Paul is Called on His First Missionary Journey (Acts 13)

We left off in the last lesson with Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark (who wrote the Gospel of Mark) going from Jerusalem to Antioch of Syria. (Notice we’ll see another city named Antioch that they travel to in this chapter. There were actually 16 different cities named Antioch in the New Testament world. All were named by King Seleucus of Syria for his father Antiochus.)

    Vs 1-2 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. 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.”

Is your calling different than your job?

What was King David’s job? He was a shepherd before he was called to be king.

    And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” ~1 Samuel 16:11-12

What was Jesus’ job? He was a carpenter until he was called to preach to the Jews and die for all mankind.

    And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
    ~Mark 6:2-3

Notice that a job pays the bills, and it may be what God has called you to do to serve him and to give him glory with your life. But a calling is not necessarily the same thing as a job. David was a shepherd. He was called by God to leave that job and become a king. Jesus was a carpenter just like His earthly father Joseph. However, when He was 30 years old, Jesus was called from carpentry (His job) to preach and teach for 3 years before sacrificing His life for mankind.

So what was Paul’s job? He was a tentmaker.

    After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. ~Acts 18:1-3

Even after he was called to preach, Paul kept making tents once in a while to pay the bills. Currently I work in the real estate industry. My job pays the bills and takes care of my family, both things that God wants me to do. But I am also called to teach Sunday School at church. I love teaching kids about Jesus, I’m passionate about it. I feel called by God in that.

    Vs 3-12 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 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. 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, 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. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 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? 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. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Two more callings

Here we see two more callings:
First we see as the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, “called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.” God called Barnabas and Saul by the Holy Spirit working in Sergius Paulus to come preach to him. Many times God uses other people in our lives to reveal His calling. Sometimes they are simply affirming the call, other times those folks are being used as a tool by God to say “come”.

Second, we see the Holy Spirit calling on Sergius Paulus to come to repentance in Jesus. “Then the proconsul believed….being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” Jesus is calling each of us to repentance, mercy, and grace in Him. Sergius Paulus heard the call of God in his life, the tug of Jesus on his heart, and he believed. He came to find salvation that day!

    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. ~2 Peter 3:9

    For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. ~Matthew 9:13b

    So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ~Acts 16:31

Repentance and belief in Jesus’ death & resurrection for us (and therefore salvation) is a calling from God for every one of us.

Preaching in Antioch

    Vs 13-15 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. 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.”

Here we see Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark arrive in Antioch of Pisidia (a different Antioch than the previous city – this one being in Galatia or modern day Turkey). The rulers of this synagogue have asked Paul and Barnabas to teach them.

    16-25 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: “The God of this 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. Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 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. 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.’ From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus—after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 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 begins his sermon by recounting the history of the Jewish people. This would have been a history they all knew. God has woven together His Word to constantly remind us of how He works in us, through us, and for us. He’s doing that right here with the Jews. Paul is reminding them of what a great and awesome God they serve.

    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    ~2 Timothy 3:16-17

    For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. ~Romans 15:4

Paul is also reminding them that a Savior was prophesied, the Savior is Jesus, and John the Baptist pointed the way to Christ as Savior.

    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God. ~John 1:29, 34

John humbly points to Jesus as Savior rather than allowing people to look to Him. There’s a lesson for us all! Paul is doing this here as well.

    Vs 26-37 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. 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. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead.

    He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’

    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.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.

Again, Paul is reinforcing the truth that Jesus was sent to them as a Savior: “to you the word of this salvation has been sent” (vs 26). Also that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Promise of God: “that promise which was made to the fathers”.

    Vs 38-41 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon 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.”

The prophets also prophesied that the Jews would not believe and many in fact had not. Paul is giving them a warning here from Habakkuk 1:5.

Rejection by the Jews and the Gentiles believe

    Vs 42-51 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 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. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.

    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. 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.’ ”

    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. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 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. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium.

Paul’s earlier warning was that the Jews watch out for they might fulfill the prophecy of Jewish rejection of Jesus. Here we see them do just that! In fact, Jesus was even rejected as Savior while He was still in His earthly ministry:

    Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

    But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching. ~Mark 6:1-6

In fulfillment of the words of the prophet Habakkuk, among God’s chosen people to whom the Promise was given, He was not accepted as the Savior.

    Vs 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

When we are fulfilling God’s call in our lives, we are “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit”. There is so much joy and fulfillment in following God’s call, nothing else can compare to it!

    Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. ~Philippians 3:8

Related Resources:

The Messenger of the Covenant


Effectual Calling, a great sermon by Charles Spurgeon

7 thoughts on “Paul is Called on His First Missionary Journey (Acts 13)

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