Barnabas and Saul in Cyprus (13:1-12)
1 In addition to Barnabas and Saul, three other leaders of the Antioch church are mentioned here: Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen. Simeon called Niger, some think, may have been the man who carried Jesus’ cross (Mark 15:21). Lucius of Cyrene58 was among the first to preach to the Gentiles at Antioch (Acts 11:20). Manaen had been raised in the same household with Herod. This Herod is not the same as the Herod mentioned in Acts Chapter 12. The Herod referred to here is the son of the King Herod who was ruler of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1; Luke 1:5). The Herod mentioned here ruled during most of Jesus’ lifetime, that is, from 4 B.C.59 to 39 A.D. This is the Herod who cut of f the head of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-28). This is the Herod who examined and mocked Jesus after His arrest (Luke 23:6-12). Here were two men, Manaen and Herod, brought up in the same household. How different they turned out to be!
Herod is here called a tetrarch, which means “ruler of a fourth part.” The Roman emperors used to divide each province of the empire into four parts and then assign a local ruler to govern each part. It was in this way that Herod had obtained his title.
2-3 As these five leaders of the Antioch church were worshiping the Lord, the Holy Spirit spoke to them. The more Christians worship the Lord, the more the Holy Spirit will speak to them and guide them. There are many examples of this in the New Testament.
Luke also mentions that these men were fasting. Many Christians have testified that when they fast they are much better able to hear the voice of the Spirit and to receive His guidance.
The Holy Spirit said to the five men: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” God had already appointed Barnabas and Saul to preach among the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Galatians 2:9). Now the time had come for them to begin preaching the Gospel in other cities also. Therefore, Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul, and sent them on their way.
The three leaders laid their hands on Barnabas and Saul as a sign of their appointment as missionaries of the church and also as a sign of the fellowship and support of the congregation (see Acts 6:6 and comment). In this way, Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the church at Antioch. And when they returned from their journey, they gave the church a full report of all that they had done (Acts 14:26-27). This has been a common pattern for the sending out of missionaries ever since.
4 Seleucia was the port city of Antioch. From there Barnabas and Saul crossed the Mediterranean Sea to the island of Cyprus, which was Barnabas’ birthplace (Acts 4:36).
5 Salamis was the main city on the east coast of Cyprus, and still is today. After arriving there, Barnabas and Saul went first to the local Jewish synagogue to preach. Wherever they went, it was their custom to go first to the Jewish synagogue in that place (verse 14). Mark, whose other name was John, also was with them (Acts 12:25).
6-8 Paphos was the main city on the west coast of Cyprus. Here lived the Roman proconsul, the chief governing official of the island. The proconsul at the time, Sergius Paulus, had an attendant named Bar-Jesus, or Elymas (which means sorcerer). Elymas immediately began to oppose Barnabas and Saul. He knew that he would lose his job as sorcerer if the proconsul believed their preaching.
9-11 From here on, Luke uses Saul’s Roman name, Paul. Paul, filled with Holy Spirit, rebuked Elymas. And just as Paul had been struck blind on the road to Damascus, so also was Elymas struck blind at Paul’s words. This sorcerer, who had tried to blind others from seeing the truth, now had become blind himself. And he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand (verse 11). Where was his power now?
12 The proconsul was amazed by Paul’s power and by his teaching, and as a result of what he saw and heard, he believed in the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas in Pisidian Antioch (13:13-41)
13 In the beginning Barnabas was the leader of this little group, but as time went on, it appears that Paul gradually assumed the leadership, perhaps partly as a result of his successful encounter with the sorcerer Elymas (verses 9-12). Up to this point Luke has always written “Barnabas and Saul.” From now on he refers to them as “Paul and Barnabas” (verse 42) or, as in this verse, Paul and his companions. Did Barnabas complain that he had become less important than Paul? We don’t see any mention of it in the Bible. Barnabas was a man full of grace. It takes much grace, having once been first, to then be second.
Paul, Barnabas, and John (that is, Mark) next sailed to Perga, a city in the district of Pamphylia located in the southern part of present-day Turkey. After arriving there, Mark left Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem. Luke doesn’t say why Mark left, but whatever the reason was, Paul was not happy about it (see Acts 15:36-38 and comment).
14 Paul and Barnabas traveled on to another city called Antioch, located in the district of Pisidia, also in southern Turkey. Hence Luke refers to this city as Pisidian Antioch to distinguish it from the An-tioch in Syria from which Paul and Barnabas had set out. Pisidian Antioch was a Roman colony. A number of the chief cities throughout the Roman Empire had been designated as Roman colonies, and Paul frequently preached in such colonies (see Acts 16:12). These city colonies were important political and commercial centers, and in Paul’s mind, therefore, they were strategic locations from which the Gospel of Christ could spread rapidly throughout the Empire.
On the Sabbath (Saturday), Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, as was their custom after arriving in any new city.
15 In the synagogue service of Paul’s day, it was customary to begin the service by reading a passage out loud from the Law (that is, the first five books of the Old Testament) and another passage from the Prophets. Then someone would get up and give a sermon. On this day, the synagogue rulers invited Paul and Barnabas to speak. Together with the reading and hearing of God’s word, it is also necessary that someone clearly explain its meaning. This Paul was always ready and eager to do.
16 In every Jewish synagogue service, there were some who were true Jews, whom Paul here calls Men of Israel; and there were others who were Gentiles by birth but who followed the Jewish religion. This latter group Paul here addresses as Gentiles who worship God. In every place Paul went, it was mainly these Gentiles who accepted his message and believed in Christ. But the true Jews repeatedly rejected Paul’s message and turned against him (verses 45,50).
17-19 Paul began his sermon by giving a short summary of Jewish history. In the beginning God, by His grace, chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. By His mighty power60 (verse 17) God brought the Jews out of bondage in Egypt. But in the desert those Jews, who so recently had been released from captivity by the mercy of God, began to grumble and complain against Him. Worse, they made idols to worship. Therefore, God punished that generation of Jews. But to the next generation He again showed mercy, for He led them into the promised land of Canaan—that is, Israel—and gave it to them as an inheritance (see Psalm 78:12-55; Acts 7:2-46). The seven nations (verse 19) that the Jews drove out of Canaan are mentioned in Deuteronomy 7:1-2.
20-21 At first the rulers of Israel were called judges. But eventually the Jews asked to have a king, as other nations had. So God appointed a man named Saul to be their first king. But Saul did not obey God, and so God became displeased with him (1 Samuel 13:13-14; 15:22-26,28).
22 Then God made David their king, a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David was a man after God’s own heart because, unlike Saul, he was obedient. God said: “… he will do everything I want him to do.” And God promised David that He would raise up one of his offspring and give him a throne that would last forever (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 89:20,28-29; Acts 7:46-47 and comment).
After many generations of kings, the kingdom originally established by David was split up and destroyed. The Jews were all sent into exile. God had said through the prophet Ezekiel: “A ruin! A ruin! I will make it (David’s kingdom) a ruin! It will not be restored until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs; to him I will give it” (Ezekiel 21:27).
23 The One to whom David’s kingdom rightfully belongs is Christ. In Christ, God fulfilled His promise to David to establish the throne of his offspring, a throne that would last forever. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied about the coming of a righteous Branch of David, who would save Israel (Jeremiah 23:5-6). Christ was that Savior, whom God promised to send. Christ was the Messiah that all Jews had been hoping and waiting for. This was Paul’s good news for the Jews gathered in that synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. They should have received his news with joy! But they didn’t.
24-25 First, John the Baptist had come to prepare all the people of Israel (the Jews) to repent and to accept Christ (Mark 1:2-3; Acts 10:37). But John himself was not the Christ. John wasn’t even worthy to untie the thongs of Christ’s sandals (Mark 1:7).
26 Paul kept both the Jews and Gentiles in mind as he spoke. Here he calls the Jews children of Abraham, and the Gentiles God fearing Gentiles (see verse 16). His message was the message of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles equally.
27-28 But the Jews in Jerusalem did not recognize the Savior when He finally came to them (Acts 3:17-18). Instead, they killed Him. But in killing Him they were, in fact, fulfilling the prophecies written in their own Scriptures, which they had heard read every Sabbath (Saturday) in their synagogues (Isaiah 53:3-12; Acts 2:23; 3:13 and comments).
29 After Christ was dead, they took him down from the tree, that is, from the cross (Deuteronomy 21:23; Acts 5:30; 10:39). Those who took Christ down from the cross were Joseph of Arimethea and Nico-demus, both of them Jews who had secretly sympathized with Jesus (see John 19:3842). They then laid Jesus’ body in a tomb. And Jesus’ body remained in that tomb for three days.
30-31 But God raised him from the dead. This is the message of victory, victory over death. Without Christ’s resurrection, there is no Gospel (Acts 2:24,32; 3:15; 4:10; 10:40-41).
32-33 The good news, the Gospel, in Paul’s words is this: “What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”
First, God raised up Jesus to be His Son. Paul here quotes from Psalm 2:7, in which God says: “You are my Son” (see Mark 1:11).
34 Second, God raised up Jesus from the dead. Having first raised up Jesus to be His Son, God then allowed Him to be killed. Then, after three days, He raised Him up again. And God gave Jesus the blessing He had promised to David: namely, that Jesus’ kingdom would have no end. Paul quotes that promise from Isaiah 55:3.
35 God also gave Jesus a body that would not decay but would last forever. Here Paul quotes from Psalm 16:10.
36-37 The promise of a body that would not decay wasn’t made to David; it was made to Christ. For David died and his body decomposed. But Jesus died and rose again; His body never saw decay (see Acts 2:25-32 and comment).
38 In order for a person to be saved, his sins must first be forgiven. Without forgiveness of sins there can be no salvation. Forgiveness of sin is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ the Savior (Acts 2:38; 3:1920; 10:43).
39 The law of Moses, that is, the Jewish law, provided forgiveness only for those sins done in ignorance. According to the Jewish law, there was no forgiveness possible for sins committed knowingly (Numbers 15:22-31). But through faith in Christ we are justified; that is, through faith we receive Christ’s righteousness and become RIGHTEOUS in God’s sight. All of our sins, whether done knowingly or unknowingly, are erased. The Jewish law could not justify anyone. The law could not purif y anyone’s heart or conscience. Through faith in Christ alone can a person be justified (see Galatians 2:15-16; Hebrews 7:27; 9:13-15 and comments).
40-41 Paul here quotes from Habakkuk 1:5. The prophet Habakkuk warned the Jews that if they did not obey God, God would destroy them. Through Habakkuk, God said to the Jews: “I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe” (verse 41). That is, God was going to give them a great punishment. But the Jews did not heed Habakkuk’s warning. Instead, they scoffed. And an enemy nation overcame them, and they perished.
Now Jesus Christ had come. The something that God said He would do was not only the giving of a great punishment; the something was also the sending of Jesus. Jesus was God’s great “work.” But the Jews could not believe that Jesus was their Savior. They scoffed at Him. Thus Paul’s warning to the Jews of his own day was this: “Do not scoff. Do not reject Christ. For if you do, an even worse fate will fall upon you than fell upon your fathers who scoffed in Hab-akkuk’s time.”
Paul and Barnabas Preach to the Gentiles (13:42-52)
42-43 Some of the Jews and many of the Gentile converts to Judaism accepted Paul’s word. They asked to hear more. They had heard many sermons in the synagogue before, but never one like this!
44-45 On the next Sabbath, most of the Gentiles in the city came to hear Paul speak. As a result, the Jewish leaders became jealous of Paul’s popularity. Furthermore, they feared that the Gentiles who had been following the Jewish religion would turn away and begin following Paul instead. Therefore, the Jews began to oppose Paul.
46 Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews, “We had to speak the word of God to you first.” The Jews should have accepted Christ. If they had done so, they would have received ETERNAL LIFE. They wouldhavebeen a light for the Gentiles (verse 47). That was what God wanted Israel to be—a light. But the Jews rejected God’s word—that is, God’s Son Jesus. “Therefore,” Paul said to the Jews, “since you have rejected God’s word, we must now preach it to the Gentiles.”
47 Then Paul quoted from Isaiah 40:6. It was God’s will that Israel should be a light for the Gentiles. It was His will that, through the Jews, salvation should be brought to the ends of the earth, that is, to the Gentiles. Therefore, no matter what the Jews of Pisidian Antioch thought, Paul and Barnabas were determined to preach to the Gentiles the good news of salvation in Christ, even to the ends of the earth.
48 The Jews didn’t like Paul’s message, but the Gentiles rejoiced in it, and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. Men are appointed for eternal life. God first chooses us. He calls us; He draws us (see John 6:44; Romans 9:16,18; Ephesians 1:4-5). We come to Christ by God’s grace. But remember, we are also free to refuse God’s grace.61
49-50 Whenever God begins to do a great work, Satan is always right there to oppose it. Wherever God opens up for us a door of opportunity for service, there we shall find opposition (see 1 Corinthians 16:8-9). And, sadly, Satan of ten uses God-fearing women of high standing and leading men to do his work.
But in spite of opposition, the word of the Lord spread through the whole region (verse 49). The new believers told their neighbors the good news of salvation in Christ. They did not hide their new faith. In the same way, if we ourselves have truly believed in Christ, then we will want to share with others the salvation we have received. Let us do so!
51-52 Paul and Barnabas shook the dust from their feet in protest against them; that is, they completely turned their backs on the hostile Jews (see Mark 6:11). Those who reject Christ’s servants will themselves be rejected. The Jews of Pi-sidian Antioch had lost their chance to receive salvation. It was now time for Paul and Barnabas to move on to the next city, Iconium (Acts 14:1). But those Gentile disciples who had recently come to Christ were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (verse 52).