1. STARTING OUT
a. Where did Paul and Barnabas begin their mission, and who was the young man that accompanied them? Acts 13:4, 5; 12:12, 25.
b. What challenge did the missionaries encounter at Paphos? Acts 13:6–8.
“Not without a struggle does Satan allow the kingdom of God to be built up in the earth. The forces of evil are engaged in unceasing warfare against the agencies appointed for the spread of the gospel, and these powers of darkness are especially active when the truth is proclaimed before men of repute and sterling integrity. Thus it was when Sergius Paulus, the deputy of Cyprus, was listening to the gospel message. The deputy had sent for the apostles, that he might be instructed in the message they had come to bear, and now the forces of evil, working through the sorcerer Elymas, sought with their baleful suggestions to turn him from the faith and so thwart the purpose of God.
“Thus the fallen foe ever works to keep in his ranks men of influence who, if converted, might render effective service in God’s cause.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 167.
2. THE NEED OF COURAGE
a. How did the Lord spiritually bless the amazing boldness with which Paul handled the interference of Elymas, the sorcerer? Acts 13:9–12.
“Although sorely beset by Satan, Paul had the courage to rebuke the one through whom the enemy was working. . . .
“The sorcerer had closed his eyes to the evidences of gospel truth, and the Lord, in righteous anger, caused his natural eyes to be closed, shutting out from him the light of day. This blindness was not permanent, but only for a season, that he might be warned to repent and seek pardon of the God whom he had so grievously offended. . . .
“Elymas was not a man of education, yet he was peculiarly fitted to do the work of Satan. Those who preach the truth of God will meet the wily foe in many different forms.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 168, 169.
b. Where did the apostles plant the gospel seed next, and what happened to John Mark? Acts 13:13. As it is the case of many newly aspiring missionaries, why did this young man have difficulties? 2 Timothy 2:3.
“Paul and Barnabas had learned to trust God’s power to deliver. Their hearts were filled with fervent love for perishing souls. As faithful shepherds in search of the lost sheep, they gave no thought to their own ease and convenience. Forgetful of self, they faltered not when weary, hungry, and cold. They had in view but one object—the salvation of those who had wandered far from the fold.
“It was here [in Perga] that Mark, overwhelmed with fear and discouragement, wavered for a time in his purpose to give himself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work. Unused to hardships, he was disheartened by the perils and privations of the way. He had labored with success under favorable circumstances; but now, amidst the opposition and perils that so often beset the pioneer worker, he failed to endure hardness as a good soldier of the cross.”—Ibid., pp.169, 170.
“Mark did not apostatize from the faith of Christianity; but, like many young ministers, he shrank from hardships and preferred the comfort and safety of home to the travels, labors, and dangers of the missionary field. This desertion caused Paul to judge him unfavorably and severely for a long time.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 46, 47.
3. NEW SABBATHKEEPERS JOIN THE RANKS
a. Where did Paul and Barnabas begin their preaching in Antioch, and who were some that appreciated it the most—and the least? Acts 13:14, 42–45.
b. Describe the attitude of the believers in the face of such strong opposition. Acts 13:46–52. What should we learn from the way Christ foresaw this conflict and advised His faithful followers? Matthew 10:23.
“ ‘When brought before courts, we are to give up our rights, unless by so doing we are brought into collision with God. We are not pleading for our right, but for God’s right to our service. Instead of resisting the penalties imposed unjustly upon us, it would be better to take heed to the Saviour’s word [Matthew 10:23 quoted].’”—Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 26.
c. Where did Paul and Barnabas go next, and what did they find there? Acts 14:1, 2. What can we learn from their success nonetheless? Acts 14:3.
“Friends of the apostles, although unbelievers, warned [Paul and Barnabas] of the designs of the malicious Jews and urged them not to expose themselves uselessly to their fury, but to escape for their lives. They accordingly departed from Iconium in secret and left the faithful and opposing parties to battle for themselves, trusting God to give victory to the doctrine of Christ. But they by no means took a final leave of Iconium; they purposed to return, after the excitement then raging had abated, and complete the work they had begun.
“Those who observe and teach the binding claims of God’s law frequently receive, in a degree, similar treatment to that of the apostles at Iconium. They often meet a bitter opposition from ministers and people who persistently refuse the light of God, who, by misrepresentation and falsehood, close every door by which the messenger of truth might have access to the people. . . .
“The apostles, in their work, met all grades of people, and all kinds of faith and religion. They were brought in opposition to Jewish bigotry and intolerance, sorcery, blasphemy, unjust magistrates who loved to exercise their power, false shepherds, superstition, and idolatry. While persecution and opposition met them on every hand, victory still crowned their efforts, and converts were daily added to the faith.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 54, 55.
4. LYSTRA AND DERBE
a. Why did it soon become necessary for Paul and Barnabas to move on from Iconium—and what characterized this new area? Acts 14:4–7.
“Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia . . . were inhabited by a heathen, superstitious people; but among them were souls that would hear and accept the doctrine of Christ. The apostles chose to labor in those cities because they would not there meet Jewish prejudice and persecution. They now came in contact with an entirely new element—heathen superstition and idolatry. . . .
“In Lystra there was no Jewish synagogue, though there were a few Jews in the place. The temple of Jupiter occupied a conspicuous position there.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 55.
b. Give an example of how a person’s faith can take hold in a powerful way upon hearing the gospel. Acts 14:8–10. What was the response of the enthusiastic, yet ignorant people who beheld this miracle? Acts 14:11–13.
“Paul and Barnabas appeared in the city together, teaching the doctrine of Christ with great power and eloquence. The credulous people believed them to be gods come down from Heaven. As the apostles gathered the people about them, and explained their strange belief, the worshipers of Jupiter sought to connect these doctrines, as far as they were able, with their own superstitious faith.”—Ibid.
c. Why was it so important that such misunderstandings not be allowed to continue? Acts 14:14–18; Colossians 2:8; Revelation 22:8, 9.
“Do not receive flattery, even in your religious life. Flattery is an art by which Satan lieth in wait to deceive and to puff up the human agent with high thoughts of himself. [Colossians 2:8 quoted.] . . . Praise, flattery, and indulgence have done more toward leading precious souls into false paths, than any other art that Satan has devised.
“Flattery is a part of the world’s policy, but it is no part of Christ’s policy. Through flattery poor human beings, full of frailty and infirmities, come to think that they are efficient and worthy and become puffed up in their fleshly mind.”—Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 304.
5. GOD OVERRULES
a. Enraged by the miracle at Lystra, who arrived a short time later—and in what evil deed did they enlist the disappointed heathens? Acts 14:19.
“The disappointment experienced by the idolaters in being refused the privilege of offering sacrifices to the apostles, prepared them to turn against these ministers of God with a zeal which approached that of the enthusiasm with which they had hailed them as gods. The malicious Jews did not hesitate to take full advantage of the superstition and credulity of this heathen people, to carry out their cruel designs. They incited them to attack the apostles by force; and they charged them not to allow Paul an opportunity to speak, alleging that if they did so he would bewitch the people.
“The Lystrians rushed upon the apostles with great rage and fury. They hurled stones violently; and Paul, bruised, battered, and fainting, felt that his end had come. The martyrdom of Stephen was brought vividly to his mind, and the cruel part he had acted on that occasion. He fell to the ground apparently dead, and the infuriated mob dragged his insensible body through the gates of the city, and threw it beneath the walls.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 60, 61.
b. What amazing miracle confirmed God’s blessing? Acts 14:20–23. How did this providential act encourage greatly the apostles to press onward? Acts 14:24–28; Malachi 3:16, 17.
“Timothy had been converted through the ministration of Paul and was an eyewitness of the sufferings of the apostle upon this occasion. He stood by his apparently dead body and saw him arise, bruised and covered with blood, not with groans or murmurings upon his lips, but with praises to Jesus Christ, that he was permitted to suffer for his name.”—Ibid., p.62.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why is it important to pray for our missionaries?
2. What lessons do we learn from the human frailty of John Mark?
3. What can we all expect when teaching the law of God to a lawless world?
4. How does this lesson reveal the fickle nature of idolaters?
5. How did God endorse both the attitude and the labors of Paul?