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Acts is primarily a Missionary Manual – it is all about the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth through God’s appointed ambassadors for truth. Unfortunately we have a tendency not to refer to the manual and to come up with our own strategies for missions. There are many principles from this passage that would apply to some of the common questions that people ask about:

– How do you know whether you are called to be a foreign missionary?

– How do you get to the mission field?

– What is the primary role of a missionary?

– What type of involvement should the local church have?

You can draw many analogies from warfare since there is a spiritual war going on for the souls of men. This account of Paul’s early missionary journey parallels Peter’s experience with Simon the Sorcerer and shows that both Peter and Paul were on the same page with respect to church ministry.




A. (:1) Missionaries Prepare for Service by Developing and Exercising Their Giftedness

“Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers:”

In addition to the prophets who had visited from Jerusalem (11:27)—5 resident prophets; had ministered there for at least a year

Fab Five: ethnic and cultural diversity

1. “Barnabas” —

4:36 “a Levite from Cyprus”

MacArthur: A Spirit-filled Jew trained in the Old Testament, a resident Old Testament scholar with a pure Christian character. He was highly respected and highly loved, a warm-hearted man, a marvelously capable teacher, a comforter.

2. “Simeon who was called Niger”

Jewish name and then Latin name meaning “black” – probably from Africa

Stott: just conceivably none other than Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus and who must have become a believer, since his sons Alexander and Rufus were known the Christian community. (Mk. 15:21; Rom. 16:13)

3. “Lucius of Cyrene”

Latin name – originally from N Africa

4. “Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch”

Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great), the murderer of John the Baptist

Kent: means “companion” and was a title of honor given to boys who were reared at court with princes as their companions in education.

Bruce: What a commentary on the mystery and sovereignty of divine grace that, of these two foster-brothers, one should attain honour as a Christian leader, while the other should be best known for his shameful behavior in the killing of John the Baptist and in the trial of Jesus!

5. “Saul”

Came from Tarsus in Cilicia

Local church needs to develop its bench strength; multiple prophets and teachers all free to exercise their gifts; not squeezed out and forced to go elsewhere because of the egos involved; true partnership in the gospel; true team ministry

Bloom where you are planted; then the Lord can transplant you

Longenecker: The Greek particle te (untranslatable) was used in antiquity to connect word pairs, coordinate clauses, and similar sentences, thereby often distinguishing one set of coordinates from another. [first three would be prophets and last two would be teachers]??

B. (:2-3) Missionaries – in Partnership with Local Church Leaders — Perceive and Respond to the Call of the Holy Spirit

“And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”

“ministering” — word for liturgical – perform religious duties, minister, serve

MacArthur: to serve in a priestly manner. To serve in terms of worship, I suppose we could say. A worshipping kind of service . . . viewing everything you do as an offering to God . . . Fasting is a way to express intensity. Fasting is a way to express devotion and vigilance and passion.

“to the Lord” Acts 16:15 “And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.”

Local church is the primary sending agency; not independent missionary boards

Principle of team ministry – we have not done a good job of modeling that

These are God’s workers; they don’t belong to the other leaders; they don’t even belong to the church; God owns them, commissions them, directs them

Concept of the Call of God in terms of a Vocation – needs some careful analysis

Was Paul called to be a tentmaker??

Kent: Apparently Barnabas and Saul had already known the Spirit’s will, but they did not act unilaterally, apart from the church’s knowledge and blessing.

Laying on of hands – did not confer any special power;

Kent: It was rather the recognition by the church that God had called them, and it symbolized the identification of the Antioch church with these workers and the bestowal of their blessing.

Bruce: by this means the church of Antioch, through its leaders, expressed its fellowship with Barnabas and Saul and recognized them as its delegates or “apostles.”


A. (:4) Missionaries Expand the Church by Pioneering New Works

“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”

Seleucia was a seaport 16 miles from Antioch

Remember Paul’s objective: to go to minister in virgin territory

Takes faith to leave your comfort zone and go out to new challenges – not knowing what obstacles you will face

Barclay: Cyprus was a Roman province, famous for its copper mines and its shipbuilding industry.

Bock: It exported wood and copper, was relatively dry in climate, and is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. It is 140 miles long and 60 miles wide.

B. (:5a) Missionaries Elevate the Word of God as the Authoritative Source for Truth

“And when they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews;

Social work is not their first priority

Surprising to find that they first go to the Jewish synagogues … we have been studying about the transition to taking the gospel to the Gentiles

C. (:5b) Missionaries Enlist Faithful Helpers in Key Roles

“and they also had John as their helper.”

“helper” — one who acts under orders of another to carry out his will, assistant, helper

Cousin to Barnabas (Col. 4:10); his mother’s home in Jerusalem was a chief gathering place for the believers

D. (:6-7) Missionaries Encounter Prepared Hearts

“And when they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.”

Barclay: Paphos was infamous for its worship of Venus, the goddess of love. . . These were intensely superstitious times and most great men, even an intelligent man like Sergius Paulus, kept private wizards, fortune tellers who dealt in magic and spells

90 mile journey across the island to Paphos

Bar-Jesus = “son of salvation” (cf. confrontation of Peter with Simon Magus in chap. 8)

Rackham: In the Greek world it was the custom for philosophers, rhetoricians, or religious propagandists, to travel about from city to city and give public orations. By this means they often secured permanent professorships. So when Sergius Paulus heard of Barnabas and Saul, he took them for similar professors, and having an interest in these matters he summoned them to give a declamation before his court.

E. (:8) Missionaries Experience Satanic Opposition

“But Elymas the magician (for thus his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.”

“turn away” – Aorist, active infinitive; literally, of an object on the potter’s wheel become misshapen; figuratively pervert, corrupt, distort (AC 13.10); passive, of the truth be perverted, be distorted (AC 20.30); in a moral sense be depraved (LU 9.41);

Bock: often used of preventing someone from embracing the truth (Num. 15:39; 32:7; Ezek. 13:18; Luke 23:2; and esp. Paul’s countercharge in v. 10).

Piper: the way you make crooked the straight paths of the Lord is to get in the way of people coming to faith.

F. (:9-11) Missionaries Expose Satanic Darkness

“But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him, and said, ‘You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.’ And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.”

Kent: He doubtless had both names from childhood. Previously in predominantly Jewish surroundings the name “Saul” had been used. Now in a gentile governor’s court it was likely that the apostle had introduced himself by the name “Paul,” and the author uses this name consistently in the rest of the book because Paul from here on is primarily ministering as the apostle to the gentile world.

Stott: his boldness, outspokenness and power in condemning Elymas were all from God … Elymas guilty of causing “perversion” (diastrepho, 8, 10), instead of “conversion” (epistrepho, 9:35; 11:21; 14:15).

Morgan: The severest words of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, are reserved for those who stand between men and truth, for those who stand between men and God . . . It must be the heart that loves Sergius Paulus that speaks in anger to Elymas the sorcerer.”

Stott: Paul must have remembered the day not many years previously when he himself had been blinded, albeit by the glory of the Lord, and been led by the hand into Damascus.

G. (:12) Missionaries Evangelize Successfully

“Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.”

Amazed, astonished, overwhelmed – Pres pass participle; deeply impressed; shaken to the core

Stott: Luke surely intends us to view Sergius Paulus as the first totally Gentile convert, who had not religious background in Judaism. Paul’s direct approach to Gentiles was “the great innovative development of this first missionary journey.” – Longenecker