Lesson 29: Barnabas and Paul Sent Forth By the Holy Ghost (Paul's 1st Missionary Journey Begins)
Starting Acts chapter 13. Are you ready? This is Acts lesson #29. The rest of this book can be divided into three missionary journeys plus Paul's final voyage to Rome. Each missionary journey started from Antioch of Syria. Luke devotes two chapters to the first missionary journey. Paul visited and established many churches during these travels. Understanding these travels in their proper perspective is very vital. It is very vital to understanding the remaining 21 books in the N.T. The letters or epistles that follow Acts in the N.T. are almost related in someway to the congregations we learn about here in the last half of the book of Acts. So, this is really the glue that makes the rest of the N.T. stick together. The historical background here is a key to the structure and design of the N.T. If for some reason you haven't made this association before; it can give you real purpose and substance in comprehending the last half of the N.T. I'll try to remember to call your attention to a few cases that will reinforce this idea as we go along. The last half of this book of Acts, is part of the schedule that Jesus outlined in Acts 1:8. Let's get along with v. 1, let's read: "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 bee brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul." The general tenor of v. 1 is that the church at Antioch was growing very rapidly. Several outstanding teachers and preachers were found in that congregation. Only one of these men besides Barnabas and Saul are mentioned again. This is Lucius, mentioned only once in Rom. 16:21. This congregation, made up mostly of Gentiles and Grecian Jews, was probably the second largest congregation at that time, second only to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem church was mainly Jews. Luke, tries to impress upon us here that this congregation contained some very outstanding men. Educated men. Men of experience and capability. Now v.2-3, let's read, "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. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." The message of the Holy Spirit in v.2 was a call for Barnabas and Saul to mission work. V.3 is some of the ceremony of the congregation hi sending them away, in response to that message. This should not be looked upon as some mysterious pomp. You see, the congregation had high regard for Barnabas and Saul. They were hard workers, exhorters, good teachers, they had baptized MANY as was indicated in Acts 11:24-25-26. The message that Barnabas and Saul would soon be departing was a sad message to the Antioch disciples. Oh, they understood it was God's will. They were wishing them well. But parting of old friends and especially intimate ones is always painful. This laying on of hands was NOT ordination as the term is used today in those big denominational circles. The message in v.2 as recorded here does NOT designate the place where Barnabas and Saul were to go. But we shall find out shortly. It is not indicated here if the congregation at Antioch supplied all or any part of their support. The fasting and prayers would indicate these two men did not leave immediately after the message was received but perhaps they left within a week or so. Some see in this a precedent for fasting in a ceremonial way. I believe they miss the point. Fasting means to abstain from food. True, these brethren abstained from food and they prayed. That does not mean they got together and said: "let's don't eat a bite" for 24 hours, 48 hours or some other designated time. As I said before, this was not some ceremonial pomp. These brethren were so moved and so stirred they were obeying the Holy Spirit, their sentimentalities and the feeling over powered their appetite. They were so involved in prayer; teaching new converts, caring for their brethren, they simply neglected to eat. Jesus did not teach his disciples to show-off by going without food. Some tell me they are giving up coca cola, dill pickles, pastries or candy AND they believe they are doing some great religious honor. Jesus said in Matt. 6:16-18, "be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash they face; that thou appear not unto men to fast..." The special mission work for Saul corresponds to the information we learned about Saul in ch.9 with reference to his conversion. You will recall the Lord told Ananias, that preacher-disciple at Damascus who baptized Saul, THAT Saul was a chosen vessel, and that he would bear the name of Christ before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. (Acts 9:15). Saul had spent five or more years being molded for this special mission. Barnabas and Saul departed from Antioch. This must have been an emotional scene. Let's find out where they went, v.4-5, lets' read: "So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia: and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to then- minister." O.K. their first destination was Seleucia. That's a seaport town that was about sixteen miles west of Antioch. Seleucia is city # 14 on your map. At Seleucia they secured passage on a boat bound for Cyprus, the island in the Great sea, which you will recall was the homeland of Barnabas, the son of consolation. Can't ;you just see those big sails being hoisted up and the ship slowly but perceptibly moving out from the harbor? The words, "they had also Jon to their minister." tell us John Mark, Barnabas' nephew went along for what ever help he could be to the two older men. Finally the island of Cyprus came into view and they dropped anchor at Salamis, city #15 on the eastern end of that island. As soon as these three got their feet on dryland they must have headed for the closest Jewish place of worship they could find. Notice v.5 says, "they preached the word of God hi the synagogues..." We have talked about these institutions before. Barnabas and Saul wasted no tune in finding an audience, "they preached the word of God..." That is, the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus; believe, repent, confess and be baptized for the remission of sins. We're not told anything about their success. How long they stayed at Salamis, we know not. They eventually made their way across the island and arrived at Paphos, city # 16 on the western tip of Cyprus. On then- way across the island, approximately 150 miles, it is quite conceivable they may have stopped to visit the relatives of Barnabas and John Mark. The word Cyprus means "copper". The island was rich with copper ore. That tells us a little about the commerce of the island. Paphos undoubtedly was the capital city and the Roman procouncil or governor was stationed there. The incident that follows in v.6-12 is one little glimpse, one incident of many (no doubt) that happened to these preachers of the gospel. Let's read v.6-8, "And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a felse prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: 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. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith." Did you notice in v.6 the false prophet was a Jew? His name was Elymas or Barjesus. The word Barjesus means son of Jesus. Jesus is the Greek name corresponding to the Hebrew name Joshua hi the O.T. Eh/mas was a sorcerer. We would call him a fortuneteller or Soothsayer. He claimed to have divine powers, or the ability to predict the future by magic. Do you remember Simon the sorcerer in Act 8? He "bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one." Philip taught Simon the gospel. He believed and converted. Although miles apart, Elymas was using the same trickery that Simon had used. I believe history will bear me out; most heathen rulers in that day employed those goons as advisors. Elymas was an advisor to "the depute of the country: named Surgius Paulus. According to v.7 this Roman governor was, "a prudent man." He was willing to give Barnabas and Saul a hearing. He, "desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer...withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith." Elymas was no dummy. He knew where his paycheck came from. He could see that if his boss was made wiser, THEN old crafty Elymas would be unemployed. Isn't it pathetic that some are so selfish and so base as to use any kind of subtlety, mischief or trickery to take advantage of their fellow man. No conscience, just selfishness, that's all. Observe the situation here, closely. Here is a man of high civil rank seeking truth, the reality of God. Here are two preachers agents of the Holy spirit, seeking to supply the truth this governor is seeking. Now, here is one of God's creatures seeking to exploit his fellow man by preventing the word of God free course. Just about the ultimate hi wickedness. Wouldn't that make you mad? But, don't forget the H.S. is working behind the scenes. Do you remember how Philip and the eunuch were brought together? Let's read v.9-12, "Then Saul, (who also is called Paul;) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, 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. ? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shall 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. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord." It's interesting to note the change in Saul's name. And it is even more interesting the information should come as a parenthesis in the middle of a sentence. The word "Saul" literally means "a destroyer." Thus, you can see his name, by chance (I suppose) fit his reputation as the zealous Pharisaical leader of the Jews; when he was breathing out threatens and slaughter against the disciples as it says hi Acts 9:2. But LATER, this humbled Jewish scholar, chosen by Jesus to bear His name before Gentiles AND kings (Acts 9:15) had been in training for several years. Saul had proven himself as a worker. It most likely seemed derogatory and inappropriate to call him Saul suggesting the idea of "destroyer" any longer. So, someone must have substituted the word "Paul" which literally means a worker. The name stuck, or possibly Paul referred to himself by this name hi the future; because he definitely was a "worker.' Now, hi the O.T. god changed the name of many He called, e.g. Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, etc. Jesus gave names to some of his apostles, e.g. Jesus changed Simon Peter to Cephas in John 1:42 and James and John to "Boanerges" hi Mark 3:17. Now Saul was divinely called, but I'm not sure that has anything to do with the parenthesis here hi v.9. However, it is noteworthy to observe, from this point hi the book of Acts, Luke seems to put Paul hi the fore front and Barnabas gradually takes a back seat. Up until this point, they have been referred to as Barnabas and Saul, hi mat order. After this, they are always referred to as Paul and Barnabas, hi that order (with two or three exceptions). On this occasion before deputy Sergius Paulus, Paul is the spokesman. Paul was trying to teach this prudent man by the man's own invitation. But Elymus withstood him. We don't know what Elymus said, but he was "seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith." (v.8). Can you imagine the stance and facial expression of Paul as he blasts this false prophet with perhaps the strongest words of an apostle recorded in the N.T. "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? Paul's statement would indicate the magician was trying to use some clever, ingenious methodology, clearly calculated to incense the passions of Sergius Paulus against Paul and Barnabas, and their teaching. Elymus may have thought at that point he was accomplishing his purpose; seeing Paul let lose with a blast like that. But he was in for a sudden SHOCK, when Paul's next sentence (accompanied by supernatural forces) caused his sight to fade away into darkness and blackness. Terror and fear must have gripped the man tightly. As he began to grope 1n the darkness, Paul must have had a flash of compassion for the man; remembering his own experience on the road to Damascus AND his own three days of blindness. That experience had turned Paul around 180 degrees. Stephen was right! Dead right! Now, we are not told if Elymus responded as intelligently as his fellow magician Simon (Act*:24). And the fact it doesn't say, leads one to doubt if he did. But similar to Paul's experience he was not permanently blinded. The statement, "not seeing the sun for a season" (v. 11) would indicate this. And again, the work of the H.S. on this occasion would corroborate our earlier conclusion that the baptismal and miraculous measure of the H.S. was for the purpose of establishing the church or kingdom. Healing, raising from the dead, etc. were mere secondary effects. And, it had that intended effect upon Sergius Paulus. It confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt to this prudent man that the "doctrine of the Lord" was truth. Now, I can understand why he was astonished AND it is only reasonable he believed. That word "believed" carries with it most likely that he repented, confessed the name of Jesus and was baptized for the remission of sins. That is, it simply means he obeyed God. Thus, he might be considered another example of conversion. It obviously conforms to the same recorded steps that Peter and Paul taught every other convert. Don't forget that John Mark was also with Paul and Barnabas and most likely witnessed this event. Later, when he wrote his gospel, he recorded that Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) Strengthening our conclusion that all converts followed that same pattern hi becoming Christians. So far, as we are told here, Sergius Paulus the deputy of the country was the only one on Cyprus that obeyed. It is most likely, though, many other converts were made and this case simply stood out. O.K. for another ship trip. This tune they sail North West. We know not shy! Nothing is said about the trip. We don't know if the seas were smooth or rough. Actually, it was just a short jaunt: not much farther than they had walked in crossing Cyprus. Let's read v. 13 "Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga hi Pamphylia: and Jon departing from them returned to Jerusalem." The fact it says: Paul and his company" leaves the possibility that more than three made this voyage. And it shows that Luke now considers Paul the leader of the group. Perga, city # 17 on your map, was located about 7 miles up a river from the Mediterranean. Why did John Mark decide to go back to Jerusalem, him hometown" No reason is given"! However, we may conclude that: what ever the reason, was; Paul did not consider it sufficient to justify leaving the work at that time. I conclude this from Acts 15:38. How long they stayed hi Pamphylia is not clear. I get the feeling their stay was brief. This was more or less a stop-over. No mention is made of teaching. But, that's no reason to conclude they didn't. Let's park this lesson right there at Perga in Pamphylia (v.13). We'll go from there in lesson #30. Thanks for coming!