In Chapter 13, Paul and Barnabas are told to go to on a mission (v2). How did they get this mission? How was it that God spoke to them and they knew that they had a specific mission to accomplish? They prayed. They worshiped and listened. They also fasted.
Some people may say that fasting is something done in the past; that Jesus would not want us to fast any more. But here we see at least six believers fasting. The fruit of this fasting and worship is clarity in God’s will. The fasting was a gift of self to God. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, worship is now an act of thanksgiving for His goodness and mercy towards us. When united to worship, this fasting takes on the disposition of the worship that it accompanies. Gift giving assumes a relationship between the giver and the one receiving the gift. So the first Catholics saw themselves as having a relationship with Jesus.
We also see in this chapter some people of some prominence who become believers. There was Manaen, who is a friend of Herod the Tetrarch (v1). That must have been an odd situation. There was also the proconsul who came to believe (v12). A “proconsul” was an official of the Roman Empire. They usually held office for one year. So, you have officials of the Roman Empire converting to Christianity while the Apostles are still around. If found out, they could lose their lives.
Then Paul goes into the kerygma, the story of God’s salvation for humanity and for each individual human being. There is way too much here to explain. I encourage you to meditate on his dissertation. The bottom line is that Paul, who is filled with the Holy Spirit, gives this great talk on the Bible, and people are hard of heart. The pagans are the ones who believe (v48), but the rest are lukewarm. They really do not seem to care one way or the other. They have no appreciation for what God has done for them. They seem not to realize how their sins have merited them hell and that Jesus is the only one who can save them. The people just go on living their lives like it really doesn’t matter (v42). Those who felt they were okay were the ones rejecting the Good News.
This is something we all have to be careful about. Sometimes we get real comfortable with the status quo and demand the same of others. How easy it is to take advantage of the mercy of God and not appreciate the cost of that mercy. How easy it is to justify ourselves and become angry at the ones God sends to challenge us to change. The ones who pride themselves on strictly following God’s ways are the ones who reject the story of mercy. Mercy is not something we can demand of God; it is a gift freely given. God owes us nothing. We owe Him everything.
Notice the violence (v45) that Paul came up against. Those who opposed them used politics to get them expelled from the area (v50). The rejection of many came from the jealousy of a few (V45). It only takes a few rotten apples to spoil a whole bunch. Yet there were a bunch of people who still believed (v 48-49). Those who believe, believe, and will come to their eternal salvation. Those who choose not to believe and persecute the Christians, will keep living their lives as they always have and will die the way they lived. “So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (V51-52)