dig it up, they would still see the remains of David’s body today.

But Paul goes on to say that the very fact that Jesus’ body was raised and did not stay in the tomb long enough to see decay, set him apart above David as God’s promised Messiah.

In other words, that’s why Jesus was so much different from King David. The resurrection of Christ is so important to Christians, 1 Corinthians 15:14 / 1 Corinthians 15:17 / Romans 1:4.

As we’ve already seen with our study of Acts the early church multiplied quickly in just a few short years. They grew by ‘leaps and bounds’. People were obeying the Gospel by the thousands, and one central message lay at the heart of their decision.

Paul says the central message of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. In other words, if Jesus had never been raised from the grave, the Gospel never could have been preached. Because the Gospel is not about a ‘lifeless lord’, it’s about a ‘risen Redeemer’.

Jesus’ resurrection gives meaning to a Christian’s faith and it’s because of His resurrection that we meet every Sunday to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and we remember the Lord’s death ‘until He comes’ 1 Corinthians 11:26.

If Jesus were not risen, however, we would have no hope of His coming again, and Paul’s statement here regarding the Lord’s Supper would be meaningless.

Every time Christians pray ‘in Jesus’s name’, we are relying on our risen Saviour Jesus to mediate on our behalf, 1 Timothy 2:5. But, if Jesus did not rise, our prayers would not be heard, and our petitions to have our sins forgiven could not be granted.

The only reason that preaching and baptizing as we read about in Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16 is of any importance at all is because Jesus is not dead, but alive. When a person is baptized ‘for the remission of sins’ as we saw happening in Acts 2:38, they are raised from a world of sin, as Romans 6:4 tells us.

And so Paul goes on to say, let me tell you something else which is different about these two great men, David and Jesus.

“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: “`Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'” Acts 13:39-41

Paul reminds them of another Old Testament passage, this time it was the words of the prophet Habakkuk. Paul says Habakkuk foretold that some people would reject the one God who had clearly been approved by great signs. Habakkuk 1:5. But what he was really saying to them at this point was, don’t be the ones to fulfil this prophecy.

And he says I’ll tell you why, it is because of Jesus and only through Jesus, was the forgiveness of sins made available to all who would obey Jesus.

“As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying”. Acts 13:42-45

Luke tells us as Paul and Barnabas went out of the synagogue, some were stirred to ask Paul and Barnabas to return the following week to speak again.

And it seems from our text that the next Sabbath day a whole bunch of other people came to hear them preach. In fact, Luke tells us that nearly the whole city gathered to hear God’s Word proclaimed.

But some in the audience who were Jews were jealous, upon seeing the large gathering, and contradicted the message Paul delivered and spoke against God.

And so Paul did what he did earlier, he seized the moment. Notice, however, that not everyone was pleased with what Paul had to say.

“Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “`I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region”. Acts 13:46-49

The apostles immediately let them know that they were required to preach to the Jews first, but if the Jews were determined to reject the Gospel, then they would preach to the Gentiles. As you can imagine that statement alone led to great rejoicing among the Gentiles.

And so, because of such bold preaching all who willingly obeyed the Word of God were added to the kingdom by the Lord and so the truth was spread throughout the country.

Paul and Barnabas, preached boldly because they wanted to please God, not men, Acts 5:29. The apostles were not in the business of pleasing people, they wanted to please God.

And so like we have seen time and time again throughout the Book of Acts, some people will humbly accept the message whilst others will find it offensive.

“But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:50-52

Luke tells us that while all this rejoicing was going on, the Jews stirred up the prominent women of the city and those in authority. And it was because of those people who were highly offended by the message, they had Paul and Barnabas persecuted and finally, cast outside the city.

Notice how both Paul and Barnabas reacted to their persecution, they put into practice the words of their Master Jesus. Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet and went on to Iconium, Matthew 7:6 / Mark 6:10-11.

But despite all the opposition, those who had believed God’s Word rejoiced and were filled with the Holy Spirit.

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