13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.
14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.
15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”
Paul and his party (v.13) — Paul was now the leader.
As soon as Perga was reached, John the helper, who had gone forth with them from Antioch, deserted them. It was a desertion, for later we find the statement that he departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work (Acts 15:38). No reason is given why John turned backward. Was it on account of the dangers or the hard labor? Or was it cowardice? The reason of his return was most likely of a different nature. He was still greatly attached to Jerusalem. His Hebrew name is mentioned only in this chapter and not the Gentile, the Roman, Mark. Perhaps he could not fully endorse the complete association with the Gentiles and turned back to Jerusalem to be in fellowship with them who were of the circumcision and “zealous for the Law.” No matter what was the motive, he did leave them. It was failure on his part and for a long time John Mark had evidently little or no service. He was unprofitable. Blessed is the information we receive from 2 Timothy by Paul. He requested Mark’s presence in Rome. “Take Mark, and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 timothy 4:11). He had been restored, seen his error and judge himself. There can be no question, but John Mark is the writer of the Gospel of Mark, in which the perfect servant of God, the Lord Jesus Christ is portrayed in His unfailing service. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, pages 238-239.
Perga in Pamphylia (v.13) — It lay north-northwest of Cyprus, and was the natural district to make for, in furtherance of their missionary work. Perga was the chief city of Pamphylia, and seems to have been founded in the third century B.C. It lay five miles west of the river Cestrus, and about seven miles from the coast. Possibly, however, an outlying port-town may have been situated on the Cestrus, to which vessels could sail direct up the river. While Attalia (14:25) was a Greek colony, Perga was a center of Asiatic influence. its goddess Artemis and her worship were famous. It was an important city. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 288.
Antioch in Pisidia (v.14) — Better, “Pisidian Antioch.” Pisidia was a country in southern Asia Minor, forming, at the period in question, part of the roman province of Galatia. it was bounded on the south by Pamphylia, on the north by Phrygia, and on the west by Lycia. Paul crossed it on his way to Antioch on this occasion, and again on his return to Perga (14:24).
The city of Antioch was not really in the country of Pisidia, but in that of Phrygia, It is called by Strabo (A.D. 19), “Antioch toward Pisidia,” or “Pisidian Antioch,” to distinguish it from other Antiochs; and, since that part of Phrygia which was included in the Galatian province was gradually merged into Pisidia, the town came to be called, later, “Antioch of Pisidia.” Like Antioch in Syria, it was founded by Seleucus Nicator in the third century B.C. and named after his father. The emperor Augustus made it a “colony” and constituted it the military and administrative center of the southern portion of the province of Galatia. It was, therefore, the most important city in that part of Asia Minor. It lay about 100 miles inland, and was situated on a lofty plain about 3,600 feet above sea-level. It had a Latin organization, a Greek civilization, a Phrygian population, and contained a large settlement of Jews.
Ramsay, who thinks that Paul’s constitutional malady was severe malarial fever, holds that the apostle was driven, after a sharp attack of such fever, from the low-lying country round Perga to the elevated Plateau on which Antioch was built. This will not appeal, however, to those who are of opinion that his affliction was rather ophthalmic (Galatians 4:15; 6:11) or epileptic (Galatians 4:14). Whatever may have been its nature, the immediate cause of his preaching the Gospel in Southern Galatia was due in some way to an attack of it (Galatians 4:13), whether that attack occurred in Perga, Antioch, or en route between the two. The road from Perga to Antioch lay across the Pisidian highlands which were infested by brigands. to his journey thither and back again to Perga may be referred some of those “perils of rivers,” and “perils of robbers,” of which we read in 2 Corinthians 11:26. As he crossed from Pampylia into Pisidia, he entered the Roman province of Galatia. — Walker, pages 289-290.
The order of service as carried on in orthodox synagogues of today is about the same as in the synagogues of the first century. The “Hear Israel!” the so-called “Shema” (a recitation of Deuteronomy 6:4-9), prayers and the reading of a prescribed portion of the Pentateuch, and a similar portion from the Prophets, called the “Haftorah.” After the reading of those portions, exhortation was in order. — Gaebelein, page 240.
Paul and Barnabas may have dressed in some way that identified them as rabbis, or may have sat in a section of the synagogue designated for those prepared to teach. After the readings, it was standard procedure to hear a sermon when a competent teacher was in attendance.
The word synagogue is found 26 times in the Acts but not once in the epistles of Paul, even though six of his epistles were written during the Acts period. This is confirmation of the fact that Acts is primarily the story of Israel’s apostasy, while Paul’s epistles contain the doctrine and practice of the Body of Christ. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 189.