Acts Chapter 13: Paul and Barnabas on Their Journey to Cyprus to Antioch in Pisidia

Feb 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Acts, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Acts Chapter 13:  Paul and Barnabas on Their Journey to Cyprus to Antioch in Pisidia

Acts 13:1 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.

Of the prophets and teachers in Antioch, Simeon was from Nigeria, and Lucius was also from Africa. Manaen was Herod’s foster brother (see the King James margin).

Acts 13:2 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.

As the brethren fasted, the Holy Spirit indicated that they should separate Barnabas and Saul for a work. How did the Holy Spirit do this? Perhaps lots were cast, or a prophet spoke a message under the inspiration of the Spirit. If the latter method was used, there would be a special reason for the inclusion of the word “prophets” in verse 1.

Acts 13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Again the brethren fasted and prayed, this time for the missionary and witnessing effort of Barnabas and Saul. Even though the Holy Spirit had separated these two from the others, the brethren, knowing this mission was very important, wanted to do more than just pray for God’s blessing to be upon Barnabas and Saul. Therefore, they fasted to give greater intensity to their prayers, that is, to offer fervent, effectual prayer (James 5:16).

The brethren “laid their hands” on Barnabas and Saul. At this time, the brethren misunderstood the meaning, for Paul said later that their laying on of hands merely indicated they were in sympathy with the work and nothing more. God, not men, had done the selecting not only by having the Holy Spirit say, “Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul,” but also by Jesus’ appearing to Saul on the way to Damascus at the time of his conversion. Saul was told he would be God’s representative to the Gentiles. Subsequently Paul had to remind the brethren of this fact, for others felt they were equal to Paul in authority, especially because of his appearance and poor eyesight.

Acts 13:4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

Barnabas and Saul began their first missionary journey by going to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailing the trade route to the island of Cyprus.

Acts 13:5 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.

They went to the city of Salamis on the island of Cyprus, the homeland of Barnabas, to preach the Word of God (Acts 4:36). John Mark, who accompanied Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary journey, was subordinate to them (he was “their minister”). Barnabas was John Mark’s uncle. John Mark would have been a deacon, and he should have served faithfully and respectfully.

Acts 13:6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus:

When they went to the city of Paphos on Cyprus, they found a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-jesus, meaning “son of Jesus.” Thus we know that others had the name Jesus.

Acts 13:7 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.

The deputy of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, wanted to hear Barnabas and Saul speak. It was prudent of him to hear the message himself and not judge by secondhand or third-hand information. Obviously, he had heard that the gospel was being preached, and he wanted to give the message a hearing. Those who judge a matter before they hear it are not sound in their thinking.

Acts 13:8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

Elymas (Bar-jesus), the sorcerer, tried to negate the preaching of Barnabas and Saul, especially as it might affect the deputy. Elymas feared that his own popularity would be undercut.

Acts 13:9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

Acts 13:10 And said, O full of all subtlety 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?

Acts 13:11 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.

Acts 13:12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Speaking bluntly, Saul put a curse on Elymas that resulted in blindness. When the deputy witnessed the miraculous power that Saul possessed, he was very impressed and thus was more amenable to the doctrine of the gospel, which hopefully had a beneficial effect on him the remainder of his life.

Acts 13:13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

Comment: Of the two disciples, Barnabas was named first until Saul spoke with power and commanded blindness to come on the sorcerer. Now Saul was called “Paul,” and the expression used was “Paul and his company.”

Reply: Since Paul was not handsome, it was only after hearing him awhile that others saw the depth of his erudition and scholarship, his handling of the language, and his logic. He was not given to flowery speech but spoke very direct, forcefully, and mathematically, using comparisons and contrasts in his style of delivery. Evidently, Barnabas was more impressive in appearance and had a pleasant, engaging disposition and manner, but Paul was more impressive in speech.

At this point, John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas. What caused the separation is conjecture, but perhaps he was not prepared for the rigors—both the discomfiture and the persecutions—of the journey. At any rate, repercussions came later.

Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

Perga was on the seacoast of the southern portion of Turkey. From Perga, Paul and the others went to Antioch in Pisidia. (There were many Antiochs, and this was a different one.) Paul and Barnabas entered the synagogue and sat down on the courtyard floor, taking advantage of the sabbath day. The other Jews would have noticed these two strangers, obviously newcomers, entering their midst.

The Jews’ “house” was left desolate in AD 33 (Matt. 23:38). Nevertheless, on their missionary journeys, the apostles went first to the synagogues on the sabbath because they had opportunity to speak and ask questions and/or make comments; that is, they did not go there just to listen and be taught. In going to the synagogue, which was the nominal Jewish “church,” they were following the principle of “to the Jew first.” It was like our going to a Bible study meeting in which we can participate and voice opinions, yet we are respectful. In antitype, the nominal Church was rejected in 1878, but that does not mean that one who is accustomed to speaking on the truth could not go there under certain circumstances and address the assembly. To go to the nominal Church on a habitual basis would be wrong, however, unless there was a constant opportunity for input and expression.

Acts 13:15 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.

Acts 13:16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

Notice what naturally happened. The rulers of the synagogue asked the two strangers if they had “any word of exhortation for the people” and perhaps also wanted to hear any news that would be of interest to the congregation. Also, they would want to know the thoughts of others of Jewry in regard to the passage of the Law just read. Paul stood up quickly and beckoned with his hand as if to say, “I have something of significance to say.” Then he spoke courageously, feeling the importance of the situation and the message, and knowing that God had anointed him, through Jesus, to be a special ambassador to the Gentiles.

Q: Paul began his address, “Men of Israel, and ye that fear God.” Based on verse 42, was he referring to both Jews and Gentiles? Verse 42 reads in part, “When the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.”

A: Yes, these Gentiles either were already Jewish proselytes or were considering becoming Jewish proselytes. In other words, these Gentiles were searching for God and had a hearing ear for Judaism.

Acts 13:17 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.

Acts 13:18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

Acts 13:19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.

Acts 13:20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

Acts 13:21 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.

Acts 13:22 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.

Acts 13:23 Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:

Acts 13:24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

Acts 13:25 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.

Over and over in verses 17-25, Paul emphasized the actions of God and eventually led to Messiah. Notice how shrewd Paul was. He wanted to appeal to the hearts of the Gentiles who were present in the audience as well as to the Jews. He started by telling how God called the Israelites when they were strangers in Egypt. Jacob’s (Israel’s) twelve sons, who died in Egypt, were the nucleus of the Jewish nation; that is, they became the twelve tribes. In fact, the twelve sons themselves are sometimes called “Jacob” and sometimes “Israel.” In time and with a high arm, God brought the Israelites out of Egypt.

Paul was appealing to the hearts of those who were searching, both Jews and those Gentiles who were sympathetic to Jewry. Remember, Paul’s commission was primarily to the Gentiles, but he was also to represent God to the natural seed. Therefore, his custom was to go to the Jew first and then to the Gentile, but sometimes he went to both Jew and Gentile right in the synagogue.

Next Paul mentioned two time periods that are very helpful in studying chronology: (1) the 40 years of wilderness wanderings in Sinai and (2) the 450 years of the Period of the Judges (from Joshua through Samuel). The account also states that Saul reigned as king for 40 years. Although Paul did not mention the six years of conquering the land of Canaan under Joshua, he did say the seven powers that occupied the land were dispersed.

Comment: Verse 18 is tender. For the clause God “suffered … their [the Israelites’] manners in the wilderness,” the King James margin says He fed them as a nurse beareth or feedeth her child.

Reply: Yes, in the sense of a shepherd or a mother eagle, the Heavenly Father watched over the Israelites. Even when they were disobedient, rather than to destroy them all in anger, He purged out the ringleaders, those who were the most disobedient. Instead of rashly consuming all of the people for their murmurings, He showed mercy to those who were trying.

Eventually, however, He had to purge out the older generation except for Joshua and Caleb. Of the kings of Israel, Paul mentioned only Saul, the son of Cis (Kish), and David, his purpose being to identify Jesus as the Son of David. He attacked this subject much as Stephen had but in a more abbreviated fashion. Then Paul backtracked to John the Baptist, who was well known even beyond the borders of Israel. Some of the Jews who had attended feasts in Jerusalem would have heard about John the Baptist and his message of a Savior, and they carried that news back to their homeland. The rumor about the Messiah spread like wildfire. Now Paul was saying, “What you heard is true. The Messiah John spoke about has come, and I am here to testify about him.”

Although John the Baptist preached a strong message, he was humble, saying he was not worthy even to tie or loosen the sandals of the one he was introducing. Thus we can see that John bore the influence of his mother, Elisabeth. When she and Mary were both pregnant (with a six-month differential), Mary went to visit her. Upon seeing her, Elisabeth said, “I should welcome you, for the babe in my womb is jumping for joy over the one you are carrying, who will bring the promised redemption.” Elisabeth, an old woman, humbled herself in giving recognition to Mary, a young woman (Luke 1:41-45 paraphrase).

Acts 13:26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

Acts 13:27 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.

Acts 13:28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

Acts 13:29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

Acts 13:30 But God raised him from the dead:

Acts 13:31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

Acts 13:32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,

Acts 13:33 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, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

Acts 13:34 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.

Acts 13:35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Acts 13:36 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:

Acts 13:37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.

Comment: Verse 26 proves that Paul was addressing Gentiles as well as Jews, for the clause “whosoever among you feareth God” refers to the Gentiles who were present.

Paul’s address was not just a normal sermon. Just as Paul had beckoned earlier, he no doubt gesticulated with his hand now as he was talking, pointing to the people or the rulers as the words required. For example, when he said, “Whosoever among you,” he would have pointed.

Paul was testifying that Jesus the Messiah was slain by the rulers of the synagogue, and the ruler of the synagogue here in Antioch had just invited him to speak. Paul did not hold back but was saying in effect that the rulership, the scribes and the Pharisees, were responsible for putting Jesus to death. However, after Jesus was taken down from the Cross and was resurrected, his body was never found. Many witnesses saw him alive after his crucifixion. When he was raised from death, he was seen by more than 500 on one occasion. Paul would have spoken with real power, conviction, and urgency. As a result, listeners knew that he really believed what he was saying. “The Scriptures prove that Jesus is the Messiah. In David’s tomb, there was a corpse; in Jesus’ tomb, there was no corpse. The Scriptures prophesied that God would not allow the body of His Son, who would be crucified, to see corruption.”

Paul’s words were carefully chosen. His delivery was not too verbose but was strong and just right, for had the message been too long, it would have lost its effect. In Hebrew, the word “David” means “beloved,” and Paul was making a distinction between the two “beloveds.”

The apostles had heard God’s voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” so the “beloved” aspect was associated with Jesus (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Paul was saying that from the lineage of the natural David would come the Messiah David, the greatly Beloved of God. Jesus was the true Beloved (Matt. 1:6,16). Paul was allowing the hearers to put the clues together later. Any intelligent person who had some familiarity with Old Testament history should have been able to make the connection. Paul was hitting the key points in order to open the door of their understanding.

Paul’s voice and body frame were weak, and his eyesight was poor—but his motions and expressions were powerful and energetic. The audience would have sensed his conviction and urgency, even if his voice was straining and not too loud. In other words, they could see that he was driven by the urgency of his message and that he was ready to show proof. Those with receptive hearts would be moved to consecration and want to hear more from this strange, wonderful itinerant preacher.

Acts 13:38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

Acts 13:39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Acts 13:40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;

Acts 13:41 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.

Paul’s words about Isaiah’s statement were like an electric shock to the listeners. He cautioned, “Beware! Although this message is new and hard to grasp, you must regard it carefully, for the Prophet Isaiah spoke of this future message and said that many would not receive it, even though a man declare it unto you.” In effect, Paul was saying, “I am that man. I am declaring Isaiah’s predicted message about the Messiah.”

Acts 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

Acts 13:43 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.

Paul reached the right-hearted Jews, Gentiles, and proselytes—that is, the ones whose hearts were opened by the Lord. Realizing that Paul would continue his journey, they sought him during the following week for as much information and understanding as possible, and they wished Paul a blessing in the words he had spoken to open up their minds (see King James margin). Barnabas participated after Paul spoke—similar to the way John followed up after Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost. John was a son of thunder, but he respected Peter and, therefore, was active afterwards (Mark 3:17).

Acts 13:44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

Acts 13:45 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.

“Almost the whole city” turned out to hear Paul on the next sabbath. This reaction shows how influential his message was on the first sabbath, plus the power of his additional preaching during the week just preceding. The synagogue ruler and his associates, who had never had such an audience, were jealous. For weeks and years, their numbers would have remained relatively constant. But now two strangers had come into their midst, and after the eight days that had just passed, nearly all in the city gathered together. Probably the multitude could not even fit in the synagogue. The radical difference aroused jealousy right away.

Acts 13:46 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.

Comment: It is questionable whether these jealous Jewish rulers will get life in the Kingdom, for they were hardening their characters toward incorrigibility and judging themselves “unworthy of everlasting life.”

Reply: Now that they had received the knowledge, they were more responsible. If they continued to pursue this course—and some of them did as the New Testament shows—their characters became crystallized in incorrigibility, making it impossible for them to change their ways when they are awakened from the tomb in the Kingdom. Too much humbling would be required. In other words, one can become an incorrigible sinner in the present life whether or not a consecration is made. “Incorrigible” means “no hope of change.”

Notice that “Paul and Barnabas waxed bold” when the rulers contradicted their teachings. They did not return evil for evil but used Scripture and Scriptural reasoning. A submissive, meek message would not have been proper under the circumstances. Then Paul and Barnabas said to the opposing Jews, “Because you have thrust the gospel message from you, we now turn the message to the Gentiles.”

Acts 13:47 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.

Acts 13:48 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.

Because these Gentiles reverenced God and were searching, they were glad when they heard the words of Paul and Barnabas. In the Gentile world, with all of its numerous gods and heathen practices, they could not see a God whose character they could admire. Since the Jewish religion was the only religion that had any hope of an intelligent Creator with orderly laws, the Gentiles were attracted to Judaism. Now Paul was taking them a step higher. The Gentiles “glorified the word of the Lord,” not the word of the Apostle Paul. They were awestruck with this new insight into the meaning of Scripture. “And as many [of the Gentiles] as were ordained to eternal life believed.” In other words, the Gentiles who were called to eternal life believed.

Q: Will the power that was manifested in the early Church again be manifested in the near future at the end of the age? Will there be startling conversions as well as powerful messages given?

A: For those who are Spirit-begotten in Babylon and are developed greatly in character, the knowledge of dispensational truth could come very swiftly. Years of studying the Volumes, for instance, would not be required. They could then respond and act upon the knowledge and be greatly blessed.

Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

Acts 13:50 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.

Acts 13:51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.

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

Influential Jews who were hostile to Paul and Barnabas and the gospel message went to others to stir up persecution. The instigating Jews, who were respected, were responsible for their actions, whereas the ones who were influenced and did not have an opportunity to actually hear Paul and Barnabas were not necessarily as responsible. The hostile Jews not only stirred up “the chief men of the city” but also “devout and honorable women,” knowing that women can get emotional and react strongly. Generally speaking, the Jewish women were far more educated than the Gentile women, and one reason they were considered “honorable” may have been their position as wives of the chief men of the city. The women were influenced by the hostile Jews, and they, in turn, influenced their husbands.

Notice what Paul and Barnabas did. When they were expelled, they followed Jesus’ advice and “shook off the dust of their feet” against the opposers. Then they departed from the city of Antioch and went to Iconium, leaving behind a nucleus of believers who could be developed at a later date. These disciples, being “filled with joy” and the Holy Spirit, went back to the Scriptures and studied afresh based on their new insight. Thus when they would subsequently hear from or of Paul, they would be ready for the next step of development. Paul and Barnabas left the brethren with much to reflect on in this new and wonderful life.

(1991–1992 Study)

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