The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 13

Act 13:1

Acts 13: "Paul is about 40 years old as he embarks upon a journey to the ecclesias. He is introduced to the work: vv 1-3. Then he becomes involved in the preaching of the gospel in Cyprus: vv 4,5. Barnabas seems to be in charge of the company at this point, being mentioned first in v 1. Then comes an early challenge to the Truth. A great contrast is presented in two men: Elymas is rebuked; Sergius Paulus is converted: vv 6-12. Now came a sad moment in the life of Paul, and yet one which ultimated in the development of a sound and sterling brother. The reason for the departure of John Mark is not clear, but sufficient to cause a rift between the two great brethren. Mark's courage might have failed him as he saw the mixed world of Pamphylia and realised the dangers before him. Perhaps he resented the manner in which the vigorous Paul was becoming the dominant influence, and found his dedicated and driving urge to work less pleasant than the gentler Barnabas, his cousin. Ultimately, Paul recognised the qualities in Mark, and sought for his companionship (2Ti 4). Paul continued his journey, and spoke to the those at Pisidia: vv 14,15. Here is his first recorded speech given (vv 16-41), a renowned exposition of the Word. The record now continues with a personal appeal to the people (vv 38-41). The exciting chapter concludes with a record of the keen interest aroused in an environment of antagonism and strife: vv. 42-52" (GEM).

SIMEON CALLED NIGER: A Christian prophet and/or teacher in the ecclesia at Antioch at the time of the call of Barnabas and Paul to missionary service. He was also known by his Latin name "Niger", meaning "black," suggesting that he may have been an African. Is this the same as Simon the Cyrenian (Mark 15:21)?

LUCIUS OF CYRENE: Quite possibly the same as Lucius at Corinth, one of Paul's "kinsmen" or fellow Jews who sent greetings to Christians in Rome (Rom 16:21).

MANAEN (WHO HAD BEEN BROUGHT UP WITH HEROD THE TETRARCH): "Foster-brother" ('syntrophos': 'brought up') of Herod the tetrarch, ie Herod Antipas (4 BC -- AD 37). The latter designation may mean that he was brought up (NASB) and educated with this Herod. Some have speculated that he was the son, or at least a relative, of Manaen the Essene who predicted to Herod the Great, when a child, that he would become king of the Jews. When the prediction was fulfilled, Herod held Manaen the Essene and his sect in high regard (Jos Ant 15:10:5). Poss Manaen of Acts 13:1 was adopted by Herod the Great and made a companion to one of his sons. The term "syntrophos", however, may mean simply an intimate friend or "member of the court" (RSV; cf NEB).

Act 13:2

THE WORK TO WHICH I HAVE CALLED THEM: The special preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles: Rom 16:25,26; Eph 3:2-6). Also see Gal 1:1; 1Ti 1:1; Tit 1:3.

Act 13:3

See Lesson, Laying on of hands.

Act 13:4

WENT DOWN: The classic language of theophany, or Yahweh-manifestation, occurs often in Acts in the context of gospel preaching, as if the witness to the gospel were another manifestation of the Yahweh-Name: Act 8:5; 10:21; 13:4; 14:25; 15:30; 16:8; 18:22.

CYPRUS: Barnabas' native land (Act 4:36), already seen to be receptive to the Truth (Act 11:19,20).

Act 13:5

SYNAGOGUES: Plural: there were numerous Jewish communities there.

Act 13:7

BARNABAS AND SAUL: Note the order at the beginning; but Saul/Paul quickly emerges as the leader, although young and inexperienced.

Act 13:9

PAUL: The name Paul -- used for the first time here -- signifies "little" or "small" -- it is a sign of Saul's newfound humility. Also, a Greek name to replace a Hebrew name (symbolizing his new mission, as he stands before Sergius Paulus, a leading member of the Gentile world). Had not the prophet Samuel said to Saul's namesake (also of the tribe of Benjamin)?: 'When you were SMALL in your own eyes, did not God exalt you?' (1Sa 15:17).

The whole incident here is an enacted parable, suggesting Saul/Paul's own experiences (Acts 9): first Saul is like Elymas, the "wise", who is blinded and silenced (v 11); then he is like Sergius Paulus, the "unlearned", who asks for ("Saul" signifies "asked for") and receives the faith of Christ.

Act 13:10

Elymas was also called "Bar-Jesus" in v 6 ("son of Jesus); Now his name is changed by Paul to "Son of the devil"! He is not the son of Jesus; he is the son of the serpent! Notice the close link with Christ's words in Joh 8:41-44: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire... When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Act 13:11

BLIND: 'Just as I was when I thought to kick against the prick, or sting' (Acts 26:14)!

Elymas the sorcerer is given the same opportunity as was Saul on the Damascus road: he is blinded physically, but enlightened mentally and spiritually.

Like the Jews described by Christ, Elymas had lost sight of the characteristics of a true son of Abraham. Like the Jews, he had become an "enemy of all righteousness" (Acts 13:10) and an enemy of the gospel (Rom 11:28).

Elymas' main concern was the preservation of his source of wealth (the munificence of Sergius Paulus), his power over the proconsul (who was himself an important man -- so much the better!), and his pride at his own presumed "wisdom". In short, Elymas was motivated by the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1Jo 2:16)!

The sentence of blindness passed upon Bar-Jesus suggests, in this typical parable, the spiritual "blindness" decreed upon Israel because of their rejection of God (Deu 28:28; Isa 6:10). However, just as the sorcerer's blindness was temporary ("for a season" -- Acts 13:11), so Israel's blindness will be temporary: "Blindness in part is happened to all Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom 11:25).

Act 13:12

WHEN THE PROCONSUL SAW WHAT HAD HAPPENED, HE BELIEVED, FOR HE WAS AMAZED AT THE TEACHING ABOUT THE LORD: The final act in this miniature "play" is the conversion of Sergius Paulus -- which surely signifies the initiation of the Gentiles into the hope largely abandoned by Israel. The opposition of the apostate Jew provided the very opportunity for the Gentile to believe!

This one incident, then, is seen to set the pattern of Paul's work as a missionary to the Roman world: the unbelief of the Jews and the faith of the Gentiles. Thus is summarized, for that matter, the broad outline of two thousand years of ecclesial history. It appears that, in recognition of God's expanding purpose with the Gentiles and the instrumental part he was to play in it, Saul of Tarsus then and there adopted the new name "Paul" from his Gentile convert.

Act 13:13

PAUL AND HIS COMPANIONS: From now on, Paul (with a new name) assumes leadership of the company... and so it continues to the end.

PERGA IN PAMPHYLIA: Perga was the capital of the district, later the Roman province, of Pamphylia on the southern coast of Asia Minor, located on the Cestrus River, 12 miles inland from its port city of Attalia. On Paul's first missionary journey, he seems to have passed through Perga without stopping as he made his way up into the mountains of the interior. It has been suggested that at that time of year, malarial conditions in the lowland city had emptied it of most of its inhabitants and Paul himself may have had the fever (Acts 13:13,14; cf Gal 4:13). At the close of the first missionary journey, on his way back to Syrian Antioch, Paul stopped and preached the Word in Perga (Acts 14:25). Perga was never much influenced by the Greeks, but remained oriental in character with worship centered in the Artemis of Perga. It would seem that Paul's ministry had little effect in Perga, for there is no mention of the city until centuries later.

JOHN LEFT THEM: Examples of prophetic reluctance: Exo 4:10; Jer 1:6; Eze 3:14; Jon 1:3; 1Ki 19:10; Luk 5:8,10; 9:59; 18:23; Act 13:13; 18:9. Ct Isa 6:8. Other possible reasons for Mark's departure: (a) This was a very dangerous area: semi-barbarous, filled with brigands and robbers (cp 2Co 11:26); (b) Perhaps Paul's new leadership is less acceptable to Mark than was his uncle's guidance.

Act 13:14

PISIDIAN ANTIOCH: "A city of Phrygia in southern Asia Minor. It was called Pisidian Antioch to distinguish it from the many other cities of the same name founded by Seleucus Nicator in honor of his father, probably soon after 301 BC. It was a garrison point commanding the great Roman road connecting Ephesus with the Cilician Gates, a mountain pass just above Tarsus. After 25 BC Rome made it a city of Galatia, then elevated it to colony status shortly before 6 BC. Roman roads henceforward connected it with the other colonies (eg, Lystra) founded in the district.

"On his first mission Paul planted a church in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-52) and its witness was heard throughout the 'region' (Acts 13:49); only in Ephesus and Thessalonica were there comparable results. Jews were present in great numbers from 200 BC onward and no doubt their proselyting efforts had prepared many Gentile hearts for the gospel" (WyE).

Act 13:22

Citing 1Sa 13:14: "The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart." And Psa 78:70-72: "He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."

Act 13:24

THE COMING: As in Mal 3:1,2.

Act 13:29

THE TREE: The cross on which Christ was crucified is called by the apostles a "tree" (Acts 5:30; 10:39; Gal 3:13; 1Pe 2:24), because -- though a piece of wood that meant death for those hung thereon -- that special cross meant life to those who looked to it in faith! The "wood of death" was for them "a tree of life", and the "fruit" that hung from its branches, if partaken of, would give life everlasting (Gen 2:9; 3:22; Rev 2:7; 22:2,14,19).

Ever after, in the peculiar vision and language of the inspired writers of the New Testament, the dull, barren, bloody, and forbidding piece of wood would seem like a bright, green, fruitful and inviting tree... the tree of life!

Act 13:30

See VL, Christ's resurrection, reality.

Act 13:33

RAISING UP JESUS: Applies to birth of Jesus: cp v 34... then "raised" from the dead! Cp use of "raise" in Deu 18:15,18; Exo 9:16; Jdg 3:9; Eph 2:6; and esp Act 2:30; 2Sa 7:12; Psa 89:35,36.

Act 13:34

THE HOLY AND SURE BLESSINGS PROMISED TO DAVID: The promise to David was that his "son" would reign forever (2Sa 7:13,16; 1Ch 17:12,14).

Act 13:36

DAVID HAD SERVED GOD'S PURPOSE IN HIS OWN GENERATION: David had served "the men of that age and generation in which he lived, the subjects of his kingdom; by governing them with wholesome laws, protecting them in their rights and properties, defending them against their enemies, and regulating and promoting the worship of God among them" (Gill).

Act 13:38

THIS MAN: "Receives sinners" (Luk 15:2). "Never man spoke like..." (Joh 7:46). "No fault in..." (Luk 23:4,14,41). "Has somewhat to offer" (Heb 8:3). "Through this man... forgiveness" (Act 13:38). "Is worthy of more honor than Moses" (Heb 3:3). "Sat down" (Heb 10:12). "Continues forever" (Heb 7:24). "Was Son of God" (Mar 15:39).

Act 13:42

AS PAUL AND BARNABAS WERE LEAVING THE SYNAGOGUE, THE PEOPLE INVITED...: They were leaving the Jewish synagogue. The Gentiles (proselytes?: v 43) who were outside asked them for more!

Act 13:43

FOLLOWED PAUL AND BARNABAS: The Syriac adds: "asking to be baptized".

AND URGED THEM...: Paul's powers of persuasion:         Acts 18:4; 19:8; 26:28; 28:23; Gal 1:10.

Act 13:46

WE HAD TO SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD TO YOU FIRST: "It was necessary" (AV), because Christ prayed that you be forgiven, and we have offered you the opportunity: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luk 23:34).

Act 13:47

YOU... YOU: The pronouns are singular, as they are in Isa 49:6... but are interpreted by Paul and Barnabas as plural: ie commanded of those "in Christ".

Act 13:48

APPOINTED: "Arranged", "set in order": continuous verb.

Act 13:49

So Pisidian Antioch became a center for the spread of the gospel, just as Syrian Antioch.

Act 13:50

GOD-FEARING WOMEN OF HIGH STANDING: IN this province women were often involved in public affairs at a high level. Even the Jews of Antioch were not against having a woman as "chief" of the synagogue (WAc 200).

Act 13:52

Preaching leads to persecution; persecution leads to joy.

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