Sunday: Acts 13
In chapters 1-12 we watched the gospel proclaimed in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (Ac 1:8). On occasion God would sovereignly reach out to Gentiles (Philip in Samaria, the Ethiopian official, the household of Cornelius), but a decade and a half after Pentecost the Jerusalem church is still struggling with the question of whether or not to welcome Gentile believers into its fellowship. In spite of Jesus command to witness to the remotest part of the earth (Ac 1:8), other than the apostles themselves, they chose to remain passive toward the evangelization of Gentiles. Thankfully, the church in the city of Antioch, 320 miles north of Jerusalem, obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and began to send missionaries into the Greek and Roman world. From chapter 13 onward Luke will focus on the mission teams sent out by this church to the remotest part of the earth.
Monday: Acts 13:1-3
vs1-3: The call to send missionaries came during a small gathering of church leaders. Five men, all of whom functioned as prophets and teachers, had set aside time to fast and worship. It appears the purpose for the meeting was to listen to the Lord. It also appears, from the casual way Luke describes it, that this sort of gathering was a normal part of life. He names the men: Now among the church in Antioch there were both prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon, who was called Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian (Ac 11:20), and also Manaen, the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch (Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, 4BC-AD39) and Saul. Then Luke tells us what happened: And while ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart to Me, now, Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. And finally, he tells us how they responded: Then, having fasted and prayed to prepare themselves, and having laid hands on them, they released them (my translation).
Tuesday: Acts 13:4, 5
vs4-5: The city of Antioch is located beside the Orontes River, about 16 miles inland from the Mediterranean coast. Seleucia, its port, lies five miles north of the mouth of the river. Luke says, Therefore, indeed, sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there sailed to Cyprus. Its about a 130-mile journey from Seleucia to Salamis, the easternmost harbor on the island of Cyprus. And upon arriving in Salamis they proclaimed the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews, and they also had John as an assistant (literal). As a young man, John Mark lived in a home which had an upper room where Jesus and His disciples likely gathered (Lk 22:12; Ac 1:13; 12:12). Aside from running errands and carrying luggage, he would have made a very valuable contribution to this team because he had seen and heard Jesus in person.
Wednesday: Acts 13:6, 7
vs6-7: After landing on the island, Barnabas, who had been born there (Ac 4:36), would have been able to guide them to the various synagogues. Most likely they moved from east to west across the island until they came to Paphos, which is on the southwest coast. There they found a certain magician, a Jewish false-prophet who people called Bar-Jesus (son of Jesus). Apparently, he served as a spiritual counselor to Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul (governor) for the province of Cyprus. Luke says he was an intelligent man, using a word which means he was able to comprehend things very quickly. A report must have come to him about the preaching of Barnabas and Saul because he summoned them so he could hear the Word of God for himself.
Thursday: Acts 13:8-10
vs8-10: The actual name of the magician called Bar-Jesus was Elymas which is not a normal Hebrew name, so Luke merely wrote out the Greek letters which, when pronounced, would sound like his name. When this man learned that his master had summoned Barnabas and Saul he grew alarmed. Undoubtedly, he was afraid they would replace him, so he opposed them by seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. vs9-10: Here Luke introduces Sauls Roman name, Paul, which would have been given to him as part of his Roman citizenship (Ac 21:39; 22:25-29). Then Luke says Paul Being filled with the Holy Spirit, stared at Elymus and said, Youre a person who is completely filled with deceit and laziness. Youre a son of the devil, an enemy of all righteousness. When will you cease twisting the straight ways of the Lord?
Friday: Acts 13:11-13
vs11-13: And now behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you and you will be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately a mist and darkness fell upon him, and going about he sought for someone to lead him by the hand. After watching this display of spiritual authority, Sergius Paulus believed, being frightened out of his senses at the teaching of the Lord. Luke does not tell us anything more about Sergius Paulus, so we are left wondering about the depth of his faith, however, the location to which Paul and Barnabas went after leaving Cyprus may give us some clue. They took what appears to be an illogical turn northwest to the southern coast of Asia Minor (Turkey), and then went twelve miles inland to Perga. At that point, John Mark left them and returned home (Ac 15:36-39).
Saturday: Acts 13:14
v14: From there they traveled 100 miles due north, crossing over the range of the Tarus Mountains into the province of Galatia, to a city called Pisidian Antioch which served as the civil and military center for the Roman government. The question this raises is why did they make such an effort to reach this remote city? The answer may be found in the fact that archeologists have uncovered there an inscription which honors a man named L. Sergius Paullus (D. H. Wheaton, on Paulus Sergius, in The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans, reprint 1971, p955). It is possible that this man is the son of the Sergius Paulus they met on Cyprus. If so, he may have asked Paul and Barnabas to go to that city in order to carry the gospel to members of his own family. That would mean he was not just impressed by the miracle, but converted.