Acts 13:1-13

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 1, 1998


We begin a new section in the book of Acts, the journeys of Paul as the missionary to the Gentiles.

A.T. Robertson writes, Luke here begins the second part of Acts with Antioch as the center of operations, no longer Jerusalem. Paul is now the central figure instead of Peter. Jerusalem had hesitated too long to carry out the command of Jesus to take the gospel to the whole world. That glory will now belong to Antioch.

:1-3 Called to go

:1 certain prophets and teachers

It appears that these were the men in leadership at the church at Antioch Ė

Barnabas Ė that great encourager, the one who brought Paul alongside him, the one sent by the church in Jerusalem to help out the growing revival in Antioch. Barnabas is originally from the island of Cyprus.

Simeon Ė it is possible that Simeon was from the African continent. His second name, Niger, is a Roman name, meaning "black".

Lucius Ė from Cyrene, a city on the north coast of modern Libya in Africa, he might have been one of the founding members of the church, even before Barnabas got there, since it was started by men of Cyprus and Cyrene (Acts 11:20).

Manaen Ė it is thought that this man was either an intimate friend or perhaps an adopted foster brother of Herod Antipas, who had killed John the Baptist.

Saul Ė who we will know as Paul.

:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said,

ministered Ė leitourgeo Ė (our word "liturgy") to do a service, like the priests and Levites who served with the sacrifices and sacred rites in the tabernacle or the temple.

But these men are in Antioch, not Jerusalem. And some of them are Gentiles, not Levites, not priests, not even Jews! How did they "minister to the Lord"? Through prayer and praise.

(Heb 13:15-16 KJV) By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. {16} But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Lesson #1:

God speaks when we worship.

There seems to be a phenomena we see in the Bible of God working in an amazing way whenever His people worship Him.

When Solomon finished building the temple, and was dedicating it to the Lord,

(2 Chr 5:13-14 KJV) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; {14} So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.

When Elisha the prophet needed to hear from the Lord,

2Ki 3:15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him

The Psalmist explains it this way,

(Psa 22:3 KJV) But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Somehow, as we are lifting up our hearts to praise the Lord, thereís a sense in which God is drawing nearer to us, or perhaps itís just that weíre drawing nearer to Him. And we find that itís easier to hear what He has to say to us.

Lesson #2:

God speaks when we fast.

The principle behind fasting, is that of denying your flesh. And when your flesh is growing weak through fasting, the Spirit is able to work in a more freer way.


Itís like having two TVís on at the same time, tuned to different channels. If youíre sitting in the middle, and theyíre both turned up loud, itís hard to make out whatís being said by either. To make things more difficult, the TV thatís broadcasting Godís messages to us is usually very, very quiet (He likes to talk with a still, small voice). If you want to make out whatís being said by the Lord, itís not hard to see that you need to turn down the "flesh-TV".

And one way thatís done is through fasting.

:2 the Holy Ghost said

How did the Holy Ghost speak?

Probably through a word of prophecy from one of the prophets.

:2 Separate Ö for the work whereunto I have called them

separate Ė aphorizo Ė to mark off from others by boundaries, like separating sheep from goats (Mat.25:32)

God had a ministry for Barnabas and Saul, and now itís time for the church to draw the line between the church and these two, and clearly define what their special ministry is.


God has a ministry for you too.

God has a plan for you, something designed especially just for you, something you alone were created for Ė

(Eph 2:10 KJV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

It may not be travelling around the world preaching the gospel, but thatís okay, that was Paul and Barnabasí work.

On the other hand, who knows? Perhaps God would call you one day to preach the gospel in another country. Would you go? Would you be willing to spend time ministering to the Lord, praying, and fasting to hear what God has for you?

:3 And when they had fasted and prayed

They donít just pray and sent them, they fast again and then pray and send.


Strengthen your prayers with fasting.

We see this in the life of Jesus and the disciples, when Jesus had been up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John. While they were away, the other disciples were having a difficult time with one particular prayer need, casting out a demon from a boy. Jesus responded to the situation by saying Ė

Mr 9:29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

Just as fasting can help us hear God a little clearer, fasting can also help us talk to God a little more appropriately.

But donít think that when you fast, that somehow God owes you a favor.

The idea of fasting is to make less of you, and more of God.

The idea is that your prayers will be more effective when God has a little better grip on your life, and your flesh isnít quite so strong.

:3 and laid their hands on them, they sent them away

Laying on of hands is a way of praying for others, and the saints in Antioch are sending these men with their full support in prayer.

:4-12 First stop, Cyprus

:4 departed unto Seleucia Ö sailed to Cyprus

Seleucia is about 12 miles southwest of Antioch, on the Mediterranean coast. Seleucia to the port city of Salamis would be a sail of 135 miles. I think itís interesting that their first destination is Barnabasí homeland.

:5 they had also John to their minister

This is John-Mark, whom we know as Mark, the author of the gospel of Mark.

As weíve seen, Mark is the nephew to Barnabas (Col.4:10). It was at his house that Peter came after having been freed from prison by the angel (Acts 12:12). It is thought that Peter himself might have earlier led Mark to the Lord (1Pet.5:13). And when Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch from Jerusalem, having delivered a financial aid package, Mark went with them to Antioch.

minister Ė huperetes Ė an "under-rower", servant.

It seems as if John-Mark was a kind of "apprentice", under the authority of his Uncle Barnabas and Saul.

:6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos

They made their way across Cyprus, a 90 mile journey, preaching as they went.

:6 they found a certain sorcerer

sorcerer Ė magos Ė ("magician") a magus; the name given by the Babylonians and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.

:6 whose name was Barjesus

The Jewish prefix which means "son of" is "bar" or "ben". Itís like the name "Johnson", which means "Johnís son". The name "Ben-jamin" means "son of my right hand".

This manís name meant "son of Jesus" (hmmmÖ) or "son of Joshua" (because Jesus is the Greek name for the Jewish name Joshua).

:7 Which was with the deputy of the country

deputy Ė anthupatos Ė a proconsul, a governor over a Roman province.

:7 Sergius Paulus, a prudent man

This man is a Roman, his names are Latin names Ė

Paulus or Paul - This name is the same name that Saul will be known by. Luke will call him nothing but Paul from here on.

It is felt that "Paul" was Saulís Roman name, and since his ministry is moving towards the Gentiles, from this point on, he goes by the Roman name.

prudent Ė sunetos Ė intelligent, having understanding, wise, learned

:8 Elymas Ö withstood them

Elymas = "a wise man" or "sorcerer", probably his professional name.

withstood Ė anthistemi Ė to set one's self against, oppose. Perhaps debating Paul?

:8 seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith

When we see what is going to happen to Elymas, we need to keep in mind what he was doing. Heís trying to hinder someone from receiving salvation. Jesus said,

(Mat 18:6-7 NLT) But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck. {7} "How terrible it will be for anyone who causes others to sin. Temptation to do wrong is inevitable, but how terrible it will be for the person who does the tempting.

:10 And said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief

subtlety Ė dolos Ė craft, deceit, guile

mischief Ė rhadiourgia Ė almost the idea of making a joke out of life. Iíve known people who seem to take pleasure in tripping up young Christians, or people who are on the verge of coming to the Lord.

:11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee

The idea is not that Paul is creating or conjuring up some kind of curse. Heís simply declaring what he sees is happening. He sees Godís hand coming upon Elymas.

:11 and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season

It sounds as if it wasnít a total blindness for the rest of his life, but a temporary one. Paul would know what thatís like. (Acts 9:8)

:11 And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness Ö


Be careful with curses.

Donít go out and just try this on everyone that youíre upset with.

Note that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit here. In other words, donít try doing this unless youíre filled and controlled and prompted by the Holy Spirit to do this.

In fact, there was a time when James and John wanted to do something like this Ė

(Luke 9:51-56 KJV) And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, {52} And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. {53} And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. {54} And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? {55} But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. {56} For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

It would appear that the Samaritans didnít know what they were doing, but were just responding because of their prejudice. On the other hand, Elymas was intentionally trying to keep a man from being saved. He knew what he was doing. It takes discernment to tell the difference.

Even Paul would even say himself,

(1 Th 5:14-15 KJV) Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. {15} See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

:12 being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

It doesnít say he was astonished at the power of the Lord, but by the "doctrine".


Itís the message thatís important.

Donít get so in enamored with the power that you forget the message. There are times when we can get kind of mesmerized by the workings of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can get to the point where the focus of our lives is seeking out after the miraculous kinds of workings of the Holy Spirit.

Donít get me wrong, we need to see the power of the Holy Spirit.

But on the other hand, itís not miraculous works that brings salvation to people, itís the Word of God, the message of the gospel.

(Rom 1:16 KJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Paul tells us the foolish kind of way God has chosen to get people saved Ė

(1 Cor 1:21 KJV) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Donít think that preaching is just what some pastor is going to do on Sunday morning. Preaching is telling people the good news that God can save them.

Learn the message. What is it?

The problem (our sin has separated us from God)

The solution (God has paid for your sins through Jesusí death on the cross)

The action (we need to believe and receive Godís payment for our sins, we need to ask Him to be Lord of our lives)

:13 Leaving Cyprus

:13 Paul and his company

Itís interesting that Barnabas isnít even mentioned. It seems that Paul is beginning to blossom in his ministry, and Barnabas is willing to take a back seat.

:13 they came to Perga in Pamphylia

A trip by sea of about 160 miles.

:13 and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

departing Ė apochoreo Ė to go away, depart

When he left, why did John Mark go to Jerusalem? Thatís where his mother lived.

Apparently, John Mark didnít stay in Jerusalem, but a few years later found his way back to the church at Antioch, where he would meet up again with Paul and Barnabas before their next missionary journey Ė

(Acts 15:38-39 KJV) But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. {39} And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus

departed - aphistemi Ė to make stand off, to desert, flee from. Apparently this isnít just that John Markís time was up, or that he left with a message for the apostles in Jerusalem from Uncle Barnabas. He was abandoning his ministry.


Donít quit until God says to.

We arenít told what Markís reasons were.

Perhaps he was getting homesick and missed his mom, or he was uncomfortable with the fact that this Saul/Paul guy was beginning to take the lead in the ministry over his Uncle Barnabas. Perhaps he was uncomfortable with the blinding of Elymas.

Finish the work

(2 Tim 4:7 KJV) I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: