“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. 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” (Acts 13:1-2).
We notice that the meeting place of these brethren was in Antioch, not Jerusalem. This point in the book of Acts marks the establishment of new headquarters for a company of soldiers of the cross who are to preach the gospel of the grace of God to both the Jew and Gentile. Barnabas and Saul were the first two of eight men who were called for this ministry.
We call attention to the fact that it was the Holy Ghost who said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” This order was given by the Holy Spirit while the prophets and teachers were ministering to the Lord and fasting.
After these servants of God had fasted and prayed they “laid their hands” on Barnabas and Saul and “sent them away” (Acts 13:3). Even though these God-called men had a part in sending these two on their missionary journey, it was the Holy Spirit who energized the entire move. “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost departed unto Seleucia: and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 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” (Acts 13:4-5).
Even though their ministry was to be different to that of Peter and the eleven, and was to include uncircumcised Gentiles, yet their first stopping place in each community was the synagogue of the Jews. This is in keeping with the testimony of Paul in Roman 1:16—”For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Saul’s Name Changed to Paul
As Barnabas and Saul continued their journey unto Paphos, “they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus: 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. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul), filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, 0 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? 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 someone to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord” (Acts 13:6-12).
The significant thing about this first miracle performed by Paul is the fact that Bar-Jesus, the Jew, was blinded “for a season.” He is typical of the unbelieving Jews who have been blinded for a season. This links up with Paul’s statement to the believing Gentiles in Romans 11:25—”For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” He said again, “What then? Israel hash not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear); unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them: let their eyes be darkened: that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (Romans 11:7-11).
After Israel’s season of blindness is passed, she will be brought into prominence as never before. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Roman 11:26-27). This does not mean that the individual Jews of this age who reject salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. This scripture has reference to national Israel and the restoration of the kingdom.
It is also significant that Saul’s name was changed to Paul at the very time he performed this first miracle. After this, he is never spoken of as Saul except when he refers back to his conversion. He took the name of his first Gentile convert, Sergius Paulus.
Another significant thing in connection with this first miracle is the fact that the Gentile deputy was saved. The blinding of Bar-Jesus, the Jew, meant the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the Gentile—”Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed.”
From Paphos, the three missionaries, Paul, Barnabas and John moved on to Perga in Pamphylia. It was there that John departed from them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).
It was in Antioch in Pisidia that Paul preached his first sermon on this first missionary journey. He and Barnabas “went in to the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down; and after the reading of the law and prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience” (Acts 13:14-16).
We call attention to the fact that Paul addressed the people and synagogue as “men of Israel, and ye that fear god.” This included not only the Israelites but others who had joined themselves to the Israelites in their synagogue worship. His message follows—
“The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought He them out of it. And about the time of forty years suffered He their manners in the wilderness. And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, He divided their land to them by lot. And after that He gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. And when He had removed him, He raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also He gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will. Of this man’s seed hash God according to His promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus; when John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not He. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of His feet I am not worthy to loose. Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the Word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him up from the dead: and He was seen many days of them which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore He saith also in another Psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath” (Acts 13:17-42).
In this sermon, Paul delivered himself of a forceful, fourfold message—
- He clearly set forth the risen Christ as the object of his sermon (Acts 13:30-37).
- He made plain the fact that his subject was, the forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38-39).
- He used the Bible, God’s infallible Word, as his one authority (Acts 13:33-35).
- Finally, he clearly sounded a distinct warning concerning the prophesied wrath of God (Acts 13:40-41).
A careful study of Acts 2:22-41 will reveal the fact that Peter’s first sermon also falls into this same fourfold division. This proves that both Peter and Paul were moved by the Holy Spirit, at the beginning of their ministry, to point their hearers to the risen Christ as Lord of all; to His finished work on the cross as having been accomplished on the sinner’s behalf; to the written Word as their one authority, and to the pending judgment which would Burley fall if they refused to hear.
Outside the Synagogue
“And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God” (Acts 13:42-43).
After Paul had delivered his soul stirring Bible message in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, and the Jews had departed from the place of worship, “the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached unto them the following sabbath.” Many of the Jews lined up with these Gentiles, who were looked upon as religious (worshipping) “proselytes,” and persuaded Paul and Barnabas “to continue in the grace of God.”
There was no longer room in the synagogue for the multitudes of Antioch who were clamoring to hear the grace message as borne by Paul and Barnabas. “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the Word of God” (Acts 13:44). This gathering was undoubtedly outside the synagogue. “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45).
This situation created a demand for a positive testimony concerning God’s turn to the Gentiles. It is easy to see that Paul’s message concerning the grace of God was used from the very beginning toward the closing of the mind and heart of the Jews, and toward the opening of the mind and heart of the Gentiles.
“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken unto you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hash the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the Word of the Lord was published throughout all the region” (Acts 13:46-49).
The Jew First, and Also the Greek
As Paul and Barnabas boldly proclaimed the grace of God to both Jew and Gentile, they declared “it was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken” to the Jews (Acts 13:45). This was necessary because it was God’s revealed plan as spoken by the prophets—speaking of Christ, Isaiah said, “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the preserved of Israel: I will give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
This reminds us of Paul’s testimony in Romans 1:16, where he said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Three times in the book of Acts Paul speaks concerning God’s turn to the Gentiles—
- As quoted above, he said, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken unto you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).
- Again in Acts 18, verses 4-6, we have the record of Paul’s testimony in the synagogue at Corinth. He was pressed in the Spirit and testfied to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”
- His final message along this line was given to the dispersed Jews in Rome, Acts 28:17-28. Having called them together and declared unto them that he was bound with a chain “for the hope of Israel,” and having been appointed a day to preach unto them, he “persuaded them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning until evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. “
We also find that God spoke three times in the book of Acts concerning his salvation being sent—
- In Acts 10:34-38, He spoke through Peter to Cornelius and his household, declaring unto them “the Word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all).” A careful study of these verses will prove that the message which these Gentiles received was a message which had first been preached to the children of Israel.
- Again, in Acts 13:26, Paul, addressing the congregation in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, said, “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the the Word of this salvation sent.” It is evident that the “whosoever among you feareth God” has reference to Gentiles who were worshipping with the Jews. Therefore, the salvation which they received was to the Jew first.
- Finally, God spoke in Acts 28:28, saying, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” At this point, the Holy Spirit makes it plain that His salvation is being offered not to the Jews first and also to the Gentile, but to the Gentile. This means that after Acts 28:28, God’s program was no longer a program of preaching the gospel of Christ to the Jew first. His message from Acts 28:28 to the rapture of the church, which is the body of Christ, is a message of grace, including both Jew and Gentile; but giving no preference to the Jew first. The present day Jew has full right to salvation by grace and to membership in the body of Christ; but he can by no means claim the pre-eminence above the Gentile. We before proved, both Jew and Gentile, that we are all under sin.
The opposition on the part of the Jews, who “stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city,” is set forth in verse 50. Paul and Barnabas were not moved from the course of their ministry, but merely “shook off the dust of their feet against them” and moved on unto Iconium. The disciples, whom they had made in Antioch “were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.”