Monday, April 15, 2013

Acts 13 - Paul's First Missionary Journey: Part I

LINK: Acts 13


Paul's First Missionary Journey, with Barnabas to Cyprus and Asia Minor c AD46-48 and Its Sequel, the Council at Jerusalem c AD49 from
While Peter was the central figure in Acts 1-12, Saul takes that place as the gospel focuses on ministry to the Gentiles in Acts 13:1-28:31. The numbers in parentheses refer to points on the map! I like to listen to the audio in the link above and track their journey on the map. 

Syrian Antioch (13:1-3)

Jerusalem was the "mother" church, but Syrian Antioch (1) was the missionary church on the Orontes River. Its leaders were Barnabas from Cyprus (4:35); Simeon, who is believed to have been from Africa because his nickname means "Black"; Lucius from Cyrene in what is the western part of modern day Libya, men from both Cyprus and Cyrene were the people who first preached the Gospel in Antioch (11:20); Manaen, who was a friend of Herod Antipas, who killed John the Baptist; and Saul (Paul).

These men are described as "prophets and teachers." Prophets are those who lay the foundation for the church and teachers help establish the new believers in the faith (11:20; 27-30; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 14:29-32; 2 Timothy 2:2). Here are two separate Bible Studies exploring the gifts of Prophecy and Teaching. Here is a guide for doing a Greek Word Study too!

After fasting and praying, the elders of the church in Antioch set apart ("dedicated for a special purpose") Barnabas and Paul. After the elders placed their hands on them, they were sent out for what God had already called Paul to do (Acts 9:15) on their first missionary journey to the Gentiles (Acts 21:17-21). 

John Mark, cousin of Barnabas and son of Mary, who often hosted gatherings in her home on Jerusalem (Colossians 4:10; Acts 12:12), went with (Saul) Paul and Barnabas to assist them. 

Cyprus (13:4-12)

Passing from Seleucia (2) to Salamis on the island of Cyprus (3), they preached the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues before they arrived at Paphos (4). Cyprus was the home of Barnabas (4:36). It was common in that day for high Roman officials like Sergius Paulus to have a private sorcerer like Bar-Jesus (This means "son of Jesus [Joshua]." His nickname, Elymas, means "sorcerer".).  Of course, this false prophet would do anything to oppose Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13:9 is the first reference to Saul as Paul). Paul told Bar-Jesus that his name was not "son of Jesus" but "son of the devil" and blinded him. This is the first recorded miracle God performed through Paul. With this display of God's power, the Roman official believed. Notice this is a conflict with a Jew (Bar-Jesus) over preaching the gospel to a Gentile (Roman official). This is the first of many times where Jews would try to frustrate the progress of the gospel. It is also the second out of four reported incidents of a "power encounter" with demonic influences in Acts. The other incidents are in Acts 8:9-23; 16:16-18; and 19:13-17.  

Pisidian Antioch (13:13-52)

Paul and company sailed to Perga (5), but John Mark deserted Paul and his companions and went back to Jerusalem, and we do not know why. We do know from reading later on in Acts 15:38 that Paul was not pleased with his defection. Stay tuned for more on that subject. 

Pisidian Antioch was in Phrygia (6). Paul preached in the synagogue from the Old Testament Law (the first five book called the "Pentateuch") and Prophets. This means the entire Old Testament (Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21). 

In Paul's message of exhortation following the Old Testament readings, Paul started with the covenant God had made with His chosen people. Then, Paul presented that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (13:16-25). Following this, he went on to explain that the rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus were also part of what God had foretold long ago (13:26-37). Finally, he appealed to them to believe in Jesus, be forgiven, and be justified; something the Law could never do (13:38-41).

While many wanted to follow Jesus, the Jewish leaders were jealous of Paul and Barnabas and spoke abusively against them. Paul and Barnabas boldly proclaimed that, while they were obligated to speak the word of God to the Jews first (Matthew 23:39; Romans 11:26), the Jews had rejected it. Therefore, they would go to the Gentiles (13:46). Jesus was the Jewish "light to the Gentiles," and Paul and Barnabas would be His messengers (Luke 2:32; Isaiah 40:6)! This filled the Gentiles with gladness (13:48).

The word of God spread, but it incited persecution in the region. Paul and Barnabas were expelled, so they shook the dust from their feet as Jesus had instructed them to do (Matthew 10:14) and went to Iconium (7) with joy in the Holy Spirit (13:52).

That sainted missionary to India and Persia, Henry Martyn, once said, “The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.” 
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, Acts 13:1)
I used to have people say, "Well, missions is just your thing. I am into such and such."  I propose to you that missions is everyone's thing if we are walking in nearness to Him. It does not mean that we will get on a plane tomorrow, but it does mean that we will somehow be involved in God's global cause. Sharing Christ locally is very important, but Paul and Barnabas were "sent out" to regions beyond to the "ends of the earth" where the gospel had not yet been proclaimed according to Jesus' direction in Acts 1:8.

God's heart is that the gospel of the Kingdom be preached in the whole world (Matthew 24:14). Out of the 16,500 unique people groups in the world, 6900 are considered unreached. Yet the vast majority of funds (90%) and people-power go to the most reached places of the earth! I think this is so sad!  


What is your next step in getting involved in God's global cause? 

Here are some suggestions:

1) Take Perspectives on the World Christian Movement in your area. 

2) Start praying for the unreached people of the day HERE or you can download an app or sign up for daily emails to inform your prayers. 

3) Invite a global worker to dinner and ask how you might pray for them!


Lord, give us a heart like Paul and Barnabas who took the gospel to the ends of the earth. Amen. 
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