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Paul and Barnabas on the Island of Cyprus. Acts 13:1-2 Kings :
Barnabas and Saul delegated as missionaries:
v. 1. Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as, Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod, the tetrarch, and Saul.
v. 2. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
v. 3. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Luke here begins the second great part of his book of the Acts. After having narrated the story of the establishment of the Church, he now proceeds to furnish a biographical account of the missionary labors of Paul and of his captivity in Caesarea and Rome. In the local congregation at Antioch there were, as important and influential members, certain prophets and teachers, men to whom the Spirit had given the power to uncover the veil of the future whenever He so directed, and men that had the gift of teaching in an unusual measure. In some of them, as in the case of Paul, both gifts may well have been united, Galatians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 12:1. Whether these men actually belonged to the presbyters of the congregation or not is immaterial; at any rate, they held positions of honor and importance among the brethren in the congregation. From the text it would almost seem to follow that the first three were especially distinguished for their prophetic ability, the last two for their gift of teaching. Barnabas is named first, as the man to whom the congregation really owed its sound establishment, then Simeon with the surname Niger, then Lucius of Cyrene, probably one of the disciples who first preached at Antioch, chap. 11:20. In the second group are mentioned Manaen, a man of some influence, having enjoyed the distinction of having been brought up with, educated together with, Herod Antipas, as some think, his foster-brother, and finally Saul. The order in which they are given shows the relative importance accorded them, as usual in the careful writing of Luke. While these men were serving the Lord in the ministry of the Word, in the teaching and praying of public worship, and also observing the custom of fasting which they had taken over from the Jewish regulations, but probably did not observe on the same day, choosing Wednesday and Friday rather than Monday and Thursday, the Holy Ghost gave them a charge. Either in a vision or by direct prophetic communication to the one or the other of these men He commanded that Barnabas and Saul should now be set aside, placed in a class by themselves, for the purpose of performing the work for which He had called them. Not only Saul, therefore, but also Barnabas had been selected by the Lord for some special work in the interest of His kingdom, for the proclamation of the Gospel among the Gentiles. The will of God having been thus revealed, the congregation held a solemn service of ordination. Having fasted in preparation for the event, they joined in urgent prayer that God would bless and prosper the two chosen servants in their work, and then laid their hands on them in token of blessing and of official appointment. This was the method of separating or delegating them for the office or service for which the Lord intended them. Note: On similar occasions, even in our days, if a man is separated for the ministry of the Word, or if a pastor is called to a new field, it is altogether proper and well-pleasing to God for those concerned in the movement, through their pastors or church officers, to lay their hands on them, and the custom of fasting, of making it a solemn occasion, is by no means to be despised. After this ceremony the two missionaries were sent away, dismissed, by the congregation. They were going forth as the delegates of the Church, as the representatives of the entire congregation, to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. This fact is often lost sight of in our days, and consequently the feeling of responsibility for the missions of the Church is not so keen as it well might and should he. There is need for much improvement in this respect.
On the island of Cyprus:
v. 4. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
v. 5. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they had also John to their minister.
v. 6. And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus;
v. 7. which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the Word of God.
Barnabas and Saul, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, their visible separation had taken place before and in the name of the congregation, but they had been designated by a special revelation of the Spirit, and therefore the call proceeded from the Spirit and was merely transmitted through the congregation and its officers. With this certainty in mind, the missionaries of our days, having received the call of the Lord through the congregation or its representatives, may set out upon the work of their ministry just as cheerfully and confidently as the two men who left Antioch in Syria early in that eventful year of 46 A. D. Traveling first of all down to Seleucia, the port of Antioch, which was situated at the mouth of the Orontes, they embarked for the island of Cyprus. They crossed the arm of the Mediterranean Sea, a distance of some sixty miles, and landed at Salamis, a harbor on the southeastern coast. John Mark was with them as a servant, as a younger brother that might very well aid them in any clerical work, while having the benefit of their instruction. At Salamis the two missionaries made arrangements at once to proclaim the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. That was the rule which they observed: first the Jews, then the Greeks. In this way they journeyed slowly through the entire island, which at that time was thickly settled. It was a distance of some hundred miles to the western end of the island, to the capital, Paphos, where', there was a famous shrine devoted to the heathen goddess Venus, and where, therefore, idolatry was practiced to a frightful extent. Here resided the proconsul of the island, Sergius Paulus by name, a prudent man, clear-sighted, possessed of a good measure of common sense. Note: The reliability of Luke as a historian has been vindicated against foolish attacks in regard to this passage. Cyprus had anciently been governed by a propraetor, but in 22 B. C. it had been transferred by Augustus to the senate, and therefore proconsul is the correct title. A peculiar character was attached to the household of the proconsul in the person of one Barjesus, a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet, a kind of court-sage, magician, and confessor. People of his kind were found in many of the courts in those days and often wielded great influence over their masters. But Sergius Paulus was evidently tired of the spiritual food which this Jewish magician was able to dispense, and the oracles and auguries, after all, did not satisfy one that wanted a sound basis for belief. So he sent for Barnabas and Saul and earnestly desired to hear the Word of God. It is probable that he plied them with questions concerning the Word and their service in its interest, and while he was by no means predisposed to the acceptance of the Gospel, he by no means ridiculed its preaching before examining its claims. If the people of our day and age that claim for themselves both a thorough education and a fair degree of common sense and open-mindedness would but follow the example of the Cyprian proconsul and make a frank examination of the merits of the Gospel, the chances are that their natural prejudice would quickly be removed.
The Trustworthiness of Luke as a Historian
The Bible and its contents are not in need of vindication. To us Christians the Bible in all its parts is the inspired Word of God, whose foolishness is wiser than men. In taking this standpoint, we do not throttle reason, well knowing that the doctrines of Scriptures are not, strictly speaking, against human reason, but simply above and beyond reason. In studying the Bible, therefore, we make use of our reason in a very decided fashion, but always so that we take it captive under the obedience of Christ. For this reason, also, we welcome all research in history and archeology which will throw additional light on Bible lands, Bible customs, Bible language, and all other questions pertaining to a better understanding of the Word of salvation. For this reason we feel a great deal of satisfaction in the fact that the trustworthiness of Luke as a historian, aside from the fact of inspiration, has been established most gloriously by recent investigations.
A number of years or decades ago, especially at the time when the rationalistic theological literature had reached the crest of its flood and its criticism was accepted by a large part of Christendom without question, there were several charges registered against Luke as a historian. It was stated that there were several mistakes in his account of the nativity of our Lord. It was said that Cyprus, in the days of the Apostle Paul, had been a praetorian, not a consular, province, and that therefore Sergius Paulus was incorrectly called proconsul. It was alleged that Luke's geographical knowledge of Asia Minor must have been extremely hazy, to express it mildly, that he did not know into which province the various cities belonged, and that therefore his geographical notes were altogether unreliable. It was charged that his calling the city of Philippi a colony was an obvious mistake.
But in each single point the holy writer has been vindicated so completely that the opponents are forced to retire in utter dishonor. This is due to the untiring zeal and to the indefatigable exertions of a number of scholars, among whom were Duchesne and Collignon, Hamilton, Waddington, but, above all, Sterret in his book Epigraphical Journey in Asia Minor in 188 4, and Sir W. M. Ramsay, in his series of monographs, among which the Historical Geography of Asia Minor, St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen, Pauline and Other Studies, Was Christ Born in Bethlehem, The Cities of St. Pau l, and The Bearing of Recent Research on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament should receive mention. The results of these researches have been ably summarized by Cobem, in his The New Archeological Discoveries
The fact that Sergius Paulus was, not propraetor, but proconsul of Cyprus, has been shown both directly and indirectly, as noted above. The fact that Paul had entered into the district of Lycaonia in going to Iconium, and that this city was incidentally, administratively considered, reckoned with the cities of South Galatia, has received confirmation which takes away all reasonable doubt. The fact that Philippi was a colony in the time of St. Paul has been demonstrated by the finding of a coin which stated this fact, in short, the very stones are crying out in vindication of the Scriptural account and of the truth of the Gospel-story, as any one may convince himself if he will go to the delightful trouble of consulting the books mentioned above. And each new discovery, bringing further witness of the truth of the Bible account, aids in stopping the mouths of the gainsayers, if not in convincing them of the truth of Scriptures, and thus the glory of the exalted Christ is further increased.
The opposition of Elymas:
v. 8. But Elymas, the sorcerer, (for so is his name by interpretation,) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
v. 9. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him
v. 10. and said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
v. 11. 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.
v. 12. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
Barnabas and Saul were making some progress with the proconsul, when they met with opposition from a very dangerous adversary. For this counselor of the proconsul, who had cleverly insinuated himself into the intimacy of his master, bearing the name Elymas, "the sage," as a sort of surname, used all his influence to foil the attempts of the missionaries for the conversion of Sergius Paulus, his purpose being to divert him from the faith. The governor probably showed a strong inclination to accept the truth of the Gospel, and the sorcerer knew that such an event spelled the ruin of himself, the loss of his position. In this emergency, Saul assumed the leadership, which till now he had yielded to Barnabas, and from this time forth Saul was the more prominent of the two. This Luke indicates by inserting here the name by which Saul was henceforth known, which marked his apostleship to the Gentile world. Paul here became subject to an extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit's influence, in whose power he attacked the magician in the very presence of the proconsul. Fixing his eyes upon the hypocritical Jew, he said to him: Thou son of the devil, full of deceit, guile, craft, and all wickedness. The sorcerer's present opposition showed him to be the natural enemy of the messengers of God, and of all righteousness, which they were trying to spread. Would he not cease, Paul asked, would he not give up acting as one that perverted, that made it his habit to mix up and turn aside, the straight and correct ways of the Lord? And the punishment of the Lord followed. At the words of Paul the hand of the Lord was laid heavily upon Elymas, causing him to become stone-blind and unable even to distinguish the light of the sun for some time, until such a time as it would please God to restore his sight. And there was no delay in the coming of the curse. At once, at the same moment, a dark mist fell upon him; he groped about, calling on one and another of the frightened bystanders to lead him by the hand and show him the way out of the presence of Paul; he was obliged to have such assistance since his blindness was absolute. This exhibition of the power of God convinced the proconsul; he was astounded at the doctrine, overwhelmed by the teaching of the. Lord and about the Lord; he believed, faith in Jesus, the Savior, was engendered in his heart. Certain inscriptions which have been found in the last decades tend to show that Sergius Paulus was henceforth a firm believer in Christ, that he was enrolled with the Christians. Note: Even today it is the guile and craft of the devil that tends to hinder the conversion and salvation of men, the efficacy of the divine Word, by sending false prophets and errorists. These are full of guile and fraud and enemies of true righteousness. But Christ, the Lord of His Church, is stronger than Satan, and carries out His work for the salvation of souls. But the apostles of darkness are finally condemned to spiritual blindness and darkness, making it impossible for them to find the right way.
At Antioch, in Pisidia.
The journey and the arrival:
v. 13. Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.
v. 14. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went in to the synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and sat down.
v. 15. And after the reading of the Law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye Men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
Sometime after the events related by Luke in the first verses of this Chapter, Paul and his companions left Paphos, sailing thence in a northwesterly direction a distance of some 170 miles to the bay of Attalia. They did not land in Attalia, however, but went up the river Cestrus to the city of Perga, the capital of Pamphylia, a little more than seven miles from the sea. It is probable that Paul intended to push on from here immediately into the interior of the country, which was then infested with lawless bands, concerning whose robberies and murders many tales were circulating. John Mark, therefore, did not prove equal to the occasion, but left the two missionaries for some carnal reason and returned to his home at Jerusalem. It often takes not only natural fortitude and strength, but especially the courage and power from on high to brave the difficulties and dangers of bringing the Gospel-message to foreign shores, and the absence of accustomed luxuries and even comforts must be endured cheerfully for the sake of the cause. The defection of Mark, however, did not interfere with the plans of Paul, for he and Barnabas left Perga and pushed on through the wild and lawless country of the Pisidian highlands to the valleys beyond until they reached the city of Antioch, about a hundred miles from the Mediterranean. It was situated in a strategic position, on a low plateau, which at the present time presents a desolate waste. It had been a Roman colony since 25 B. C. , and, although situated in the district of Pisidia, was at that time considered a city of the Roman province of Galatia, the Romans having embodied a part of ancient Phrygia and all of Lycaonia and Pisidia in this larger province for administrative purposes. Thus Pisidian Antioch was geographically and partly also linguistically Phrygian, but politically Galatian. It was in the late summer, probably in August of the year 46, that Paul and Barnabas reached Pisidian Antioch. With characteristic energy they went to work. They went into the one synagogue of the city on the Sabbath and sat down. The usual order of services was followed. A section of the Law was read, then one from the prophets; then came exhortations based upon the passages read. It was the custom of the synagogues to invite a visiting rabbi to address the assembly at this point, and therefore the rulers of the synagogue, who occupied raised seats before the congregation, sent word to Paul and Barnabas by the servant, the invitation: Brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation, of counsel, for the people, say it. Whether Paul and Barnabas had previously introduced themselves to the rulers of the synagogue or not, is of little importance, but the kind request fitted in altogether with their purpose.
Paul begins his discourse:
v. 16. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand, said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
v. 17. the God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought He them out of it.
v. 18. And about the time of forty years suffered He their manners in the wilderness.
v. 19. And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, He divided their land to them by lot.
v. 20. And after that He gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel, the prophet.
v. 21. And afterward they desired a king; and God gave unto them Saul, the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
v. 22. And when He had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfill all My will.
Whether the invitation came to Paul with or without his seeking, he at once made use of it. Arising and holding out his hand in a gesture inviting attention, he addressed his hearers as men of Israel and those that feared God. The many references to the history of the children of Israel, which are found also in the sermons of Peter, but especially in that of Stephen, would interest not only the Jews, but prove highly instructive to the proselytes and strangers present as well. There is a certain amount of appeal to the national pride of the people, for it was the God of this nation of Israel that chose their fathers as His own from among all nations of the world. By His blessing they increased not only in numbers, but in strength and power as well, while they were strangers in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm, then, by the application of His almighty strength, He led them forth from the land of Egypt For forty years, out in the wilderness, He surrounded and bore them with solicitous care in spite of all their ingratitude. In the land of Canaan, to which the Lord brought the children of Israel, He destroyed utterly seven heathen nations before them, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, Exodus 23:23; Joshua 3:10, dividing the land to the conquerors by lot. A space of some four hundred and fifty years, counting from the arrival of the people in Canaan to the final subjugation of the heathen nations at the time of David, was needed to carry out this command of the Lord. The last and most renowned of the judges was Samuel, the prophet. When Samuel had grown old, the people demanded of him a king, and God gave them Saul, the son of Kis, who reigned for forty years. But Saul did not bring his people the promised salvation, it being necessary for God to remove or depose him from the throne, 1 Samuel 15:16; Daniel 2:21. But after Saul's removal the throne was given to David, whom God raised up from the lowly in the land, and of whom He bears witness that He found David, the son of Jesse, to be a man according to His own heart, willing and able to perform all His will. In ascribing these words to God, Paul bears witness to the inspiration of the Old Testament, for his words, instead of being a quotation of one single passage, are a compilation from several verses, Psalms 89:20 and 1 Samuel 13:14. The testimony of the Old Testament, in all its parts, is true, since the Lord spoke through His servants.
The promise of the Messiah:
v. 23. Of this man's seed hath God according to His promise raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus;
v. 24. when John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel
v. 25. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not He. But, behold, there cometh One after me whose shoes of His feet I am not worthy to loose.
With the mention of David, the great hero of Jewish history, Paul had opened the way to his main theme, the promise, the appearance, and the work of David's promised Son. It was no longer necessary for the Jews or for any other nation in the world to look forward to the Messiah's coming, since God had, according to His promise 2 Samuel 7:12, brought to Israel, out of the offspring of David, Jesus, the Savior. And this event had received further confirmation by the fact that John, in preparation for His coming, before the face of His entering in, had preached a baptism of repentance to the entire people of Israel. John's was also a baptism of repentance; by coming to the baptism of John, the sinner made a public acknowledgment of the fact that he was a sinner, and that he sought remission of sins by the water of Baptism. And as John was fulfilling his course, near the end of his career as preacher of repentance, he had publicly testified in favor of Christ: Whom do you suppose me to be? I am not He; but He comes after me whose sandals I am not worthy to bear, Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; John 1:19-Daniel :.
Prophecy fulfilled in the death of Jesus:
v. 26. Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the Word of this salvation sent.
v. 27. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath-day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him.
v. 28. And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain.
v. 29. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulcher.
Very abruptly Paul changes from the simple historical exposition to a direct appeal that his hearers feel a personal interest in the matters which he is presenting to them. He includes them all in the address of brethren, both the children of the family of Abraham, the Jews by descent and birth, and the other devout men present, assuming that they all were filled with fear and relevance toward God. The Word of this salvation is sent forth to them, concerns every one of them vitally. Unless a person realizes that the work of Christ, the entire redemption, is of the most extreme importance to himself, the preaching of the Gospel is without value to him. It was necessary for Paul to make this urgent appeal, for his next statements might seem an attack upon the leaders of the Jews at Jerusalem. The inhabitants of the capital and their rulers did not know Christ, they did not recognize Him for what He was in truth, and they did not understand the voices of prophecy, the references in all the books of the prophets, though they were read in the synagogues every Sabbath. If they had had a proper understanding, they surely would not have become guilty of the wrong which they finally committed, chap. 3:17. But in their very misunderstanding of the prophecies and the resultant condemnation of Christ they fulfilled the prophecies; for although they found no cause of death in Him, they yet demanded that Pilate must slay Him by Crucifixion. And when they had carried out all that had been written of Him, then they, speaking generally, some of the Jews, took Him down from the cross and laid Him into a tomb Very likely Luke's report of Paul's sermon is a brief summary. But the point which Paul wants to make stands out very plainly; for the crucifixion of Jesus, which in itself would be regarded as evidence that He was not the Messiah, was turned into an unanswerable argument in His favor. And incidentally the peculiar, carnal conception which the Jews held in regard to the Messiahship was properly corrected. The same argument may well be employed in our days, since the facts of Gospel history, compared with the clearness of the Old Testament prophecies, carry conviction with overwhelming force.
The argument from the resurrection of Christ:
v. 30. But God raised Him from the dead;
v. 31. and He was seen many days of them which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses unto the people.
v. 32. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
v. 33. God hath fulfilled the same unto us, their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the Second Psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.
v. 34. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
v. 35. Wherefore He saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.
v. 36. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.
v. 37. But He whom God raised again saw no corruption.
Paul boldly places the statement at the head of this section of his discourse: But God raised Him from the dead. The full importance of the resurrection of Jesus for Christian faith must ever be kept in mind, since it is fundamental for the understanding of Christ's redemption. The first proof which Paul brings for the resurrection is the testimony of the eye-witnesses. Jesus was seen many days by those that had traveled with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who were now kept busy bearing witness of that fact to the people. Because of the certainty of this miracle not only the eye-witnesses, but also the present speaker and Barnabas were bringing their hearers the Gospel-news, that the promise given to the fathers God had fulfilled for those that were present, their children, in this fact, that He raised Jesus from the dead. And in case the testimony of the eye-witnesses were not deemed sufficient by them, Paul brings proof from Scriptures. There were the words of the Second Psalm: Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee. He was the eternal Son of God, in full possession of eternal life. It was impossible for Him, therefore, to remain in death; He must arise and give full expression to the life which was His from eternity. The second Scripture-passage which Paul adduces to prove that the resurrection of Christ was in accordance with prophecy, that God raised Him up from the dead, and that He should never return to corruption and decay, which seemed to envelop Him as He lay there in the tomb, was taken from Isaiah 55:3, quoted from the Greek text. There God promises His people to make an everlasting covenant with them by giving them the holy and sure blessings of David. The sacred promises given to David could be realized only in the triumph, the resurrection, of God's Holy One; only by the living Christ can the blessings of the Gospel be ratified and assured. "If now this Christ, through whom this covenant is made, true man, as He was promised to David of his blood and flesh, should bring and give eternal grace, for which reason He must be God, to whom alone it pertains to give this: then He must not remain in death, though He die like a natural man, but Himself must rise from the dead, in order that He may deliver others also from death and give them eternal life, that He may in truth be called and be an eternal King of grace, righteousness, and life, as God has firmly promised. " The final passage which Paul quotes is the same one which Peter had used in his great Pentecost sermon, Psalms 16:10: Thou wilt not give Thy Holy One to see corruption. For, as the speaker rightly argues, these words cannot apply to David, since he, after having performed the work of his office for his own generation, fell asleep according to the will of God and did see corruption and decay in death. But this Christ, whom God raised up from the dead and also exalted to heavenly glory, did not see corruption, did not become subject to decay. A more direct and explicit prediction of the resurrection of Jesus cannot be found in the entire Old Testament, and the force of the words must have been felt by all the hearers.
The conclusion of the sermon:
v. 38. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins;
v. 39: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.
v. 40. Beware therefore lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets,
v. 41. Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
v. 42. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.
v. 43. Now, when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
Since the facts adduced by Paul proved the Messiahship of Jesus, he could now continue his discourse by offering to his hearers the benefit of Christ's mediation before God. He wants it clearly understood by all that through Christ, through the power and completeness of His redemption, forgiveness of sins is announced to them, not as a prize to be earned or merited, but as a gift to be accepted. Paul literally declares: And from all that they could not receive absolution and righteousness from in the Law of Moses, in this every one that believes is justified. Far from yielding to the Law any ability to justify, as some commentators have believed, Paul rather denies that there is such a thing as justification by the Law. He appeals to the experience of his hearers. In spite of all their efforts to fulfill the Law, they must have had the feeling that all such attempts were hopelessly inadequate. The harder they tried to live up to every demand of the Law, the more. they must feel the condemnation, not the justification, of the Law. All the more necessary, then, it was for them to turn to Christ, in whom every one that believes is justified. His words imply that the justification, the righteousness of Jesus, is present before all men, but that only such as accept its blessings by faith actually join the ranks of those that are justified before God. To impress these last points upon his audience, Paul adds a final word of warning. They should beware lest the saying in the book of the prophets find its application with them, Habakkuk 1:5: See, you shameless people, and wonder, and perish, for a work I do in your days, a work which you will not believe, even if someone explain it to you. That is the punishment which strikes such as despise the message of the Gospel and harden their hearts against its glories. They see, but do not understand; they wonder, but do not believe; they become the prey of spiritual and, finally, of eternal death. The great work of redemption through the merits of Christ, done before their very eyes, they will not, and therefore finally they cannot believe, no matter how often it is pictured to them. This warning is fully in order today. Every one that hears and reads the Word of the Gospel should be sure to make the application to himself and accept the comfort of the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ, lest he receive the mercy of God in vain. The discourse of Paul made a deep impression, even though no immediate emotional reaction occurred. As he and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, those that were present earnestly begged them to repeat all these words, to proclaim the Gospel-message to them again on one of the days between the Sabbath, that is, on Monday and Thursday, when services were also held in the synagogue. And when the services of the morning had been closed an& the assembly dismissed, many of the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, as well as pious proselytes, such Gentiles as had accepted the Jewish doctrine and by circumcision become proselytes of the covenant, followed Paul and Barnabas, and the missionaries took the opportunity to talk to them and to exhort them to hold firmly to the grace of God. When people have once shown an interest in the message of the Gospel, they must be encouraged again and again to put their trust in, and cling firmly to, the grace of God. The power of the Spirit in the message will do the rest.
Opposition on the part of the Jews:
v. 44. And the next Sabbath-day came almost the whole city together to hear the Word of God.
v. 45. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
v. 46. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
v. 47. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set Thee to be a light of the Gentiles that Thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
On the following Sabbath the fruit of Paul's first sermon and of the labors of both missionaries during the week became apparent. Almost the whole city came together to hear the Word of the Lord, surely the largest assembly which the synagogue had ever seen. But when the Jews saw the multitudes that gathered for the purpose of hearing the Gospel, they were filled with unreasonable jealousy. They tried to persuade themselves that this demonstration amounted to a disparagement of the Law of Moses, and began to contradict the words of Paul and finally even to blaspheme Note: All willful contradiction of the Gospel and its glories is a blasphemy of Christ and His salvation, and if the name of Christ is Revelation led in addition, the transgression assumes a very severe aspect. But now Paul and Barnabas were filled with the courage to state their position fearlessly and plainly. They told the angry Jews that it was necessary for the Word of God to be preached to them first, for so the command of the Lord must be understood, Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47, and therefore they had observed the rule: Jews first. But since now they were deliberately thrusting the Gospel aside and repelling its blessings, and were thus judging themselves as not worthy of eternal life, the apostles no longer felt the slightest hesitation about turning to the heathen. For this course agreed exactly with the prophecy, which now assumed the force of a command, Isaiah 35:6: I have set, appointed, Thee as a light of the Gentiles, to be salvation, to bring redemption, to the end of the earth. Such had been the promise of God, in words addressed to the Messiah, in the Old Testament, and these words should find their fulfillment in the New Testament. Note: When a person has the opportunity of hearing the Gospel and accepting its saving message, and then deliberately thrusts it aside, he has no one but himself to blame for the resulting condemnation and damnation. "For since our nature is corrupt through sin, worthy and deserving of God's wrath and of damnation, therefore God owes us neither Word, Spirit, nor grace, and when He gives it out of grace, we often thrust it aside, and make ourselves unworthy of everlasting life."
Success and persecution:
v. 48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
v. 49. And the Word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. V 50. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
v. 51. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
v. 52. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.
The reference of Paul and Barnabas to the passage from Isaiah and its application to the present situation filled the heathen that were present with great joy. With many others, they may have had the idea that the redemption was for the Jews only, or at least that the only way of obtaining its blessings was by joining the Jewish Church first through the rite of circumcision. So they praised the Word of the Lord, through which they were assured of acceptance into the kingdom of God directly, without the intermediate process of joining the Jewish synagogue. And they believed, not all, but as many as were ordained or appointed unto eternal life by God, not in consequence of an absolute decree. but in Christ Jesus, through the redemption in His blood, Ephesians 1:4-Deuteronomy :. Their belief was the result of this gracious determination and foreknowledge, predestination, of God, which is spoken of at length in other passages of Scriptures, Ephesians 1:3-Joshua :; Romans 8:28-Amos :, And this fact is a source of great comfort. The faith of a Christian and his preservation in this faith is not a matter which depends upon his own reason and strength, a precarious basis at best, but upon the grace of God in Christ Jesus, assured to him before the foundation of the world. "The eternal election of God not only sees and knows in advance the salvation of the elect, but also by the gracious and good will of God in Christ Jesus is a reason which effects, procures, helps, and promotes our salvation, and what pertains thereto; whereon also our salvation is so firmly founded that the portals of hell cannot prevail against it, as is written: 'As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. '" The result of this enthusiastic acceptance of the Word was also felt in ever-widening circles, for the Word of the Lord was carried through this entire region. It was spread not only in Antioch, but went far and wide through the entire district of Pisidia adjacent to the city. But the Jews, now angrier than ever on account of the success of the Gospel, urged on, incited, the devout women of the leading and influential families of the city as well as the first, the representative men, whom they probably approached through their wives. The best families in the city, including the administrative class, were involved, the social and political forces of the district were arrayed against them. So a persecution was stirred up against Paul and Barnabas, and they were expelled from the city, not by mob law in this instance, but by magisterial action. They were. probably ordered to leave the city at once and accompanied, none too gently, by the police officers. But the missionaries, nothing daunted, shook off the dust of their feet against them, as a protest, a testimony, and a warning, Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5, and proceeded to the city of Iconium as their next station. And the disciples that had been gained, far from being discouraged or being filled with grief and fear, were rather strengthened in their faith and filled with joy and the Holy Ghost. Even the ignominious expulsion of the teachers was a further proof of the truth of the Lord's words, and so far as their faith was concerned, its certainty and its joy no human power could deprive them of, since these were gifts of the Holy Spirit. Hatred and enmity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will result in persecution as often as the enemies can get or make an opportunity. But the more the world jeers and the unbelievers rage, the greater is the comfort which the Christians have of their faith.
On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas make a tour of Cyprus, then cross over to Perga, in Pamphylia, and travel to Pisidian Antioch, where Paul preaches the Gospel with great success; but both teachers are expelled from the city, due to Jewish hatred and jealousy.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Acts 13". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18