The Antiochan Model of a Biblical Church (Part 2)
(Please ensure you read ALL the verses mentioned to get the maximum benefit of this message)
TEXT: Acts 13:1-12
THE PLACES VISITED & PEOPLE MET: 4b-11
They were sent and they went. The Local Church prays and commits itself to the people being sent and the missionary enterprise. The Church cannot be passively involved. But those sent must GO!
Accompanying them was John Mark. He was a native of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and was Barnabas’s cousin (Col. 4:10). When Saul and Barnabas returned to Antioch from Jerusalem after delivering relief aid, John Mark came with them (Acts 12:25). Later he leaves and that offends Paul who then refuses to have him as part of the missionary team
A .The Names of The Cities Visited: 4b-6a
This Team went to several places. As we trace these visits we will observe their importance and exactly what transpired in each place. This will help us understand Paul’s method of missionary work.
Seleucia was the port city of Antioch of Syria, some sixteen miles west of Antioch and four or five miles northeast of the mouth of the Orontes River. Seleucus I Nicator, the first king of the Seleucid dynasty, founded it about 300 B.C. in conjunction with the founding of Antioch. The missionaries may have gone by road or traveled by boat down the Orontes to Seleucia. The text doesn’t indicate any gospel work done in this place – they seemed to have just transited from here to Cyprus.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, after Sicily and Sardinia, of great importance from very early times, being situated on the shipping lanes between Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. It is about 60 miles off the Syrian coast and was visible from Seleucia. The main part of the island is 90 to 100 miles long and up to 60 miles wide. It had two major cities – Paphos the capital and Salamis, the chief port and commercial centre. In 57 B.C. it was annexed by Rome from Egypt and in 55 B.C. incorporated into the province of Cilicia. In 27 B.C. it became a separate province governed on behalf of the emperor Augustus by an imperial legate. In 22 B.C. Augustus relinquished its control to the senate, and, like other senatorial provinces, a proconsul administered it.
It was a two-day journey from Antioch and had a large Jewish population. It was Barnabas’s hometown and Saul and Barnabas may have chosen to begin their missionary outreach there for this reason. It is in Salamis however that the gospel is preached.
As already mentioned this was the chief port and commercial centre of Cyprus. It was situated on the eastern coast of Cyprus, about 130 miles from Seleucia and was the most important city of the island and the administrative centre for its eastern half, though the provincial capital was 90 miles southwest at Paphos. The population of Cyprus was dominantly Greek, but many Jews lived there as well
Paul’s custom was to preach to the Jews first whenever he entered a new city (cf. v. 14, 42; 14:1; 17:1, 10, 17; 18:4, 19, 26; 19:8).
Paphos was more exactly, New Paphos, and being the Roman provincial capital was the seat of the Roman government. It was situated seven miles northwest of the old Phoenician city of Paphos. It also was a great centre for the worship of Aphrodite (Venus), and thus a hotbed for all kinds of immorality. The greatest festival in Cyprus in honour of Aphrodite was the Aphrodisia, held for three days each spring. Great crowds attended it not only from all parts of Cyprus but also from surrounding countries. “Extensive religious prostitution accompanied [Aphrodite’s] rites at Paphos” It was here the missionary Team makes an impact after facing a challenge.
Note that though they visited a lot of places they preached in some and met people who they specifically dealt with in only specific cities. Some scholars make much of strategy, planning and goals. I see more of a spiritual dynamic in Paul’s method and note that he was very dependent on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and spoke as God made opportunities available.
Beware of human efforts and strategies in Missionary efforts and Church-planting.
B. The People They Met: 6b-11
The missionary team had by now traversed the whole island from Salamis in the northeast corner as far as Paphos on the southwest coast. It was in Paphos that they encountered a challenge to the Gospel –
- A Jew named Bar-Jesus who was a sorcerer and a false prophet.
Interestingly Bar-Jesus means “son of salvation”. Unfortunately he was a deceiving false prophet. As is common with evil men desiring power and control, he had attached himself to the Roman proconsul. The Devil is eager to control governments. Much of the wickedness and corruption of this evil world is because of “the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12; cf. Dan. 10:13-11:1). He was also called Elymas. Elymas is the Greek transliteration of an Arabic word for “magician”
He opposed Barnabas and Saul and was committed not to allow the Proconsul to be influenced by them and their teaching. Saul (not Barnabas) rebuked him and brought about God’s judgment on him. Dolos (deceit) is the Greek word for “a snare.” Radiourgias (fraud) appears only here in the New Testament. It meant originally, “ease or facility in doing; hence readiness in turning
the hand to anything, bad or good; and so recklessness, unscrupulousness, wickedness”.
Paul accused Bar-Jesus as being a son of the devil. What a travesty of a good name! Paul pronounces temporary blindness on this man as a punishment for his evil works and intentions.
He was one of the first Anti-Christs mentioned in the NT (see 1 Jn. 4:1). “Sorcerer”, in this context, means “magician.” Originally Magos (magician) had no evil connotation but later came to include all kinds of occult practitioners and dabblers in evil. In Matt. 2:1 it is used of the wise men that visited Jesus. The term originally referred to the hereditary priestly tribe within the Median nation. They were well versed in astronomy and astrology, agriculture, mathematics, and history. They were involved in various occult practices and were famous for their ability to interpret dreams (cf. Dan. 2:1ff.). No Persian ruler came to power without their approval. Bar-Jesus, being Jewish, obviously was not one of the Medo-Persian magi.
- A proconsul, Sergius Paulus:
He was an intelligent man who was a Roman official and served as the provincial governor. Possibly he was the Lucius Sergius Paulus known to have been one of the curators of the Tiber during the reign of Claudius (cf. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 6.4.2, No. 31545). If so, he probably went to Cyprus as proconsul after his curatorship in Rome (cf. BC, 5:458). He sent for Barnabas and Saul and the reason given was that he was interested in the Word of God. What a great example of a hungry seeker after truth and knowledge of God. We need to keep our hearts, ears and eyes open for such persons God has prepared from the receiving of His Word. So often we miss seeing people like this and serving them.
THE PROCONSUL’S CONVERSION: 12
Notice the basis of the Proconsul’s faith in Christ is both seeing what was done and the teaching of the Lord. The temporary blindness demonstrated to the Roman officer that Paul was indeed a man of God and the God was with him enabling him to perform powerfully. The teaching explained to the Roman the exact truths that he needed to trust in for salvation and a relationship with the One True God.
The main point of this account of the visit to Cyprus ending in Paphos is to record the conversion of Sergius Paulus. There is evidence outside of Scripture that this was a true conversion. The great nineteenth-century archaeologist Sir William Ramsay “argued from other literary sources that Sergia Paulla, the proconsul’s daughter, was a Christian, as was her son Gaius Caristanius Fronto, the first citizen of Pisidian Antioch to enter the Roman senate” (Richard N. Longenecker, “The Acts of the Apostles,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981], 9:421; cf. E. M. Blaiklock, The Archaeology of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977], 107; J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 392).
The Church is called to be a missionary Church. The leaders of the Church are obligated to lead in this matter. The leaders are to be conscious of the Holy Spirit’s directions. The local Church must be willing to send her best men out – release them for spreading the Word of God to regions beyond their boundaries. There will be men like Bar-Jesus and Sergius Paulus. We need to confront such men and reach those whom God has prepared for salvation.