Gospel at Cyprus

INTRODUCTION: The island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea had been the home of Barnabas, a Levite who sold his property and gave everything to the apostles as he became part of that first assembly of believers in Jerusalem. After Stephen was martyred, many of the believers were dispersed; while the apostles remained in Jerusalem. The dispersed Jewish believers shared the gospel first only with other Jews; but some men of Cyprus and Cyrene gave the gospel of Christ to the Grecians at Antioch, and many believed and turned to the Lord. Barnabas was sent by the church at Jerusalem to observe, and he saw the grace of God in the Gentiles; and while he remained there more believed and were added to the church. Barnabas brought Saul from Tarsus and they taught there for some time. When they were sent out together to spread the gospel, their first stop was at Cyprus in synagogues of the Jews.

NOTE: All Bible passages are from the 1833 Webster Bible.

A - A LEVITE FROM CYPRUS BECAME AN IMPORTANT MEMBER OF THE CHURCH BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM

Acts 4 "32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that was in want: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet."

COMMENTS: Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus and he sold his own property and gave everything for the needs of the assembly in Jerusalem. There is no detail of whether that property was in Cyprus he, or just when he made the sale; but many believers with property made the same kind of commitment and contribution after the resurrection of Christ. Though Barnabas was a Levite, he became fully committed to service of the risen Christ, and there is no record that he carried out any Levitical duties the rest of his life. The record about him in scripture indicates that He was very willing to share the gospel with both Jews and Gentiles.


B - STRONG PERSECUTION DISPERSED MANY BELIEVERS WHILE THE APOSTLES REMAINED IN JERUSALEM

Acts 7 "59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 And Saul was consenting to his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all dispersed throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and hauling men and women committed them to prison. 4 Therefore they that were dispersed went every where preaching the word."

COMMENTS: After Stephen died by stoning at the hands of devout Jews, many Christians left Jerusalem as the young Pharisee Saul carried out persecution of Christians with great zeal. The apostles did not leave however, and there was still a firm group of believers who continued to worship the Lord Jesus as they assembled together. After Saul received authority from the high priest to travel to cities outside of Israel, he was converted by the glorified Christ on the road to Damascus

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C - BARNABAS TRUSTED SAUL AND PRESENTED HIS CONVERSION EXPERIENCE TO THE DISCIPLES

Acts 9 "26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he essayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. 30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus."

COMMENTS: After Saul was converted by the risen Lord Jesus and went to Jerusalem, he was not trusted and was feared by the apostles FOR HIS reputation of severe persecution of the church. Barnabas became his advocate as he gave the details of Saul's conversion that must have been given to him by Saul. There is no detail of their private discussion, but since Barnabas was a Levite who turned his life to Christ, he probably would have been able to relate to Saul who was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. Saul began to present the Lord Jesus publicly in Jerusalem in a very bold manner that met strong opposition from Grecians. Soon it was necessary to protect his life from determined opponents, and the brethren helped him go to Cesarea on the coast, and then to his home city of Tarsus.


D - JEWISH CHRISTIANS FROM CYPRUS AND CYRENE GAVE THE GOSPEL TO GENTILES AT ANTIOCH AND MANY WERE CONVERTED

Acts 11 "19 Now they who were dispersed upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but to the Jews only. 20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord. 22 Then tidings of these things came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. 23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit, and of faith: and many people were added to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas departed to Tarsus, to seek Saul: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."

COMMENTS: Some time later unnamed Jewish Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene shared the gospel with Grecians at Antioch, and as the hand of the Lord was with them, many of them became Christians. When this news reached the leadership at Jerusalem they sent Barnabas to verify what they had heard. Barnabas, formerly of Cyprus, was full of the Holy Spirit and he encouraged them to keep faith in the Lord. The number of believers continued to grow, and Barnabas brought Saul from Tarsus, and they served the Lord at Antioch together for a year. The Grecians at Jerusalem had been a threat to Saul: but Grecians were part of the strong church at Antioch.


E - THE GOSPEL WENT BACK TO CYPRUS FROM ANTIOCH

Acts 13 "1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate for me Barnabas and Saul, for the work to which I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So they being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, departed to Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had also John for their minister."

COMMENTS: Historical and geographic records provide the detail that Antioch was a major city located on the east side of the Orontes River, and Seleucia was a Mediterranean port city at the mouth of the Orontes. When Saul and Barnabas left Antioch, they likely went down river to the port. The distance from Seleucia to the principal city of Salamis on the east end of Cyprus was over 300 miles, and for sailing ships that would have been more than three days of travel. There is no record of how long they stayed to preach the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. There is no mention of added converts to Christianity at that time, and no indication of a separate church body: which is interesting to me since Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene were the first to be blessed by the Lord to see converts among Gentiles at Antioch when they shared the gospel with them. Cyprus was the home country for Barnabas the Levite, but the Bible text simply moves on to verse six with no other description of ministry than at Jewish synagogues.


F - THE ROMAN DEPUTY OF THE COUNTRY CALLED PAUL AND BARNABAS TO SPEAK WITH HIM

Acts 13 "6 And when they had gone through the isle to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: 7 Who 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. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9 Then Saul (who also is called Paul) filled with the Holy Spirit, set his eyes on him, 10 And said, O full of all subtilty, 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? 11 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. 12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. 13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John departing from them, returned to Jerusalem."

COMMENTS: After they left Salamis on the east side of the island they traveled to Paphos, which was more than 100 miles by land. Paphos was a maritime city on the west end of Cyprus with a harbor, and the residence of the Roman proconsul. It may have been their intention to simply leave Cyprus and continue their journey, but the Roman deputy, Sergius Paulus called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. There is no explanation of how much this Roman official knew, and what prompted his interest. There is no record that Paul spoke to the deputy from the Word of God; but the sharp statements of Paul to the Jewish sorcerer, and the power in Saul's words that brought immediate blindness on him, had the effect to bring the deputy to believe, "being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord."


G - PAUL AND BARNABAS HAD A SHARP DISAGREEMENT

Acts 15 "35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 36 And some days after, Paul said to Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren, in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed, separating one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed to Cyprus. 40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches."

COMMENTS: The above passage is the last mention of Barnabas in the book of Acts, but the Apostle Paul mentioned him favorably in several letters, though there is no indication they ever traveled together again. Cyprus is not mentioned anywhere else in the rest of the New Testament; but the things which have been recorded have some significant qualities about the impact of the gospel on people from that island, and the several significant events that took place there.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, by your mercy the heritage of the Jews remained even centuries after your righteous judgment brought foreign domination to Israel because they had repeatedly rebelled against you and worshipped false gods. Those who followed their Jewish heritage met in synagogues in many places such as Cyprus, and taught from your word. Joses(Barnabas) knew he was in the line of the Levites, and Levites still had duties at the reconstructed temple in Jerusalem. Lord Jesus, you blessed Barnabas as he became a committed believer, and was among those in Jerusalem who sold their land for the benefit of the church. Many believers were dispersed after Stephen was martyred; but I thank you that Barnabas was still there to be the advocate who convinced the disciples that Saul had truly been converted by you. Thank you, Lord, that unnamed believers from Cyprus and Cyrene were the first to take the gospel to Grecians at Antioch, and many became disciples of Christ. Paul and Barnabas had ministry in synagogues on Cyprus; and a very significant experience with a Roman deputy after a confrontation with a Jewish sorcerer. Even though some time later Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement about John Mark, Barnabas took John and made a second trip to Cyprus to strengthen believers. Help me, Lord, to follow the patterns of faith and service of those who have gone before. There is no place insignificant in your sight for those who have trusted in your name. Amen.

Published 5 February 2019