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So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant. (Acts 13:4-5)
Acts 13 is a special chapter. It explains how the remarkable missionary tours of the Apostle Paul began. As Paul and others in the congregation at Antioch served and worshipped God, the Holy Spirit spoke to all present and said, Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them (Acts 13:2).
Everyone concerned obeyed God, and Paul and Barnabas went as the Holy Spirit told them to do. That’s why we read, being sent out by the Holy Spirit. The Christians of the church at Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul; but more importantly, the Holy Spirit sent them. Any group of Christians can send someone, but if the Holy Spirit doesn’t send them, it won’t amount to eternally effective ministry.
Their first stop was Seleucia, near Antioch. We aren’t told of any specific work that took place there. Since Seleucia wasn’t far from Antioch, where there was a thriving church, it isn’t difficult to assume there was already a group of Christians there in that port city.
From there, they set out for the island of Cyprus, heading first for Salamis. This was the beginning of the famous missionary tours of Apostle Paul. Every great work has a beginning, a starting point – and this was it for Paul’s career as a missionary.
Here’s something to think about: Why did they go to Cyprus first? We aren’t told that the Holy Spirit specifically guided them there, and we don’t read about any unusual need in Cyprus. All we know is that the Holy Spirit told them to go, and they started in Cyprus.
Here’s what I think. We know that Barnabas grew up on Cyprus (Acts 4:36). When Paul and Barnabas got together, I think it was something like this:
“Paul, the Holy Spirit told us to go out and preach the gospel and establish churches.”
“That’s great, Barnabas – let’s go. But where should we start?”
“I don’t know Paul – but I grew up on Cyprus, and they sure need Jesus there.”
“Barnabas, that’s a great idea. Let’s start in Cyprus!”
Here is a lesson to draw from this. When the Holy Spirit gives you specific guidance, then by all means follow it (of course, being open to further guidance along the way). But when the Holy Spirit only gives you a general course, then plan out the details with common sense and meeting the needs that are close to you.
Sometimes we delay our obedience because we think we need to know every detail before we take a single step. Don’t get caught in that trap. Go forth in sanctified common sense and let God guide you along the way.