Acts 13:5

Inside Vermont State Capitol.

Friday, 16 December 2022 

And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant. Acts 13:5

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Barnabas and Saul left Antioch, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. Once there, it now says, “And when they arrived in Salamis.” This is the chief city on the island. The name is believed to have possibly come from salos, meaning the tossing of the sea in a tempest.

The city itself is on the east end of the island. It is the nearest port on Cyprus from Seleucia. Once they arrived there, it next says that “they preached.” The word more correctly means “proclaimed.” Also, the verb is imperfect, signifying that they not only preached, but they continued to do so, they “were proclaiming” at the synagogues. This is why the Holy Spirit had sent them, and so this is what they did. And what they proclaimed was “the word of God.”

In other words, it doesn’t say specifically that they preached the gospel as in Acts 8:25. Rather, these men, being Jews were proclaiming the word of God. The reason for this was that their proclamation was “in the synagogues of the Jews.”

Barnabas and Saul went right to Scripture and from there proclaimed what they knew concerning how it pointed to Jesus, using the Jews’ own writings as the basis for what they spoke. The plural, synagogues, testifies to the large number of Jews on the island. In fact, Vincent’s Word Studies notes –

“Augustus, according to Josephus, made Herod the Great a present of half the revenue of the copper-mines of Cyprus, so that numerous Jewish families would be settled in the island. In the reign of Trajan [98-117AD], upon the breaking out of a Jewish insurrection, the whole island fell into the hands of the Jews, and became a rallying-point for the revolt. It is said that two hundred and forty thousand of the native population were sacrificed to the fury of the insurgents. When the rebellion was extinguished, the Jews were forbidden thenceforth, on pain of death, to set foot on the island.”

Because of the large number of Jews and the many synagogues they had built, one would think it would be a fertile field for the good news about Jesus. However, nothing is noted concerning bearing any fruit from their labors at this time. As for the ministry of these two men, it next says, “They also had John as their assistant.”

It was Barnabas and Paul who had been designated to conduct this missionary journey. For whatever reason, whether he was asked to come or whether he volunteered to go, John traveled with them and acted as an assistant to them.

Until verse 13, nothing more will be said of John or in what manner he helped these two men. He will depart from them in verse 13 but will join Barnabas on a second trip to Cyprus in Acts 15.

As for the effectiveness of this journey, it seems purposeful that Luke does not record any conversions by the Jews. Even if any were converted, the lack of such references highlights the fact that there was certainly not a widespread acceptance of the message. This will continue to be seen as events on the island continue to be chronicled by him.

Life application: Nothing is said about how long it was from the time of the arrival of Barnabas and Saul on the island until the time they first began proclaiming the word of God. Luke’s record simply goes directly from their arrival to their proclaiming the word.

These two certainly didn’t set up an office and start to hire helpers. They also didn’t open a storefront ministry. Instead, they went to the synagogues and started telling them what they knew. This is the implication we get from Luke’s direct and brief notes.

Sometimes churches get so detailed in developing ministries that they never become productive in the most important part of what should be done. It is fine to open a food bank or a clothing ministry in a poor area, but in doing this, it normally becomes the focus of attention. Instead of proclaiming Jesus, He only becomes a part of the ministry. And quite often, He is not even a major part of it.

The proclamation of the gospel needs to be brought forward as the main purpose of what is being done. If it is not, then the ministry has lost its focus. And so, from time to time, be sure to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this thing on Saturday morning?” Or maybe, “Why do I keep helping out at this store?” After asking this, remind yourself that the main purpose of what you are doing is to share the good news about Jesus.

Handing out breakfast will satisfy someone for a couple of hours. Selling a shirt to pay the rent at the charity store will keep the store selling more shirts. But these things must have the set and ongoing purpose of sharing Jesus, or they have missed the point of being started in the first place.

Glorious Heavenly Father, help us to keep our priorities rightly focused at all times. We may start a ministry with the intent of telling people about Jesus, but has that main purpose been lost in the business of keeping the ministry going? If so, help us to redirect our attention back to sharing the good news about Jesus. May this always be our heart’s desire. Amen.