November 7, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Acts 13-14
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Context: Today’s reading looks at Saul’s first missionary journey (I encourage you follow along with the map at the side during the reading, or find your own map). Saul, also called Paul, is sent out with Barnabas. Notice their preparation. Before leaving, they fasted and prayed so that they could be sure of the Lord’s will for them. Too often we make decisions without consulting the Lord’s will, or without waiting for Him to guide us. Paul and Barnabas were called together to work as a team (as we learn later, there are also more members of the team). Working as a team for Christ, allows them to encourage one another during difficult times and celebrate with one another during the good times. Paul and Barnabas experienced both good and bad during this first missionary journey. After the miracle at Paphos, we see a shift in leadership. Before leaving on their journey, Barnabas was the “senior pastor” at the church and Paul served under him. So far on the journey, Luke has referred to Paul and Barnabas as equals. When leaving Paphos, Luke now places Paul in the sole leadership position. We also see that a divid occurs among the team. Whether or not this is related to Paul becoming the leader is unknown, however, we are later informed that whatever the reason for John (Mark) leaving was unsatisfactory to Paul, as he would not allow John to accompany him on his next journey. In Paul’s speech, he emphasizes the importance of God in Israel’s history and how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies. Paul and Barnabas experienced mixed results, as the Jewish leaders spoke against Paul and Barnabas, eventually running them out of town, however, the message took hold and began to spread. Chapter 14 shows a shift from spreading the word of God by speaking in synagogues to ministering to complete pagan areas. Paul and company did not let it deter them. Even stoning could not deter Paul! Paul and Barnabas were quick to admit their humanity and give credit to the Lord for any miracles they performed. At this time Paul and Barnabas did not know that they would return to the mission field. They prepared these new churches to stay strong in the faith as they returned to Antioch.
World History: In chapter 13, Luke begins addressing Saul as Paul. This was not a name change as we may think of it. Saul was a Jewish name, appropriate for a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents. Paul is a Roman name. Paul spends the majority of the rest of his life in the Roman world ministering to Gentiles. Paul had always had both names, but he now chose to go by Paul as an indication of his new mission in life. In chapter 14, Barnabas and Paul are referred to as Zeus and Hermes, respectively. Zeus was the god of gods amongst the Greeks and Hermes was his chief speaker and messenger of the gods.