The Era of Gentile Missions.
SUMMARY.--Fasting and Prayer at Antioch.
The Holy Spirit Directs Paul and Barnabas to Be Sent Forth.
They Preach the Word in Cyprus.
The Proconsul Converted.
The Missionaries Sail to Perga.
The Gospel Preached in Antioch of Pisidia.
The Persecution Raised by the Jews.
The Departure to Iconium.
1. There were in the church at Antioch. For description of
Antioch and account of the founding of the church in that city see
This was the mother church of Gentile
Christendom. It was at this period the most important city of Asia, and
the third city of the world. For description, see notes on
Prophets and teachers. These offices were not identical
though the first included the last. A prophet was an inspired teacher,
not necessarily one who predicted the future, but one who spoke God's
message by inspiration.
Barnabas. One of the prophets. See notes on
Simeon called Niger. Nothing more is known of him. As Niger
means "black," some have fancied that he was an African, but Niger was
as common a Roman surname as Black is now.
Lucius of Cyrene. The men who planted the church at Antioch were
"of Cyprus and Cyrene" (see note on
Lucius was probably one of these. The name occurs again in
And Manaen. His mother was probably the nurse of Herod when the
latter was a babe. Herod Antipas, the husband of Herodias, the murderer
of John the Baptist, is meant. He was now dethroned and an exile in
And Saul. The greatest of these men is named last. His greatness
was not yet demonstrated.
2. As they ministered. These men worshiped before the Lord,
fasting, and no doubt asking for guidance in the extension of
The Holy Ghost said. By an inspiration given to some one of
these prophets. "God has spoken at sundry times and in divers manners
unto the fathers by the one of these prophets."
Separate me Barnabas and Saul. Both had been tried and shown to
be worthy. They are now, by Divine direction, to be formally
consecrated to the work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. From
this time Antioch is the great missionary center.
Whereunto I have called them. God called; men separated, or
formally set apart.
3. When they had fasted and prayed. This verse shows how they
were set apart. It was by fasting, prayer, and the laying on of hands.
They were not thus set apart to an order or rank in the kingdom, but to
a work unto which they were called. They were not made priests, or
bishops, but missionaries. This act did not make Paul an apostle.
Christ chose him, as he had Peter, John and the others.
They sent them away. As the missionaries of the church at
Antioch to the heathen. We find that they return to report to the
after a long missionary tour.
4. So they . . . departed unto Seleucia. This was the seaport of
Antioch, at the mouth of the Orontes, about sixteen miles distant in a
direct course. At that period it was crowded with shipping. The massive
walls of its harbors are still seen, though the city is a ruin.
They sailed to Cyprus. The large island which could be seen in
clear air from the coast of Asia. It was chosen as the first field,
probably because it was the old home of Barnabas
It had a large Jewish population.
5. At Salamis. The eastern seaport. A day's run would carry them
from Seleucia to Salamis. The distance is only about fifty miles.
Preached . . . in the synagogues. That there was more than one
shows that the Jews were very numerous. In the reign of Trajan, a half
century later, they were numerous enough in Cyprus to almost
exterminate the Gentile population, and were only put down after the
arrival of the Roman general, Hadrian, afterwards emperor, with a great
They had also John. Mark. He probably acted as baptist. He was
related to Barnabas
6. When they had gone through the isle. The island was about 130
miles long by fifty wide. Salamis being at the east and Paphos at the
Paphos. This was at this time the capital. It was noted for the
worship of Venus.
Found a certain sorcerer. A magician. Though the law
(Deut. 18:9-22; Lev. 19:31)
forbade witchcraft and magic, yet contemporaneous history shows that at
this period the Jewish magicians had great influence. Marius, Pompey,
Crassus, Cæsar, and Tiberius were all more or less under their
A false prophet. Falsely professing inspiration.
7. Was with the deputy. In the Revision, "Proconsul." The Roman
provinces at this time were divided into senatorial and imperial. The
senatorial were ruled by a proconsul. We learn from other sources that
Cyprus at this time was a senatorial province ruled by a proconsul.
Sergius Paulus. Nothing more is known of him than is here
A prudent man. An inquiring man. Hence he was anxious to hear
Barnabas and Saul.
8. But Elymas. Another name of Bar-Jesus, meaning, the wise man.
He had probably assumed it.
Withstood them. As a Jew he was opposed, and his interests, too,
were opposed. He did not wish to lose his hold on the proconsul. Hence
he sought to prevent his acceptance of the faith.
9. But Saul, who is also called Paul. From this date he is the
chief figure of the Acts. Barnabas, who had hitherto been the leader,
falls behind. The origin of the name Paul is unknown. It is a Roman
name, that of a great Roman family, and it is likely that the great
apostle had two names, one Jewish, the other Gentile, a common thing
and many others afford examples.
Filled with the Holy Ghost. Acting under the impulse of the Holy
10-12. Child of the devil. Under his influence.
The right ways of the Lord. God's plan of salvation in
The hand of the Lord is upon thee. In judgment.
Thou shalt be blind. He was fighting against the light. Hence
physical blindness for a season.
A mist and a darkness. As though a cloud had gathered about
Then the deputy . . . believed. The language implies that he
became a Christian. The "believers" were those who accepted Christ.
13. Now when Paul and his company. Henceforth Paul is the
leader. From Paphos they sailed northward to Perga on the Asiatic
mainland, an important city of Pamphylia.
John departing. Why he left we do not know, but we know Paul did
not approve of it. See
Perhaps he feared the dangers before them.
14. They came to Antioch. They seemed to have passed at once
from Perga to the Antioch that lay in the interior. It must be
distinguished from the Antioch of Syria
before named. There were several Antiochs, this one being the capital
of the province of Pisidia. Vast ruins still mark its site.
They went into the synagogue. In every Gentile city where there
was a Jewish synagogue the gospel was preached first to the Jews by the
apostolic preachers. The course of Paul and Barnabas here is an example
of their custom.
15. After the reading. In the synagogue worship the reading of
the Scriptures made a very important part. As copies of the Scriptures
were very rare, this reading was necessary to convey scriptural
instruction to the people. They were read in course, two lessons each
Sabbath, one from the five books of Moses, the other from the other
books of the Old Testament. Plumptre insists that we are enabled by
two curious coincidences to fix, with very little uncertainty, the
precise Sabbath on which the mission work at Antioch opened. The
opening words of Paul refer to
and this was the lesson for the forty-fourth Sabbath in the year, which
fell in July or August; the corresponding second lesson from the
from which he also quotes. He starts, as was natural, from what the
people had just been listening to, as the text of his discourse.
The rulers of the synagogue. The synagogue was governed by a
board of elders.
16. Then Paul stood up. Invited to speak by the usual courtesy
extended to visiting brethren, he arose, according to the Greek custom.
In Judea speakers sat. Among the Greeks they stood. The address that
follows, the first reported address of Paul, is worthy of special study
especially as an example of the character of his preaching in the
synagogue. It begins with a short recapitulation of the glorious
history of Israel, a theme always apt to secure the favor of a Jewish
audience, and when he has ascended to David, the hero king and the
pride of every Jew, he passes from him to the promised Son of David,
and thus preaches Christ. Had he begun at once with the latter, the
great object of his discourse, he would have aroused prejudice and
perhaps closed their ears. It will be observed here before a Jewish
audience, as well as at Athens before a heathen audience, he first
secured a common ground with his hearers, and upon it founded his
argument for the gospel.
Men of Israel, and ye that fear God. There were two classes
present, Jews and "the devout Greeks." The latter had given up
heathenism, had learned to "fear God," and were anxious to learn more
about him; hence were wont to attend the synagogue.
17-19. Destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan. For their
20. After that he gave unto them judges about the space of four
hundred and fifty years. This statement seems to conflict with
1 Kings 6:1,
which assigns 480 years to the period between the
coming out of Egypt and the fourth year of the reign of Solomon. This
would allow only about 300 years to the period of the Judges. David's
reign was forty years, Saul's the same, the period in the wilderness
the same, Joshua ruled about twenty-five years, add four years for
Solomon, and we have 149 years, which, taken from 480 years, leaves 331
for the time of Judges and Samuel. The apparent discrepancy between
Paul and the writer of 1 Kings is removed, however, by the Revision,
based on the oldest and best Greek text. It changes the place where
"and after that" occurs, so that the passage reads, "When he had
destroyed the seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their
land for an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years: and
after these things (i. e., after the allotment of the land
and all before mentioned) he gave them judges until Samuel the
prophet." The 450 years, in my judgment, includes the period from the
departure out of Egypt to the reign of David, the two greatest eras in
Jewish history before Christ.
21. By the space of forty years. The Old Testament does not give
the length of Saul's reign, but Josephus says Saul reigned for forty
22. He raised up unto them David. The Lord called the young
shepherd to the throne.
A man after mine own heart. The language does not occur in this
form in the Old Testament, but is implied in
1 Sam. 13:14.
This does not imply that David was perfect, but that he sought to do
the Lord's will, instead of showing stubborn disobedience, like Saul.
He exhibited nobility of purpose, sought the welfare of the people, and
aimed at a purer life.
23. Of this man's seed, . . . according to his promise. For the
promise of a Savior of David's seed, see
2 Sam. 7:12;
Isa. 11:1; Zech. 3:8; 6:12.
24, 25. When John had first preached. John, who preached before
the Savior's coming, is named because he was well known to the Jews,
and most of them regarded him a prophet. See
Matt. 3:1-12 and John 5:32-35.
26. Men and brethren. Having declared the coming of the Savior
of the seed of David, he now shows to whom his salvation was offered,
not only to "children of the stock of Abraham," but to "whosoever among
you feareth God," Gentiles as well as Jews.
27-37. Paul now recapitulates the facts of the Gospel, viz:
(1) Christ rejected by the rulers; (2) the
Scriptures that they read every Sabbath fulfilled by condemning him;
(3) the demand upon Pilate to slay him, when he had declared there was
no cause of death; (4) the Scriptures fulfilled in his death; (5) the
abundantly attested resurrection; (6) he declares that the promise made
the fathers was now fulfilled to their children (see
Gen. 12:3; 22:18,
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. See
Paul gives the thought in
"He was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection
from the dead."
No more to return to corruption. Never more to endure death.
I will give you the sure mercies of David. The mercies promised
to David, one of which was a descendant whose throne should be
2 Sam. 7:10.
Thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost. See
38-41. Through this man. The risen Savior. Only through Christ does
God offer pardon. See
4:12; Rom. 3:25 and 8:1-4.
By him all that believe are justified. If you believe on Jesus
as the Messiah and accept him in faith, he will do for you what the law
could never do, justify you before God. The law could not bring
Beware therefore. The address closes with a warning of the
of rejecting Christ.
is freely quoted from
His words referred primarily to the invasion of the Chaldeans, but
reached beyond to a greater punishment for the greater sin of rejecting
Christ. Only a few years after Paul quoted this at Antioch "the
despisers wondered and perished" in the awful calamity of the Jewish
nation, brought on by refusing the Savior.
42, 43. When the Jews were gone out. The Revised text gives a
different sense: "As they (Paul and Barnabas) went out," they were
asked to speak again the next Sabbath.
When the congregation broke up. When the services were
over, many, both Jews and proselytes, followed them to learn more, and
possibly yielded to Christ.
Persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. By trusting in
and obeying him. This could not be done if they refused Christ when he
was preached to them.
44. The next sabbath came almost the whole city. The sermon of
the Sabbath before, the labors of Paul and Barnabas during the week,
and the talk aroused, filled the city with intense interest.
45. When the Jews saw the multitudes. The vast concourse, in
large part Gentiles, anxious to hear of the "ensign to whom the
Gentiles shall seek,"
aroused Jewish bigotry. Nothing ever stirred the Jews of either
Palestine or of Gentile countries to such hatred as the declaration
that Christ is a Savior of the Gentiles as well as the Jews. See
Contradicting and blaspheming. Contradicting the application of the
prophecies to Jesus, which Paul made in his address; blaspheming by
denying and speaking contemptuously of the Son of God.
46. It was necessary. The preachers met this attitude of the
Jews by boldly stating their purpose to turn from them to the Gentiles.
It was God's will that the Gospel should first be offered to the chosen
Acts 1:8; 3:26; Rom. 1:16.
While the chosen people were to have the first opportunity, yet "God
had put no difference"
between Jew and Greek. As soon as the Jewish audiences manifested a
self-willed, contradictory spirit, instead of engaging in idle
disputation, the apostles were wont to turn to the Gentiles.
47. For so hath the Lord commanded. It was not only the Lord's
will that they should preach first to the Jews, but that they should
then turn to the Gentiles. So the Lord had shown in their own
is quoted, where Christ is declared to be "a light of the Gentiles,"
and appointed "for salvation to the ends of the earth;" a world
48. When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad. Glad, not only
that the gospel was offered to them, but that in sacred writings of the
Jews, it was declared that the Gentiles should have the gospel. They,
too, had always been embraced in God's plan of redemption.
As many as were ordained to eternal life. This passage has been
used as a proof text for the extreme Calvinism that makes God
arbitrarily select some for salvation and reject others. Wesley, on the
other hand, says: "The original word rendered ordained is not
once used in the Scriptures to express eternal predestination of any
kind. The sense is that those, and those only, now ordained, now
believed. Not that God rejected the rest; it was his will that they
also should be saved, but they thrust salvation from them. Nor were
those who then believed forced to believe. Grace was offered to
them and they did not thrust it away." It is God's ordination that
those of humble, teachable, honest hearts, seeking the truth and life,
shall come to life when it is offered, and such accepted the gospel on
Believed. "Made a public profession of their faith."--Dean
50. The Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women. Gentile
women who had learned to revere the One God, women of high rank (see
A Roman writer (Strabo) declares that the women in this part of Asia
exerted a powerful influence.
And the chief men. Probably the husbands of these women.
Raised persecution. There was probably no appeal to the
magistrates, who were Romans (Antioch of Pisidia was a Roman colony),
but they excited tumultuous opposition. The missionaries retired for
the time, because their work was interrupted. They were not exiled, for
they returned afterward
51. They shook off the dust of their feet. See
The Master's command was obeyed.
Iconium. In Lycaonia, about fifty miles east of the Pisidian
Antioch. At a later period, Iconium became celebrated as the capital of
the Turks, before Constantinople fell into their hands. The Turkish
sultan was long called the Sultan of Iconium. It was only after the
Turkish conquests in Europe that the capital was moved to
Constantinople. It is still a place of 30,000 inhabitants, and
is called Konieh.
52. The disciples were filled with joy. Those of Antioch. Even
if Paul and Barnabas were driven away, they had left them a glorious