Summary of Acts 13:1-14a:
Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul were teaching in Antioch. Then the Holy Spirit told Barnabas and Paul to leave on a journey. So they went to Salamis and Cyprus with John Mark (Barnabas’ cousin) as a helper. At Paphos in Cyprus, they met a false prophet named Bar-Jesus who worked for Sergius Paulus. Sergius wanted to hear what Barnabas and Saul had to say, but Bar-Jesus (otherwise known as Elymas) opposed them.
Saul cursed Elymas, saying he was a child of the devil and temporarily blinded him. Naturally, Sergius believed in Jesus after witnessing this.
From here, Paul sailed to Perga in Pamphylia where John left. Then they went on to Pisidian Antioch.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 11, Day 2: Acts 13:1-14a
3a) The Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas and Paul to leave on a journey from Antioch. So they went to Salamis and Cyprus with John Mark (Barnabas’ cousin) as a helper, proclaiming the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. At Paphos in Cyprus, they met a false prophet named Bar-Jesus who worked for Sergius Paulus. Sergius wanted to hear what Barnabas and Saul had to say, but Bar-Jesus (otherwise known as Elymas) opposed them.
b) The proconsul believed when he heard the word and saw the blinding of the sorcerer, Elymas. Elymas continued to grope about, not repenting or asking God for help.
4a) Personal Question. My answer: Follow God. He knows the way.
b) Personal Question. My answer: It’s hard to say. I do not know. I hope make some kind of impact through my work and my kids and family.
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 11, Day 2: Acts 13:1-14a
We see Paul off to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles, and how resistance will be a theme he’ll have to face every step of the way.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 11, Day 2: Acts 13:1-14a
Paul’s First Missonary Journey
Since Niger means black, he was presumably a black African among the congregation at Antioch, and possibly the same Simeon who carried Jesus’ cross (Luke 23:26).
Manaen mentioned here grew up with Herod the tetrarch. This was the same Herod who beheaded John the Baptist and presided over one of Jesus’ trials (Luke 23:7-12).
Ministering to the Lord means doing what pleases Him and honors Him – worship, praise, prayer, listening to, honoring God and offering their bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).
“The word translated worshipping [ministered, NKJV] is that usually employed in the LXX for the service of priests and Levites in the temple.” (Williams)
If we assume they fasted and prayed about the need of the world for Jesus, we can see how God answered their prayer – by using them. This is often how God moves, by sending the people who have it on their hearts to pray.
- It is significant that the two men called to missionary service were – as far as we know – the two most gifted and able men in the congregation.
- God had a specific work He had appointed to Barnabas and Saul to do. Paul would later write in Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
- The calling God had for the life of Paul had already been stated in Acts 9:15-16: He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.
Notice that the church in Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul out. They were supported and sent by a specific congregation. As far as we know, this had never happened before in the history of the church. Many went out as “accidental missionaries” (as in Acts 8:4 and 11:19), but there was never a concerted and organized effort to win people to Jesus like this.
Being intentionally sent by the church in Antioch, many regard this as the first real known missionary effort of the church. “The word ‘missionary’ has to do with sending. The Latin word mitto, mittere, means ‘to send’; ‘mission’ and ‘missionary’ come from the forms missi and missum.” (Boice)
We are not told why they went to Cyprus first, but we do know Barnabas grew up on that island (Acts 4:36).
The custom of the open synagogue gave Barnabas and Saul many opportunities to preach. This tradition invited any learned man to speak to the people of the synagogue at the Sabbath meeting.
Mark with Paul in the Bible
John Mark was mentioned previously in Acts 12:25. He traveled with Barnabas and Saul on this trip and was the same Mark who later wrote the Gospel that bears his name. Mark was a valuable companion for Barnabas and Saul. He grew up in Jerusalem and was an eyewitness of many of the events in the life of Jesus and could relate them with special power to Barnabas and Saul, and to others whom they preached to.
Paphos was a city on the west coast of Cyprus known for its immorality.
A Roman proconsul was responsible for an entire province and answered to the Roman Senate.
“All Roman provinces were divided into two classes, those that required troops and those that did not. The latter were administered by the Senate and ruled by proconsuls; the former were under the administration of the emperor.” (Williams)
Frustrated by Elymas & Elymas’s Punishment
Paul was opposed by a man named Elymas. His real name was Bar-Jesus (Acts 13:6) which means “son of Jesus,” and Luke couldn’t bear to call him that. Elymas (who was some kind of advisor to the proconsul) attempted to frustrate the missionary efforts of Barnabas and Saul.
It was common for people in that day to have names that were similar yet different according to the language or culture they were in. Certainly, Saul’s given name was Saul, a Jewish name after the first king of Israel. But his Roman name was Paul – which meant “Little” and sounded similar to “Saul.”
“Saul’s father gave the child a Roman and a Latin name because he was a Roman citizen with all the rights in the Roman Empire this implied. The child had both names from infancy. When his father called him he shouted, ‘Saul, Saul!’ but when the Greek boys with whom he played called him they shouted, ‘Paul, Paul!’” (Lenski)
Paul, using spiritual discernment and operating in the gift of faith, rebuked and pronounced the judgment of God upon Elymas (you shall be blind).
As Elymas was struck with blindness, we can’t help but think Paul would remember his own experience with God. Paul was struck blind at his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). Certainly, those who resist God are blind spiritually, so God just gave Elymas a physical blindness that matched his spiritual blindness. Sadly, we never hear of Elymas repenting, as Paul did.
Paul was harsh in his confrontation against Elymas because the eternal destiny of the proconsul was at stake.
If one wants to commit spiritual suicide, that’s one thing. But it is never right to bring others down also. If you want to give up on the things of God and grow bitter in your heart against Him, that’s your choice. But it is a heavy sin to draw anyone else away with you, either with your words or your example.
Paul and His Party
The missionary group is now described as “Paul and his party.” Previously – as recently as Acts 13:7 – the group was described as Barnabas and Saul. From this point on, Paul’s leadership and prominence will be evident.
We don’t know exactly why John Mark went home to Jerusalem. Perhaps he was homesick. Perhaps he was afraid of the tough and dangerous travel through the mountains ahead of them. Perhaps he resented that the team of his cousin Barnabas and Saul (Acts 12:25) had now become Paul and his party. Perhaps he lost confidence because Paul suffered poor health (according to Galatians 4:13).
As will be clear from Acts 15:36-41, Paul didn’t appreciate the departure of John Mark here, and to some degree he seems to have lost confidence in him as a missionary companion, a member of the team. This reminds us that as great and godly as these men were, and as great as the work was that they did, they still had problems.
Perga was a costal, harbor city, where the ship from Paphos came to the mainland. Antioch in Pisidia was about 135 miles (220 kilometers) inland, to the north. This general region was known as Galatia, and later Paul wrote a letter to these churches that is included in our New Testament library.