Acts 13 is a pivotal transition point in the early church. We know that Paul was responsible for magnificent growth of the church throughout the Mediterranean region. We also know that he brought the Gospel message to the gentiles. And that he wrote about 1/3 of the New Testament. But every amazing story has a transition point, a critical point that launches the ‘hero’ in the direction he is supposed to go. Chapter 13 is that point for Paul. He was still Saul in the beginning of the chapter, and more of a ‘second billing’ to Barnabas, even listed last among a list of teachers and prophets. But everything changed in Acts 13.
What’s so amazing about this chapter? Nothing really, it’s rather quite simple. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and he responded to the promptings of the Spirit. Everything else that follows is simply because he was filled and listened.
The first stop was in Cyprus and this is where Saul becomes Paul, and performs his first recorded miracle.
But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 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? 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. (v 9-11)
From this point forward, Paul is now listed first. He was first a student of Barnabas and now has moved into the teacher role. While I am focusing on the growth of Paul, it is also important to note the maturity and wisdom of Barnabas. No jealousy or pride here. Barnabas served a critical point in helping to develop Saul into Paul. That time has come and Paul follows the prompting of the Spirit to move into the role he was designed for.
So, now that Paul was the chief teacher, what did he do? He continued the same method he learned under Barnabas, he went were the people were, the synagogues. Now he was siting in a synagogue in Antioch (a town of both Jews and Gentiles). Either stories of prior miracles had reached Antioch or the Spirit directly prompted the rulers of the synagogue, encouraging them to ask Paul to speak.
Paul’s message focused on the rich history of the Jews, connecting the dots from Abraham to Jesus. The crowd was amazed and the rulers were concerned. Within a week, his teaching had circulated the town so much that “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” (v 44) With this message of Jesus getting so popular, the rulers “began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him” (v 45b).
The second critical transition point is Paul moving from a Jewish to a Gentile audience.
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. 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.’”
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. (v 46-48)
As a result of first being filled with the Spirit and second, listening to the prompting of the Spirit, Saul had now become Paul and expanded his message to the Gentiles. Every amazing story you read of the Apostles is a result of this. They first became filled with the Spirit and then they listened.
If you have not yet been filled with the Spirit, that step is simple. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9) Once you are saved, you will receive the Spirit.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. – John 14:15-17
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