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Bible Commentaries
Acts 13

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-3

Introduction: The Commission of Paul and Barnabas Acts 13:1-3 gives us the account of Paul and Barnabas being commissioned and sent out by the church at Antioch.

Prophets and Teachers in the Early Church - It is important to note that the five prophets and teachers in these verses were all in agreement as to the will of God. When a minister takes a major decision in his life, it is important that his mentors or fellow ministers sense the same leading and send him out with their prayers and blessings.

Comparison of My Calling with Acts 13:1-3 - It is amazing to compare my sending out into the mission field with this event recorded in Acts 13:1-3 and to note the similarities.

1. I had been serving in my local church for about fourteen years just as Paul had been doing (Galatians 2:1) before being sent out.

2. Dale Gentry received a dream of me being the one to send out when my pastor asked his counsel of whom to send. Thus, I was chosen by the operation of the gifts of the Spirit in a similar way that Paul and Barnabas were chosen by the gift of utterance from the Holy Spirit.

3. Our pastor laid hands upon my wife and I and sent us away, just as was done in this passage.

Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Acts 13:1 “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers” Comments - The first office of the New Testament Church was that of the apostle. Jesus Christ ordained twelve men in this ministry office prior to His ascension into Heaven. In Acts 11:27 we read about the office of the prophet in the church in Jerusalem, of which Agabus was the most prominent (Acts 11:28; Acts 21:10). We see in Acts 13:1 the office of the teacher being recognized in the church of Antioch. Thus, we have an order in which these first three offices of the five-fold ministry were placed into the New Testament Church. Paul discusses this order in 1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” The office of the evangelist will be recognized later in the lives of Philip (Acts 4:5) and Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5). Paul will begin to ordain elders and pastors to oversee his churches, which is the final office that the New Testament church will recognize.

Acts 11:27, “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.”

Acts 21:8, “And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.”

2 Timothy 4:5, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

Acts 13:1 “as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” Comments - Which of these five men were prophets and which were teachers is not distinguished in the English translation. However, Meyer notes how the Greek text does imply a distinction with the use of the particles τέ and κάι . He says, “This division is indicated by the position of the particles: (1) τέ … κάι … κάι ; (2) τέ … κάι .” This interpretation suggests that the first three men were prophets and the last two were teachers. He mentions the possibility that some of these prophets are implied in Acts 11:27, but believes these prophets had already returned to Jerusalem. He also suggests that this list was “made according to seniority.” [203]

[203] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. William P. Dickson (New York: Funk and Wagnalis, 1884), 244.

Acts 11:27, “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.”

“and Lucius of Cyrene” Lucius of Cyrene could have been a part of the disciples that were scattered abroad, who preached the Gospel to the Greeks in Antioch (Acts 11:20). Lucius of Cyrene may be mentioned again in Romans 16:21

Romans 16:21, “Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.” However, it is impossible to be certain that this are the same individual.

Acts 11:20, “And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.”

“and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch” Gesenius tells us that the Greek word “which had been brought up with” ( σύντροφος ) (G4939) means either “nourished, brought up together,” or “familiar, on friendly terms.” Thus, Manaen could have been Herod’s foster brother, and raised from a child in the royal court, or he could have simply been an intimate friend, a companion to this king. This Greek word is used only once in the New Testament (Acts 13:1). Manaen ( מְנַחֵם ) [204] is mentioned only once in the New Testament (Acts 13:2). Scholars tell us that Herod the tetrarch is the Herod Antipas mentioned in Luke 3:1, who beheaded John the Baptist. G. V. Lechler bases this conclusion upon Josephus, who says that Herod Agrippa II was only seventeen years old when his father, Herod Agrippa I, died ( Antiquities 19.9.1), so that it must refer to an older generation, that of Herod Antipas. [205]

[204] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. William P. Dickson (New York: Funk and Wagnalis, 1884), 244.

[205] G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok, Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, vol. 2, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. John P. Lange, in Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, third series, vol. 25 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1864), 11.

Luke 3:1, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,”

Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Acts 13:2-3 “the Holy Ghost said” Comments - The Holy Ghost probably spoke through one of the gifts of utterance in this instance, since there were prophets in this meeting. In contrast, the setting apart of the first deacons in Acts 6:1-5 for the work of the ministry did not seem to be through prophecy or other gift of utterance, but by an apparent need in a particular area. Note:

1 Timothy 4:14, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”

1 Timothy 5:22, “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.”

2 Timothy 1:6, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”

Acts 13:2 “where unto I have called them” - Comments - God had already called Paul and Barnabas beforehand by His divine will and foreknowledge before this event in Acts 13:2. This phrase can also mean that the Lord had already begun to reveal this calling out to Paul and Barnabas earlier, For example, at Paul’s conversion, the Lord said to Ananias that Paul was “a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:” (Acts 9:15) The Lord spoke to Paul during his first visit to Jerusalem and said, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” (Acts 22:21) Thus, the prophetic utterance in Acts 13:2 served as confirmation of previous utterances for these two men.

Acts 13:2 Comments - Barnabas had been moving about preaching the Gospel in the regions of Syria (Acts 11:19-24), with Paul also in Syria and Cilicia for several years (Galatians 1:21), before they were set apart in Antioch as apostles to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2). Sometime around A.D. 43, Barnabas journeyed to Tarsus, found Paul, and brought him to Antioch of Syria, where they ministered together about a year (Acts 11:25-26). Around A.D. 44, fourteen years from the time of his conversion, having moved about in the regions of Syria and Cilicia preaching the Gospel (Galatians 1:21), they returned Jerusalem and declared to the apostles that work that they had been doing among the Gentiles (Acts 11:30, Galatians 2:1-10). While in Jerusalem, the church acknowledged that these two men had a divine calling as an apostle to the Gentiles, so they gave them their blessings to go unto the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9). Therefore, both churches in Jerusalem and Antioch recognized the calling on these men. Their sending out did not come without them having been prepared for such a task. It was evident before they were sent out that they had an anointing to minister to the Gentiles. This is the way the Lord works in our lives as well. He will prepare us and confirm to us our calling before He opens the door to send us out. So, while we wait for such an opportunity, we must be faithful. Thus, the Greek text reads in the perfect tense, “I have called them.” This tense means that the action happened in the past and continues into the present. Thus, the calling of Barnabas and Paul took place in the past, but was confirmed during this time of prayer and worship in the church at Antioch.

Acts 11:25-26, “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”

Galatians 1:21, “Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;”

Acts 11:30, “Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

Galatians 2:9, “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”

Acts 13:2 Comments - The New Testament church “polity,” or government, was a theocracy, not a democracy, nor any other kind of government. God is the one who directs its affairs through the work of the Holy Spirit. It can be understood by looking back at the time of the judges before Saul became king over Israel, when YHWH was Lord over the nation, and not a man, and the Lord gave His people directions through the office of the priests.

Acts 13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Verses 1-52

The Church’s Organization (Perseverance): The Witness of the Church Growth to the Ends of the Earth Acts 13:1 to Acts 28:29 begins another major division of the book of Acts in that it serves as the testimony of the expansion of the early Church to the ends of the earth through the ministry of Paul the apostle, which was in fulfillment of Jesus’ command to the apostles at His ascension, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) However, to reach this goal, it required a life of perseverance in the midst of persecutions and hardship, as well as the establishment of an organized church and its offices.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Witness of Paul’s First Missionary Journey (A.D. 45-47) Acts 13:1 to Acts 14:28

2. Witness to Church at Jerusalem of Gospel to Gentiles (A.D. 50) Acts 15:1-35

3. Witness of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (A.D. 51-54) Acts 15:36 to Acts 18:22

4. Witness of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey (A.D. 54-58) Acts 18:23 to Acts 20:38

5. Witness of Paul’s Arrest and Trials (A.D. 58-60) Acts 21:1 to Acts 26:32

6. Witness of Paul’s Journey to Rome (A.D. 60) Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:29

A Description of Paul’s Ministry - Paul’s missionary journeys recorded Acts 13-28 can be chacterized in two verses from 2 Timothy 2:8-9, in which Paul describes his ministry to the Gentiles as having suffered as an evil doer, but glorying in the fact that the Word of God is not bound.

2 Timothy 2:8-9, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.”

Paul followed the same principle of church growth mentioned in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” He first placed churches in key cities in Asia Minor. We later read in Acts 19:10 where he and his ministry team preaches “so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks”.

Acts 19:10, “And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”

In Romans 15:20-28 Paul said that he strived to preach where no other man had preached, and having no place left in Macedonia and Asia Minor, he looked towards Rome, and later towards Spain.

Romans 15:20, “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:”

Romans 15:23-24, “But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.”

Romans 15:28, “When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.”

Verses 4-12

Paul and Barnabas at Cyprus Acts 13:4-14 gives us the account of Paul and Barnabas at Cyprus.

Acts 13:5 Comments - Acts 13:5 tells us that Paul and Barnabas took John Mark with them on their first missionary journey. This may be because they had taken with him on previous trips. Note:

Acts 12:25, “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.”

Acts 13:7 “Which was the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus” Comments - Schaff tells us that General di Cesnola discovered a long, mutilated inscription on a pedestal of white marble, at a city in the north of the island of Cyprus called, Solvi, which, was the most important city. This inscription reads, “EPI PAULOU ANTHUPATOU,” which Schaff translates, “In the proconsulship of Paulus.” Many scholars believe this inscription refers to the actual (Sergius) Paulus of Acts 13:7. [206]

[206] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 734.

Acts 13:6-7 Comments Satan’s Efforts to Control Leadership - Note how Satan is trying to control the leadership of Cyprus in order to corrupt the entire nation.

Acts 13:8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

Acts 13:8 “seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith” - Comments - It is interesting to note how the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is described with the phrase “the faith.” This phrase emphasizes the response of the hearers. While world religions require an initial commitment to a set of doctrines and lifestyle, Christianity simply requires faith, which proceeds from the heart.

Acts 13:9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

Acts 13:9 “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul)” - Comments - It was not uncommon for a person to take upon himself a new name when moving into a new culture. Saul was a Jewish name and Paul became his Roman name. Paul took his surname most likely at this time, on his first missionary journey. Jerome (A.D. 342 to 420) tells us that Saul changed his name to Paul because this was the name of his first convert ( Lives of Illustrious Men 5). [207] We find the story of the conversion of Sergius Paulus in Acts 13:4-12, where we also find Paul being called by his new name for the first time (Acts 13:9).

[207] Jerome writes, “As Sergius Paulus Proconsul of Cyprus was the first to believe on his preaching, he took his name from him because he had subdued him to faith in Christ.” Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, trans. Ernest C. Richardson, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, vol. 3, eds. Henry Wace and Philip Schaff (New York: The Christian Literature Company, 1906), 362.

Acts 13:7, “Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.”

Acts 13:9 “filled with the Holy Ghost” Comments - The book of Acts makes continual references to those early Church leaders who spoke boldly in the name of Jesus when filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 reads, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The early Church (Acts 2:4; Acts 4:31; Acts 10:44; Acts 13:52; Acts 19:6) was filled with the Holy Spirit. Men such as Peter (Acts 4:8), Stephen (Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55), Barnabas (Acts 11:24), and Paul (Acts 1:9) were all filled with the Holy Spirit and testified under the anointing. This anointing empowered the early Church to fulfill the Great Commission and take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Although every believer receives the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation, only those filled with the Holy Spirit were empowered to fulfill the divine calling of the New Testament Church.

Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,”

Acts 4:31, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”

Acts 6:5, “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:”

Acts 7:55, “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,”

Acts 10:44, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”

Acts 11:24, “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.”

Acts 13:9, “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,”

Acts 13:52, “And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.”

Acts 19:6, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”

Acts 13:9 “set his eyes on him” Comments - This boldness of Paul to set his eyes upon this sorcerer feared by the people is a manifestation of our behaviour when under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This same boldness is seen in the courage of great men in the Old Testament when empowered by the Holy Ghost, such as David and his men during battle. This boldness to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of adversity is why the book of Acts focuses upon those men, such as Peter (Acts 4:8), Stephen (Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55), Barnabas (Acts 11:24), and Paul (Acts 1:9), who were filled with the anointing during their proclamation of the Gospel, because these men took the Gospel to the nations.

Verses 13-52

Paul and Barnabas at Antioch of Pisidia Acts 13:13-52 gives us the account of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch of Pisidia.

Acts 13:13 Comments - Perhaps John (Mark) returned because the Holy Ghost only sent Saul and Barnabas (verse 2), that is, John was not called on this particular journey.

Acts 13:22 “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart” Comments - After the Lord took the kingdom from Saul, He looked for a man after His own heart. This qualification was found in David. Note:

1 Samuel 13:14, “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.”

How was David a man after God’s own heart? Throughout the history of the nation of Israel, God progressively revealed His many names to certain individuals. Each name revealed a new aspect of His holy, divine character. Each time He revealed His name, it was to meet a need in someone’s life, it was to encourage someone to look to Him as the Lord over every situation and over all the enemies. King David knew the character of God more intimate than any man before him. For example, David calls him “Father” for the first time in the Scriptures.

Psalms 68:5, “ A father of the fatherless , and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.”

Psalms 89:26, “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father , my God, and the rock of my salvation.”

Psalms 103:13, “ Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.”

It was Jesus Christ who revealed God to us in the Gospels as our Heavenly Father in order to show us His tender love for His children. Few individuals in history before Jesus came to earth knew God as intimately as did King David; for David was a true worshipper of God, and this worship ushered him into the presence of God, where God revealed Himself to David as a Father.

Acts 13:43 Comments What began as “Barnabas and Saul” in Acts 13:2; Acts 13:7 developed into “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:43; Acts 13:46; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:1; Acts 14:23; Acts 15:2; Acts 15:12; Acts 15:22; Acts 15:35-36) Barnabas had mentored Paul for many years, standing beside him as he grew from a new believer to a man called by God. Now, God was using Paul in a mighty way that placed him in the foreground of their relationship and Barnabas in the background. However, Barnabas still shown on occasions bright (Acts 14:12; Acts 14:14; Acts 15:25).

Acts 13:45 “when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy” Scripture Reference:

Romans 11:14, “If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

Acts 13:51-52 “But they shook off the dust of their feet against them....joy” - Comments - The disciples did as Jesus had commanded in these verses (Luke 9:5). Joy comes by doing God’s Word.

Luke 9:5, “And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 13". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/acts-13.html. 2013.
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