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Bible Commentaries
Acts 13

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An alternative outline of Acts makes just two divisions in it, the first twelve chapters, and the rest of Acts beginning here, with the first section containing material related to the apostle Peter, and the last division having material especially related to the apostle Paul. This is quite logical, in fact; for from this chapter until the end of it, Acts presents the missionary efforts of the inimitable Paul.

Acts 13 records the beginning of what is usually called Paul’s first missionary journey. First, there was the formal commission which sent Barnabas and Saul on their way (Acts 13:1-3); then there is the account of their efforts on the island of Cyprus (Acts 13:4-12); next is the record of John Mark’s defection and the movement of Paul into Asia Minor (Acts 13:13-16); then follows the record of Paul’s address in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:17-43); and the record of still another sermon in the same city on the sabbath day one week later (Acts 13:44-52).

Verse 1

Now there were in Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers, Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

The group of men whose names appear here were very important, due to their being not only teachers but "prophets," both of these designations belonging to the whole group mentioned here, concerning whom Dummelow said:

The gift of prophecy especially distinguished the apostolic from the sub-apostolic and later ages. It was widely diffused, being exercised by private Christians. … It generally took the form of inspired exhortation or instruction, but was sometimes predictive …. Friendly relations existed between Antioch and Jerusalem, the latter church sending accredited prophets and teachers to Antioch to aid in the work of evangelization.(F1)

The men named in this verse were official prophets, having the gift in its fullest extent; and they were regarded, along with the apostles, as being the foundation upon which the church was built (Ephesians 2:20). The chief product of Christian prophecy is the inspired New Testament.

Barnabas … heads the list here. He was the uncle of John Mark who wrote the gospel and a brother of Mary whose home was the scene of Peter’s reunion with the church mentioned in the last chapter. Further comment on Barnabas is given under Acts 9:27.

Boles, following the exegesis of Alford, Meyer and others, thought that the placement of the Greek particle indicates that the first three of this list were prophets and the last two teachers;(F2) but the name of Saul, which occurs last, happens to be the name of the greatest of the New Testament prophets; and therefore it is more accurate to view all five of these as both prophets and teachers.

Simeon that was called Niger … If the phrase "of Cyrene" may be understood as a modifier of both Simeon and Lucius (next named), it would add probability to the supposition that this man is the same as the Simon who bore the cross of Jesus and was the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21). "Niger" means "black"; but there is no greater necessity for making this term a description of Simeon’s physical appearance than there is for alleging that Shirley Temple Black is BLACK, this being one of the commonest names in history.

Lucius of Cyrene … This person has "by some been falsely identified with St. Luke."(F3)

Foster-brother of Herod … The Greek word thus rendered is not found elsewhere in the New Testament; and the meaning is somewhat ambiguous, scholars listing no less than three possible meanings: (1) Manaen’s mother had been Herod’s wet-nurse; (2) Manaen had been brought up as Herod’s foster-brother;(F4) (3) Manaen had been a playmate of Herod.(F5) In any event, a very close connection with the tetrarch Herod is indicated.

And Saul … Luke’s placement of this name last emphasizes the relative importance of these men at the beginning of the first missionary journey, enabling us to see more clearly the dramatic rise of Paul as the greatest missionary of New Testament times, or of all times.

Verses 2-3

And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

As they ministered … has reference, in all probability to the corporate worship of the Christians at Antioch, accompanied on this occasion by fasting, dearly indicating that worship is itself a "service" to the Lord, no less than the conveyance of alms to others as in Acts 12:15.

The Holy Spirit said … This expression occurs so often in Acts that the book has been called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. As to the exact manner of the Holy Spirit’s speaking here, "It is useless to inquire."(F6) However, the speculation of MacGreggor is as probable as any that might be proposed: "(It was) through the inspired utterance of one of the prophets."(F7) In fact, the New Testament reveals this to have been the usual manner in which the Holy Spirit communicated God’s will to men since the days of the new covenant. See under Acts 20:23 and Acts 21:10.

When they had fasted … etc. Significantly, it was the entire church which participated in the sending forth of this great missionary team. As Bruce summarized it:

It is evident that the laying on of hands imparted no qualification to Barnabas and Saul which they did not already possess. By this means, the church, through its leaders, expressed fellowship with them …. They were sent out by the whole church; and to the whole church they reported when they returned to Antioch (Acts 14:26).(F8)

Sent them on their way … We do not know if the Holy Spirit prescribed the route they took or not. It is doubtless true that many details were left to be decided by the prayerful best judgment of the missionaries, as it has been in all ages. Barnabas, a native of Cyprus, would naturally have recommended the evangelization of his native land; and thus it is no surprise that their itinerary had Cyprus first on the list.

Verse 4

So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia; and from thence they sail to Cyprus.

Sent forth by the Holy Spirit … But, in the previous verse, it is clear that the church sent them forth; and this declares that what is done by the church of our Lord (in which the Spirit dwells) may be said also to have been done by the Holy Spirit; and so it is today. Preachers of the gospel sent into all lands by the church are no less sent by the Holy Spirit than were Barnabas and Saul.

Seleucia … This was the seaport outlet for Antioch, having derived its name from the Seleucid kings who built both the seaport and Antioch. It was some sixteen miles downstream from Antioch and some five miles above the mouth of the Orontes. Magnificent ruins of this once great city still exist in a remarkable state of preservation.(F9)

Verse 5

And when they were at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John as their attendant.

At Salamis … This was the largest city on the eastern end of Cyprus, opposite from Seleucia, and within a hundred miles distance, being clearly visible on a clear day from Seleucia.(F10) Something of the immense size of this ancient city appears in the fact that the large Jewish population massacred some 240,000 of the Gentile inhabitants in a great uprising put down by Trajan’s great general, Hadrian, who himself later became emperor. As a result, Hadrian expelled all Jews from the city; and "even if a Jew was accidentally wrecked on that inhospitable shore, he was instantly put to death."(F11) Of course, those terrible conditions developed some fifty years after Barnabas and Saul preached there; and one cannot resist the conjecture that if the Jewish population had received the gospel of Christ, the later tragedies might have been avoided.

The synagogues … There were many of these attended by the vast Jewish population of Salamis; and it is significant that, from the very beginning, the gospel was preached "to the Jew first, and also to the Gentiles" (Romans 1:16). Luke does not mention any success of the evangelists in Salamis, perhaps because there was none to report.

John Mark as their attendant … "Mark probably acted as baptist,"(F12) is a speculation that is supported by the fact that Paul did not usually do the baptizing personally (1 Corinthians 1:14-17).

Continuing on from Salamis, Barnabas and Saul traversed the whole length of Cyprus to Paphos at the western extremity. It was a rich and populous island, the chief exports being copper and timber. The deity most generally worshiped on Cyprus was Aphrodite (Venus), the whole island being noted for its reprobacy and debauchery.

Verses 6-7

And when they had gone through the whole island unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus; who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of understanding. The same called unto him Barnabas and Saul, and sought to hear the word of God.

The sad state of affairs on Cyprus is emphasized by the fact of such a practitioner of evil as Bar-Jesus enjoying the status of an advisor to the governor.

Proconsul … It was once a favorite conceit of critical antagonists of the New Testament that Luke erred in this title given Sergius Paulus; but the excavation of a coin with this title for the ruler of Cyprus refuted their error, not Luke’s!(F13)

Paphos … This was the seat of the government on Cyprus, being the residence of the governor who was "a man of understanding." The "understanding" attributed to Sergius Paulus does not have reference to any secular or literary learning that he possessed, but to the fact of his seeking to hear the "word of God." Only they who thus seek to know the will of God may properly be credited with such an attribute as "understanding." The fact of Bar-Jesus’ having been a Jew suggests that Sergius Paulus had made inquiry into the beliefs of the Jews and may therefore be presumed to have had some knowledge of the sacred Scriptures. As MacGreggor admitted, "there would be nothing extraordinary in a Roman official having a Jewish teacher in his house."(F14)

Verse 8

But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn aside the proconsul from the faith.

Elymas … Bar-Jesus was the name this character had received from his family; but his practice of the black arts had earned him another, "Elymas," which is "an Arabic word meaning sorcerer."(F15)

Withstood them … seeking … The action indicated here was not a single effort but a continuing one, wherein Elymas stubbornly opposed the gospel, trying in any way possible to preserve his own status as a trusted advisor of the governor. In the light of what followed, it is certain that lying and unscrupulous methods were used.

Verses 9-11

But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, and said, O full of all guile and all villainy thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

Saul, who is also called Paul … "The ALSO here does not mean that the name `Paul’ was here given for the first time, but that he had always had it."(F16) "Paul" was the Gentile form of the name "Saul"; and as Saul was here beginning his great work among the Gentiles, it was appropriate that the Gentile form of the name would be used henceforth by Luke, except on a few occasions referring to his previous life.

Despite the above, however, Conybeare said, "We cannot believe it accidental that the words `who is also called Paul’ occur at this particular point."(F17) He made the deduction that the conversion of Sergius Paulus brought the name Paul to the surface and precipitated the use of it, despite the fact that Paul had long possessed the name.

O full of all guile … etc. This strong denunciation of Elymas was announced by Paul through a revelation of the Holy Spirit; and the divine authorization of Paul’s condemnation of Elymas was at once evident in the miracle that confirmed it. The rationalization of this miracle by MacGreggor asserts that "Probably the facts are that Paul denounced Bar-Jesus’ spiritual blindness, and this led to the legend"(F18) of Paul’s inflicting physical blindness upon him. Like every satanic falsehood, however, this one also carries its own refutation. In the matter of Elymas’ seeking someone to lead him by the hand, the reality of the blindness is proved.

The extraordinary circumstances of Paul’s denunciation of Elymas forbid preachers in all ages since then to speak similar anathema’s against opponents of the truth. Paul was an inspired prophet and teacher, under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, and there was no possibility whatever of any mistake or error on Paul’s part. The judgment against Elymas was not that of Paul but of God himself. "The hand of the Lord is upon thee."

A mist… This word, found nowhere else in the New Testament, is another example of Luke’s medical vocabulary. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician called the "Father of Medicine," used this word "to express a darkening and dimming of the eyes by cataract or other disease."(F19)

For a season … shows that the unusual judgment against Elymas was not without its element of mercy. His blindness was not permanent.

Verse 12

Then the proconsul, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Believed … As frequently, especially in Paul’s writings, this is a synecdoche, a type of metaphor in which one of a related group of actions stands for all of them. The meaning here is that Paulus believed the gospel of Christ, repented of his sins, confessed the Saviour, and was baptized into Christ, becoming a Christian. Luke used this same figure in Acts 16:34, in which place, after spelling out certain preconditions of salvation fulfilled by the jailer, he spoke of the jailer’s compliance with all of them as his "having believed in God."

Paul’s miracle had the intended effect. It fully convinced Paulus and inflicted a severe judgment upon Elymas, but in such a manner as to leave him opportunity for repentance. Those who attempt to find in this event some grounds of disapproval for Paul’s actions have simply failed to read it correctly.

Verse 13

Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departed from them and returned to Jerusalem.

Two very important changes appear in this verse. "Barnabas and Saul," which until this point had been the designation of this missionary team, abruptly in this place gave way to "Paul and his company," or "Paul and Barnabas" as used generally in Acts afterward. Luke’s coupling the defection of John Mark from the company with this marked change of leadership has been read by some as proof that John Mark’s defection was due to his resentment of Paul’s replacing his uncle Barnabas as the leading missionary. This, of course, is not certain; but neither is it impossible. Many people have quit their duty for reasons not unlike that. See my Commentary on Mark, p. 1, for further comment on John Mark. Whatever was the cause of Mark’s defection, Paul disapproved of it and refused to take him on the next journey (Acts 15:36-41).

Perga in Pamphylia … Although this was the destination of Paul’s company when they set sail from Paphos, there is no record of anything that occurred there, Luke skipping over anything that might have taken place there, and focusing upon Paul’s preaching in Antioch of Pisidia. The speculation of William M. Ramsay to the effect that Paul contracted malaria in low-lying Perga and promptly moved on to higher ground at Antioch (altitude about 3,500 feet)(F20) does not appear reasonable. As MacGreggor noted:

A sick man would surely have returned to Cyprus rather than undertake the strenuous Taurus passage; and, if Paul was in fact ill, it is more likely that the sickness came on in Antioch, compelling him to stay longer there than he had anticipated (Galatians 4:13).(F21)

Verses 14-15

But they, passing through from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia; and they went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. And Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said.

Under the above verses, we noted the passing over of any event or teaching that might have occurred in Perga. The words "passing through" seem to indicate that the evangelistic company merely passed through Perga on the way to Antioch and that there had been no purpose of stopping there.

Antioch of Pisidia … Although a principal city of the district, this is not to be confused with Antioch of Syria. The latter was the home base for Paul’s missionary labors, and Antioch of Pisidia was a distant outpost. At the time of Paul’s preaching on this first tour,

The churches of Antioch, Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, though south of Galatia proper, were nevertheless in the province of Galatia, and could be spoken of as the Galatian churches … this grouping (of these places in Galatia) was abandoned after some three hundred years; and the name "Galatia" reverted to the northern part of the province. The wider meaning of the name (Galatia) was apparently forgotten until it was recovered largely through the research of Sir William M. Ramsay.(F22)

The synagogues throughout the Roman Empire were the centers of Judaism; and, in many of these, there were devout souls "waiting for the kingdom of God," and this fact naturally directed the feet of the first Christian missionaries to the synagogues wherever they went.

The scene that emerges here at the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch is that of a devout congregation of Jews meeting on sabbath days to read the sacred Scriptures and hoping to take advantage of any stimulating comment that might be provided by occasional visitors. It was a situation made to order for a preacher of Paul’s character and ability.

And beckoning with his hand … There was evidently some characteristic gesture that Paul used at the beginning of his discourses; and Luke’s mention of it proves the record here to have originated with an eyewitness.

Reading of the law and the prophets … Boles declared that:

The law was first read in the synagogues until 163 B.C., when Antiochus Epiphanes prohibited it; then the reading of the prophets was substituted for it. When the Maccabees restored the reading of the law, the reading of the prophets continued also.(F23)


Paul’s address falls into three logical divisions: I. The historical background of the Messiah (Acts 13:17-23), culminating in the coming of Jesus the Son of David. II. The proof that Jesus was indeed the promised deliverer (Acts 13:24-37). III. An appeal to the people with a warning against rejecting Christ (Acts 13:38-41).

Verses 16-17

Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, hearken: the God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they sojourned in the land of Egypt, and with a high arm led he them forth out of it.

Men of Israel … ye that fear God … The glory of ancient Israel was their relationship to God; and, by such a beginning, Paul assured himself of the favorable attention of his audience.

Chose our fathers … God’s choice of Israel, making them the "chosen people," was not a capricious or partial act. The purpose of choosing Israel was that "all the families of the earth" might be blessed (Genesis 12:3); but, historically, the people of Israel did not appreciate this, falling into a state of self-righteousness in which they despised the Gentiles.

Exalted the people … This exaltation resulted in a fantastic multiplication of their numbers and their deliverance from the slavery imposed upon them by the Egyptians.

With a high arm … has the meaning of irresistible power and dramatic deliverance provided by God through his servant Moses in order to lead the people out of Egypt.

Verse 18

And for about the time of forty years as a nursing father bare he them in the wilderness.

Paul here stressed, not the rebellions and murmurings of the people, but the patience and forbearance of God.

Verse 19

And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years.

Seven nations … These were: the Hittites, the Gergashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, "seven nations greater and mightier" than Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1).

Four hundred and fifty years … It is not exactly clear what space of Israel’s history is covered by this period mentioned by Paul. It is evidently not the same as that mentioned in 1 Kings 6 which gives 480 years as the time between the Exodus and the beginning of construction of Solomon’s temple. Significantly, Josephus identifies a similar period of 443 years elapsing between the Exodus and the beginning of the temple, which is apparently the same calculation made by Paul, the slight variation of seven years being covered by "about the space of" in Paul’s reference to it. There is no certainty at all about the exact manner of this calculation; but the whole question is of little importance. The variations in the report of this period derive, in all probability from several methods of choosing terminals at both ends of the period. H. Leo Boles gives a very logical harmony of the variations.(F24) Also, there is the fact that Israel did not count some years when they were not ruled by judges. Even a Nazarite lost time if he did not comply with the law (Numbers 6:12).

Verses 20-21

And after these things he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they asked for a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for the space of forty years.

They asked for a king … This was secular Israel’s formal rejection of God as their king (1 Samuel 8:7), and from this initial rejection the whole of their subsequent history was influenced, resulting finally in their total rejection of the promised Messiah.

Forty years … The Old Testament does not give the length of Saul’s reign,(F25) but Josephus also sets it at forty years, covering eighteen years until the death of Samuel and continuing 22 years afterward.

Verse 22

And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; to whom also he bare witness and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who shall do all my will.

When he had removed him … The sovereign action of God in removing Saul and raising up David to replace him is stressed here.

A man after my own heart … This verse has troubled men because of the gross sins which marred David’s life, notably the adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite. Despite his sins, however, David never lost his love of God. He repented of his sins, acknowledged them, seeking and receiving God’s forgiveness. Therefore, what is affirmed here is not David’s sinless perfection, but his continuity in covenant relationship with God.

Verse 23

Of this man’s seed, according to promise brought unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus.

"The Son of David" was a popular designation for the promised Messiah, a fact acknowledged in the first verse of the New Testament and brought into sharp focus here in Paul’s address. Paul moved at once to prove the Messiahship of Jesus, citing as proof (1) the testimony of John the Baptist (Acts 13:24-25), (2) the fulfillment of prophecy by his rejection (Acts 13:26-29), and (3) his resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:30-37).

Verses 24-25

When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was fulfilling his course, he said, What suppose ye that I am? I am not he. But behold, there cometh one after me the shoes of whose feet I am not worthy to unloose.

Paul’s appeal to the testimony of John the Baptist in support of his thesis that Jesus is the Christ of God is doubtless abbreviated here. The testimony of John was extensive and included the following affirmations concerning our Lord:

That Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin (John 1:29).

That Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33).

That, having the bride, he was the Bridegroom (John 3:29).

That he came from above and is above all (John 3:31).

That he was sent of God and spoke God’s words (John 3:33).

That God had given to the Son all things (John 3:35).

That he that believeth on the Son shall have eternal life (John 3:36).

That he that obeyeth not the son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36).

Verses 26-29

Brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us is the word of this salvation sent forth. For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet asked they of Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all things that were written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb.

Of the stock of Abraham … Paul here qualified this with the adjacent clause, "those among you that fear God," indicating that not all of the stock of Abraham feared God. This distinction between the secular and the spiritual Israel would receive extensive treatment by Paul in Romans 9—11.

Rulers, because they knew him not … The ignorance of Israel was a factor leading to their rejection of Christ. Despite the fact that they were not ignorant of his Messiahship, of his being the rightful heir of the temple and the extinct throne of Solomon, nor of his being a holy, just and righteous person, they WERE ignorant of the all-important fact that Jesus was God come in the flesh.

Fulfilled them by condemning him … The prophets had clearly foretold the rejection of the Christ; therefore, their very action of crucifying the Lord proved that he was the promised Deliverer.

Down from the tree … "The Greek term here is [@xulou] and means not only tree, but wood."(F26) The apostolic preachers stressed the offense of the cross, "Cursed is every one that is hanged on a tree" (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13).

They … laid him in a tomb … The antecedent of "they" in this passage would appear to be "dwellers in Jerusalem," including both disciples of Jesus and the class who were his enemies, since it was the latter who condemned him, his friends who took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb, and both classes who "fulfilled all things" that were written of him.

Verse 30

But God raised him from the dead.

The resurrection of Christ was the cornerstone of Paul’s preaching, this doctrine standing here as the climax of his sermon. As proof of Jesus’ resurrection, Paul offered the testimony of eyewitnesses and also the prophecies of the Old Testament which foretold it.

Verse 31

And he was seen for many days of them that came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses unto the people.

The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus were at least ten in number, perhaps many more; and, upon one occasion, he was seen of over five hundred brethren at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6). It was the absolute certainty of the first-century Christians that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead which motivated the apostolic preachers and gave the faith of our Lord Jesus a sweeping victory throughout the world of that era.

Verses 32-33

And we bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

The second Psalm … Some ancient manuscripts read "in the first Psalm," due to some third-century Psalters combining Psalms 1, 2, making both together the first Psalm.(F27)

Thou art my Son … God’s recognition of Jesus as his Son was emphatic upon the occasion of his baptism (Matthew 3:17 and parallels); but Jesus had been the only begotten Son from the time of his conception; and again, by the resurrection, God declared him to be the Son of God WITH POWER (Romans 1:4).

Verses 34-35

And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he hath spoken on this wise, I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David. Because he saith also in another Psalm, Thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption.

Holy and sure blessings … This comes from Isaiah 55:3 where "the everlasting covenant" is mentioned as one of those blessings. Thus it must be concluded that the gospel of Jesus Christ for all men is the everlasting covenant in view there.

To see corruption … This is an abbreviated reference to Psalms 16:10:

Thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.

This Old Testament prophecy plainly foretold the resurrection of Christ, because only a resurrection could prevent corruption of one in the grave.

Paul next mentioned the fact that, since David’s body had indeed decayed, the promise, therefore, did not apply to David but to David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter used this same argument on Pentecost (Acts 2:29 f). Paul summarized this argument in the next two verses.

Verses 36-37

For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption; but he whom God raised up saw no corruption.

Having clinched his argument regarding the resurrection of Christ by his appeal to the testimony of the eyewitnesses, and to the Old Testament prophecy of it, Paul proceeded to announce the availability of salvation from sin through faith in Christ.

Verses 38-39

Be it known unto you therefore, brethren, that through this man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins; and by him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Through this man … remission of sins … The primary purpose of the coming of Christ and the Christian gospel is that men may be forgiven of their sins. How reprehensible is the conduct of the secular church in our generation which has perverted this purpose in the pursuit of what they suppose to be social and economic gains. The problem regards "remission of sins," not living conditions.

Every one that believeth … Here again is the great synecdoche meaning simply "every one who believes, repents, confesses Christ, and is baptized for the remission of sins."

From which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses …" MacGreggor is undoubtedly wrong in his allegation regarding this passage, saying that "The implication here is that the law can free from some things, but not from everything."(F28) Of course not. The antecedent of "which" is "all things," making the meaning to be that "all things" fail of justification under the law of Moses. The efforts of some to make this passage non-Pauline are futile.

Is justified … The Pauline doctrine of justification, as set forth fully in Romans, makes the final grounds of it to be the perfect faith and obedience of the Son of God. This justification is "in Christ," an expression (or its equivalent) which occurs no less than 169 times in Paul’s writings. No man can be justified in his own name, or by his own achievement. It is not as Joe Bloke, or John Doe, that any man can be saved but "as Christ," "in Christ," and as fully identified with Christ. For full discussion of justification, see my Commentary on Romans, Romans 3:22.

Verses 40-41

Beware therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken in the prophets: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; For I work a work in your days, A work which ye shall in no wise believe, if one declare it unto you.

The quotation here is from Habakkuk 1:5; and the admonition is to the effect that the unique, startling, and amazing facts of the gospel should not be the grounds of the people’s rejecting them. Isaiah exclaimed, "Who hath believed our report?" (Isaiah 53:1), showing that the gospel has elements in it that, from the carnal viewpoint, are unacceptable and well-nigh unbelievable; and yet the gospel is gloriously true. Not the least of those elements is the doctrine of the atonement, achieved in the crucifixion of Jesus our Lord.

Verses 42-43

And as they went out, they besought that these words might be spoken to them the next sabbath. Now when the synagogue broke up, many of the Jews and of the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas; who, speaking to them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

So far, so good. Paul’s great sermon had fully captured the attention of many who were inclined to accept Christianity, and the conversations regarding this continued, apparently, throughout the whole day. An appointment was made for Paul to speak again in that same synagogue on the sabbath day a week later. In the meantime, how- ever, Satan would stir up opposition to the truth.

Verses 44-45

And the next sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed.

The whole city … indicates that many Gentiles also were present; and the Jewish leaders, long accustomed to the notion that they alone had the truth, were infuriated and filled with jealousy. They did not hesitate to contradict Paul and utter blasphemous words directed, presumably, against the Lord Jesus.

Verses 46-47

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee for a light of the Gentiles, That thou shouldest be for salvation unto the uttermost part of the earth.

First be spoken to you … The invariable rule, both of Christ and of the apostles who delivered his message to men, was "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Jesus twice fed the multitudes, the first being a great Jewish throng, the second being composed largely of Gentiles.

Judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life … To reject the Scriptures is to prove unworthiness to receive eternal life.

Lo, we turn to the Gentiles … Nothing could have been said which would more completely have "turned off" Paul’s hearers. It was simply not in their thinking at all that salvation could be offered to any except their own race. What is so amazing about this is that there were many Jewish Scriptures which plainly indicated that through them, that is through the Jews, God intended to redeem the Gentiles also. The quotation here is from Isaiah 49:6; but this is only one of many. In Romans Paul cited Hosea 1:10; Hosea 2:23; and Isaiah 65:2 as indicative of God’s purpose of saving Gentiles.

Verses 48-49

And as the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of God: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spread abroad throughout all the region.

Thus success attended the campaign in Antioch; but with that success came the bitter opposition of the Jews who simply determined not to have it so.

As many as were ordained to eternal life believed … As Milligan said, this means that "As many as were disposed to accept God’s plan, according to which they had been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, believed."(F29) Before the world was, God ordained that people who would hear his word and submit their will to his would receive eternal life, and that those who would not do this could not receive eternal life. There is nothing in this place that suggests any "immutable decree" regarding specific individuals, the ordination in this place having reference, not to individuals at all, but to classes of people. Furthermore, every individual ever born has the right of decision with regard to which class of persons will be his own.

Verse 50

But the Jews urged on the devout women of honorable estate, and the chief men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and cast them out of their borders.

This verse indicates that the Jews were able to manipulate the political and social leaders of the city to bring pressure against the preachers of the gospel.

Women of honorable estate … They were probably the wives of the chief men of the city and thus influenced their husbands to promote a general persecution."(F30)

And cast them out of their borders … The campaign was successful in that it resulted in the expulsion of the missionaries; but this did not in the least deter the activities of men like Paul and Barnabas.

Verses 51-52

But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came into Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Shook off the dust … Jesus had commanded:

And as many as receive you not, when ye depart from that city, shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony against them (Luke 9:5).

The symbolism of this was a warning that the rejection of the message they had preached would have eternal consequences for those who refused to hear them.

Filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit … Despite the opposition and the eventual expulsion of the preachers from Antioch, a true church of Christ had nevertheless been planted. The truth of God then had roots in Antioch of Pisidia; and the jealous fury of the opponents could do nothing against it. Christianity was on the march!

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 13". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/acts-13.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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