Galatia: Facing Troubles

Explore the Bible Series

July 20, 2008

 

Lesson Passage: Acts 13:1-14:28

 

Personal note: In the Sunday School quarterly I received, the lesson designated Acts Fifteen as this week’s study; however, the commentary material covers Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen.  I think the quarterly has a misprint; so, I will cover the First Missionary Journey of Paul and Barnabas.  Hopefully, this outline will address the proper materials for this week.

 

Introduction:

 

Whatever faults one may find with Southern Baptists, our beloved denomination has always placed a healthy emphasis on missions.  The Book of Acts, no doubt, has served as a reliable and inspiring source information that has guided our missionary labors.  As we begin our formal study of Paul’s missionary journeys, perhaps we should consider some of the traits that characterized the initial evangelistic efforts in the extended Roman Empire.

 

  1. Prayer: Luke includes numerous references to the atmosphere of prayer that permeated the early church; indeed, the opening verses of this lesson passage mentions the important role prayer and fasting played in creating a healthy context for the genesis of the missionary impulse of God’s people.
  2. Fasting: In Scripture, fasting is the twin grace of prayer—these godly disciplines often occur in tandem.  In this context fasting seems to indicate the concentration and earnestness of the prayer life of the church.  This discipline, it seems, has largely been forgotten in the contemporary spiritual culture of American Christianity.
  3. The ministry of the Holy Spirit: Some scholars have suggested that this book should be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit.  At every turn we encounter the power and guidance of the Lord, as ministered through the blessed Spirit.  The early church did not, it seems, employ programs, worldly enticements, amusements, of humanly-devised schemes; rather, the Holy Spirit used the bold witness and simple commitment of the people of God.
  4. Scripture: As I have reexamined the Book of Acts, I find a remarkable simplicity in preaching and applying the Scriptures.  The apostles did not utilize complex homiletic style; instead, they reasoned, with straightforward candor, from the Old Testament.  Also, they did not hesitate to apply the Scriptures to the consciences of their hearers. 
  5. Perseverance: From the earliest accounts in Acts, the church experienced stiff opposition from those who did not believe.  They seemed to anticipate and rejoice in this persecution. The gospel will not be preached without vigorous hostility.

May the Lord help us all to evidence these characteristics as seek to serve the Lord in our local churches.

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Church at Antioch Set Aside Paul and Barnabas for Missionary Work (13:1-3)

A.    The leadership of the church at Antioch (v. 1): Five men emerged as leaders of the local church in Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon (also called Niger—means “black”), Lucius the Cyrenian, Manean (some scholars believe this man may have been a foster-brother of Herod), and Saul.  The text seems to indicate that all of these men served as prophets (men who received messages from God) and teachers. 

B.     The work of the Holy Spirit (v. 2): As the church fasted and prayed, the Spirit directed the leaders to set apart Barnabas and Saul for a special work. 

C.     The “ordination” of Barnabas and Saul (v. 3): In obedience to the divine directive these men prayed, fasted, and laid hands on the two special servants of Christ.  The laying on of hands apparently did not designate these men for ministry—they had both engaged in the Lord’s work for years; rather, this action demonstrated the church’s identification with the important work that Barnabas and Saul would soon undertake.

 

II.                The First Missionary Journey (13:4-14:20)

A.    Cyprus (13:4-12): After a brief stay in Seleucia, the missionary band (John Mark had joined Barnabas and Saul) sailed to the Island of Cyprus, the home of Barnabas, and they preached in the synagogues of Salamis and Paphos.  It seems probable that the men preached in other towns, but the text highlights their labors in the two major cities on the island.  A Roman proconsul named Sergius Paulus governed the region, and, having heard of the apostolic message, this important man asked to hear the gospel. A sorcerer named Elymas (Bar-Jesus) served as an advisor to the proconsul, and tried to turn the heart of Sergius Paulus away from the gospel.  Paul (note the name change at this point in the account) confronted the sorcerer and proclaimed that, by the Lord’s hand, Elymas would become blind.  The proconsul, convinced by the miraculous power of the apostle, believed the gospel.

B.     Pisidian Antioch (13:13-52): The missionary group sailed from Cyprus and landed in Asia Minor, at the port city of Perga.  Here, John Mark inexplicably abandoned the missionary enterprise.  The text gives little indication of Mark’s motives, but Paul clearly took exception to the young man’s actions (See Acts 15:38).  Paul and Barnabas proceeded to Antioch in Pisidia, and, as before, they preached the gospel in the synagogue.  Paul took the lead in preaching to the crowd, and his sermon bears some resemblance to the sermons of Peter (See Acts 2:1436) and Stephen (See Acts 7:1-53).  Generally, the two men received a favorable reception from their hearers, and the crowds wanted to hear more about Jesus.  Verse Thirty-eight indicates that the success of the gospel was grounded in the sovereign work of God.  However, some of the Jewish leaders, filled with envy, vigorously opposed the gospel.  In response to this opposition, Paul and Barnabas began to preach to the Gentiles, in accordance with the Scriptures, and the gospel found fertile ground among the people of the region.  The continued opposition of the Jewish leaders prompted Paul and Barnabas to leave Antioch and travel to Iconium.

C.     Iconium (14:1-7): Like before, Paul and Barnabas preached in the synagogue and evangelized among the Gentiles.  The gospel message divided the city, and the Jews poisoned the hearts of the people against the missionaries.  After a lengthy ministry in Iconium, the Jews and Gentiles united in their opposition to the gospel and threatened to stone the apostles. 

D.    Lystra and Derbe (14:8-20): Paul, through the power of the Holy Spirit, healed a lame man shortly after arriving in Lystra.  This miraculous event astounded the crowds, and they immediately concluded that Barnabas and Paul were Zeus and Hermes.  They not only praised the apostles, but a pagan priest prepared to offer sacrifices to the two men.  The apostles, of course, were horrified, tore their clothing, and begged the people to stop their inappropriate actions.  The crowds, however, proved fickle, and, when Jews came to Lystra from Antioch and Iconium, the masses quickly turned on Paul and Barnabas.  The angry mob stoned Paul and assumed he had died from their brutal attack.

 

III.             The Aftermath of the First Missionary Journey (14:21-28)

A.    Establishing the new churches (vv. 21-23): As wise stewards of the Lord’s work, Paul and Barnabas revisited the cities they had evangelized.  They established patterns of leadership, encouraged the young believers, and prepared these converts for the hardships of following Jesus.

B.     The return to Syrian Antioch (14:24-28): On the return journey, Paul and Barnabas took every opportunity to preach Christ, and, when they arrived in Antioch, they gave a joyful account of God’s work.