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The Book of Acts Series

Acts, Chapter 13

John Baugh

November, 2009

Acts 13 (New American Standard Bible)

Acts 13


Significant events in Acts, Chapter 13

-          First Missionary Journey

o       Antioch to Cyprus

ß        False Prophet Magician Bar-Jesus (Elymas)

ß        Proconsul Sergius Paulus

o       Cyprus to Perga in Pamphilla to Psidian Antioch

ß        John leaves the team to go back to Jerusalem

ß        Paul proclaims Jesus at the Synagogue in Psidian

ß        Next week Paul addresses the Gentiles

o       Jews drive Paul and Barnabas out of town and they go to Iconium




First Missionary Journey

 1Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.


Up to this point, Luke has focused on the spread of the gospel through church in Jerusalem, focusing his story on Jerusalem and Judea. The actions of Peter have largely been the focus of his report. At this point in Acts, Lukeís focus changes and the story of the church n Antioch and the actions of Saul/Paul and his missionary team becomes the focus of the Acts report.

Luke tells us that there are both Teachers and Prophets in the church in Antioch. In his letter to the Romans, Paul later (Romans 12:4-8) writes that Prophesying and teaching are gifts from God, given to assure the proper functioning of the church. In Corinthians, Paul, in his outline of church roles, lists prophets and teachers immediately after apostles. Luke names five prophets and teachers in Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been raised with Herod) and Saul. From their names we can assume that they come from a wide variety of social and ethnic backgrounds.

Luke mentions Barnabas first. He is the representative (a key figure) of the Jerusalem church (Acts 9:27; Acts 11:22-30). Luke has already reported that he is a Levite from Cyprus who lived in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36-37). Luke has also written that he is "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (Acts 11:24).

Simeon has the Latin nickname Niger, or "the Black." His name (Simeon) is Jewish and Niger may be a nickname, used to distinguish him from other Simons in the church, such as Simon Peter.

Lucius has a Latin name. It is possible that he is a Gentile. He is from Cyrene in North Africa and may have been part of the Cyrenian group that first preached the gospel of salvation to the Gentiles of Antioch (Acts 11:20).

Manaen is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Menahem, which means "comforter." He was "brought up with Herod the tetrarch" (Acts 13:1). This is the Herod of the Gospels, whom Jesus once called "that fox" (Luke 13:32). This Herod was responsible for the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-28). It is interesting that Luke mentions some sort of relationship between Manaen and Herodís household.

Paul is mentioned last by Luke, and Luke continues to refer to him as Saul (the Jewish form of his name). Perhaps, he is mentioned last because he is a relative newcomer to Antioch. But he will soon take center stage in Lukeís account while the others, with the exception of Barnabas, will no longer play a part in the story.


The Setting Aside of Barnabas and Saul:


 2While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

 3Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.


After listing the leaders of the Antioch church, Luke writes that the church is "worshiping the Lord and fasting". He does not explain why they are fasting, but there must be some reason behind their fast. It may be that they have been led to expand their missionary efforts out from Antioch. Or perhaps that they have already made a commitment to do so and are now asking who they should commission to lead the effort. Perhaps their fasting was to earnestly ask God to make his will known in the matter, which is exactly what God does for the leaders of the church in Antioch. The answer to the fasting comes from the Holy Spirit, who tells the church leaders to:


"Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."


This is a significant statement by Luke. He places it in quotes, indicating a direct quote of calling of Barnabas and Saul, and a direct statement of commission (ďÖthe work for which I have called them.Ē)

The imposition of hands used on this occasion (Ďthey laid their hands on themĒ) shows that the Antioch church supported and proclaimed Barnabas and Saul as doing Godís will. The Antioch church leaders, by the laying on of hands, agreed that Barnabas and Paul had the authority to act on behalf of the Christian community at Antioch. Their act of the laying on of hands was taken on behalf of the entire church community at Antioch.


Fasting and praying:


The group followed sound practice when presented with the word of the Holy Spirit. They fasted and prayed over what they had been told and only then did they act on it. This indicates a desire on their part to fully understand the will of the Holy Spirit before acting (assure that our human understanding is in line with Godís will).

Only after the point when they were certain they understood Godís will, ďthey sent them away.Ē

In his details of the commissioning of Barnabas and Saul, Luke does not show (in Paul) a loose cannon apostle who abandons Jerusalem (Barnabas) to deliver a suspect gospel to the Gentiles, but an apostle whose divine commission is confirmed by prophetic election and the charge of the church. The work that Barnabas and Saul set out to accomplish is not only filled with the prophetic spirit but mirrors the command of Jesus and the great commission missionary effort of Peter. From this point onward, Paul will remain in contact with Jerusalem, and until the very end of the story continues his efforts to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to his fellow Jews, wherever he may find them.


Luke reports another first event:


This report by Luke is significant (as are many of the things Luke report in Acts because it describes the first piece of planned overseas mission work carried out by representatives of a particular church. It also is the first missionary effort begun by a deliberate church decision, inspired by the Spirit, rather than somewhat more causally as a result of persecution. And so, through the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Paul are separated for the task of evangelizing. Then they are "sent on their way by the Holy Spirit".


Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus


4So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.


With these words, Luke begins his story of the first missionary journey.

The entire trip, which may have lasted as long as three years, is described in the 13th and 14th chapters of Acts. Barnabas and Paul leave from Seleucia, the port city about 16 miles (26 kilometers) west of Antioch and four or five miles northeast of the mouth of the Orontes River.

Their destination was the island of Cyprus, which lies in the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. The journey by boat is about 130 miles (210 kilometers), and when the wind is favorable, takes only one day. The island of Cyprus is about 140 miles (225 kilometers) long and 60 miles (96 kilometers) wide. Cyprus was once part of the imperial province of Cilicia. But in 22 B.C. it became a senatorial province. In Paul's day, it was administered by a proconsul.

Cyprus was a sensible place to begin the churchís outreach program because it was Barnabasí native land. He was most likely acquainted with its idiosyncrasies, terrain and people.


5When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.

The ďJohnĒ that Luke writes about here is John Mark, who accompanied Barnabas and Paul on the journey as their assistant. We will later learn that he has a family connection with Barnabas and this may be the reason why he has been included with the team.

The first of two Cypriot cities Luke mentions is Salamis. It was the administrative center of eastern Cyprus and is located a few miles from the modern city of Famagusta. While there, Barnabas and Paul "proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues" of the city. At that time, there must have been a substantial Jewish population in Salamis, as there were several synagogues for Barnabas and Paul to preach in.

In Salamis, Paul continued his pattern of beginning his missionary work in a city by first working within the synagogue and among the Jewish people. He likely assumed the synagogue was a logical starting point, because it was the gathering place for people who were likely to be interested in a message from Jewish preachers based on the Jewish Scriptures, about the Messiah.


The Proconsul and the Magician:


6When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus,

7who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.

8But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

9But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him,

10and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?

11"Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time." And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.

12Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.


Paphos was the provincial capital of the island of Cyprus. It lies 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Salamis. At Paphos, the islandís proconsul, Sergius Paulus, requested a meeting with the two missionaries. Presumably, Barnabas and Paul had been preaching in the city for some time before they came to the proconsul's attention. Luke described Sergius Paulus as "a man of intelligence," Presumably Luke considered the proconsul to be a man of intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness and discernment.

One of the consistent trends of Acts is that public officials are shown in a positive light and sympathetic to the gospel message. This is how Luke portrays Sergius Paulus. He writes that the proconsul "wanted to hear the word of God" (13:7). Luke doesnít say why Sergius Paulus wants to hear the message of these traveling Jews. Whether it is out of curiosity or a desire to be converted, Luke does not say. It might have been that the proconsul wanted to conduct an official investigation so that he was schooled in the missionary message before experiencing problems with the Jews in the synagogues.

And in spite of great opposition from Elymas, Paul and Barnabas went to Sergius Paulus to present the gospel story.


A Temporary Side Story:

Verse 9 presents an interesting fact that needs to be pointed out.

9But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him,

Saul had two names:

1 Ė His Hebrew name was Saul.

2 Ė His Roman name was Paul.

This is the first time Luke tells us this. The reason why might be that Saul is dealing with a Gentile (Roman) Official. There might be other reasons, also, but for whatever reason, from here onward we will call this missionary Paul.

The reasoning in Lukeís mentioning both names is most likely that "Saul" is more appropriate in the Jewish world, but now that he is moving into the wider Gentile and Roman world, "Paul" is more suitable.

After this point, Luke will never call this man ďSaulĒ again. From this point onward, he is ďPaulĒ.


Getting back to Sergius Paulus and Elymas the Magician.


8But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

9But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him,

10and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?

11"Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time." And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.

12Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.


Luke leaves no doubt what happened Elymas the Magician Would gain no benefit from any acceptance of Barnabas and Paulís message by Sergius Paulus, and so he opposed their teaching. Luke says that he attempted to turn his master away from the faith. This statement indicates that themessage being delivered by Paul and Barnabas had a ring of truth and acceptance for Sergius Paulus.

When Paul saw this, he faced Elymas and challenged him

10and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?

11"Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time." And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.

Immediately Elymas lost his ability to see. Evidently his loss of sight was profound, because he could not see enough to move around

12Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.

Lukeís main interest in the proconsul is only as the setting for Paulís confrontation with a magician who is the proconsulís court advisor, and who opposes the preaching of the gospel (13:7-8). Luke gives him two names, Bar-Jesus and Elymas the magician.

As Luke writes, Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, says to Bar-Jesus: "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?". The individual who calls himself "Son of Jesus" is now shown to be a "son of the devil." Paul pronounces a curse on the magician, saying he will be temporarily blinded.

Luke doesnít say that Sergius Paulus becomes a Christian. However, he implies that a false prophet is unable to turn the proconsul "from the faith". Later, when the proconsul sees that Paul causes the magician to become blind, "he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching of the Lord".Whatever Sergiusí Paulus final relationship with the church might have been, Luke seems not to be interested in documenting it.

(Nor does he give us a single scrap of information as to what happens as a result of Barnabas and Paul preaching in synagogues all across Cyprus.)

In fact, Luke does not mention whether the preaching of Barnabas and Paul results in any converts on Cyprus. He says nothing about the work in general on Cyprus. He does not state how long the two missionaries remain on the island. Barnabas and Paul travel "through the whole island" of Cyprus. This takes some time. Presumably, they preach in a number of towns, and teach some converts.

Going back to the story of Paul and the Magician, Bar-Jesus, it is interesting to note that Luke seems to be more interested in the story of Bar-Jesus being confronted and cursed by Paul than is telling whether Sergius Paulus was converted.He is interested in telling the story not of a conversion, but of the superiority of Godís power over the magic of the spirit world. Luke seems to be documenting how Paul uses his apostolic authority to neutralize the evil spirit influence of Bar-Jesus. Luke seems to want his readers to understand that the power behind the gospel is superior to that of pagan magic. In the same way, that Mosesí miracles in the land of Egypt were more powerful than the magic performed by the magicians of Pharaohís court.


Paul, Barnabas and John Mark in Paphos and Perga, in Pamphylia Ė where John Mark leaves the Team:


13Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.


Luke tells us that the missionary team now sails from Cyprus to Perga in Pamphylia. This location is on the south-central coast of Asia Minor. Perga is a river port on the Cestrus River about 12 miles (19 kilometers) inland from the seaport of Attalia. Luke gives no indication that Paul and Barnabas preach the gospel in Perga or the surrounding area ó but they do preach there on their way back to Syrian Antioch (Acts 14:25).


Luke changes the order of listing:


With the arrival of the team in Perga, Luke no longer speaks of "Barnabas and Saul." From this point on, Paul is usually listed in first place, ahead of Barnabas. Before this (Perga), Barnabas was usually mentioned first (Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25; Acts 13:2). In the account here, Luke speaks of "Paul and his companions," which literally means "those around Paul." This expression seems to indicate that Paul is now the leader of the group. Luke appears to be signaling to his readers that Paul has become the dominant partner in the missionary team. Luke doesnít explain why the change occurs. Perhaps it is obvious that the Holy Spirit is working through Paul, as in the case of his confrontation with the magician. Paulís speaking may be getting results, indicating that God is using him in a special way.

However, at this point (Perga), John Mark leaves the evangelizing team and returns to Jerusalem. Luke does not tell us why John Mark leaves the team, only that he does. His departure will later lead to an argument between Barnabas and Paul, and evidently, their permanent split (Acts 15:2). Some speculate that perhaps John Mark was unhappy that his uncle, Barnabas, was no longer the leader of the team. He may have been in disagreement over some policy regarding preaching to the Gentiles, or admitting them into the fellowship. He may have been homesick or afraid of traveling into the hinterland. Maybe he had grown weary of the strain, discomfort, or danger of travel through the mountains of the region. Whatever the reason for Markís departure, Paul doesnít like it. He calls it desertion (Acts 15:38).

Paul and Barnabas leave Perga and travel to Antioch in Pisidia. Luke devotes the rest of chapter 13 to the preaching of the gospel in the city, and much of his account centers around a single sermon in a synagogue.


14aBut going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch,

Pisidian Antioch is in Phrygia, near Pisidia, called Pisidian Antioch because the city is adjacent to, or over against Pisidia. It is about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of Perga, some 3,600 feet above sea level. To reach Antioch of Pisidia the missionaries had to cross the Taurus mountains ó a difficult and dangerous journey. The Pisidian highlands are subject to sudden flooding. Another danger was from robbers, as the Romans had not yet fully suppressed the robber clans who roamed the mountains. Fear of the dangerous passage may well have been the reason why John Mark Left the missionary team.




14b and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.


Once again, Paul chooses to take the gospel first to the Jews, and so he goes to the synagogue as soon as he arrives in a town.


 15After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it."

 16Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:


Presenting the Christian message in the synagogues of Roman cities becomes a regular feature of Paulís missionary method. In doing this Paul demonstrates his belief that the gospel should be given "to the Jew first" (Romans 1:16). The synagogue plays a major role in Jewish life in the Diaspora. It serves as a meeting place, schoolhouse, library and court. The synagogue houses the Scriptures and other important writings, so it is a center of religious education and learning. And, of course, it is the place where all Jews came to worship. For these reasons, the synagogue is a place in which the Christian missionaries can find a receptive audience, primed for the gospel message. In fact, Gentile proselytes and God-fearers (those seeking out God) attend the synagogue as well as Jews. The synagogue-attending Gentiles serve as a bridge to pagan relatives, acquaintances and business associates.


 17"The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it.

 18"For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.

 19"When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance--all of which took about four hundred and fifty years.

 20"After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.

 21"Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.

 22"After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.'

 23"From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus,

 24after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

 25"And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.'

 26"Brethren, sons of Abraham's family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent.

 27"For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him.

 28"And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed.

 29"When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb.

 30"But God raised Him from the dead;

 31and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people.

 32"And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers,

 33that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.'

 34"As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.'

 35"Therefore He also says in another Psalm, 'YOU WILL NOT ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.'

 36"For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay;

 37but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.

 38"Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,

 39and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

 40"Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you:


 42As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath.

 43Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.

Paul Turns to the Gentiles

 44The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.

 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.

 46Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.

 47"For so the Lord has commanded us,

 48When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

 49And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.

 50But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.

 51But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.

 52And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.



After the reading (13:15)

During the synagogue service, Paul listens to the reading from the Law and the Prophets. After this is completed, the synagogue "rulers" ask if (anyone, including) Paul and Barnabas have any words of encouragement for the assembly. One might wonder why these strangers are allowed to speak. This is not necessarily their first Sabbath at the synagogue. Thus, they may be known to the synagogue rulers or officials. Additionally, Paulís dress or some other symbol may identify him as a rabbi and Pharisee.

The "ruler" or leader of the synagogue is usually an elder or leading layman. He takes charge of organizing and arranging the service and is responsible for maintaining the building. Luke mentions two individuals who hold the office of ruler, Crispus (Acts 18:8) and Sosthenes (Acts 18:17), both in Corinth.

Luke provides two vignettes where he describes parts of a synagogue service. The first is a service in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of Jesusí public ministry (Luke 4:16-17). The other is the one given here at Pisidian Antioch.

From Lukeís story, it is possible to reconstruct the pattern of a Jewish synagogue service. It begins with the Shema, summarized in the phrase: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). Prayers follow the Shema. Then there are two readings, one from the Law and a second from the Prophets. A sermon of explanation and exhortation is drawn from the second reading, as was done by Jesus at the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:17). The address is given by one or more persons judged to be competent by the synagogue rulers. Philo in his description of a Sabbath synagogue service writes, "Some of those who are very learned explain to them [the attendees] what is of great importance and use, lessons by which the whole of their lives may be improved" (Special Laws 2.62). After the instruction period is over, the synagogue service closes with a blessing.

Paul's sermon (Acts 13:16-41)

A large part of the rest of this chapter is devoted to Paulís sermon in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch. It is one of three sermons or speeches Luke records for Paul during his missionary tours (Acts 13:16-41; Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:22-31). This sermon is the only one in a synagogue, and it is by far the longest of the three.

For the most part, Paulís messages to any group of Jews contain similar elements. In fact, Paulís messages are similar to those given by Peter and Stephen. All three follow a common pattern based on Rabbinic models that would have been as familiar to Paul, Peter and Stephen as modern Pastoral models are to most Christians today.

Paulís message began with a survey of Israelís history. Like Stephen, Paul described how God dealt with the Jewsí ancestors. However, he began not with Abraham and the patriarchs, but with Godís saving grace in the Exodus. Paul then moved on to Israelís history in the Promised Land, but he focused on the life of King David. The reason for Paulís emphasis had to do with his being able to proclaim Jesus as the promised Son of David, using proof-texts about the Messiah from the Hebrew Scriptures.

He then moved the point of his speech: that through Jesus his listeners would have forgiveness of sins. Paulís speech ended with an appeal not to reject the Savior and a solemn warning about the consequences of unbelief.

You Gentiles who worship God (Acts 13:16)

Paul begins his message by addressing not only the Jews, but also "you Gentiles who worship God" (Acts 13:16). Besides Jews, there were Gentile proselytes and God-fearers listening to him. Because of their presence, Paul was able to fulfill his commission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles by preaching in the synagogue.

The Gentiles worshiping in the synagogue were an informed audience, already familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and knowing the messianic hopes of the Jews ó which had become their hope as well. Because of this, Paul was able to present his speech to them as though he was talking to Jews. These Gentiles already recognized the one true God. There was no need to begin at the more elementary level of identifying God and contrasting him with the false gods of the pagans. Later, when Paul spoke to purely pagan audiences, he was forced to take the extra step of contrasting God to pagan gods before moving on to explain that Jesus is Savior.

God chose our fathers (Acts 13:17-20)

Paulís first point was that God chose Israel ó "our fathers" ó to show his grace and mercy (Acts 13:17). He wanted to emphasize Godís redemptive activity among the Jews, which would bring him in line with Jewish interests. Paulís speech was characteristic of rabbinic models of exhortation. The recitation of Old Testament history was a kind of confessional recognizing Godís mighty and merciful hand in the nationís history. This was the same pattern which was in Stephenís speech to the Sanhedrin.

But Paul didnít begin his sermon about Godís redemptive acts with Abraham and the patriarchs. Even Moses was not singled out for discussion. Paul moved quickly to events in the wilderness, and then talked about the entrance of Israel into the Promised Land. "All this took about 450 years," Paul said. This would have included the centuries of living in Egypt, the 40 years spent wandering in the desert and an additional 10 years conquering the Promised Land.

Paul then shares the events from the period of the judges until the time of Samuel and moves to King David. Paul then quotes Godís testimony of David: "I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do" (Acts 13:22).

In Paulís thoughts, David was pivotal as the servant in whom the purpose of God is centered. After picturing David as a man of faith, Paul said: "From this manís descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised" (Acts 13:23).

Paulís proclamation to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch is that God has brought forth the Savior-Deliverer from Davidís line, and it is Jesus.

John the Baptist's work (Acts 13:24-26)

After David, Paul moves to the work of John the Baptist. John is highly regarded by the Jews. Some even thought he was the Messiah (John 1:19-20). Most Jews considered him a prophet (Matthew 21:26). Paul used Johnís testimony as a further piece of evidence that the promised Messiah is Jesus. Paul quotes Johnís statement that the Messiah is one who "is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie" (Acts 13:25). John clearly pointed out that Jesus is the Messiah "who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29-34).

Paul has made his case about Jesus from ancient Jewish history and the recent testimony of John. Then he begins to show why all this is vitally important to his listeners. "Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles," Paul shouts, "it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent" (Acts 13:26).

Jesus the Savior (Acts 13:27-31)

Paul then moves from John the Baptist to the gospel message, that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). He proceeds to explain that the people and rulers of Jerusalem condemned Jesus and thereby "fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath" (Acts 13:27).

God raised up Jesus to be the Messiah even before his death, but God also raised him up after his death. And both "raisings" are predicted in the Scriptures that are read every Sabbath in the synagogues. But people do not have to rely on proof-texts from Scripture to prove that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The resurrection is a verifiable fact because Jesus appeared to his followers over a span of several weeks. "They are now his witnesses to our people" (13:31).

"You are my Son" (Acts 13:32-37)

Paul quotes three more texts and says that they also speak of "raising up Jesus" (Acts 13:33). This raising up is prefigured in Psalm 2:7: "You are my Son; today I have become your Father" (Acts 12:33) This is echoed when God spoke after Jesusí baptism: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Jesus is then anointed by the Holy Spirit, "raised up" or assigned to be the Messiah.

With a Jewish audience it had first to be established that Jesus was the Messiah. The resurrection was the key to that, and the emphasis not only of this sermon but of all the early preaching in Acts. Only with their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah could the Jews be expected to come to grips with the fact and manner of Jesusí death. For most, however, his crucifixion remained an insuperable obstacle to accepting him as Messiah.

Justified from sin (Acts 13:38-39)

Paul now comes to the conclusion of his argument. "Therefore, my brothers," he says, "I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you" (Acts 13:38). The need for this forgiveness is a common thread through Acts (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 26:18). Humans are sinners, and on their own, there is nothing they can do to change their condition. God must pronounce a person righteous, (We canít earn that designation) and he does so upon oneís acceptance of Jesus as Savior.

Then Paul says: "Through him [Jesus] everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39). To be justified is a legal way of expressing the same thing as forgiveness of sin. When a person is justified, he or she is made right with God, or declared to be righteous in some sense. But only through Jesus will God justify a person so that he or she is considered righteous.

Heed the prophets (Acts 13:40-41)

At this point, Paul warns his hearers about the danger of rejecting Godís offer of salvation. He concludes by quoting Habakkuk 1:5: "Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you."

If you are ridiculing and scoffing at what Iím telling you, here is one of your own prophets who predicts that you would scoff. So take the prophecy to heart and accept the good news.

The people invite Paul (Acts 13:42-45)

After giving his message in the synagogue, Paul and Barnabas prepare to leave. But many people are interested, and crowd around him. They invite him to talk further about this topic the next time they gather, that is, the following Sabbath (Acts 13:42). Paulís speech arouses intense interest because it gives a unique explanation of the Scriptures, and the people want to hear more of this message. Of course, Luke wants us to remember that the unseen Holy Spirit is also at work in the minds of the listeners.

Many Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism who hear Paul engage him and Barnabas in conversation after the synagogue service. They want to discuss the topic of salvation further (Acts 13:43). Paul and Barnabas give the crowd further words of exhortation. Luke tells us they encourage the crowd around them "to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43).

Word gets around during the week about Paulís message. Luke says "the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord" (Acts 13:44). Lukeís expression "the whole city" does not mean that every person from Pisidian Antioch is gathering in front of the synagogue. He uses the statement to make the point that a large crowd gathers to hear this new doctrine.

But conflict with the synagogue leaders is looming. When they see the large crowd of Gentiles attempting to get into the synagogue to hear Paul, they are upset. Luke says "they were filled with jealousy" (Acts 13:45). (The same motive was attributed to the Sanhedrin regarding the preaching of Peter and John in Acts 5:17.)

We turn to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-48)

Paul evidently is denied permission to speak during the next synagogue service and so at some point, he turns to the unbelieving Jews and says: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46). This begins a pattern that will be repeated in city after city: Paul begins his missionary work by preaching in the synagogue. After he is rejected by the leaders and the majority of the Jewish worshippers, he then preaches to the Gentiles in that city.

Luke records three statements in which Paul says, "I go to the Gentiles." The first is here. It is followed by one in Corinth (Acts 18:6), and a final one in Rome, which closes the book of Acts (28:28). Paulís commission includes preaching to the people of Israel, which he will continue to do. In his mind, the gospel is always to go to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). Paul has a special desire to bring the gospel to the Jews in hopes that all Israel will be saved (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1).

But Paulís specific mission is to the Gentiles and he quotes Isaiah 49:6 in support of his contention that he has been commanded by the Lord to preach to the Gentiles. This scripture speaks of someone being made "a light for the Gentiles" that he "may bring salvation to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:47). The words of Isaiah 49:6 were originally addressed to the Servant of Yahweh, and then they are applied to Jesus (Luke 2:32). Now Paul applies it to the missionaries who are bringing the good news of Jesus, the Servant. Thus, Paul is saying that the mission of Jesus (the Servant) is also the mission of the followers of Jesus. It is the task of the new Israel (the church) as the servant of God to bring the light of the gospel to all peoples.

When the Gentiles listening to Paul hear that God has purposed to give them salvation, "they were glad and honored the word of the Lord" (Acts 13:48). As many as "were appointed for eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). This verse suggests that a person cannot simply decide to believe in Christ. There is a matter of divine election involved (John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 2:14). That is not to say that salvation is restricted by God in the sense of limiting it to a few people. Godís purpose is that all people come to a knowledge of the truth and find salvation (1 Timothy 2:3). However, a person must respond in faith as the Spirit leads him or her to saving knowledge.

Jews incite persecution (Acts 13:49-52)

Paul and Barnabas meet with great success in the area around Pisidian Antioch. Luke says, "The word of the Lord spread through the whole region" (Acts 13:49). The Jewish leaders are angry, and enter a plot with "the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city" (Acts 13:50). Luke is probably referring to Gentile women who are adherents of Judaism and their politically connected husbands.

Apparently, the Jews put pressure on the wealthy women who attend the synagogue. They are probably urged to convince their husbands, the cityís leading magistrates, to expel Paul and Barnabas from the area and this is what happens (Acts 13:50). Luke doesnít say what excuse is given; perhaps the accusation is that the local Jewish community believes Paul and Barnabas are heretics. Since they are not representing Judaism, a legal religion in Romeís eyes, Paul and Barnabas are teaching a religion that is not legal. As such, they should be expelled since they are disturbing the Roman peace.

Upon being expelled, Paul and Barnabas shake "the dust from their feet" in protest (Acts 13:51). This is a gesture that Jesus himself suggested his disciples practice upon encountering persecution (Luke 9:5; 10:11).

It was customary for Jews to shake off the dust of a pagan town from their feet when they returned to their own land, as a symbol of cleansing themselves from the impurity of sinners who did not worship God. For Jews to do this to their fellow Jews was the same as regarding the latter as pagan Gentiles. The Christians were demonstrating in a particularly vigorous manner that Jews who rejected the gospel and drove out the missionaries were no longer truly part of Israel but were no better than unbelievers.

Luke ends his story of gospel preaching in Pisidian Antioch by saying, "The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52). Paul and Barnabas have established a congregation of believers in Pisidian Antioch. But they are forced to move on, this time to Iconium.



Copyright © 2009, by ToBeLikeHim Ministries


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