Reading: Acts Chapter 13
By Melody Keena
The church at Antioch was made up of people from many different cultural backgrounds and spiritual gifts. There was one common thing that brought them together: their deep faith in Jesus and desire to spread the gospel. During their prayer and fasting God called them to set apart people to be missionaries. The first place the missionaries were called to go was their hometown. Barnabus was from Cyprus and both he and Paul were Jewish. This is the same pattern that Jesus gave us in Acts 1:8. We are first to share Jesus with those we know best. So they shared first with the Jews on the island and explained everything using their shared history (His-story) of God's work for the nation of Israel. But like Jesus, they were not accepted by those close to them and were even persecuted by them. The Jew Elymus ("son of Jesus" is what bar-Jesus means) Paul even called the "child of the devil" (diabolos in Greek). Paul also warns the Jews of what Habbakuk 1:5 says, that God is doing a new thing and they should beware that their unbelief could cause them to perish spiritually. When people are confronted by a disturbing truth, they often turn away and refuse to listen. When the Holy Spirit points out needed changes in our lives, we must listen to Him, even though it means painful changes or confession. Otherwise, we may push away God's offer of healing, growth, joy, and peace.
Paul's and Barnabus' ministry failed among the Jews but flourished among the Gentiles that heard, those watching and listening to their Spirit-empowered sermons and actions (blindness of Elymas). God often uses the ashes of defeat to bring forth the roses of success. When our witness for Christ is not accepted by those close to us, we should not give up, but find those who are listening and hungry for it. It may even mean that we need to shake the dust off our feet when we leave them. The Jews would shake the dusty off when they left a Gentile town and returned to their own. So, by doing this, Paul was saying that the Jews who did not believe were no longer part of Israel and no better than pagans. When people won't accept the truth, we must leave them in God's hands and continue the mission God has given us. So, stay strong and true to the ministry God has set you apart for, despite opposition and apparent failure.