Reading for Tuesday, April 24: Acts 13
The chapter begins with Paul and Barnabas setting out on their initial missionary journey. The church at Antioch is worshipping and fasting – two compatible components of their lives. And this provides the context for the Holy Spirit to speak: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (v2). More fasting and prayer accompanies their commission as the believers lay their hands on them for this ministry.
I wonder what spiritual blessings we miss out on when we fail to fast. I’m certainly no expert when it comes to fasting, but each time I’ve done it, I’ve been richly blessed. It seems to be common practice in the early church; therefore, I think it’s something worth discussing in our own spiritual lives. Any experience you’ve had with fasting? What have you learned?
Barnabas and Paul have a missionary strategy: they go to the synagogues first and preach the Good News to the Jews. It seems fair to say that Paul and Barnabas understand that the Jews have a greater context to understand the Gospel — the promises God made in the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses as being fulfilled in Jesus. And this ministry is successful, although some rise up in opposition, namely Bar-Jesus and Elymas. But Paul rises to the occasion – the staunch opponent of the Gospel now becomes her fiercest defender. Note the strong words he speaks against Elymas. “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?” Through a mighty demonstration of God’s power, the Gospel continues to flourish and people respond in faith.
As more Jews reject this message, Paul and Barnabas turn their attention toward the Gentiles, using Isaiah 49:6 as their programmatic text: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” This will define the rest of Paul’s ministry — the living out of this verse.
Two verses in this chapter underscore the link between salvation and belief:
– v38, everyone who believes is freed…
– v48, those appointed to eternal life believed.