The church in Antioch is flourishing as Paul and Barnabas teach and disciple the new believers. The prophets and teachers at Antioch were diverse and represented different countries and nationalities. These new believers were learning and seizing upon the means of grace. During worship and fasting, the Holy Spirit instructed this young church to set apart Saul and Barnabas for the work God for their ministry calling. The believers continued to fast and pray and confirming their call they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Saul and Barnabas traveled to Cyprus where Barnabas was from and as they came to the city of Salamis they made their way to the synagogues where they proclaimed the word of God. Proclaiming Christ in the synagogue when the team arrived in a town became the established a pattern that they would follow almost everywhere they went. They continued across the island to the capital city of Paphos, and there they were introduced to an intelligent leader named Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor of the island. Paulus was curious about Paul’s message, but Paul was hindered by a Jewish false prophet who was also a magician named Bar-Jesus (Elymas). This man profited from his association with the governor, so he wanted to turn Paulus away from the faith. Luke places an important detail in the text telling us that Saul was also called Paul. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he reached the point where he could not endure the opposition any longer, he confronted the magician. Paul opposes this enemy of righteousness and speaks a word of judgment to Elymas who was promptly struck with blindness. His blindness was only temporary, but it served to demonstrate the power of the Lord. Mist and darkness fell on him, and he was forced to beg for help. Signs cannot save, they testify to the power of God, and they authenticate the messenger. The governor believed, but he was amazed at the teaching of the Lord.
Forgiveness Of Sins Is Proclaimed
Paul and his associates set sail from Paphos, and when they came to Perga, John Mark left the group and returned to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas continued to Antioch Pisidia (not to be confused with Antioch in Syria where they started), and on the Sabbath, they went to the local synagogue and took their seats. The leaders of the synagogue invite them to share a word of encouragement. Paul stands and addresses those in the synagogue where the audience ranges from Jews to those who have adopted monotheism and Biblical morality but had not fully converted. Paul establishes God's plan through Jesus by offering an overview of Jewish history beginning with the stay in Egypt. The focus of this historical account is to show God's intervention and his power to save his people. He reminds his listeners that the people had judges until Samuel, and then the people asked for a king. The judges had not been effective, and the nation transitioned to a monarchy. He reminds them that once Saul was removed that God raised up a king after his own heart in David. He connects Jesus the promised offspring of Abraham, David, and even Genesis 3. Paul reminded his audience that even John the Baptist had testified that Jesus was the promised king. Paul connects with them as one of their own. He then testifies to the salvation that is found in Jesus while walking through the details of what took place in Jerusalem. These leaders in Jerusalem fulfilled what they regularly read about from the scriptures. Paul further connects the prophecies concerning the Messiah and tells them that God raised Jesus from the dead while appearing to his followers who are his witnesses. Paul tells those present in the synagogue the good news and connects Jesus to the ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. He reasons with them from Psalm 2 and Psalm 16 explaining that there is forgiveness of sins through the work of Jesus Christ who is greater than Moses and the law. Paul's message was well received, and the people wanted to hear more the following Sabbath. By the time the next Sabbath rolled around, the whole city had gathered to hear what Paul and Barnabas would say to them. However, not everyone was enthusiastic about hearing from them. Some were filled with jealousy, and they began to contradict what Paul had to say and reviled him publicly. Paul and Barnabas boldly announce that they were turning to the Gentiles because these particular Jews thrust aside the good news. The Gentiles began to rejoice and glorify God. Many believed and were saved. Word spread quickly throughout the region, and it was followed by persecution. Paul and Barnabas were driven out, and as they departed, they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of their condemnation. The disciples were filled with joy, and the Holy Spirit for salvation had come to them.
Things To Consider:
- What do the regular worship patterns and disciplines of the church at Antioch teach us?
- Do you regularly give yourself to fasting? Why or why not?
- Why did they lay their hands on Paul and Barnabas?
- Why is important for a believer to understand that they are sent by the Holy Spirit?
- How do you see God's providence in this story?
- Do you think going to Barnabas' hometown made the mission more or less difficult? Why?
- How should we respond when we encounter opposition in sharing the gospel?
- What advantage do you think Paul and Barnabas enjoyed because of a believing proconsul?
- Why did Paul and Barnabas make a habit of going to the local synagogue first when they came to a new city?
- Why must we reason from the scripture?
- Why is it important to study all of the Bible?
- Why are we so captivated by the idea of a powerful political leader?
- How did Paul point to God's sovereignty in his sermon?
- Why are Jesus' death and resurrection necessary for salvation?
- Is jealousy an issue the churches faces today? How?
- Why was it necessary for the good news to be preached to the Jews first?
- Was reaching the Gentiles ever not in God's plan? How do you know?