Acts 13:1-12

Paul begins his first missionary journey by sailing to Cyprus.

Click here to view a Map of Paul's first missionary journey.
Thanks to Craig Koester of Lutheran Seminary.

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.

[Antioch] This is Antioch of Syria, reputed to be the third largest city in the world at the time, and home of the thriving Christian congregation which had been nurtured by Barnabas and Saul (Paul). The church at Antioch had matured to the point where it could function very well without the continous attention of Barnabas and Saul. See Acts 11:19-30.

[Prophets and teachers] These were members of the local church who were effectively exercising the gifts given them by the Holy Spirit. Individual Christian are given specific skills which contribute to the overall skillset of the church. It is worth your time to read about this in
1 Corinthians 12:1-31 and Ephesians 4:1-16.

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 Holy Ghost said, Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul] The agenda of the Holy Spirit is described in John 15:26 and Acts 1:8. Since the church at Antioch was now self-sustaining it was time for Barnabas and Saul to move on to the next phase of their lifetime of ministry.

[For the work whereunto I have called them.] The Holy Spirit strings together whole chains of events to accomplish his plan. For instance,
(1) Saul moved from Tarsus to Jerusalem to attend Gamaliel's "Seminary " and received an outstanding education in the Old Testament Scriptures. Acts 22:3.
(2) Barnabas, of Cyprus, relocated to Jerusalem and became a respected elder statesman in the church. Acts 4:36-37.
(3) Saul, as an impressionable youth guarded the coats of the Jewish elders as they stoned Stephen to death for his faith in Jesus Christ. Acts 7:58.
(4) Saul made a name for himself persecuting Christians until Christ interrupted Saul's rampage on the road to Damascus. Acts 8:3, Acts 9:1-4.
(5) Saul was converted and spent some time in Arabia in "God's graduate school" restudying the Scriptures regarding Messiah. He returned to the church in Damascus and, three years after his conversion, the young man attempted to visit the church at Jerusalem but they were afraid of him. Galatians 1:13-19.
(6) Barnabas became Saul's sponsor to introduce him to some of the church leadership. Acts 9:26-27.
(7) Later, the church at Jerusalem shipped Saul back to his home town of Tarsus because his life was in danger in Jerusalem. Acts 9:29-30.
(8) The church dispatched Barnabas to Antioch of Syria to evaluate the infant church. Acts 11:19-22.
(9) When Barnabas saw the need at Antioch for another strong teacher he requested Saul to come over from Tarsus and help. Acts 11:25-26.
(10) Now the team is about to be sent even further from Jerusalem to accurately teach the Gospel and the Word of God.

As we live out our life's journey on earth we sometimes find ourselves wondering, "Why is this particular event happening to me?" The answer is that if we are living in God's will it is one more step along the path the Holy Spirit has ordained for our life's mission.
Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:11-13.

4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

[They sailed to Cyprus] Seleucia of Syria and Salmis, on the eastern coast of the island of Cyprus, were natural ports of entry for the vigorous trade which existed between the two countries. Jewish believers from Cyprus had been among the founders of the Christian church at Antioch. Salmis was also the capital city of 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.

[Synagogues of the Jews] Beginning with the Babylonian captivity many Jews had been dispersed throughout the Mediterranean region and most never returned to Israel. Nevertheless, they continued looking forward to the arrival of Messiah. Now a new wave of Jews was arriving, bringing with them their belief that Messiah had arrived and been rejected by Israel. We imagine that curiosity was high and attendance records at the synagogues were probably set whenever it was known that the Christians would be present to explain their viewpoint.
John Mark had accompanied Barnabas and Saul when they returned from Jerusalem to Antioch and now continued with them to Cyprus.

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:

[And when they had gone through the isle] Barnabas, Saul and John Mark travelled the length of the island from east to west. We assume they preached at synagogues along the way.

[Paphos] Paphos was the second largest city in Cyprus, located at the southwestern end of the island. It rivaled Corinth as one of the most wicked cities in the world, and for the same reason. Both cities immersed themselves in the worship of the Greek goddess, Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. Her Roman name was Venus. All manner of so-called "Fertility rites" were practiced among the populace.

[Barjesus] The prefix bar stands for "Son of" so the meaning of his name was Son of Jesus in the Greek language or Son of Joshua in Hebrew. (Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua.) Barjesus was a magician and false prophet, one who claimed supernatural powers and probably made a good living selling his services as fortune teller and instigator of beneficial events.

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.

[Which was with the deputy of the country] Barjesus had acquired Sergius Paulis, Roman proconsul of the province of Cyprus, as a client and was enjoying the benefits of the relationship.

[Sergius Paulis, a prudent man,] A nation (in this case a province) reflects the nature of its ruler. Sergius Paulis appears to have been a very fair man, not given to arbitrarily persecuting people just because they did not conform to accepted tradition. We have seen how open minded the synagogues of Cyprus were toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now we may be observing the source of that generous behavior. Sergius Paulis invited Barnabas and Saul to present their beliefs to him so that he could make up his own mind.

8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

[Elymas...withstood them] He was not about to give up his prestigeous position easily. Advisor to the king has long been a staff position.
Exodus 7:11, Daniel 2:1-2.

Elymas is the interpretation of the descriptive title, Sorcerer, not of the name Barjesus. As a sorcerer, one dealing in the black arts, Elymas had much to fear if the truth of the Scriptures became well known.

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.

[Filled with the Holy Ghost] Talk about supernatural power! The Holy Spirit and Satan were in direct confrontation and it was no contest. Satan lost. Matthew 16:15-18.

12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.


This page updated 01/09/2009

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