5 Reasons Paul and Barnabas were so Effective in Sharing Jesus–Acts 13:13-52

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, by Jacob Pynas (circa 1650)

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.

In our last post from the book of Acts we saw how Sergius Paulus genuinely sought the truth about Jesus and invited Paul and Barnabas to share with him. And we also saw how Bar-Jesus opposed Christ, and how God used temporary blindness to prevent Bar-Jesus from sinning further. If you’re interested, you can read more here: Seeking Jesus, Opposing Jesus, Blindness and Bitterness–Acts 13:4-12.

In today’s post we’ll look at the only sermon from Paul we have on record. We’ll also look at the results of that sermon and I’ll share five reasons why people responded to Paul the way they did, and what that means for me and for you, if we want to share Jesus with others effectively.

Acts 13:13-52

Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:

“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,

“‘You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you.’

And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,

“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’

Therefore he says also in another psalm,

“‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:

“‘Look, you scoffers,
    be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
    a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s Sermon

So Paul and Barnabas sail from Paphos, a city on the coast of the island Cyprus where they last shared Jesus, to Perga in Pamphylia which is about a 100 mile journey to the North. Perga was on the Mediterranean coast in what, today, we call Southern Turkey. From there they traveled inland north-northwest to the city of Antioch. On the Sabbath day, they attended the service at the local synagogue there in Antioch. And after the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue asked Paul and Barnabas to share.

Paul begins with common ground and tells some of the story of Israel’s history. He shares about the years when Israel dwelled in Egypt. He shares about how God put up with the Israelites for 40 years in the desert. He shares about the time of the judges, and how Israel asked for a king, so Saul was raised up for them. Then Paul talks about David, and how he was a man after God’s own heart. And how, in fulfillment of prophecy, the Messiah Jesus came from David’s line.

“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,” Paul says, “and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation.”

But, Paul continues, those living in Jerusalem and their rulers didn’t recognize their Messiah. They didn’t understand the prophecies about him, and though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilot to execute him. So their actions from their lack of understanding the prophecies resulted in the fulfillment of the very prophecies they didn’t understand. And Jesus was killed. An innocent man, he died on the cross, for our sins.

They took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to many witnesses.

Paul goes on to share some prophecies from the Jewish scriptures that point to Jesus.

After the teaching, as they went out, the people begged them to share again on the next Sabbath.

When the next Sabbath came, almost the whole city showed up to listen. But when some of the religious leaders saw the crowds, they became jealous and began to argue against Paul.

So Paul and Barnabas publicly declared they would be turning to the Gentiles.

When the Gentiles heard this they began rejoicing and many gave themselves to Jesus. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.

This didn’t sit well with the Jewish religious leadership so they stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of their district.

The last sentence of our passage reads: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

So we see some great success as a result of what Paul shared. Many people gave themselves to Jesus that day. But we also see those who hate Paul and Barnabas. And those haters stirred up persecution against them.

There are reasons Paul and Barnabas bore so much fruit in Antioch. And today I would like to share five of those reasons.

1 The Holy Spirit

I think one important reason for their success is because before Paul and Barnabas’s journey started, they were praying with others and seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit. They were inspired. And that makes all the difference. When the Holy Spirit is flowing and we’re filled with the affection of Jesus for the people we’re trying to reach, God does things. Hearts are moved. People are drawn to Christ.

2 Paul and Barnabas–Invited

I believe another reason for their success in Antioch is because Paul and Barnabas were invited to share. Sadly for those around me, I didn’t learn until late in life that sharing unsolicited information is almost always perceived as obnoxious and off-putting. In Olivia Fox Cabane’s excellent book The Charisma Myth, researchers found they could direct the charisma of a person up or down by changing behaviors. And one behavior that was particularly effective in ruining a person’s charisma was offering unsolicited information. Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch and they sat in the synagogue and listened. It wasn’t until they were invited to share that they began teaching about Jesus. I think that was one of the keys to their success. (If you’re interested, you can learn more on this topic from the book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus).)

3 Paul and Barnabas Reflected Jesus (The haters hated the message, not the behavior)

I believe Paul and Barnabas were hated because of their message, because it was about Jesus, (and because of the great crowds that were coming to listen to them which triggered the envy of the local religious leadership). You know, sometimes we Christians think we’re hated because we’re Christians and that might be true–sometimes. Jesus said we’ll be hated, didn’t he. But too often we’re hated because we’re communicating in ways that are inconsistent with the character of Christ. The thing is though, we don’t like to think of ourselves as a person who behaves in ways that are inconsistent with Jesus’ character and commandments. So we reform God into our image, rather than reform ourselves into Jesus’ image. Paul and Barnabas were charitable toward everyone in their audience, both Jews and Gentiles. Their communication and behavior reflected Jesus. In fact, you could say Paul and Barnabas were hated in spite of their behavior, rather than because of their behavior.

4 Still Waters

As in water face reflects face,
    so the heart of man reflects the man.

Proverbs 27:19

That proverb speaks to something we see in Peter, John, Steven, Paul, Barnabas and every person who was effective in sharing Jesus with others. They reflected Jesus’ character. And one reason they reflected Christ so effectively is because their spirit was still and calm. If the water is stirred up it doesn’t reflect well. And if I’m stirred up I don’t reflect the character of Christ well.

For you and I to give ourselves the best possible chance of reflecting the nature of Jesus, we need our inner waters to be still and calm.

5 Joy

Yesterday I heard someone talking about a time in their life, before they became a Believer, when they were pursuing happiness in all the ways the secular world says to pursue happiness.

And they were miserable.

But this person knew a number of people who were Christians. These friends, their personalities and walks of life were diverse but they all had one thing in common. They had the joy of Jesus inside of them. And this person who was miserable saw what they had, and decided they wanted what they had, and they gave their life to Christ.

These Christians, they weren’t hitting this miserable person over the head with their logic sticks. It was their joy that attracted this person to Jesus.

And Jesus wants us to have his joy.

Jesus said,

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

John 15:11

And speaking of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews writes:

“your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Hebrews 1:9

So to share Jesus effectively, we need to reflect Jesus’ character.

And to reflect Jesus’ character, we need to have Jesus’ joy in us.

“Oh Father in heaven, have mercy on me and on the dear person reading this right now. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit the way you did Paul and Barnabas. Give us gracious, generous, gentle spirits. Help us to wait for Your Holy Spirit’s inspiration and for invitation before we share Your son Jesus with others. Bless us with inner waters that are still and calm so we can reflect the character of Christ effectively. Fill us with his joy. Fill us with the joy of Your son, so much so, that it’s impossible for others not to see Jesus in us. Help us Father. Help me, help each one of us to become as much like Jesus as possible. For Your glory and for Your pleasure.

“In Jesus’ name.


And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52


Jacob Pynas (Dutch, Amsterdam 1592/93–after 1650 Amsterdam (?)) Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, Oil on wood; 19 x 28 7/8 in. (48.3 x 73.3 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Emile E. Wolf, 1971 (1971.255) –Image Public Domain

Available on Amazon!

Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:

  • Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
  • How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
  • The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
  • How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
  • How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
  • How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
  • How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.

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One Comment on “5 Reasons Paul and Barnabas were so Effective in Sharing Jesus–Acts 13:13-52

  1. Pingback: Seeing Like Jesus–Acts 14:1-9 | God Running

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