1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
During a worship service the Holy Spirit commands the whole church to set apart Saul and Barnabas. Here we see the Holy Spirit directing the actions of the church directly through the Gift of Prophecy or Tongues and Interpretation. You need to think about this for a moment. People come to church to worship God - they don't expect a direct proclamation from Him about the direction of their lives. Especially one that changes the direction of someones life drastically. But this is what happened. The people not only welcomed what happened, apparently they were not surprised. Everyone came willing to do whatever God asked of them. This action would have been welcomed. I wonder what would happen if we were as willing to allow the Holy Spirit to speak into our lives too?
The phrase in verse 3, "Then after fasting and praying" should have a comforting effect. They tested what was declared to make sure that it was right. This wasn't out of a spirit of doubt, but of faith and reverence for God. No one would ever think that God made a mistake, but they understood (as should we) that men can.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. 13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem,
There is an important lesson to be learned from verse 4. It says that the Holy Spirit sent them. But the church was involved in the process. Many times people do things on their own saying, "God told me." But what ever happened to allowing the church to be a part of the process? Many times people want to serve Christ with all their heart, but they want to do it on their own. That has never been nor will ever be God's plan for us.
Have you ever struggled lead someone to Christ? Does it seem that your words are falling on deaf ears? Then you can relate to what is happening here in this next section. Barnabas and Saul meet a false prophet and magician (Remember Simon the Sorcerer?) names Bar-Jesus. He is in the company of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus. Sergius wants to hear the Gospel that Barnabas and Saul are sharing. Apparently they did share it, but Bar-Jesus then twists their words in order to lead Sergius away from placing his faith in Christ. His purpose is simple. Job security. There would be no need for him and he would be out of a job very quickly.
Now we see Sauls named changed to Paul. Paul was a Roman name that would identify better with the Gentiles. From this point on Sauls is now Paul.
Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit much the same way that Peter was filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost he he delivered his message to the people. Paul tells Bar-Jesus that he is full of evil, that he is sneaky, a son of the devil and a enemy of anyone trying to have a right relationship with God.
Paul now asks the rhetorical question whether or not he was going to stop perverting the Gospel for his own purposes? Bar-Jesus didn't need to answer because what happens next has his full and undivided attention. Paul tells him that he will be blind for a time (that is until he repents) and immediately Bar-Jesus goes blind. Sergius converts. Not out of fear. What does he have to be afraid of? The true liar was exposed and the truth was revealed to him.
We live in a world full of Bar-Jesus like people and ideas. Each time that we try to share the Gospel Satan will have someone or something to stop it. Press on as Paul did and trust in Jesus. While I don't think that it will be necessary to strike people blind, God is on your side.
14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” 16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’ 26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed.
Paul in the first part (which we are reading today) reviews the history of Israel. We have seen Peter and Stephen do this too. He highlights that King David was a man who sought after the will of God. That from David a Savior would come to the people of Israel. He then highlights the message of John the Baptist, the one that was proclaiming to all that the Savior was coming. He also points out that John declared that Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy.
Paul understands who he is talking to and verse 26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation." In the synagogue there are Jews (sons of Abraham) but there are Gentiles too (Brothers) and those among you who fear God (those who were tired of worshipping false idols and were seeking God).
English Standard Version (ESV)