Acts, Chapter 13(1-25)
At the start of this chapter we're reminded of a what a good historian Luke is, including detailed lists of names, some of whom are only mentioned in the Bible once.
Although the text doesn't give any clear indication of the method, the Holy Spirit communicated to this group of Christians that he wanted Barnabus and Saul to be set apart for a specific ongoing work.
Have you ever wondered about this "laying on of hands" business? Why did they do that? Some churches still do! So what's this all about?
We can see something similar to this as early as Leviticus 16:21-22, where hands were laid on an animal to symbolically transfer the sins of the people onto the animal. In Numbers 27:18 and 23 we see an ordination of sorts that seems a little closer to what's going on in Acts 13. An even more evidenced "spiritual transaction" is mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6.
Although it may be difficult to find a common link between the sacrificial use of hands and the "ordination" use, we can at least say that this was not something done lightly. It was a solemn event and in Acts 13 it seems to serve a similar purpose to the passages in Numbers and 1st and 2nd Timothy.
In the city of Paphos, a headquarters for the Roman government, Saul is asked to share the word of God with a Roman official. But the official's servant, a sorcerer, wanted to keep the Roman proconsul from believing Saul. (The proconsul's conversion could've very likely put the sorcerer out of a job.) Saul, guided by the Holy Spirit, uses very strong words with the sorcerer. He calls him the son of the devil! Yet we don't see any indication that the sorcerer even believed in the concept of the devil. So what does this statement mean?
If we look at John 8:42-47, we remember that Jesus said something similar of religious Jews who said they were God's children. But since Jesus saw more character traits of Satan in them than those of God, he referred to them as children of the devil. Saul wasn't being so closed-minded that he believed everyone different from him was a devil worshipper. Instead, he realized the truth: The natural state of humanity is to do our own thing and focus on ourselves, just like Satan does. Until we put our trust in Jesus, allowing his perfect record to stand in place of our own before God, we most resemble Satan. This sorcerer was not only serving his own interests, he was doing so at the expense of others, keeping them from learning and believing the truth that can save them!
God loved this Roman official who was open to hearing the truth. Without that truth he would be separated from God forever. It's understandable that God would become angry with the man getting in the way of that!
It's at this point that the Bible begins referring to Saul(meaning "desired) instead as Paul(meaning "little"). For a man that did so much to change so many lives, it would seem his new name helped to keep him humble.
John Mark (who wrote the Gospel of Mark) had been traveling with Paul and Barnabas, but at this point left them to return to Jerusalem. His reasons for this are unclear, but we'll see in chapter 15 that Paul was frustrated with this behavior.
Paul uses a very sound strategy by speaking in the local synagogues of the places he visited. His audience would be primarily Jewish and therefore be familiar with the Old Testament prophecies he used to point them to Jesus. (One example being Isaiah 11:1-16, which he may have been referring to here in verse 23.) Starting with a summary of major O.T. events, Paul lays the foundation for telling his audience about Jesus. But that will have to wait until next time!
Next Week: Thank God For Leftovers!!Coffee House Question:Have you ever felt loved or protected by God? If so, when and how?