Summary: Acts 13 is a turning point in the history of the Church. Barnabas and Saul were personally selected by the Holy Spirit for a special mission. They left Antioch, preached through Cyprus, and experienced several things.
Introduction: Acts 13 could serve as a turning point in the Church’s story. The first 12 chapters are primarily concerned with the beginning of the Church and the issues facing the Church near Jerusalem. Now Luke is relating how the Church was going “to the uttermost part of the earth.”
1 Antioch: service and selection
Text: Acts 13:1-12, KJV: 1 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 been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 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. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away
--The five men listed here are among the heroes of the faith. Saul and Barnabas, of course, are well known but not much is known about these other three.
-Lucius was from Cyrene, in North Africa (perhaps Libya?) and could well have been one of the “men from Cyprus and Cyrene” who had come to Antioch at an earlier time (Acts 11:20). Another man from Cyrene, Simon, was chosen (!) to carry the Cross for Jesus (Matthew 27:32).
-Simeon’s surname, Niger, means black but we don’t know what that truly signifies. Jews, whether children of Abraham or proselytes, lived as far south as Ethiopia since the days of Esther (compare Esther 8:9 with 8:17). Jews were also living in Arabia as some from there were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11). He’s not mentioned after this.
-Manaen has several different biographies: some think he was a foster-brother or adopted into Herod’s family, making him a foster-brother to Herod Antipas and his own brother Archelaus (per https://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/acts/13.htm ). Others have different opinions. What is important is not so much his upbringing, but his decision to believe in Jesus!
--Note also how they practiced fasting along with “ministering to the Lord”. Some make much of fasting, even today, but unless this is done with the right motive, it’s useless (Matthew 6:16-18). Nothing is mentioned as to how long these men had done this.
--The Holy Spirit spoke, apparently in an audible voice, directing “Barnabas and Saul to be separated for the work” He had called them to do. This was one of the few times anyone ever heard the Holy Spirit speak to them. What a precious moment it must have been!
--The final step was to fast again, then lay hands on Barnabas and Saul before sending them on.
2 Cyprus: belief and unbelief
Text: Acts 13:4-12, KJV: 4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. 6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: 7 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. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, 10 And said, O full of all subtilty 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? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt 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. 12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
--Seleucia was a port west of Antioch, which was located several miles inland from the shore.
--Salamis is a major city near the eastern shore of Cyprus. Note the plural, “synagogues”, of the Jews. At the least, this implies a good number of Jews lived there. There is no mention of any of the Jews believing the Gospel.
--John, also known as Mark, had come along. He was the nephew of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). Commentators have different opinions as to what Mark’s role or function would be as he traveled with Saul and Uncle Barnabas.
--They went “through” the island but again, no mention of anyone responding to the Gospel nor any mention of how much time it took them to go from the eastern part of Cyprus to the other.