Before we begin Paul’s journeys we must stop and reflect upon vs.1 because it is significant. We find the believers of Antioch pointed out and some individuals lifted up as leaders in the church. Out of these leaders Paul and Barnabas, we have seen them before, are called out to go forward on an overseas missionary journey. But let’s look at those who were in the community and stayed home. We have a Simeon who was called Niger. What Luke does here, and we have already mentioned that he loves details, is that he lifts up the race of Simeon as something particular and distinctive. Simeon was someone whose ancestry came from Africa. This is not completely unusual, we have Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, remember where Ethiopia is…Africa. But it is unusual enough to be able to comment and say this just might be the first reference to a church that is intercultural, interracial, and interethnic in the most positive of ways. I’ll never forget the day that an elder in a church that I once served came to me and said flat out: “Black people have their place and it is a place that is inferior to white people. They should not be in our church.” It was a reality check for a very young pastor who thought everyone thought the way that I thought. I wish I had mentioned Simeon called Niger (literally the black one) and the church in Antioch who casually mentions him along with Paul and Barnabas as leaders in the church.
Now onto Paul’s journeys.
His first journey we find is laid out above in a fairly comprehensive way. Just beware, and I fell for this, the map above is a reflection of his journey which takes place over chapters 13 and 14. So tomorrow you’ll have to cover the cities inland which chapter 13 does not cover. All along the way they make friends and they make enemies. I had a member of a church tell me at one time: “I just want people to like me.” I think I also mentioned that when I was in college and played basketball if we were up by a certain number of points then it would look promising for me to go in. Once we were up by about 15 the crowd started chanting: “Bob is nice.” It was kind of their signal to the coach that it was time for me to go in. It was…nice. But I have come to realize that no matter how nice we are, and we are called to be nice by the way, people are still not going to like you all the time. I’m going to change a quote around that maybe you’ve heard in reference to fooling people but I’m going to substitute it with people liking you. You can have some of the people like you all the time, you can have all of the people like you some of the time, but you can’t have all of the people like you all of the time. Yeah, I think that works. How about that for Biblical exegesis?
All of that to say is that Paul and Barnabas and John were accepted and rejected. The both attracted and repelled. Our goal should be to attract, but it simply is not going to happen all the time. I want you to notice vs.13 where we have John leaving Paul and Barnabas. This comes up later in Acts and it is actually a disagreement and one of the first times that we see a conflict in the church. It doesn’t say that here, but we do learn about it later. Keep it in mind.
Paul’s sermon is powerful, especially vs.39 which lays out for us the simple Gospel message. Jesus came and died for our sins, all of our sins. As a result we have eternal life. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. We also have here a transition of the Gospel message from strictly being preached to the Jews to then being opened to the gentiles. Are you sensing this theme being stressed repeatedly? Look at the reaction of the gentiles in vs.48 as we get our first glimpse of predestination. We will speak about predestination later when Paul addresses it in Romans. My prayer for all of us is that we would live our lives as a reflection of vs. 52: “And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” What could be better?