What does Acts 13 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Acts 13 recounts the calling of Paul and Barnabas to missions beyond Syrian Antioch and their travels to the island of Cyprus and up into the heart of modern-day Asia Minor (eastern Turkey). In this short time, Barnabas and Paul face opposition, abandonment, and slander. The chapter begins with the Holy Spirit setting the two aside for ministry to the Gentiles and ends with affirmation of that mission.

First, the narrative turns from Peter and the other apostles and begins the transition wherein Paul becomes the focus of Luke's story. Paul (still going by his Jewish name "Saul") is with Barnabas and other church leaders in Syrian Antioch. During a time of fasting and prayer, the Holy Spirit directly calls out the pair for a special mission (Acts 13:1–3).

Next, Paul, Barnabas, and Barnabas' kinsman John Mark traveled to Barnabas' home territory on the island of Cyprus. The team traverses the length of the island from Salamis in the east to Paphos in the west. They generally preach the news about Jesus in the Jewish synagogues, but in Paphos, they come upon the Roman proconsul who has been influenced by a Jewish magician. Paul proves the man to be a false prophet, and the proconsul believes in Jesus. Cyprus seems to be the place where Saul the Jew takes on the Roman version of his name: Paul (Acts 13:4–12).

Verse 15 is the first time Paul is named before Barnabas. Barnabas, and John Mark sail north to Perga on the southern coast of modern-day Asia Minor. Here, John Mark abandons them and returns to Jerusalem, an act that will later cause a rift in Paul and Barnabas' friendship and ministry (Acts 15:36–41). Paul and Barnabas travel north to Pisidian Antioch and, as is their custom, find the local synagogue and wait to be asked to speak (Acts 13:13–15).

This chapter includes the only recording of one of Paul's sermons in a synagogue. In nearly every town he visits, he starts in the local synagogue, but Luke focuses on the actions and relationships more than the message. Like Stephen (Acts 7), Paul begins with Israel's history, focusing on the progression from Moses to David to David's descendant, Jesus. He gives his audience a description of what happened in Jerusalem around Jesus' death and resurrection and relates those events to Old Testament prophecy. Since Luke didn't record any of Paul's other synagogue speeches, it's safe to assume he followed this general format throughout his ministry, customizing the details for each city (Acts 13:16–41).

Reaction is mixed, among the Jews and Gentiles, to Paul's assertion that Jesus forgives the sins of Jews and Gentiles. The people want to know more. The Jewish leaders are jealous. Paul and Barnabas resolve that it was right for them to present Jesus to the Jews first so that they, like the leaders and by-standers present at the crucifixion, could choose to follow or reject Jesus. Since the synagogue, the local religious Jewish authority, rejects their message, Paul and Barnabas are free to concentrate on the Gentiles. They do so throughout the district until the Jewish leadership enlists the help of more socially influential people who drive the pair out of town (Acts 13:44–52).
Verse Context:
Acts 13:1–3 is a segue from Peter, the church in Jerusalem, and the evangelistic efforts in Judea and Samaria. This transitions to Paul and the expansion of the mixed Jewish / Gentile church in Syrian Antioch to modern-day Asia Minor. Peter and the Jerusalem church will only be mentioned again in the context of Paul's story (Acts 15:1–35; 21:17–26). Saul takes his Gentile name, Paul, as the worldwide church shifts to become a largely Gentile institution. The last stage of Jesus' commission in Acts 1:8—to spread His story among the Gentiles—takes center stage.
Acts 13:4–12 records the initial stop in Barnabas and Saul's first missionary journey (Acts 13:4—14:26). They sail west from Syrian Antioch to the island of Cyprus: Barnabas' home. As they travel the length of the island, they visit Jewish synagogues to give the Jews the first opportunity to accept Jesus' forgiveness (Romans 1:16), but their work among so many Gentiles impels Saul to make a major change and take on the Roman version of his name: Paul.
Acts 13:13–15 describes how Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark leave Paphos on the southwest coast of Cyprus. They sail northwest to Perga, on the south-central coast of modern-day Asia Minor. In Perga, John Mark abandons them and returns to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas travel north to Pisidian Antioch and, as is their custom, attend the local synagogue and wait to be invited to speak.
Acts 13:16–41 gives the transcript of Paul's message in Pisidian Antioch. It is the only recording of Paul's many synagogue sermons. Paul's message can be broken into five parts, each identified with a call to heed Paul's words: 1. God's saving work in Israel's history and promise of a future Savior (Acts 13:16–25); 2. The Savior's story (Acts 13:26–31); 3. The prophecies of the Savior (Acts 13:32–37); 4. The nature of ''salvation'' (Acts 13:38–39); 5. A warning to accept the Savior (Acts 13:40–41). Some Jews and many Gentiles do accept the message, but the synagogue leaders drive Paul and Barnabas out of town (Acts 13:42–51).
Acts 13:42–52 details the response to Paul's message in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch. Many Gentiles and some Jews accept the news about Jesus gladly, but the synagogue leaders don't. Since Jews live in community, and the Jewish community leaders feel threatened by Paul's message and popularity, Paul can say "the Jews" reject Jesus' offer of eternal life. Paul turns his attention to the Gentiles until the Jewish leaders join with city leaders to drive Paul and Barnabas out of town.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 13 transitions Luke's account (Acts 1:1) fully into a record of Paul's ministry to spread the news about Jesus. The Holy Spirit calls Paul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey. They teach about Jesus' offer of forgiveness of sins on the island of Cyprus and in the district of Pisidia in modern-day south-central Asia Minor. Along the way, they face opposition, desertion, and persecution: themes that will follow Paul throughout his life. But they also experience the joy of watching the people they'd least expect come to a saving faith in Jesus.
Chapter Context:
The first chapters of Acts, save for a quick account of Paul's conversion (Acts 9:1–31), cover the ministry of the apostles, particularly Peter. Those passages also detail the spread of the news about Jesus from His followers. That message goes to the Jews of Jerusalem (Acts 2—7) and Judea (Acts 8:26–40; 9:32–43), the Samaritans (Acts 8:4–25), and God-fearing Gentiles (Acts 10—11). Now, Paul's contribution to the ''end of the earth'' portion of Jesus' commission in Acts 1:8 begins, as he and Barnabas start their first missionary journey. Luke will record two more of Paul's journeys (Acts 15:36—18:22 and 18:23—20:38) before settling in on his return to Jerusalem, arrest, and sea voyage to Rome (Acts 21—28).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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