PAUL'S FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY:
In Company with Barnabas.
Barnabas and Saul, Divinely Called to Labor among the Gentiles, Are Set Apart and Sent Forth by the Church at
The first seven chapters of this book might be
entitled, The Church among the Jews; the next five (chapters
eight through twelve), The Church in Transition from Jews to
Gentiles; and the last sixteen (chapters thirteen through
twenty-eight), The Church among the Gentiles [Baumgarten]. "Though Christianity had already spread
beyond the limits of Palestine, still the Church continued a stranger
to formal missionary effort. Casual occurrences, particularly
the persecution at Jerusalem (Ac 8:2), had hitherto brought about the
diffusion of the Gospel. It was from Antioch that teachers were first
sent forth with the definite purpose of spreading Christianity, and
organizing churches, with regular institutions (Ac 14:23)" [Olshausen].
1. there were … certain
prophets—(See on Ac 11:27).
and teachers; as Barnabas,
&c.—implying that there were others there, besides; but,
according to what appears the true reading, the meaning is simply that
those here mentioned were in the Church at Antioch as prophets and
Simeon … Niger—of whom nothing
Lucius of Cyrene—(Ac 2:20). He is mentioned, in Ro 16:21, as one of Paul's kinsmen.
Manaen—or Menahem, the name of one of
the kings of Israel (2Ki 15:14).
which had been brought up with—or, the
foster brother of.
Herod the tetrarch—that is, Antipas,
who was himself "brought up with a certain private person at Rome"
[Josephus, Antiquities, 17.1,3].
How differently did these two foster brothers turn out—the one,
abandoned to a licentious life and stained with the blood of the most
distinguished of God's prophets, though not without his fits of
reformation and seasons of remorse; the other, a devoted disciple of
the Lord Jesus and prophet of the Church at Antioch! But this is only
what may be seen in every age: "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good
in Thy sight.' If the courtier, whose son, at the point of death, was
healed by our Lord (Joh 4:46) was
of Herod's establishment, while Susanna's husband was his steward
(Lu 8:3), his foster brother's becoming a
Christian and a prophet is something remarkable.
and Saul—last of all, but soon to
become first. Henceforward this book is almost exclusively occupied
with him; and his impress on the New Testament, on Christendom, and on
the world is paramount.
2. As they ministered to the Lord—The
word denotes the performance of official duties of any kind, and
was used to express the priestly functions under the Old Testament.
Here it signifies the corresponding ministrations of the Christian
and fasted—As this was done in other
cases on special occasions (Ac 13:3, 14, 23), it is not improbable that they had
been led to expect some such prophetic announcement at this time.
the Holy Ghost said—through some of
the prophets mentioned in Ac 13:1.
Separate me—So Ro 1:1.
for the work whereunto I have called
them—by some communication, perhaps, to themselves: in the
case of Saul at least, such a designation was indicated from the first
Note.—While the personality of the Holy Ghost is
manifest from this language, His supreme divinity will appear
equally so by comparing it with Heb 5:4.
3. laid their hands on them—(See on Ac 6:6)—"recommending them to the grace of God
for the work which they had to fulfil" (Ac 14:26).
sent them away—with the double
call—of the Spirit first, and next of the Church.
So clothed, their mission is thus described: "They being sent forth by
the Holy Ghost." Have we not here for all time the true principle of
appointment to sacred offices?
Ac 13:4-12. Arriving in
Cyprus They Preach in the Synagogues of Salamis—At Paphos, Elymas Is
Struck Blind, and the Governor of the Island Is Converted.
4, 5. departed unto Seleucia—the seaport
of Antioch, from which it lay nearly due west fifteen miles, and five
from the Mediterranean shore, on the river Orontes.
thence sailed to Cyprus—whose high
mountain summits are easily seen in clear weather from the coast [Colonel Chesney in Howson]. "Four reasons may have induced them to turn
in first to this island: (1) Its nearness to the mainland; (2) It was
the native place of Barnabas, and since the time when Andrew found his
brother Simon, and brought him to Jesus, and "Jesus loved Martha, and
her sister, and Lazarus," family ties had not been without effect on
the progress of the Gospel. (3) It could not be unnatural to suppose
that the truth would be welcomed in Cyprus when brought by Barnabas and
his kinsman Mark, to their own connections or friends. The Jews were
numerous in Salamis. By sailing to that city, they were following the
track of the synagogues; and though their mission was chiefly to the
Gentiles, their surest course for reaching them was through the
proselytes and Hellenizing Jews. (4) Some of the Cypriotes were already
Christians. Indeed, no one place out of Palestine, except Antioch, had
been so honorably associated with the work of successful
5. and when they were at Salamis—the
Grecian capital of the island, on the eastern side, and not many hours'
sail from Seleucia. At this busy mercantile port immense numbers of
Jews were settled, which accounts for what is here said, that they had
more than one synagogue, in which Barnabas and Saul preached, while
other cities had one only.
they had … John—Mark.
to their minister—"for their officer".
(See on Lu 4:20). With what fruit they preached
here is not said. Probably their feeling was what Paul afterwards
expressed at Antioch in Pisidia (Ac 13:46).
6. when they had gone through the isle unto
Paphos—on the opposite or west side of the island, about one
hundred miles by land, along the south coast; the Roman capital, where
the governor resided.
they found a … sorcerer—one of a
numerous class of impostors who, at this time of general unbelief, were
encouraged even by cultivated Romans.
7. Which was with the deputy—properly,
"the proconsul." This name was reserved for the governors of
settled provinces, which were placed under the Roman Senate, and is
never given in the New Testament to Pilate, Felix, or Festus, who were
but procurators, or subordinate administrators of unsettled,
imperial, military provinces. Now as Augustus reserved Cyprus for
himself, its governor would in that case have been not a proconsul, but
simply a procurator, had not the emperor afterwards restored it to the
Senate, as a Roman historian [Dio
Cassius] expressly states. In most striking confirmation of this
minute accuracy of the sacred historian, coins have actually been found
in the island, stamped with the names of proconsuls, both in
Greek and Latin [Akerman,
Numismatic Illustrations of the New Testament]. (Grotius and Bengel,
not aware of this, have missed the mark here).
Sergius Paulus, a prudent man—an
intelligent man, who thirsting for truth, sent for Barnabas and Saul,
desiring ("earnestly desiring") to hear the Word of God.
8-12. But Elymas—or "the wise."
for so is his name by
interpretation—the word is from the Arabic.
withstood them—perceiving, probably,
how eagerly the proconsul was drinking in the word, and fearing a
dismissal. (Compare 2Ti 3:8).
9. Then Saul … also … called
Paul—and henceforward Paul only; a softening of his former
name, in accommodation to Roman ears, and (as the word signifies
"little") probably with allusion as elsewhere to his insignificance of
stature and appearance (2Co 10:1, 10) [Webster
filled with the Holy Ghost—the Spirit
coming mightily upon him.
set his eyes on him and
said—Henceforward Barnabas sinks into the background. The
whole soul of his great colleague, now drawn out, as never before,
shoots, by the lightning gaze of his eye, through the dark and tortuous
spirit of the sorcerer. What a picture!
10. full of all subtlety—referring to
his magic arts.
and all malice—The word signifies
"readiness for anything," knavish dexterity.
thou child of the devil … enemy of all
righteousness—These were not words of passion, for
immediately before uttering them, it is said he was "filled with the
Holy Ghost" [Chrysostom].
wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of
the Lord—referring to his having to that hour made a trade of
leading his fellow creatures astray.
11. the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou
shalt be blind for a season—the judgment being mercifully
designed to lead him to repentance. The tradition that it did is hardly
to be depended on.
there fell on him a mist, &c.—This
is in Luke's medical style.
12. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done,
believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord—so
marvellously attested; compare Mr 1:27. What fruit, if any, followed this
remarkable conversion, or how long after it the missionaries remained
at Paphos, we know not.
Ac 13:13-52. At Perga John
Mark Forsakes Them—At Antioch in
Pisidia, Paul Preaches with Glorious
Effect—The Jews, Enraged, Expel Them
Out of Them Coasts.
13. they came to Perga in Pamphylia—The
distance from Paphos to Attalia, on the Gulf of Pamphylia (see on Ac 14:25), sailing in a northwest direction, is not
much greater than from Seleucia to Salamis on the east. Perga was the
metropolis of Pamphylia, on the river Cestrus, and about seven miles
inland from Attalia.
and John departing from them returned to
Jerusalem—As Paul afterwards peremptorily refused to take
Mark with him on his second missionary journey, because he "had
departed [or 'fallen off'] from them and had not gone with them to the
15:38), there can be no doubt
that he had either wearied of it or been deterred by the prospect of
the dangers which lay before him. (But see on Ac
14. departed from Perga—apparently
without making any stay or doing any work: compare the different
language of Ac 14:25,
and see immediately below.
came to Antioch in Pisidia—usually so
called, to distinguish it from Antioch in Syria, from which they had
started, though it actually lies in Phrygia, and almost due north from
Perga. It was a long journey, and as it lay almost entirely through
rugged mountain passes, while "rivers burst out at the base of huge
cliffs, or dash down wildly through narrow ravines," it must have been
a perilous one. The whole region was, and to this day is, infested by
robbers, as ancient history and modern travels abundantly attest; and
there can be but little doubt that to this very journey Paul many years
after alludes, when he speaks amidst his "journeyings often," of his
"perils of rivers" (as the word is), and his "perils of
robbers" (2Co 11:26).
If this journey were taken in May—and earlier than that the
passes would have been blocked up with snow—it would account for
their not staying at Perga, whose hot streets are then deserted; "men,
women, and children, flocks, herds, camels, and asses, all ascending at
the beginning of the hot season from the plains to the cool basin-like
hollows on the mountains, moving in the same direction with our
15-17. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his
hand—as was his manner on such occasions (Ac 21:40; and see Ac 26:1).
Men of Israel, and ye that fear God—by
the latter expression meaning religious proselytes, who united with the
Jews in all acts of ordinary worship.
and exalted the people when they dwelt as
strangers in Egypt—by marvellous interpositions for them in
their deepest depression.
18-22. forty years suffered he their
manners—rather, according to what appears the true reading,
"cherished he them" (as a nurse the infant in her bosom).
20. after that he gave … judges …
about the space of four hundred and fifty years—As this
appears to contradict 1Ki 6:1,
various solutions have been proposed. Taking the words as they stand in
the Greek, thus, "after that, by the space of four hundred fifty
years, He gave judges," the meaning may be, that about four hundred
fifty years elapsed from the time of the covenant with Abraham
until the period of the judges; which is historically correct,
the word "about" showing that chronological exactness was not aimed at.
But taking the sense to be as in our version, that it was the period of
the judges itself which lasted about four hundred fifty years, this
statement also will appear historically correct, if we include in it
the interval of subjection to foreign powers which occurred during the
period of the judges, and understand it to describe the whole period
from the settlement of the tribes in Canaan to the establishment of
royalty. Thus, from the Exodus to the building of the temple were five
hundred ninety-two years [Josephus,
Antiquities, 8.3.1]; deduct forty years in the wilderness;
twenty-five years of Joshua's rule [Josephus, Antiquities, 5.1.29]; forty years
of Saul's reign (Ac 13:2);
forty of David's and the first four years of Solomon's reign (1Ki 6:1), and there remain, just four
hundred forty-three years; or, in round numbers, "about four hundred
21. God gave … them Saul … of the
tribe of Benjamin—That the speaker was himself of the same
name and of the same tribe, has often been noticed as in all likelihood
present to the apostle's mind while speaking.
forty years—With this length of Saul's
reign (not mentioned in the Old Testament), Josephus coincides [Antiquities, 6.14.9].
22. I have found David, &c.—This
quotation is the substance of Ps 89:20; 1Sa 13:14; and perhaps also of Ps 78:70-72.
23-25. Of this man's seed hath God, according to
… promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus—The
emphasis on this statement lies: (1) in the seed from which
Christ sprang—David's—and the promise to that
effect, which was thus fulfilled; (2) on the character in which
this promised Christ was given of God—"a Saviour." His personal name "Jesus" is emphatically added, as designed to express
that very character. (See on Mt 1:21).
26-31. children … of Abraham, and whosoever
among you feareth God—Gentile proselytes.
to you is the word of this salvation
sent—both being regarded as one class, as "the Jew first," to
whom the Gospel was to be addressed in the first instance.
27. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their
rulers, because they knew him not, &c.—The apostle here
speaks as if the more immediate guilt of Christ's death lay with the
rulers and people of the metropolis, to which he fondly hoped that
those residing at such a distance as Antioch would not set their
28. found no cause of death—though they
sought it (Mt 26:59, 60).
29. they took him down … and laid him in a
sepulchre—Though the burial of Christ was an act of honor and
love to Him by the disciples to whom the body was committed, yet since
His enemies looked after it and obtained a guard of soldiers to keep
watch over it as the remains of their own victim, the apostle regards
this as the last manifestation on their part of enmity to the Saviour,
that they might see how God laughed all their precautions to scorn by
"raising Him from the dead."
31. he was seen many days of them which came up
with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, &c.—that is, by those
who, having gone out and in with Him in closest intimacy during all His
public ministry, which lay chiefly in Galilee, and having accompanied
Him on His last journey to Jerusalem, could not possibly be mistaken as
to the identity of the risen One, and were therefore unexceptionable
and sufficient witnesses.
33. God hath fulfilled the same—"hath
in that he hath raised up Jesus
again—literally, "raised up"; but the meaning is
(notwithstanding the contrary opinion of many excellent interpreters)
"from the dead"; as the context plainly shows.
as it is written in the second
psalm—in many manuscripts "the first Psalm"; what we call the
first being regarded by the ancient Jews as only an introduction to the
Psalter, which was considered to begin with the second.
this day have I begotten thee—As the
apostle in Ro
1:4 regards the resurrection
of Christ merely as the manifestation of a prior Sonship, which
he afterwards (Ac 8:32)
represents as essential, it is plain that this is his meaning
here. (Such declarative meaning of the verb "to be" is familiar
to every reader of the Bible). See Joh 15:8, "So shall ye be," that is, be
seen to be "My disciples." It is against the whole sense of the New
Testament to ascribe the origin of Christ's Sonship to His
34-37. now no more to return to
corruption—that is, to the grave where death reigns; and
6:9, "Christ being raised
from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over
I will give you the sure mercies of
The word rendered "mercies" is peculiar, denoting the sanctity
of them, as comprehending the whole riches of the new covenant; while
the other word, "sure," points to the certainty with which they
would, through David's Seed, be at length all substantiated. See on Joh 1:14. But how do these words prove the
resurrection of Christ? "They presuppose it; for since an eternal
kingdom was promised to David, the Ruler of this kingdom could not
remain under the power of death. But to strengthen the indefinite
prediction by one more definite, the apostle adduces Ps 16:10, of which Peter had given the same
explanation (see on Ac 2:27; Ac 2:30, 31), both apostles denying the
possibility of its proper reference to David" [Olshausen].
36. For David, after he had served his own
generation by the will of God—rather, "served," in his own
generation, the will (or "counsel") of God; yielding himself an
instrument for the accomplishment of God's high designs, and in this
respect being emphatically "the man after God's own heart." This done,
he "fell asleep, and was gathered to his fathers, and saw corruption."
David, therefore (argues the apostle), could not be the subject of his
own prediction, which had its proper fulfilment only in the
resurrection of the uncorrupted body of the Son of God, emphatically
God's "Holy One."
38-41. the forgiveness of sins—the first
necessity of the sinner, and so the first experienced blessing of the
39. by him all that believe are justified from all
things—The sense requires that a pause in the sentence be
made here: "By him the believer is absolved from all charges of the
law." What follows,
from which ye could not be justified by the law
of Moses—is not an exceptional but an
explanatory clause. The meaning is not, "Though the law
justifies from many things, it cannot justify from all things, but
Christ makes up all deficiencies"; but the meaning is, "By Christ the
believer is justified from all things, whereas the law justifies from
nothing." (Note.—The deeper sense of justification, the
positive side of it, is reserved for the Epistles, addressed to
the justified themselves: and whereas it is the resurrection of
Christ here, and throughout the Acts chiefly, which is dwelt on,
because the first thing in order to bring peace to the guilty through
Christ was to establish His Messiahship by His resurrection, in the
Epistles to believers His death as the way of reconciliation is
40. Beware, therefore, &c.—By this
awful warning of the Old Testament the apostle would fain "shut them up
unto the faith."
41. ye will not believe though a man declare it
unto you—that is, even on unexceptionable testimony. The
words, from Hab 1:5, were
originally a merciful but fruitless warning against the approaching
destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans and the Babylonish captivity.
As such nothing could more fitly describe the more awful calamity
impending over the generation which the apostle addressed.
42, 43. And when the Jews were gone out of the
synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to
them the next sabbath—rather (according to what is beyond
doubt the true reading), "Now, as they were going out [of the
synagogue], they besought"—that is, not the Gentiles, whose case
comes in afterwards, but the mixed congregation of Jews and proselytes,
to whom the discourse had been addressed, entreated to have another
hearing of such truths; those of them, that is, who had been impressed.
"And after the breaking up of the synagogue, many of" both classes,
Jews and religious; proselytes, followed Paul and Barnabas (observe,
from this time forward, the inverted order of these names; except Ac 14:14; 13:7; 12:25; see on Ac 14:14;
Ac 13:7; Ac 12:25). These
names evidently been won to the Gospel by what they had heard, and felt
a clinging to their spiritual benefactors.
43. who, speaking to them—following up
the discourse in the synagogue by some further words of
persuaded them to continue in the grace of
God—which they had experienced through the Gospel. (Compare
44-48. the next sabbath came almost the whole city
together to hear the word of God—the intervening days having
been spent in further inquiry and instruction, and the excitement
reaching the Gentiles, who now for the first time crowded, along with
the usual worshippers, into the synagogue.
45. But when the Jews—those zealots of
saw the multitudes, they were filled with
envy—rather, "indignation," and broke out in their usual
contradicting and blaspheming—There is
nothing more awful than Jewish fury and execration of the name of Jesus
of Nazareth, when thoroughly roused.
46. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and
said, &c.—This is in the highest style of a last and
It was necessary that the word should first have
been spoken to you—See the direction of Christ in Lu 24:47; also Ro 1:16.
since ye judge yourselves unworthy of
everlasting life—pass sentence upon yourselves.
47. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying,
&c.—These and other predictions must have been long before
this brought vividly home to Paul's mind in connection with his special
vocation to the Gentiles.
I have set thee—that is, Messiah; from
which Paul inferred that he was but following out this destination of
his Lord, in transferring to the Gentiles those "unsearchable riches"
which were now by the Jews rejected and despised.
48. when the Gentiles heard this, they were
glad—to perceive that their accession to Christ was a matter
of divine arrangement as well as apostolic effort.
and glorified the word of the Lord—by
a cordial reception of it.
and as many as were ordained to eternal life
believed—a very remarkable statement, which cannot, without
force, be interpreted of anything lower than this, that a divine
ordination to eternal life is the cause, not the effect, of any
49-52. And the word of the Lord was published
throughout all the region—implying some stay in Antioch and
missionary activity in its vicinity.
50. the devout and honourable
women—female proselytes of distinction, jaundiced against the
new preachers by those Jewish ecclesiastics to whom they had learned to
look up. The potent influence of the female character both for and
against the truth is seen in every age of the Church's history.
expelled them—an easier thing than to
51. shook off the dust of their feet against
them—as directed (Mt 10:14).
came unto Iconium—a populous city
about forty-five miles southeast from Pisidian Antioch: at the foot of
Mount Taurus; on the borders of Lycaonia, Phrygia, and Pisidia; and in
later times largely contributing to the consolidation of the Turkish
52. the disciples—who, though not
themselves expelled, had to endure sufferings for the Gospel, as we
learn from Ac 14:22.
were filled with joy and with the Holy
Ghost—who not only raised them above shame and fear, as
professed disciples of the Lord Jesus, but filled them with holy and