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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 13

Verses 1-12

  1. Intro:
    1. Mark Ritter – Persecuted Church, Prayer cards.
    2. Pastor Kareem – Read email.
    3. I wrote to Li Mei – Very easy to do.
    4. Book Outline: Now starts the gospel opportunity to the ends of the earth.
    5. Chapter Outline: Opportunities Come to Those Who Serve! And, Opposition Comes to Most Opportunities!
    6. Ob Portu - In the days before modern harbors, a ship had to wait for the flood tide before it could make it to port. The term for this situation in Latin was ob portu, that is, a ship standing over off a port, waiting for the moment when it could ride the turn of the tide to harbor. The English word opportunity is derived from this original meaning. The captain and the crew were ready and waiting for that one moment for they knew that if they missed it, they would have to wait for another tide to come in.Shakespeare turned this background of the exact meaning of opportunity into one of his most famous passages. [It’s from Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3]There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.On such a full sea are we now afloat; And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures. (Bits & Pieces, March 2, 1995, pp. 16-17)
    7. Read: 11:30; 12:25; Then 13:1-3.
  2. OPPORTUNITIES COME TO THOSE WHO SERVE! (1-3)
    1. CHOSEN BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD! (1,2)
    2. The missionary call came when? When they were busy serving the Lord.
      1. You might ask, How should I participate in missionary work?
      2. {Read about it, Pray for it, Give towards it, Go into it(short term), Help others go into it, encourage your children to go into it}
    3. God calls people who take time to worship & minister to the Lord. (Warren Wiersbe; With The Word; pg.715.)
      1. Want God’s direction? Get busy serving, He’ll show you the next step
    4. COMMISSIONED BY THE CHURCH OF GOD! (3)
    5. Antioch serves as a base for Paul.
      1. He maintains close ties throughout his missionary career.
    6. Fasting – Often makes us more sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.
  3. OPPOSITION COMES TO MOST OPPORTUNITIES! (4-12)
    1. Here starts Paul’s 1st Missionary Journey.
      1. Time to blaze the trails into areas that had never heard the gospel.
    2. EAST CYPRUS, SALAMIS! (4,5)
    3. Barnabas a native of Cyprus. (130 miles from port to port)
      1. Island itself is 140 miles long. Paphos was the capitol at the time.
    4. 2 Greek words for sent – pempo (3) which is usually a more proactive kind of sending or dispatching (i.e. the Spirit); and apoluo (4) which frequently means releasing something that has its own inherent source of energy (i.e. the church). (Peter Wagner; Acts of the Holy Spirit; pg.289.)
    5. (5) In the synagogues – 1st stop the synagogues! Sets a precedent here for the rest of his ministry. [Probably for 3 reasons]
      1. [1] Theological reason: Abrahamic covenant hadn’t been nullified (I will bless those who bless you)
      2. Thus, Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
      3. [2] Social reason: The law of natural affinity. To his own.
      4. [3] Strategic reason: There were 3 groups there: Jews; Proselytes (born gentiles, converted); God-fearers (born gentiles, but chose to maintain their gentile identity)
        1. This 3rd group being the most receptive to Paul’s message.
        2. See Acts 13:16.
      5. So Paul targets those who are already “seeking”.
      6. NT pattern is to “seek the seekers”. [who sought in vs.7?]
    6. WEST CYPRUS, PAPHOS! (6-12)
    7. Opportunities Usually Produce Opposition…Expect it!
      1. 1 Cor.16:9 a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. (NIV)
    8. His business card read: Bar-Jesus, a.k.a. Elymas: Jew/Sorcerer/False Prophet.
      1. Bar-Jesus (Heb name); Elymas(Arabic name = “wise”)
    9. This is what some call a “Power Encounter!”
      1. (i.e. ) “A visible demonstration that the power of God is greater than the power of the spirits worshiped or feared by different individuals.”
        1. (e.g.) Elijah w/the Baal prophets.
    10. As Peter had a run in w/Simon Magus, Paul has his w/Elymas!
    11. Here is another example of the parable of the Tares.
      1. God sowed the good seed (Paul & Barnabas) & Satan sowed a counterfeit (Elymas).
    12. It was the clash of 2 kingdoms: The kingdom of God /The kingdom of Satan.
      1. The prize? Not only the conversion of Paulus but most likely the opening of perhaps all of Cyprus to the gospel of Christ. {Story}
    13. In 1269 Kublai Khan sent a request from Peking to Rome for “100 wise men of the Christian religion...And so I shall be baptized, and when I shall be baptized all my baron and great men will be baptized, and their subjects baptized, and so there will be more Christians here than there are in your parts.” The Mongols were then wavering in the choice of a religion. It might have been, as Kublai forecast, the greatest mass religious movement the world has ever seen. The history of all Asia would have been changed. But what actually happened? Pope Gregory X answered by sending 2 Dominican friars. They got as far as Armenia, could endure no longer and returned home. So passed the great missionary opportunity in the history of the church! (R. Dunkerly, in Resource, No. 2)
    14. (8) Elymas withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the truth.
      1. Why? – Because if he failed he’d be out a job. No need for a court magician if this guy gets saved.
      2. When you open heaven you also open hell! (Griffith Thomas; pg.247)
    15. (9) Saul also called Paul – Saul Latinized his name!
      1. Q: Would you change your name to Mohammad to win Muslims?
      2. As Paul moves closer to the center of the Roman Empire, Luke switches names! (Shepherd’s Notes; pg.47)
    16. (11) I wonder if Paul was surprised when this came rolling off his tongue?
      1. Often that’s what happens when the Lord gives you a word to speak.
      2. Story – P.I. experience 1988. Creepy young man following us around. Grabbing all the attention while we were in Bacolod Square w/Psalty. I confronted him & told him to leave else I would ask God to blind him …he left! [had I thought, I never would have said that]
    17. Turn to - 1 Cor.16:9 a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. (NIV)
    18. A door is a metaphor for “opportunity!!!
      1. 2 Cor.2:12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,
    19. Effective – or “adapted to success”.
    20. Open – Lit. “stands wide open”.
      1. Open infers that some doors are, or can be, “shut”!
      2. Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and regretfully at the closed door, that we do not see the one that has opened for us.”
    21. Q: Are there any doors in front of your face at this time that you are still staring at?
    22. Q: Is it not a great way to pray, to ask the Lord to open or closedoors/ opportunities” regarding His direction for your life?
    23. There are many adversaries – A Pessimist is one who “sees a difficulty in every opportunity”; an Optimist is one who “sees an opportunity in every difficulty”!
    24. When you find an open door, it doesn’t help you unless you walk through it!
      1. Ex.14:15 And the LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. (Red Sea crossing)
    25. Q: Any doors you’re trying to kick down?
    26. Q: Any doors you’ve just been standing in its threshold?
    27. Q: Any “opportunities” you haven’t taken because of fear?
    28. (12) It was what he saw & the teaching of the Lord.
      1. A report that came back from the Himalayas recently said, “The Western missionaries brought us the Knowledge of God, but The 3rd World Missionaries are bringing us the Power of God!”
      2. Without the working of the Holy Spirit (vs.2,4,9) our orthodoxy, our churchmanship, our talents are worthless!
        1. ​​​​​​​He calls; He commissions; He equips!
    29. The proconsul believed! – He stepped over the line. The gospel line!
      1. Q: Have you stepped over the line that marks life/death?
      2. Let me end w/an illustration I heard this week from Michael Ramsden w/RZIM.
    30. Life is like a Bookshelf!
      1. ​​​​​​​[Apostle Paul, Barnabas, Mark, leaders in Antioch church, Sergius Paulus, Bar-Jesus/a.k.a. Elymas]
    31. Top shelf – International Hero’s. People that led great exemplary lives. Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, etc.
    32. Shelf below – National Hero’s. People not known outside of their country.
    33. Next shelf – Decent ordinary people. You’d give them the keys to your house when you go on vacation.
    34. Next shelf – People a little closer to the edge. Creative with their taxes. Never let them borrow your car.
    35. Next shelf – People who steal for a living.
    36. Bottom shelf – Truly evil people. Those who truly enjoy inflicting pain on other people…like dentists. ☺
      1. Q: If God gave you a pen, where would you draw a line of judgment?
      2. Wherever you draw the line is where people would get in.
      3. Q: How far down the bookshelf would you go?
      4. Q: At what point would you draw it?
        1. God will draw a line of judgment one day. Yet, He doesn’t draw it this way(Horiz) He draws it this way(vert). Straight through the middle of the bookshelf.
        2. On one side people who led imperfect lives no matter how noble, who were offered forgiveness & accepted it.
        3. On the other side, people who led imperfect lives, who were offered forgiveness, but rejected it.
      5. Q: What side of the line are you on? (Adapted from RZIM Podcast; Michael Ramsden; Why are we Here? 4 of 4; 4-16-08)
    37. I would like to give you this morning Ob Portu! As you stand “off of port”, now is the time to ride the high tide into God’s Harbor of Hope.​​​​​​​

Verses 13-52

  1. Intro:
    1. Mothers: My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. George Washington (mother Mary)
    2. I want to be sensitive to those who desired to have a child & couldn’t. And to those who didn’t have a great model for mothers.
      1. We are grateful for your model.
      2. Though you grieve, we honor you today.
    3. What you represent in a day in which it isn’t that popular to be simply seen as a mother…Though it is the most influential position one can have on the planet.
    4. Please Stand: (Pray) Acknowledge God’s grace in their “words, touch, & model”.
      1. What a pleasure to have given life to little people.
      2. Mothers who long for their kids safe return.
      3. Our presidents mother & her influence on his life; presidents wife & her influence on her daughters.
      4. There isn’t a life not touched by their mother.
    5. Story – Last year Larry, Wayne & I visited a mosque in Indonesia. We wore goatees so we wouldn’t stick out. The head mufti came in & greeted all 3 of us w/durkey, durkey, durkey! [We asked our friend there what durkey meant? He explained he thought you were from Turkey! You past!]
      1. So, on we go to Turkey w/Paul!
  2. STUFFING TURKEY WITH THE GOSPEL! (13-41)
    1. Leadership Change! (13,14)
    2. From Barnabas & Paul to “Paul & his party.”
    3. John Mark returns/resigns/defects from the mission.
    4. Explain travel course – From island of Cyprus (Paphos) north to Turkey.
      1. Perga – is 12 miles inland in the province known as Pamphylia.
        1. Greek city, large Temple (Artemis) [Diana of the Ephesians]
      2. Antioch in Pisidia – is a 100 mile trip on foot through rugged mountains. [region infested w/bandits who preyed on travelers]
        1. Maybe place Paul referred to “in perils of robbers” (2 Cor.11:26)
        2. Major trade route. Had a synagogue.
    5. Antioch is in the region of Galatia. Soon after Paul ministered there he wrote his 1st epistle to the churches, the epistle to the Galatians.
      1. Only letter he wrote to a number of churches.
      2. The name Galatians was given to the Celtic people because they originally came from Gaul before migrating to Asia Minor.
      3. Where he talks about blessings from God via faith, not law.
      4. A faith that sets men free to enjoy liberty in Christ. - A liberty to produce the fruits of righteousness through a spirit-led life-style!
    6. 3RD LONGEST SERMON IN ACTS! (15-41)
    7. To win the God-fearing Gentiles, Paul had to take the calculated risk of offending the hard-core Jews. (Peter Wagner; pg.299)
    8. (17) An uplifted arm – mighty power!
      1. The time of the Exodus was a period of the most concentrated displays of divine power in history.
    9. (26) Then came the shocker – to you the word of this salvation has been sent.
      1. You…who? – Jews yes, but Gentiles were mentioned also.
      2. God’s new plan of salvation included Gentiles!
    10. To you – as an email to whom it is addressed; as a diagnosis to a patient.
    11. (38,39) Forgiveness of sins – The Jews would consider this the day of Atonement.
      1. Which had to be repeated year after year, because sins could not be forgiven once for all.
      2. Never before defined, only typified by sending away scapegoat.
      3. OT heard a lot of sins being “covered” now being “taken away!
      4. Jesus saves us from: the penalty of sin(past), the power of sin(presently), & one day(future) from the presence of sin.
    12. Justified from all things – This is Christianity’s most important theological truths, justification by faith. (justified by believing not by “doing”)
      1. This is a legal term that implies full acquittal.
      2. Once justification takes place it does not need to be repeated time after time. The record is wiped clean!!!
      3. Who can be justified? Paul was perfectly clear by repeating it twice, both Jews & God-fearers, aka Gentiles (16 & 26).
    13. Everyone can believe! Jews said the message of salvation was “keep the Law”; Paul’s new message of salvation…“believe”!!!
    14. Paul was fulfilling his commission! (read 26:17,18)
      1. [open eyes; dark to light; power of Satan to God]
    15. Christians we are to-day accepted in the Beloved, to-day absolved from sin, to-day acquitted at the bar of God!
      1. Spurgeon said, “We are now - even now pardoned; even now are our sins put away; even now we stand in the sight of God accepted, as though we had never been guilty. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.’ There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of his people.” ☺
    16. After the war with sin comes the peace with God!
      1. He gives us “pardon, life, peace, liberty, healing, cleansing, refreshment, comfort, & strength.”
  3. RESULTS! (42-52)
    1. ​​​​​​​TWICE-BORN MEN!
    2. (47) Purpose: I have set you as a light – Let’s take this personal!
    3. He has called us to be “Salt” (make em thirsty); & To be “a light” (may they see the lack of darkness in your life).
  4. Reason: For salvation to the ends of the earth – Let’s take this personal!
    1. Like an old Standard Oil slogan(made John D. Rockefeller a billionaire),​​​​​​​ “Get the Light into Every Dark Corner of the world.” [Their goal, multitudes of towns & villages lighted w/the kerosene oil of the West]
      1. Well we’ve gotten oil & gas into most all parts of the world…but have been a lot slower to bring them the light of the gospel!
    2. (48) Don’t trouble yourself with election, encourage yourself in it.
      1. This is sure evidence of your election.
    3. Eternal life – Doesn’t signify an endless existence (though encompasses that), it speaks to quality of life, not just the quantity; to its character, not just its duration!
      1. Eternal life is when He brings us from spiritual death to spiritual life!
      2. Eternal life is experiencing the life of Christ! “He who has the Son has life!” 1 Jn.5:12
      3. Eternal life is a new life! “all things become new”. 2 Cor.5:17
      4. Eternal life has changed bondage to freedom! “Christ has made us free”. Gal.5:1
      5. Eternal life is for “doing the will of God from the heart”! Eph.6:6
    4. (52) Joy – If one thing characterized the Christians of the NT, the answer would be their joy!
      1. Is this true of Christians today? Of you today? It should distinguish us from the world!
      2. Joy is like the peace of God – the world can neither give it nor take it away.
      3. Joy is a condition, a state of the soul due to being right with God.
    5. Story - At the height of her fame as the other woman in the Ivana & Donald Trump breakup, Marla Maples spoke of her religious roots. She believed in the Bible, she told interviewers, & then added the disclaimer, “but you can’t always take it literally and be happy.” C. Colson, The Body, p. 124
    6. Happiness is different from joy, it is dependent on happy circumstances!
      1. Joy is independent of these.
      2. We may long for a change in our circumstances, and sometimes that’s what we get. But a changed life is our deepest need. Changed circumstances may make us happier, but a changed life will make us better, for it will make us like Christ. Francis Schaeffer
    7. Happiness is affected by what one has!
      1. Joy by what one is.
    8. Happiness comes from experience of good, as distinct from evil!
      1. Joy from experience from God, apart from good or evil.
    9. Happiness comes through things outside, which stir feelings within!
      1. Joy leaps within, from God in the heart & soul.
    10. Happiness is like the changing surface of the ocean; Joy like the ocean bed, untouched by change of wind or atmosphere.
    11. Story - As a 3rd century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: “It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians - and I am one of them.” Moody Bible Institute’s, Today In The Word, June, 1988, p. 18
    12. But when you are experiencing this joy…don’t forget to tell your face, Smile! ☺
    13. A conference at a certain church in Omaha. People were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. This church wasn’t normally free to express themselves w/an “Hallelujah or a Praise the Lord.” All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased.
      1. Let your balloon go!
    14. End: Ps.16:11 “In Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand pleasures forevermore.”
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Acts 13". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/acts-13.html. 2017.