April 12, 2021

The Power of Our Witness

Acts 13–16

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Barnabas and Saul Sent Off

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,1 Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. ...

Barnabas and Saul Sent Off

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,1 Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia

13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” 16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:

“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he put up with2 them in the wilderness. 19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,

  “‘You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you.’

34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,

  “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’

35 Therefore he says also in another psalm,

  “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’

36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed3 from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:

41   “‘Look, you scoffers,
    be astounded and perish;
  for I am doing a work in your days,
    a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews4 saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

  “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Paul and Barnabas at Iconium

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.5 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,6 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

Paul Stoned at Lystra

19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria

24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.

The Jerusalem Council

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.7 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

16   “‘After this I will return,
  and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
  I will rebuild its ruins,
     and I will restore it,
17   that the remnant8 of mankind may seek the Lord,
    and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
    says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers

22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers9 who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you10 with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them.11 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

Paul and Barnabas Separate

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

Paul12 came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers13 at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

The Macedonian Call

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul14 had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

The Conversion of Lydia

11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the15 district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

The Philippian Jailer Converted

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer16 called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

Footnotes

[1] 13:1 Niger is a Latin word meaning black, or dark
[2] 13:18 Some manuscripts he carried (compare Deuteronomy 1:31)
[3] 13:39 Greek justified; twice in this verse
[4] 13:45 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time; also verse 50
[5] 14:2 Or brothers and sisters
[6] 14:9 Or be saved
[7] 15:3 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 22
[8] 15:17 Or rest
[9] 15:23 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 32, 33, 36
[10] 15:24 Some manuscripts some persons from us have troubled you
[11] 15:33 Some manuscripts insert verse 34: But it seemed good to Silas to remain there
[12] 16:1 Greek He
[13] 16:2 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 40
[14] 16:10 Greek he
[15] 16:12 Or that
[16] 16:29 Greek he

The Power of Our Witness



Key Verse | Acts 13:47 (quoting Isaiah 49:6)

For so the Lord has commanded us, saying:

"I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth."

Bio | Geno Triana

Hi. My name is Geno. I have to admit that sometimes I place my hope in my favorite college football team—Roll Tide! However, what I'm really passionate about is growing in my walk with the Lord. Currently, the Lord is guiding me through re:generation and preparing me for marriage to an amazing woman.

I am excited to resume serving in Frontlines with the Reach Team soon. If you are in the auditorium plenty of time before the Sunday service starts, one of us will likely reach out to encourage you and pray for you.

Central Truth

Our witness has the power to shape eternity. We must tell our friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers about Jesus. The book of Acts shows us how the power of the Holy Spirit allows us to co-labor with God in the fulfillment of this prophecy from the book of Isaiah.

Devotional | Acts 13–16

We talk about Jesus in our holy huddles all the time, but how often do we bring Jesus' message to the people who need it the most like Paul did? I recently met a man named Aji who was doing just...

We talk about Jesus in our holy huddles all the time, but how often do we bring Jesus' message to the people who need it the most like Paul did? I recently met a man named Aji who was doing just that. He was using a loud speaker to tell everyone at a crowded grocery store parking lot about what Jesus did for us. At first, I thought he had some screws loose. But after speaking to him, I realized that I was the one who was crazy for experiencing God's love but keeping my salvation story to myself. If I truly cared for others like Aji does and believed that my witness matters, I would not let fear stop me from sharing with anyone the message that Jesus entrusted to me.

Paul shows us how God can use our witness in many different ways. God used Paul's reputation as a Pharisee to bring His message into the Jewish synagogues. Through the Council of Jerusalem, Paul strengthened his witness to the Gentiles by becoming an advocate for them. I actually find the story of the Philippian jailer to be the most intriguing and relatable story of Paul's witness.

Most people would probably feel hopeless if jailed and beaten for their witness. They might even resort to retaliation when the prison doors opened. Instead, Paul and Silas focused on God instead of their circumstances. The jailer was so amazed by how they responded to their situation that he wanted to know how he could be saved, and then he used his own platform to share the message with the rest of his family. The way we deal with challenges can be a powerful witness to non-believers. Sometimes, all that we have to do is focus on God instead of our problems and always be prepared to give an account. He will do the rest. 

God has given us all unique platforms from which to witness, and each of those brings its own challenges. His Spirit will guide us through the challenges, thus allowing God to use our unique gifts and platforms to help shape eternity.

See Comments

Discussion Questions

1. Is there anyone with whom you are reluctant to take interest in and share the gospel? What is holding you back from caring for them and where they spend eternity?

2. Do you see challenges and hardships as God-given opportunities to honor Him and help Him shape eternity?

3. What spheres of influence has God given you to help Him shape eternity?

4. Are there people in your family who do not know the Lord? When is the last time you prayed for them?

6 Comments available

Michael Scaman 28 days ago

It’s interesting that Isaiah 49:6 is in 'the servant songs"

but here in Acts applied to the church as a key missionary principle

Isaiah 49:6 cross reference For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 13:47

The church is in Christ in God so it can apply to Jesus and the church

Linda Green 28 days ago

Wow Geno, your question #2 is what God has been trying to get through my thick skull. Am not sure why I’m always tempted to think things should be easy in a broken world.

So instead of losing my mind when things go south, wanting to remember to ask God how He has planned to show up and show out in the difficult times.

Over and over, am reminded by the disciples’ example that if I truly believe this world is not my home, I’ll live differently. My hopes and my heart won’t be wrapped around the world’s axle.

Michael Scaman 29 days ago

If this sounds familiar it is.

Luke records a list of things Peter did in Acts 1-12 in Jerusalem like opposing a magicion, healing a leper, raising a dead person… and now in the later part of Acts, Luke will go through the same list only this time it is Paul doing these things.

This is partly to validate the ministry of Paul as apostle to the gentiles.

Greg Jones 29 days ago

Reading Acts14:8-10 I’m wondering who this man could have been and why it would have caused what’s described in verses 11-14.

Is Paul referring to this in some way when he writes 1 Thessalonians 2:3?

If so, the details of Acts read with what Paul writes seem to point toward some behind the scenes things going on as the earliest forms of the church develop,

Sue Bohlin 29 days ago

Thanks, Geno!

I am thankful for coming across Acts 14:22, where Paul—most likely still bearing the bruises of having been stoned and left for dead—and Barnabas encourage the Christ-followers that we enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations or persecutions. I’ve been looking for the scriptures that teach us the difference between entering the family of God by trusting in Christ, and entering the kingdom of God by faithfully obeying and serving Him, living in a way that earns kingdom rewards. Verse 22 tells us that experiencing tribulation or persecution because of our faith is one way to enter the kingdom of God, this deeper track of discipleship. Since anyone can “step over the line” from death to life, from darkness to light by trusting in Jesus—no tribulation or persecution required—then entering the kingdom of God must mean something different than becoming a believer.

Hugh Stephenson 29 days ago

GM Geno. Love your focus on the jailer. A truly intriguing figure.

Reflecting on the jailer and Segius Paulus, the proconsul in Salamis.

The latter had an expressed interest in the word of God. It seems plausible that the former had an interest as well though unexpressed in the text.

I’m focused on how each miracle brought them to immediate faith. In each case Paul was faithful to the ministry and the Lord simply gave him these opportunities to step into what God was already doing.

Another great reminder that God can use me in ways I can’t imagine, in situations I had not foreseen and with people I have never met.

I am taught to always be on mission and always be surrendered to whatever purpose the Lord has for me. As His image bearer, he calls me into partnership with Him. May I continue to be faithfully aware.

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