Acts 13

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

What a mix of persons who are believers in one location; Antioch, Syria (not Turkey). This is the continental divide of Acts; a time when Luke switches discussion from Peter to Saul/Paul. In a sense the water shed of Luke’s focus in the Book of Acts. Peter was to the Jews (Acts 1 – 12) what Paul became to the Greeks/Gentiles (Acts 13 to 28).  If this was quiz time as in a bible school, college or university, here is a set of Questions very likely to appear as an Acts 13 student challenge sometimes called a quiz or a test.

quiz time

Who separated Barnabus and Saul for the work of God’s ministry?
Acts 13:1-4.

How should we get involved in the ministry today? (essay question)

Is an academic qualification essential for ministry? (essay question)

Would you say Paul’s judgement on the sorcerer was harsh?
Acts 13:6-12

Do you think Paul’s own experience influenced his action in Acts 13:11?

How are we as Christians to discern the time to call for God’s judgement and the time for his mercy? (essay question)

When is Saul referred to as Paul? (essay question; see end of this article)

Was any reason given for John Mark’s departure? Acts 13:5, Acts 13:13, Acts 15:36-38

Paul’s sermon in Acts 13:13-41 shows his understanding and knowledge of the scriptures. Is the Old Testament still relevant to us today? (essay question)

What was the outcome of Paul’s preaching?- Acts 13:42-52

Back to this article: The above questions are offered for one purpose…to stimulate thinking. One aside note that may be of interest per political correctness is the one mentioned as either a prophet or teacher in Act 13:1 and in perspective of today’s social norms would be (ASV) “…Symeon that was called Niger,…” [many Bible translation spell Symion as Simeon]. It is almost too obvious. Niger means black. Simeon is not the same Simon mentioned often in the bible. He also may have been the one who carried the cross of Jesus when Jesus no longer had the strength to carry it up Calvary’s Hill of the Skull.

Some commentaries want to make a point that a black man in this gathering for prayer must have been from Africa. How shallow is this thinking! Back when God created Adam and Eve, we have no clue what skin color was given to both or either of them. In Middle East culture, race has little to do with society at-large. As Malcom X discovered when he went to the Middle East to pursue his Muslim learning, he discovered that race was not an issue. Why? Because the DNA can appear in anyone and the original man and woman carried all of the DNA components of the “races” we see today.

Another very interesting component of Acts 13:1 is a man named Manaen…”the fosterHerod the Great brother” of Herod the Tetrarch. This is one of four Herods mentioned in scripture. We know this guy as Herod Antipas. To help us understand, see the chart to the right.

This Herod was partly responsible for the trial and crucifixion of Jesus; it was Augustus Caesar who appointed him ruler over one-fourth of his father, Herod the Great’s kingdom; he was the one who had John the Baptizer’s head removed; he feared the powers of the Jewish Sanhedrin leaders. Again see the above chart. To keep the time line of bible events in order… “When Jesus hears that John has been killed, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place,” (Matthew 14:13).

This is the chapter where Barnabas and Saul (Paul) are separated out as missionaries; going synagogue to synagogue. It would be remiss to not mention that Mark (John Mark), a young man at the time, accompanied them for a short while but eventually returned home. Saul (Paul) saw this as desertion on behalf of John Mark, later refusing to take him along again. This all changed when Paul ended up in Rome to be tried and executed.

When Paul and Barnabas traveled through the island of Paphos, they met Sergius Paulas, Island Proconsul appointed by Rome. He was a devout man of great intellect. Elymas the sorcerer who had the attention of Sergius tried to keep Paul and Barnabas apart from him. Why? Elymas had the attention and possibly the support of Serguis and KNEW (yadda) the Spirit in Paul and Barnabas. Paul calls him the “son of the devil” (ASV) which suggests he was magical with the support of Satan; i.e. possessed. Paul calls upon the Spirit to blind Elymas “for a season.”stone

JIV NOTE: Do these names align with secular history? The above stone marker was found with the Greek name of Sesguis Paulas inscribed on it.

In verse 15, they find themselves in Antioch of Pisidia (Turkey). They again go directly to the Synagogue where they find their usual audience of worshipers. Verse 15 tells us that they are called upon to speak of any word of exhortation if they have one. That is all Paul needed. He stands and delivers the message of his calling and of Jesus Christ. Paul addresses them in a two-fold manner… “Men of Israel and those that fear God.” He distinguishes between those who attend the Synagogue out of routine and those who respect and worship God (Judaism style).

JIV NOTE: Paul says “MEN OF ISRAEL.” This means he is talking to a mixed crowd of Israelis that were dispersed from their Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians hundreds of years earlier (720 B.C.). Essentially he said: “Men of Israel” which is all inclusive and “those of the same heritage” who still followed God plus Gentile proselytes.

Paul proceeds to discuss the lineage and history of those called “God’s People.” He goes from Egypt, through the Wilderness experience, time of the Judges (400 + years), setting up of Kings beginning with King Saul, John the Baptizer of repentance, the birth of Jesus in the line of Judah (David), the prophets, and the calling for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ BY THE JEWS OF JERUSALEM, his resurrection, all from the Old Testament teachings as this was before the written New Testament was even committed to a scroll or parchment. It was also a book with which his audience was familiar.

The fascinating but often missed portion of Acts 13 is the how Paul began his audience transition from the Jews to the Gentiles…the Jews left the Synagogue (v42) but the “nations” (people of Gentile background) remained asking to hear more. The next Sabbath almost the entire city (v44) showed up at the Synagogue to hear more of this one time Christian killer. This chapter ends with those of “devout” Judaism forcing Paul and Barnabas to leave the city. They shook off the dust of their feet leaving the unbelievers to their eternal destiny.

JIV: Saul is a Jewish name; Paul is a Gentile name. Some historians suggest that Saul took the last name of Lucius Sergius Paulis as his own Greek name: Paul. This is probably little more than speculation but We Teach – You Decide.

we teach

Rev. Dr. Jstark
October 2018

Acts 12

one way


King Herod Agrippa of Judah turns on the church. He needs to find favor with the Jews. By turning his vial temper and disposition toward The Way (early Christians) he saw that it pleased the Jewish leadership. Why he did this other than to gain favor with his half-relatives, the Jews, history does not say. Herod Agripps was the grandson of Herod the Great. Herod the Great was an Idumean; i.e. descendant in the line of Esau…brother of Jacob. He married a daughter of Ishmael (his uncle) making his offspring half Israeli and half Arab. In order to legitimize his hold on the Judean throne he married a Hasmonaean Princes. Hasmonaeans were a long line of Jewish Priests.

Herod the Great is also of Bethlehem fame. He met the Maji of Persia and tried to have this “future king of the Jews” slain.

Herod Agrippa in Acts 12 had the Apostle James killed then had Peter arrested with the intent of the same fate as James. This is about 11 years after the stoning of Stephen. Acts 12:4 tells us that Peter was arrested and confined to prison by alternating Roman centurion soldiers. There were four groups of four centurions guarding him; two chained to him and two at the prison door.

JIV: We should note a small but important word in Acts 12:1. Depending on the translation used, Agrippa intended to “put his hands on CERTAIN or SOME” of the Christians. This does not suggest he declared all-out war on The Way.

Since it was the time of Jewish Feast of the Passover (unleavened bread and what we identify as Easter today) Herod knew it was against Jewish custom and law to “cause a death” during this feast. This is why Peter was not sent to the head chopping block. Instead he was put under very heavy guard.

We do not know if Peter was in prison under guard for one day or through the 7 day celebration of unleavened bread. What we do know is what happened to him JUST BEFORE he was to be brought before Herod and sentenced to the same fate as was James. This had to be a time or Prayer meetings above all other Prayer meetings. The believers had gathered together and prayed “earnestly” (NLV); “without ceasing” (KJV); “fervently” (YLT). No,…they did not get together to say the Lord’s Prayer. They prayed from the heart like Daniel did multiple times while a captive in Babylon.

Acts 12:7 states in the KJV that an angel (small “a”) of the Lord appeared and “smote PETER ON THE SIDE.” There is no other record in scripture where an angel is sent to strike a person then give him a message of release. This reminds me of the times God had to figuratively strike me between the eyes or along the side of my head to simply, as the angel did to Peter, get his or my attention.

Now I return to something I have stated so many times I have no count. All promises in the bible have the premise of “if you ____, then I _____.” Peter is told to stand up. When he did the bondage chains fell off. The guards at the other ends of these chains slept through it all. “Get dressed” said the angel and follow me. A pastor friend of mine once said in a message, this is the first electric doors because the locked gates opened before them as they proceeded to leave the cell block. Of course he was joking but the point is well made. If we move forward with our mission for Christ, the doors will open but only as we walk toward them J.I.T. (a marketing term for Just In Time delivery).

Verse 9 tells us how incredible this was to Peter. As they walked out of the prison and away from the four duty guards, Peter thought he was having a dream (vision). It was so smooth and without bumps Peter could not jolt his senses enough to realize the actuality. Verse 10 states that the “Iron Gates” simply opened in front of them. Why did my pastor friend call these iron gates electronic gates? Simple! The word used in this passage to “open” is “automatos;” automatic in English.

Acts 12:11 says that it took this long before Peter came to his senses realizing he was free and without taking evasive actions. He immediately heads to the house of where the prayer meeting of all prayer meetings was on going; the house  of Mary the mother of John (John Mark).


What gets your Attention?

Sometimes when we pray we actually don’t believe it will be answered. Doubt, uncertainty, Satan feeding us deceptive thoughts… This is what happened when Peter gets to the gates of the house of Mary. A woman named Rhoda goes to the gate where Peter is standing and knocking. She is so shocked and thinking it probably a ghost or spirit of Peter, she runs back to the prayer meeting. Even those in the prayer meeting thought her “to be mad” [KJV] as in nuts. /even though they were praying assumedly for Peter they couldn’t bring themselves to accept the answer had come from God.

JIV: This reminds me of a man who once asked for prayer per an issue in his life. As we prayed he suddenly stopped the praying and said, “Never mind praying anymore. I just had a thought and figured it out myself.” He obviously did not acknowledge the “thought’ came from prayer and God.

This is similar to what happened in Acts 12. Even though praying they could not justify in their own hearts that it had been answered BY GOD.

In 12:18, 19 we find the shock and awe of Herod and the 12 guards responsible for Peter. Verse 18 states that “there was no small stir among the soldiers” and certainly with Herod. He ordered the guards executed then “got out of Dodge” by immediately going to Caesarea. He went there to take his anger out on his subjects in Tyre and Sidon. These people who were in total subject to Agrippa realized his anger, brutality, and merciless attitude. They listen to a speech from him and flatter him with “this is not the voice of a man but a voice of a god” (12:22). It was not because of what the people said but because Herod accepted their “voice of a god” as literal that the angel IMMEDIATELY struck him with consuming worms and he died.

thanks always

This too is why we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18… continually give thanks to God. Do you????? Does the so-called church???? Do we????

Rev. Dr. Jstark

Acts 11

Chapter 11 – Book of Acts

A quick read through chapter 11 concludes that it is a narrated version of what actually happened in chapter 10.  We began our previous article per chapter 10 noting that there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of the band called the Italian band.

narrow way


Cornelius is the first Gentile recorded or mentioned by name in the bible to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He was already a devout man of God but did not know about Jesus. Chapter 11 begins by “some of the circumcised believers [of The Way] challenged

Peter because he met with and socialized via his witness and teachings with a Gentile. A major part of the issue and prejudice here is that the Israelites, especially those of the Tribe of Judah and living in Jerusalem at this time, felt themselves as the only ones in God’s chosen. They are His chosen but not his only people. The confused and ignorant Jewish Christians that confronted Peter as soon as he returned to Jerusalem after teaching Cornelius and his family about Jesus still had arrogance to deal with per Christ taking the sin of the world to the cross; not just that of Israel.

More than the traditional Judaism issues in conflict with Peter’s witnessing to Gentiles but it was a violation of traditional Jewish customs. We still see that today in cross-denominationalism. People want to bring their “customs” into play if and when they get a new pastor or they go to another church. This is the very essence of chapter 11. Traditional customs have nothing to do with any of the salvation passages in the entire Bible. They are not part of faith, grace, believing, accepting Christ, or salvation.

Peter goes back to his Joppa incident and the animals he called unclean in chapter 10. He got the point that Christ is not just for the Jews who wish to accept him as the true Messiah. He came “that all may be saved” (I Timothy 2:4). He recaps the entire incident to those now in Jerusalem. Peter points out to his critics…

Acts 11:17 “Forasmuch then as God gave them the [Holy Spirit] as [He did] unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”

Acts 11:18 is a good conclusion to his issue with those who confronted him upon his return to Jerusalem:

Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying; Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”

RENPENTANCEWe might equate this with modern times, if it is even possible today, for believers to understand the building they attend worship and praise services is NOT THE CHURCH. There is nothing sacred about the building or the artifacts, utensils, and carpeting inside the building that is sacred. To think so takes us back to the Judeans hiding behind their temple.

Dr. J. Stark

October, 2018