Acts 13:14-14:7

A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds

July 9, 2009 


Paul’s First Missionary Journey – Part 2


In our previous session we ended with Paul and Barnabas in the town of Perga in the province of Pamphylia in Asia Minor.  At this point in the journey Paul assumed the main leadership role and John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, left the mission to go back to Jerusalem.  There is no record of any mission work done in Perga.


From Perga they made their way from the coastal lowlands to the higher altitude of Antioch in the province of Pisidia.  Antioch was a common name for 1st century towns, with at least sixteen having that designation.  It is possible that Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch for Paul to recover from some physical problem.  Antioch is near the area of Galatia, and in Galatians 4:13 Paul mentions coming to them the first time with some kind of illness.


The ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia  (Acts 13:14-52)

Verses 14-16a tell what Paul and Barnabas did when they arrived in Antioch.  They went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and waited to be asked to speak.  In first century synagogues it was common for distinguished visitors to be asked to say something.  Since Paul had grown up in Jerusalem, had studied under Gamaliel, and was trained as a Pharisee, he certainly would have been considered a distinguished guest.


Verses 16b-41 is a summary of Paul’s sermon in Antioch.  This is the first of several of Paul’s sermons that Luke summarizes in Acts.  Before we look at the sermon in detail, I want to point out some general characteristics of this address.

  • The style is historical narrative much like Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7.  Paul tells the story of the history of Israel and ties that story to the coming of Jesus.  He shows that Judaism and Christianity are uniquely tied together in God’s redemptive plan.
  • The sermon contains the seed of Paul’s basic theology which he develops more fully in the letter to the Romans.  The foundation of Paul’s theology is that salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ and that the law in and of itself is inadequate to provide salvation.
  • A note of joy and gladness permeates the message.  Notice the phrase “And we preach to you the good news of the promise…” in verse 32.


Paul’s sermon at Antioch of Pisidia can be outlined as follows:

Introduction (verses 16b-22) – The sermon begins with a brief summary of Jewish history up to the time of David.  Paul reminds his hearers that Israel was chosen by God and that God provided the nation a homeland and great leaders.  God promised the nation that from the offspring of David He would send to Israel a Savior.

Main Theme (verses 23-37) – Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s messianic promise to Israel.

·        Verses 23-26 – The coming of Jesus as foretold by John the Baptist

·        Verses 27-29 – The rejection and death of Jesus

·        Verses 30-37 – The resurrection of Jesus

Conclusion (verses 38-41) – Forgiveness of sin is available to all who believe in Jesus.  A solemn warning is given concerning the danger of rejecting the good news of the Messiah’s coming.


Verses 42-43 tell of the impact of Paul’s preaching at Antioch.

  • He and Barnabas were begged to return on the next Sabbath to continue speaking about Jesus.
  • Many followed after Paul and Barnabas, apparently desiring more information immediately.


Verses 44-52 describe the opposition that arose in Antioch.

  • The motive for the opposition was jealousy.  When they saw the large crowds coming to hear Paul and Barnabas, the Jewish leaders were filled with envy.  So they began to attack the teachings of Paul and Barnabas. (verses 44-45)
  • Paul and Barnabas did not back down but boldly reminded the Jews that rejecting Jesus as the Messiah would result in their missing “eternal life” which is life in relationship with God.
  • Turning from the Jews to the Gentiles, they quoted Isaiah 49:6 which says that it is God’s plan for the Jews to be a light to the Gentiles.  God loves the Jewish people and revealed His plan of salvation to them first.  It is noteworthy that the vast majority of the early Christians were Jews. Some have estimated that as many as one-third of first century Jews became believers in Jesus.  In each new city he visited, Paul presented the gospel to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles.  (see Romans 1:16) 
  • Many Gentiles were open to the message of Jesus and “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”  This phrase brings up the issue of “election” which has been the subject of much debate among believers.  One writer addresses the issue this way:  “God desires the salvation of all men (1Timothy 2:4; 4:10, etc.), but inasmuch as He foresees that some (in the expression of their free will) will actually repent and believe, while others will refuse to do so, He ordains the former to eternal life, and the latter to eternal death (Romans 8:28-30, etc.).” [J.R. Dumelow quoted in The Book of Acts, The Smart Guide to Bible Study Series, p.169]
  • When some of the prominent people in Antioch of Pisidia drove Paul and Barnabas from their town, they “shook off the dust of their feet … against them” which was a way of saying, “We have done our duty, you have been warned, and we are not responsible for your fate.”  (See Acts 18:6)  Jesus commanded His followers to do this in places that were unresponsive to their message (see Matthew 10:14 and Mark 6:11).
  • Verse 52 tells the result of the ministry in Antioch of Pisidia.  Notice that in spite of the persecution and opposition, the disciples were “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”  Joy and the presence of God’s Spirit go together.  Where there is one, the other will be present as well.


The Ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Iconium (Acts 14:1-7)

About ninety miles east of Antioch of Pisidia was the town of Iconium.  This town was located on the main roadway that ran from Ephesus in the west to Syria in the east.  The work of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch followed the same pattern as the work in Antioch of Pisidia: 

  • They began their ministry in the synagogue (verse 1a).
  • The initial response was very positive with many coming to faith in Jesus (verse1b).
  • Opposition arose.  As in the previous town, the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles (verse 2).  While we are not told specifically the accusations the Jews used to “embitter” the Gentiles against the apostles, no doubt there were slanderous charges.  Early Christians were often accused of being atheists (because they refused to recognize the multiple gods of the Greeks and Romans), of practicing cannibalism (because they spoke of eating the body and drinking the blood of the Lord), and encouraging immorality (because they gathered for agape feasts). 
  • Paul and Barnabas continued on with the ministry there in spite of the opposition (verse 3).  Their ministry in Iconium was accompanied by “signs and wonders.”  The phrase “signs and wonders” is used at least eight times in Acts.  The wonders and signs did not stop when Jesus physically left the earth.  They continue through His people.  These attesting miracles gave weight to the message of grace or the message of salvation being preached by the apostles.  The purpose of wonders and signs is not to point to the event or to a person, but to Jesus! 
  • When the opposition became so intense that their lives were endangered, Paul and Barnabas moved on, continuing to preach the gospel (verses 4-7).


Practical application from Acts 13:14 – 14:7:

    1. Jealousy is on of the most destructive human emotions, leading to all sorts of other sins.  Jealousy often undermines the work of God’s Kingdom. 
    2. Nothing of significance is accomplished without opposition.  For God’s people, opposition should not discourage us but motivate us to continue doing what God has called us to do.