Relevant Verses: Acts 13-14:26
Leading Question: All three of Paul’s so-called “missionary journeys” started in Antioch. Why were the believers in this city so supportive of these missionary endeavors?
1. According to Acts 13, the impetus for Paul’s first missionary journey came from the Holy Spirit during a corporate time of worship and fasting.
Is there still value in corporate fasting? If so, why don’t we participate in it more often?
In this chapter, we again see the body of believers laying their hands on individuals as they begin a new ministry or task (Acts 6:6, 13:3). Is this “laying on of hands” an official administrative action of some sort? Is this a case of ordination?
Paul and Barnabas were sent off on a journey that involved about 1,500 miles of travel. What were the key locations and events that took place on this journey? What was travel like at this time in history?
We ought to notice that Cyprus was the first stop on the journey. Barnabas, Paul’s traveling companion, was from Cyprus. What are the advantages of “going to one’s own” with the gospel? What are the disadvantages?
2. While on the island of Cyprus, we find that Paul and Barnabas first preached in a Jewish synagogue before they turned to the Gentiles.
Why did they use this strategy, both here and in most places where they visited?
On Cyprus, we find a striking difference in the way people received their message. Sergius Paulus, the local Roman governor, responds positively to the message, while the Jewish sorcerer, Bar-Jesus (also known as Elymas) opposes them. The lesson quarterly notes that sometimes, those of other religions are more open to the Advent message compared to fellow Christians. Is this the case? If so, why?
3. In Acts 13:13-52, the story shifts from Cyprus to Pisidian Antioch. As the lesson quarterly points out, there are two changes that we should note. First, the text begins to refer consistently to Saul by another name, Paul. (This change was first introduced in Acts 12:9). Second, John Mark, who was traveling with Paul and Barnabas as their “helper”, leaves them and returns to Jerusalem. What is the significance of each of these events?
4. Paul’s sermon to the synagogue is recorded in Acts 13:15-43. Notice that Paul gives God the credit for all that happens. Over and over again in his message, he emphasizes the initiative of God. In just verses 17-19, Paul reminds his audience that God chose, God made, God led, God overthrew, and God gave.
To what degree does God take the initiative in history? Does he control what happens? Should he receive all the credit for the good, but none of the blame for the bad?
Paul concludes by stating that forgiveness and justification are only available through Jesus, and not “from the law of Moses” (vs 39). How would this have sounded to Jewish ears? What does it mean for us?
5. At Iconium (Acts 14:1-7) those opposed to Paul and Barnabas plot to stone them. They fled, however, to Lystra and Derbe.
Why? Should we flee from an area if we face hardship and danger? Do we keep silent in order to preserve our lives, or do we speak out, even in the face of persecution, as John the Baptist did?
Is there a difference between the “fleeing” of John Mark to Jerusalem and the “fleeing” of Paul and Barnabas a short while later?
6. In Lystra and Derbe, the healing of a crippled man led the local people to conclude that Paul and Barnabas were the gods Zeus and Hermes, in human form. Paul clarifies that this is not the case, but then makes a declaration that is somewhat contrary to the modern Christian view. In Christian witnessing, it is common to assert that sin separates us from God and keeps us from experiencing true joy. Yet, Paul tells the pagans that God had shown kindness to them and had provided them with food. Additionally, Paul proclaimed to the people that it was God who “fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17).
Is this the case? Can a worshiper of Zeus or Hermes have a heart full of God-given joy, even though they do not know or worship the true God? If so, what are the implications of this? Should our evangelistic message focus on God as distant, or God as near?