Barnabas and Saul were selected by the Holy Spirit for a particular work. Saul had now been a Christian for just over ten years and had proven himself to be useful. Barnabas had brought Saul to Antioch a few years earlier to help him teach others about Jesus.
When we look at the order of the names of those listed as prophets and teachers in Antioch (Acts 13:1) it might be surprising to us that Saul is listed last. Perhaps due to his background as one who persecuted Christians, he did not have the same respect as the other teachers. If this was the case, those in Antioch were probably surprised when it was Saul who was selected along with Barnabas for this particular work.
Something I find interesting happened during the first part of their travels. When they left, they were “Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 13:7). Saul became known as Paul (Acts 13:9) and the pairing became “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:50) or “Paul and his companions” (Acts 13:13). If it is the case that there was a “role” shift in the group, this does not seem to have been a problem for Barnabas. He continued to be the “son of encouragement” that he had always been.
Great things happened as a result of their taking the good news of Jesus into Turkey (the Roman province of Asia). Paul and Barnabas traveled inland to another Antioch, this one in the region of Pisidia. They met with the Jews in that town on the Sabbath in the synagogue and were invited to give a “word of exhortation for the people” (Acts 13:15 ESV). It would seem that it was customary to invite travelling teachers to say something during their meetings.
Paul stood up and, beginning with the Israelites to David and finally to John, presented Jesus as the Messiah. He had been executed but God had raised him from the dead, a fact for which there were many witnesses. Forgiveness of sins was through this man and they needed to not reject this message.
“As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:42-44).
Can you imagine that? It would seem that almost everyone in town had heard about what Paul was teaching and had come out to hear for themselves. But with success also comes those who are jealous of the success.
“But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him” (Acts 13:45). It would appear that these Jews had enjoyed what Paul had spoken the previous week, but the problem was that he was more successful than they were. This resulted in Paul and Barnabas concentrating their teaching on the Gentiles while the Jews began to persecute them (Acts 13:46-52).
What can we learn from this? The primary lesson would have to be the need to proclaim Jesus wherever and whenever we can. If we have a receptive audience, great! If they are not receptive, move on to find those who are. What is of importance is that more and more people learn about Jesus. Continue to teach Jesus no matter what obstacles are placed in our way.
Readings for next week:
19 September – Acts 16
20 September – Acts 17
21 September – Acts 18
22 September – Acts 19
23 September – Acts 20