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ACTS of the APOSTLES
(Part 3 of 6, chapters 13:4-15:39)
Paul's First Missionary Journey & the Council at Jerusalem
|The order of Pauls First Missionary Journey with Barnabas around AD46-48, to Cyprus and Asia Minor, and on to the Council at Jerusalem|
13:4-11a - So these two, sent at the Holy Spirit's command, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed off to Cyprus. On their arrival at Salamis they began to proclaim God's message in the Jewish synagogues, having John as their assistant. As they made their way through the island as far as Paphos they came across a man named Bar-Jesus, a Jew who was both a false prophet and a magician. This man was attached to Sergius Paulus, the proconsul, who was himself a man of intelligence. He sent for Barnabas and Saul as he was anxious to hear God's message. But Elymas the magician (for that is the translation of his name), opposed them doing his best to dissuade the proconsul from accepting the faith. Then Saul (who is also called Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit, eyed him closely and said, "You son of the devil, you enemy of all true goodness, you monster of trickery and evil, is it not time you gave up trying to pervert the truth of the Lord? Now listen, the Lord himself will touch you, for some time you will not see the light of the sun - you will be blind!"
13:11b-12 - Immediately a mist and then utter blackness came over his eyes, and he went round trying to find someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened he believed, for he was shaken to the core at the Lord's teaching.
Saul (now Paul) comes to Antioch in Pisidia
13:13-15 - Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and went to Perga in Pamphylia. There John left them and turned back to Jerusalem, but they continued their journey through Perga to the Antioch in Pisidia. They went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and took their seats. After the reading of the Law and Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent to them with a message, "Men and brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, by all means speak."
Paul shows the Jews where their history leads
13:16-22 - So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, began: "Men of Israel and all of you who fear God, listen to me. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and prospered the people while they were exiles in the land of Egypt. Then he lifted up his arm and led them out of that land. Yes, and he bore with them for forty years in the desert. He destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan before he gave them that land as their inheritance for some four hundred and fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then when they begged for a king God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, to be their king for forty years. After he deposed him he raised David to the throne, a man of whom God himself bore testimony in the words, 'I have found David .... the son of Jesse .... a man after my own heart, who will do all my will.'
13:23-25 - From the descendants of this man, according to his promise, God has brought Jesus to Israel to be their saviour. John came before him to prepare his way preaching the baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. Indeed, as John reached the end of his time he said these words: 'What do you think I am? I am not he. But know this, someone comes after me whose shoe-lace I am not fit to untie!' .
Now the message is urgent and contemporary
13:26-33 - "Men and brothers, sons of the race of Abraham, and all among you who fear God, it is to us that this message of salvation has now been sent! For the people of Jerusalem and their rulers refused to recognise him and to understand the voice of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day - even though in condemning him they fulfilled these very prophecies! For though they found no cause for putting him to death, they begged Pilate to have him executed. And when they had completed everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead. For many days he was seen by those who had come up from Galilee to Jerusalem with him, and these men are now his witnesses to the people. And as for us we tell you the good news that the promise made to our forefathers has come true - that, in raising up Jesus, God has fulfilled it for us their children. This is endorsed in the second psalm: 'You are my son, today I have begotten you.'
13:34 - And as for the fact of God's raising him from the dead, never to return to corruption, he has spoken in these words: 'I will give you the sure mercies of David.'
13:35 - And then going further he says in another psalm, 'You will not allow your holy one to see corruption.'
13:36-41 - For David, remember, after he had served God's purpose in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his ancestors. He did in fact 'see corruption', but this man whom God raised never saw corruption! It is therefore imperative, men and brothers, that every one of you should realise that forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you through this man. And through faith in him a man is absolved from all those things from which the Law of Moses could never set him free. Take care then that this saying of the prophets should never apply to you: 'Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you.'"
Paul succeeds in arousing deep interest -
13:42-43 - As they were going out the people kept on asking them to say all this again on the following Sabbath. After the meeting of the synagogue broke up many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas who spoke personally to them and urged them to put their trust in the grace of God.
- but a week later he meets bitter opposition
13:44-47 - On the next Sabbath almost the entire population of the city assembled to hear the message of God, but when the Jews saw the crowds they were filled with jealousy and contradicted what Paul was saying, covering him with abuse. At this Paul and Barnabas did not mince their words but said, "We felt it our duty to speak the message of God to you first, but since you spurn it and evidently do not think yourselves fit for eternal life, watch us now as we turn to the Gentiles! Indeed the Lord has commanded us to do so with the words: 'I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
13:48-50 - When the Gentiles heard this they were delighted and thanked God for his message. All those who were destined for eternal life believed, and the Word of the Lord spread over the whole country. But the Jews worked upon the feelings of religious and respectable women and some of the leading citizens, and succeeded in starting a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from the district.
13:51-52 - But they on their part simply shook off the dust from their feet in protest and went on to Iconium. And the disciples continued to be full of joy and the Holy Spirit.
Jewish behaviour repeats itself
14:1-7 - Much the same thing happened at Iconium. On their arrival they went to the Jewish synagogue and spoke with such conviction that a very large number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the feelings of the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained there for a long time and spoke fearlessly for the Lord, who made it plain that they were proclaiming the Word of his grace, by allowing them to perform signs and miracles. But the great mass of the people of the city were divided in their opinions, some taking the side of the Jews, and some that of the apostles. But when a hostile movement arose from both Gentiles and Jews in collaboration with the authorities to insult and stone them, they got to know about it, fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding countryside - and from there they continued to proclaim the Gospel.
A miracle in a completely pagan city
14:8-10 - Now it happened one day at Lystra that a man was sitting who had no power in his feet. He had in fact been lame from birth and had never been able to walk. He was listening to Paul as he spoke, and Paul, looking him straight in the eye and seeing that he had the faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, "Stand straight up on your feet!"
14:11 - And he sprang to his feet and walked. When the crowd saw what Paul had done they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!"
14:12-15a - They began to call Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercury, since he was the chief speaker. What is more, the high priest of Jupiter whose temple was at the gateway of the city, brought garlanded oxen to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the people. But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of their intention they tore their clothes and rushed into the crowd, crying at the top of their voices, "Men, men, why are you doing these things? We are only human beings with feelings just like yours!
14:15b-17 - We are here to tell you good news - that you should turn from these meaningless things to the living God! He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. In generations gone by he allowed all nations to go on in their own ways - not that he left men without evidence of himself. For he has shown kindnesses to you; he has sent you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, giving you food and happiness to your hearts' content."
14:18 - Yet even with these words, they only just succeeded in restraining the crowd from making sacrifices to them.
Paul is dogged by his Jewish enemies
14:19-21a - Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and after turning the minds of the people against Paul they stoned him and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead. But while the disciples were gathered in a circle round him, Paul got up and walked back to the city. And the very next day he went out with Barnabas to Derbe, and when they had preached the Gospel to that city and made many disciples ....
14:21b-28 - ..... they turned back to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples there, urging them to stand firm in the faith, and reminding them that it is "through many tribulations that we must enter into the kingdom of God." They appointed elders for them in each Church, and with prayer and fasting commended these men to the Lord in whom they had believed. They then crossed Pisidia and arrived in Pamphylia. They proclaimed their message in Perga and then went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch where they had first been commended to the grace of God for the task which they had now completed. When they arrived there they called the Church together and reported to them how greatly God had worked with them and how he had opened the door of faith for the Gentiles. And here at Antioch they spent a considerable time with the disciples.
The opposition from the reactionaries
15:1-2 - Then some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, saying "unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved". Naturally this caused a serious upset among them and much earnest discussion followed with Paul and Barnabas. Finally it was agreed that Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem with some of their own people to confer with the apostles and elders about the whole question.
15:3 - The Church sent them off on their journey and as they went through Phoenicia and Samaria they told the story of the conversion of the Gentiles, and all the brothers were overjoyed to hear about it.
15:4-5 - On their arrival at Jerusalem they were welcomed by the Church, by the apostles and elders, and they reported how greatly God had worked with them. But some members of the Pharisees' party who had become believers stood up and declared that it was absolutely essential that these men be told that they must be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses.
Peter declares that God is doing something new
15:6-11 - The apostles and elders met to consider the matter. After an exhaustive enquiry Peter stood up and addressed them in these words: "Men and brothers, you know that from the earliest days God chose me as the one from whose lips the Gentiles should hear the Word and should believe it. Moreover, God who knows men's inmost thoughts has plainly shown that this is so, for when he had cleansed their hearts though their faith he gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles exactly as he did to us. Why then must you now strain the patience of God by trying to put on the shoulders of these disciples a burden which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? Surely the fact is that it is by the grace of the Lord Jesus that we are saved by faith, just as they are!"
15:12- These words produced absolute silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul while they gave a detailed account of the signs and wonders which God had worked through them among the Gentiles.
James expresses the feeling of the meeting
15:13-18 - Silence again followed their words and then James made this reply: "Men and brothers, listen to me. Symeon has shown how in the first place God chose a people from among the nations who should bear his name. This is in full agreement with what the prophets wrote, as in this scripture: 'After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord who does all these things. 'Known to God from eternity are all his works.'
15:19-21 - "I am firmly of the opinion that we should not put any additional obstacles before any Gentiles who are turning towards God. Instead, I think we should write to them telling them to avoid anything polluted by idols, sexual immorality, eating the meat of strangled animals, or tasting blood. For after all, for many generations now Moses has had his preachers in every city and has been read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath day."
The Church's deputation: the message to Gentile Christians
15:22-29 - Then the apostles, the elders and the whole Church agreed to choose representatives and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. Their names were Judas, surnamed Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men of the brotherhood. They carried with them a letter bearing this message: "The apostles and elders who are your brothers send their greetings to the brothers who are Gentiles in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. Since we have heard that some of our number have caused you deep distress and have unsettled your minds by giving you a message which certainly did not originate from us, we are unanimously agreed to send you chosen representatives with our well-loved Barnabas and Paul - men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we have sent you Judas and Silas who will give you the same message personally by word of mouth. For it has seemed right to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no further burden upon you except what is absolutely essential, namely, that you avoid what has been sacrificed to idols, tasting blood, eating the meat of whatever has been strangled and sexual immorality. Keep yourselves clear of these things and you will make good progress. Farewell."
The message is received with delight
15:30-35 - So this party, sent off by the Church, went down to Antioch and after gathering the congregation together, they handed over the letter to them. And they, when they read it, were delighted with the encouragement it gave them. Judas and Silas were themselves both inspired preachers and greatly encouraged and strengthened the brothers by many talks to them. Then, after spending some time there, the brothers sent them back in peace to those who commissioned them. Paul and Barnabas however stayed on in Antioch teaching and preaching the Gospel of the Word of the Lord in company with many others.
Paul and Barnabas flatly disagree, but the work prospers
15:36 - Some days later Paul spoke to Barnabas, "Now let us go back and visit the brothers in every city where we have proclaimed the Word of the Lord to see how they are."
15:37-39 - Barnabas wanted to take John, surnamed Mark, as their companion. But Paul strongly disapproved of taking with them a man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and was not prepared to go on with them in their work. There was a sharp clash of opinion, so much so that they went their separate ways, Barnabas taking Mark and sailing to Cyprus .....
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