Acts 13 - Outline of Acts (Book Notes menu page)
1. Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers;
as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene,
and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said,
Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed,
and laid [their] hands on them, they sent [them] away.
The church {GK=ekklesia, called out ones} in Antioch was a gathering of dis-similar people,
from a variety of places and backgrounds. They were joined together through faith in Christ, who enabled them to grow together and serve Him in harmonious fellowship.
     The previous chapters introduced us to Barnabas and Saul. We know little about the others.
  • Simeon, who was called Niger {ie., black}, was probably of African descent.
  • Lucius, from Cyrene (a city at the northernmost point of the coast of Libya), was probably of the Jewish diaspora (Acts 11:20; Rom 16:21 where Paul, a Jew, calls him a kinsman).
  • Manaen had been raised in the luxury of royalty, and is thought to have been a foster brother to Herod Antipas (the uncle of Herod Agrippa I, who was active in Acts 12). The term 'tetrarch' means that Herod was one of four rulers, to whom the Roman Empire divided the governing authority over a certain area (Luk 3:1,19-20). Manaen and Herod Antipas grew up together, but took very different paths. One found the Way of Life (Joh 14:6). The other, seeing no worth in Him, 'set Him at nought' (Luk 23:7-11).
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted...-
Their service, in teaching the Word to the church, was an act of worship {GK=leitourgeo} toward the Lord. Their fasting was associated with prayer that God would accomplish His work in and through the church in Antioch (Acts 6:4; eg., Dan 9:3). In answer...
...the Holy Ghost said, Separate {ie., mark off}... for the work whereunto I have called them...-
The Lord had placed a burden on the hearts of these two men, and was bidding them to enter into it. Now, the Holy Spirit confirmed to the church, that their calling was of Him.
...when they had fasted and prayed... they sent them away {ie., they set them free to go}...-
Now the church in Antioch was looking beyond their local ministry, in prayer and fasting, as they pled for the Lord's enabling and direction of these two men. They were called to pioneer a new kind of work, to proclaim the Gospel in unfamiliar places and in the face of unknown difficulties.
     By laying hands on them, the church was saying, 'We are with you in this work.' To loose Barnabas and Saul for this new work, others took on their responsibilities in the local church, and the church assumed a responsibility to assist their new missionaries financially.
4. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost,
departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
5 And when they were at Salamis,
they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews:
and they had also John to [their] minister.
6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos,
they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name [was] Barjesus:
7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man;
who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them,
seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost...-
Although the church at Antioch was behind them, their true dependency was upon the Holy Spirit who had called them and who would empower them for the work to which He sent them. Acts 1:8; 2Cor 3:5,6
...they... departed unto Seleucia... from thence they sailed to Cyprus...-
From Antioch, they traveled about 15 miles to the west, to the port city of Seleucia. From there, they went by ship to the island of Cyprus, which was the home country of Barnabas (Acts 4:36).
     Their purpose was to 'preach the Word of God,' which they did, from one end of the island to the other, beginning at Salamis (a city on the east end) and finishing at Paphos (on the west end).
     The pattern which Paul followed, whenever he entered a new city, is evident early in this first missionary journey: to preach the Gospel, first, in the synagogues of the Jews (Rom 1:16). This was consistent with the pattern set by God Himself, who gave His written Word through and to Israel, and who sent His Son, in fulfillment of that Word, through and to Israel. It was also a wise strategy, for the purpose of laying a foundation for the church in each city, to begin where people were well versed in the scriptures (ie., in the synagogues). New believers, who had a pre-existing knowledge of the Word, could be more quickly prepared to take on leadership roles.
     While there is no record of response to the Gospel at the synagogues on Cyprus, there was interest on the part of a gentile.
Sergius Paulus, a prudent man {ie., intelligent, thoughtful, understanding}... desired to hear the word of God.-
This man was a 'deputy' {ie., a proconsul} to whom the Roman government had delegated non-military governing responsibilities over Cyprus. Perhaps his position had prevented him from going to the synagogue. In any case, he had heard rumors, of the message preached by Barnabas and Saul, and he wanted to understand it more thoroughly.
Barjesus... a certain sorcerer, a false prophet...-
Though ethnically Jewish, this sorcerer {magician, wise man} and purveyor of spiritual error was certainly not following the God of Israel. Deu 18:10-12; Isa 8:19,20
His Hebrew name was 'son of Jesus' {ie., Joshua, meaning 'Jehovah Saves'}, while his Arabic name, Elymas {meaning a 'wise man'}, indicated his involvement in occult practices (like a man that Peter encountered previously, in Acts 8:9-11).
...withstood {ie., stood in opposition}... seeking to turn away...-
Barjesus had influence as a counselor to the deputy, whom he sought to 'turn away' {GK=diastrepho, lit., 'turn through', ie., pervert, distort}. This word implies that he was attempting both to 'pervert' the Gospel message and also to 'divert' the deputy from accepting it.
9 Then Saul, (who also [is called] Paul,)
filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief,
[thou] child of the devil, [thou] enemy of all righteousness,
wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord [is] upon thee,
and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season.
And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness;
and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed,
being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
...Saul, who is called Paul...-
'Saul' is a Hebrew name, meaning 'desired.' Several men bear this name, in the OT, the most famous of which was the first king that Israel had 'desired' (1Sam 12:13; Acts 13:21). King Saul, being great in his own eyes, had desired his own way and failed to obey the Lord. Therefore the Lord removed him from the throne.
     'Paul' {GK=Paulus} means 'small' or 'little.' Perhaps Saul adopted the deputy's name, because it better described his dependency upon One greater than he. Joh 15:5; 2Cor 12:9; Php 4:13
...Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost... said...-
The sorcerer was rebuked, not by an angry apostle, but by the Holy Spirit, who put His words in his mouth (eg., Ex 4:10-12; Jer 1:6-9). The message, from the mouth of one full of the Holy Spirit, was directed to one full of the evil spirit, and through him to that being who is the enemy of God.
...O full of all subtilty {ie., bait, deceit, fraud} and all mischief {ie., reckless wickedness}...
...thou child {ie., son} of the devil {GK=diablos, the accuser, Satan}... Mat 13:38; Joh 8:44; 1Joh 3:8
...thou enemy of all righteousness...-
The instigator of 'all' evil and 'all' opposition, to the purposes of God, was not Elymas, but the spirit of Satan which filled him.
...wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?-
The word for 'pervert' {GK=diastrepho} is translated 'turn away' in v.8.
Now, behold {GK=idou, perceive, see with the eyes}, the hand of the Lord is upon thee (ie., in judgment)...-
Elymas, who was already spiritually blind, now became physically blind. Saul himself had suffered this kind of judgment, at the time when he was granted spiritual sight (Acts 9:8,9). But this blindness came upon Elymas, not for his sake, but to disperse the obscuration which prevented the deputy from seeing the Truth.
...the deputy, when he saw... believed... being astonished at the doctrine {GK=didache, that which was taught}...-
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely a set of principles to be observed, but rather, 'the power of God unto salvation.' Rom 1:16; 2Cor 10:3-5; Heb 4:12
     This account, of the salvation of a Gentile, through the testimony of a Jew who had previously been spiritually blind, and despite the opposition of a Jew who was subsequently blinded, provides an illustration of the present age, during which salvation is freely offered to Jew and Gentile alike, while most of the Jewish nation remains in blindness. Rom 11:5-12
13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos,
they came to Perga in Pamphylia:
and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.
14. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia,
and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets
the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying,
[Ye] men [and] brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
...loosed {ie., set sail} from Paphos... to Perga in Pamphilia...-
They sailed about 170 miles to the northwest, to a city and region on the southern coasts of Asia Minor (ie., modern day Turkey).
...John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.-
John Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas to minister to their temporal needs (v.5). Apparently, he had not yet been personally called or prepared by the Holy Spirit, for this work. As we saw previously (in Acts 12:12), John Mark's mother was apparently a woman of means. John was used to the comforts of the privileged, and comfortable in the Jewish culture of Jerusalem. He may have been discomfited by the hardships and uncertainties of travel, and by the encounter with Satanic opposition from the pagan culture.
     The words for 'departing' and 'returned,' in v.13, simply state that he left and went home. Later (in 15:38), Paul uses a stronger word for 'depart' indicating that he 'withdrew' or 'deserted' from the work. However, it may be that the Lord, knowing that stronger opposition would soon confront the missionaries, took John off the field, until he was better prepared to bear hardship and persecution. In time, John Mark would grow in faith, and Paul would find him profitable for the ministry (2Tim 4:11).
...they came to Antioch in Pisidia...-
They traveled about 100 miles north and inland from Perga (a coastal city in the region called Pamphylia) to reach Antioch, in Pisidia (the region just to the north of Pamphylia). Pisidia was the southernmost portion of the Roman province of Galatia, which occupied a large area of central Asia Minor (Turkey). Do not confuse Antioch of Pisidia with Antioch in Syria (the location of the church that had sent out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries, v.1).
...went into the synagogue on the sabbath, and sat down...-
Paul and Barnabas waited for an invitation to speak. It was the custom to invite visiting Jews, especially those who had recently come from Jerusalem, to bring news or spiritual encouragement from the center of Jewish worship. Paul took this opportunity to preach the Gospel to them. This is Paul's first recorded sermon.
16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with [his] hand said,
Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers,
and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt,
and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.
19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan,
he divided their land to them by lot.
20 And after that he gave [unto them] judges
about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
Men of Israel, and ye that fear God...-
Those who had gathered in the synagogue included Jews and also some Gentiles who had either become proselytes to Judaism or were seeking to know the true God.
The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers...-
Paul rehearsed the history of Israel (similar to the pattern set by Stephen in Acts ch. 7), showing that God is powerful, merciful and faithful to His Word, even though Israel had frequently failed to follow Him.
By His Power, God...
  • delivered His people from Egypt.
  • delivered the promised land to Israel.
  • governed them, for centuries, without a human king.
21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis,
a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king;
to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the [son] of Jesse,
a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
In His Mercy, God...
  • gave them the king which they desired, when they rejected Him from ruling over them (1Sam 8:7).
  • replaced that king (1Sam 13:13,14) with a man after His own heart (king David, 1Sam 16:1)
  • ...gave promises to King David, that one of his descendants (ie., the Messiah) would accomplish all of God's purposes (2Sam 7:8-16).
23 Of this man's seed hath God
according to [his] promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:
24 When John had first preached before his coming
the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said,
Whom think ye that I am? I am not [he].
But, behold, there cometh one after me,
whose shoes of [his] feet I am not worthy to loose.
26 Men [and] brethren, children of the stock of Abraham,
and whosoever among you feareth God,
to you is the word of this salvation sent.
In Faithfulness to His Word, God...
  • raised up {ie., caused to appear} the promised son of David, the promised Savior of Israel: Jesus. you is the word of this salvation sent...-
Paul's audience was familiar with the OT record of Israel's history, and they had heard about the ministries of John and of Jesus, without understanding their significance. But now, they were about to hear how God, in Power, Mercy and Faithfulness to His Word, had provided the way of salvation for all people.
27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers,
because they knew him not,
nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day,
they have fulfilled [them] in condemning [him].
28 And though they found no cause of death [in him],
yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.
...the voices of the prophets...
...yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain...- eg., Acts 3:13,14; Luk 23:4-5,14-16,21-25
29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him,
they took [him] down from the tree, and laid [him] in a sepulchre.
30 But God raised him from the dead:
31 And he was seen many days
of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem,
who are his witnesses unto the people.
Paul delineates three essential elements of the Gospel (see 1Cor 15:1-4).
  • Christ died for our sins - They would not have taken Him down from the cross until He was dead. Joh 19:33,34; Mark 15:44,45
  • He was buried...- Mark 15:46,47
  • He rose again the third day...- all in fulfillment of the scriptures.
    Again, we see the emphasis on the resurrection of Christ, as attested by witnesses (1Cor 15:4-8). Because if Christ is not raised, there is no salvation and no 'good news' in His Gospel (1Cor 15:12-20).
32 And we declare unto you glad tidings,
how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children,
in that he hath raised up Jesus again;
as it is also written in the second psalm,
{Psa 2:7}
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead,
[now] no more to return to corruption,
he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
{Isa 55:3}
35 Wherefore he saith also in another [psalm],
{Psa 16:10}
Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God,
fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
We declare... glad tidings {GK=euaggelizo, proclaim good news, ie., the Gospel}...-
The elements of the Gospel of Christ, were not only attested by human witnesses (v.29-31), but also by the promises of God which cannot fail (from which Paul quotes a few examples, here).
Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee...-
The scriptures are not merely the writings of holy men of old. They are the Word of God who spoke through His prophets. In Psalm 2, the voice of the LORD Himself declares a son of David as His unique Son, by means of His resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:3,4).
for David... saw corruption: but he whom God raised again, saw no corruption.-
Like Peter (in Acts 2:25-31), Paul demonstrates that these scriptures cannot apply to David, but only to Jesus, the Messiah, whom God identified by raising Him from the dead.
38 Be it known unto you therefore, men [and] brethren,
that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things,
from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Be it known unto you, therefore... by him, all that believe are justified...-
The salvation that God has provided through the Gospel of Christ, must be received by faith. It is not enough to assent to the facts of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. You must "believe" {GK=pisteuo, be persuaded, place your confidence} in "this man" (Jesus) in whom there is forgiveness of sins {GK=aphesis, a release from bondage to sin}, and justification {GK=dikaioo, ie., the declaration of righteousness} before God.
     The law of Moses condemns sin, but it cannot transform sinners into saints (Rom 3:19,20). The law cannot purge the conscience of impurity. But through the Gospel of Christ, the believer becomes a new creation (Joh 3:3-7; 1:11-13; 2Cor 5:17; Heb 8:7-12).
40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days,
a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
Beware therefore...-
The Good News about the Christ is accompanied by a severe warning against Unbelief.
     Paul quotes Habakkuk 1:5. The LORD spoke these words through His prophet Habakkuk, in the context of predicting the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah to Babylon (in 586 BC). The prophet's hearers despised and rejected his words. But soon enough, they would be amazed at the trouble that was about to overtake them. Many would perish. Many would be dispersed into the gentile nations, from where they would "behold... among the heathen" that God had indeed kept His Word.
     Paul, addressing Jews living in the diaspora (about 625 years after that destruction), cites this verse to warn his hearers that they, also, were susceptible to the same hardness of heart that caused their ancestors to perish. Would they believe what God had done, in their day?
     The work of salvation, which God has accomplished in Christ, is offered freely to "whosoever believes in Him" (Joh 3:16). There is no work that we can do to make ourselves acceptable before God. The Law condemns us because, as hard as we may try, we fail to measure up to its standard of righteousness. But Christ has satisfied the Law in my behalf. All that remains is for me to place my trust fully in Him. Salvation is by grace through faith, apart from the works of the Law (Rom 3:21-28). By faith, the sinner sees no merit in himself, but clings to Christ alone. Apart from faith in Him, no man can be saved. Therefore, there is grave danger in Unbelief.
     Unbelief despises the Word and work of God, which is declared unto us in the Gospel of Christ, who is our only hope of salvation. eg., Mat 21:41-44; Isa 28:14-19; 53:1; Joh 12:37,38; Rom 10:16-21
42. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue,
the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
43 Now when the congregation was broken up,
many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas:
who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
The results of Paul's message...
  • many Jews and Gentiles, who had previously converted to the Jewish faith, 'followed' or 'aligned' themselves with the message, of God's provision of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, which Paul and Barnabas had presented (Joh 14:6; Eph 2:8,9).
       After most of the audience had departed, the missionaries kept teaching new believers and inquirers, to 'persuade' them {ie., to bring them into agreement with the truth concerning Christ}, in order to enable them to 'continue' {GK=epimeno, to be settled, to abide} in the Gospel of the Grace of God, unmovable by future opposition (Col 1:23; 1Tim 4:16).
  • the few Gentiles, who were present, asked that this message would be repeated a week later, in the hearing of their friends and families.
44 And the next sabbath day
came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy,
and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul,
contradicting and blaspheming.
46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said,
It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you:
but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life,
lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying],
I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles,
that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
{Isa 49:6}
...the Jews... were filled with envy {GK=zelos, zeal, jealousy, indignation}...-
The wording suggests, not that they were envious of the large crowd, but rather that they were indignant that the Gospel message was appealing to the Gentiles. In their minds, God's Word was for the chosen people, not for the heathen.
...and spake against... contradicting and blaspheming...-
The GK word 'antilego' is used twice, translated 'spoke against' and 'contradicting.' The word 'blaspheming' indicates that their speech was contemptuous, angry, hateful and abusive. There was no doubt that they rejected the Gospel message.
Paul and Barnabas, rather than being intimidated, spoke out boldly.
  • First to the Jews - Because the promises of God were given and fulfilled through the Jewish nation, it was only right that the Jews should be first to hear that the promised Messiah had come and accomplished all that was foretold (Rom 9:4,5). But by their strong rejection of the salvation which God has provided, they were condemning themselves (Joh 3:16-21,36; 17:3).
  • Then to the Gentiles - The salvation provided through the Jewish Messiah was not exclusively for the Jews, as shown by the passage which Paul quoted from Isaiah (see also Isa 42:6,7 and Isa 49:5-8).
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord:
and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city,
and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.
The Gospel of Christ divides believers and unbelievers and reveals the contents of their hearts.
  • ...the Gentiles... were glad... glorified the word of the Lord... believed...-
    Many of the Gentiles, rejoicing to hear that God's Word was for them also, put their faith in Christ.
  • ...the Jews...- stirred up trouble, using their influence with governmental figures, to cast the missionaries out of their city.
    The unbelieving Jews did what they could to hinder others from receiving the Gospel (cp. Mat 23:13; Luk 11:52).
In spite of persecution and opposition, God's Word was proclaimed widely... and...
...the disciples {ie., believing Jews and Gentiles} were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost. Mat 5:10-12; 1Pet 1:3-9; 4:13
Paul and Barnabas... shook off the dust of their feet against them...-
By this action, in obedience to the Lord's words (in Mat 10:14,15; Mark 6:11; Luk 9:5), the missionaries expressed their complete disassociation from those who rejected and blasphemed the Word of God.
Paul and Barnabas...-
Early in their first missionary journey, Paul's name was changed (v.9).
Now we see that the order, in which their names are presented, has reversed (compare v.2,7 with v.43,46,50). Paul, being the principle speaker, had become the leader of the group (as suggested also by v.13). No doubt, this was a goal that Barnabas had been working towards, since his ministry, as the 'son of consolation' (4:36), was to come alongside others to build them up and encourage them in the Lord's work.

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