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Saul and Barnabas are called to a special task

13 1-2 Now there were in the Church at Antioch both prophets and teachers—Barnabas, for example, Simeon surnamed Niger Lucius the Cyrenian Manaen the foster-brother of the governor Herod and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them, saying, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for a task to which I have called them.”

At this, after further fasting and prayer, they laid their hands on them and set them free for this work.

4-11a So these two, sent at the Holy Spirit’s command, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed off to Cyprus. On their arrival at Salamis they began to proclaim God’s message in the Jewish synagogues, having John as their assistant. As they made their way through the island as far as Paphos they came across a man named Bar-Jesus, a Jew who was both a false prophet and a magician. This man was attached to Sergius Paulus, the proconsul, who was himself a man of intelligence. He sent for Barnabas and Saul as he was anxious to hear God’s message. But Elymas the magician (for that is the translation of his name), opposed them doing his best to dissuade the proconsul from accepting the faith. Then Saul (who is also called Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit, eyed him closely and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all true goodness, you monster of trickery and evil, is it not time you gave up trying to pervert the truth of the Lord? Now listen, the Lord himself will touch you, for some time you will not see the light of the sun—you will be blind!”

11b-12 Immediately a mist and then utter blackness came over his eyes, and he went round trying to find someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened he believed, for he was shaken to the core at the Lord’s teaching.

Saul (now Paul) comes to Antioch in Pisidia

13-15 Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and went to Perga in Pamphylia. There John left them and turned back to Jerusalem, but they continued their journey through Perga to the Antioch in Pisidia. They went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and took their seats. After the reading of the Law and Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent to them with a message, “Men and brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, by all means speak.”

Paul shows the Jews where their history leads

16-22 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, began: “Men of Israel and all of you who fear God, listen to me. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and prospered the people while they were exiles in the land of Egypt. Then he lifted up his arm and led them out of that land. Yes, and he bore with them for forty years in the desert. He destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan before he gave them that land as their inheritance for some four hundred and fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then when they begged for a king God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, to be their king for forty years. After he deposed him he raised David to the throne, a man of whom God himself bore testimony in the words, ‘I have found David .... the son of Jesse .... a man after my own heart, who will do all my will.’

23-25 From the descendants of this man, according to his promise, God has brought Jesus to Israel to be their saviour. John came before him to prepare his way preaching the baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. Indeed, as John reached the end of his time he said these words: ‘What do you think I am? I am not he. But know this, someone comes after me whose shoe-lace I am not fit to untie!’ .

Now the message is urgent and contemporary

26-33 “Men and brothers, sons of the race of Abraham, and all among you who fear God, it is to us that this message of salvation has now been sent! For the people of Jerusalem and their rulers refused to recognise him and to understand the voice of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day—even though in condemning him they fulfilled these very prophecies! For though they found no cause for putting him to death, they begged Pilate to have him executed. And when they had completed everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead. For many days he was seen by those who had come up from Galilee to Jerusalem with him, and these men are now his witnesses to the people. And as for us we tell you the good news that the promise made to our forefathers has come true—that, in raising up Jesus, God has fulfilled it for us their children. This is endorsed in the second psalm: ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you.’

34 And as for the fact of God’s raising him from the dead, never to return to corruption, he has spoken in these words: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’

35 And then going further he says in another psalm, ‘You will not allow your holy one to see corruption.’

36-41 For David, remember, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his ancestors. He did in fact ‘see corruption’, but this man whom God raised never saw corruption! It is therefore imperative, men and brothers, that every one of you should realise that forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you through this man. And through faith in him a man is absolved from all those things from which the Law of Moses could never set him free. Take care then that this saying of the prophets should never apply to you: ‘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.’”

Paul succeeds in arousing deep interest—

42-43 As they were going out the people kept on asking them to say all this again on the following Sabbath. After the meeting of the synagogue broke up many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas who spoke personally to them and urged them to put their trust in the grace of God.

—but a week later he meets bitter opposition

44-47 On the next Sabbath almost the entire population of the city assembled to hear the message of God, but when the Jews saw the crowds they were filled with jealousy and contradicted what Paul was saying, covering him with abuse. At this Paul and Barnabas did not mince their words but said, “We felt it our duty to speak the message of God to you first, but since you spurn it and evidently do not think yourselves fit for eternal life, watch us now as we turn to the Gentiles! Indeed the Lord has commanded us to do so with the words: ‘I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48-50 When the Gentiles heard this they were delighted and thanked God for his message. All those who were destined for eternal life believed, and the Word of the Lord spread over the whole country. But the Jews worked upon the feelings of religious and respectable women and some of the leading citizens, and succeeded in starting a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from the district.

51-52 But they on their part simply shook off the dust from their feet in protest and went on to Iconium. And the disciples continued to be full of joy and the Holy Spirit.