Galatia: Facing Troubles
Explore the Bible Series
July 20, 2008
Lesson Passage: Acts
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Church at Antioch
Set Aside Paul and Barnabas for Missionary Work (13:1-3)
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
(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.
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.
The Aftermath of the First Missionary Journey
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.
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.