bible study

Bible Study: Acts 13

Chapter 13: Acts 13: 1-52, Paul’s first missionary journey, Part 1


Heavenly Father, we pray for calm and stillness as we come before You in Your throne room of grace. We pray for inspiration and empowerment to serve in the kingdom. We pray for lives surrendered to You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

V 1-3, 1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

The camera angle shifted from the church at Jerusalem to the church at Antioch of Syria, the missionary base for Barnabas and Saul. Greek for church is ecclesia which means “the called-out ones”. The church is not a building but a congregation of the believers called out by God.

The Antioch church had prophets, teachers, and leaders from diverse ethnicity and background. As they worshiped and prayed, the Holy Spirit handpicked Barnabas and Saul to start a missionary journey. The leaders fasted, prayed, laid hands and sent them on their way.

Paul was saved on the Damascus road, secluded from the limelight for 3 years in the Arabian desert, 7 years in Tarsus, and served in Antioch for 1 year. Paul was ready to start his first missionary trip, 11 years, after his Damascus Road conversion.

VV 4-5, 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.

Barnabas and Saul took John Mark as their assistant. John Mark was a cousin of Barnabas, the son of Mary, a disciple of Peter, and the author of Mark’s gospel. Their first stop was Seleucia. From Seleucia, they traveled to Salamis in the Island of Cyprus, where they preached Christ in the local Jewish synagogues.

VV 6-8, 6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

Still, on the Island of Cyprus, they traveled from Salamis to Paphos and encountered a Jewish false prophet and sorcerer called Bar-Jesus or Elymas, who was closely associated with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. Elymas opposed Barnabas and Saul and tried to prevent the proconsul from hearing the gospel.

VV 9-12, 9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Here, Saul changed his name to Paul. Paul is the Greek equivalent of the word Saul in Hebrew, just as Dorcas is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Tabitha. Paul rebuked Elymas for opposing God. Paul called Elymas a deceiver, son of the devil, and enemy of righteousness. Paul cursed him with blindness and he was struck blind. The proconsul was amazed and believed in the Lord.

Paul, a Hellenist, Greek-speaking Jew was also a Roman citizen by birth, because his parents were Roman citizens.

VV 13-14, 13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia, and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.

They left the Island of Cyprus and sailed north from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia, in Galatia. Here, John Mark left the mission field and returned to Jerusalem. Barnabas and Paul traveled north from Perga, arrived at Antioch in Pisidia, and preached the gospel in the synagogue on a Sabbath day.

V 15, 15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”

The ruler of the synagogue allowed Barnabas and Paul to speak.

VV 16-25, 16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen, 17 The God of these people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. 18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. 19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.20 “After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they asked for a king, so 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 for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior, Jesus, 24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.’

Paul stood up and preached an expository sermon to the Jews and the Gentiles god-fearers. Paul narrated the history of the Jewish nation from the patriarchs entering Egypt, exodus out of Egypt. 40 years of wilderness wandering, entry into Canaan, rule under the judges, prophet Samuel, King Saul, King David, Jesus, the Messiah, to John the Baptist.

VV 26-30, 26 “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead.

The Old Testament prophets prophesied the coming Jesus Christ, the Saviour, whom God sent. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem did not believe in Him. They sent Him to the Romans for crucifixion on the cross and buried Him in a tomb, but God raised Him up from the dead on the third day.

VV 31-37, 31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. 32 And we declare to you glad tidings, that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the Psalm, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ 34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus, ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ 36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.

The disciples witnessed the resurrected Christ in Galilee and Jerusalem. King David prophesied the resurrection of Christ in Psalms 16:10.

Psalm 16:10, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption’’.

VV 38-41, 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins, 39 and by Him, everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you, 41 ‘Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.’ ”

Jesus Christ is the forgiver of sins and the justifier of everyone who believes in Him whom the law could not do. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus, Romans 5:1. The law is a schoolmaster, a tutor, who pointed people to Christ. Paul quoted Habakkuk 1:5.

Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’’.

Habakkuk 1:5, “Look among the nations and watch, Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days, Which you would not believe, though it were told you, you need to change or you will perish’’.

VV 42-43, 42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

From 13:43, the hierarchy of leadership changed from Barnabas and Saul to Paul and Barnabas. This signified a change in missionary leadership from Barnabas to Paul. Barnabas voluntarily took on a backseat role in favour of Paul.

VV 44-45, 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.

On the next Sabbath, the whole city came to listen to Paul and Barnabas. The Jews were jealous because their popularity ranking was declining rapidly. They opposed Paul and Barnabas in every possible way.

VV 46-52, 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first, but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ 48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Paul and Barnabas declared with boldness that since the Jews rejected the gospel, they would take the gospel to the Gentiles. The Gentiles rejoiced, glorified God, and many believed, and the gospel spread throughout the region. But the hostile Jews persecuted and expelled Paul and Barnabas from Antioch of Pisidia. They shook the dust off their feet, left the city, and came to Iconium. At Iconium, the disciples were joyful and filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6. You may want to refer to a map on Paul’s first missionary journey and follow the different places. This map is easily available from the internet.

Isaiah 49:6 b, “I will give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”


Jesus Christ is the forgiver of sins and the justifier of everyone who believes in Him. Christ did what the law could not do. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus.

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”.

Paul preached so well because he was so saturated with the Holy Spirit and scriptures. He quoted scriptures and narrated stories from scriptures without any difficulties. Are you saturated with the Holy Spirit? Are you saturated with scriptures?


Heavenly Father, thank You Paul’s powerful sermon. We pray for the ability to preach like Paul and Peter. We pray to be saturated by the Holy Spirit and by scriptures. We pray for clear minds and concentration, in Jesus’ name, Amen.