Study No. 15 - “I Love to tell the Story …” Chapter 13:13 – 48
Paul and Barnabas have been called by the Holy Spirit to a special work. The work is not mentioned in Ac 13:2 While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Obviously they understood this ‘work’ to be world missions, and they set out, starting on the Isle of Cyprus. They take with them John Mark, assuming that God would not mind and that perhaps it would be good for John, Barnabas’ nephew, to break him in to evangelistic work. By going to Cyprus they are going to Barnabas’ old ‘stomping grounds’. This was home to him. Again, with no direct instructions from the Holy Spirit regarding their route, or even which direction to take it made sense to them to go to Cyprus first. I have no idea why they did not go straight north on the mainland. In this case they would have gone through Paul’s old ‘stomping grounds’. Perhaps Paul’s time spent there in the early days or years after his conversion left him with the idea that his old friends all have had their chance … time to move on.
In our opening verse of this study we discover that John Mark goes back … not to Antioch where he had spent the last year or so with uncle Barnabas, … but to Jerusalem, where Mom lives. We are not given any reason for his departure, and we could conclude that it is an insignificant comment by Luke but we would be wrong, because Paul refers to this ‘departure’ in a later scripture and casts it in a very negative light.
As Barnabas and Paul arrive at the mainland, they first go through the city of Perga. If they had any results here, none are mentioned. They continue inland and arrive at Antioch in the province of Pisidia.
Here we are given some details of their method of evangelism.
As they did on Cyprus, they went to a synagogue on the Sabbath. I mentioned in a previous study that Jesus often went to synagogues. The situations were unique in each synagogue but there was also a similarity. In each case there were those who believed that Jesus was the promised Christ, the Messiah, and there were those who did not believe. As a rule, the synagogue leaders were the main unbelievers and in almost every case entered into a heated argument with Jesus. By the time Jesus moved down to Jerusalem for the last months of His ministry, synagogue rulers from Galilee down to Jerusalem all knew of Jesus (and hated him). Then came the crucifixion and the resulting news that would spread throughout the land regarding their victory. The imposter is dead!
At the time of Jesus’ death, many foreign Jews would be ‘caught up to speed’ on the latest news. The reason being that many would have made the trip to be there for the Passover. Some would have stayed until the Jewish feast of Pentecost, as did Barnabas, a native Jew of Cyprus. What I am getting at is simply that, even without modern technology, news had a way of spreading. As Barnabas and Saul went from place to place on the Island, there would be some knowledge (maybe not a lot) of Jesus.
But that being said, notice how this visit to the synagogue unfolds.
- They enter as ‘ordinary’ Jews, traveling Jews.
- The reading of ‘the law’ takes place.
- An invitation is publicly extended for Barnabas or Paul to offer an encouraging comment.
- Paul responds to the invitation, ready, with well laid out evangelistic approach.
o Note: the apostle Peter says, (1Peter) 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
o Paul did not use rhetoric or any ‘fancy’ words. He did not use a simple four step plan. His approach was a very plain, clear movement from the ‘known’ to the ‘unknown’. This is logical. This is effective. But when Paul in a later chapter speaks to some Athenians on Mars Hill, he uses an altogether different approach. This is a good time for any soul-winner to pray for wisdom. God wants us to ask for wisdom. Somehow I think He is especially willing to give us wisdom in matters of evangelism.
Paul’s message –
Verses 17 – 21 cover the first part of his message. There is no controversy at all in these verses.
But verse 21 … second half of the verse, makes a noticeable and interesting turn.
“according to the promise…” Full agreement
“God raised up a Savior…” past tense. This would be a surprise turn for the leaders of the synagogue. “What?” They are thinking. “Did we hear right?” They listened as Paul went on. Perhaps the idea of stopping him, or interrupting him popped into their minds. But should they? Is there any harm in letting him continue, at least for a while?
23 – 41. Paul continues with the Story of Jesus, inserting various scriptures. He comes to the close of his talk with no negative incident at all. To me this is remarkable.
42. The Synagogue empties out with the people saying … “Come back again next week!”
43. Many of the people stay around Paul and Barnabas talking … and being encouraged by them to continue looking into this ‘good news’.
44. Almost the ‘entire city’ comes to the synagogue. We don’t know what the weather was like, but I am quite sure that this meeting happened out doors.
45. There is a ‘change of heart’ on the part of the Jews. We might expect that the Jews, especially the leaders, having had a whole week to think about Paul’s words, have come back with an argument. But such does not seem to be the case. The word ‘envy’ is mentioned.
In Mark 9:38 we read that one of the disciples said, "Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." Jesus instructed them to “Leave the man alone, if he is not against us, he is for us.” Was it envy that prompted John’s reaction? On another occasion some people approached John the Baptist with some information, “Teacher, the One who you baptized is now baptizing and everyone in now coming to Him.” They expected John the Baptist to react in envy? He did not. He said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Envy is always destructive. The heart of envy is addressed in one of the original commandments: “Thou shalt not covet …”
46-48 Paul addresses the gentiles. The result is gladness. “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Before we begin to draw conclusions affirming that God has predestinated some to salvation and all others predestinated to Hell, we must allow this verse to say ONLY what it is saying, and nothing more.
The English word ‘appointed’ is the Greek word τασσω tasso tas’-so
1) to put in order, to station
1a) to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint
1a1) to assign (appoint) a thing to one
1b) to appoint, ordain, order
1b1) to appoint on one’s own responsibility or authority
1b2) to appoint mutually, i.e. agree upon
This is how any and all of us came to believe. We heard the Word. It was new or foreign to us.
As we consider it and allow our thoughts to ‘be ordered’ or re-ordered … after much deliberation we embraced it as truth.
Looking ahead … Paul and Barnabas go next to ‘evangelize’ the city of Iconium.
List what things they do that are similar with their previous approach. What do the Jews do that are different, and quite ‘smart’ in a bad sense? What do Paul and Barnabas do that enable them to ‘combat’ this new kind of opposition?