Sunday: Salamos and Paphos

In Acts Chapter 13, Luke shifts the scene back to Antioch in order to introduce Paul’s first missionary journey, which occupies two entire chapters (Acts Chapter 13, 14). From here through the end of the book, the focus is set on Paul and his Gentile missions.

Paul Before Sergius

Image © Providence Collection

This is the first missionary endeavor in Acts that is intentional and carefully planned by an individual church; yet, Luke is careful in highlighting that such endeavor originated in God, not in the believers’ own initiative. The point, however, is that God can operate only when we willingly place ourselves in a position where He can use us.

Read Acts 13:1-12. What main points does Luke want to stress concerning Barnabas and Paul’s activities in Cyprus?

A period of intercessory prayer and fasting preceded the departure of the missionaries; in this context, the laying on of hands was basically an act of consecration, or a commendation to God’s grace (Acts 14:26) for the task at hand.

The island of Cyprus is in the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Antioch. It was a natural place to start, as not only was Barnabas from Cyprus but the gospel had also already reached the island. Yet, certainly there was still much to be done.

Once in Cyprus, Barnabas and Paul—and John Mark, Barnabas’s cousin (Acts 15:39Col. 4:10), who was with them—preached in the synagogues of Salamis. This was Paul’s regular practice: to preach first in the synagogues before turning to Gentiles. Because Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, it was more than natural to share the gospel with Jews first.

After Salamis, they moved westward, preaching (we can assume) as they went, until they came to the capital, Paphos. The narrative then revolves around two individuals: a Jewish sorcerer named Bar-Jesus, also known as Elymas, and Sergius Paulus, the local Roman governor. The story provides a good example of how the gospel was met with contrasting responses: on one hand, open opposition; on the other, faithful acceptance even by highly prestigious Gentiles. The language of Acts 13:12 clearly implies conversion.

Think how, in this case, it was a Jew who resisted the truth while a Gentile accepted it. How might this help us understand why sometimes those of other Christian denominations are harder to reach with “present truth” than are those of no faith at all?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons