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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Acts 13



Other Authors
Verses 1-52

THIS LARGE CHURCH, composed mainly of Gentiles, had no less than five prophets and teachers in its midst. Their names are given and prove very instructive; for one had a surname which probably indicates that he was a black man (Niger means Black), one was sufficiently distinguished to have been a foster-brother of Herod, Barnabas was a Hellenistic Jew, Saul had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and Lucius may have been a Gentile. Thus it was quite early manifest that race and breeding are not the things that count most decisively in the church, but the gift which is bestowed from on high. These men not only ministered to the saints for their instruction, but also to the Lord in thanksgiving, intercession and fasting; and it was in one of these private seasons that the Holy Ghost gave definite instructions that Barnabas and Saul should be set apart specially to go forth with the Gospel into the Gentile world.

The first and last of the five were chosen for this mission. The others prayed for them and identified themselves with them in their coming service by the laying on of hands. This laying on of hands was not what is today called “ordination,” for the two chosen men were already in the full exercise of their ministry. The laying on of hands does uniformly express identification. The others said in effect, “We are entirely with you in your mission;” so that in full fellowship, and without jealousy or rivalry, they sent them forth.

Even so, it was really the Holy Ghost who sent them forth, as verse Acts 13:4 says; and to Cyprus, the old home of Barnabas, they went first of all, Mark his nephew accompanying them. Arrived at Paphos, they had the encouragement of finding the chief ruler of the island ready for the Word of God; but at the same time they ran into Satanic opposition. Opposition from the powers of darkness is an encouraging sign, rather than the reverse.

Elymas was an apostate Jew, who had sold himself to the service of the devil, and he became the chief opponent of the Gospel at Paphos But just as Satan’s power was expressed in him, so the power of the Holy Spirit energized Saul, and there was a very striking and drastic proof given that “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). The true character of the man was unmasked, and the hand of the Lord laid upon him in judgment. It is striking that Saul should now be used to bring upon another something similar to that which had fallen on himself. After three days the scales had fallen from the eyes of Saul. On Elymas there descended a mist and darkness, which fitly matched the misty darkness of his mind. The deputy believed, and it was the teaching of the Lord that impressed him rather than the miracle.

From this point in the narrative Luke gives Saul his new name of Paul (meaning, Little), and at the same time we see the Spirit thrusting him into the leading position in service and ministry, so that in verse Acts 13:13, “Paul and his company,” is the phrase used. There is a designed connection, we think, between the change of name and the change of position. He who is Little becomes the Leader; and this illustrates the Lord’s words in Matthew 18:4. Did this have something to do with John Mark leaving the company at this juncture, we wonder? Barnabas, his uncle, was being somewhat overshadowed.

At Antioch in Pisidia the rulers of the synagogue invited a message from the visitors, and again Paul is the one to seize upon the opportunity and speak. The record of his preaching is given—verses Acts 13:17-41—so here we have a valuable insight to his presentation of the Gospel to a mixed audience of Jews and proselytes.

He began with God’s choice of their fathers in Egypt and His bringing them out of it, and from that point led them up to God’s choice of David, and His promise of a Saviour from that man’s seed. He then presented

Jesus as being the promised Seed, as borne witness to by John the Baptist. Now the tidings of the salvation which is centred in that Saviour was sent to all his hearers, including, “whosoever among you feareth God;” that is, the Gentile proselytes among them.

He then proceeded to speak of the death and resurrection of Jesus: His death the wicked act of the Jerusalem Jews, His resurrection the act of God, and that resurrection amply verified by the testimony of credible witnesses. Hence he brought them “glad tidings,” in a twofold way. First there was the good news of God fulfilling His promise in raising up Jesus. The word, “again,” should not occur in the middle of verse 33: that verse refers to our Lord’s coming into the world, according to the second Psalm. Then, second, there was the good news that when men had consigned Jesus to death, God had raised Him up from the dead, never to die again. Paul found an allusion to resurrection in “the sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55:3), as well as in the well-known words, he quotes from Psalms 16:1-11. The one was written about David, and the other written by David; but in neither case did the Spirit of God really refer to David, as verse Acts 13:36 says. David having “in his own age served the will of God,” (margin), did see corruption, and the words of his Psalm could only refer to Christ.

Having thus established the resurrection of Christ, Paul brought his address to a climax by the announcement of forgiveness of sins through “this Man,” risen from the dead. The announcement was made in oracular fashion as a Divine proclamation. There was no quoting of Old Testament Scripture for this. “Be it known,” he said. What he announced they were to know, for really it was God who was speaking through his lips. In 1 Corinthians 2:13, we find Paul claiming the inspiration of the Holy Ghost for his spoken words; and this being so we have no hesitation in according the same inspiration to his writings, preserved for us in the New Testament. When Paul said, “Be it known,” then those who believed might know. And in just the same way we know, when we believe the Holy Scriptures.

Paul not only made plain this general announcement of forgiveness; he also declared the positive result which would follow belief in the Gospel message. By Christ the believer is justified from all things. By the works of the law not one of us can be justified at all: by the faith of Christ we are justified from all. We are cleared from every charge that would have stood against us, and invested with “the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

All this hinges upon faith in Christ, risen from the dead. It is “through this Man,” and “by Him.”

Paul closed his address with a word of warning, and this was in keeping with what he states in Romans 1:16-18. In the Gospel “righteousness of God” is revealed, as we have just seen in verse Acts 13:39 of our chapter; but it is revealed against the dark background of the “wrath of God.” Hence his solemn words in verses Acts 13:40-41. The way he quotes from Habbakuk Acts 1:5 is very striking, for the allusion there is plainly to the Chaldeans. However though the Chaldeans were an immediate fulfilment of the prophecy, it evidently is going to have a larger, ultimate fulfilment in the judgment of the Day of the Lord. No prophecy of the Scripture is of any “private interpretation.”

Verses Acts 13:43-48 show that the Gospel is indeed the “power of God” unto salvation to all who believe. Jews and proselytes were first reached; but when the mass of the Jews, filled with envy, began violent opposition, the Apostles definitely turned to the Gentiles with the offer of salvation, finding in Isaiah 49:6 a plain command of the Lord to do so. Light and salvation for the Gentiles had been God’s purpose from the days of old. Many Gentiles did believe, and thereby it became manifest that they had been ordained to eternal life. We do not know who are ordained to eternal life, so we cannot foretell who will believe. When we find anyone really believing, we know at once that they are ordained to eternal life.

Not only in Antioch was the Word preached, but also in all the surrounding region; and the prosperity of the work stirred up such a persecution that Paul and Barnabas had to depart. We might have considered it disastrous that these new disciples should get persecution and lose the preachers. The work in their souls however was of so solid a character that instead of being depressed they were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost. Without a doubt disciples are more frequently damaged by prosperity than by persecution.


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 13:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

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Sunday, November 29th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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