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3 Puzzles in Acts 13


Three Puzzles in Acts 13.

Acts 13:49-50

In Acts 13 there are at least three puzzles that need to be solved, and all the clues to solving them are contained in the Bible, so in this study we’ll have a go at solving them, learning something about biblical background and the history of the early church, as we go along…

1 Why Did Saul Change His Name to Paul9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul,

Saul is a Hebrew name,  that means ‘Asked for’ – so it was certainly an appropriate name for Israel’s first earthly king, for it was the people of Israel who asked for a king to rule over them, even though that in itself was seen as a great evil, for God was their king, not an earthly ruler…  1 Samuel 12:17   Saul was, presumably a common enough name in the times of the birth of Christianity, and we first meet with Saul of Tarsus in Acts 7:58  Saul of Tarsus retains that Jewish name right up until Acts 13, where we find in verse 9 that he had also become known as Paul.  Why?

According to Robert Reymond, in ‘Paul, Missionary Theologian’ the Greek name for Saul was simply ‘Saulos’- – the Latin for Saul was Paulus – the Roman proconsul at Cyprus was Sergius Paulus – and Saul/Paul was, as we know a Roman citizen.  So life for Saul has changed, and his mission is now dedicated to lands and nations and people groups where Hebrew was unknown.  From this time on he was Paul.  

2 Why Did John Go Home? 13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.

Now remember this man called John is John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark. 

  • John at Jerusalem. We met him first in Jerusalem, in Acts 12, where he is at the big prayer-meeting in his mother’s house.  Acts 12:12  So, he was a young person, a youth, and he was a Christian, a Jewish Christian, who was a witness of the resurrection, along with his family, and who has put his trust in Christ at a young age, along with his mother.  
  • John the Trainee Missionary. When Paul and Barnabas were commissioned to be missionaries to the gentiles by the church at Antioch, and set off on their first missionary journey to Cyprus, they took young John Mark with them to help them in the work.  Acts 13:5    
  • John the Deserter?  But the next mention of Mark is a little strange.  After working with Paul in Cyprus, after witnessing the defeat of the sorcerer Elymas, after seeing the Prime Minister of that island come to saving faith in Christ, and travelling with Paul to Asia Minor/Turkey, we learn that John, ‘departing from them, returned to Jerusalem!’   Now WHY did he do that?   Some commentators suggest that John may have been shocked by Paul’s attitude towards the Gentiles.  In Jerusalem there was a group of Christians who were ‘judaistic’ in thought. Paul was teaching the Gentiles that all they needed to be saved was faith in Christ, but there were some who believed that a convert should be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses, as, the proselytes in the Synagogue were.  READ Acts15:1-2A  Paul openly disagreed with them. Perhaps John Mark initially supported that view, and his ‘departure from them’ was more than just homesickness, but a rift between him and Paul, – after all, we know Paul had no tolerance for deficiency in doctrine!  What would make us think that?  There’s a hint in Acts 15:36   So, whatever the cause, there has been a separation, a division, a falling out, between Paul and Mark, and Mark has gone home.  
  • John the Profitable Servant.  The next time we encounter Mark is near the end of Paul’s life, and things have radially changed.  The rift has been healed, and Mark’s ministry is acknowledged as profitable. Writing from prison to Timothy, Paul gives some instructions; 2 Timothy  4:9-11  

So, John Mark, born into a Christian home, a wealthy, opulent home, called to be a missionary, who for some reason deserts his calling and goes home.  Who would blame him.  Paul is, to say the least, somewhat angry with him and they fall out.  But there is always hope!  We are all failures to some extent.  We are all, even at our very best, unprofitable servants, and just as John Mark found forgiveness and was restored to ministry, and became so valuable that he was used of God to pen one of the Gospel records, – so there is hope for each one of us, no matter how we may have failed, or let down the Lord, that we too can be forgiven, and be useful in God’s kingdom.

3 Why Did Paul Shake Dust off His Feet51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them.

Paul now has a strategy!  Today in modern terms we would call it is ‘Missiology!’  His method of approach when he enters a new area for evangelism.  He would go into the synagogue and use his qualifications as a rabbi to gain access to the pulpit, and seek to win the Jews first and then the ‘God-fearers’ for the Lord.  Those God -fearers’ who were converted would begin to meet together outside the synagogue, where no doubt they would no longer be welcome, and those little groups would be formed into churches, little communities of believers, worshipping God together, learning about Jesus and following him.  

But what of the Jews – those who heard his message and listened to his sermons and rejected Christ?  In our reading in Acts 13 we saw their antagonism and hostility.  Paul had returned to the synagogue a week after his initial visit, as the gentile god-fearers had asked him too, and huge crowds gathered to hear him – a fact that aroused great envy among the Jews.. Acts 13:45  There is no point in arguing with such people.  They are utterly opposed to the Gospel, and want to remain in their sin.  Paul does exactly what Jesus has commanded in the Gospels. In fact, in Mark’s words, Mark 6:11  

So, we reach the end of chapter 13, a very important chapter indeed, when we see the who thrust of evangelism adapting to reach the heathen, the gentile world.  It will have he repercussions back in Jerusalem and a church council, the very first such council, will have to be called to resolve matters, but for now, the disciples are seeing souls saved, and that causes them to rejoice in the Lord.  Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

© Bob McEvoy

From → Acts, Bible Study

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