Summary: The Lord slowly moved Saul from enemy of the gospel to Paul, a full-fledged missionary with a message to the Gentiles. How does God move us out into ministry for Him? Learn some lessons from Paul and Barnabas.
As we’ve talked about through our study in the book of Acts, this is the story of the resurrected Jesus, working through his body to bring the gospel into the world. As the effort grows, so the attacks of Satan to thwart it morph and change. It’s like the enemy is trying to find a loophole that will work. He’s tried internal integrity with Ananias and Saphira, he’s tried all out attack with the persecution, he’s tried going after the leaders with Stephen, then with James and Peter. Nothing has worked and the gospel just spread further and more and more got saved.
This time he uses his servants to keep the curious from coming to faith, and uses jealousy to put enmity between God’s people.
Barnabas, the leader
Niger, also known as Simeon (could be the same one who carried the cross of Jesus in Mark 15:21)
Lucius from North Africa – probably among those who preached at Antioch (ch 11)
Manaen—how ironic that a member of the royal government was a leader in the church!
Saul—Highly trained rabbinic Jew
2 – 3
I love that, how God spoke as they worshipped and fasted. Just this last week we looked at the last words of David. In that final Psalm his only autobiographical statement was that he considered himself the “sweet psalmist of Israel.” Worship leader was how David described himself, not warrior or king. Worship is so central to our lives in the covenant community. We should never underestimate it.
Not only is it our expression of love and gratitude to the Lord, but it puts us in the proper frame of mind to receive from Him.
Now, it doesn’t say here where Saul and Barnabas were to go. That doesn’t mean it was never said, but Luke doesn’t record it. I like that, though. God said: you guys: go. But God left it up to them as to where they went. We really see the growth of participation in the spreading of the gospel. God moves, but he does it with our active help.
4 – 5
I think based on what I just said about verses 2 and 3, it isn’t so important where you go but what you do. Saul and Barnabas “proclaimed the word of God.” Saul, Barnabas, and probably John Mark, went to Selucia, which is on the coast, and sailed for Barnabas’ home country. Barnabas would have known the lay of the land and where to go and who to talk to. As a well-trained Rabbi, Saul would have been invited to speak. Early on, it was their custom to speak at the Jewish synagogues first.
It’s okay to start out in familiar territory when you are beginning to step out for the Lord. God doesn’t expect us to travel to the jungles of Africa the moment we step up out of our baptism.
6 – 12
Cyprus is about a hundred miles long. They started out on the eastern edge and now travel to the western edge to a center of government. Sergius Paulus was the governor of the island. He was a high Roman official conducting an official investigation of this new thing that Saul and Barnabas brought that had disrupted the Jewish community. He may have been the same Sergius Paulus who was an official in the court of Emperor Claudius.
He was an intelligent man, so not just a political hack or arrogant power monger. Apparently such leaders kept sorcerers regularly.
“Magician” is the same word used for the Magi in the gospels. Elymas means “sorcerer” in Greek.
It’s a little odd that Paul (we first see his Greek name here) would put these accusations on Elymas, since he himself did essentially the same thing in trying to turn people away from faith in Jesus.
This is Paul’s big moment, a turning point in his ministry. He plays on the name “Bar-Jesus” (son of Jesus) when he calls him “son of the Devil.” The enemy who sought to blind the proconsul was himself blinded.
This is the first communication of the gospel to the Roman world and so it was important that it be strong and strongly oppose the perverted spiritualsim rampant in that world. Sergius is converted, not primarily by the miracle of removing sight from Elymas, but from the teaching of the word of God, the very thing these three men set out to do. Sergius is the highest ranking Roman convert in the New Testament.
13 – 15
The group heads North West into Asia Minor. This Antioch is not the same one to the east where they started. This Antioch was an important trade center and had a large population of Jews, Greeks, Orientals and locals.
John leaves them there. Paul is really upset about it. In chapter 15 he actually parts ways with Barnabas over John Mark’s leaving them. We don’t know why he left, but we do know that later on the two are re-united (Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:11).