This section of Acts shows the expansion in earnest of the Gospel in “all the world”. While it focuses on the ministry of two men, and in particular on Paul, countless others participated in the going-forth of the Gospel. Very early, the grace of God penetrated as far north as Britain and a little later even into China. Only God knows for certain all that happened, but we have no doubt that the Gospel penetrated and permeated areas and people that we know nothing about. Only eternity will reveal all that has been done. God did not endure Calvary merely to give the unbeliever something to deny or the theologian something to debate. I wish God would give us an earnestness in those things we say we believe and enable us to throw out all the trappings of religion and the impedimenta of human wisdom which have accumulated over the centuries so that we might impact our generation as they did theirs.
1. Call of Barnabas and Saul, 13:1-3.
In this description of the church at Antioch, we see what was noted before, they were faithful where they were. There is also a definite working of the Holy Spirit in the call of these two men. The “leading” of the Spirit involves more than our conflict with sin; it involves also our service for God. Cf. Acts 16:6, 7.
2. Ministry of Barnabas and Saul, 13:4-14:28.
Three geographical areas are involved in their journey: the island of Cyprus and the two regions of Pamphylia and Pisidia, which was the southern part of Galatia. In this extensive journey, we’ll look at three things in particular.
The Place of Paul. Until now, Saul/Paul has played a secondary role. He has been active in preaching, but evidently not in a way that would mark him as unusual, except in the marvel of his conversion. As he and Barnabas work in Cyprus, 13:4-12, something happened. Saul and Barnabas were two different men. Saul seems 100% to have involved in whatever he did and seems less willing than Barnabas to accept anything less than total involvement. Barnabas was an exceptional man himself, but seems to have been a peaceable man who was conciliatory and willing to see the other fellow’s side, 4:36. This isn’t to say that Paul was unsympathetic or unfeeling, but rather that he was tremendously zealous, and slow to accept anything which might seem to be a hindrance to the work of Christ.
The Preaching of Paul. This is especially noted in Acts 13:14-41, and very similar to the preaching of Peter in Jerusalem. We see four things:
1. Recitation, 13:17-31. Paul deals with Israel’s history, not as Stephen did, to show their continued rebellion, but to establish the continuity of what happened in that history with what happened in Jerusalem, to which he turns in his –
2. Declaration, 13:32-37. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s “promise” to David of a descendant who would sit on his throne. The Crucifixion and Resurrection are shown in their prophetic and eternal significance through Scriptural reference and explanation, cf. Romans 1:2-4.
3. Application, 13:38-39. No NT preacher was satisfied with a mere “lecture.” True Gospel preaching isn’t just the mere presentation of certain facts or biblical truths, but the application of those truths and facts to the hearts and minds of those hearing in order that they might be brought to God, and once there, might be conformed to the image of His Son. Granted, this work will only be imperfectly seen in this life, but the day is coming when we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.
4. Exhortation, 13:40, 41. The “glad tidings” also bring the “bad tidings.” We have lost sight of or thrown out the idea that God is a God of justice as well as of love. We have so corrupted the idea of the love of God that there is no place for anything else, but those who despise His Word and reject His grace will feel the full weight of His justice.
Though it’s too often only a cuss word, and scoffed at by unbelievers, Hell is as real as Heaven. Only through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus is there escape from the one and entrance into the other.