ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
Chapter 13:1-9 – Two Missionaries Sent
We read in Acts 11:19-26 where the church in Antioch (in Syria) was growing. Barnabas had gone to Tarsus to find Saul, and brought him back there. Now in Acts 13:1-2, we read that these two along with three others, called prophets and teachers, were fasting and praying. The Holy Ghost gave the word that they should separate Barnabas and Saul for the work for which they had already been called. Barnabas was a dedicated believer as you remember. The Lord had shown Saul that he would witness to Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel – Acts 9:15. The Lord did the calling, the others recognized the call, laid hands on them, and sent them forth, thus identifying with them – Acts 13:3. This is the way missionary work should be done. You can see how Acts 1:8 is being carried out. Philip went to Samaria, Peter to Caesarea, then those who were persecuted went to other areas, Antioch for example, now they would go to other parts of the earth.
Barnabas was from the country of Cyprus – Acts 4:36 – so it was not surprising that they headed in that direction. Seleucia was the seaport from which they sailed. Their first stop was Salamis – Acts 13:5 – where they preached in the synagogues. The reason for this is, they would find the Jews worshiping there. They wanted then to hear about the Lord Jesus. Notice John Mark was with them. He was the son of Mary, the sister of Barnabas - Acts 12:12; Col. 4:10.
Acts 13:6-13 gives the account of their work at Paphos, another city in Cyprus. They were definitely on enemy territory now. Here they met a false prophet, named Bar-jesus, also called Elymas. He was a Jew, but was a sorcerer, one into witchcraft. He was with a deputy, a government official, whose name was Sergius Paulus. This deputy called for Barnabas and Saul. He wanted to hear the Word of God. How thrilled these missionaries must have been to know that. The sorcerer had other ideas. He tried to turn this deputy from the faith. We don’t know what all he did to hinder him. Probably he was afraid of losing his power over Sergius Paulus. Saul got the victory over this evil one. By the power of the Holy Ghost, he spoke right to him, calling him a child of the devil and enemy of all righteousness. Paul (his name by which we will call him from now on) knew he had tried to keep the deputy from believing on Jesus. Paul said that the hand of the Lord was upon him and that he would be blind for a season. This happened immediately. He had to have someone lead him around.
What was the result? The deputy could see the real power of God at work. He believed the message Paul and Barnabas had been preaching. It says he was astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. The sorcerer’s natural eyes were blinded, but the deputy’s spiritual eyes were opened. He knew that all they were teaching was absolutely true. Just think, he was saved.
Many times when people become interested in the gospel, there will be people around who would try to discourage those from believing. Sometimes boys and girls want to be saved, but other folks try to hinder them. These could be family, people in the neighbor- hood, in school, or just anybody. We must not listen to them. Then there are times when saved boys and girls can be hindered by those who try to keep them from coming to hear the Word of the Lord, like Sunday School, or church. Don’t even listen to the ones who try to keep you away from the Lord’s things. They are working against the Lord.
Verse 13 says that John Mark went back to Jerusalem. We aren’t sure why he became discouraged. Perhaps he was too young to go through all those hardships. Then again, he might not have been called to the work like Barnabas and Paul were. We will hear more about John Mark later.
It is interesting to see that now Saul the “asked for” became Paul “the little.” Saul is the Hebrew name, while Paul is the Roman name.