October 21, 2014

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV. The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                

Subtopic A: The First Missionary Journey (Acts 13, 14)                             

                                                                            

Lesson: IV.A.3: Part-4 Pisidian Antioch: Paul's Sermon & the                Reaction (13:42-52)

 

Part 1: verses 14-31

Part 2: verses 32-37

Part 3: verses 38-41

Part 4: verses 42-52

 

PART 4: VERSES 42-52

 

 

Scripture (Acts 13:42-52; KJV)

 

42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.

52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

Note: This is still the sermon preached by the Apostle Paul at Antioch of Pisidia.

 

 

42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

 

One of the first things Paul did when entering a new city was to go to the synagogue and preach the Gospel, and on this occasion his audience seemed favorably impressed by what he had to say. When he finished and the service ended, they all began to leave when some in the congregation asked Paul and Barnabas to return on “the next Sabbath” and preach more of the Gospel of Jesus “to them.” At this time they did not express much interest in the Gospel, but when the “next Sabbath” arrived they would become anything except disinterested.

 

Some in the congregation, both Jews and “devout converts,” followed Paul and Barnabas, discussing the sermon with them and among themselves. The converts were definitely proselytes, Gentiles who had become full converts to Judaism. There were other Gentiles in the congregation who believed in and worshipped God, but were unwilling to undergo the rite of circumcision which would qualify them as full converts—“Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: "Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!” (Acts 13:16).They must have been thrilled over the prospects of a salvation without the burdens of proselytism, as well as Paul’s proclamation of forgiveness of sins through Christ. Some of this group may have been among those who showed a keener interest in the testimony of Paul and Barnabas. These “God-fearers,” as Luke calls them, were attracted by the pure worship of Judaism, and even kept the Jewish law to some extent, that is, by observing the Sabbath. The two missionaries urged them to continue in the grace of God,” that is, to continue down the path they had started out on, and to remain open to the grace of God. These people formed the nucleus of Paul’s converts in most of the cities he went to, since he offered them through Christ equal rights before God with Jewish believers, without the necessity of observing Jewish ceremonial law and becoming proselytes. Those who are truly saved persevere and validate the reality of their salvation by continuing in the grace of God—“The enemies left our group. They didn't really belong to us. If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by leaving they showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).

 

 

44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

 

When the “next Sabbath” arrived and Paul and Barnabas returned to the synagogue in response to the invitation they had received from the Jews, the situation rapidly worsened. “Almost the whole city” had gathered to hear the two Christian missionaries. Since Pisidian Antioch was predominantly Gentile, this would suggest that the Jews were considerably overshadowed by the large number of Gentiles who came to hear Paul preach the word of God. Perhaps the “God-fearing Gentiles” who had heard Paul’s sermon on the preceding Sabbath had realized that the salvation he preached was for them, and then the joyous proselytes invited their neighbors to go with them to the synagogue. The word had spread like wildfire and they responded by turning out en masse (in large amounts).

 

45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

 

The news that a powerful new message was being preached in the synagogue by visitors from Palestine brought a great crowd together, but this widespread interest had the effect of stirring up the jealous opposition of unbelieving Jews. The Jews were filled with jealousy and began to insult Paul, ridicule and disrupt his sermon, and perhaps even “contradicting and blaspheming” the Gospel itself. The reason for their sudden change in demeanor was clearly evident: they were jealous over the presence of all these Gentiles. It was one thing to proclaim the coming of the Messiah to the Gentiles. It was quite another thing to preach that God accepted both Jews and Gentiles on the same basis; faith in Jesus as Savior. To them this was blasphemy, and they could not listen to any more of Paul’s message.

 

 

46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

 

Paul and Barnabas responded “boldly” to the taunts and accusations made by the Jews. When the expression “bold witness” is used it generally appears in contexts that emphasize the inspiration of the Holy Spirit behind the “witness,” and that is probably implied here.

 

Here “the word of God” includes much more than the Scriptures; it designates the proclamation of the Gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

Paul was being prepared and led to a decisive turning point in his ministry. The Jews had rejected the Gospel of Christ that embraces all people without partiality, just as they had rejected Christ Himself. The Christ-rejecters showed by their attitude that they were “unworthy of everlasting life.” Paul had to concentrate his efforts on those people who were willing to listen—the Gentiles. Since Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled God’s promise to the Jews, it was essential that the Gospel was preached first to the Jews—“We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: " 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (Acts 13:32, 33).However the Jews in Antioch had rejected Paul, the Gospel message, and eternal life[1] through faith in Jesus Christ, therefore Paul had to turn to those who were open to the Gospel; but then, God never planned for salvation to be an exclusive possession of the Jews (Isaiah 42:1, 6; 49:6).

 

 

47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

 

Paul supported his decision to turn to the Gentiles by quoting Isaiah 49:6—he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth”an Old Testament text that was vital for the Christian mission in Acts. This verse, in which God is speaking to the Messiah, originally envisioned Israel’s destiny of being a witness for God to all the nations of the world. As Messiah, Jesus fulfilled this divine destiny. He was to be “a light to the nations.” Today, the Messiah’s messengers are also commanded to be “a light for the Gentiles,” since they are His instruments to bring “light” and “salvation” to the nations. The Jews of Pisidian Antioch could not accept a Messiah who accepted and welcomed the Gentiles. By rejecting Paul’s witness to the Gentiles, they for all intents and purposes, rejected their Messiah as well.

 

Verses 46-48 were essential for Paul’s mission in Acts, by establishing a pattern that would appear again and again. One could view verse 46 as definitive: Paul would no longer minister to the Jews, he would now witness only to the Gentiles—but that was not the case. In the very next city on his missionary itinerary, he would again begin his ministry in the synagogue in Iconium[2]—“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed” (Acts 14:1). It is very likely that he was rejected by the Jews in every town, and so he turned to the Gentiles of that town each time. But he never gave up on his fellow Jews. It was the same problem he wrestled with in Romans 9-11. In spite of the overwhelming rejection of the Gospel by his people, he could not bring himself to believe that it was final and God had given up on them. His great success was in witnessing to the Gentiles, but he never quit witnessing to the Jews and praying for their souls. The uncertainty of his witness to the Jews continues to the very end of Acts and is never definitely settled (see Acts 27:17-28). We too can learn from Paul’s example of persistence. His actions show that we should not limit our witnessing to those who are the most receptive. Paul was willing to go to the ends of the earth to win souls for Christ.

 

 

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

 

Verse 48 shows that the Gentiles of Pisidian Antioch were the ones who accepted the Gospel and then Christ, honoring (glorifying) the word of the Lord. Perhaps they praised the “word” of Isaiah 49:6, with the good news that the light of Christ and His salvation extended to Gentiles such as they. Many of them believed, accepted Christ as their savior and were born again into the family of God. They were those who were “ordained to eternal life.” The word translated “ordained” means “enrolled,” and indicates that God’s people have their names written in God’s book—“But do not be glad when the evil spirits obey you. Instead, be glad that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). These Gentiles took an active role in believing, and in committing themselves to Christ; but it was caused by God’s Spirit moving in them, convincing them, and appointing them to eternal life. All salvation is ultimately only by the grace of God.

 

This verse is a simple statement of the sovereign election of God. It should be taken at its face value and believed. The Bible definitely teaches that God chose some before the foundation of the world to be in Christ. It teaches with equal emphasis that man is a free moral agent and that if he will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he will be saved. Divine election and human responsibility are both scriptural truths, and neither should be emphasized at the expense of the other. While there seems to be a conflict between the two, this conflict exists only in the human mind, and not in the mind of God. God chooses man for salvation, and not the other way around—“You are God's chosen people. You are holy and dearly loved. . .” (Colossians 3:1).

 

Men are damned by their own choice and not by any act of God. If all mankind received what is its just due, then all would be lost. But God in grace stoops down and saves some. Does He have a right to do this? Of course He does. The doctrine of the sovereign election of God is a teaching that gives God His proper place as the ruler of the universe who can do as He chooses and who will never choose to do anything unrighteous or unkind.

 

 

49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

 

Verses 48 and 49 provides the two sides of evangelism. Acts 13:48 gives the divine side of evangelism, for God has his elect people—“God chose us to belong to Christ before the world was created. He chose us to be holy and without blame in his eyes. He loved us” (Ephesians 1:4). Acts 13:49 is the human side of evangelism: if we do not preach the Word, then nobody can believe and be saved. It takes both—Brothers and sisters, we should always thank God for you. The Lord loves you. God chose you from the beginning. He wanted you to be saved. Salvation comes through the Holy Spirit's work. He makes people holy. It also comes through believing the truth. He chose you to be saved by accepting the good news that we preach. And you will share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14).

 

The Antioch mission ended on a mixed note of both opposition and success. On the one hand the Gospel was well received by the Gentiles and spread throughout the whole region. On the other hand the opposition of the Jews became even stronger and broke out in outright persecution of Paul and Barnabas. Luke added a true touch of local color by mentioning “the devout and honorable women,” for women evidently held a more prominent place in society in Asia Minor than in most parts of the Greco-Roman world. Evidently, the opposition was led by one of the Gentile women who attended the synagogue. Many Gentile women were attracted to the Jewish religion in the Diaspora[3], attending the synagogue and even becoming proselytes. Just who the “the chief men of the city” were, whom they incited to persecution of Paul and Barnabas cannot be determined. Evidentially they were men who had sufficient social standing or political power to force the two missionaries to leave their city—it was easier to “expel them” than to refute them. The important thing is that after they were forced to leave, Paul and Barnabas went to another town. It reminds us of Jesus in Nazareth, “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).

 

 

51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.

52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.

 

Paul and Barnabas followed the instructions given by Jesus for dealing with a town that was unwilling to listen: they shook the dust of the city off their feet as they left the city (Luke 10:11). The gesture had a certain irony about it. The Rabbis confirmed the Jewish practice of shaking the dust off their feet when they returned from a stopover in Gentile territory, symbolizing their leaving their defilement behind as they stepped on the “holy land” once again. A good Jew was careful not to bring into Palestine any dust from pagan territory. By shaking the dust from their feet, Paul and Barnabas symbolized their ridding themselves of all responsibility for the unreceptive Jews and showed that they considered the Jews at Antioch no better than heathen.  There could have been no stronger condemnation. The gesture, however, did not apply to everyone in Antioch. Everyone had not been unreceptive, and the story ends on a positive note. There were many Gentile converts in Antioch, and these new Christians rejoiced in their experience in the Holy Spirit and their newborn acceptance in Jesus Christ.

 

After this incident, Paul established a pattern which he continued to follow. Whenever he arrived in a new town, he always began his witness in the synagogue. Only when the Jews rejected him did he turn exclusively to the Gentiles. Why was it that the Apostle to the Gentiles always began his work in the Jewish synagogues? It was necessary for several reasons:

(1)   God’s will made it necessary, in order that the Jews could not excuse themselves by a plea of ignorance.

(2)  The coming of the earthly kingdom depended on Israel’s response to the coming of Christ) (Matthew 23:39; Romans 11:26).

(3)  Only after Israel rejected the gospel could Paul devote himself to the Gentiles.

(4)  The message of Jesus is fundamentally Jewish in that the Old Testament, the Messiah, and the promises are all Jewish.


[1] The idea expressed by the phrase “eternal life” lies in the Old Testament concept of sharing   in the life of the age to come, God’s eschatological kingdom. It is essentially the same as “salvation.”

[2] A populous city about forty-five miles southeast from Pisidian Antioch; at the foot of mount Taurus; on the borders of Lycaonia, Phygia, and Pisidia.

[3] The settling of scattered colonies of Jews outside Palestine after the Babylonian exile.

Make a Free Website with Yola.