Some have suggested in the past that some individuals attracted to Christianity might have been individuals who were not born into status but were on the margins of status. Think Erastus at Corinth.
These individuals, with no mandate from HQ, lay hands on Paul and Barnabas to go on a mission to the island of Cyprus.
2. This choice of destination was not random. Cyprus was where Barnabas was from originally (cf. Acts 4:36). John Mark goes with them and he Barnabas' cousin--quite possibly he has family connections there as well. It was low-hanging fruit. Who knows, Barnabas might have already known just about every Jew on the island.
3. They span the length of the island and find themselves in front of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus. As we saw with Paul's tussle with authorities in Damascus, Acts arguably may downplay conflict with Roman authorities. Acts puts it politely--Sergius wanted to hear the word of God. That doesn't mean he didn't have a reason to want to know.
Basically, I'm saying Paul might have been in trouble again. I can't say for sure. Maybe Sergius was just curious. Or maybe he was doing his job.
Whatever the reason, he believes. Acts 13 doesn't say he was baptized but I wouldn't be surprised, personally. Paul has some sort of run in with a sorcerer named Elymas (did he bring charges of some sort against Paul?). By the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul strikes him blind for a while. Sorcerer out-miracled!
4. It is only at this point, perhaps 15 years after Paul believed on Jesus, that Paul starts going by Paul instead of Saul. "Paul" was thus not a Christian name given to him at conversion, baptism, etc. It was more likely a Roman name or nickname he had always had. Is it significant that he starts going by Paul at Cyprus. I suspect it is, perhaps in some ways we can only guess.
Is part of it that Paul has now embraced his destiny as apostle to the Gentiles? He is no longer Clark Kent. Now he's supermissionary. Gone for good are the days of suppressing his Diaspora, Greek-speaking origins. Now, he embraces it as his God-ordained destiny for mission.
5. I doubt they had planned to head north to Asia Minor originally. I'm guessing it was Paul's idea. Why stop here--let's head north!
When they come ashore on the underbelly of Turkey (Perga), John Mark has had enough. He quits. Why? We mostly have to speculate.
- "I didn't sign up for Asia, especially not those mountains."
- "I mean, Cyprus was familiar, a chance to visit family. Don't know nuthin' about Galatia!"
- "I thought my cuz, Barnabas, was in charge of this mission. Who does this Paul guy think he is?"
- "I'm not really comfortable with how chummy Paul is getting with these Gentiles."
6. They make their way up into the middle of Asia Minor, uphill into Pisidia to another town called Antioch, formerly a favorite city of the emperor Augustus. This is likely the area in general to which he would later write the book of Galatians.
We get a brief window into the way synagogue was conducted. We know there was a reading of the Law and a reading from the Prophets (Acts 13:15), the two established collections of the Jewish canon at this time.
A "word of exhortation" is presumably a homily, and perhaps it was normal for appropriate leaders to give such. The book of Hebrews styles itself a word of exhortation (Heb. 13:22), perhaps indicating that it was meant to be read during this part of worship at whatever destination to which it was sent (Rome?).
7. Paul gives a sermon. Part of Acts subliminal goal, surely, is to show the similarity between the sermon of Paul and the sermons of Peter. He wants his audience to see the continuity between the mission of Paul and the mission of Peter.
The shape of the sermon is thus quite similar to that of Peter's Pentecost sermon:
- He starts with the story of Israel.
- Jesus came according to God's plan. He was wrongly crucified, but it was all part of God's plan.
- God raised him from the dead.
- Through Jesus is now possible the forgiveness of sins.
8. Some interesting hermeneutics and theology in the use of Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 16. Psalm 2 was apparently used by the early Christians to speak of Jesus' enthronement as cosmic king at the point of his resurrection. Acts 13:33, Romans 1:3 and Hebrews 1:5 all point to this use of the psalm.
9. After Paul and Barnabas get opposition from the synagogue, they turn to the Gentiles. This will be a major theme of the rest of Acts, the turning to the Gentiles. Luke seems to want to make a point of this, so it is part of his theological perspective that affects how he tells the story. The book of Acts climaxes with a decisive turn to the Gentiles, which probably is meant to foreshadow the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.
Isaiah 49:6 is invoked as a prophecy of the Gentiles' faith. Luke also alluded to this verse in Simeon's song, in Luke 2:32.
10. Despite opposition, some believe, including proselytes to Judaism. Arguably, a lot of the first converts to the Jesus movement were Gentiles who were either God-fearers or proselytes of this sort. Interesting that some of the key opponents in this region were "God-fearing women of high standing." The phenomenon of women of high standing who were interested in Judaism is fascinating, and we find evidence of it even in Caesar's household at the end of the first century.
"Those who were appointed for eternal life believed." A deterministic way to word it. I've argued elsewhere that this is "after the fact" language. Some believe and some don't. Why is a mystery. It was in keeping with the Zeitgeist that they would use fatalistic language to say so. It doesn't in itself imply a full blown theology of predestination.