Acts 13: "Paul is about 40 years old as he embarks upon a
journey to the ecclesias. He is introduced to the work: vv 1-3. Then he becomes
involved in the preaching of the gospel in Cyprus: vv 4,5. Barnabas seems to be
in charge of the company at this point, being mentioned first in v 1. Then comes
an early challenge to the Truth. A great contrast is presented in two men:
Elymas is rebuked; Sergius Paulus is converted: vv 6-12. Now came a sad moment
in the life of Paul, and yet one which ultimated in the development of a sound
and sterling brother. The reason for the departure of John Mark is not clear,
but sufficient to cause a rift between the two great brethren. Mark's courage
might have failed him as he saw the mixed world of Pamphylia and realised the
dangers before him. Perhaps he resented the manner in which the vigorous Paul
was becoming the dominant influence, and found his dedicated and driving urge to
work less pleasant than the gentler Barnabas, his cousin. Ultimately, Paul
recognised the qualities in Mark, and sought for his companionship (2Ti 4). Paul
continued his journey, and spoke to the those at Pisidia: vv 14,15. Here is his
first recorded speech given (vv 16-41), a renowned exposition of the Word. The
record now continues with a personal appeal to the people (vv 38-41). The
exciting chapter concludes with a record of the keen interest aroused in an
environment of antagonism and strife: vv. 42-52" (GEM).
SIMEON CALLED NIGER: A Christian prophet and/or teacher
in the ecclesia at Antioch at the time of the call of Barnabas and Paul to
missionary service. He was also known by his Latin name "Niger", meaning
"black," suggesting that he may have been an African. Is this the same as Simon
the Cyrenian (Mark 15:21)?
LUCIUS OF CYRENE: Quite possibly the same as Lucius at
Corinth, one of Paul's "kinsmen" or fellow Jews who sent greetings to Christians
in Rome (Rom 16:21).
MANAEN (WHO HAD BEEN BROUGHT UP WITH HEROD THE
TETRARCH): "Foster-brother" ('syntrophos': 'brought up') of Herod the
tetrarch, ie Herod Antipas (4 BC -- AD 37). The latter designation may mean that
he was brought up (NASB) and educated with this Herod. Some have speculated that
he was the son, or at least a relative, of Manaen the Essene who predicted to
Herod the Great, when a child, that he would become king of the Jews. When the
prediction was fulfilled, Herod held Manaen the Essene and his sect in high
regard (Jos Ant 15:10:5). Poss Manaen of Acts 13:1 was adopted by Herod the
Great and made a companion to one of his sons. The term "syntrophos", however,
may mean simply an intimate friend or "member of the court" (RSV; cf
THE WORK TO WHICH I HAVE CALLED THEM: The special
preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles: Rom 16:25,26; Eph 3:2-6). Also see Gal
1:1; 1Ti 1:1; Tit 1:3.
WENT DOWN: The classic language of theophany, or
Yahweh-manifestation, occurs often in Acts in the context of gospel preaching,
as if the witness to the gospel were another manifestation of the Yahweh-Name:
Act 8:5; 10:21; 13:4; 14:25; 15:30; 16:8; 18:22.
CYPRUS: Barnabas' native land (Act 4:36), already seen
to be receptive to the Truth (Act 11:19,20).
SYNAGOGUES: Plural: there were numerous Jewish
BARNABAS AND SAUL: Note the order at the beginning; but
Saul/Paul quickly emerges as the leader, although young and
PAUL: The name Paul -- used for the first time here --
signifies "little" or "small" -- it is a sign of Saul's newfound humility. Also,
a Greek name to replace a Hebrew name (symbolizing his new mission, as he stands
before Sergius Paulus, a leading member of the Gentile world). Had not the
prophet Samuel said to Saul's namesake (also of the tribe of Benjamin)?: 'When
you were SMALL in your own eyes, did not God exalt you?' (1Sa 15:17).
The whole incident here is an enacted parable, suggesting
Saul/Paul's own experiences (Acts 9): first Saul is like Elymas, the "wise", who
is blinded and silenced (v 11); then he is like Sergius Paulus, the "unlearned",
who asks for ("Saul" signifies "asked for") and receives the faith of
Elymas was also called "Bar-Jesus" in v 6 ("son of Jesus); Now
his name is changed by Paul to "Son of the devil"! He is not the son of Jesus;
he is the son of the serpent! Notice the close link with Christ's words in Joh
8:41-44: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your
father's desire... When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar
and the father of lies."
BLIND: 'Just as I was when I thought to kick against
the prick, or sting' (Acts 26:14)!
Elymas the sorcerer is given the same opportunity as was Saul
on the Damascus road: he is blinded physically, but enlightened mentally and
Like the Jews described by Christ, Elymas had lost sight of
the characteristics of a true son of Abraham. Like the Jews, he had become an
"enemy of all righteousness" (Acts 13:10) and an enemy of the gospel (Rom
Elymas' main concern was the preservation of his source of
wealth (the munificence of Sergius Paulus), his power over the proconsul (who
was himself an important man -- so much the better!), and his pride at his own
presumed "wisdom". In short, Elymas was motivated by the "lust of the flesh, the
lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1Jo 2:16)!
The sentence of blindness passed upon Bar-Jesus suggests, in
this typical parable, the spiritual "blindness" decreed upon Israel because of
their rejection of God (Deu 28:28; Isa 6:10). However, just as the sorcerer's
blindness was temporary ("for a season" -- Acts 13:11), so Israel's blindness
will be temporary: "Blindness in part is happened to all Israel, until the
fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom 11:25).
WHEN THE PROCONSUL SAW WHAT HAD HAPPENED, HE BELIEVED, FOR
HE WAS AMAZED AT THE TEACHING ABOUT THE LORD: The final act in this
miniature "play" is the conversion of Sergius Paulus -- which surely signifies
the initiation of the Gentiles into the hope largely abandoned by Israel. The
opposition of the apostate Jew provided the very opportunity for the Gentile to
This one incident, then, is seen to set the pattern of Paul's
work as a missionary to the Roman world: the unbelief of the Jews and the faith
of the Gentiles. Thus is summarized, for that matter, the broad outline of two
thousand years of ecclesial history. It appears that, in recognition of God's
expanding purpose with the Gentiles and the instrumental part he was to play in
it, Saul of Tarsus then and there adopted the new name "Paul" from his Gentile
PAUL AND HIS COMPANIONS: From now on, Paul (with a new
name) assumes leadership of the company... and so it continues to the
PERGA IN PAMPHYLIA: Perga was the capital of the
district, later the Roman province, of Pamphylia on the southern coast of Asia
Minor, located on the Cestrus River, 12 miles inland from its port city of
Attalia. On Paul's first missionary journey, he seems to have passed through
Perga without stopping as he made his way up into the mountains of the interior.
It has been suggested that at that time of year, malarial conditions in the
lowland city had emptied it of most of its inhabitants and Paul himself may have
had the fever (Acts 13:13,14; cf Gal 4:13). At the close of the first missionary
journey, on his way back to Syrian Antioch, Paul stopped and preached the Word
in Perga (Acts 14:25). Perga was never much influenced by the Greeks, but
remained oriental in character with worship centered in the Artemis of Perga. It
would seem that Paul's ministry had little effect in Perga, for there is no
mention of the city until centuries later.
JOHN LEFT THEM: Examples of prophetic reluctance: Exo
4:10; Jer 1:6; Eze 3:14; Jon 1:3; 1Ki 19:10; Luk 5:8,10; 9:59; 18:23; Act 13:13;
18:9. Ct Isa 6:8. Other possible reasons for Mark's departure: (a) This was a
very dangerous area: semi-barbarous, filled with brigands and robbers (cp 2Co
11:26); (b) Perhaps Paul's new leadership is less acceptable to Mark than was
his uncle's guidance.
PISIDIAN ANTIOCH: "A city of Phrygia in southern Asia
Minor. It was called Pisidian Antioch to distinguish it from the many other
cities of the same name founded by Seleucus Nicator in honor of his father,
probably soon after 301 BC. It was a garrison point commanding the great Roman
road connecting Ephesus with the Cilician Gates, a mountain pass just above
Tarsus. After 25 BC Rome made it a city of Galatia, then elevated it to colony
status shortly before 6 BC. Roman roads henceforward connected it with the other
colonies (eg, Lystra) founded in the district.
"On his first mission Paul planted a church in Pisidian
Antioch (Acts 13:13-52) and its witness was heard throughout the 'region' (Acts
13:49); only in Ephesus and Thessalonica were there comparable results. Jews
were present in great numbers from 200 BC onward and no doubt their proselyting
efforts had prepared many Gentile hearts for the gospel" (WyE).
Citing 1Sa 13:14: "The LORD has sought out a man after his own
heart." And Psa 78:70-72: "He chose David his servant and took him from the
sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his
people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with
integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."
THE COMING: As in Mal 3:1,2.
THE TREE: The cross on which Christ was crucified is
called by the apostles a "tree" (Acts 5:30; 10:39; Gal 3:13; 1Pe 2:24), because
-- though a piece of wood that meant death for those hung thereon -- that
special cross meant life to those who looked to it in faith! The "wood of death"
was for them "a tree of life", and the "fruit" that hung from its branches, if
partaken of, would give life everlasting (Gen 2:9; 3:22; Rev 2:7;
Ever after, in the peculiar vision and language of the
inspired writers of the New Testament, the dull, barren, bloody, and forbidding
piece of wood would seem like a bright, green, fruitful and inviting tree... the
tree of life!
RAISING UP JESUS: Applies to birth of Jesus: cp v 34...
then "raised" from the dead! Cp use of "raise" in Deu 18:15,18; Exo 9:16; Jdg
3:9; Eph 2:6; and esp Act 2:30; 2Sa 7:12; Psa 89:35,36.
THE HOLY AND SURE BLESSINGS PROMISED TO DAVID: The
promise to David was that his "son" would reign forever (2Sa 7:13,16; 1Ch
DAVID HAD SERVED GOD'S PURPOSE IN HIS OWN GENERATION:
David had served "the men of that age and generation in which he lived, the
subjects of his kingdom; by governing them with wholesome laws, protecting them
in their rights and properties, defending them against their enemies, and
regulating and promoting the worship of God among them" (Gill).
THIS MAN: "Receives sinners" (Luk 15:2). "Never man
spoke like..." (Joh 7:46). "No fault in..." (Luk 23:4,14,41). "Has somewhat to
offer" (Heb 8:3). "Through this man... forgiveness" (Act 13:38). "Is worthy of
more honor than Moses" (Heb 3:3). "Sat down" (Heb 10:12). "Continues forever"
(Heb 7:24). "Was Son of God" (Mar 15:39).
AS PAUL AND BARNABAS WERE LEAVING THE SYNAGOGUE, THE PEOPLE
INVITED...: They were leaving the Jewish synagogue. The Gentiles
(proselytes?: v 43) who were outside asked them for more!
FOLLOWED PAUL AND BARNABAS: The Syriac adds: "asking to
AND URGED THEM...: Paul's powers of persuasion:         Acts
18:4; 19:8; 26:28; 28:23; Gal 1:10.
WE HAD TO SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD TO YOU FIRST: "It was
necessary" (AV), because Christ prayed that you be forgiven, and we have offered
you the opportunity: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are
doing" (Luk 23:34).
YOU... YOU: The pronouns are singular, as they are in
Isa 49:6... but are interpreted by Paul and Barnabas as plural: ie commanded of
those "in Christ".
APPOINTED: "Arranged", "set in order": continuous
So Pisidian Antioch became a center for the spread of the
gospel, just as Syrian Antioch.
GOD-FEARING WOMEN OF HIGH STANDING: IN this province
women were often involved in public affairs at a high level. Even the Jews of
Antioch were not against having a woman as "chief" of the synagogue (WAc
Preaching leads to persecution; persecution leads to