LINK: Acts 13
The Holy Spirit indicated to the church in Antioch that Saul and Barnabas were to be chosen for a special work. In Chapter 13 we see them leave on their first missionary journey. A young man named John Mark accompanied them. This is the John Mark who penned the book of Mark.
Here is a map so that you can visualize the route they traveled:
Maps by Gordon Smith can be used without further permission. http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm
John Mark went with them to Cyprus, Barnabas' home (4:36), but left them and returned to Jerusalem when Paul and Barnabas left Cyprus for Pamphylia. I mention this only because it will be significant later.
This chapter highlights what happened to Paul and Barnabas on Cyprus and in Antioch of Pisidia, in what today is the country of Turkey.
This chapter also notes the change of Saul's name to Paul. From now on he is called Paul.
In both Cyprus and Antioch of Pisidia, the two missionaries encountered opposition, but the opposition was not able defeat the work of the Holy Spirit.
On the island of Cyprus Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by John Mark, journey from synagogue to synagogue, telling the good news of Jesus. The Roman proconsul there, Sergius Paulus, became a believer, despite the interference of a magiscan called Elymas. The Lord , through Paul, struck Elymas temporarily blind ( a fitting consequence), so that the consul could hear the message of salvation. He believed it.
In Antioch of Pisidia the two men went to the synagogue for services. After readings from the books Moses and the prophets, the two men were invited by the leaders there to give a "word of encouragement."
Paul stood up and delivered a sermon, a concise message of the gospel, tailor made for the Jewish audience! His point is that the promised Messiah has come. He uses passages from Psalms and Isaiah to support his words.
And truly, this was a word of encouragement, because the main message was this (my paraphrase): "Listen to this, forgiveness is available! If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, sacrificed and raised from the dead for you, you are freed from guilt and made right with God - something the Jewish law could never do!"
This truly was, and is, Good News! We can never be made right with God through our own efforts (trying to be good and do what is right). It is only through God's grace that we are set free from guilt and sin and then are able to remain faithful (v 43). Many in Antioch believed.
Word spread through the city of Paul's message and "the whole city" came the following week to hear Paul's "sermon." This aroused the jealousy of the Jewish leaders, who then told lies about Paul and argued against what he said. This didn't stop Paul and Barnabas, who then turned to the Gentiles with the good news of Jesus. Many of them heard the message and were glad and believed. The Lord's message spread throughout the region.
The Jewish leaders stirred up other city leaders who incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and chased them out of the city. The two men went on to Iconium.
Just think how earth shaking the message of Jesus is! It's all about grace. This is unique in world religions. Not only do we believe by grace, but we live by grace. It is God's work, not ours.
Thanks, dear Lord, for the example of Paul and Barnabas, who didn't let opposition to your message discourage them and stop them. We thank you that your word goes forth today, too, in spite of opposition. We see how you even used opposition to spread the good news of Jesus to new places. Thank you that you have done the work for us. You came in the flesh and died and rose again so that we can be forgiven and made right with you. Help us to live by faith in that grace you offer and not slip back into the mentality that our salvation depends on us.