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Bible Study: Acts, Chapter Thirteen

  • RHM Bible Study, Acts, Chapter Thirteen from Refreshing Hope Ministries on Vimeo.

    Transcript: Today we are going to study Acts chapter 13 in depth. You can follow along in your own Bible if you like. I will be reading from the World English Bible simply because it is the only modern English translation that is copyright free, and I can read the entire Bible on video without any legal drama or breaking anyone’s rules.

    Refreshing Hope uses open source solutions wherever we can, our servers all run on Linux, a lot of the scripts and things that drive it, we wrote ourselves. We write our own music, devotionals, and Bible studies and I am thankful that there is a Bible translation like the World English Bible that we can freely use, and it is unrestricted what you do with it. I would love to eventually integrate it into our website here.

    After the meeting today, or sometime this week, please take the matching quiz that I have prepared for you on the website. We now have a leader board, and Sandra Colby is number one for the month, Brad Schmitt is number one for all time. Thanks to everyone that has participated so far. Let’s get started:

    First, let’s set our location and do a brief catchup. In Acts chapter 12, Herod had James beheaded, then arrested Peter and planned to do the same to him after the passover. The church prayed fervently for Peter and an angel showed up in the prison and led him out to safety. Peter then went to John Mark’s house, told them what happened, then left the city before he could be arrested again. Peter was born again, but he wasn’t born yesterday. He knew what Herod had in store for him.

    Chapter 12 ended with Saul and Barnabas leaving Jerusalem and heading back to Antioch with John Mark, so that is where we begin our story today. After the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem, the martyrdom of James, Syrian Antioch becomes the new Christian home base.

    Acts Chapter 13 beginning in verse 1, reading from the World English Bible:  Now in the assembly that was at Antioch there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

    Acts 12 was an update of what was happening elsewhere. Acts chapter 13 continues the story of Acts chapter 11, back in Antioch. Barnabas and Saul were listed among the prophets and teachers there, along with Simeon, Lucious, and Manaen. This was a very diverse group of believers in the leadership of the Antioch church. People were respected because of their God-appointed gifts and offices, and not because of their wealth or skin color.   

    Let’s examine that list of leaders: Barnabas was from the Island of Cyprus. Niger is latin for black, so Simeon was probably a black African. Lucius was a Gentile, and may also have been black because he was from Cyrene or North Africa. Manaen grew up with Herod, but he turned out completely different. One killed Christians, the other was a Christian. Then we have Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee of Pharisees. It was a very diverse group of believers.

    Something that we should note is that the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 is alive and well here. There were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. It was a diverse group of people, each operating in their spiritual gifts, guided by the Holy Spirit, and promoted by the Holy Spirit. These were all second generation believers. What I mean is, that none of the ones listed here physically walked with Jesus. They came to know Him after His resurrection, just like us today.

    The Church of Antioch is the picture of the real thing that God intended. It was a level playing field. A variety of colors, a variety of gifts and offices, believers from all walks of life, but gathered together in unity, and led by the Holy Spirit.

    Strong moves of God require this level playing field and racism is a stench in His nostrils. During the Azusa street revival in 1906, where people’s missing limbs would grow back and the shekinah glory of God filled the room like a fog, if Pastor Seymour came into the building and saw 20 people of the same color sitting together, he would break them up and make some go sit somewhere else.

    The body of Christ is one body, not a hundred little bodies. The blood of Jesus removes the color line, and the amount of pigment in your skin has nothing to do with your standing in the kingdom of God. 

    Antioch was where the action was—teachers were teaching, prophets were prophesying, new believers were coming in. It was a beautiful thing, and we can still have it today. All of us together, make up the body of Christ, but at the moment that body has been cut into a thousand pieces.

    2 As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.”

    As they prayed and fasted, the Holy Spirit spoke through someone and selected Barnabas and Saul for a missionary trip. “Fasting” indicates that a person is willing to set aside the normal demands of life in order to concentrate for a time on what God wants. It appears that the entire Antioch church was joined in this corporate fast. A very detailed word came from the Holy Spirit: “Separate Barnabas and Saul for Me”. They were not to pick who was going, God did.

    3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

    In the Old Testament, the offerer placed his hands on the sacrifice, expressing his identification with it, so now the assembled church of Antioch laid their hands on these two missionaries. They were saying in effect, “Brothers, we are with you. As you go, we go.”

    It was God who did the commissioning, but He did it through His church, through the laying on of their hands. Barnabas and Saul believed the word from God and left on their journey with the full support of the church. The church at Antioch is a great example for us today.

    It is worth noting that their instructions here came through the spoken word of God (the Rhema), not the written word (the Logos). It is great to read and study the Logos, but we have to remember that the Bible is not actually God - it is a Book authored by Him. The Bible points us to the Author, and He is not dead. God still speaks through His Holy Spirit today, just as He did in the book of Acts. If our attitude is as theirs was, if we fast and pray like they did, if we listen for the Holy Spirit, then He will speak to us just as surely as He did to them.

    4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia. From there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they were at Salamis, they proclaimed God’s word in the Jewish synagogues. They also had John as their attendant.

    Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark set out on a missionary trip and took a ship to the Island of Cyprus. It was about a 130-mile voyage. The ancient world regarded Cyprus very much like we regard Hawaii or the Bahamas. William Barclay says it was called the “Happy Isle” because its climate was so perfect, and its resources were abundant.

    For some, Cyprus was a place in the sun, or a “Fantasy Island.” But it was also a needy place, a seedy place, the crossroads of the Mediterranean, and a natural place to go to first because Barnabas was from there. When they arrived, they traveled the island from east to west, from Salamis to Paphos, a distance of about ninety miles, preaching the gospel first in the Jewish synagogues but also to the Gentiles.

    6 When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of understanding. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul, and sought to hear the word of God.

    Luke did not mention anything notable happening until they got to Paphos and met a sorcerer. Bar-Jesus means “son of Jesus” or “son of salvation,” perhaps because he claimed to be a spiritual descendant of Jesus, and an heir to His powers. At any rate, this sorcerer was claiming to know the way of salvation.

    Serguis Paulus was the Roman governor of Cyprus, an important man. Luke describes him as intelligent, a man of understanding. He wanted to learn more about what Saul and Barnabas were teaching.  A Roman proconsul was responsible for an entire province, and answered to the Roman Senate.

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

    Elymas is an Arabic word that means “skillful one,” and he appeared to be. This Jewish sorcerer was an impersonator, but he had gained a controlling influence over the ruler of Cyprus. He apparently thought that Saul and Barnabas were like him, con artists, lying and deceiving to get into a position of power and influence.

    9 But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, 10 and said, “You son of the devil, full of all deceit and all cunning, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is on you, and you will be blind, not seeing the sun for a season!” Immediately a mist and darkness fell on him. He went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

    When first reading this, it does not sound very Christian. How could Paul talk that way to anyone? Because He was “filled with the Holy Spirit”.  When Paul fixed his eyes on him and studied him a moment, the Holy Spirit showed Paul the state of the sorcerer’s heart, and his evil intentions. This is called discernment, and Jesus did this a lot. God is love, but never think that He loves evil, for it cannot even stand in His presence. The spirit of love is also a Spirit of fire (Isaiah 4:4).

    The harshest words of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, are aimed at those that stand between men and the truth, for those who try to keep someone from meeting God, who try to keep people in the dark. In this case, it was more than words: Elymas was struck blind and was unable to see. The Roman governor then believed what Paul was preaching. Archaeology has confirmed Luke’s report. Sir William Ramsay reports that inscriptions bearing Sergius Paulus’ name have been found on Cyprus confirming that he was a Christian, and that his entire family became Christians.

    13 Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John departed from them and returned to Jerusalem.

    There is a lot happening behind the scenes here. The Apostle Paul now takes a prominent role. Luke previously wrote “Barnabas and Saul”, but now writes “Paul and his company set sail.”

    John Mark abandons them. His family was wealthy and he had a privileged upbringing. He was the young cousin of Barnabas. He had traveled with them from Jerusalem and to the beautiful island of Cyprus, but now they were heading to the ominous cliffs of Perga, 175 miles away. Perhaps the realities of missionary life became too much for him. It was not easy work.

    Paul may have gotten sick along the way as well, because he did not preach in Pamphylia, but in Galatia instead. Paul wrote in Galatians 4:13, “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.” Some scholars believe that Paul caught malaria in Pamphylia which was famous for that, and that he moved to the safer climate of Galatia. All of this, combined with John Mark’s privileged upbringing, could have been too much for him, so he went home. Later John Mark would redeem himself (2 Timothy 4:11) and wrote the gospel of Mark, but for now, Paul considered him a deserter.

    The idea of “Accept Christ and everything will be fine!” sounds good but it is simply not true. Accepting Christ does not excuse you from hard times, in fact it may bring more of them. Our troubles will end when we are in the grave, and then if you are not a believer, your troubles are just beginning.

    No matter what your level of involvement in Christian activity or ministry, you will face difficulties and trials equal to that level, no more, no less. Friends will sometimes forsake you. Families will fail you. Heartache will be a regular part of your life. In fact, dedication to Christ often brings us face to face with more problems than if we lived for ourselves. If some of the great Christians in the history of the church had aimed lower, they would not have experienced such an incredible variety of sorrows—but they also would not have been used so mightily by God.

    John Mark was a wonderful young man, but at this point in his life he was the victim of his own uninformed, idealistic expectations. He did not understand the realities of spiritual war. But later he would understand, and Paul would say, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

    We too, sometimes draw back from a commitment we have made, but there is hope—for God loves to give us another chance. Let’s face it—Murphy’s Law is alive and well in the Church. Life is difficult even for Christians. Any teaching otherwise is at best misinformed, and at worse an outright lie.

    How we view the spiritual war going on behind the scenes makes a big difference in our conduct, and even our longevity, just as it did with Apostle Paul, the great missionary general, and John Mark, the first missionary casualty. John Mark broke the fellowship of the ring, and returned home to safety.

    14 But they, passing on from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia. They went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down.

    Here we see find another city called Antioch in the region of Galatia, for there were many cities named Antioch. Paul wrote the letter of Galatians to the churches that were established here. Pisidian Antioch was in the mountains at an altitude of about 3,600 feet.

    15 After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, speak.”

    A first-century synagogue service followed a general order. Opening prayers were offered, and then there was a reading from the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament). A reading from the Prophets followed. If there was an educated person present, they were invited to speak on subjects related to the readings. Paul was highly educated, so the rulers of the synagogue gave him the customary invitation, and he was more than happy to use the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Paul begins his message in the Old Testament, and then connects Jesus as the promised Messiah. I will just read his speech:

    16 Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they stayed as aliens in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm, he led them out of it. 18 For a period of about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years.

    20 After these things, he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Afterward they asked for a king, and God gave to them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 When he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, to whom he also testified, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’

    23 From this man’s offspring, God has brought salvation to Israel according to his promise, 24 before his coming, when John had first preached the baptism of repentance to Israel. 25 As John was fulfilling his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. But behold, one comes after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

    26 Brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, the word of this salvation is sent out to you. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they didn’t know him, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.

    28 Though they found no cause for death, they still asked Pilate to have him killed. 29 When they had fulfilled all things that were written about him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and he was seen for many days by those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people.

    32 We bring you good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this to us, their children, in that he raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son. Today I have become your father.’

    34 “Concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’  35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, ‘You will not allow your Holy One to see decay.’ 36 For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, was laid with his fathers, and saw decay.

    37 But he whom God raised up saw no decay. 38 Be it known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man is proclaimed to you remission of sins, 39 and by him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest that come on you which is spoken in the prophets: 41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which you will in no way believe, if one declares it to you.’ ”

    The message given by Paul here is very close to the one given by Peter on the day of Pentecost, around fifteen years earlier. They preached the same gospel. It also covers many of the points that Stephen made in Acts chapter 7, for Saul was there.

    42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the synagogue broke up, many of the Jews and of the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas; who, speaking to them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

    The overall response was positive, even more so for the Gentiles that were there, for they begged them to preach more.

    44 The next Sabbath, almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God.

    Today, people are overwhelmed with information. We have the Internet, radio, television, newspapers, magazines and advertisements everywhere you look. People did not have any of this during that time. So when somebody came through from another city, it was big news, and people came out in large numbers. The missionaries were proclaiming something new that the town had not heard before, so the whole city turned out to hear the gospel from Paul on the next Sabbath.

    45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed.

    As was typical of fleshly preachers, the Jews of the synagogue became jealous because of the large turnout. Paul attracted more people than they did, and that upset them. They began to slander him and whatever it was that he was preaching. Ever hear anyone badmouth Joel Osteen? I have, simply because he draws a crowd, and they don’t.

    You would think that these religious people who waited so long for their Messiah to come, would be happy to hear about Him. But they wanted to keep the status quo. One reason these Jews were resistant was because they wanted to keep the division between Jew and Gentile. If Jesus was to be the Messiah of all men, they wanted no part of Him.

    The Jews were used to having God to themselves and sharing Him with who they wanted. They felt special, God’s chosen people. They could listen to a message and tolerate some change in their teaching and practice, but they could not accept the fact that Christianity made the Gentiles equal with God’s ancient people, the Jews. Some people would rather hold on to their bitterness and animosity, than turn to Jesus and be saved. It is that precious to them.

    46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from yourselves, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so has the Lord commanded us, saying,

    ‘I have set you as a light for the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.’ ”

    Paul and Barnabas let the Jews know that it was a privilege that this message came to them first, a privilege they were now rejecting. So the message would now be preached to the Gentiles. Paul showed wisdom in not spending all his time trying to persuade their hardened hearts. It was a waste of time. We know that he still prayed earnestly for the salvation of Israel according to Romans 10:1, but he spent his missionary time ministering to more open hearts, those who were interested.

    48 As the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of God. As many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 The Lord’s word was spread abroad throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, and stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their borders. 51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came to Iconium.

    Wherever there is revival, the second group to be revived is the devil. Jewish opposition became so strong that Paul and Barnabas left the area and traveled to Iconium. 

    If Jewish people had to go in or through a Gentile city, when leaving the city they shook the dust off their feet as a gesture saying, “We don’t want to take anything from this Gentile city with us.” In this sense, Paul said “I don’t want to take anything with me from you Jesus-rejecting religionists.”

    52 The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

    Being filled with joy and being filled with the Holy Spirit go together. Paul and Barnabas had joy that contradicted their difficult circumstances. The happiness of a genuine Christian lies far beyond the reach of earthly disturbances. That joy is not affected by the changes and circumstances around us. The martyrs of Christ were more happy while burning in the flames than their persecutors were while lying on their beds.

    That concludes our Bible study on Acts Chapter 13. Thank you for watching and being a part of Refreshing Hope!

    Click here to take the Acts 13 quiz, or scroll down for the text version!

    Quiz Questions on Acts Chapter 13:

    1. Now in the assembly that was at Antioch there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, _______ who was called Niger, _______ of Cyrene, Manaen the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
    2. As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate _______ and _______ for me, for the work to which I have called them.”
    3. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia. From there they sailed to _______.
    4. When they were at Salamis, they proclaimed God’s word in the Jewish synagogues. They also had _______ as their attendant.
    5. When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar _______,  who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of understanding.
    6. But ______________ (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
    7. Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia. _______ departed from them and returned to Jerusalem.
    8. But they, passing on from Perga, came to _______ of Pisidia. They went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down.
    9. Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they stayed as aliens in the land of _______, and with an uplifted arm, he led them out of it.
    10. Paul continued: “For a period of about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. When he had destroyed _______ nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years.
    11. Paul continued: “When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years.  After these things, he gave them judges until _______ the prophet.
    12. Paul continued: “Afterward they asked for a king, and God gave to them _______ the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.”
    13. Paul continued: “When he had removed him, he raised up _______ to be their king, to whom he also testified, ‘I have found _______ the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ “
    14. Paul continued: “Though they found no cause for death, they still asked _______ to have him killed. When they had fulfilled all things that were written about him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. “
    15. So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the _______ begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.
    16. The next Sabbath, almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with _______, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed.
    17. Paul and _______ spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from yourselves, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.”
    18. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent _______ and the chief men of the city, and stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their borders.
    19. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came to _______.
    20. The disciples were filled with _______ and with the Holy Spirit.

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