20. What a Way to Go (Acts 13:1-13)
I have always wanted to leave a church the way Barnabas and Saul did in our text. And thus I have entitled this message, “What A Way To Go.” There were no arguments. No one was fired. Everyone seemed to agree that it was God’s will for these two to leave, even though they were loved and would be greatly missed. This exit is indeed an ideal one, one which I would like to experience if God ever calls me to leave this church and go elsewhere.
As I shared this with a friend in ministry while conducting a series in his church some distance from Dallas, he related that this had always been his desire also—to have the church reluctantly conclude it was time for him to leave, at the same time he felt God’s leading in the same direction, thus having a very unanimous sense of the Spirit’s guidance.
Although this was his ideal, my fellow-teacher continued that in his experience, it had not actually worked out this way. Out of the blue he received a call from a distant church, a church he had never heard of nor contacted. They wanted him to come and consider the possibility of God’s leading him and his family to this new ministry. Although reluctant, he decided to share this invitation with the elders of his church, and while he really did not want to check out this opportunity, the elders encouraged him to do so anyway. And so he went—and he fell in love with the people and the place. He really wanted to go. Submitting his resignation, he accepted the call.
But just before I arrived at his church, he had a change of mind. Having had some second thoughts, he “unresigned” and called the other church to reverse his acceptance of their offer to serve there. It was a very difficult and embarrassing situation which called for some adjustments on the part of all. A few months later, I noticed my friend’s address had changed, to the church that had invited him to come which he had declined.
My friend’s experience did not work out as nicely and neatly as that of Barnabas and Saul. But this was an ideal departure and not the consistent experience of these men either. The so-called “second missionary journey of Paul” began with an argument with Barnabas. leading to this team splitting into two teams (cf. Acts 15:36-41). And Paul’s ministry to Rome commenced with his arrest (cf. Acts 21:15ff.). We see then that even apostles did not always have a comfortable change.
And so, as we approach this first “call” to missionary service, let us remember that it was a wonderful, ideal experience, but it was not necessarily a typical one. God’s guidance sometimes comes through pleasant circumstances, and at other times it comes through painful or even tragic circumstances.
Our text is a very important one, for it describes the birth of what we might call “foreign missions.”
“The importance of the present narrative is that it describes the first piece of planned ‘overseas mission’ carried out by representatives of a particular church, rather than by solitary individuals, and begun by a deliberate church decision, inspired by the Spirit, rather than somewhat more causally as a result of persecution.”255
Up to this point, evangelism has occurred but not missions. The persecution resulting from the death of Stephen did scatter the saints from Jerusalem, and many of these saints did share their faith. But had you asked any of these saints why they were leaving Jerusalem, they would not have told you that it was as a part of a massive missions program of the church in Jerusalem. They fled to save their lives, not to save souls. Evangelism happened providentially, but not purposefully, so far as the church in Jerusalem was concerned. Now the church, prompted by the Holy Spirit, made a conscious decision to send forth Barnabas and Saul for the purpose of what we might call “missionary activity.”
We must recognize the brevity of this account, and thus we should be informed that God is not here giving us a “pattern” to follow closely. Luke is telling us what happened, but he has not gone into detail as to how it happened. There are several features of our text, however, which do not seem to match present missions practice. Actually some of our “foreign missions” practices are “foreign” to this text. It remains for us to see what these are and to determine whether we are in violation of biblical principle, or whether we are simply operating within the freedom of God’s Word in terms of our practice. Let us seriously take a close look at “missions” in our text and explore its implications for “missions” today.
The Structure of the Text
The structure of our text may be summarized as follows:
- The Setting Apart of Barnabas and Saul (vv. 1-3)
- The Ministry of Barnabas and Saul in Cyprus (vv. 4-12)
The Setting Apart of the Gospel from the teaching of Elymas
The Setting Apart of Paul over Barnabas
- The Separation of John Mark from Saul and Barnabas (v. 13)
Setting Apart Barnabas and Saul
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch,256 and Saul.257 2 And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
It is interesting to note that while Luke does not record the names of those “magnificent folks” who shared their faith with the people of Antioch, he does record the names of those who were prophets and teachers there. It is possible that some of these men may have been some of those early evangelists. Lucius of Cyrene, for example, might have been one of them.258
The naming of these five men does several things. First, it indicates that this church was blessed with five men who were filling the vital role of prophet and teacher, a role that was vital in this early church which did not yet possess any of the New Testament writings. It also indicates to the reader that there were other men who were able to carry on this role when Barnabas and Saul left the church. The fact that Luke names not only Barnabas and Saul, but the remaining three may be God’s way of documenting the leadership of this church, accrediting these three men. The order of the names, with Barnabas listed first and Saul last, indicates that at this point it was Barnabas who was the prominent leader of these men and that Paul was the “rookie.” This will change at the end of our passage. The names of these men, along with details supplied by Luke, indicate that they were a diverse group. They appear to be functioning as the leadership of this newly-born church.259 The fact that this church had a plurality of gifted men is no surprise, for Barnabas seems to have been a man who sought and encouraged other men to develop (cf. Acts 11:25-26).
This missionary call came not to Barnabas alone or just to Barnabas and Saul, but to the leadership of the church at Antioch and thus to the whole church. I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to the church through one of these men whom Luke has listed and has designated as a prophet. Unlike the revelation that came to this church from Agabus, who came down along with other prophets from Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-28), this revelation came to the church through a “home grown” prophet.260 The two men who were sent out were Hellenistic Jews; they were the leaders of this church, and they were the best the church had to give. As these “founding fathers” moved on, the church was challenged in its growth and ministry in a very healthy way. The move was one that was good for all, even if it was a painful one.
The “call” came to the church through its leaders at a time when they were going about their worship and service to God, as usual. Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit spoke “as they were ministering to the Lord and fasting” (v. 2). I used to think these leaders were in a special time of prayer and fasting, seeking the Lord’s will and guidance, as though they sensed that “something was up,” that some new course was to be taken. I do not think so now. This has never yet been the way God has worked through the church to this point. God has led in unusual ways and has brought the church to action which it would not even have dreamed of doing. The sovereignty of God and of His leading has always been evident to this point. Men have not anticipated God’s leading, and they would often have resisted it if they did sense what it would be.
My understanding of the word “fasting” as the reason I was inclined to think this revelation came to the church at some time of special seeking. Fasting is not a part of my own practice, and it is surely not a part of the normal practice of our church. Fasting is never popular in a self-indulgent society, and that we are. And so, to me, fasting is a kind of “emergency procedure,” something you do only on special occasions.
It is of course true that fasting did happen on special occasions, especially those of mourning and/or of repentance (cf. Jonah 3). But fasting was practiced on a much more regular basis as well. Jesus fasted (cf. Matthew 4:2). He also taught his disciples about fasting (cf. Matthew 6:16ff.). Contrary to the practice of the scribes and Pharisees, who made their fasting a “badge of spirituality” and thus made it a public matter, Jesus advocated fasting in a way that was not public—a merely external ritual. When questioned as to why His disciples did not fast, Jesus’ answer was that He was still with His disciples, but that when He was gone, they would fast (Matthew 9:14-15). Thus, Jesus practiced and taught fasting. The church fasted too as we will see in Acts 14:23. I believe, therefore, that the Spirit spoke to the church as they went about their normal course of worshipping God through service.
Luke, however, describes not one time of fasting, but two. It was while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting that the revelation came, but after it came, the church261 again returned to “fasting and prayer” (v. 3). This may seem unnecessary at first, but not after some thought. There was now a very pressing matter before the church, one which called for fasting and prayer.
Imagine, for a moment, that you were among those five men, and that the Holy Spirit had said to you, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Would this not pose several problems and raise a number of questions?262 What was “the work to which God had called Barnabas and Saul”? This was not spelled out, and they must come to a clear grasp of what it was. And what did it mean to “set apart” these men? Were they, for example, to be financially supported by the church at Antioch? It would seem that the answer to this was “No.”263 No wonder the church set apart a time for prayer and fasting.264 They had some important decisions to make and some very important actions to take. They wanted to be certain that they were doing that which would be pleasing to Him.
When they had come to a clear sense of direction, they acted. They laid their hands on these two beloved leaders, to indicate that God was with them, as were they, in this work to which they were now to continue in a different context. They sent them out, in one sense, but Luke makes it plain that in the final analysis it was the Holy Spirit who did so.
Implications for Missions Today
I have already indicated that it is not so much the process which is emphasized here as it is the fact that Barnabas and Saul were divinely appointed by the Spirit to go from Antioch and to continue their work in a much broader geographical context. Nevertheless, this is the first “missionary sending” of the New Testament, and thus we are obliged to lay this incident alongside current missionary methodology and see how the two compare. While I in no way see these three verses in Acts as laying down an inviolable pattern for sending out missionaries, I do think that our practice today is radically different, and in ways that at least cause me to wonder if we are going about mission in the best possible way. Much of what we are doing in missions is a matter of tradition, and not of biblical precedent. Let me point out a few areas of rather striking contrast.
(1) Current missionary practice is to send out young, inexperienced people, rather than mature, proven and experienced men. God sent out the two key leaders of the church at Antioch, not two young and inexperienced people. The work of missions requires all the maturity and proven giftedness the church can give. Why is our practice so different from what we read here? The young and inexperienced, I might add, were taken along as helpers, as John Mark was. In his first venture, Mark failed, but not irreversibly.
(2) Current missionary practice tends to leave the “leading of the Spirit” to the individuals who are sent out, rather than to reveal God’s leading through the most mature leaders of the church. In our times, missionaries go to the mission field when they feel led of God to go. Missionary boards are often those who are left with the decision as to whether or not God has led them to be sent out, but the church is not nearly as involved in the process of discerning God’s guidance, or in expressing God’s leading. I wonder why.
(3) Current missionary practice does not usually send out missionaries in teams, as Jesus did, and as the church at Antioch did. Happily, I think that there is a return to this practice of sending missionaries out in teams, but there are still many instances where this is not the case. The biblical precedent seems to be both clear and consistent. Sometimes there may be more than two sent out at the same time, but seldom, if ever, less.
(4) Current missionary practice seems to emphasize the need to send out “many” missionaries, but this church sent out only two. The theme goes something like this: “Millions (now billions) are dying without Christ; the more missionaries we can sent forth, the more of these lost can and will be saved.” From the standpoint of mere mathematics, this seems true. But God sent out only two men from Antioch, and look at the impact these men had. I am not so sure that the problem in missions is sending out too few people as it is not sending out those who God has called, and those whom the Spirit of God will empower and bless.
(5) Current missionary practice is dominated by the raising of missionary support, and yet money is not even mentioned in our text. If we had more money, more missionaries could be sent out, and these could be better equipped. That is the argument which I often hear. How many missionary letters have you read that did not mention money? I fully agree that those who minister have the right to be supported, although this support should come from those to whom we minister (cf. Luke 9:1-9; Luke 10:1-9; 1 Corinthians 9). The support of missionaries was commended (Philippians 4:15-16; 3 John 5-8), but Paul’s normal practice was to support himself, something which we do not hear a great deal about today.
I fear that in missions today there is too much human wisdom and too much dependence upon men and not on God. I pray that I am mistaken, but I frankly doubt it.
Saturating Cyprus with the Gospel
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. 6 And when they had gone through the whole265 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. 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. 12 Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, begin amazed at the teachings of the Lord.
Barnabas and Saul were obediently sent out, by the church but ultimately by the Holy Spirit (v. 4). As Antioch was located some 18 miles or so upstream on the Orontes River, the two men first had to go downstream to Seleucia, 5 miles from the mouth of the river, and thus the seaport of Antioch. From there they sailed approximately 100 miles to the west to the island of Cyprus,266 where Barnabas had been born (Acts 4:36). Here, they would make their way across the island (approximately 150 miles), stopping at every synagogue, where they would preach the Word of God.
It would seem that an established pattern of evangelism is already set in motion. The apostles would go to those cities in which a synagogue could be found, and there they would preach the Word of God. They were thus enabled to preach the gospel “to the Jew first” (cf. Romans 1:16; see also Acts 13:46; 17:2; 18:4, 19; 19:8), but also they came in contact with Gentile proselytes and God-fearers, who were already knowledgeable with the Old Testament and the promise of Messiah, and many of whom were prepared to receive Jesus as this Messiah.
It is here, for some reason, Luke chose to indicate that John Mark, who had gone with Barnabas and Saul from Jerusalem back to Antioch, also accompanied them on this journey, as their attendant or helper. This is no doubt to prepare us for the account of his desertion in verse 13.
Crossing the island of Cyprus from east to west, Barnabas and Saul reached Paphos.267 Here, they encountered two men: Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus,268 and Elymas, known also as Bar-Jesus, who attended the proconsul. This proconsul, Luke informs us, was an “intelligent man” (v. 7). What could he possibly hope to gain by his association with a magician,269 a Jewish magician at that? I do not think that Luke is referring to the I.Q. of Sergius Paulus, but rather to the fact that he had a ready and inquiring mind, and that he was one who was quite knowledgeable, especially about religions. This proconsul is not called a proselyte, and I suspect that he did not attend the local synagogue, but I do think that he was inclined toward Judaism, and from what he knew he felt that salvation might well come from the Jews. Thus, one could infer, Sergius Paulus kept Bar-Jesus about, hoping to learn from him about the faith of the Jews. This Bar-Jesus, known also as Elymas, his Gentile name, was a magician, but he was also a Jew. More than that, a Jewish false prophet.
It is my understanding that Elymas was definitely not a true believer, but his name, Bar-Jesus, meaning “son of Jesus” may not be coincidental. Did he in any way seek to represent himself as the depository of truth, having somehow merged the Gentile magic arts with Judaism, and this somehow including the faith of Jesus? Heresy has a way of borrowing from various religious traditions, and I think that Bar-Jesus was a borrower.
Elymas was not some kind of freak, some “once in a lifetime kook,” however. As I read the New Testament, unbelieving Jews persistently sought to undermine the church. Orthodox Jews (like Saul had once been) opposed both Jesus and His disciples, because they saw Him as being a false Christ, a heretic, so far as their interpretations of Scripture and their own traditions were concerned. While many orthodox Jews refused to trust in Jesus as their Messiah, they nevertheless strongly opposed the preaching of Jesus as Messiah to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:44-52; 17:13; 22:21-23).
But there were many other “non orthodox” Jews, like Elymas, all about the Roman Empire. Some of these Jews opposed the church from without, like Elymas, but others actually sought to penetrate the church, and to corrupt it from within. Allow me to turn your attention to just two passages (both written by Paul), warning the church about Jewish false teachers, who specialized in “myths,” rather than in truth:
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me (1 Timothy 1:3-11, NIV).
10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good (Titus 1:10-16, NIV).
In both of these texts, the error is “Jewish” in that the teachers seem to be Jews and the curriculum is the “Law.” It is my understanding that the further one traveled from Jerusalem and Israel, the more the “Judaism” that was found was somehow merged with the pagan theologies and practice of that place. Elymas, then, is typical of those Jews who professed to be Jews and to represent Judaism, but who merged Judaism with heathen doctrines and practices.
The proconsul, Sergius Paulus, seems to have been attracted to Elymas because he claimed to represent Judaism, and also because he may, through his association with the magic arts, also appeared to have supernatural powers at his disposal. But the proconsul seems to have been especially attracted to the “Jewish” dimension of Elymas’s teaching. When Barnabas and Saul appeared on the scene, the proconsul must have seen this as a golden opportunity to learn more of the Jewish faith from them. And thus he invited the two men to come and to share their message with him.
Elymas saw the handwriting on the wall. He knew that Barnabas and Saul would not in any way teach and practice what he did. He knew that Sergius Paulus was an “intelligent man” and that he would see the contradictions in his own theology. He saw these two men and their teaching as a threat to his own. And thus, he began to aggressively oppose them. I can see him sticking close to the proconsul, listening to every question he asked, and to every answer the two missionaries gave. I can see him repeatedly interrupting and trying to “correct” their message.
Finally, it was simply too much for Saul, who, filled with the Spirit, strongly rebuked Elymas, exposed him as a fraud, and demonstrated the power of God and of the gospel by casting a spell on this “magician.” Did this Jew call himself Bar-Jesus, “son of Jesus”? He was no “son of Jesus,” he was a “son of the devil.”270 He was, as such, a deceiver and a fraud. He did not seek to lead the proconsul in the way of truth, but into error. His motivation was selfish, seeking to improve his own lot, at the expense of the proconsul. He did not teach “righteousness,” but was an enemy of righteousness. He had taken the “straight ways of the Lord” as taught by the Old Testament, and then by Jesus and His apostles, and twisted them. He was no teacher of the truth, but a perverter of it. He was no friend of righteousness, but its enemy.
What a strange feeling must have come over Paul as he cast the spell of blindness on this misguided Jew. It was so much like his own blindness.271 It, too, was but for a time—temporary. It, too, was a gracious act in that it gave him reason and time for contemplation. It, too, was a testimony to the truth of the gospel and to the error of his own Judaism. It, too, had a great impact on those who beheld this man of power, now immobilized; this “blind guide,” now being led about by others. The teachings of Barnabas and Saul were now seen, like those of our Lord,272 to be not only true but powerful. And so the proconsul believed.
A Subtle Change in the Program
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.
One must wonder why it is that Saul took the initiative in confronting Bar-Jesus, and not Barnabas, the evident leader up to this point in time. On one level, we can attribute Paul’s actions to his own gifts and calling. The differences between Barnabas and Paul are going to be especially evident in their disagreement over taking John Mark along with them on their second journey, after he had deserted them on the first (Acts 15:36-41). Barnabas was inclined to give a person some slack, while Paul took a harder line. Both men are right, because each has a different set of gifts and a different ministry. Paul, a former enemy of the gospel himself, goes hard after Elymas, calling a spade a spade, but in so doing, confronting him with his sin and with the gospel. It was ultimately an act of compassion, for it was the opportunity for him to repent and be saved.
In the final analysis, we must see this act of Paul as that which was prompted by the Holy Spirit (he was, we are told, “filled with the Spirit” when he thus confronted Elymas). It was God’s way of prompting Paul to take the lead, as he did, and as he would continue to do from this point on. And so we find in verse 13 it is no longer “Barnabas and Saul,” but “Paul and his companions.” God has moved this man Saul, from the position of following to that of leading.273 It was the sovereign plan and purpose of God, worked out in this way, and recognized as such by both Barnabas and by Luke.
Notice that there is not only the change from “Barnabas and Saul” to the reversal of their order, but there is also the change in the name by which Paul will be known. “Saul” was Paul’s Jewish name; “Paul” was his Gentile name.274 In the change from “Saul” to “Paul” we do not see a renaming of this apostle, but rather a change in the name which was most characteristically used of him, from this point in time on. Paul was to be an apostle to the Gentiles, and was to be God’s leader in so doing. To this Luke has born witness by the subtle changes evident in verse 13.
In the developing argument of the Book of Acts, a very significant step has been taken. Leadership is changing hands. We have moved from the twelve apostles, with Peter as the leader, to Barnabas and Saul, with Paul now the leader. We have moved from the church in Jerusalem, as the sending and supervising church, to the church at Antioch. We have departed from Jerusalem and are on our way to Rome. We have seen the salvation of many of the Jews, and are about to enter into the “times of the Gentiles,” when the church will be made up of more Gentiles than Jews. And, we have seen the evangelism of the world move from the providential working of God through men (in the scattering of the saints from Jerusalem—Acts 8:1ff.) to the purposeful sending forth of missionaries by the church (Acts 13:1ff). We have moved to a new era in the history of the church, and a very exciting one at that.
255 I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint, 1987), p. 214.
256 “But what a commentary on the mystery and sovereignty of divine grace that, of these two boys who were brought up together, one should attain honor as a Christian leader, while the other should be best remembered for his inglorious behavior in the killing of John the Baptist and in the trial of Jesus!” F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p. 245.
257 Based upon the Greek text, A. T. Robertson concludes that we are able to determine who, among these five men, were prophets, and who were teachers:
“The double use of te here makes three prophets (Barnabas, Symeon, Lucius) and two teachers (Manaen and Saul). Barnabas heads the list (11:22) and Saul comes last. Symeon Niger may be the Simon of Cyrene who carried the Saviour’s cross. Lucius of Cyrene was probably one of the original evangelists (11:20).” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930), III, p. p. 177.
Whether Barnabas is a “prophet” or a “teacher,” it would seem that his gift of “prophecy” or “teaching” (or both) would be the means by which Barnabas encouraged others as a “son of encouragement” (cf. Acts 4:36).
258 In Acts 11:20 Luke wrote that the early evangelists were men of Cyprus and Cyrene.
259 Before elders and deacons could be recognized, some time would need to pass, so that the qualifications of these leaders could be evaluated and these men could be recognized as such by the church. Prophets and teachers could supply the leadership of the church until this time. Who better could have done so. I think that they were a provisional leadership, appointed by God. As God reduced their number, I would expect that elders and deacons would be appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28) and the church (1 Corinthians 16:15-16).
260 While the Jerusalem prophets would have had greater maturity, due to the fact that they had been saved longer, I think that these Antiochian prophets would have had greater openness (if not insight) into God’s plan and purpose to save the Gentiles. Word of the famine which would affect the saints in Judea fittingly came from Judean prophets, but the word from God which would send Barnabas and Saul out as missionaries came fittingly from Antiochian prophets.
261 There is some discussion as to whether it was just the leaders -- the five men listed in verse 1 -- or it was the church as a whole who were engaged in the fasting and prayer and the commissioning of Barnabas and Saul. The “they” of verse 3 may refer only to the five, but I do think that the church was a rather active part of what took place. God led through their leaders, but the whole church took part, in my opinion.
262 I am operating under a certain premise here, which I need to explain. I am assuming that these words are the only words which the Spirit spoke. The brevity of prophecy in Acts is something which I have only gradually recognized and appreciated. When the Spirit spoke through the prophet Agabus, all we are told that He said was that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world (Acts 11:28). It seems that it was left to the church to conclude that the saints in Judea would be especially hard hit, and that they should do something to prepare to help them. The same is true in Acts 21, when the Spirit again spoke through Agabus, indicating that if Paul went to Jerusalem, he would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). It seems quite evident that the Spirit did not reveal what Paul should do about this, because his friends immediately began urging him not to go to Jerusalem (21:12). His friends were wrong, of course, as Paul recognized. My point is that the Holy Spirit’s revelation was a brief one, telling of a specific future event, but not providing all the details as to what to do about this. Even in those days, the Spirit did not do all of men’s thinking or agonizing for them. They had to discern the will of God in some particular and practical areas, and thus “fasting and prayer” were the order of the day.
263 “But Paul makes it plain in Phil. 4:15 that the church in Antioch did not make financial contribution to the campaign, but only goodwill. But that was more than the church at Jerusalem would have done as a whole since Peter had been arraigned there for his activities in Caesarea (Acts 11:1-18). Clearly Barnabas and Saul had to finance the tour themselves. It was Philippi that first gave money to Paul’s campaigns.” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930), III, pp. 178-179.
264 From Acts 14:23 we see that Paul and Barnabas made prayer and fasting a part of their practice in appointing elders in every church.
265 “Ramsey further comments: ‘The word ‘whole’ is probably intended to bring out clearly that they made a complete tour of the Jewish communities in the island, preaching in each synagogue.’” Charles W. Carter and Ralph Earle, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), p. 178.
266 Carter and Earle speak of the success of this mission to Cyprus when they write:
“The larger success of this mission of planting Christianity in Cyprus is indicated by Harnack’s citation of three bishops, Gelasues of Salamis, Cyrl of Paphos, and Spryidon of Trimithus, who attended the council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Again, Harnack relates that the register of the synod of Sardica (A.D. 343) reveals the signatures of twelve bishops from Cyprus; both of which evidences are a testimony to the rapid growth of Christianity in Cyprus.” Charles W. Carter and Ralph Earle, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), p. 181.
267 “Paphos ranked second in importance to Salamis, but while Salamis was the capital of eastern Cyprus, Paphos, in the west, was the seat of the Roman government. . . Paphos was, further, the seat of the island’s chief deity, Aphrodite or Venus, a form of worship that rendered Paphos one of the most immoral and dissolute centers of the world. The superb temple of Venus here with all its elaborate, but immoral, rites won for her the title ‘Queen of Paphos.’” Carter and Earle, p. 179.
268 “There were two types of Roman provinces: (1) those governed by procurators, responsible to the emperor; and (2) those governed by proconsuls, under the senate. Cyprus had been governed by a proconsul since 22 B.C.” Irving L. Jensen, Acts: An Independent Study (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), p. 182.
269 “These Jewish mountebanks were numerous and had great influence with the uneducated. In Acts 19:13 the seven sons of Sceva, Jewish exorcists, tried to imitate Paul. If one is surprised that a man like Sergius Paulus should fall under the influence of this fraud, he should recall what Juvenal says of the Emperor Tiberius ‘sitting on the rock of Capri with his flock of Chaldaeans around him.’” A. T. Robertson, III, p. 180.
270 “He addressed him not as a ‘son of Jesus’ but as a son of the devil, a man full of trickery and evil, who was thwarting the ways of God (for the phraseology see Je. 5:27; Gn. 32:11; Pr. 10:9; Hos. 14:10), and pronounced the judgment of God upon him in the form of an attack of blindness. The character of the judgment suggests an analogy with what had earlier happened to Paul himself, and the phrase for a time suggests that it was meant to be merely temporary; hence the judgment was probably meant to be a warning and intended to act as a stimulus to conversion, although we do not know whether it achieved this result.” I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint, 1987), p. 219.
271 “Paul, says the Venerable Bede, ‘remembering his own case, knew that by the darkening of the eyes the mind’s darkness might be restored to light.’” F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p. 249.
272 Cf. Mark 1:22, 27.
273 “Now Paul ranks first always in Acts save in 14:2; 15:12, 25 for special reasons.” A. T. Robertson, III, p. 184.
274 “. . . Here for the first time in Acts is given his Roman cognomen Paulus (Paul), by which he is henceforth regularly called.” Bruce, p. 249.
“. . . but from now on Luke employs Paul save when there is a reference to his previous life (Acts 22:7; 26:14). His real career is work among the Gentiles and Paul is the name used by them. There is a striking similarity in sound between the Hebrew Saul and the Roman Paul.” A. T. Robertson, III, p. 181.
Related Topics: Missions