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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
March 5, 2006
The Gospel Accepted & Rejected
Last week we discussed the qualifications for leadership as we examined the call of God upon Barnabas and Saul to be set apart for a particular work, and then the recognition of that call by the church in Antioch. Barnabas and Saul had already demonstrated the genuineness of their belief, their spiritual giftedness and maturity, as well as their practical abilities to carry out the work before God revealed His call to the leaders at the church in Antioch, so it was easy for them to recognize that call and send them out to do that work. This week we will examine the work these men accomplished during the first half of the first missionary journey. Every missionary since has had similar experiences in proclaiming the gospel – some will accept the message, some will reject the message and some will go a step further in actively opposing the message.
Ministry in Cyprus (13:4-12)
Ministry in Salamis (4-5)
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they reached Salamis, they [began] to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.
The journey begins as they travel down to Seleucia, a Syrian seaport from which they sail to the city of Salamis which is on the southeastern side of the Island of Cyprus. From the comment made in Acts 11:19 we know that the gospel had already reached that Island. Remember that it was believers from Cyprus that came to Antioch and proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles. Perhaps that tie between the two churches was a reason that they went their first. Another reason could have been that Barnabas was originally from Cyprus (Acts 4:36).
The first place that they went to proclaim the word of God was the synagogues of the Jews. Paul comments in Romans 1:16 that the gospel was the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Throughout Paul’s missionary journeys he would put that principle into practice by first seeking to witness to the Jews. The fact that there was a plurality of synagogues in Salamis shows that there was a large Jewish community was there.
Verse 5 also comments that John (Mark), Barnabas’ cousin who had come up from Jerusalem with them when they returned to Antioch, was also going with them on this journey as their helper. I think it is very important to point out here that there is nothing to indicate that the Holy Spirit set aside John Mark for this trip. Barnabas and Saul are specifically mentioned back in verse 2, but John Mark is not. While there would be several good reasons that they wanted to take John with them to help, there will be some consequences to this decision later.
Ministry in Paphos (6-12)
Opposition by Elymas (6-8)
After preaching in Salamis they continued their journey overland to Paphos, the capital city on the opposite side of the island. Verses 6-8 tells what happens then. 6 And when they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for thus his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
The name Bar-Jesus means “son of Jesus” or in Old Testament language, “Son of Joshua.” The names Jesus and Joshua both mean “the Lord is salvation.” The name Elymas is the Greek transliteration of the Arabic word for magician. This man is a false Jewish prophet who had influence with Sergius Paulus, the proconsul. (As a quick side note, the title given to him, proconsul, indicates that Cyrpus was a Roman Senatorial province instead of an Imperial one. If it was the later, his title would have been propraetor). Luke remarks that Sergius was a man of intelligence and that he was interested in hearing the gospel from Barnabas and Saul. However, Elymas resented the competition for influence over Sergius so he sought to turn him away from the faith he was hearing about.
Saul Blinds Elymas (9-11)
Saul reacts to this opposition in verses 9-11.
9 But Saul, who was also [known as] Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him, 10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? 11 “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.
This is the first time that Saul’s Greek name, Paul, is mentioned by Luke, and he will continue to use that name for the rest of the missionary journeys since they will be in the lands of the Gentiles.
Paul is once again filled with the Holy Spirit [Aorist participle – a fresh filling] and he confronts Elymas. First he reveals Elymus’ true character of being full of deceit, a fraud, and a son of the devil. Deceit (doloV / Dolos) means “a snare” which appears to be something safe and inviting, but in reality it is a trap. Fraud (radiourgia / rhadiourgia) refers to “ease or facility in doing; hence readiness in turning the hand to anything, bad or good; and so recklessness, unscrupulousness, wickedness.” Son of the devil refers to his character matching that of the devil. Rather than being “Bar-Jesus,” a name referring to someone who spoke of salvation in the Lord, the reality was that he was the son of the devil and therefore someone characterized by slander, which he was doing against Barnabas and Saul. Elymas’ actions of “making crooked the straight ways of the Lord” rose out of his character. Saul takes further action and made Elymas’ physical condition match his spiritual condition by blinding him.
We live in an age and in a society that values tolerance and acceptance as the highest virtues. They are not. there is nothing wrong with exposing the true character of those who are false and who oppose the truth.
The Proconsul Believes (12)
The effect of this miracle on the proconsul is recorded in verse 12. “Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.”
Historical records back up the conversion of the proconsul. The British scholar William Ramsay “argued from other literary sources that Sergia Paulla, the proconsul’s daughter, was a Christian as was her son Gaius Caristanius Fronto, who became the first citizen of Pisidian Antioch to enter the Roman senate”
Ministry in Pisidian Antioch (13:13-52)
Departure of John (13)
After completing this ministry in Paphos they continued on their journey in verse 13. “Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem.”
They travel by sea to Perga in Pamphylia which is on the Southern coast of Modern Turkey. It is at this point that John Mark leaves them for unstated reasons and returns to Jerusalem. From the argument that occurs between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark in Acts 15 we can safely assume that this departure was without Paul’s approval. Remember that I said earlier that there is no indication that the Holy Spirit had set aside John Mark for this work. Though there could have been many good reasons to take him along, the reality is that for whatever reason he was not ready for this ministry and he returns to Jerusalem. The calling of God to ministry is not just important for the leaders of that ministry, but also for each one that will be involved. John Mark did not need to meet the same standards as Barnabas or Saul who were ordained by the church in Antioch for ministry, but he also did need to be called of God and meet whatever qualifications would be necessary to accomplish the specific ministry he was going to do. In His grace, God brought about John Mark’s departure before he would become a detriment in the more difficult ministries that Paul and Barnabas would face as they went into the interior of Asia Minor.
The good news about John Mark is that though he failed here, he did continue to mature and became an effective servant of Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul even tells Timothy to bring Mark with him to Paul for he “is useful to me for service.” John Mark eventually wrote the gospel of Mark. Failure in an attempt is not disqualification. God is in the business of redeeming us and equipping us for ministry. He can and will bring about the needed changes in our lives so that we will be of useful service to Him. Never give up. God doesn’t.
Invitation in the Synagogue (14-15)
Verses 14-15 pick up the story after Mark’s departure. “But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.”
They go from Perga, which is on the coastal plain, and travel inland to Pisidian Antioch. This name distinguishes it from other cities also named Antioch. This city is actually in the region of Phrygia near the border of Pisidia and hence it gained its reference to that region. Secular literature would sometimes calls it “Antioch near Pisidia.” The city is about 100 miles (160 km) NNE of Perga. To get there they had to travel through the Taurus mountain range, then north to Lake Limnae, through the Anthios valley and finally up to Antioch which was at an elevation of 3600 feet. In addition to the normal difficulties of traveling that distance by foot, they also faced the dangers of local bandits that would attack travelers.
On the Sabbath day after they arrived Paul followed his normal practice of going to the Jews first in the local Synagogues. According to Jewish custom a visiting Jew, and especially a teacher, would be invited to address them. They extend this honor to Paul and his companions. Paul then gives a sermon.
Paul’s Sermon (16-41)
Prophetic History to Jesus (16-25)
The first part of Paul’s sermon in vs. 16-25 seeks to establish that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
16 And Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, he said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: 17 “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. 18 “And for a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. 19 “And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance– [all of which took] about four hundred and fifty years. 20 “And after these things He gave [them] judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 “And then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 “And after He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 “From the offspring of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, 24 after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 “And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not He.”
Notice that Paul addresses both the Jews, “the men of Israel,” and those “who fear God,” which are Gentile proselytes. Paul then uses the same method Stephen did in Acts 8 to make his point. He recounts the history of the nation starting with God’s choosing of the patriarchs. He then works his way up to John the Baptist to make his point that God had promised a savior to Israel and that Savior was Jesus. John had even prepared the way for Him.
[Notes: *450 years in vs. 19 is a rounded off number that includes the Egyptian captivity as well as the wilderness wanderings & the initial conquest of Canaan. *King Saul’s reign for 40 years – this is the only direct statement of the length of his reign. Josephus agrees with that length. The Hebrew text of 1 Sam. 13:1 does not give an age for Saul though translators will put one in]
The Death & Resurrection of Jesus (26-31)
In verses 26-31 Paul explains why they have come and the rejection of Jesus by the Religious leaders and that though they put Him to death, God raised Jesus from the dead.
Acts 13:26 (NASB) “Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the word of this salvation is sent out. 27 “For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled [these] by condemning [Him]. 28 “And though they found no ground for [putting Him to] death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. 29 “And when they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. 30 “But God raised Him from the dead;
The natural tendency would have been for them to believe whatever the Sanhedrin had said about Jesus, so it was important for Paul to make it clear that the rulers in Jerusalem had not recognize Jesus’ prophetic identity and that their execution of Him fulfilled prophecy, it was without legal or moral foundation. The proof of Jesus’ identity as the Savior was His resurrection from the dead.
Prophetic Fulfillment & Hope in Jesus (32-39)
In verses 32-39 Paul gives evidence of Jesus’ resurrection and explains how Jesus’ death and resurrection were the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
31 and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. 32 “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this [promise] to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘Thou art My Son; today I have begotten Thee.’ 34 “[And as for the fact] that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy [and] sure [blessings] of David.’ 35 “Therefore He also says in another [Psalm,] ‘Thou wilt not allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.’ 36 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay; 37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. 38 “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
These truths were the basis for the hope for forgiveness of sin for them all. They could not be freed from sin by keeping the Law of Moses, but they could be forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ who fulfilled the prophecies.
Paul concluded the sermon with a warning in verse 40 “Take heed therefore, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon [you]: 41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; For I am accomplishing a work in your days, A work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’ ”
This is not the way that modern American evangelists end their sermons over concern of scaring their listeners, but it is the way that Paul often ended his sermons. Paul’s concern was that his listeners would not fear God enough to heed his message. Paul was more concerned about the eternal destiny of those who heard him than in gaining a large audience.
The Responses (42-52)
Initial Followers (42-43)
The reactions of the people are recorded in verses 42,43. “And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when [the meeting of] the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.”
The initial reaction was very positive with the people begging to hear more the next Sabbath. Some were so encouraged by Paul’s message that they were following him immediately to learn more.
Jealousy & Opposition of the Jews (44-46)
We are not told anything about what occurred while waiting for the next Sabbath to come, but the response in verse 44 suggests that people had been talking a lot about Paul’s previous sermon. 44 “And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and [began] contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
Our text says that “nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God.” This would include Jews, Gentile proselytes and Gentiles in general. It had not bothered the Jews on the previous Sabbath that Paul had brought the message of salvation to them and the Gentile proselytes, but now they are provoked. Their jealousy is not the size of the crowd, but that ordinary Gentiles were also receiving the gospel. It infuriated them that the Gentiles were being treated as spiritual equals with themselves. The result is that they began to contradict Paul even to the point of blaspheming. We have seen before that those who cannot win an argument fairly, which is hard to do when you do not have the truth, will often resort to lying and false accusation to achieve their purposes. These ungodly Jews do that here.
Paul rebukes them pointing out that since they “repudiated” the gospel then they would be responsible for their own sinful actions. They had pushed the gospel away from themselves by refusing to listen and instead blaspheming. They did not heed Paul’s warning given to them the week before. They would not receive eternal life. Paul then turns to focus his ministry there on the Gentiles.
Joy of the Gentiles (47-49)
In verse 47 Paul gives further explanation for why he was turning to the Gentiles. 47 “For thus the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You should bring salvation to the end of the earth.'”
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they [began] rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.
The Gentiles respond with great joy and “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” This is another statement of God’s sovereignty in salvation. The word “appointed” here, also translated as “ordained,” (tassw / tassô), is the action of a superior assigning the position of an inferior. It is used of a military commander assigning the posts of his troops.
Joy is not easily contained, nor should it be. The joy of the Gentiles spread the news of the gospel throughout the region. We are not told how long this took or how long Paul is in Pisidian Antioch, but as could be expected, the more Gentiles of the region hear and turn to the Lord, the more the unbelieving Jews become upset and moved to stronger action as verse 50 explains.
50 “But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.”
Since they could not accomplish what they desired by themselves, they did whatever they needed to do to get the city officials to drive Paul and Barnabas out of the city. The reference to “devout women of prominence” here is to Gentile women that were proselytes to Judaism. It was common in the first century for Gentile women of prominence to attend Jewish synagogues. Josephus even reports that in Damascus at that time that the Gentile women “with few exceptions had all become converts to the Jewish religion.” These women would in turn influence their husbands who were civic leaders. The result was that they drove Paul and Barnabas out of Antioch.
As they left the city they followed Jesus’ instructions in Luke 9:5; 10:1. Verse 51 states, “But they shook off the dust of their feet [in protest] against them and went to Iconium.” This was a gesture of disapproval. They then traveled to Iconium some 80 miles (130 km) to the Southeast
Continual Joy (52)
Though they were kicked out of the city due to unjust persecution, they did not leave despondent. Verse 52 records,
“And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” They did not take the persecution as a personal affront. They kept their focus correctly on serving God regardless of the response of the people. The result was joy in the Lord despite the negative reaction toward them.
The example of that response is still an important one to follow. It is quite common to have opposition and even persecution of some sort arise just at the time that things appeared to be great. Paul and Barnabas saw multitudes of Gentiles turning to the Lord and spreading His word throughout the region. That certainly was a reason to be filled with joy, but they were also filled with joy and the Holy Spirit when persecution arose and affected them directly. We have seen similar things in the life of this church. Just when it seems that we are making an impact for Christ in the community, there will be some opposition whether external or internal to cause turmoil in the congregation and try to throw us off course. The earliest casualty in this is usually our joy. However, it is our relationship with the Lord, not our circumstances that should determine our attitudes, and if our attitudes are right, then our focus and actions usually will be too.
Is your relationship with the Lord such that you are finding joy in Him regardless of your circumstances good or bad? If not, then spend some time before you leave today talking with one of the other brothers or sisters in the church about what is going on in your life and your walk with the Lord, then pray together. I think it is safe to say that if you do so, you will see the Lord change your attitude and do great things through you.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) How many different places are mentioned? Talk with your parents about what it would have been like to travel so far to tell people about Jesus
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What were the qualifications of Barnabas & Saul to be missionaries? Where did they first preach the word on this trip? Why does Elymas oppose Barnabas & Saul? Describe his character? What does Saul do and what are the consequences? Why does Luke start using the name “Paul” for Saul? What was good and bad about John Mark returning home? What were some of the dangers they faced in traveling to Pisidian Antioch? Outline Paul’s sermon in verses 16-41. Why were these points important in presenting the gospel to these people? Why does Paul end with a warning? Is that something that should be done today? Why or why not? What were the responses to Paul’s sermon? Why were the Jews jealous? Explain. How did they finally get rid of Paul? What did Paul & Barnabas do? What was their attitude? Do you find joy in your relationship with the Lord regardless of circumstances? Why or why not? If not, what should change?
Sermon Notes – March 5, 2006
The Gospel: Accepted & Rejected – Acts 13:4-52
Ministry in Cyprus (4-12)
Ministry in Salamis (4-5)
Ministry in Paphos (6-12)
Opposition by Elymas
Saul Blinds Elymas
The Proconsul Believes
Ministry in Pisidian Antioch (13-52)
The Departure of John (13)
Invitation to the Synagogue (14,15)
Paul’s Sermon (16-41)
Prophetic History to Jesus
The Death & Resurrection of Jesus
Prophetic Fulfillment & Hope in Jesus
The Responses (42-52)
Jealousy & Opposition of the Jews
Joy of the Gentiles
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