Productivity Requirement – Perseverance (Acts 13:13-15)
Barnabas and Paul had been working together in the first mission of the church at Antioch on the Orontes. Because of God’s favor on their work they will have much success. But between the embarking and the successes there will be setbacks. For those of us who would be successful in the work that God has called us to there is much to learn from the mission trip of these two men.
Although they had met some resistance on the island of Cyprus, the word of God in Pamphylia was being received and people were making decisions to follow Christ (Acts 13:49-52). In the midst of this a young man, John Mark from Jerusalem (Acts 12:12, 25), is being mentored. Unfortunately the disciple has had enough of on-the-road discipleship. Mark makes for the door (Acts 13:13).
Scripture does not tell us what Paul said or did in the moment that Mark took leave of the mission. And Luke is silent as to why their protégé packed his stuff and went home. We know from the contention that developed between Paul and Barnabas that Paul was not happy about the young man’s departure; he regarded Mark’s return to Jerusalem as an unwillingness to endure the difficulties that come with the call to go to the nations with the gospel (Acts 15:37- 38).
Luke does not say why John Mark left Barnabas and Paul at Perga and returned home. He indicates at a later point in his narrative (15:38) that Paul regarded his departure as desertion. Perhaps he was unprepared for the increasing rigors which evangelization in Asia Minor would involve; perhaps he resented the way in which his cousin Barnabas was falling into second place. When the expedition sets out from Syria, Luke speaks of “Barnabas and Saul”; by the time they leave Cyprus, it is “Paul and his company.”
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (pp. 250–251). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
J.B. Polhill puts it this way
At Perga, John Mark decided to leave them, and he returned home to Jerusalem. Just why he did so has long been a fruitful subject for speculation. Was he intimidated by the prospect of the arduous and dangerous task of crossing the Taurus mountains to reach Antioch? Was he angered that Paul was assuming more and more authority and forcing his cousin Barnabas to a lesser role? Did he contract malaria in the Pamphylian lowlands? Did he disagree with Paul’s concept of a law-free mission to the Gentiles? All of these have been suggested; none can be substantiated. Luke was simply silent on the reason. He did clarify that it was a serious matter for Paul, serious enough to create a falling out with Barnabas on a subsequent occasion (cf. 15:37f.)
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, pp. 296–297). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Paul prospered in ministry. The Holy Spirit called him out of great fellowship in Antioch to fields of unreached peoples. Why? He was called to the harvest-mission of making disciples unto Jesus among the Gentiles. And he succeeded. But those who set out hoping to see similar success must not overlook the role of a Spirit-enabled superpower that Paul used in his work – perseverance. Before there were conversions there were conflicts with crazy sorcerers (Acts 13:6-12), contentions with jealous Jewish brethren (Acts 13:44-45), and evil campaigns to have him cast out of town (Acts 13:49-52). Before there were disciples there were desertions and departures from within his own meager company of missionaries. Do we really want to prosper in ministry like Paul? Then let us, like Paul, recognize and utilize a primary Spirit-enabled superpower – perseverance. Let us continue by confidence in Christ in the mission of making disciples unto Jesus… especially when it gets bad.
The Departure of a Disciple (Acts 13:13-14; 15:38-39; 2 Timothy 4:11) “Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 12:25; 13:2, 7) has become “Paul and his party” in the narrative. The story then relates that John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), took leave of the group. While no reason is given it is not unreasonable to think that the combination of changes and challenges were too much.
- The Changes – (i) Saul now goes by Paul (Acts 13:9), (ii) beyond just work among the Jews (Acts 13:5) the Gentiles are requesting and getting an audience with the evangelists (Acts 13:7), and (iii) Paul becomes primary in the undertaking (Acts 13:13).
- The Challenges – (i) Jewish sorcerers are opposing the efforts to make Christ known (Acts 13:8-11) and (ii) there is a lot more unknown going forward.
Are we willing to examine ourselves in the light of this passage? It is asking us questions:
- Are my reasons for involvement in the mission aligned with the goals of the group?
- In the mission of my group what would it take to make me leave?
- Are there disappointments, discomforts, or dangers that would precipitate my departure from the work?
- What do I tend to do when things do not go my way or when I do not like the person in charge?
The Petition to Preach (Acts 13:15; Luke 4:16-27) The team, minus one John Mark, left Perga and came to Pisidian Antioch. According to their custom and philosophy of ministry (Acts 3:26; Romans 1:16) they start with the Jews of the region and, thus, went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. After a customary reading from the Law and the Prophets the rulers of the synagogue inquired about whether their guests had for their gathering a word of exhortation: “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”
I grew up in the church. In fact, a large part of my parenting came from my grandfather – an old Methodist preacher. When visiting churches it was not uncommon for a visiting minister of the gospel to be asked to sit with the other pastors and preachers. And it was altogether possible that the visiting preacher would be asked to deliver the message of the morning service – even if the pastor had previously planned to do so. This was the custom of our Methodist churches in the South. This passage, then, seems oddly familiar to me at this point. My grandfather would says that the visiting preacher must always be ready to deliver the message on that morning. The passage is asking us questions again:
- In our mission activities are we going to places where we can explain our mission and exhort others to take up the task of believing and being witnesses?
- Are we ready to bring the word when we arrive in a new place?
In the story that Luke shares the visiting preacher named Paul was ready. What follows in the story is the message he was eager and prepared to preach.
Paul Preaches Christ Part 1 – The History (Acts 13:16-25) Although they have been asked if they have a word to share, not everyone in the synagogue realizes that Paul and his party are going to bring a word of exhortation. Paul uses his hands to indicate that he should be give their undivided attention. In his address the apostle to the Gentiles names two groups – (i) the men and brethren of Israel and (ii) the God-fearing Gentiles among them (Acts 13:16, 26); They are Jews and Gentiles respectively.
- From Bondage in Egypt to Destroying the Enemies in Canaan (Acts 13:17-19)
- The God of this people Israel chose our fathers
- Exalted the People when they dwelt as Strangers in Egypt (Exodus 14:8)
- Put Up with the People 40 Years (Deuteronomy 1:31; Exodus 16:35; Numbers 14:34; Acts 7:36).
- Destroyed Seven Nations in the Land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1).
- From Judges to Kings (Acts 13:20-22)
- God Raised up Judges (Judges 2:16; 1 Samuel 4:18; 7:15)
- The People Asked for a King (1 Samuel 8:5)
- God gave them Saul the Son of Kish for forty years (1 Samuel 10:20-24). Saul was not serious about glorifying God and keeping his commandments; he would not obey.
- God Removed Saul as King (1 Sam. 15:23, 26, 28)
- God Replaced Saul with David (1 Sam. 16:1, 12, 13)
- David Had a Different Desire (1 Samuel 13:14); he was zealous for the will of God and to see Him glorified.
- God Promised that David’s Seed would be Savior (Psalm 89; 132:11; Isaiah 11:1).
- From King David to King Jesus as Announced by John (Acts 13:23-25)
- God raised up the Savior in Jesus (Ezekiel 21:27; Matthew 1:21). Like His father David the final King would desire to do God’s will (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:16).
- John Came Preparing for the Coming of the King (Matthew 3:1; Luke 3:3) and Pointed to Him (John 1:20, 27).
- The Condemnation and Crucifixion of the Christ (Acts 13:26-29)
- Out of inexcusable and inveterate ignorance (Luke 23:34) the residents and rulers of Jerusalem condemned the Christ (Acts 13:27).
- Without cause they hated the Christ and asked Pilate to put Jesus to death (Matthew 27:22-23; Acts 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15).
- Having fulfilled the prophecies (Luke 18:31) they laid him in tomb (Mark 15:42-47).
- The Resurrection of the Christ (Acts 13:30-31)
- Christ Firstborn from the Dead unto God (Acts 13:32-37)
- The raising from the dead was unto the newness of life and His role and Messiah and Deliverer unto God His Father (Psalm 2:7; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5).
- The Raising from the Dead was unto the Throne of David (Isaiah 55:3).
The Appeal to Accept the Offer (Acts 13:38-41) Having concluded the presentation of Christ as Messiah the apostle now makes his entreaty. He is calling them to forgiveness of sins. He is also warning them against the wickedness of treating the truth with contempt (Habakkuk 1:5; Acts 13:40-41). The excuse of not knowing has been taken away. What is left is the opportunity for conversion or condemnation.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:16–19, NKJV)