Read Acts 13 at Bible Gateway.
Now the death of Herod Agrippa I, recorded in the last chapter, took place in 44 AD. When Saul and Barnabas returned to Antioch from Jerusalem, they brought with them John Mark, whose mother’s house Peter went to when he was released from prison in the last chapter. This is the same Mark, we believe, who wrote Mark’s gospel. The scholars think that the journey of Paul and Barnabas to Cyprus took place in 48 AD, so for four years John Mark was with them in Antioch, learning and being discipled.
God has a call on our lives and a purpose, but He does allow time for growth and training. And even when you start out and get your feet wet, if you end up going home for whatever reason as John Mark did (notice he went home to Jerusalem – to his mother’s house – not Antioch, where he had lived for four years. It makes one wonder if there was a falling out) it does not mean your ministry is over. It just means, more growth and more training get to take place, LOL. The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).
Isn’t it amazing? God knows us intimately, our every flaw and weakness, and He still chooses to work through us to accomplish His great plan in the earth. We are a light shining in the darkness, in spite of ourselves!
Their first stop was Cyprus. They went to the synagogues of the Jews first. I think we will see this pattern repeated throughout Acts: whenever Paul went to a new area with the Gospel, he went to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles. In fact, he says that it was necessary for the Word of God to be spoken to the Jews first (vs. 46). Why? Because Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, and they are the chosen people. It is their covenant that God renewed in Jesus, and their special relationship with God that He is opening up to include the nations, with Israel (Rom 11:17, Eph 2:11-13). In fact, this is a principle of evangelism the Church has long since abandoned, and that might have been a mistake. Going to Israel first with the Gospel is kind of like honoring God with the tithe or giving Him the first part of our day – it puts first things first, in order to show honor to God, which He always honors in return.
When Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, Paul stood up and preached to the men of Israel, and to those who fear God. Those who feared God were Gentile proselytes, who were learning the Law of Moses in order to come to the place of conversion to Judaism – to undergo circumcision and to be accepted as one who was as if they were native born in the society of the Jews (Exo 12:48-49). Every synagogue throughout the Empire had Gentile proselytes who sat in on the Sabbath, listening to the Law and the Prophets read, in order to learn how they were to live. In those days, the synagogues in the Empire used a schedule of reading through the Law which took three years to complete, or about 150 Sabbaths.
So after that first Saturday meeting, when the Jews had departed, the Gentiles begged Paul and Barnabas to preach the following week also. But notice that many Jews also believed, along with the Gentiles (vs. 43). A great many Jews came to faith in Christ Jesus in the early years of the Church. When the division between the Jews and Christians occurred some years later, these Jews were also expelled from the synagogues, even though they were racially Jews.
So the next Sabbath came around, and this time almost the whole town gathered at the synagogue to hear Paul and Barnabas. The word of their message spread like wildfire among the Gentiles, from the Gentile proselytes who heard them the first week. The Jews, then, who rejected the Word of the Lord the second Sabbath, and who stirred up the city against Paul and Barnabas, were those Jews who did not believe the first week.
That many of the Jews would reject the Gospel, while the Gentiles were eager to hear it, fulfills prophecy that Paul explains in Rom 11. God blinded the eyes of Jews so that the Gospel would go forward to the Gentiles to the ends of the earth. Now in these last days God is unblinding the eyes of the Jews, because the last of the Gentiles are coming in. 🙂
So then the next Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas, we assume, preached to the Gentiles, and bypassed the synagogue altogether. Now way back in Acts 10, 3-1/2 years after the resurrection of Jesus, God showed that the Gospel was to go to the Gentiles also. But God had to raise up Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles. When Paul was ready (twelve or fifteen years after Peter was sent to Cornelius, if this trip was in 48 AD), God sent him out, and he began seeking out the Gentiles to preach to them.
See how patient God is to bring about His plan! It is a mature and wise man who waits upon the Lord, then only moves when the Lord says to go.