Barnabas and Saul Sent Off
13 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia
Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:
“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,
“‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you.’
And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,
“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’
Therefore he says also in another psalm,
“‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
“‘Look, you scoffers,
be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”
As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The church in Antioch was in the middle of worshiping God and fasting when the Holy Spirit spoke. It was a direct commission of things to come, a new direction to go. He was specific in who was being called to another route, a new adventure.
Simply consider, this church and people were not attempting to dream up a new ministry opportunity. They were simply and beautifully connected with God. It wasn’t about making a name for themselves. It was about their relationship with God. They were worshiping. They were in prayer. It was through these things the Holy Spirit revealed what was to come.
Our relationship with Him must be the same. It’s the most important thing in our lives. For us to discover His will, direction and purpose both individually and corporately we must be working on and enhancing daily our personal relationship. We must pursue Him. Henry Blackaby stated, “Find where God is working and adjust your life to Him.” This beautiful statement speaks to the deeper connection with God and hearing clearly His voice. Then move to where He is already at work.
After the martyrdom of Stephen, the persecution was amped up against the Believers. They fled to Cyprus, Phoenicia, and Antioch. It was in Antioch they preached boldly about Jesus and as chapter 11 tells, many believed and turned to Him. When news was sent back to Jerusalem, a Cypriot named Barnabas was sent. He, in turn, went to Tarsus, found Paul and the 2 ministered to the people for a year. Antioch began to grow in numbers but more importantly in spiritual maturity. God was raising up leadership among the people. These were those who were pursuing their relationship with Him. Although there were challenges no doubt, the Holy Spirit was among them as they themselves were pursuing an active relationship with Him.
Much is the same for each of us. We need our hearts ignited in pursuit of God. Our relationship with Him must be what we continue to feed and develop. We must be in His Word. Applying it to our life. We must be actively committed to pursuing Him in prayer each day. Being so connected with Him we begin to see and sense the calling on our life. He wants us to discover and move alongside of Him.
Sadly today, the church has become consumer driven. No longer is it disciple making or operating with the goal of making disciples, rather within many congregations the view is the church is there to serve our own spiritual needs. If we don’t think it fulfills our particular tastes we simply move on to find one that does. On so many levels the community exists for ourselves not for us existing for community. Our relationship with God, our relationship with the church is not just about us. That would be the community for me. The church is the vehicle where we receive challenges, adjust our lives from them then go toward the community God is directing us toward to reach them for Christ. It is being the salt and light Jesus spoke of, in our own personal world.
Consequently, after a fruitful year of growth, God moved Saul and Barnabas onward. There is no doubt there was sadness leaving that congregation but God was leading them further to take His Son to the nations. The fruit that came from their obedience would be astounding. When they allowed God’s Spirit to lead them, Paul and Barnabas were set apart as missionaries and obedient. Antioch became the jumping off point for a worldwide revival. Nearly a dozen churches would be established throughout Asia. Paul began a ministry of writing that resulted in the composition of 1/2 the New Testament. Antioch would be established as one of the central hubs of Christianity in the ancient world. Why? Because they humbled themselves before God, sought His will and followed. They were not spectators but participants.
Discovering our calling, our purpose and future that God holds for us – we cannot be spectators. We must be following and get involved. We must adjust our lives to Him where He is already working, in whom He is already tenderizing their hearts toward His Son.
Each of us have a mission field and it’s the people who surround us everyday. It’s the ones who are discouraged or lost. The ones seeking for something greater in their lives even though they don’t recognize the fact. How much are you pursuing the Holy Spirit daily as you go about life, spend time in the word and prayer? How open and obedient are you to following where He wants you to go?
There are many people in your life who God wants to direct you towards. These are who He wants you to share His message of hope not only through words but your very life. Get off the bench of being a spectator and get in the game. Become a participant in your glorious calling. He already knows the hearts He’s calling you to. In some ways, it’s a window of opportunity we must follow through on. Pursue, adjust your life, become a participant and follow.
Acts 13 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Paul and Barnabas visit multiple synagogues and work there way across the island of Cyprus from east to west. When they reached Paphos, they encounter a snag. A Jewish false prophet by the name of Bar-Jesus seeks to stop them. Let’s take an in-depth look at this individual.
Bar-Jesus literally means ‘son of Jesus.’
He was masquerading as one with power and authority and blatantly associating himself with Jesus. This could indicate that he ran around in Christian circles or that he simply wanted the power or authority that came with that name. Remember, in Matthew 7 Jesus Himself condemns those who did all kinds of miracles in His name but never knew Him.
He was a smorgasbord of spirituality.
As I mentioned, his name indicated he possibly ran in Christian circles. The text also indicates he was Jewish and practiced the magical arts being described as a magician. He most likely would use any power he could to assist Sergius Paulus. Luke frames him as a serious threat to the Christian faith for these very reasons. He had knowledge, power, and influence.
A religious advisor for Sergius Paulus
Rome used a proconsul to rule over their territories. It was common for these rulers to acquire certain individuals such as a Bar-Jesus which would help them to govern by using their power to see into the future. It gave them an edge in their leadership. The IVP commentary suggests…
“Bar-Jesus must have been the court-astrologer, who at the same time claimed to know the magic formula by which the bonds of fate could be broken.” -IVP Commentary
The crucial verse which helps us to understand why there is such a disagreement here between Paul/Barnabas/Mark and Bar-Jesus is found in verse 7. This man (Sergius Paulus) summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. Scripture tells us that after Sergius Paulus began seeking to hear about Jesus, that’s when the enemy sprang forward to deter him from hearing the truth in any way possible. This is an absolute and practical application for us today.
The enemy is fine with you going to church, singing songs, reading Scripture, and even performing miraculous events in the name of Jesus! It’s when you begin to seek truth and actively pursue a relationship when he springs into action and will do whatever it takes to derail that growth from happening.
This is the most difficult part of our Christian walk. The seeking of God’s heart and denial of our own ways is a constant relationship that requires a humble attitude of repentance. Going through the motions with a little bit of Jesus – that’s fine. To Satan, you’re no different than the unbeliever. But committing to the truth whole-heartedly as we can assume Sergius Paulus is doing here triggers an all-out war. That’s when the gloves come off.
Where have you neglected an authentic relationship with Jesus for “spirituality?” What is your Bar-Jesus which has sprung forward to keep you from this pursuit? Do you recognize the signs of the enemy when he jumps into action to prevent you from going deeper?