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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Acts 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Acts 13:1. There were in the church at Antioch certain prophets and teachers — Some of them, it seems, the stated pastors of the church, and some only occasionally resident there: Paul and Barnabas were of the latter. Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod — His foster- brother, now freed from the temptations of a court. As they ministered to the Lord — Which all diligent faithful teachers do: for while they minister to the church in praying and preaching (both which are here included) they minister also unto the Lord, being the servants of the people for Jesus’s sake, (2 Corinthians 4:5,) and having a continual regard to him in all their ministrations; engaging in, and prosecuting them from a principle of love to him, in obedience to his will, and with an eye to his glory. And fasted — Religious fasting should not be neglected, in our ministering to the Lord; it being both a sign of our humiliation and a means of our mortification. It was not, indeed, much practised by the disciples of Christ, while he, the bridegroom, was with them; yet, after he was taken from them, they abounded in this duty, as persons who had well learned to deny themselves, and to endure hardness. The Holy Ghost said — Namely, by immediate revelation, but in what way communicated we are not informed. Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them — Namely, the extraordinary work of preaching the gospel among the Gentiles — This was not ordaining them; Saul was ordained long before, and that not of men, neither by man, Galatians 1:1. At his conversion he was expressly called to preach to the Gentiles; and that call was renewed at the time Jesus appeared to him during his trance in the temple: but at what time Barnabas was called by the Holy Ghost to this work, is not said. And when they had fasted and prayed — A certain day being appointed for the purpose; and laid their hands on them — A rite which was used, not in ordination only, but in blessing, and on many other occasions. It was here intended to be a solemn token of their designation to their important office; they sent them away — Dismissed them from Antioch, with all the most affectionate marks of Christian friendship, and fervent desires for the success of their ministry.


Verse 4-5

Acts 13:4-5. So they being sent forth by the Holy Ghost — By his immediate direction. This seems to be added to signify, that though they were solemnly recommended to God by the prayers of their brethren, their authority was not derived from them, but from the Holy Spirit himself. Departed unto Seleucia — A considerable port on the Mediterranean sea; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus — The island so infamous for the worship of Venus, who was supposed to hold her peculiar residence there, and therefore was commonly called the Cyprian goddess. When they were at Salamis — Situated on the eastern part of the island, and consequently was nearest to the place from whence they came; they preached the word in the synagogues of the Jews — For there were great numbers of that people in Cyprus. They had also John for their minister — Who willingly waited on them, not pretending to a character by any means equal to theirs.


Verses 6-8

Acts 13:6-8. When they had gone through the isle unto Paphos — Which lay on its western coast; they found a certain sorcerer — Or magician; a false prophet — Who falsely pretended to foretel future events; a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus — Or the son of one Jesus, or Joshua. “There were many instances of real or pretended sorcery among the Jews in those days, which seems to have been designed by Satan and wicked men to bring into disrepute the miracles of Christ and his apostles. But by comparing them, in several instances, the Christian cause was magnified yet more than it would otherwise have been. Nevertheless, it is to be feared they wrought on many, who were not wise and candid enough to examine, so as to introduce a general contempt of all pretences to supernatural powers as false or inconclusive.” — Doddridge. Which was with the deputy — Which Jew was with the Roman proconsul there, as ανθυπατος, the word here rendered deputy, properly signifies; Sergius Paulus, a prudent man — A man of a steady conduct and thoughtful temper; and therefore not overswayed by the sorcerer, but desirous to inquire further; who called for Barnabas and Saul — Having received some general information of their character and doctrine; and desired to hear the word of God — That he might know what was the purport of their preaching, and what regard was due to it. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation — That is, the word, Elymas, of Arabic or Hebrew derivation, signifies sorcerer, or magician) withstood them — Being sensible that he should be no more regarded if their doctrine was received, and therefore setting himself with all his might to hinder the effect of it. Seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith — To prevent his embracing it, by a variety of crafty and false insinuations.


Verses 9-11

Acts 13:9-11. Then Saul, who also is called Paul — Moved by an immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him — Looked steadfastly on that impostor, and said, with just indignation, O full of all subtlety παντος δολου, of all guile, as a false prophet; and all mischief — As a magician; thou child of the devil — A title well suited to a magician; and one who not only was himself unrighteous, but laboured to keep others from all goodness; wilt thou not cease — Even now, when thou hast heard the truth of the gospel; to pervert — By thy crafty and diabolical misrepresentations; the right ways of the Lord — The ways of truth, piety, and virtue; the only right ways. And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee — The hand of the heavy displeasure of the Lord Jesus, whose gospel thou opposest; and thou shalt be blind — Totally so, not seeing even the sun at noon-day, for a season — That thou mayest be convinced of thy sin and folly; and, if possible, be brought to repentance for it. And immediately — While Paul was yet speaking; there fell on him a mist and a darkness — That is, a gradually increasing darkness; and he went about — In the utmost confusion; seeking some to lead him by the hand — As not being able so much as to find the door without a guide, and afraid that he might run upon any person or thing that stood in his way.


Verse 12

Acts 13:12. Then the deputy — Or proconsul; when he saw what was done — What a wonderful miracle was performed, yielding to such convincing evidence; believed the gospel; being astonished εκπλησσομενος, being struck with astonishment; at the doctrine of the Lord — At the confirmation thus given to it, and probably also at the internal evidence which he soon discovered in it, and which broke in with increasing lustre on his mind. The reader will observe, that at this period of the history, Luke has changed Saul’s name, calling him Paul, without assigning any reason for so doing. Some learned men have supposed that this change was made by Saul himself, in honour of the proconsul, who they think was, perhaps, Saul’s first convert from among the idolatrous Gentiles, or the first person of high rank of that character who was converted. For it was customary among the Romans to assume the name of a benefactor whom they highly esteemed. Thus the Jewish historian, Josephus, took the name of Flavius, in compliment to Vespasian, with whom he was in high favour. But it is more probable, that, coming now among the Romans and Greeks, they adapted his name to their own language, and so called him Paul instead of Saul; as one whose Hebrew name was Jochanan, would be called by the Greeks and Latins, Johannes; by the French, Jean; by the Dutch, Hans; and by the English, John. Perhaps, however, the family of the proconsul might be the first who addressed, or spoke to him, by this name. But in whatever manner it happened, it is certain that ever after this he was known only by this name; and, being the apostle of the Gentiles, he himself used it as a name most familiar to them. From this time forth, likewise, Paul is generally mentioned by the historian before Barnabas: because, by his success in preaching at Paphos, and by the greatness of his miracles, he was now shown to be the principal person; although, formerly, he was mentioned after Barnabas, because he was a younger disciple, and because his apostolical authority was not fully understood.


Verse 13

Acts 13:13. Note when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos — Sailing to the continent of the lesser Asia; they came to Perga — A city in Pamphylia — Situated on the west side of the river Cestos, about seven miles from the sea. Here there was a celebrated temple of Diana; consequently, many priests and others, whose interest and honour depended upon their maintaining the worship of that idol, and who, no doubt, were not a little displeased with these foreign teachers, for presuming to find fault with the gods of the country, and with the worship that was paid to them. On that occasion, John Mark, who had hitherto accompanied them as their minister, departed from them, and returned to Jerusalem, terrified, perhaps, by the threatening speeches of the priests and bigots, or discouraged by the difficulty and danger of the undertaking. Paul and Barnabas, however, were not discouraged by his deserting them; neither were they moved from their purpose by the little success which they had at Perga: for, after they left that place, they travelled through various countries of the lesser Asia; and, as we shall see immediately, made many converts to Christ, both among the Jews and the Gentiles.


Verse 14-15

Acts 13:14-15. When they departed from Perga — Proceeding in the prosecution of their important work; they came to Antioch in Pisidia — A country to the north of Pamphylia; and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, (Paul making it a point in every place first to offer salvation to the Jews,) and sat down — Among those that were worshipping there. And after the reading of the law and the prophets — The law was read over once every year, a portion of it being appointed for each sabbath; to which was added a lesson taken out of the prophets; the rulers of the synagogue — Having probably some knowledge of the public character which the two celebrated strangers sustained, and being curious to hear from their own mouth that new doctrine which had made so much noise in other places; sent unto them, saying, If ye have any word of exhortation for the people — Any declaration to make which may conduce to their edification; say on — As this is the proper season for doing it. According to the Jewish writers, (see Maimonides on the Talmud,) after public worship was over, any one might make a speech to the people in the synagogue, on any subject which he apprehended might be for their advantage: this, it seems, however, was seldom done without the permission of the rulers, which was thus given to Paul and Barnabas.


Verse 16

Acts 13:16. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with, or waving, his hand — To render the audience more attentive; said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God — Whether proselytes or heathen; give audience — This expression, Ye that fear God, seems best to suit those who, by embracing the Jewish religion, had entered into covenant with the true God, yet so as also to include any others in whom a filial reverence for the Divine Being was a governing principle. The discourse which the apostle now delivered, seems to have been chiefly intended to illustrate the divine economy, in opening the gospel gradually, and preparing the Jews, by temporal mercies, for others of a more important nature. He had thus a good opportunity of showing his acquaintance with their Scriptures, (which they esteemed the highest part of literature,) and thereby of better engaging their attention. His sermon, which seems to be given us at large, is particularly worthy of our consideration, as being an example of his manner of preaching in all the synagogues, and of the arguments which he used for convincing the Jews and proselytes that Jesus was the Messiah, or Christ, foretold by David, in the second Psalm. See on Acts 17:2, &c.


Verse 17-18

Acts 13:17-18. The God of this people, &c. — Such a commemoration of God’s favours to their fathers, as he here gives, was at once calculated to conciliate their minds to the speaker, to convince them of their duty to God, and to invite them to believe his promise and its accomplishment. This paragraph contains the whole sum of the Old Testament. See the passages referred to in the margin, and the notes thereon. Chose our fathers — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be the objects of his special favour, and for their sakes was pleased to promise most important blessings to their offspring; and exalted the people — Wrought astonishing miracles in their behalf, and raised them from the state of bondage and depression in which they lay prostrate in Egypt; and with a high arm — With an evident and most extraordinary display of uncontrollable and almighty power; brought them out of it — In spite of all the efforts of Pharaoh and his host to detain them in slavery. And forty years suffered he their manners — Greek, ετροποφορησεν, he endured their behaviour; by which expression the apostle gives an oblique intimation of that perverseness and ingratitude which so early began to prevail among them. But, according to the Alexandrian and Cambridge manuscripts, and the Syriac, Arabic, Coptic, and Ethiopic versions, the genuine reading is, ετροφοφορησεν, he nursed, or cherished them: a sense which suggests a fine view of the conduct of Divine Providence toward them; and, as Dr. Hammond observes, is beautifully connected with the expression of taking them up, when they lay like an exposed infant. See Deuteronomy 1:31; Ezekiel 16:4-8. The common reading, however, accords better with Psalms 96:8-10; Hebrews 3:8-11, and a variety of other passages of Scripture, where the perverse and ungrateful behaviour of the Israelites toward God, and his great patience with them, are represented as being so extraordinary as to deserve peculiar attention; and therefore, it seems, that reading ought to be preferred; as also, because it is supported by a much greater number of manuscripts and versions.


Verse 19-20

Acts 13:19-20. And when he had destroyed seven nations — Enumerated Deuteronomy 7:1; in the land of Chanaan — Where they had been long settled, and had erected many kingdoms, defended by fortifications of great strength, as well as by numerous forces of horse and foot; he divided their land — Even the whole country; to them by lot — Or, for an inheritance, as κατεκληρονομησεν αυτοις την γην, seems rather to signify, and supported them in it for many generations. After that he gave them judges — By whose heroic interposition he delivered them from those repeated oppressions and miseries which their frequent revolts to idolatry had brought upon them; until Samuel the prophet — Who was the last of these extraordinary leaders and magistrates. About the space of four hundred and fifty years — As the course of the sacred history will by no means permit us to imagine that the judges, in their succession, continued four hundred and fifty years after the settlement of Israel in Canaan, it being stated, (1 Kings 6:1,) that Solomon began to build the temple in the four hundred and eightieth year after they came out of Egypt; therefore, Sir Norton Knatchbull (with whom Bengelius, Doddridge, and many other learned men agree) is of opinion, that the apostle is not to be understood as signifying, “how long God gave them judges, but when he gave them.” He therefore refers the first words of this verse, και μετα ταυτα ως ετεσι τετρακοσιοις και πεντηκοντα, to the words going before, (Acts 13:17,) that is, to the time when the God of the children of Israel chose their fathers: and points and renders them thus: And afterward, about four hundred and fifty years, or, and about four hundred and fifty years afterward, he gave them judges, &c.; according to which sense, he observes, the old Latin and the Ethiopic interpreters read the passage; adding, (Annot. on some difficult Texts in the New Testament, p. 131,) “now this time, wherein God may properly be said to have chosen their fathers, about four hundred and fifty years before he gave them judges, is by them computed from the birth of Isaac, in whom God may properly be said to have chosen their fathers; for in his family the covenant was to rest. And, to make this computation evident: From the birth of Isaac to the birth of Jacob, are sixty years; from thence to their going into Egypt, one hundred and thirty; from thence to their coming out, two hundred and ten; from thence to their entrance into the land of Canaan, forty; and from thence to the division of the land, the time wherein it had rest, (about which time, it is probable, they began to settle their government by judges,) seven years; which, altogether, make up four hundred and forty-seven. And if it should be reckoned from the year before, when God established his covenant between himself and Abraham, and all his seed after him, (Genesis 17:19,) then it will be four hundred and forty-eight years, which comes one nearer to our number of four hundred and fifty; and answers sufficiently the apostle’s manner of expression, ως, about four hundred and fifty years.”


Verse 21-22

Acts 13:21-22. Afterward they desired a king — Being foolishly desirous of being like the neighbouring nations in that respect, and insensible of the favour which God had done them in assuming the character and relation of a king to them. And God gave them Saul — Whose government, with that of Samuel the prophet, lasted for the space of forty years — So Beza, Grotius, Limborch, and many other eminent critics. And when he had removed him — In his righteous displeasure, from reigning over Israel; he raised up unto them David — Hence they might understand that the dispensations of God admitted of various changes; to whom he gave a more glorious testimony — Than to Saul. See 1 Samuel 13:14; Psalms 89:20. And said, I have found David, &c., a man after my own heart — “This expression is to be taken in a limited sense. David was such at that time, but not at all times. And he was so in the respect here mentioned: he performed all God’s will — In the particulars there spoken of. But he was not a man after God’s own heart in other respects, wherein he performed his own will. In the matter of Uriah, for instance, he was as far from being a man after God’s own heart, as Saul himself was. It is, therefore, a very gross, as well as dangerous mistake, to suppose this is the character of David in every part of his behaviour. We must beware of this, unless we would recommend adultery and murder as things after God’s own heart.” So Mr. Wesley: and in the same sense Dr. Benson understands the words, observing, “when it is said that King David was a man after God’s own heart, it ought to be understood of his public, not of his private character. He was a man after God’s own heart, because he ruled his people Israel according to the divine will. He did not allow of idolatry; he did not set up for absolute power; he was guided in the government of the nation by the law of Moses, as the standing rule of government, and by the prophet, or the divine oracle, whereby God gave directions upon particular emergencies. That this was the meaning of David’s being a man after God’s own heart, will easily appear by comparing 1 Samuel 15:28; 1 Samuel 28:17-18; 1 Chronicles 9:13-14; Psalms 78:70, &c.; Psalms 89:20, &c.”


Verses 23-25

Acts 13:23-25. Of this man’s seed — From that rod out of the stem of Jesse, that branch out of his roots; hath God, according to his promise, (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6,) raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus — So long foretold in the sacred oracles. When John had first preached, before his coming — Greek, προ προσωπου της εισοδου, to introduce his appearance: (so Doddridge:) the baptism of repentance — Even that baptism which, in token of their repentance, they were commanded by God to receive. Of John’s preaching, see the notes on Matthew 3:1, &c.; Luke 3:7-17. He mentions the preaching of John in this incidental manner as a thing already known to them. And so, doubtless, it was: for it gave so loud an alarm to the whole Jewish nation, as could not but be heard in foreign countries, at least as remote as Pisidia. As John fulfilled his course — His work was quickly finished, and, therefore, might well be termed, a course, or race: he said, Who think ye that I am? I am not he — I am not the person whom you suppose me to be, that is, the Messiah. See the notes on John 1:20; John 1:27.


Verses 26-31

Acts 13:26-31. Men and brethren — Even all you who are children of the stock of Abraham — Whether ye are my equals in years, or of more advanced age — And whosoever among you feareth God — Of whatever family or nation you may be; unto you is the word of this salvation sent — A great and important salvation, which I am commissioned to preach and offer to mankind. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, &c. — He here anticipates a strong objection, “Why did not the people at Jerusalem, and especially their rulers, believe?” They knew him not — Though God bore a most convincing testimony to him by the wonderful miracles which he performed; nor yet the voices of the prophets — They did not believe in him, because they understood not those very prophets whose writings they read or heard continually. Their very condemning him, innocent as he was, proves that they understood not the prophecies concerning him. And when they had — Inadvertently, without intending any thing of the kind; fulfilled all that was written of him — In such a circumstantial detail of particulars as is truly astonishing; they took him down from the tree — On which he had expired in the midst of ignominy and torture; and laid him in a sepulchre — Permitted his friends to bury him. But God raised him from the dead — According to the prediction of the prophets, and also his own prediction, frequently repeated, which they had heard from him before; but the accomplishment of which they were unable to hinder. And he was seen many days — After he was risen from the dead; of them which came up with him from Galilee — A little before his death. This last journey both presupposes all the rest, and was the most important of all. Who are his witnesses to the people — Of the Jews, among whom they still reside.


Verses 32-37

Acts 13:32-37. And we declare unto you glad tidings — Tidings which should be in a particular manner acceptable to the Jews; that the promise which was made unto the fathers — And was the hope and joy of their posterity through so many succeeding ages; God hath fulfilled unto us their children — Most signally and manifestly; in that he hath raised up Jesus again — From the dead, and thereby hath declared, in the most convincing manner, that he is indeed his Son, the Messiah; as it is also written in the second Psalm — By this it appears that the Psalms were then placed in the same order as they are now; and it is observable that this is the only quotation of the Old Testament so circumstantially made in the New. Thou art my Son, this day, &c. — It is true, he was the Son of God before his incarnation, yea, from eternity. See notes on John 1:1-5; Hebrews 1:2-12; Hebrews 7:3. The meaning, therefore, here is, I have this day declared thee to be my Son, as (Romans 1:4) Paul says, he was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. And it is with peculiar propriety and beauty that God is said to have begotten him when he raised him from the dead, as Jesus seemed then to be born out of the earth anew. And to show that he raised him up, no more to return to corruption — That is, to die no more; he said, I will give you the sure mercies of David — The blessings promised to David in Christ, which are sure, certain, and firm to every true believer in him. Or, “mercies by the resurrection of him whom I have now set upon the throne of David, are made sure to you, and shall prove eternal as his life and reign.” The resurrection of Christ, therefore, is implied in the words: for without it those blessings could not have been given. Wherefore he saith also, (namely, Psalms 16:10,) Thou shalt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption — Words which, it is evident, must refer, not to the inspired writer himself, but to some other person; for David — By whom this Psalm was written; after he had served his own generation, by the will of God — Or, as the words may be rendered, had served the will of God in his generation; fell asleep — That is, died; and saw corruption — In the same manner as other human bodies do, when the soul is separated from them. Observe, reader, the character here given of David; he served the will of God, or, served his generation according to the will of God. This was his business here on earth: he lived for this purpose. What is thy business? Why art thou here? Thou who art yet in the world? Is it not that thou also mayest serve the will of God? Art thou serving it now? Doing all his will? O remember, only he that doth the will of God shall enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 7:21.


Verse 38-39

Acts 13:38-39. Be it known unto you, therefore — Be persuaded of this as a most certain and momentous truth, a truth infinitely consolatory; that through this man — This seed of David, and Son of God; is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins — The free, full, and assured pardon of all your offences, be they ever so great, and ever so aggravated. And by him — By his mediation, by his sacrifice and intercession; all that believe — Greek, πας ο πιστευων, every one that believeth; namely, in him as the Messiah promised of old, the Saviour of the world, able and willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through him; every one that relies entirely on him for salvation, present and eternal, and receives him in all his offices and characters, (of which see the note on John 1:12,) every one whose faith in him, and in the declarations and promises of his gospel, worketh by love, Galatians 5:6; is justified from all things — Has the actual forgiveness of all his sins, and is accounted righteous by and before God at the very time of his believing. Observe, from all things, not only from the guilt of smaller miscarriages, but even of those things which are in the highest degree criminal; and from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses — By the whole or any part thereof, moral or ceremonial. Not only ye cannot now, but ye never could: for that law afforded no expiation for presumptuous sins, so that the offender should be exempted from temporal punishment, but he was to die without mercy under two or three witnesses, that is, if two or three witnesses attested his guilt; nor could the sacrifices of it remove the guilt of such sins, or indeed of any sin, before God, make an atonement to his justice, or procure the sinner’s reconciliation with him. See Hebrews 10:1-12. The Mosaic “law appointed sin-offerings to expiate smaller offences, so far as the offender who offered them should be free from all further prosecution on account of them. But this very view of them shows how absolutely necessary to the being of society it was, that they should not be admitted in cases of murder, adultery, &c. These crimes, therefore, were made capital; nor was the dying criminal, however penitent, allowed to offer them, which would have been quite inconsistent with the temporal pardon connected with them. But the expiatory sacrifice of Christ takes away the guilt of all sin,”

with respect to the penitent that believe aright on him; “and though it by no means affects the manner in which offenders may stand in human courts, (which the Mosaic sacrifices did,) it delivers from the condemnation of God in the invisible world; with respect to which, those of the Mosaic law could have no efficacy at all,” except so far as penitent offenders, considering these sacrifices as typifying that of Christ, were brought, through them, to have a believing dependance on him and his sacrifice.


Verse 40-41

Acts 13:40-41. Beware, therefore — A weighty and reasonable admonition with which the apostle enforces the very important doctrine which he had just delivered. No reproof is, as yet, added to it: lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets — The apostle refers to Habakkuk 1:5, where the destruction of the Jewish nation by the Chaldeans is foretold, as an incredible and unparalleled destruction; and that prophecy is here, with the greatest propriety and correctness, applied to the destruction which was coming on that nation by the Romans, for rejecting the gospel of Christ. The apostle follows the Septuagint translation, which, reading, it seems, בגרים, despisers, instead of בגוים, among the nations, renders the clause, ιδετε οι καταφρονηται, και επιβλεψατε, και θαυμασατε θαυμασια, και αφανισθητε, See, ye despisers, and behold, and wonder with astonishment, and disappear, or perish; words exactly the same with those used here by the apostle, according to Luke, save that the apostle omits και επιβλεψατε, and θαυμασια. It is as if the apostle had said, “See that the same thing do not happen to you which formerly happened to your ancestors, when the city and temple were destroyed, and they themselves were carried into captivity for despising God’s blessings.” So Grotius. Or, as Dr. Hammond paraphrases the passage, “You are therefore nearly concerned to take heed and beware, that by your obstinately resisting and rejecting this way of salvation now preached, you do not bring destruction upon yourselves, and cause the gospel to be removed to the Gentiles, (Acts 13:46,) which is a thing that will come to pass suddenly, though so incredible to you, that you will not believe it when the news of it shall come unto you by them that see it done.” The work here spoken of, which the apostle says they would not believe, though credibly attested to them, may be either, 1st, God’s great work of redeeming the world by Christ, a work which the Jews would in no wise believe, according to Isaiah 53:1, Who hath believed our report? or, 2d, The work of their destruction as a nation; the dissolving of their polity; the taking of the kingdom of God from them, and giving it to the Gentiles; the destruction of their temple and city, and the dispersion of their people: an awful work of God this, which one would not have believed should ever have been wrought, considering how much they had been the favourites of Heaven. What was said (Lamentations 4:12) of the calamities which befell them by the Chaldeans, was more especially true of their last destruction: all the inhabitants of the world would not have believed that the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem, and have made such destruction, burning the city and temple, slaying upward of a million of people, and either carrying or selling the rest into captivity: so that no prophecy could be more properly applied, the former destruction being a lively emblem of the latter.


Verse 42-43

Acts 13:42-43. When the Jews were gone out — Or rather, while they were going out, as the original expression means; of the synagogue — For probably many of them, not bearing to hear him, went out before he had done speaking; the Gentiles — Many of whom, it seems, were assembled on this occasion; besought that these words — Or the same doctrines; might be preached to them the next sabbath — Greek, εις το μεταξυ σαββατον, in the intermediate sabbath — That is, says Bengelius, “the sabbath that should occur within the remaining days about to be spent by Paul and Barnabas at Antioch.” But Grotius is confident that the reading ought to be, μεταξυ σαββατων, medio tempore inter duo sabbata, in the intermediate time between the two sabbaths, or in the course of the ensuing week; Mondays and Thursdays, or the second and fifth days of the week, being times in which the pious Jews were accustomed to meet together in the synagogue for the study of the law, in compliance, says Lightfoot, with the appointment of Ezra. It seems, however, to be fully determined, by Acts 13:44, that our version gives the true sense of the expression: and Capellus and Whitby have shown that it is not an unexampled manner of speaking. And when the congregation was broken up — Or dispersed; many of the Jews also, and religious proselytes — Seriously impressed by what they had heard; followed Paul and Barnabas — Desirous to receive farther instructions from them, or attached themselves to them as disciples; who, speaking to them — More familiarly; persuaded them to continue in the grace of God — That is, in the faith into which they were brought by the grace of God.


Verse 44-45

Acts 13:44-45. And the next sabbath came almost the whole city together — Idolaters as well as proselytes; to hear the word of God — In consequence, it seems, of the report which the Gentiles had spread abroad of what had been delivered before, whereby an earnest desire had been awakened in many, of attending that repetition of their extraordinary message which the apostles had engaged themselves to make. But when the Jews — Of the more bigoted sort; saw the multitude — And considered what an encouragement it was to Paul to go on in his work; they were filled with envy — Greek, ζηλου, with zeal, namely, for the honour of their law and nation, which they foolishly imagined to be disgraced and injured by this new sect; and with indignation and envy at the regard which the inhabitants of Antioch showed to Paul’s doctrine, beyond what they had ever done to the Jewish religion; and spake against — Opposed; those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming

They contradicted Paul’s doctrine concerning the sufferings and death of the Messiah, and reviled him, or rather Jesus, calling him an impostor, because he had not been able, they said, to deliver himself from death, though he pretended to be the Christ.


Verse 46-47

Acts 13:46-47. Then Paul and Barnabas — Perceiving that no good impression could be made upon them; waxed bold — Used great freedom of speech; and said, It was necessary — According to the general instructions of our Divine Master; that the word of God should first be spoken to you — He shows that he had not preached to them from any confidence of their believing; but seeing ye put it from you, and — By that very action, in effect; judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life — Persons unfit to have it offered to you. This text plainly shows that persons may be said to be self-condemned, who furnish out matter of condemnation from their own words, though they do not actually pass sentence on themselves: for nothing was further from the thoughts of these Jews than to declare themselves unworthy of eternal life, because they did not believe the gospel; for they rather expected that life by rejecting it. They, indeed, judged none but themselves worthy of it; yet their conduct in rejecting the gospel, was the same as saying, We are unworthy of eternal life; as it effectually precluded their obtaining it. Lo, we turn to the Gentiles — Not that they intended entirely to desist from preaching to the Jews, for we find they continued to address them first in other places wherever they came; but they now determined to lose no more time at Antioch on their ungrateful countrymen, but to employ themselves wholly in doing what they could for the conversion of the Gentiles there. For so hath the Lord commanded us — See Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; in consequence of that prediction which was uttered by Isaiah in the name of God; saying — To his Son, the Messiah; I have set thee to be a light to the Gentiles, &c.


Verse 48

Acts 13:48. And when the Gentiles heard this — That such things had been prophesied concerning them many ages ago, and that the way was now open for their admission into covenant with the true God, and that the Lord Jesus had commanded his apostles to receive them into his church, and to admit them to all the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom, without subjecting them to the law of Moses; they were glad — And well they might be so, for they had now the door of faith set wide open to them; and glorified the word of the Lord — Which had invited them to share in all the blessings of his grace, and brought to them the knowledge of salvation. And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed — From this expression some infer, that God’s ordination, or decree, is the sole or principal cause of men’s faith, and that he hath thereby fixed the number of those that shall believe, and whom he will finally save. But if so, consequently the want, or absence, of such ordination or decree, in behalf of others, is the sole or principal reason of their unbelief; and by God withholding it, he has fixed the number of those that shall not believe, and so shall finally perish. For if the reason why these persons believed was only, or chiefly this, that they were ordained to believe, and obtain eternal life, then the reason why the rest believed not must be only, or chiefly this, that they were not so ordained by God. And, if so, what necessity could there be, that the word of God should first be preached to them, Acts 13:46. Was it only that their damnation might be greater? This seems to charge that lover of souls, whose tender mercies are over all his works, with the greatest cruelty, as it makes him determine from all eternity, not only that so many souls, as capable of salvation as any others, shall perish everlastingly, but also that the dispensations of his providence shall be such toward them, as shall necessarily tend to the aggravation of their condemnation. And what could even their most malicious enemy do more? What is it that Satan himself aims at by all his temptations, but the aggravation of the future punishment of sinners? Therefore, to assert that God had determined his word should be spoken to these Jews for this very end, (which assertion must follow from such an interpretation of the text,) is to make God more instrumental to their ruin than even the devil himself; and is certainly wholly irreconcilable with his declarations, that he is not willing any should perish, but would have all men to be saved. Further, the apostle gives this reason, why he turned from the Jews to the Gentiles, that the Jews had thrust the word of God from them, and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, Acts 13:46; whereas, according to this doctrine, this could be no sufficient reason of his turning from them to the Gentiles; for it was only they among the Jews whom God had not ordained to eternal life, who thus refused to believe, and obey the word of God. And as many among the Gentiles as were not thus ordained must necessarily do the same; and so there could be no sufficient reason why he should turn to the Gentiles on that account. Once more, “If as many as [in that assembly] were ordained to eternal life, believed under that sermon of Paul, [when almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God,] it follows, that all who believed not then were eternally shut up in unbelief: and that all the elect believed at once; that they who do not believe at one time, shall not believe at another; and that when Paul returned to Antioch, few souls, if any, could be converted by his ministry; God having at once taken as many as were ordained to eternal life, and left all the rest to Satan.” — Fletcher. We are therefore obliged to look out for another sense of the word τεταγμενοι, and that is easily found. It is a passive participle of the verb τασσω, which, although it has various significations, is never used to express eternal predestination of any kind. It is rendered ordained here, and Romans 13:1; (where the margin certainly more properly renders it ordered;) elsewhere, as chap. Acts 15:2, to determine; 1 Corinthians 16:15, to addict one’s self; and frequently to dispose, place, or appoint. In the Greek classics, in its passive form, it is generally used of men, who, having been appointed for some military expedition, (and set in their proper offices, as it is rendered, Luke 7:8,) were drawn up in battle array for that purpose. So that it expresses, or refers, at once to the action of their commander, marshalling them, and to their own presenting themselves in their proper places, to be led on to the intended expedition. So Dr. Doddridge, who adds, “This I take to be precisely its sense here, and have therefore chosen the word determined, as having an ambiguity something like that in the original. The meaning of the sacred penman seems to be, that all who were deeply and seriously concerned about their eternal happiness, (whether that concern began now, or were of longer date,) openly embraced the gospel: for surely none could be said to believe who did not make an open profession of Christianity.” In a similar sense, the clause is understood by Dr. Hammond, who renders it, As many as were disposed for eternal life believed: and by Dr. Heylin, whose translation and gloss upon it is, As many as were in a fit disposition for eternal life believed. Dr. Waterland also, and many of the most learned expositors, interpret it in the same manner, namely, as describing those who were, at this time, in a disposition to comply with the terms on which God, by his apostle, now offered them eternal life; that is, to repent, believe, and obey the gospel. In other words, “As many as were brought to a resolution of courageously facing all opposition in the way to it, believed, and openly embraced the Christian religion, as the best means to prepare them for an endless life of the greatest virtue and purity, as well as of the greatest glory and most perfect happiness.” The Syriac, likewise, one of the most ancient versions of the New Testament, has rendered the passage in the same sense, which is of great moment, as that translation was made before the meaning of this place was disputed by the different sects and parties of Christians. The sum is: All those, and only those, now believed, who yielded to, instead of resisting the convictions produced in their minds by the preaching of the truth, and the influence of the grace of God, which truth was preached with equal clearness to others, and which grace, in a similar way, visited and strove with others: for God had not reprobated the rest. It was his will that they also should have been saved, but by yielding to inclinations, affections, and passions, which they themselves knew to be sinful, and to which they were under no necessity of yielding, they rejected the counsel of God against themselves, and thrust salvation from them. For they who then repented and believed were not constrained so to do, but grace and mercy were then freely and copiously offered to them, and pressed upon them, and they did not put it away, but yielded to its influence. So that a great multitude, even of such as, it seems, had been idolatrous Gentiles, were converted. Those who wish for further satisfaction on this verse, may find it in Hammond, Whitby, and Dodd, upon it: in Sellon’s Arguments against General Redemption considered. Works, vol. 2. p. 128: and in Fletcher’s Checks to Antinomianism. Works, Am. ed., vol. 2. pp. 77, 78.


Verses 49-52

Acts 13:49-52. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all that region — Paul and Barnabas, it seems, during their stay at Antioch, made excursions into the neighbouring country, for the sake of preaching to the idolatrous Gentiles; or the people who came from the country to Antioch, and believed the doctrine preached by Paul and Barnabas, carried the glad tidings of salvation home with them. From this time forth it appears in all the Gentile countries. Paul, after preaching to the Jews, constantly offered salvation to the Gentiles, and by so doing fulfilled the commission which he had received from Christ, when he made him his apostle to the Gentiles. But the Jews stirred up the devout, &c. — The unbelieving Jews in Antioch, greatly enraged at the success with which Paul and Barnabas preached to the Gentiles, stirred up some women of considerable rank, who, having been proselyted to their religion, were peculiarly zealous for it; and the chief men of the city — Also, who probably were the husbands of these proselyted women; raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas — Representing them, doubtless, as exciters of sedition, and innovators in religion, who might occasion danger to the state; and expelled them out of their coasts — Out of the territory belonging to Antioch. But they shook off the dust of their feet — For a testimony against them; as Christ had commanded his apostles to do, in token of the certain ruin which should befall such despisers of his gospel. See on Matthew 10:14. And came unto Iconium — Where they renewed the proclamation of those glad tidings, which many of the inhabitants of Antioch had so ungratefully rejected. This place lay on the western border of Lycaonia, and on the confines of Pisidia, Galatia, and Phrygia; to the latter of which it seems once to have belonged. See Raphelius. And the disciples — Who remained at Antioch; were filled with joy — That so blessed a message as that which Paul and Barnabas had brought them, had reached their ears, and been received by them; and with the Holy Ghost — With his enlightening, sanctifying, and comforting influences, and probably also with, at least, some of his extraordinary gifts; confirming them in the faith which they had newly embraced; and likewise qualifying them for carrying on the cause of Christ in that place, when the first planters of their church could no longer continue to cultivate and water it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 13:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/acts-13.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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