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Lesson 7: Paul's First Missionary Journey *

Introduction: Is it sometimes difficult to be a church leader? Does opposition and name-calling get discouraging? Our study this week is about Paul's first missionary journey. We will read about the ups and downs of his work. However, the encouraging conclusion to Acts 13 is its conclusion: "And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." Let's plunge into our study to learn how we can be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit!

  1. Antioch

    1. Read Acts 13:1. Are you surprised that Saul (later called Paul) is mentioned among the leading prophets and teachers in Antioch? (He has been accepted by the early church despite his past persecution of it.)

    2. Read Acts 13:2. Recall in our past studies on Acts we saw that leaders are selected in different ways. How are Barnabas and Saul selected for this responsibility? (The Holy Spirit makes the selection on His own.)

      1. How do you think that took place? (We are told that the Holy Spirit "said" and then our English translation has the words in quotations. The translators must believe that the Holy Spirit spoke audibly to them.)

      2. Who is the group to which the Holy Spirit spoke? (The Bible does not say, but there are two possibilities. The first is that "they" refers back to the church. The second possible group is the previously mentioned four leading prophets and teachers. They were worshiping, and the Holy Spirit spoke to them.)

    3. Read Acts 13:3. Where did the group send Barnabas and Saul? (It doesn't say until later on. Frankly, I don't think that Barnabas and Paul or the church knew at this point.)

      1. Today, the journey we are about to explore is known as Paul's first missionary journey. What does this teach us about doing God's will in our age? (God will lead us if we are willing. We see that Saul (Paul) did not plan this first mission trip, instead the Holy Spirit initiated the trip and selected who would go.)

  2. Cyprus

    1. Read Acts 13:4. How was the destination of Cyprus selected? (The Bible tells us that they were "sent on their way by the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit selects the destination!)

      1. Is the Holy Spirit alive and well in your church? If not, how are you getting anything appropriate done?

    2. Read Acts 13:5. Why do they start evangelizing in the Jewish synagogues? (This is something we have discussed in earlier lessons in this series. Christianity is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies and the sanctuary service of the Old Testament. It is the logical completion of Judaism. In terms of knowledge, observant Jews are way ahead of the Gentiles. It is like starting to teach with the advanced students.)

    3. Read Acts 13:6-7. The word "sorcerer" means magician or magi. I think it is translated "sorcerer" because of what Paul later says about him. What, at a minimum, do we know about this magician? (He is a false prophet. He trades in deceit.)

      1. What exalted position does this magician hold? (He is an advisor to the Roman official in charge of the island.)

      2. What do we learn about Sergius Paulus, the Roman official? (He is smart, a man of understanding, and interested in hearing the gospel.)

        1. How smart can he be given that he is advised by a deceitful person?

          1. Is there a lesson in this for us?

    4. Read Acts 13:8. What does this tell us about the nature of Bar-Jesus' magic? (He is aligned with Satan.)

    5. Read Acts 13:9-10. What about a gentle approach to sinners? Didn't Jesus model that? (We need to distinguish between mere sinners, and those who are enemies of the gospel. We can be direct with enemies.)

      1. What cautionary note do we find about calling out enemies of God? (The text says that Paul was "filled with the Holy Spirit." We need to be sure that the Holy Spirit is leading in harsh language like this.)

    6. Read Acts 13:11. What do you think is going through Paul's mind as he pronounces this judgment on Bar-Jesus? (This is exactly what happened to Paul!)

      1. Do you think that God has the same outcome in mind for Bar-Jesus? (Notice that he is only blind for a limited period of time. It seems very much like what happened to Paul. We never hear of Bar-Jesus again, so we do not know.)

    7. Read Acts 13:12. Why does this say that Sergius Paulus believed? (His belief is not tied to making Bar-Jesus blind. Instead, the text says that "he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord." It was the teaching, not the miracle.)

  3. Pisidian Antioch

    1. Read Acts 13:13-15. Consider the way they hold "church." First, they have the customary Torah readings, then they give strangers the floor. Would you do that at your church? (I would not. Too many times I recall a visitor coming to my Sabbath School class and making an inappropriate remark. If a comment is problematic, it would be worse to give the visitor an open opportunity. Perhaps that is why the leaders only asked for "a message of encouragement.")

      1. Why do you think this happened here? (The prompting of the Holy Spirit.)

    2. Read Acts 13:16. Who is in the audience? (Both Jews and Gentiles who worshiped at the synagogue.)

    3. We are going to skip a discussion of Acts 13:17-38 because it is another of Paul's gospel sermons that recites the Jewish history and Bible verses that support his argument that Jesus is the Messiah. You should, however, read Paul's sermon.

    4. Read Acts 13:38-39. What change in belief does this require? (They must accept Jesus to have their sins forgiven. What they currently believe will not justify them.)

    5. Read Acts 13:40-41. Did the prophets predict that what Jesus would do something unbelievable? (Read Habakkuk 1:5-6. This is the text that Paul recites. Strangely, it is about the Babylonian invasion and not Jesus' coming.)

      1. Let's discuss this. Is it appropriate to take a statement from the Bible that is completely out of context and use it for your argument?

      2. Who destroyed the first temple? (The Babylonians.)

        1. Why did God allow His first temple to be destroyed? (If you read Habakkuk chapter 1, you will see that Habakkuk is calling for God to save His people from injustice and wrongdoing. God responds by sending the Babylonians to execute judgment. See Habakkuk 1:12.)

        2. What is going to happen to the second temple? (It would soon be destroyed by the Romans. God executed judgment on the city that executed Him. Paul is not taking this text out of context, it is a warning against rejecting God.)

    6. Read Acts 13:42-43. Considering what Paul just said to them, isn't this a great response?

    7. Read Acts 13:44-45. The positive response changes. What caused it to change? (Jealousy.)

      1. Why should the Jewish leaders be jealous? (Paul and Barnabas are attracting a large crowd.)

      2. Are you jealous of Christian leaders who attract large crowds?

    8. Read Acts 13:46-48. What made the Gentiles more receptive to the gospel?

    9. Read Acts 13:49-52. Why are the disciples filled with joy? (This is a lesson that we can learn. They had joy because they were doing God's will. It did not matter that some leaders were abusive towards them and drove them away. They were pleasing God.)

    10. Friend, are you encouraged by this study? Like Paul and Barnabas, you may face resistance. You may have opponents. But, if you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit you will be filled with joy! Why not decide right now to seek to do God's will?

  4. Next week: The Jerusalem Council.
* Copr. 2018, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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