Acts 13 Commentary


Zeal of the church in Antioch (13:1-3)

The church at Antioch, which was the first Gentile church, was also the first church to see its responsibility to send off missionaries to distant places. It became the ‘jumping off point’ for the establishment of other churches. For this purpose it decided to send off its two most gifted and experienced leaders, Barnabas and Saul (now to be called by his Roman name, Paul). The church showed its identification with the missionaries as its representatives in the simple ceremony of the church leaders’ placing their hands on them and committing them to God (13:1-3).

Preaching in Cyprus (13:4-12)

Barnabas and Paul took with them as their young assistant John Mark, a relative of Barnabas who had come back with them from Jerusalem (see 12:12,25; Col 4:10). (John Mark was probably the young man mentioned in Mark 14:51-52. Later he wrote the book known as Mark’s Gospel.) The three sailed for Cyprus, the home of Barnabas, and immediately began preaching in the synagogues (4-5). They headed west for the provincial capital of Paphos, preaching the gospel from one end of the island to the other.

One result of their preaching was that the governor of the island believed, in spite of the efforts of a local Jewish magician (who also claimed to be a prophet) to persuade him otherwise (6-12).

To Antioch in Pisidia (13:13-52)

When the trio arrived at Perga on the mainland of Asia Minor, John Mark, for some unknown reason, left the other two and returned to Jerusalem. Paul considered this a serious failure on Mark’s part (13; see 15:38).

From Perga, Paul and Barnabas moved north into the province of Galatia and came to the town of Antioch, often referred to as Pisidian Antioch to distinguish it from Antioch in Syria. There they preached in the synagogue just as they had done in the towns of Cyprus (14-16). (Before the time of the Roman Empire, Asia Minor consisted of a collection of small independent states. When the Romans took control, they redivided the area to form a lesser number of Roman provinces. The large central province that they named Galatia included within it the region of Pisidia and parts of the former kingdoms of Phrygia and Lycaonia.)

Paul’s address to the synagogue audience was similar to the addresses of Peter and Stephen (see notes on 2:14-42; 7:1-53). He began by outlining the history of Israel, showing that the promised Saviour had come in the person of Jesus Christ (17-25). Although the Jews in Jerusalem rejected and killed Jesus (26- 29), God raised him from death to show openly that he was the promised Son of David, the great Messiah (30-37). All who repented of their sins and believed in him would find forgiveness and salvation (38-41).

The audience, which consisted of Jews along with Gentile proselytes and God-fearers, responded well to the message. These people did not usually hear such an exposition of the Scriptures, and they looked forward to hearing more (42-43).

Next week almost the entire population of Antioch came to the synagogue to hear the missionaries preach. This made the Jews jealous and angry. They feared that the missionaries were stealing their Gentile converts by offering an easier religion, one that promised salvation through faith without regard for the Jewish law (44-45). Paul and Barnabas replied that God’s plan was for Israel to carry his message of salvation to the Gentiles, and for this reason the missionaries preached the gospel to the Jews first. But if the Jews would not accept salvation, how could they preach it to the Gentiles? Therefore, Paul and Barnabas turned from the Jews and offered it to the Gentiles direct (46-47).


The missionaries’ straightforward words and the Gentiles’ ready response angered the Jews even more, and they drove the two men from the city. Yet the converts, being true disciples, not only stood firm for God after the missionaries departed, but spread the gospel throughout the region (48-52).

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