Heralds of the Gospel
"SENT forth by the Holy Ghost," Paul and Barnabas, after
their ordination by the brethren in Antioch, "departed unto Seleucia;
and from thence they sailed to Cyprus." Thus the apostles began their
first missionary journey.
Cyprus was one of the places to which the believers had fled from
Jerusalem because of the persecution following the death of Stephen. It
was from Cyprus that certain men had journeyed to Antioch, "preaching
the Lord Jesus." Acts 11:20. Barnabas himself was "of the
country of Cyprus" (Acts 4:36); and now he and Paul, accompanied by
John Mark, a kinsman of Barnabas, visited this island field.
Mark's mother was a convert to the Christian religion, and her home at
Jerusalem was an asylum for the disciples. There they were always sure of
a welcome and a season of rest. It was during one of these visits of the
apostles to his
mother's home, that Mark proposed to Paul and Barnabas that he should
accompany them on their missionary tour. He felt the favor of God in his
heart and longed to devote himself entirely to the work of the gospel
Arriving at Salamis, the apostles "preached the word of God in the
synagogues of the Jews. . . . And when they had gone through the isle unto
Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name
was Bar-Jesus: which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a
prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the
word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by
interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the
Not without a struggle does Satan allow the kingdom of God to be built
up in the earth. The forces of evil are engaged in unceasing warfare
against the agencies appointed for the spread of the gospel, and these
powers of darkness are especially active when the truth is proclaimed
before men of repute and sterling integrity. Thus it was when Sergius
Paulus, the deputy of Cyprus, was listening to the gospel message. The
deputy had sent for the apostles, that he might be instructed in the
message they had come to bear, and now the forces of evil, working through
the sorcerer Elymas, sought with their baleful suggestions to turn him
from the faith and so thwart the purpose of God.
Thus the fallen foe ever works to keep in his ranks men of influence
who, if converted, might render effective service in God's cause. But the
faithful gospel worker need not
fear defeat at the hand of the enemy; for it is his privilege to be
endued with power from above to withstand every satanic influence.
Although sorely beset by Satan, Paul had the courage to rebuke the one
through whom the enemy was working. "Filled with the Holy
Ghost," the apostle "set his eyes on him, and said, O full of
all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all
righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be
blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him
a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the
hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being
astonished at the doctrine of the Lord."
The sorcerer had closed his eyes to the evidences of gospel truth, and
the Lord, in righteous anger, caused his natural eyes to be closed,
shutting out from him the light of day. This blindness was not permanent,
but only for a season, that he might be warned to repent and seek pardon
of the God whom he had so grievously offended. The confusion into which he
was thus brought made of no effect his subtle arts against the doctrine of
Christ. The fact that he was obliged to grope about in blindness proved to
all that the miracles which the apostles had performed, and which Elymas
had denounced as sleight of hand, were wrought by the power of God. The
deputy, convinced of the truth of the doctrine taught by the apostles,
accepted the gospel.
Elymas was not a man of education, yet he was peculiarly fitted to do
the work of Satan. Those who preach the truth of God will meet the wily
foe in many different forms. Sometimes it will be in the person of
learned, but more often of ignorant, men, whom Satan has trained to be
successful instruments to deceive souls. It is the duty of the minister of
Christ to stand faithful at his post, in the fear of God and in the power
of His might. Thus he may put to confusion the hosts of Satan and may
triumph in the name of the Lord.
Paul and his company continued their journey, going to Perga, in
Pamphylia. Their way was toilsome; they encountered hardships and
privations, and were beset with dangers on every side. In the towns and
cities through which they passed, and along the lonely highways, they were
surrounded by dangers seen and unseen. But Paul and Barnabas had learned
to trust God's power to deliver. Their hearts were filled with fervent
love for perishing souls. As faithful shepherds in search of the lost
sheep, they gave no thought to their own ease and convenience. Forgetful
of self, they faltered not when weary, hungry, and cold. They had in view
but one object--the salvation of those who had wandered far from the fold.
It was here that Mark, overwhelmed with fear and discouragement,
wavered for a time in his purpose to give himself wholeheartedly to the
Lord's work. Unused to hardships, he was disheartened by the perils and
privations of the way. He had labored with success under favorable
circumstances; but now, amidst the opposition and perils that so often
beset the pioneer worker, he failed to endure hardness as a good soldier
of the cross. He had yet to learn to face danger and persecution and
adversity with a brave heart. As the apostles advanced, and still greater
difficulties were apprehended, Mark was intimidated and, losing all
courage, refused to go farther and returned to Jerusalem.
This desertion caused Paul to judge Mark unfavorably, and even
severely, for a time. Barnabas, on the other hand, was inclined to excuse
him because of his inexperience. He felt anxious that Mark should not
abandon the ministry, for he saw in him qualifications that would fit him
to be a useful worker for Christ. In after years his solicitude in Mark's
behalf was richly rewarded, for the young man gave himself unreservedly to
the Lord and to the work of proclaiming the gospel message in difficult
fields. Under the blessing of God, and the wise training of Barnabas, he
developed into a valuable worker.
Paul was afterward reconciled to Mark and received him as a fellow
laborer. He also recommended him to the Colossians as one who was a fellow
worker "unto the kingdom of God," and "a comfort unto
me." Colossians 4:11. Again, not long before his own death, he spoke
of Mark as "profitable" to him "for the ministry." 2
After the departure of Mark, Paul and Barnabas visited Antioch in
Pisidia and on the Sabbath day went into the Jewish synagogue and sat
down. "After the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of
the synagogue sent unto
them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation
for the people, say on." Being thus invited to speak, "Paul
stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that
fear God, give audience." Then followed a wonderful discourse. He
proceeded to give a history of the manner in which the Lord had dealt with
the Jews from the time of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and how
a Saviour had been promised, of the seed of David, and he boldly declared
that "of this man's seed hath God according to His promise raised
unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: when John had first preached before His
coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John
fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not He. But,
behold, there cometh One after me, whose shoes of His feet I am not worthy
to loose." Thus with power he preached Jesus as the Saviour of men,
the Messiah of prophecy.
Having made this declaration, Paul said, "Men and brethren,
children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to
you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem,
and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the
prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in
Paul did not hesitate to speak the plain truth concerning the rejection
of the Saviour by the Jewish leaders. "Though they found no cause of
death in Him," the apostle declared, "yet desired they Pilate
that He should be slain. And when
they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from
the tree, and laid Him in a sepulcher. But God raised Him from the dead:
and He was seen many days of them which came up with Him from Galilee to
Jerusalem, who are His witnesses unto the people."
"We declare unto you glad tidings," the apostle continued,
"how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath
fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus
again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this
day have I begotten Thee. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the
dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will
give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore He saith also in another
psalm, Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. For David,
after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep,
and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but He, whom God raised
again, saw no corruption."
And now, having spoken plainly of the fulfillment of familiar
prophecies concerning the Messiah, Paul preached unto them repentance and
the remission of sin through the merits of Jesus their Saviour. "Be
it known unto you," he said, "that through this Man is preached
unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are
justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law
The Spirit of God accompanied the words that were spoken, and hearts
were touched. The apostle's appeal to Old Testament prophecies, and his
declaration that these had been fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus of
carried conviction to many a soul longing for the advent of the
promised Messiah. And the speaker's words of assurance that the "glad
tidings" of salvation were for Jew and Gentile alike, brought hope
and joy to those who had not been numbered among the children of Abraham
according to the flesh.
"When the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles
besought that these words might be preached to them the next
Sabbath." The congregation having finally broken up, "many of
the Jews and religious proselytes," who had accepted the glad tidings
borne to them that day, "followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to
them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God."
The interest aroused in Antioch of Pisidia by Paul's discourse brought
together on the next Sabbath day, "almost the whole city . . . to
hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were
filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by
Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
"Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary
that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye
put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we
turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have
set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for
salvation unto the ends of the earth."
"When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the
word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life
believed." They rejoiced exceedingly that
Christ recognized them as the children of God, and with grateful hearts
they listened to the word preached. Those who believed were zealous in
communicating the gospel message to others, and thus "the word of the
Lord was published throughout all the region."
Centuries before, the pen of inspiration had traced this ingathering of
the Gentiles; but those prophetic utterances had been but dimly
understood. Hosea had said: "Yet the number of the children of Israel
shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered;
and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them,
Ye are not My people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of
the living God." And again: I will sow her unto Me in the earth; and
I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to
them which were not My people, Thou art My people; and they shall say,
Thou art my God." Hosea 1:10; 2:23.
The Saviour Himself, during His earthly ministry, foretold the spread
of the gospel among the Gentiles. In the parable of the vineyard He
declared to the impenitent Jews, "The kingdom of God shall be taken
from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
Matthew 21:43. And after His resurrection He commissioned His disciples to
go "into all the world" and "teach all nations." They
were to leave none unwarned, but were to "preach the gospel to every
creature." Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15.
In turning to the Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas did
not cease laboring for the Jews elsewhere, wherever there was a favorable
opportunity to gain a hearing.
Later, in Thessalonica, in Corinth, in Ephesus, and in other important
centers, Paul and his companions in labor preached the gospel to both Jews
and Gentiles. But their chief energies were henceforth directed toward the
building up of the kingdom of God in heathen territory, among peoples who
had but little or no knowledge of the true God and of His Son.
The hearts of Paul and his associate workers were drawn out in behalf
of those who were "without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth
of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope,
and without God in the world." Through the untiring ministrations of
the apostles to the Gentiles, the "strangers and foreigners,"
who "sometimes were far off," learned that they had been
"made nigh by the blood of Christ," and that through faith in
His atoning sacrifice they might become "fellow citizens with the
saints, and of the household of God." Ephesians 2:12, 13, 19.
Advancing in faith, Paul labored unceasingly for the upbuilding of
God's kingdom among those who had been neglected by the teachers in
Israel. Constantly he exalted Christ Jesus as "the King of kings, and
Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15), and exhorted the believers to be
"rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith."
To those who believe, Christ is a sure foundation. Upon this living
stone, Jews and Gentiles alike may build. It is broad enough for all and
strong enough to sustain the weight and burden of the whole world. This is
plainly recognized by Paul himself. In the closing days of his
ministry, when addressing a group of Gentile believers who had remained
steadfast in their love of the gospel truth, the apostle wrote, "Ye .
. .are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus
Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone." Ephesians 2:19, 20.
As the gospel message spread in Pisidia, the unbelieving Jews of
Antioch in their blind prejudice "stirred up the devout and honorable
women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul
and Barnabas, and expelled them" from that district.
The apostles were not discouraged by this treatment; they remembered
the words of their Master: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile
you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you
falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your
reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before
you." Matthew 5:11, 12.
The gospel message was advancing, and the apostles had every reason for
feeling encouraged. Their labors had been richly blessed among the
Pisidians at Antioch, and the believers whom they left to carry forward
the work alone for a time, "were filled with joy, and with the Holy
Preparing For Eternity ©1999-2018 All Rights Reserved