Acts 13:1-5
Acts 13:1 (KJB)
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, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
The church in Antioch was growing tremendously and as a result, God had sent many teachers and prophets to deliver the word of God and to teach it. Barnabas was a Levite from the island of Cyprus. Simeon was a Jew but his surname was “Niger” which means “black” and that was probably because of his complexion. He probably worked outdoors and was subject to the sun every day. Lucius was from Cyrene and probably left Jerusalem when the persecutions had started after the death of Stephen. He may be the Lucius mentioned in Romans 16:21. (Rom 16:21 KJV) Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. Then there was Manaen which is the Greek form of the Jewish name Menahem. He was very close to the house of Herod and when Herod traveled, he took him with him. It is supposed that he was the nurse to the son of Herod. Then of course there was Saul who became the Apostle Paul.
Acts 13:2 (KJB)
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
This was still the day of receiving audible messages from God along with dreams and visions. As these people were continually ministering before the Lord and fasting, the marching orders for Barnabas and Saul came from the Holy Spirit but the method of how the message was given is not revealed. The word “Separate” in the Greek is in the Imperative mood making it a command. The English words “I have called” is one word in the Greek and is in the Perfect tense which means an action taken in the past which still has results. So Saul and Barnabas were already called by the Lord, but it was in His timing when they were to be dispatched.
Acts 13:3 (KJB)
And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
When they received their ministry direction, the assembly prayed and fasted and then laid hands on them in a symbolic gesture of approval for the work. Up to this point the Gospel had been spread by means of the Christians leaving behind the cities where there was persecution. This commissioning of Saul and Barnabas was the first official act of the church sending forth missionaries for the purpose of spreading the Gospel.
Acts 13:4 (KJB)
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
Their first destination was to Seleucia. It was directly west of Antioch about 140 miles (225 km), if they would have taken a boat over the Mediterranean Sea. Seleucia was located right on the coast of Cilicia. If they would have went on land, it would have been about 200 miles (322 km). When they arrived at the port of Seleucia, they sailed on to Cyprus which would have been about 50 miles (80 km).
Acts 13:5 (KJB)
And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.
Their first assignment was Salamis on Cyprus which was on the east coast of Cyprus and was a port town. They had begun to preach the Gospel to the Jews in their synagogues. Normal practice was to allow visiting Rabbis to speak to the congregation and Saul took advantage of those opportunities. He went to the Jews first since they had understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures and could teach the person of Christ from them. They would know about Isaiah 53 and Micah 5 and Zechariah 9-11 plus others. At this point they had John Mark with them as their minister or attendant. John Mark was a novice so he would not have any part yet in preaching the word until he was able to understand and then he would partake of evangelism duties. (1 Tim 3:6 KJV) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.