3. The gospel moves out from Antioch, 13:1-28:31

i] The mission to Cyprus by Paul and Barnabas


"Saul, also known as Paul", along with Barnabas, are back in Syrian Antioch, and it is there that the church prophets, guided by the Spirit, set both of them apart for mission. Supported by John Mark, they head for Cyprus, with their first mission held at the local synagogue at Salamis. During their time in Cyprus, the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, hears of the presence of the missionaries and invites them to address him. Present at the time is the local magoV, "wise man, soothsayer, magician", a yeudoprofhthV, "Jewish false prophet", known as Bar-Jesus. He sets out to argue the point with Paul, and for his troubles, ends up with a bout of short-term blindness. With Bar-Jesus silenced, Sergius Paulus, "amazed at the teaching about the Lord", makes a commitment to Jesus.


The gospel prompts intelligent men and women to believe, despite the views of prominent social influencers.


i] Context: See 1:1-11. In Luke's account of gospel expansion to the ends of the world, the focus moves from the church in Jerusalem, and its focus on evangelising Jews of the dispersion, to Syrian Antioch and ifs focus on evangelising Gentiles. The church in Antioch is primarily a Gentile church with a strong prophetic ministry and Luke tells us that they take on the task of growing the church through gospel mission, a mission led by Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

In this section of Luke's account of the Gentile mission of the early church, chapter 13 to 15, Luke focuses on Paul's mission to Cyprus and Galatia, ending his account with the formal authorising of Paul's Gentile mission at the Jerusalem Council. Luke begins by recounting Paul's visit to Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and then his journey back to Syrian Antioch. The mission covers nearly 900 miles, much of that by foot. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission, argues that on average, the mission team covered 15 miles a day.

With the gospel's outward move from Antioch, 13:1-15:41, the focus is on proclaiming the message, followed by a quick move on to the next population centre. In his account, Luke gives us examples of this mission strategy, eg., Paul's preaching at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, or his preaching to Gentiles in Lystra. In the next section of his account, chapters 16-20, Luke will note how the mission moves into its consolidation phrase where the focus is not just on preaching the gospel, but managing the development of viable Christian fellowships to facilitate the building up of the new believers. Marshall argues that Paul always remains long enough to establish a viable Christian community before moving on, although how he could have effectively done this within the time constraints of the first mission is not clear.

Luke's account of the gospel's outward move from Antioch presents as follows:

The mission to Cyprus by Paul and Barnabas, 13:1-12

The mission in Pisidian Antioch, 13:13-43

The gospel for the whole world, 13:44-52

The mission to Iconium, 14:1-7

The mission to Lystra and Derbe, 14:8-20

God opens the door for the gospel, 14:21-28

The Jerusalem conference, 15:1-21

Conference resolutions and action, 15:22-30

The stage is set for a new mission, 15:31-41


ii] Background:

iSigns and Wonders in Acts, 4:23-3;

iProphecy in the New Testament, 11:19-30.



Cyprus in relation to Syrian Antioch
For Paul's mission journeys see the map in 1:1-11


iii] Structure: The mission to Cyprus by Paul and Barnabas:

A prophetic appointment, v1-3;

The mission in Cyprus, v4-8;

An opponent is silenced, v9-12.


iv] Interpretation:

Luke tells us that the ministry team ("prophets and teachers" = prophets who minister as teachers in the church) at the church in Syrian Antioch were engaged in ministry (leitourgountwn = "serving, ministering", in their various churches, rather than "worshipping"). At the leading of the Spirit, confirmed by prayer and fasting (a possible allusion to the commencement of Jesus' ministry), two members of the ministry team, Saul and Barnabas, are set apart and recognised by the church (via the laying on of hands), to progress the communication of the gospel to the ends of the earth - they are sent out "to preach the gospel of grace", 14:26. From this point on, Luke starts to use Saul's Roman name, Paul.

From Antioch, Paul and Barnabas, along with their assistant John Mark, set sail down the Orontes river to Seleucia, and then some 60 miles across the Mediterranean sea to Cyprus and the port of Salamis. We know that Barnabas is from Cyprus and that Christian communities may already exist on the Island, but Luke stresses Paul's ministry-priority of taking the gospel to Jews first - they are God's historic children and it is right that they are the first to hear about the realisation of God's covenant promises in the messiah, Jesus. The mention of "synagogues" plural, may imply that there were more than one, or that the missionaries stayed over a number of weeks. Luke tells us nothing of their journey across Cyprus to the Roman capital of Paphos. They obviously preached on the way, but Luke wants to focus on Paul's encounter with the governor, Sergius Paulus, and the magoV, "sorcerer, magician", Bar-Jesus (= son of Joshua / Jesus). Bar-Jesus goes by the title Elymas, meaning magoV, "sorcerer", ie., he was known as the Sorcerer.

Many a court in the ancient world had a Merlin the Magician on hand for advice on matters relating to astrology and its influence on the issues of State. Sergius Paulus, although, "an intelligent man", is obviously also a superstitious man, and so he has employed the services of a Jewish sorcerer.

Sergius Paulus obviously hears of the activities of the missionaries and so invites Paul to explain the message of the Way to him. The Sorcerer is present, and sets out to rubbish what Paul has to say. So Paul, filled with the Spirit, powerfully denounces him, calling him an "utter fraud ..... trying to make people lose the way to God", Barclay. Luke will often describe a person being "filled with the Holy Spirit", a filling that enables them for the business of gospel ministry. Here Luke draws out the effectiveness of this enabling by describing how Paul's trick outshine those of the Sorcerer - the blind-guide is made blind. While the Sorcerer stumbles around in the dark, Paul is able to explain the gospel more fully to Sergius Paulus, who, both seeing the sign and hearing, believes, "amazed at the teaching of the Lord."

Stott notes that the conversion of Sergius Paulus is the first recorded conversion of a Gentile with no Jewish links (although the Sorcerer was Jew), and that he was a representative of a "small senatorial class that rested atop a vast social pyramid" - obviously a point not lost on Luke and his desire to give his Acts of the Apostles an apologetic edge. Waters also notes that the evident power of Paul's sign and words confirmed his apostolic calling, a calling in the mould of the apostle Peter.


v] Homiletics: Get your priorities right

On the political front, I tend to the view that the best formula for a successful democratic society is found in a balanced tension between equality and freedom, a balance maintained by respect, or as the French would have it, fraternity. Of course, given the human condition, we tend to tilt one way or the other, and at times end up in the extremes of either a totalitarian dictatorship, or a state of anarchy.

[Map] Yet, as we read our way through the book of Acts, we become aware that Luke gives little attention to political theory. We could probably summarise the perspective of Acts with the old chorus, "This world is not my home, I'm just-a passing through." The worth, or otherwise, of the administration exercised by the governor, Sergius Paulus, is of little interest to Luke as he recounts Paul's mission in Cyprus. What is important is the proclamation of the gospel, both in word and deed (sign), and this supported by the belief that, irrespective of the impact of the powers of darkness, God's word is powerfully supported by God's Spirit, such that it will always bring light to darkness.

As Western societies continue to drift from their Christian roots, so we will lose the capacity for lateral thinking, that ability, for example, of holding together in one's mind the notion of human freewill and divine sovereignty. So, increasingly it will be either equality or freedom, and never the twain shall meet. The tendency today to view truth as subjective (resolved from within), rather than objective (resolved from without), can only make the problem worse.

Other than revival, Western society is heading for oblivion, and so to this end, we are left with a single priority: to join in gospel mission, for this world is not our home, we're just-a passing through.

Text - 13:1

The mission to Cyprus by Paul and Barnabas, 13:1-12. i] A prophetic appointment, v1-3. Luke begins by describing the church in Antioch, but it is unclear what he is saying. If we take the preposition kata as distributive, and kai as epexegetic, then we end up with a statement like "Now, there were prophets who functioned as (kai) teachers, in each (kata) house church that existed (ou\san) in Antioch". Luke then lists these ministers. Simeon goes by the surname "Niger", which in Latin means "Black", although this doesn't mean that he was necessarily of African origin, unless it is a nickname like "Darkie, Blackie, ....". Lucius is identified as "of Cyrene", indicating that he is from North Africa, but again, there was a large Roman population in North Africa and so Luke is not necessarily identifying colour (I'm sure Luke would agree with Dr. Martin Luther King who said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."). As for Manaen, he is identified as a suntrofoV, "companion, friend, foster-brother", of Herod the tetrarch, ie., he had a special relationship with Herod's household.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

en + dat. "at [the church]" - [there was] in [antioch]. Local, expressing space.

kata + acc. "-" - according to [the assembly, church]. Distributive use of the preposition "in each house church"; see above.

thn ou\san (eimi) "-" - being. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "assembly"; "that existed in Antioch."

kai "and [teachers]" - [prophets] and [teachers]. Either coordinative, indicating two specific ministry types, or epexegetic, where didaskaloi, "teachers", specifies something about profhtai, "prophets", ie., the prophets functioned as teachers in the church.

te "-" - but/and = both [barnabas]. Coordinative, used with kai to form a list.

oJ kaloumenoV (kalew) pres. mid. part. "called" - [and simeon] the one being called [niger]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Simeon"; "Simeon who was called Niger", ESV. The noun "Niger" stands in apposition to the participle, specifying something about the participle, namely the name by which he was called.

Hrwdou (oV) gen. "[who had been brought up with] Herod" - [and manaen, the companion] of herod [the tetrarch]. The genitive is adjectival, relational.


The prophets in Antioch, having gathered for some ministry purpose, are guided by the Holy Spirit to set aside Paul and Barnabas for mission. The language implies congregational support to this end. It is not clear what the prophets were doing when the Holy Spirit directs them to set apart Paul and Barnabas. Most translations opt for "worshipping", but the verb leitourgew tends to be used for a work performed in a religious context. Possibly the "work / service" is "fasting", ie., kai is again epexegetic, serving to specify the "work", namely, "fasting".

leitourgontwn (leitourgew) gen. "while [they] were worshiping" - [but/and they] ministering [to the lord and fasting]. Along with "fasting", the genitive participle and its genitive subject autwn, "they", forms a genitive absolute construction, best treated as temporal, as NIV. As here, the verb leitourgew, "to devote one's service to", takes a dative of direct object - they were devoting themselves in their service to the Lord; "As they were serving the Lord and fasting", Junkins.

dh "-" - [the holy spirit said] indeed [set apart]. Emphatic particle used here to emphasise the imperative verb "to set apart"; "I must have Barnabas and Saul set apart", Cassirer.

moi dat. pro. "for me" - to me [barnabas and saul]. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.

eiV + acc. "for [the work]" - into [the work]. Possibly adverbial, final, expressing purpose, as NIV; "for the purpose of the work."

o} acc. pro. "to which" - which [i have called them]. Presumably an accusative of reference, "for the work, with respect to which I have called them." We would have assumed a dative, "for the work to which I have called them", Berkeley.


The prophets confirm the revelation through prayer and fasting (a common combination in Jewish piety) and, by the laying on of hands, authorise / commission Paul and Barnabas for the task at hand. This act is often viewed as a bestowal of power, but authorisation is more likely, ie., they are set apart / commissioned for the evangelic mission to the Gentiles, as instructed by the Holy Spirit.

nhsteusanteV (nhsteuw) aor. part. "[so] after they had fasted" - [then] having fasted [and having prayed]. The first two participles, "having fasted" and "having prayed", are adverbial, best treated as temporal, following the temporal adverb tote, "Then"; "then, after fasting and praying", ESV.

epiqenteV (epitiqhmi) "they placed" - [and] having laid on, placed upon. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to release = send away"; "they laid their hand on them and sent them off", Barclay.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - them [the hands, they sent away them]. Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to place upon."


ii] The mission in Cyprus, v4-8. Luke gives us an overview of the mission, noting its divine authority ("by the Holy Spirit"), and Paul's strategy of Jew first, before focusing on the conversion of the governor.

outoi men oun "the two of them" - therefore they. This combination is transitional, indicating a step in the narrative (oun), although a step that is logically related (men), as well as a change in subject from the elders to Paul and Barnabas (ouJtoi). See men oun 1:6.

ekpemfqenteV (ekpempw) aor. pas. part. "sent on their way" - having been sent out. The participle is adverbial, best treated as either temporal or causal; "After they had been given their marching orders", Barclay (in a Australia this phraseology has negative connotations, eg., "having abused his position of authority he was given his marching orders"). Although anarthrous (without an article), Cassirer opts for an adjectival classification, attributive, "Now these men, who had been sent out by the Holy Spirit."

uJpo gen. "by" - by [the holy spirit went down into seleucia, and from there they sailed off into cyprus]. Instrumental, expressing agency.


The mention of John Mark as uJphrethV, "a subordinate assistant, servant = an assistant minister", prepares for the mention of his departure in 13:13. The use of the word in Acts indicates that he is involved in "preaching and teaching" rather than just functioning as a servant, so Peterson D.

genomenoi (ginomai) aor. part. "when they arrived" - [and] having become = arrived [in salamis, they were proclaiming the word of god]. The participle is attendant on the main verb "to proclaim, communicate, declare, preach", and is usually treated as adverbial, temporal, as NIV. The phrase "the word of God" is commonly used to refer to the gospel, "God's important news to humanity."

twn Ioudaiwn (oV) gen. "Jewish [synagogues]" - [in the synagogues] of the jews. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as NIV.

uJphrethn (hV) acc. "[John] was with them as their helper" - [but/and they had and = also john Mark] assistant. This noun serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "John", standing in a double accusative construction, and stating a fact about the object; "they had John Mark as an assistant."


Luke uses the verb diercomai, "to pass through", to summarise the mission from Salamis in the east to the capital Paphos in the West. The Western text uses the verb periercomai, "to go around", given that there is no mention of what happened as they travelled through the island. Since the Sorcerer (magoV) is a Jew going by the name Son of Joshua, Luke uses Biblical terminology to describe him - he is a yeudoprofhthV, "false-prophet."

dielqonteV (diercomai) aor. part. "they travelled through" - [but/and] having passed through [the whole island until = up to paphos]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "When they had gone through the whole island", ESV. The conjunction acri, "until", when used as a preposition, expresses extension up to, "as far as."

magoV (oV) "a Jewish sorcerer" - [they found a certain man] a sorcerer, magician, [a false prophet, a jew]. Along with "a false prophet", and "a Jew", "magician" stands in apposition to "man", specifying the man.

w|/ dat. pro. "-" - to whom [the name of bar-jesus]. The dative is adverbial, probably reference / respect, "with respect to the name." As for the genitive barihsou, "Bar-Jesus", Culy classifies it as epexegetic, given that it specifies "the name."


Luke tells us that the Sorcerer (magician, soothsayer, astrologer???) is sun, "with", the proconsul, probably in the sense of an adviser. Luke identifies the proconsul as a anqupatoV, ie., a governor of a Senatorial province. As such, Cyprus is under civil administration, unlike say Judea which was still under military administration. As is usually the case in Acts, Luke presents Roman authority in a positive light.

Sergiw/ Paulw/ (oV) dat. "Sergius Paulus" - [who was with the proconsul] sergius paulus [an intelligent man]. Along with "an intelligent man", "Sergius Paulus" stands in apposition to "the proconsul", dative after the preposition sun, which preposition expresses accompaniment / association.

proskalesamenoV (proskalew) aor. part. "sent for" - [this one] having called for [barnabas and saul]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to seek after. " Sergius Paulus invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he was eager to hear the message of God", Barclay.

akousai (akouw) aor. inf. "[he wanted] to hear" - [sought] to hear. Usually classified as a complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "to seek after", but at the same time, it functions to introduce a dependent statement of cause expressing what Sergius Paulus "sought after", namely, "to hear God's message", CEV.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the word] of God" - [the word] of god. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / source, "the word from God."


The exact sense of Luke's "Elymas, the Sorcerer, for thus is translated", is unclear. The word ElumaV, "Elymas", is unknown, but presumably it is a Greek translation of the Aramaic magoV, "magician, sorcerer, soothsayer, ...." So, this Baruhsou, "Bar-Jesus / Joshua", goes by the title "Elymas", which when translated means, "the Sorcerer." Anyway, when faced with Paul's gospel message, he seeks to diastrefw, "turn away", the proconsul, in the sense of distort / pervert the message; "took a strong position against Saul and Barnabas, to prevent Sergius Paulus from accepting their message", Junkins.

oJ magoV (oV) "the sorcerer" - [but/and elymas] the sorcerer. Nominative, standing in apposition to "Elymas".

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - [was opposing] them. Dative of direct object after the anti prefix verb "to oppose."

ouJtwV adv. "[for] this is what" - [for] in this way [is translated the name of him]. Adverb of manner, modifying the verb "to translate."

diastreyai (diastrefw) aor. inf. "[tried] to turn" - [seeking] to turn away [the proconsul]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to seek."

apo + gen. "from" - from [the faith]. Expressing separation, "away from." The use of thV pistewV, "the faith", may imply "the Christian faith."


iii] An opponent silenced, v9-12. Given that the Christian mission is now focused on Gentiles, rather than Jews, Luke begins to use Saul's secular name, Paul, rather than his Jewish name. Through the Spirit, Paul is empowered to speak, and on this occasion, he is also empowered to back up his words with a sign - the blind-guide is blinded.

oJ "who was [also] called [Paul]" - [but/and saul, and = also] the one being called [paul]. The article probably heads an assumed substantive participle, nominative, standing in apposition to "Saul", as NIV.

plhsqeiV (plhrow) aor. pas. part. "filled" - having been filled. Kellum classifies the participle as adverbial, temporal; "after / on being filled with the Holy Spirit." Although anarthrous, Rogers Gk. and Culy opts for adjectival, attributive; "who was filled with the Holy Spirit."

pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "with the [Holy] Spirit" - of [holy] spirit. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / content; "filled full of the Holy Spirit."

atenisaV (atenizw) aor. part. "looked straight [at]" - having looked steadfastly, gazed [into him, said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say"; "Paul fixed his eyes on him and said."


Paul offers a sharp critique of the Sorcerer; As for being "a son of", he is more appropriately "a son of the Devil", opposing what God declares as right, full of doloV, "cunning", here probably with the sense "deceit", even "trickery". As against the Lord who makes the crooked way straight, the Sorcerer seeks to twist and confuse the divine way (the oJdoV tou kuriou, "the way of the Lord", is the straight-way the messiah cuts through the wilderness, his expressway by which he travels to bring salvation to his people, Isa.40:1-5, Hos.14:9).

diabolou (oV) gen. "[child] of the devil" - [he said, o corrupted one, child] of the devil. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

doulou (oV) gen. "of [all kinds of] deceit" - [full] of [all] deceit [and all fraud]. As with "of [all] fraud", this genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / content, "filled full of all deceit and villainy."

dikaiosunhV (h) gen. "of [everything] that is right" - [an enemy] of [all] righteousness. The genitive is adjectival, possibly attributive, "an enemy who is against all that God stands for", or even, verbal, objective, where "righteousness" receives the enemy action, so Culy. Kellum suggests an adverbial genitive, reference / respect, "regarding all righteousness."

diastrefwn (diastrefw) pres. part. "perverting" - [you will not cease] turning = distorting, making crooked. The participle is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "to stop, cease."

tou kuriou (oV) "[the right ways] of the Lord" - [the straight ways, paths] of the lord. The genitive is adjectival, viewed either as possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic, or idiomatic, "the straight ways which the Lord has formed for the salvation of his people"; "you will never stop plotting against the saving purposes of God", Berkeley. The term, "the straight ways of the Lord", is best understood within the frame of Biblical theology rather than in the terms of moral behaviour, as NIV; See note above. "Will you not stop trying to make people lose the way to God?", Barclay.


The blind guide is blinded, which miracle carries sign status in that it visibly expresses Paul's words. The term "the hand of the Lord" is often used to describe God's power, here with a negative connotation implying judgment.

epi + acc. "against [you]" - [and behold, the hand of the lord is] upon [you]. Spatial, here expressing opposition, "against", as NIV.

mh blepwn (blepw) pres. part. "not even seeing [the light of the sun]" - [and you will be blind] not seeing [the sun]. Although anarthrous, the participle is most likely adjectival, epexegetic, specifying the blindness; "blind in the sense of not being able to see any light."

acri kairou "for a time" - until a season. With arci expressing extension, "up to", introducing the idiomatic temporal phrase "up to a season" = "for a time."

periagwn (periagw) pres. part. "he groped about, [seeking]" - [and immediately mist and darkness fell upon him and] going about [he was seeking one who leads by the hand to show him the way]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperfect verb "to seek"; "he groped about and sought someone to lead him by the hand." "Mist and darkness" is possibly a hendiadys, "a misty darkness fell on him."


Luke's wording in unclear at this point, so much so that the Western text has tried to clarify the account with "when he saw what had occurred, marvelled and believed in God, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord." We would like the proconsul's belief based on the gospel rather than the sign, but Luke implies that both word and sign are at play here. Some commentators doubt the validity of the conversion, so Worthington. Barrett actually argues that the proconsul is not really converted as there is no record of his baptism - an argument from silence is never very convincing!

idwn (oJraw) aor. part. "when [the proconsul] saw" - [then the proconsul] having seen. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

to gegonoV (ginomai) perf. part. "what had happened" - the thing having happened, [he believed]. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative object of the participle "having seen."

ekplhsomenoV (ekplhssw) pres. mid. part. "for he was amazed" - being amazed. The participle is adverbial, usually viewed as causal, as NIV; "because he was at awe with what he had learned about the Lord's teaching."

epi + dat. "at" - upon. Here probably adverbial, reference / respect; "about the Lord's teaching."

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "about the Lord" - [the teaching] of the lord. The genitive is adjectival. The NIV opts for verbal, objective, so also CEV, REB. Possibly just possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic, "the Lord's teaching", or even idiomatic / source, "the teaching from the Lord."


Acts Introduction

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]