Pisidian Antioch, Paul's Sermon & the Reaction, Part 1 vs 14-31
by John Lowe
September 5, 2014
PART 1: VERSES 14-31
When we get together for the purpose of worshipping God, we must do it, not only by prayer and praise, but by the reading and hearing of the word of God. The mere reading of the Scriptures in public assemblies is not enough; they should be explained and sometimes illustrated, and the people should be encouraged by it. This is helping people to do that which is necessary to make the word profitable, that is, to apply it to themselves. Everything mentioned in this sermon, should encourage the Jews to receive and embrace Christ as the promised Messiah. Paul’s message moves from David to the Son of David, and shows that Jesus Christ is his promised Seed; that He is a Saviour who can do for them that which Israel’s judges could not do—save them from their sins. When the apostles preached Christ as the Saviour, they always preached Christ crucified. Our complete separation from sin, is represented by our being buried with Christ. But He rose again from the dead, and saw no corruption: this was the great truth to be preached. And every view of the Lord's dealings with his church, regardless of how brief or vague, reminds us of His mercy and long-suffering, and of man's ingratitude and disobedience.
13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.
Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos
“Now when Paul and his company”—literally, those around or with the Apostle Paul—Barnabas and John—and perhaps others who had been converted at Paphos; for it was common for many of the converts to Christianity to accompany the apostles in their travels—“Which when the brothers knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus” (Acts 9:3O).
A very obvious change may be observed here in the relations of Barnabas and Paul. Until now Barnabas has always occupied the first rank. It has been "Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25; verses 2, 7). But now the whole mission, including Barnabas, is described as “Paul and his company,” and from this day forward it is usually "Paul and Barnabas" (verses. 43, 46, 50; Acts 15:2, 22, 35); though in Acts 14:14 and Acts 15:12, 25, the old order is retained. This phrase—“Paul and his company—was probably chosen to indicate the new position which the Apostle began at this time to occupy as the leader of the mission to the Gentiles. Hereafter the Apostle of the Gentiles becomes the central figure in nearly every scene of the Acts. The beauty of Barnabas's character can be seen in his cheerful acquiescence in this change of relative position, and his single-minded devotion to the success of the work.
“Paphos”(also known as"urbs maritima") was a city on the seacoast of the island of Cyprus; it was on the western part of the island, to the west of which lay the sea of Pamphylia, over which the apostle and his company sailed to the place mentioned next, which was in Pamphylia. It is said that one Apollonius Tyaneus, having got a ship at Seleucia, sailed to Paphos in Cyprus; and from there the apostle, and those that were with him, set sail for “Perga in Pamphylia,” which is mentioned in Acts 27:5—“And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.” Lycia was a province in the southwestern part of Asia Minor, having Phrygia and Pisidia on the north, the Mediterranean on the south, Pamphylia on the east, and Carla on the west.
“Loosed from Paphos”—better “Departed from Paphos.”
“They came to Perga in Pamphylia,” which was a country formerly called “Mopsopia; which now, along with Cilicia, is called Caramania; and Perga was one of its cities. A famous temple of Diana was there, consequently, she was sometimes called Pergea; and every year a great feast was held there in honour of her; consequently, many priests and others, whose interest and honor depended upon their maintaining the worship of that idol, and who, no doubt, were very offended by these foreign teachers, for presuming to find fault with the gods of the country, and with the worship that was paid to them. “Perga” was situated between two great rivers, Oestros and Catarctes. Perga was the capital and metropolis of Pamphylia, and was situated about seven and a half miles inland, on the river Cestrus, which is navigable. There was a constant interaction between Paphos the capital of Cyprus, and Perga the capital of Pamphylia, fostered probably by the two famous temples of Venus and Diana. The absence of any record of
evangelizing work there is probably due to the fact that there were no synagogues, and that the Apostles in this mission adhered to the plan of preaching at first to the Jews, and making the synagogue, as it were, their base of operations. They did preach in Perga on their return visit, which is mentioned in Acts 14:25—“And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia.”
And John departing from them returned to Jerusalem
“And John,” that is John Mark, whom Paul and Barnabas took with them, and who ministered to their needs. John Mark was probably the same person as the writer of the second Gospel; afterwards, he was an earnest laborer for Christ, and the Apostle Paul speaks of him with affection—“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner salutes you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom you received commandments: if he come to you, receive him.)” (Colossians 4:10). In Paul’s last Epistle, written almost with a dying hand, there is a touch of unusual sadness in the charge which he, left alone in prison with his old companion Luke, gives to Timothy—“Take Mark, and bring him with you: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2Timothy 4:11). Evidently, Paul’s old rebuke had done its work, and, if Mark did join him in his last hours, he probably thanked him for the loving sternness of days gone by, more than anything else.
Departing from them
At Perga, John Mark left them. But what was the reason for his departure? There is almost as much speculation on this matter as there are Bible commentators. Some of these theories are listed below:
(a) In order to see his mother at Jerusalem. The pressure of the famine at Jerusalem may have fuelled the desire of the son to minister to the mother’s needs.
(b) He had grown weary of the travel, labor, and fatigue associated with accompanying the apostle, and his company.
(c) He did not want to go among the Gentiles, since he abhorred the thought of going among them, for any reason.
(d)Perhaps his position as Barnabas's cousin was not as pleasant now that Paul took the first place.
(e)Perhaps his courage failed him, now that they had launched out into the heathen world, where, unlike Cyprus, his Jewish kinsmen were a small minority, and the dangers and weariness were great. Pamphylia was now governed by a proprietor, since it was made an imperial province. Its name denotes that it was inhabited by a mixed race—men from all the tribes, Cilicians, Greeks, etc.
(f) He may have recoiled from the perils and hardships of the journey into the interior of the country. Perhaps he was terrified by the threatening speeches of the priests and bigots, or discouraged by the difficulty and danger of the undertaking, or from the distress of traveling so far into unknown regions.
Although John Mark departed from them, and returned to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were not discouraged by his deserting them; neither were they deterred from their purpose by the little success which they had at Perga: for, after they left that place, they travelled through various countries of lesser Asia; and, as we shall soon see, they made many converts to Christ, both among the Jews and the Gentiles.
His departure was resented by Paul, who looked on his reason for leaving as insufficient, and it laid the foundation for a harsh dispute between him and Barnabas, who was John Mark’s uncle (Acts 15:38), and attributed his leaving to extenuating circumstances. It appears from this that it was not at Paphos in Cyprus, but at Perga in Pamphilia, that he left them, therefore the mistake of some interpreters on this text must be corrected.
Returned to Jerusalem
John “returned to Jerusalem”—there is no reason given for his departure either here or elsewhere, but the cause was clearly not one which satisfied Paul according to Acts 15:37, 38—“And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. Paul afterward dogmatically refused to take Mark with him on his second missionary journey, because he "had departed (or 'fallen off') from them and had not gone with them to the work" (Ac 15:38). There can be no doubt that John had either wearied of it or been deterred by the prospect of the dangers which lay before him or that he returned to Jerusalem out of his affection for his mother, who lived there. In any case, Paul deemed the reason he gave worthy of reproach, and made Paul unwilling to have him as a companion in the future.