Barnabas and Saul Sent Off, 1-3

Acts 13:1 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.

‘Luke does not tell us which of these men were prophets and which were teachers. The probability is that the dividing line was not very clear, both groups being involved in exposition of … the prophetic scriptures and in exhortation; the prophets, however, had also the gift of charismatic utterance.’ (I.H. Marshall)

‘We are told that “prophets and teachers” led the church at Antioch. Now these are very uncomfortable bedfellows. Prophets are unpredictable. Teachers are not. Prophets want freedom in worship. Teachers usually want stability. Prophets think teachers are dull and uninspired. Teachers think prophets are a little wild, a little unrooted in Scripture, and they never prepare anything! All the possibilities for discord were there. But apparently it did not happen. They worked together wonderfully well. And their variety enriched their leadership.’ (Green, Evangelism Through the Local Church, 98).

Not only was there a fascinating mixture of spiritual giftings at Antioch; there was also a wide ethnic and cultural diversity.  As Ian Paul writes:

‘Luke does his theology through narrative, and he has chosen to highlight the leadership of the church in Antioch for a particular reason. By mentioning a Jew, a black African, a Roman, someone from the court of the compromised leader Herod, and a Pharisees, Luke is pointing us to the essential ethnic, social and cultural diversity of this church, most likely reflecting the mixed make-up of the city itself. And it is in this context that the Spirit is at work, that Paul and Barnabas are called, and that there is a breakthrough to the next stage of the mission of God as the Word spreads west through Turkey and soon across into Europe proper. As a white Western Christian, I need to remember that I am only incorporated into the grace of God because of the ethnic diversity of the gospel!’

Acts 13:2 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.”

The Holy Spirit said… – Presumably, through the prophets mentioned in v1.

Acts 13:3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

On Cyprus, 4-12

Acts 13:4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.

Barnabas, Paul and Mark

The peripheral figure of Joses/Barnabas from Cyprus has a considerable amount of coherent evidence confirming the stories involving him: Luke reports that he was a Levite from Cyprus (Acts 4:36); he vouches for Paul’s sincerity as if knowing him, which is explained by Cyprus being annexed to Cilicia, in which Tarsus, a centre of education, was the main city. They might have both studied there, explaining Paul’s Greek education and since there was unlikely to be a major school in Cyprus. Since they both moved to Jerusalem, they might also have known each other there. They might also have common friends. Barnabas also took Paul from Tarsus to Antioch seemingly unnecessarily. Barnabas’ being a Cypriot also explains why he was chosen in particular to go from Jerusalem to Antioch (Acts 11), since there were Cypriots in Antioch preaching the gospel. It also explains various journeys of Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 13:4; 15:32). In this latter journey, Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus even after Paul refused to take Mark. This is explained by Barnabas and Mark being cousins (Col 4:10), hence Barnabas’ loyalty and arguing with Paul. It might also explain why Paul refused to take Mark in the first place. Paul refers to Mark deserting them in Pamphylia, which might be explained by the earlier report of the incident, where it turns out they sailed to Cyprus previously. It might be that Mark wanted to go to Cyprus for sentimental reasons without being very serious about preaching the gospel elsewhere afterwards. (Calum Miller, based on Blunt)

Acts 13:5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

Salamis – The most important city of Cyprus, located on its east coast and evidently containing more than one Jewish synagogue.

John – = John Mark

Acts 13:6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, Acts 13:7 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.

Sergius Paulus – An inscription discovered in 1877 at Paphos, Cyprus, confirms his existence.

Proconsul – ‘An office in the Roman system of government. Proconsuls oversaw the administration of civil and military matters in a province. They are responsible to the senate in Rome. The New Testament refers to two proconsuls: Sergius Paulus in Cyprus (Acts 13:7 NRSV) and Gallio in Achaia. (Acts 18:12 NRSV) Compare Acts 19:38.’ (Holman)

Acts 13:8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Acts 13:9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, Acts 13:10 “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? Acts 13:11 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.” Acts 13:12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

In Pisidian Antioch, 13-52

Acts 13:13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.

Pamphylia – ‘One of the provinces of Asia Minor. Located in what is now southern Turkey, Pamphylia was a small district on the coast. It measured about eighty miles long and twenty miles wide. One of the chief cities was Perga, where John Mark left Paul and Barnabas during the first missionary journey.’ (Acts 13:13) (Holman)

John left them to return to Jerusalem – ‘Why did John Mark leave? At the least we may conclude from Acts 15:38 that decision was viewed as a serious desertion that rendered him, in Paul’s eyes, unfit to go along on the second journey. Richard Longenecker strongly argues that John Mark disagreed with Paul over the validity of a direct Gentile mission.’ (IVP Cmt’y)

‘Why did he desert? A variety of conjectures has been made. Was he homesick, missing his mother, her spacious Jerusalem home, and the servants? Did he resent the fact that the partnership of ‘Barnabas and Saul’ (2, 7) had become ‘Paul and Barnabas’ (13, 46. etc.), since Paul was now taking the lead and eclipsing his cousin? Did he, as a loyal member of Jerusalem’s conservative Jewish church, disagree with Paul’s bold policy of Gentile evangelism? Was it even he who, on his return to Jerusalem, provoked the Judaizers into opposing Paul (15:1ff)? Or did Mark simply not relish the stiff climb over the Tarsus mountains which were known to be infested with brigands (cf. Paul’s ‘in danger from bandits’ 2 Cor 11:26)? We do not know.’ (Stott)

Acts 13:14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.

Pisidian Antioch – ‘A city in Pisidia, Asia Minor, west of Iconium. Like the Syrian Antioch, this Antioch was founded by Seleucus Nicator. Under Roman rule, this city was called Caesarea. Paul preached in a synagogue there on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:14) and was warmly received (13:42-44). Jewish jealousy led to a separate ministry to Gentiles (13:46). Finally, Jews drove Paul and Barnabas from the city. These Jews from Antioch followed Paul to Lystra and stirred up trouble there (14:19). Despite this, Paul returned to Antioch to strengthen the church (14:21). Paul used the experience to teach Timothy.’ (2 Tim 3:11) (Holman)

Undesigned coincidence.  Why did Paul travel from Cyprus to Antioch, bypassing several conveniently-situated cities on the way?  It is known that the Paulii family were the largest landowners in the area, and therefore of considerable influence.  Archaeological investigation has revealed an inscription by L. Sergius Paulus – probably the son of the governor of Cyprus.  So it is quite likely that Paul made his way the Antioch carrying a letter of introduction from the governor of Cyprus, who was a convert to Christ.  He would have been confident of a hearing, and perhaps of protection too. (Source)

Acts 13:15 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 13:16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!” Acts 13:17 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, Acts 13:18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, Acts 13:19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. Acts 13:20 All this took about 450 years. “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Acts 13:21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. Acts 13:22 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.’ Acts 13:23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Acts 13:24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. Acts 13:25 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 13:26 “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.” Acts 13:27 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. Acts 13:28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. Acts 13:29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.

They took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb – This is sometimes thought to reflect an alternative burial tradition to that recorded in the Gospels.  But there is no real problem in seeing the present passage as a compression for the sake of brevity.  The leaders of the Sanhedrin to steps to ensure that the body of Jesus was taken down from the cross before sunset (Jn 19:31); Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were both members of the Sanhedrin but also disciples of Jesus, are explicitly mentioned in connection with the removal of the body and its subsequent burial (Lk 25:50ff; Jn 19:38ff).

Acts 13:30 But God raised him from the dead, Acts 13:31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. Acts 13:32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers Acts 13:33 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.’ Acts 13:34 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.’ Acts 13:35 So it is stated elsewhere: “’You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ Acts 13:36 “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.

‘God has work to do in this world, and to desert it because of its difficulties and entanglements is to cast off his authority. Universal holiness is required of us, that we may do the will of God in our generation. It is not enough that we be just, that we be righteous, and walk with God in holiness, but we must also serve our generation as David did before he fell asleep. God has a work to do, and not to help him is to oppose him.’ (Owen)

Acts 13:37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. Acts 13:38 “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Acts 13:39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.

‘We need to remember that Paul is addressing Galatians. Only a few months or so later he will be writing his Letter to the Galatians. It is very striking, therefore, that he brings together here at the conclusion of his sermon five of the great words which will be foundation stones of his gospel as he expounds it in his Letter. Having referred to Jesus’ death on the tree (29), he goes on to speak of sin (38), faith, justification, law (39) and grace (43).’ (Stott)

Acts 13:40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: Acts 13:41 “‘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.’”

Cf. Hab 1:5. ‘In Habakkuk’s day, the “unbelievable work” God was doing was the raising up of the Chaldeans to chasten his people, a work so remarkable that nobody would believe it. After all, why would God use an evil pagan nation to punish his own chosen people, sinful though they might be? God was using Gentiles to punish Jews! But the “wonderful work” in Paul’s day was that God was using the Jews to save the Gentiles!’ (Wiersbe)

‘The immediate relevance of these words to Paul’s audience in Pisidian Antioch is clear. What God has done in their days is to fulfill the messianic promises by raising Jesus from death. Paul has proclaimed this to them and offered them the forgiveness and justification achieved by Christ in his death and resurrection. They must choose ‘which side of the prophetic cause they will embrace, that of the scornful opponents of Jesus, like those of Jerusalem, or that of the believing disciples, like Paul and associates’. If they do not believe, they will perish in the coming judgment of God (cf. Acts 3:22–23; 4:11–12; 10:42; 17:30–31).’ (Pillar)

Paul ‘declares, in effect: “No, you will not believe, any more than your fathers did.  But because has not recognised her Messiah, has even crucified him, and now refuses to believe his gospel, God is at last going to act in judgment.  He is going to raise up the Roman power to sack and to destroy your temple, and you yourselves will be cast out among the nations.  I know you will not believe this, for the prophet Habakkuk has already prophesied it, and you are continuing to ignore his message.”  The year AD 70 inexorably came.  The Roman legions surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed it and the Jews were cast out among the naitons where the remain to this day.’ (Lloyd-Jones, From Fear to Faith, p18)

‘As we look back over the three parts of Paul’s sermon, we cannot fail to note its similarity to the outline of the apostolic kerygma which appears in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4. Here, as there, we find the same four events: he died, was buried, was raised and was seen—together with the same insistence that both the major ones, his death and resurrection, were ‘according to the Scriptures’. The structure is also practically identical with that of Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, in which we detected the gospel events (the cross and the resurrection), the gospel witnesses (Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles), the gospel promises (the new life of salvation in Christ, through the Spirit) and the gospel conditions (repentance and faith).’ (Stott)

Acts 13:42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. Acts 13:43 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.

Converts to Judaism proselutos.

Paul and Barnabas – Up to this point, Luke has given precedence to Barnabas, from now on, however, the priority will change, with the exception of Acts 14:14 and Acts 15:12,25. See Acts 14:12 for the impression that the people of Lystra gained of each of them.

Acts 13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. Acts 13:45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Acts 13:46 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. Acts 13:47 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.’” Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. Acts 13:49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. Acts 13:50 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. Acts 13:51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.

Iconium – ‘City of Asia Minor visited by Barnabas and Paul during the first missionary journey. (Acts 13:51) Paul endured sufferings and persecution at Iconium. (2 Tim 3:11) Its location is that of the modern Turkish provincial capital Konya. Iconium was mentioned for the first time in the fourth century B.C. by the historian Xenophon. In New Testament times it was considered to be a part of the Roman province of Galatia. Evidently it has had a continuous existence since its founding.’ (Holman)

Iconium was a very ancient city. In ancient times it had a king called ‘Nannacus’, and the phrase ‘since the days of Nannacus’ was proverbial for ‘since the beginning of time’. ‘The apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thelia, a book dating from the late 2nd cent but well known in the early Church, tells the story of Thelia, a young woman of Iconium who overheard Paul’s preaching from her window. Thecla became a convert, renounced marriage, and engaged in preaching following Paul’s example. She suffered many trials and eventually became the most famous virgin martyr and the source of a growing legend – especially among the Christians at Iconium, where much evidence of her influence has been discovered. Ramsay reconstructed a putative first-century version of the story, but the extent to which the romance rests upon a historical kernel (if at all) cannot be established. A conical hill near Konya bears the name of St. Thelia to this day.’ (ISBE)

It seems from 2 Tim 3:10,11 that it was here that Paul became acquainted with Timothy.

Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.