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Acts 13:13-22

The church in Antioch was led by the Spirit to send out men to preach the gospel in places that had not yet
heard the good news. Specifically, the Spirit asked for Barnabas and Saul to be set apart for the work to
which the Spirit called them. The work was a missionary journey – the first in Luke’s record in Acts.

The journey began in Cyprus, that large island in the Mediterranean Sea, just off the coast of Syria, where
Antioch was. Cyprus also happened to be the country Barnabas called home.

Barnabas and Saul first preached in a port city on the east side of the island – in the synagogues of the
Jews. By the time they traversed the island, their preaching had come to the attention of the Roman
governor of the island, a Gentile, who summoned Barnabas and Saul into his presence, to inquire about
their doctrine.

But there was a Jewish sorcerer present who had influence with the governor, and tried to prevent him from
considering the gospel. This the Lord would not permit; and through Saul (now called Paul), the Spirit
pronounced a temporary blindness on the sorcerer, which effectively removed this obstacle to the gospel.

The governor, upon seeing the power of the One in whose name Paul spoke, and amazed by the grace
which that One extended to him through the gospel, believed into Jesus, passing from death to Life
everlasting.

We have seen that Luke’s record of this singular conversion on Cyprus was a figure, given particularly to
Paul at the beginning of his missionary work, to show him the opposition that he would encounter to the
gospel – and the source of it.

Paul was to be the apostle to the Gentiles – shown in figure by the Roman governor. His mission was to
deliver the gospel message to them; but there would be opposition in the work. The source of the
opposition was the evil one; but the instrument that he would use would be the apostate Jewish nation,
shown in figure by the Jewish sorcerer.

By the power of the Spirit, the Lord would work through Paul to ensure that the gospel message would be
received by the Gentiles. But in the process, Israel would be blinded for a time (Rm 11:25) – Paul’s nation,
blind to their own Messiah – until such a time as they are ready to see Him for who He is – Jesus.

This event in Cyprus was to serve as a preparation of heart for Paul, who naturally carried a burden in his
heart for his own people, the Jews. The Lord was preparing Paul for the fact that the Jews, as a whole,
would reject the gospel; that they would despise Jesus, whom Paul himself had come to so esteem; and
further, that they would actively oppose the very work to which Jesus had appointed Paul; to bring the
gospel to the Gentiles.

As Paul and Barnabas continued on their missionary journey, we will see that they took the Lord’s
preparation to heart.

v. 13 So Paul and the others sailed from Paphos to Perga, which is to the northwest, in Asia Minor
(modern Turkey). Luke speaks of Paul “and his party”, which means a person and his followers –
emphasizing Paul’s leadership in the group. This group would have included Barnabas and John Mark, and
possibly some new converts from Cyprus – we only know of the conversion of Sergius Paulus.
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Perga was the capital city of the Roman province of Pamphylia-Lycia, requiring a journey of about 200
miles across the Mediterranean, then another seven miles up the river Cestrus – perhaps it would take about
two or three days to complete, overall.

The name, Perga in Pamphylia, communicates much – Perga means “much earth; very earthy”, and
Pamphylia means “all sorts; all tribes”. Here were many sons of Adam, who came from many different
tribes, or nations. Perga was known to be a thoroughly Hellenized city. On a hill outside of town, as if to
welcome newcomers, stood a temple of the goddess Artemis, who was regarded as “queen of Perga”.

We then read simply that John Mark departed from the group, and returned to Jerusalem. This was not an
amicable departure; we can know this because later, Paul will refuse to take John Mark with himself and
Barnabas again on a second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-41). Was John Mark dismissed – sent home?
No – we read that it was John who departed from them. It would seem he was a deserter.

We cannot help but wonder what would have caused John Mark to desert Paul and Barnabas. There are
many speculations. Some say that John Mark may have been upset because Paul had become the apparent
leader of the missionary team, where his cousin Barnabas had been seemingly in charge when they left
Antioch.

Remember that Luke had listed the names of the prophets and teachers in Antioch with Barnabas first, and
Saul last; but after the Spirit worked through Saul in the conversion of the governor of Cyprus, we find
Saul now being called Paul, his Roman name, and his name being listed first from this point on – it was
Barnabas and Saul, but now it is Paul and Barnabas.

We will see that Paul was indeed the leader in the work from this point on. But would John Mark have
resented Paul’s leadership, to the point of deserting the mission? Especially when it was the Spirit who
clearly lifted Paul up, empowering him to pronounce the judgment of blindness on the Jewish sorcerer? It
is possible, but I don’t think likely.

And Barnabas never had any problem with Paul – remember it was Barnabas who defended Paul to the
disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27), and Barnabas who sought out Paul for the work in Antioch (Acts 11:25-
26). Since Barnabas didn’t have any problem with Paul, it is unlikely that John Mark would have a
problem with him.

Some have also suggested that John Mark was smitten with home-sickness – after all, he was a young man.
But John Mark had already been away from Jerusalem with Paul and Barnabas for some weeks, or longer –
if he was going to get home-sick, he would have headed home before this time.

He certainly wouldn’t have proceeded to Asia Minor, even further away; he would have left the group right
from Cyprus. But Scripture tells us clearly that John Mark departed from them in Pamphylia (Acts 15:38)
– in Asia Minor. He had accompanied them that far – and then left them, for home.

There is one reason that stands out from the others as to why John Mark may have deserted. We find a clue
in Luke’s account when Paul and Barnabas contended over taking him with them again. Turn to Acts
chapter 15. At this time, Paul and Barnabas were back in Antioch.

[Acts 15:36-38]

v. 36-37 Paul and Barnabas had just returned to Antioch from Jerusalem; John Mark may have returned
with them from Jerusalem, or he may just have been in Antioch already.
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v. 38 Note the last part of that verse – John Mark was the one who “had not gone with them to the work”.
What was the work? It was the work that the Spirit had set Paul and Barnabas apart for – to preach the
gospel to the Gentiles.

Perhaps the reason that John Mark deserted them, the reason he had not gone with them to the work, was
that he could not come to terms with the work.

The gospel had been transitioning. Initially, all those who responded to the call were Jews. The assembly
in Jerusalem, part of which met in John Mark’s home, was essentially Jewish; Hebrew Jews and Hellenist
Jews, yes – but Jewish. Antioch had a very large Jewish population; as did Cyprus.

But as Paul and Barnabas took the gospel further and further from Jerusalem, the population was becoming
more and more Gentile – and less and less familiar to John Mark. Just imagine that welcome to the mission
fields of Asia Minor – the temple of Artemis, the queen of Perga! This was indeed pagan soil; this was
Gentile territory.

As a Jew, John Mark would have been raised with the thinking that the Gentiles were unclean; and that
contact with them made him unclean. John Mark would have heard about Cornelius and the Gentiles in
Caesarea, and that the Jews in Jerusalem, like Peter, were accepting that God was granting salvation to
Gentiles, just as to the Jews.

And John Mark would have seen the work that Paul and Barnabas were doing in Antioch, which was
largely Gentile. But John Mark had not been personally involved in establishing either of those works.

Now the work had become personal to him – and real to him – it was now his experience. And I think what
John Mark found out was that he couldn’t see Gentiles as men in need of the gospel. He saw them as
unclean Gentiles; and he shrunk from them.

But then, why would John Mark have committed himself to going with Paul and Barnabas in the first place,
into the Gentile mission fields? Because he thought he truly believed God; if contact with the Gentiles was
the issue, he thought he believed what God was showing, that there is neither Jew nor Gentile; all are one in
Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28).

But regardless of what the reason was that John Mark was deserting – you can be sure that it amounts to
just one thing. This was a failure of John Mark’s faith. Through the missionary journey, the Lord put John
Mark’s faith to the test, and it failed; it was an abject failure, because it wasn’t real.

Does this mean that John Mark didn’t have any faith in God at all – no genuine faith, in Jesus Christ? No –
not any more than Peter’s faith, when it was tested – remember? Peter did have faith in his Lord; Peter’s
problem was that he also had faith in himself.

Had the Lord tested Peter, to make him look bad? No, Love would never do that. The Lord tested Peter to
refine his faith; to get rid of that dross of self – in Peter’s case, self-reliance; self-confidence. He learned to
put his trust entirely in God.

Perhaps that was what John Mark, Peter’s student, was learning, too – for you can be sure that God was not
testing John Mark’s faith to make him look bad, either – but, like Peter, to refine his faith.
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Had John Mark learned to trust in the Lord with all his heart? Or did he, like Peter, sometimes trust
himself? Had John Mark learned to lean not on his own understanding? Or did he “reason out” that
mission trip? It seemed reasonable. Did John Mark acknowledge the Lord, in all his ways, and let the
Lord direct his path? Or did he just think this was the “right” path for him to take?

John Mark may not yet have learned these things – but he would learn these things – for God desired John
Mark to have a pure faith, without any of the dross of self-reliance, self-will, or self-motivation. And so He
desires for each of us. The Lord has too much love for us to leave us as we are; His love desires to
complete us, perfect us (Phil 1:6)

And that was what the Lord desired for John Mark; a pure faith. And the way to obtain it? Through
failure? Yes – through failure. Failure can be the greatest of teachers – if you are willing to learn from her.

Apparently, John Mark did learn from that teacher. We can read of John Mark later in Paul’s letters, where
he is portrayed as an accepted companion and coworker, during Paul’s Roman imprisonment. And Rome
couldn’t be deeper in Gentile territory, could it?

Paul wrote of John Mark and a few others at that time, “These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom
of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me” (Col 4:10-11). That’s a
glowing commendation of John Mark – from Paul, whom he had deserted! You can see that by this time,
John Mark’s failure had been converted to pure faith – by the grace of the Lord.

One final note – we have considered why John Mark may have deserted the missionaries, taking a close
look at a failure of faith – only so that we can see that failure can be a great teacher, in the hands of the
Lord – as it was for John Mark. But I want you to notice that the Holy Spirit does not give us the reason for
why John Mark deserted, and has Luke state the fact in the simplest and kindest of ways – because Love
covers.

Everyone has their failures of faith – where their faith is proved not to be genuine – and, in the failure, there
is a time in which they are alone in it, as John Mark was - they have to go through it by themselves, with
the Lord, as He chastens them (Heb 12:5-11) – but in the afterwards, the Lord often provides other
members of the Body – of His choosing, in His timing - to encourage them, in the purifying of their faith.
John Mark would later spend time again with Barnabas in Cyprus, with Peter, and as we have seen, even
with Paul, in Rome.

Let’s resume our account.

v. 14-15 The word for “departing” used in v. 13, and “departed” in v. 14, are two different words in the
Greek. In v. 13, it means “to depart from”; John Mark departed from the missionary group. In v. 14, it
means “to go through”; Paul and Barnabas passed through, to the next location.

Now, the way it’s worded in verse 14, it almost sounds like they just went from one town to the next;
actually, they did a lot of traveling to get to Antioch in Pisidia (not to be confused with Antioch in Syria,
from which they originated). Pisidian Antioch was a city located in the lake district of the Taurus
mountains of Asia Minor, 100 miles to the north, and 4000 feet in altitude!

So we see what it was that the missionaries passed through – a range of mountains. They most likely
would have taken the Roman military road that had been built about 50 years previously, the Via Augusta.
Depending on the terrain and stops, the trip might have taken them a week or more.
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Pisidian Antioch was actually located next to the region of Pisidia; it lay in Phrygia, part of the Roman
province of Galatia. This city was a civil and military center, and very cosmopolitan. It had a predominant
native Galatian population (these were originally Gauls, or Celts, from the West); as well as Phrygians,
Greeks, Jews and also Romans – there were many veterans from the Roman army that settled there.

This was Paul’s first known visit to Galatia. Paul referred to this visit in his letter to the assembly in
Galatia, stating that he preached the gospel to them at the first because of physical infirmity – that is, he
wound up preaching there because of ill-health (Gal 4:13).

What could this mean? Well, it is thought that Paul may have contracted some type of debilitating illness in
the low-lying region of Perga, and subsequently went to the higher altitudes to the north to partake of a
healthier, cooler climate, to aid his recuperation. But the Lord had an even greater recuperation in mind for
the people of Galatia, for He desired to heal them of their sin-sickness. We see the Spirit here, directing
through circumstances, to extend the gospel to the people of Galatia.

On the Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas attended the local synagogue. In that day, a meeting usually began with
prayer, then two readings of Scripture, from the Pentateuch (the Law) and the Prophets; and then there was
teaching on the Scriptures that were read – what we might call a sermon. This was known as a word of
exhortation.

The rulers of the synagogue were elders who were appointed to govern over the affairs of the synagogue.
They maintained order and flow during its meetings, and were responsible for inviting persons to read or
speak in the assembly.

Interestingly, the rulers invited Paul and Barnabas to speak a word of exhortation to the assembly; that is, to
speak concerning the Scriptures that were read. No doubt, they could see that these men were newcomers,
and that they were not from this region – perhaps this was their way of extending a hospitable welcome to
them – or to find out more about these strangers.

So Paul and Barnabas were given the opportunity to speak on the Scriptures that were just read. Now, we
don’t know which exact Scriptures were read that day – but does that matter? Who are the Scriptures all
about? Israel’s Messiah. And who do Paul and Barnabas want to speak about? Israel’s Messiah. No
doubt, the connection was there, to be made; and the Holy Spirit directed Paul to make that connection for
this group in Pisidian Antioch.

v.16 Paul probably stood at the bema, or pulpit, where the readings of the Scriptures were given. He
motioned for silence, then began to address the congregation. There were the men of Israel, of course – the
Jews; there were also those who “fear God” – literally, God-fearers.

You may remember from our study of Cornelius that a God-fearer was a common term used by the Jews for
Gentiles who had abandoned their pagan religion in favor of worshiping the God of Israel. They were
distinguished from full proselytes of Judaism in that they chose to remain uncircumcised. We know from
later in the passage that proselytes were present as well (v. 43). So Paul’s audience consisted of both Jews
and Gentiles.

Now, Paul’s address is most likely presented here in abbreviated form, by Luke; Paul would have cited and
explained more Scripture, and given more detail concerning Jesus, than we see recorded here. It would
seem that Luke is just giving us the highlights of what Paul said – after all, scrolls are only so long. But the
Spirit gives what is needed, here.
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Does Paul’s address to the synagogue remind you of anything? Perhaps Stephen’s address to the
Sanhedrin? For Stephen also gave a retrospective of the history of Israel. This was a common device used
in that day, to communicate a certain theme, and to show its support in Scripture.

In reviewing Paul’s words, perhaps we could say his theme – that is, the Holy Spirit’s theme – to this
audience is God’s plan to send a Deliverer to Israel. In it, we see the history taken from the Scriptures –
how God worked to prepare for the Deliverer, and how His coming was prophesied; then Paul tells of the
fulfillment of the Scriptures - the good news that the Deliverer has come; and finally, Paul shows how this
Deliverer could deliver any man from his sins – by believing in Him.

First, Paul gave some history, always showing the grace of God in His dealings with Israel.

v. 17 Paul spoke first of the creation of the nation Israel, from whom God would bring forth His Deliverer
– their Messiah. God chose the forefathers of the nation Israel, beginning with the call of Abraham out of
Ur of the Chaldees, out of idolatry (Gen 12:1-3). As God revealed Himself to Abraham, culminating in His
revelation of the Coming One, the Christ, Abraham believed God – and it was accounted to him for
righteousness (Gen 15:6).

It was in Isaac that Abraham’s seed, the nation Israel, would be called (Gen 21:12); and the nation was then
elected in Jacob (Rm 9:11), from whom came the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Each of the
forefathers chose for themselves to believe God as He revealed Himself to them, and in so doing, God
chose them to establish His covenant with them – the eternal covenant, based on His Christ.

The Promised Seed, the Christ, was prophesied to come through the nation Israel (Gen 3:15); but in the
land to which God had called Abraham, the land of Canaan, the purity of the family of Jacob was
threatened by intermarriage with the idolatrous Canaanite tribes. So God brought Jacob’s family down into
Egypt, among a people that would shun them as an abominable people (Genesis 46:34). Sequestered there
in the land of Goshen, the family of Jacob grew into a nation.

But Egypt had become too comfortable for the children of Israel; so as the time approached for God to
bring His nation back into the land, He had to create a means to encourage them to come out of Egypt. He
did so through a series of Egyptian kings who deceived the children of Israel into becoming indebted to the
Egyptians – to the point that they became enslaved (Ex 1:8-11).

Afflicted with hard bondage, the people cried out for deliverance; and God came to their rescue with
Moses. God showing Himself mighty on behalf of His people, through the judgment of the ten plagues that
affected Egypt, and by the deliverance of His people through the Red Sea.

Notice that Paul was rehearsing the history of Israel from the perspective of the gracious way that God had
dealt with his nation. Paul didn’t mention that the nation never responded in belief to God, for that was not
his emphasis, unlike Stephen.

This was not an indictment of the nation. The Spirit was wooing these listeners with the many
lovingkindnesses that God had shown to His nation, and was showing them that God had always been
planning to bring forth a Savior from them, who would save His people.

Paul continued with the history of the nation.

v. 18-20 the phrase “put up with their ways” can mean “to endure the ways of”, which God certainly did
with the unbelief of His people in the wilderness, but that is not the emphasis here.
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Paul is most likely referring back to a verse in Deuteronomy that the Jews would be familiar with, which
uses the same word in the Septuagint. Turn to Deuteronomy chapter 1. Moses was recounting to Israel
their history in the wilderness. He came to the point where spies went into the land, and the people were
afraid to go in, because of the inhabitants that were described to them.

[Deuteronomy 1:29-31] In verse 31, the word “carried” is the same word in the Septuagint as in our
passage in Acts. Paul was not saying that the LORD put up with Israel; he was saying that the LORD carried
Israel; He sustained them, while they were in the wilderness.

This would call to mind all of the provisions that the LORD made for Israel, such as water from the rock, and
manna from heaven; as well as the LORD’s protection for Israel against her enemies. Again, Paul’s emphasis
was on how the LORD cared for His nation; His lovingkindness to them.

[Return to Acts]

After forty years, the first generation of Israel out of Egypt had all died in the wilderness (with the
exception of Caleb and Joshua). Then the LORD took His people into the land under the leadership of
Joshua. Israel learned that in their obedience, God gave them the victory over their enemies, resulting in
the defeat of seven enemy nations, greater and mightier than themselves, in the land of Canaan (Deut 7:1).

God gave each of the tribes of Israel an inheritance of land, which each was to go in and possess; but we
learn in the book of Judges that they did not drive out all the former inhabitants of the land. The LORD had
warned them that if they did not obey Him completely, and drive out all their enemies, they would prove to
be thorns in Israel’s side, and their gods would be a snare for Israel (Judges 2:3) – and so they were.

As Israel followed after these false gods, the LORD severely chastened them at the hands of their enemies;
but then He had compassion on them, and raised up judges to deliver them from their enemies. Paul once
again passed over Israel’s failure, and merely mentioned the time frame – 450 years – because his emphasis
was on the LORD’s faithful dealings with Israel. The last of those judges was Samuel the prophet.

v. 21-22 During the days when Samuel judged Israel, the Philistines, a great enemy of Israel, was
subdued, and Israel had a brief respite of peace (1 Sam 7:13-14). But when Samuel grew old, he made his
sons judges over Israel – and they perverted justice (1 Sam 8:3).

The elders of Israel came to Samuel, and demanded a king to judge them – like all the other nations.
Although Samuel was displeased, the LORD indicated it was not a rejection of Samuel – but of the LORD –
that He should not reign over them (1 Sam 8:4-7). Nonetheless, the LORD gave them a king after their own
heart – just like all the other nations.

The LORD has Samuel anoint Saul, son of Kish, as their king – a grand man to look at on the outside, but
inside? No heart for God; no heart to obey; just a heart to serve himself – just like the kings of all the other
nations.

We learn here that Saul was king over Israel for 40 years. What does the number 40 signify, in Scripture?
It’s the number of testing. The LORD tested Saul over a period of 40 years as king, and he failed the test, for
he would not submit himself to the LORD. So the LORD took away His anointing from Saul as king, and
instead had Samuel anoint a man after God’s own heart – David.
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Turn to First Samuel chapter 13. Saul’s first act of disobedience to the LORD was to offer the LORD burnt
and peace offerings, which only the priest was permitted to offer. When Samuel learned what Saul had
done, he issued the LORD’s judgment.

[1 Samuel 13:13-14]

v. 13-14 Now, in our account in Acts, Luke recorded Paul’s words as “I have found David, a son of Jesse,
a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). It is not uncommon when Scripture was
quoted to blend several passages together, creating a kind of telescopic summary – but the last part of the
verse “who will do all My will” was never spoken for David.

Why did Paul add it? He was leading up to the One who would come of David’s loins – a ruler who would
be a new and greater David – the Son of David – Israel’s Messiah. It is He who would do all the LORD’s
will – in perfect obedience to His Father – so that He could be the perfectly acceptable sacrifice for sin –
the good shepherd, who would lay down His life for the sheep (Jn 10:11), and then take it up again, and
become the Shepherd-King of Israel.

So next week, we’ll see how Paul shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to raise up a Savior
from David’s seed – and how Jesus fulfilled all the Scriptures concerning Messiah – and then we’ll see the
response of the people.

Next week, read 2 Sam 7, Psalm 2, 16.