Day Three Hundred Twenty-Nine, Acts 13-15
Today's reading covers Barnabas and Saul's first missionary journey, as they set sail from Atioch in Syria. They go first to the island of Cyprus, stopping in Salamis and Paphos. They leave from there and land in Pamphylia where John Mark (who had been accompanying them) decides to go back to Jerusalem.
They go on to establish several churches int he cities int he region of Galatia, stopping at Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. At that point, they basically turna round and go back the way they came, back through Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. From Pisidian Antioch, they set sail from the prot city of Attalia, going back to the church in Antioch of Syria, from which they had been commissioned. At the end of this journey is also included the account of the conference in Jerusalem.
I'm sorry, I know that's a bunch of names of cities that don't make a whole lot of sense, especially without a map in front of you. But I've always said from the get-go that this blog was for me, not you, so to aid in my own learning, I'm trying to refresh my memory of the details of each of these trips.
Barnabas and Saul had been working together for some time with the church in Syrian Antioch when teh Holy Spirit told them to set apart Barnabas and Saul for this mission. So after fasting, praying, and laying on of hands, this church sends those men off, apparently accompanied by Joh n Mark.
They set sail and land first ont he island of Cyprus, in the city of Salamis, on teh east coast of the island. they work their way through the island, teaching in all the Jewish synagogues. When they arrive in Paphos, which is on the west coast of the island, the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, sends for them. However, one of the proconsul's attendants is a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet, Elymas, who opposses Barnabas and Saul. Ironically, Saul, filled with the Holy Spirit, causes this sorcerer to be blinded. The proconsul, on the other hand, when he sees what has happened, becomes a believer. Scripture says he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
From Paphos, Saul and his companions set sail and land in Pamphylia, at which point John Mark goes back to Jerusalem. Saul and Barnabas continue on to Pisidian Antioch. Here we have the first record of a sermon fo Paul's, when he and Barnabas are int he synagogue on teh Sabbath. They are encouraged to speak, so Paul uses the Old Testament scriptures of Psalms, Isaiah, and Habakkuk to explain that Jesus is the Christ. The people invite him to speak again the following Sabbath, and next week, nearly the whol town shows up to hear him. However, there is opposition from many of the Jews the next week, who are jealous of Paul and his message. At this point, Paul preaches his message tot he Gentiles there, who believe and are saved. However, those jealous Jews are still causing trouble, stirring up persecution for Saul and Barnabas.
So Paul and Barnabas go on to Iconium. At Iconium, as usual, they go to the synagogue to preach. As usual, there is a mixed response. Some believe. Luke says they stayed in Iconium for "considerable time." But there are still many Jewswho do not believe and are jealous and are still trying to cause trouble.
So Paul and Barnabas leave Iconium and go to Lystra. When Paul heals a crippled man inLystra, the crowd that sees this believes Paul and Barnabas are gods, and they begin to worship them! Paul and Barnabas are greatly distressed at this and try to use this opportunity to teach them about the One True God, but it's not easy with this crowd. Then some of the Jews from the cities they'd just left--from Antioch and Iconium--follow him there and stir up trouble at Lystra. They stone Paul and leave him for dead. But after the believers gather around him, he gets up and goes back into the city.
Next day, they head to Derbe, where Luke says they "won a large number of disciples." After that, they turn around and travel back through the cities where the people had just tried to kill Paul. That, my friends, is nerve. But they go back to strengthen and encourage these new churches. Interestingly enough, with prayer and fasting, they appoint elders in each church. (I just can't help but wonder what church would be like if the evangelist appointed the elders...) Then they head back to Syrian Antioch, where they report all that has happened, and how God has allowed them to teach to the Gentiles. Scripture says they stay at Antioch for a long time.
After awhile, there is trouble at the church in Antioch, as somemen from Judea come down adn begin teaching the Gentiles of that church that they must be circumcised and keep the Jewish law in order to be saved. This causes a great dispute, so Paul and Barnabas go up to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders in order to work through this situation. Interesting to me is not the instructions that the leaders end up giving, but the wording of their letter ot the church in Antioch, as they say it "seemed" good to the Holy Spirit. I can't help but wonder how certain they were about those instructions. What exactly does that mean? It's not exactly a "thus saith the Lord" kind of answer, ya know?