This chapter is clearly transitional. In their first missionary journey, Barnabas and Saul go beyond Israel and Antioch and head westward. It includes worshipping and praying and personal prophetic words and spiritual warfare. It has Paul’s first recorded sermon, a masterpiece. This is Paul’s and Barnabas’s first missionary journey (to 14:28). Table: Paul’s travels which is coordinated with a timeline.
As I write in every introduction:
The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.
At the end of each passage and this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?
Links are provided for further study.
Barnabas and Saul Sent out from Antioch (Acts 13:1-3)
1 Now, there were in the local church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon (called Niger) and Lucius the Cyrenian and Menaean (who was brought up with Herod the tetrarch), and Saul. 2 While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate out for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 And so when they fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them off.
It is true that this is Paul’s first missionary journey, but commentator Schnabel teaches us that we should get an incomplete picture of Paul’s missionary work.
Schnabel provides this illuminating table of the timeline of Paul’s missionary activity:
|Period 1||Damascus||Acts 9:19-25; Gal 1:17||AD 32/33|
|Period 2||Arabia / Nabatea||Gal 1:17; 2 Cor 11:32||32-33|
|Period 3||Jerusalem||Acts 9:26-29; Rom. 1:16||33/34|
|Period 4||Syria / Cilicia, Tarsus||Acts 9:30; 11:25-26; Gal 1:21||34-42|
|Acts 11:26-30; 13:1||42-44|
|Period 6||Cyprus (Salamis, Paphos)||Acts 13:4-12||45|
|Period 7||Galatia (Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe,
|Period 8||Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea)||Acts 16:6-17:15||49-50|
|Period 9||Achaia (Athens, Corinth)||Acts 17:16-18:28||50-51|
|Period 10||Asia (Ephesus)||Acts 19:1-41||52-55|
|Period 11||Illyricum||Rom 15:19||56|
|Period 12||Judea (Caesarea)||Acts 21:27-26:32||57-59|
|Period 13||Rome||Acts 28:17-28||60-62|
|Period 14||Spain||1 Clement 5:5-7||63-64?|
|Period 15||Crete||Titus 1:5||64-65?|
|Eckhard J. Schnabel, p. 549. He says that a conservative estimate is that between AD 32-65 Paul traveled at least 15,500 miles (25,000 km). Of that total, 8700 miles (14,000 km) were on foot.|
Nowadays, you can look up Paul’s travels online with a Bible map. Go for it!
We need to take the above table in conjunction with Paul’s trips to Jerusalem, though here in Acts 13 Paul is not going up to Jerusalem.
|Year||Occasion for Visit to Jerusalem|
|31/32||Conversion of Saul|
|32-34||Missionary work in Arabia and in Damascus|
|33/34||First visit (Acts 9:26-20), three years after Paul’s conversion|
|34-44||Missionary work in Syria and Cilicia (eleven years)|
|44||Second visit (Acts 11:27-30): taking gifts to the poor, eleven years after the first visit|
|45-47||Missionary work on Cyprus and in Galatia|
|48||Third visit (Acts 15:1-29): Apostles’ Council, three years after the second visit|
|49-51||Missionary work in Macedonia and Achaia|
|51||Fourth visit (Acts 18:22): three years after the third visit|
|52-56||Missionary work in the Province of Asia and visit to Achaia|
|57||Fifth visit (Acts 21:15-17): collection visit, six years after the fourth visit|
|57-61||Arrest in Jerusalem and imprisonment in Caesarea and in Rome|
|Schnabel, p. 455|
Now let’s move on.
These three verses are very important for Renewalists, so let’s spend some time here.
“prophets”: They both predict the future and encourage the church. The local church at Antioch was so prosperous and growing so fast that it could produce a team of prophets. For another example, Agabus, not mentioned here, was from Jerusalem, and he too was part of a team (Acts 11:27-30). He even prophesied in a demonstrative manner. He bound himself with Paul’s belt and predicted that the Jews of Jerusalem would bind Paul in this way and hand him over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:10-11).
Here is the three-dimensional function and purpose of prophecy, according to 1 Cor 14:3:
Edify, exhort, and comfort (KJV)
Edification, exhortation, and comfort (NKJV)
Strengthen, encourage, and comfort (NIV)
Strengthening, encouragement, and consolation (NET)
Edification, exhortation, and consolation (NASB)
Grow in the Lord, encouraging, and comforting (NLT)
Strength, encouragement, and comfort (NCV)
Helped, encouraged, and made to feel better (CEV)
Upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation (ESV)
Grow, be strong, and experience his presence with you (MSG)
However, let no one shrink and restrict the prophets’ ministry to just preaching a sermon, however good that may be. 1 Cor. 14:24-25 says that prophecy lays bare the secrets of hearts, so that people fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is with you!” Ordinary preaching, however anointed, does not exactly produce that reaction, normally. However, once you see prophets in action, as they lay bare the secrets, it is stunning. They “read your mail,” even though they never met you. Here is one example pulled from thin air. Imagine that your mother is in the hospital, and you need to gather the church to pray for her, but you have not yet asked for prayer. The prophet picks you out of a large audience and says, “I see … a woman … your mother … her name is Jane … she’s in the hospital… you must call the church to pray for her. Do it now!” He did not know by normal communication about your mother, for you told no one. That’s why he told you to gather the church to pray. That’s just one mild, typical example, which I have seen many times and have received from prophets occasionally.
Renewalists believe prophets still have a valid ministry today. But this question must be asked: Is he a part of a team, or is he an independent operator? If he is independent, then be warned. He may not have a check on his spirit (1 Cor. 14:32). Instead, he may believe his own press releases (so to speak) that he himself writes and may operate in his soul power, as distinct from the Spirit’s power, or part-time soul power and part-time Spirit’s anointing. And the local church which he calls home better not be a “yes-man” church, which may be as out of control as he is or operates in soul power as well.
“Simeon”: Longenecker suggests that he was probably the Simeon of Cyrene of Luke 23:26, who helped to carry the cross and whose sons Alexander and Rufus were later known among the Christians at Rome (Mark 15:21); Rom. 16:13).
Niger: It was originally pronounced nee-gair (the “g” is hard as in “get”) or in American English ny-ger (the “g” is soft) and simply means “black” in Latin, which Luke imported into Greek. But why give him this nickname in the first place? We don’t need to get politically correct or incorrect or hyper-sensitive about it. They did things differently back then. There is a straightforward answer.
As it happens, Simon or Simeon was the most popular name in Israel and its environs. He had to get a nickname, just as Simon the lead apostle had his: Peter or Rocky (sorry, but “Rocky” is how we would translate it into modern times). And Simon the Zealot had to be distinguished from Simon Peter, by his outlook and activity (zealous for the law). Antioch was a large church, so it is safe to assume that several Messianic Jews had this name, even if Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot had never visited there.
Another example of an extremely common name: James (Jacob), son of Alphaeus, may have been nicknamed mikros, or “short,” in other words, “Shorty” or “James the short guy”; he needed this nickname because another apostle was named James, the son of Zebedee, so the two apostles had to be distinguished. Or the “short guy” could be yet a third James / Jacob, who was not an apostle but a close follower. If so, he really needed a nickname.
One last example: the name Judas was also extremely common, and Jesus called two disciples with that name: Judas Iscariot and Judas Thaddaeus. The second Judas had to be distinguished from Judas the traitor! Also, Thomas, a nickname meaning “twin,” may have had the first name Judas. It is a sure thing that his birthname was not the “Twin,” because then what was his twin called? So he simply became known by his nickname “the Twin” and his first name was dropped.
Thus, this conversation is easy to imagine at the thriving Antiochene church: “Simon preached an awesome message!” “Which Simon?” “Simeon Niger.”
To sum up, in Luke’s writings Simon Niger had to be distinguished from Simon (Simeon) Peter and Simon (Simeon) the Zealot and other leaders with this most common name at Antioch, when the name Simeon was tossed around the Christian community.
But whatever his religious and racial background, he converted to Christ and became a leader in the local church, being either a prophet or teacher.
See this post for a deeper look at the names of the apostles:
“and Saul” it is interesting that Saul comes last. Long before this chapter ends, he will be in the lead (v. 13), and his cognomen will be announced (v. 9).
“Menaean”: this is Menachem, and I just heard a great video by Joseph Shulam, a Messianic Jew, living in Jerusalem, who explained that the Babylonian Talmud mentions him once, yet Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century, said a certain Menachem was raised with Herod. He had converted to the Messiah (Jesus Christ). Could this be the same one? Please look on youtube for the video titled “Heretical Rabbis of the Talmud: 2nd Century Witnesses to the Power of Yeshua’s Gospel,” dated Feb. 8, 2020.
By the way, Bruce and other commentators say yes. This Menahem is the same as Herod Antipas’s foster-brother. (Herod Antipas was Herod the Great’s youngest son.)
I like Polhill’s insight into their fasting:
[B]ut the directive of the Holy Spirit may well have been mediated through the inspiration of the prophet-teachers. That they were fasting indicates the church was in a mood of particular expectancy and openness to the Lord’s leading. Although evidence suggests the Jewish practice of fasting was regularly observed in some early Christian circles, the association of fasting with worship suggests a time of intense devotion when normal human activities like eating were suspended. (comment on v. 2)
There are all sorts of ways to fast:
Eating no food, but drinking only water, which is standard;
No food and no water, but only for a short time (Acts 9:9);
No delicacies (Dan. 10:3);
Sometimes people fast from TV or social media, which is a good idea.
And anything in between.
In the OT the purposes of fasting were, as follows:
Preparing for God’s law (Ex. 34:28; Dt. 9:9, 18);
Preparing for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31);
Showing grief at time of death (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12);
Showing remorse for sin (1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 9:1; Ps. 35:13);
Praying in time of national need (2 Chron. 20:3; Ezr. 8:21; Est. 4:16; Joel 2:15-17);
Praying for personal reasons (2 Sam. 12:16, 21; Neh. 1:4; Dan. 9:3-4);
But be warned: prophets criticized fasting for outward show (Is. 58:3-7; Jer. 14:12; Zec. 7:4-10).
In the NT, the purposes of fasting were as follows:
Jesus fasted to overcome temptation and prepare for his ministry (Matt. 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13);
Saul fasted after his conversion to humble himself and work out the massive change in his worldview (Acts 9:9);
Part of worship (here in Acts 13:2);
Preparing for ministry (here in Acts 13:1-3; 14:23);
Sending off for ministry (here in Acts 13:3; 14:23);
Jesus’s disciples did not fast while he was there, but when he was gone, they would fast (Matt. 9:14-15);
Jesus criticized fasting for its outward show (Matt. 6:16-18; Luke 18:9-14).
You can look up those verses to expand on those reasons. It is interesting, however, that nowhere does it say in the NT that believers should fast to prove their remorse and sorrow for sin. Forgiveness is not added to or enhanced by our outer show of works (fasting is a religious work). Forgiveness of sins is received by repentance and faith in Jesus (v. 38).
“worshipping”: it comes from the Greek verb leitourgeō (pronounced lay-toor-geh-oh, the “g” being hard as in “get”). It is a compound word: leit– (people) ourg– (work or serve). So it is easy to see how it means “serving.” (Yes, over the centuries it came to mean “liturgy.”) In this cultural context, people understood it to mean the rich, both men and women, who provided funds for building an aqueduct or repairing a temple, for example. Inscriptions survive, proving that women did this too. This is their service to the people.
However, here “worshipping is used in a very restrictive sense. This small group of men was praying and fasting, so it is best to translate it as “worshipping the Lord” instead of its literal meaning of “serving people.” Why? It is easy to see these men praying in their prayer languages (formerly and archaically called “tongues”) that only their individual spirits understood without interpretations (1 Cor. 14:13-15) and in their native languages that their minds understood (1 Cor. 14:13-15), eagerly prophesying (1 Cor. 14:3-5, 31), and singing, both in their native and spiritual languages (1 Cor. 14:15). Saul, after all, said he spoke in his Spirit-inspired languages more than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18). He said he wanted everyone to pray in their spiritual languages (1 Cor. 14:5) and not forbid this wonderful gift (1 Cor. 14:39). In Acts, Luke omits some of these details, but that is how all four Gospels and Acts are presented to us: elliptical (omitting details). But the entire context of Acts is Spirit-empowered and Spirit-filled. The entire book is very charismatic. Luke expects us to fill in the ellipses with the power of the Spirit.
It is like the anointing of Jesus at his water baptism with the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove (Luke 3:31-22; 4:18-19). From then on, Jesus worked miracles of nature and healing and demonic expulsion in the third Gospel, and Luke does not have to announce every time Jesus did those things: “Remember when I wrote that Jesus was anointed with the Spirit? He worked that miracle based on those verses!” Rather, Luke expects us to fill in those omissions with the power of the Spirit. Likewise, in the many cases of Christian witness from town to town in Acts, Luke expects us to fill in the omissions with the same empowerment because of Acts 2:1-4. And so Luke-Acts is all very charismatic, which is normative for the church throughout its history. Spirit-filled empowerment and anointing continues.
It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34). Throughout Paul’s and Barnabas’s first missionary journey, which is about to be launched, there is not one recorded water baptism, even though Luke says many people converted to Christ. Luke expects us to fill in these omissions. This is why I have nicknamed him Luke “the Omitter” or “the Condenser.”
“The Holy Spirit said”: the verb is the standard one for “say,” used often in Greek. Renewalists believe the Holy Spirit speaks today, either in prophecy, as here, or in your human spirit or soul (or both, not just your spirit). Here it means that one of the prophets prophesied to Barnabas and Saul. This “small group” was very spiritually healthy, but in modern and wilder charismatic or Pentecostal churches today, personal prophecies that direct people to come here or go there have to be treated with the greatest of caution and must be evaluated (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 4:20-21). Directional prophecies are valid, but they must confirm what is already spoken to the receiver of the prophecy. If they do not, then the receiver should put it on the shelf, so to speak, and let God bring it to pass.
One example: you’re single. If a prophetic person tells you that you should or should not marry so-and-so, weigh it and put it on the shelf. Don’t blab it all over church. The person in whom you are interested may hear about it and feel trapped. God uses human free will and desire and growing love for marriage; he is not a tyrant who corners people.
We should have no doubt Barnabas and Saul had already felt in their spirits the call of God to take the gospel to the Gentiles and westward (Acts 9:15). The prophet, whichever one he was, confirmed it; he did not issue a brand-new, out-of-the-blue directional word. But even if he did, Barnabas and Saul were mature and wise in the Bible. They could sort things out.
“separate out”: it comes from the Greek verb aphorizō (pronounced ah-foh-ree-zoh), and the a– prefix means (“not” or “un-” or negation) and phor– (“carry” or “bear”), so it literally (and awkwardly) means, “don’t carry (him) in a common or usual way, but separate him out.” The Shorter Lexicon says it means to “take away, “set apart,” or “appoint.” Saul and Barnabas were to be appointed for their mission and calling.
Just be patient, Christian with a calling! God has not forgotten you. Just wait on him and be at peace. Don’t let your soul power carry you away. Let the Spirit speak, as we see here.
But let’s end v. 2 by putting it in a larger context. I like what Peterson writes: “Effective Christian leaders will likewise see the need t discern God’s gifting for ministry in others, to support (and where necessary train) those whom God is leading to local ministry or mission elsewhere, and to affirm them by acts of ordination or commissioning (cf. 14:23; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2; Tit. 1:5-9)” (comment on v. 2).
“prayed”: It is extremely important for selecting leaders. Jesus prayed before he chose the twelve (Luke 6:12-16), so how much more should we?
It is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish.
But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God. I like to believe that they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish or heartfelt payer to a pagan deity.
Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24; Rom. 8:1); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages and our native languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). But that’s what all believers should do; however, too often theory outruns practice. Pray! For a theology on how to respond when God does not answer our prayers, as when James was executed by Herod, see Acts 12 and the very last application section.
“laid hands on”: In the OT, the ritual of laying on of hands had these functions: it ordained Levites (Num. 8:10); it ordained leaders (Num. 27:18, 22-23); it transferred guilt to the sacrificial animal (Lev. 16:20-21).
In the NT, the ritual transfers healing (Mark 6:5l; Luke 4:40; Acts 28:8); it transfers the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6); it ordains missionaries (Acts 13:3); it ordains church leaders (Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).
From those verses, Renewalists believe these things (and more) about laying on of hands: (1) hands can be the conduit of the presence and power of God; (2) public acknowledgement that the leaders or friends are close to and support the receiver of the prayer and hands; (3) the leaders or friends identify with the receiver; (4) combining all three, it means commissioning. Here it means the fourth purpose.
Further, Renewalists believe those four points (and more) because they have seen them happen with their own eyes. And it starts and ends with God, not the human vessel. It is shortsighted for the human vessel to take on the burden that he is the source of the power supply. “Hey everybody! Look at me! I’m powerful, and you’re not!” He is in danger of being shipwrecked.
“released”: it comes from the Greek verb apoluō (pronounced ah-po-loo-oh), which combines the prefix apo– (“from” or “away”) and lu– (“loosen, untie, set free” etc.), so here it means to “release them from”; they must move out and be set loose and untied from their great past and move into a greater future. Not all of our pasts have to be bad, but when God says to move on from a great or bad past, you must obey. Surrender now rather than later. He knows what’s best for you personally. He’s your loving Father.
For systematic theology:
GrowApp for Acts 13:1-3
A.. How is your life of prayer and praise in a small group?
B.. Do you occasionally fast? When? What kind of fast? Why?
Barnabas and Saul Reach the Island of Cyprus (Acts 13:4-12)
4 And so after they were sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus 5 and arrived at Salamis and announced the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They had John as their assistant.
6 They went through the whole island until Paphos and found a man, a certain Jewish magician and false prophet named Barjesus. 7 He was in the entourage of the proconsul Sergius Paulus, a man of good sense. Summoning Barnabas and Saul, he desired to hear the word of God. 8 Elymas the magician (for that’s how his name is translated) opposed them, by trying to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 Saul (also Paul) was filled with the Holy Spirit and stared him down 10 and said, “You are full of all deceit and all trickery, son of the devil, enemy of all righteousness! Will you never stop twisting the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, look! The hand of the Lord is against you, and you shall be blind and not see the sun until a certain time!” Instantly misty dimness and darkness fell upon him. And he sought to be hand-led around. 12 When the proconsul saw what happened, he believed because he was amazed at the teaching of the Lord.
Luke did not have to mention the Holy Spirit, when the previous verse was clear about the third person of the Trinity. However, he intends his entire book of Acts to be very charismatic and Spirit-empowered and Spirit-filled, so he repeats this here in v. 4.
“Cyprus”: they landed on Barnabas’s home island (Acts 4:36). No doubt he had a great time introducing Saul to his family. John Mark and he were cousins (Col. 4:10), so Mark must have met some of his relatives here.
“synagogues”: this noun is in the plural, so Salamis had several synagogues in the area with elders or leaders, representing a large Jewish community. No doubt Paul used this model to found churches in an area: several smaller churches with elders in each one.
“announced”: this verb comes from one Greek verb: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, the “g” being hard). Eu– means good, and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!” “Preaching or spreading or announcing the good news” is traditional and better, however.
“word of God”: It comes from the phrase logos tou theou (pronounced loh-gohss too theh-oo), but in the accusative (logon tou theou). Logos is a rich and full noun. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Let’s explore the versatile noun logos a little more deeply.
I repeat the following comments throughout the entire commentary. Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level. Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to, also. Paul’s brief speech to the Gentiles, below, also has Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word word, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
“synagogues of the Jews”: no doubt they preached in Barnabas’s home synagogue, and as they crossed the island overland, they must have preached in other synagogues. Did they preach to Gentiles? This is another omission in Acts. Let’s hope so.
“assistant”: it comes from the Greek noun hupēretēs (pronounced hoo-pay-ray-tayss) and also means “servant” or “helper.” It comes from the Greek prefix hupo– (under) and ēretēs (rower), so it properly means “under-rower.” Picture the three-tiered Greek triremes, and the rowers in the bottom tiers. Let’s not forget that John Mark heard Peter preach in his mother’s house in Jerusalem, so John Mark possibly was brought along to tell these stories and educate Barnabas and Saul about them (cf. Luke 1:2, which uses this Greek word). Luke said he interviewed these kinds of servants of the word. Bruce refers to old-school commentators (1890 and 1897) and more recent ones (1965 and 1982) who explored the possibility that Mark was an authorized teacher (a “catechist”) and supplied reminiscences about Jesus’s ministry that neither Paul nor Barnabas could supply (comments on v. 5, note 16). Wow. If true, then Mark had real and substantial contributions to make to Paul and Barnabas. He did not just carry the luggage, so to speak, but he was not the leader, either. He “rowed” under Barnabas and Saul. Did he like this subservient position? He is about to leave them, once they get back to the mainland (v. 13). Why? Did he want to find Peter, whom he knew when he had lived in Jerusalem and the church which had met in Mark’s mother Mary’s house? (Peter will remerge there in Acts 15.)
“They went through the whole island”: they crossed overland the length of the island, east to west. This was Barnabas’s old stomping grounds. No doubt they prayed in the Spirit—their Spirit-inspired languages—and sang hymns, both in their native language and in the Spirit, as they walked along. After all, Paul said he did this (1 Cor. 14:15). And he said the he prayed in the Spirit very often (1 Cor, 14:18). It is inconceivable that Barnabas did not have his prayer language, even though the book of Acts does not openly state it. Luke expects us to fill in these gaps with the entire context of the charismatic book of Acts. And Paul said he wanted everyone to speak in their prayer languages (1 Cor. 14:5). The same had to hold true for Barnabas, who was also full of the Spirit (Acts 11:24).
Salamis, where they landed (v. 5), was on the eastern side of the island (it is not the island off of Athens), and Paphos was on the western side. They walked a long way across the long island!
“Jewish magician and false prophet”: he still remained within the Old Covenant, so he is about to be punished by Old Covenant standards and with an Old Covenant punishment. Barjesus means “son of Jesus / Joshua.” Barjesus is about to find out about the power of the risen Jesus.
“proconsul”: this was very high up in the Roman ranks. He stood in for (pro-) the consul, and apparently the island of Cyprus came under the jurisdiction and care of the upper levels in Rome.
“a man of good sense”: it is the adjective sunetos (pronounced soo-neh-toss and appears only 4 times in the entire NT). It means “intelligent, wise, with good sense” (Mark 11:25; Luke 10:21; Acts 13:7; 1 Cor. 1:19). It is odd that an intelligent man like the proconsul would listen to a false prophet, unless Bar-Joshua had some really impressive demonic power backing him up.
There is a warning here. Satan through false messiahs and prophets can deceive people, even believers (Matt. 7:15; 24:11). To distinguish the false ones from the true ones, use your Spirit-filled anointing (1 John 1:20, 27). Also, please stay in a Spirit-filled church that has stood for a long time. New churches are not bad—they can be awesome—but in this context of false prophets, it is best to get involved with established churches. Finally, ask leaders at the church to help you discern truth from falsehood.
“Summoning”: the reputation of Barnabas and Saul (Paul) preceded them and the proconsul was hungry for the Word of the God.
“word of God”: it is logos, and see v. 5 for a close look. No doubt Saul and Barnabas deployed good old-fashioned, reasonable, and Bible-based argumentation to impress an intelligent man like the proconsul.
“Elymas”: specialist scholars cannot figure out the name change, unless it comes from a local language and a little Hebrew. One scholar says it comes from the Arabic root alim (sage), or the name is derived from Aramaic haloma (interpreter of dreams) (Bock, comment on v. 8).
In any case, if someone turns people away from the faith that is rooted in the word of God, he is a false teacher and prophet. Stay clear of him. This is why Paul was about to take action against him. “He was a magos in the more popular sense. Luke calls him a false prophet, not (probably) in the sense that he foretold things which did not come to pass, but in the sense that he claimed falsely to be a medium of divine revelation. Elymas, the alternative name which Luke gives him, is probably a Semitic word with a similar meaning to magos; it cannot be an interpretation of “Barjesus” (Bruce, comment on vv. 6-8).
Stay away from supernatural magic and fortunetelling.
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Let’s discuss the noun, faith, more deeply. These comments apply to the verb, as well: pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh). It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
“Saul (also Paul)”: In a Gentile context, he must have felt his Roman name was better, and maybe the proconsul Sergius Paullus reminded him of this; that is, Saul may have introduced himself as a Roman citizen and gave the proconsul his full Roman name. Since he was a Roman citizen, he had a praenomen, nomen (tribal or family), and cognomen. Paulus / Paullus was his cognomen. F. F. Bruce says no one knows what his praenomen and nomen name were (comment in vv. 9-11 and note 25). Recall that Barnabas’s name was Joseph (Acts 4:36), which is a Hebrew name. Usually, Jews took a Greek or Latin name, but if Joseph Barnabas did, then Luke never mentions it.
“was filled”: it comes from the Greek verb pimplēmi (pronounced pim-play-mee or peem-play-mee) and it simply means “filled”! It is in the aorist tense, indicating it just happened at a point in time. Paul was instantly re/filled with the Spirit, to do this difficult assignment to pronounce judgment on Barjesus / Elymas. He had already been filled around his conversion (Acts 9:17).
Renewalists believe that the filling of the Spirit can happen often in a believer’s life, when he asks or has immediate need of empowerment. Ask, seek, knock. Be expectant.
For a deeper look, please click on this post:
“stared … down”: it comes from the verb atenizō (pronounced ah-teh-nee-zoh) and also means “stare intently or intensely” or “fix one’s gaze.” Luke is fond of it: Luke 4:20; 22:56; Acts 1:10; 3:4; 3:12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9; 23:1. Then Paul uses it twice: 2 Cor. 3:7, 13. You know you have God’s authority when you can stare at satanic attacks right in the face (so to speak). If you cannot, please pray for the inner strength and grace and anointing to be able to stand and not to fold or flag during satanic and broken human attacks (I pray this almost every day). In the power of the Spirit (not soul power), stare down this kind of opposition. Don’t flinch.
Polhill is on target:
Like Peter with Simon Magus (8:20–23), Paul turned on Elymas with a vengeance. Luke clarified that it was ultimately not Paul but the Spirit of God whom Elymas had taken on. Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Looking at him with a withering gaze, Paul began to denounce Elymas, “You are a child of the devil.” No one familiar with Aramaic (as Elymas probably would have been) could have missed the pun. His name, Bar-Jesus (in Aramaic Bar-Jeshua), meant etymologically son of the Savior. He was no son of the Savior; quite the opposite, he was son of the devil. (comment on vv. 8-10)
In v. 10, those are extra-strong words. Please don’t use them in other contexts, such as in your family or at the job or at public service locations (e.g. coffee shops, restaurants and grocery stores)! I have heard of extra-enthusiastic revivalists pronouncing judgment on people, but nothing happened. They were filled with arrogance. Paul was an apostle; extra-enthusiastic revivalists are not.
Now judgment is pronounced.
“son of the devil”: correlates with his name Barjesus or “son of Jesus / Joshua”! He really was not the son of Jesus, but the son of the devil! Clever. A little irony does not hurt, once in a while.
Occasionally I hear a report that a fiery evangelist pronounces this kind of judgment, say, on a journalist who criticizes a meeting the journalist considers wild (and it possibly is, even by God’s standards [1 Cor. 14:33, 40]). Nothing happened to the journalist as it did to Elymas, but the evangelist does get laughed at.
What went wrong? Please understand that Barjesus (a Jewish name) lived in the Old Covenant, and he got an Old Covenant punishment. Barjesus was controlled by a demonic spirit. On the other hand, the journalist may not live in the Old Covenant or be under the dominion of a demonic spirit to the extent that he does magical signs and speaks false prophecies. He may simply be skeptical that your wild meeting is on the level. Paul was filled with the Spirit; the fiery evangelist may be merely filled with anger and arrogance and soul power. Now at this point someone will say that he actually saw the same thing done to a witch doctor in Africa or to someone somewhere else. That may be true (or not), but use caution and be sure you are not filled with soul power, as I concluded when I heard of this in an American context. The evangelist had to humble himself and confess that he stepped out of line. Embarrassing.
Please click on the next link:
“hand-led”: it comes from the compound Greek verb cheiragōgeō (pronounced khay-rah-goh-geh-oh). Cheir– means “hand,” and the second half means “lead.”
“Elymas is where Saul was years earlier, and the difference is obvious. Paul is now full of the truth and Spirit whereas Elymas is full of deceit and villainy. … As the magician is led away, one can imagine Paul recalling that he himself was led away after seeing the Lord and being rendered temporarily blind. This judgment also teaches the rejection of any form of syncretism [mixture], some Elymas’s vocation reflects” (Bock, comment on vv. 9-11).
This was a miraculous sign, and it impressed the proconsul. Such signs and wonders are designed to draw people to the Lord, and the people must be reinforced by the teaching about God.
“believed”: The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh or pih-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Here it is connected to “saved.” See v. 8 for more comments.
So the proconsul got saved—converted. If he was not stated as baptized, then Luke omitted this data point; in fact no one is stated as being baptized throughout this missionary journey. Recall that I have nicknamed Luke “the Omitter” or “Condenser.” It is a sure thing that each new convert was water-baptized.
“teaching”: it comes from the Greek noun didachē (pronounced dee-dah-khay). It also means “instruction.” It indicates that Paul and Barnabas stayed a while to teach Sergius Paullus, because he was influential. If the two missionaries converted him and could keep him in the kingdom by sound teaching (Matt. 18:23), then he in turn could influence many. Never be afraid of influential people—they need the gospel too.
I like how Schnabel reminds us about missionary activity is authenticated by the Holy Spirit. “The primary cause of the missionary work of Paul and Barnabas and the primary cause of the effectiveness of the proclamation of the gospel is the Holy Spirit as the transforming power of God’s powerful presence”. Then the commentator says that missionary work involves confronting the forces of evil. “At the same time the miracle [about Elymas’s punishment] to a decision concerning their own reaction to the message of the gospel; the governor Sergius Paulus is converted after he sees the effect that Paul’s words have on Elymas” (p. 561). Only the Holy Spirit can empower missionaries—even you and I in our sphere of influence—to bring the gospel to people and see them set free from evil spirit beings.
See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
GrowApp for Acts 13:4-12
A.. Have you ever had to confront an evil, Satan-inspired person? How did you deal with the situation?
B.. To rebuke the fortune-teller, Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. God can anoint you too. Do you depend on the Spirit to confront evil?
Paul and Barnabas Arrive as Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-16)
13 They put out to sea from Paphos, and Paul and his company went to Perga in Pamphylia. John departed from them and turned back to Jerusalem. 14 But they themselves crossed overland from Perga and arrived at Pisidian Antioch. They entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and found some seats. 15 After the reading of the law and prophets, the synagogue leaders sent for them, saying, “Brothers, men, if any one of you has a word of encouragement for the people, speak.”
16 Paul got up and motioned with his hand and said, “Israelite brothers and sisters and God-fearing people, listen!
Paphos was on the eastern side of the island of Cyprus, and they boarded a ship that went due north to the southern coast of present day Turkey and landed near Perga.
“Paul and his company”: Now Paul leads the group. Before Barnabas had always been named first in the pairing.
“John departed”: Why? Did he resent his cousin taking the backseat, and Paul moving up in the driver’s seat? Did he freak out about the spiritual warfare against Barjesus? Did he just get worn out by the missionary work? Did he simply miss his family back at the spiritual capital? Did he prefer Peter over Paul and did not like meeting the Gentile proconsul? Peter was called to Jews, and Paul to both Jews and Gentiles (Gal. 2:7-10). Mark’s home was in Jerusalem, and some the Messianic Jews there had a difficult time accepting Gentiles, despite Peter’s vision and outreach to Cornelius (Acts 10). Whatever the case, Paul did not think Mark made the right decision to depart (Acts 15:36-41). The good news is that Mark and Paul eventually reconciled (Col. 4:10; Phm. 24 and 2 Tim. 4:11).
Paul and Barnabas had to move on without him. They did not stay long (apparently) in Perga, unless Luke omits some of the details in order to take them right to Pisidian Antioch, which is distinct from Antioch in Syria, where they first got their calling in vv. 1-3. Paul and Barnabas did a lot of walking! And it is a sure thing they prayed in the Spirit as they went along—that is, they prayed in their Spirit-inspired languages. See v. 6, above, for more details on why I think this.
“They entered the synagogue”: Yes, Paul was called to the Gentiles, but he did not neglect his own Jewish people. He wrote in his epistle to the Romans that the gospel goes to Jews first (v. 1:16). But he was not under the law of Moses which saw the execution of a man who broke the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36). Paul lived under liberty of the New Covenant.
How could Paul not step in through this open door that the synagogue officials offered them? However, the officials will regret their invitation to him to speak, and then extra-devout Jews who saw the danger to Judaism that the Messiahship of Jesus / Yeshua posed will react against the two missionaries (vv. 45-52).
“sent for them”: Paul and Barnabas apparently took their seats deferentially in the back (or not in the very front), and the officials in front told someone to invite them to speak. Paul stood up (v. 16), but did he go up to the front? Probably. We don’t know these details.
Paul used the gestures of an experienced speaker; and no doubt he learned the techniques in his early education in his hometown of Tarsus. Renewalists of the fiery variety need to know that there is everything right with education. Spend some time in Bible college, and yes, even the right “cemetery”—I mean seminary (as the fiery Renewalists like to joke, wrongly in my opinion).
“God-fearing people”: these were converts to Judaism, though the men did not like circumcision! But they liked the ethical monotheism and attached themselves to the synagogue to hear the Bible being read. No doubt some synagogues could afford the huge cost of acquiring key portions of the Hebrew Bible translated into Greek, so the Greek-speaking Jews and God-fearers could understand it.
GrowApp for Acts 13:13-16
A.. Paul regularly went to the Jewish synagogue to preach. Do you regularly go to church in person? How does this benefit you? And how do you bless the church?
Preparation for Christ (Acts 13:17-22)
17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and raised them up during their stay in the land of Egypt. With his exalted arm he led them out from there, 18 and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert.
19 After he destroyed the seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave the land to take possession of their inheritance, 20 for about 450 years. And after these things, he granted judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 From then, they asked for a king, and God granted them Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 After he removed him, he raised up David as king for them. He testified about him, saying, “‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who shall do all of my will.’” [1 Sam. 13:14]
In his speech-sermon, Paul is about to lay it on the line to this synagogue. He said he got five beatings from synagogue officials (2 Cor. 11:24), indicating he refused to leave behind his fellow-Jews. Now that’s sacrificial love!
Paul sketches out ancient Hebrew history before he spotlights the Messiah. Do we even have a sketchy knowledge of the Old Testament? It’s important for your life because it shows how God dealt with humanity, though, thankfully, punishments and judgment in the Old Covenant and New Covenant differ considerably. Get into the old Scriptures, for they still contain a certain measure of wisdom, but do not get into the Old Covenant.
See these posts:
This verse covers many, many years. Luke keeps using “about” or “around,” so don’t bring out the calculator to figure out precisely these periods in Hebrew history.
“exalted arm”: this is called an anthropomorphism, a fancy word that means speaking of God in human terms so we humans can understand spiritual truths more clearly. So God does not literally have an arm. He is Spirit (John 4:24). But his uplifted arm speaks of his mighty power. God too can use his mighty, exalted, and uplifted arm to set you free in your own life and bring you out of your own personal Egypt.
Paul read and learned these little factoids, e.g. forty years, from reading the Torah and memorizing it from his synagogue school days (cf. Ex. 16:35 and Deut. 2:7 and 8:2).
“put up with”: an alternative Greek verb could be “cared for.” Apparently, manuscript scholars settled on “put up with.” Both translations are true.
The seven nations are enumerated in Deut. 7:1: Hittites, Amorites, Girgashites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.
“destroyed”: it could be translated as “take down” the seven nations. “Destroyed” may be too strong, but Josh. 24:18 does say that the Lord drove out all the pagans from the land, as if it was a done deal. Maybe we should take that verse as a statement of faith; that is, God commanded and declared it, and he was working on it, as the next verse implies.
“for about 450 years”: Both the NIV and NAS says that “all of this took 450 years.” So this puts a different perspective on wiping out the pagans—it was a long process from calling the patriarchs to the sojourn in Egypt to the settlement in their promised land.
Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5), so his father gave him the tribe’s prominent leader’s name—Saul.
“Forty years”: The length of Saul’s reign cannot be calculated from the OT. Paul probably got this number from his earlier Bible lessons and tradition.
God is the subject of the verbs “removed” and “raised up.” He removed Saul and raised up David. It is marvelous for our personal walk with God that even though David made catastrophic sins and errors in judgment, like his sin with Bathsheba and contriving to kill her husband (2 Sam. 11-12) and his misguided census of his army (2 Sam. 24:1-17; 1 Chron. 21:1-19), David was still called a man after God’s heart. David had no permanent sin dominate his life.
What about us? Despite our sins and misguided policies, do we still seek God? Do we worship as David did? Do we visit the temple, as David did, though in our modern times this would be church attendance?
GrowApp for Acts 5:17-22
A.. David was called a man after God’s heart who does all of his will. This challenges you and me. Do we pursue God with all of our hearts and do his will? If not, how can we change?
Fulfillment in Christ (Acts 13:23-37)
23 From the descendants of this man, in accordance to a promise, God brought Israel a Savior, Jesus, 24 after John was proclaiming beforehand a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel before the appearance of his coming. 25 As John was completing his race, he said, ‘What do you think me to be? I am not he. But look! He is coming after me, whose sandal of his feet I am not worthy to loosen!’
26 Men, women brothers and sisters, descendants of the family of Abraham and all those among you who fear God! The word of this salvation has been sent out to us. 27 And so those living in Jerusalem and their leaders were ignorant of this one and of the voices of the prophets that are read every Sabbath day, so they fulfilled the prophecies by condemning him. 28 And though they did not find one cause for death, they demanded Pilate to do away with him. 29 When they accomplished everything that had been written about him, they took him down from the wood and placed him in a tomb.
30 But God raised him from the dead. 31 He appeared for many days to those who went up with him from Galilee into Jerusalem. Now they are his witnesses to the people. 32 And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to our ancestors, 33 which God had fulfilled to us their children, resurrecting Jesus, as it is also written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’; [Ps. 2:7] 34 that God raised him from the dead, no longer destined to return to decay, it is spoken in this way, ‘I shall give you the holy and trustworthy decrees of David.’ [Is. 55:3] 35 And therefore it is said in another place, ‘I shall not grant your holy one to experience decay.’ [Ps. 16:10] 36 David after serving his own generation and the purpose of God, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers and experienced corruption. 37 However, the one whom God raised up did not experience corruption.
Keener provides this table on the parallels between Peter’s inaugural sermon in Acts 2 and Paul’s inaugural sermon in Acts 13:
|You killed Jesus||2:22-23||13:27-28|
|God raised him up||2:24||13:30|
|What David says in Ps. 16||2:25-28||13:35|
|David remains dead||2:29||13:36|
|God raised up Christ from David’s seed||2:30||13:23|
|Jesus did not see corruption||2:31||13:37|
|Keener, p. 338, slightly edited|
I see many differences as well, but the core is the same.
After his brief preamble, Paul drives home his main point: Jesus the Messiah. From David’s descendants or literally “seed.” It is placed at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis. Rom. 1:3 and 15:12 shows Paul totally believed that Christ descended from David. In this sermon-speech, Luke is accurately agreeing with Paul’s beliefs.
Paul writes that Jesus is the seed or offspring that blesses the nation:
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. (Gal. 3:16, NIV)
Paul is claiming that the singular “seed” refers to Christ (in Greek “seed” is singular), but it is a collective singular. Everyone in Christ spreads the blessing around through preaching the gospel of Christ. Yet, make no mistake: Jesus himself, the singular seed or offspring, is the fullest blessing to the nation of Israel because the gospel is about him and people get saved through him.
“promise”: it is the noun epanggelia (pronounced eh-pahn-geh-lee-ah), and it is used 52 times in the NT (and our word angel¸ meaning ‘messenger,’ is in it).
Let’s study this word more closely.
It primarily means that promises made to the patriarchs recorded in the OT are now fulfilled in Yeshua ha-Meshiach or Jesus the Messiah (here and Acts 7:17). Abraham would have many descendants (Gal. 3:14-29). David received the promise of a special descendant fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 13:22-23). Paul goes on to say the Jesus’s resurrection is proof of the good news that he preaches (Acts 13:32-33). John proclaims that the promise is connected to eternal life—which is begun to be lived down here and then never ending in heaven (1 John 2:25). All the promises in the OT are ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20).
Another use of promise is the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Luke 24:49, Jesus tells the disciples that he is sending the “promise of the Father” to them (Acts 1:4). And it is fulfilled in Acts 2:1-4, where the Holy Spirit descends on the 120 in the upper room. Peter tells his audience that this is the promise of the Father (Acts 2:33). Paul links the promise of the Holy Spirit to the blessing of Abraham (Gal. 3:14). And believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit of the promise (Eph. 1:13).
Still another use of the word promise is that it forms the foundation of righteous living. Paul appeals for purity on God’s promises (2 Cor. 7:1). Children are told to honor their parents because the Fifth Commandment has a promise in it (Eph. 6:2; Exod. 20:12). Paul writes to Timothy that godliness is profitable both in this life and the next because of the promise of life (1 Tim. 4:8). The author of Hebrews encourages believers to persevere (hang in there) because of God’s promises (Heb. 4:1; 10:36). Don’t doubt, Peter says, that God will keep his promise of the Second Coming, even though some mock (2 Pet. 3:4, 9) (Mounce, pp. 541-42).
“appearance”: it comes from the Greek noun prosōpon (pronounced pro-soh-pohn), which really means “face” or “presence.”
“proclaiming beforehand” comes from one Greek word prokērussō (pronounced proh-kay-roos-oh) or “pre” (pro) “proclaimed” and is used only here in the NT. The verb kērussō means “proclaim” or “announce.” We get our word kerygma from the noun.
“coming”: it comes from the Greek noun eisodos (pronounced ace-oh-dohss), which means the opposite of exodus! It means “entering” or “entrance.” It no doubt surprised Paul’s Jewish hearers who heard the term because the second book of the Hebrew Bible is named Exodus in Greek. Yeshua ha–Meshiach / Jesus the Messiah was about to make his big entrance into Jewish and human history. But I translated it conservatively as “coming.”
That link has a long table of quoted verses in the OT and NT. However, Jesus fulfills more than quoted verses. He also fulfills the concepts and patterns and shadows in the OT, including the entire sacrificial system and all the old covenants.
John the Baptist used to say (verb is in the imperfect or uncompleted past tense) that Jesus outranked him (John 1:15, 30), and Jesus must increase, and he must decrease (John 3:30).
Are we willing to let someone else take the lead, even though we have had an effective ministry? Sometimes we have to let go and let the new guy take over.
“The word”: See v. 5 for more comments. Here Paul presented orderly and logical argumentation and history of the Bible. People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
“salvation”: it is the noun sōtēria. Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times).
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG, which many consider to be the authoritative lexicon of the NT, defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in passive mood it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8).
In this verse, it means a new era has been ushered in, and Paul (and Barnabas) received it and are now presenting it to this synagogue.
The leaders over in Jerusalem, far from Pisidian Antioch, acted ignorantly when they pushed for Jesus’s execution. Saul may have learned this bit from Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem, since it was spoken out in public (Acts 3:14-18). At that time Peter said the people disowned their Messiah, and they and their leaders acted in ignorance. But God was not taken by surprise, as biblical prophecies prove. The trial and condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus, though on the surface so disappointing and hurtful, were ordained of God. The Jerusalem establishment were victims of their own conceit. They thought they knew more than they actually knew. This gap between “fake knowledge,” which is actually ignorance, and true knowledge, is called irony. The Jewish establishment thought they were obeying the law when they pushed for Jesus’s crucifixion, but they were ignorant of what the prophets foretold of the Suffering Servant.
In fact, Peter’s sermons (though shorter and less elaborate), Stephen’s sermon (Acts 7), and Paul’s sermon here are remarkably parallel but with small differences, of course.
“Pilate”: this is a very important element in the speech. Other religions claim that their revered religious figure visited the planet or died some time, but in the misty, murky past. Here Paul locates the trial and death of Jesus during the governorship of Pilate.
“written” means that the death-dealing authorities accomplished and fulfilled biblical prophecies, even when they did not realize it. God was behind the scenes ensuring that everything was fulfilled.
See this table of Messianic prophecies:
As noted, at that link, there is a long table of quoted verses from the OT and NT, but Jesus fulfills more than just quoted verses. He also fulfills the types and shadows and patterns and concepts in the OT, like the entire sacrificial system or salvation.
“wood”: the Greek word is xulon (pronounced xoo-lone), and it could be translated “tree,” but I like the more general term. The cross was made of wood. The Greek word echoes Deut. 21:22-23, which talks about someone being guilty of a capital offense and his body being exposed on a pole. In the LXX (third-to-second century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) of that text, the word for pole is xulon. In Jesus’s case he was accused of blasphemy (Mark 14:61-64), and ignorantly found guilty of it, which carried the death penalty (Lev. 24:16).
These verses parallel Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, as seen in these verses
[H]e [David] spoke about the resurrection of the Christ that he would not be abandoned in Hades, and neither would his flesh experience corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, of whom we are all witnesses. 33 So then after he was exalted to the right hand of God and after received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out this which you see and hear. (Acts 2:31-33)
The resurrection is the best subject for preaching. There is something beneficial and streamlined and simple about preaching the death and resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. Peter and the eleven apostles saw the resurrection and exaltation with their own eyes. Jesus spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9). Renewalists believe that the resurrected Jesus still appears to them today. But if that has not happened to you, then preach the historical resurrection. Go online to various websites that lay out the evidence. Or you can tell your story of what the living Lord has done in your heart.
Here are the basics about resurrection in the New Testament:
1.. It was prophesied in the OT (Ps. 16:3-11; Is. 55:3; Jnh. 1:17)
2.. Jesus predicted it before his death (Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:33-34; John 2:19-22)
3.. It happened in history (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1-8)
4.. Power used to resurrect Jesus:
a.. Power of God (Acts 2:24; Eph. 1:19-20; Col. 2:12)
b.. Christ’s own power (John 10:18)
c.. Jesus is the resurrection (John 11:25-26)
d.. Power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18)
5.. Nature of Christ’s resurrection
a.. The same body that died was raised (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27)
b.. It was a physical body
(1)) He ate (Luke 24:41-43; John 21:12-13; Acts 10:40-41)
(2)) He could be touched (John 20:27; 1 John 1:1)
(3)) It was a gloried body (1 Cor. 15:42-44; Phil. 3:21)
(4)) He passed through locked door (John 20:19, 26)
(5)) He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9)
c.. It was also a transformed and glorified body
And for a review of the basics, please click on this post:
You can also go to youtube to find out the evidence for it. Look for Gary Habermas or Mike Licona.
For a table of his appearances and other facts, please see:
In v. 32 the noun “promise” is used. See v. 23 for a closer look.
In v. 33, “begotten” does not mean the Father produced Jesus, as if Jesus had a beginning. Rather, Psalm 2 is a coronation psalm about King David and looks ahead to Jesus’s coronation at his resurrection.
In v. 34, the noun “decay” also appears in Peter’s long sermon before the people of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:27-31), referencing the same verses and ideas that David’s tomb still holds David, and his body is decaying, while Jesus’s tomb is empty, and his body is not suffering decay. The reasoning and logic here is unassailable, from a biblical-prophetic point of view.
David served his own purpose in his generation. This should inspire us to serve our generation and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives before he calls us home.
In vv. 36-37, Paul rhetorically used an advanced construction men … de (pronounced mehn … deh), which means “on the one hand … on the other. It expresses a strong contrast between David and Jesus. In v. 37, I wrote “however” to express the strong contrast.
“experience corruption”: in those verses the Greek is literally “see corruption,” but since seeing is related to experiencing, I used the broader term. NAS uses the verb “undergo.”
Paul quotes Scriptures concerning Messianic prophecies. Please click on a table of them:
As noted two times before, at that link there is a table of quotations from the OT and NT, but Jesus goes beyond fulfilling quoted verses; he also fulfills types and patterns and shadows in the OT, like the entire sacrificial system or the source and goal of salvation. Jesus is the source and goal of salvation.
“we preach to you the good news”: as noted in previous verses in Luke-Acts, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”
GrowApp for Acts 13:23-37
A.. Jesus appeared to his disciples and now they are witnesses of his resurrection. Jesus may not have appeared to you personally, but he has changed you. Do you have your conversion story ready to tell? What is it?
B.. David served his generation and then died. You live in your generation, and then you too will die. How do you benefit your generation in small ways? Or are you a burden on your generation?
Application: Forgiveness and Warning (Acts 13:38-41)
38 Men and women and brothers and sisters! Let it therefore be known to you that through this one the forgiveness of sins is announced to you. 39 By this one everyone who believes is justified from all the things you were not able to be justified by the law of Moses.
40 Watch therefore that what was spoken by the prophets does not come upon you:
41 ‘Look, scoffers! Marvel and vanish!
Because I work a work in your days,
A work which you shall not believe even if someone were to explain it to you!’” [Hab. 1:5]
“Men and brothers!”: This should be translated inclusively, because the terms can include womankind (compare our word mankind, which includes women).
“this one”: it is Jesus. Modern translations go all in and translate the pronoun with the proper noun—Jesus. I remained literal here. No doubt Paul gestured to indicate that he was referring to Jesus.
“forgiveness”: it comes from the Greek noun aphesis (pronounced ah-feh-seess), which means “release” or “cancellation” or “pardon” or “forgiveness.” Let’s look at a more formal definition of its verb, which is aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12, ESV)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
Please see my post about forgiveness:
“sins”: it comes from the Greek word hamartia. A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In older Greek of the classical world long before the NT was written, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.
“Forgiveness of sins” are the exact words that Peter and the other eleven apostles preached before the Sanhedrin back in Jerusalem (Acts 5:31). No doubt Saul was right there. His rabbinic mentor Gamaliel was; therefore Saul was too (probably).
This verse is one of the most important themes in Paul’s epistles (apart from Jesus himself). It appears here in his first recorded sermon or teaching, so already it was developed—or developed enough. No doubt he got this revelation when he was fasting and praying before the scales fell from his eyes, waiting for someone to help him, who turned out to be Ananias (Acts 9:3-19). But I am not clear when Paul got his special revelations from heaven. Surely he got many of them, which he did not record.
A more literal translation of vv. 38-39:
38 Let it be known that through this one [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is announced to you, and from everything of which you have not been able by the law of Moses to be justified, 39 by this one [Jesus] everyone who believes is justified.
Or let’s drop v. 38 and just translate v. 39 literally:
And from everything of which you were unable by the law of Moses to be justified, by this one [Jesus] everyone who believes is justified.
Normally, Paul did not use the preposition apo– (from) with the verb justify, but Luke knew his Greek, and apparently this made sense to his original listeners and readers. I don’t think we should make a big deal of it, but the NAS is misguided to translate “justify” as “freed.”
Bruce: “Grammatically, the word could indeed be taken to mean that Christ provides for everyone who believes justification from all those things from which Moses’ law provides no justification—namely, most deliberate sins. But quite certainly they mean that believers in Christ are completely justified (“justified from all things”)—something which Moses’ law could never achieve for anyone. In other words, Moses’ law does not justify; faith in Christ does” (comment on vv. 38-39). I like the idea that God can declare a repentant sinner who puts his faith in Christ righteous, even though the sinner committed a deliberate sin. He is righteous because on his repentance he is now in Christ. It is not a legal fiction.
Let’s look more deeply at Paul’s “speaking theology” in this one verse, which he expands on, everywhere in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians.
The law of Moses is inadequate for justification or righteousness that is 100% satisfactory to the thrice-holy God (Is. 6) because it flowed from human efforts and legalistic obedience. The law was a temporary stop-gap measure. In contrast, faith in Jesus is sufficient and acceptable before God.
“believes”: see v. 12 for more comments.
So what do “justify” or “justification” mean? They come from the Greek verb to right and noun righteousness. Unfortunately, we don’t have in English the verbs “righteousify” or “rightify,” so we have to translate them as “justify.”
Again, what do they mean?
They cannot mean something like doing the works that were commanded by the law of Moses. That’s the whole point of v. 39, which is a contrast of the two ways. So Paul says it has to come by faith in a person—“this one” or Jesus—not works. Justification or righteousness comes instantly the moment faith arises in the person’s heart. At that very moment God imputes or reckons or calculates the believer to be righteous. God “righteousifies” or justifies him. But the believer does not do that by himself and his own efforts. Paul is speaking to a Jewish and God-fearing audience, so they understood the law of Moses. Now Paul offers them a new and contrastive way of salvation, but not so new that it is unprecedented. The law and prophets in the OT prepared the way for it. Now it is fulfilled right before their (and our) eyes in Yeshua ha–Meshiach or Jesus the Messiah.
After a believer receives the gift of righteousness apart from works of the law before a thrice holy God, God’s Spirit lives in the believer and fills him with power so he can obey the law of Christ (love) and certain elements of the moral law that the NT is full of. This is called sanctification or literally “the process (ion) of making (fic) holy sancti)—or the process of becoming like Christ. Salvation and justification by grace through faith takes a moment; sanctification, living out the gift of righteousness, and becoming like Christ takes a lifetime. Salvation and sanctification are linked, but distinct. See v. 26 for a closer look.
See my posts:
I really like how Bruce coordinates Paul’s theology in this sermon-speech and in his epistles:
If the agreement of this interpretation with the doctrine of justification in the Pauline [adjective for “Paul”] letters is dismissed as irrelevant to the exegesis of the words in their present context, let it be said that the context itself, with the natural emphasis of the argument, requires this interpretation. Paul in this peroration [rhetorical speech] is not making partial but total claims for the efficacy of the gospel over the law. It is true that, in expounding justification by faith, Paul in his letters does not speak of it as being justified from anything. But that does not make the general sense of the present words un-Pauline. It is relevant to recall, too, that in the only other place in the Lukan writings where justification is spoken of an act of God, the tax collector who confessed himself to be a sinner and cast himself on divine mercy went home justified, rather than the man who carefully regulated his life by the demands of Moses’ law (Luke 18:14). (comment on vv. 38-39)
Have you ever heard the expression, if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true! In this case, the promise of a new path to salvation that kneels before Jesus is God-ordained, so he makes it true. From a human level, it is too good to be true. But by God’s grace, it is true.
“believe”: see v. 12 for more comments.
Polhill describes these Jews accurately and Paul and Barnabas’s next step: the Gentiles:
If they continued in their rejection, they would be rejected. It is remarkable how quickly Paul’s warning came to bear. In the ensuing narrative, Habakkuk’s prophecy was once again fulfilled—among the Jews of Pisidian Antioch, as they rejected the words of salvation. God did something they would never have dreamed of—he turned to the Gentiles. (comments on vv. 40-41)
I like how Peterson wraps up vv. 23-41, speaking about the ever-widening circle of the gospel going to Jews and Gentiles. In Paul’s sermon, the gospel, first, is no novelty. It has roots in the OT and is part of God’s long-range plan. Second, God fulfilled his plan through Jesus the Messiah. God vindicated him by resurrecting him from the dead. The Jerusalem establishment should have known Scriptures better than they did. Their ignorance led them to crucify the Messiah, but God still worked through their ignorance and followed his plan. Third, Forgiveness and new liberty are made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus. But only those who believe and trust him can receive this forgiveness. God warns those who scoff and reject his saving plan (comments on p. 401).
Schnabel boils down the content of missionary preaching from Paul’s inaugural sermon: Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises; God raised Jesus from the dead; Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, so he fulfills all the promises in the Story of God; through him (and no one else) there is forgiveness of sins and the declaration of righteousness on the sinner (pp. 594-95).
GrowApp for Acts 13:38-41
A.. The forgiveness of sins in Jesus is announced to them back then, and now it is announced to you today. What did God’s loving forgiveness do for you? What does it feel like to have your sins forgiven?
People’s Positive Response and Jewish Opposition (Acts 13:42-49)
42 While they were exiting, they encouraged them to speak these words to them the next Sabbath. 43 After the synagogue was dismissed, many Jews and worshipping proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
44 When the Sabbath came, almost the entire town assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began speaking opposition to the things spoken by Paul and were blaspheming. 46 But both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. Since then you reject it and do not judge yourselves worthy of eternal life, look! We are turning to the Gentiles, 47 for the Lord has commanded us in this manner:
‘I have appointed you as a light to the Gentiles,
So that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” [Is. 49:6]
48 The Gentiles heard and glorified the word of the Lord, and whoever was appointed to eternal life believed.
49 The word of the Lord spread around throughout the whole region.
As Paul and Barnabas were exiting the synagogue, the people were open and hungry and encouraged them to speak these words again, the next Sabbath. Why wouldn’t they be? The gospel is winsome; law-keeping is burdensome.
“Worshipping proselytes”: it means they were “devout converts to Judaism,” but they followed the two missionaries out the door to a public space. The two men told them to continue in the grace of God, as distinct from the works of the law. Righteousness and God’s acceptance comes by grace, not by self-effort and works and the law of Moses.
Grace comes from the Greek noun charis (pronounced khah-rees) and has these meanings, depending on the context: graciousness, attractiveness; favor, gracious care, help or goodwill, practical application of goodwill; a gracious deed or gift, benefaction. In some contexts, it means “exceptional effects produced by divine grace,” in other words, empowerment to accomplish a task. In this case it means his ability to do wonders and great signs. God gave him the grace and power to accomplish them.
Let’s go deeper, by repeating part of what I wrote in the post Do I Really Know God? He Is Gracious. Mounce in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words teaches us about the Hebrew and Greek words. The Hebrew noun ḥen (pronounced khen) “describes that which is favorable or gracious, especially the favorable disposition of one person to another” (p. 302). The Greek noun further means “the acceptance of and goodness toward those who cannot earn or do not deserve such gain” (p. 303). The verb in Hebrew is ḥanan (pronounced khah-nan) and means to be gracious, “to show mercy favor, be gracious” (ibid.).
Here is a quick definition. God’s grace means he gladly shows his unmerited goodness or love to those who have forfeited it and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation.
Good news! We do not have to suffer condemnation for our past sins because God hands us his grace.
In this context, as noted, Paul is contrasting the law of Moses with faith in Jesus.
“continue in the grace of God”: does this mean that they could fall away? Possibly. They could have gone back to the legalism embedded in Judaism—back to the law. Paul and Barnabas are eager to ensure that they follow the resurrected and vindicated Christ, not all the rules and regulations.
It is no surprise that almost the entire town was assembled to hear. Where are the revivals today, where almost entire towns are touched by the gospel? People have recently prophesied that revival is coming, which will be much greater than the Jesus Movement in the late 1960s and through all of the 1970s. This website is designed to teach the new generation to learn basic Bible in the power and fulness of the Spirit.
“Word of the Lord”: it is the Greek noun logos, again. As noted in vv. 5, 7, 15, and 26, the noun has logic and rationality built into it. See especially v. 5 for more information.
If you do not get opposition in your proclamation of the gospel, then something is missing from your gospel. It is watered down, but no, it should not be hard and angry and mean-spirited. See v. 46 for how you should respond to this opposition: boldness.
“Jews”: these are the leaders. They felt threatened, because the proselytes could become full members of the People of God and not feel like second-class add-ons. Whether Jew or Gentile, everyone must now go through the conversion to Jesus; each one must be personally born again. Each one must surrender to Jesus and his Lordship. Each one enters the kingdom of God on a level playing field.
John uses the term “Jews” in his Gospel. Clearly it is relevant for new converts out in the provinces, so both John and Luke (in Acts) uses it.
“filled with jealousy”: this verb stands in contrast to the Spirit’s infilling. Call it a satanic or a soul-power infilling.
“blaspheming”: Paul said he did this before his Damascus road encounter with the risen Jesus (1 Tim. 1:13). I wonder if his mind flashed back to his similar behavior.
“spoke out boldly”: This comes from one Greek verb parrēsiazomai (pronounced pah-rray-see-ah-zoh-my), and it combines boldness and speech. Paul had been an over-zealous Pharisee, and now his zeal was channeled and tempered by the Spirit towards preaching Jesus. Paul and Barnabas were emboldened and did not cower in fear.
Please, please, don’t shrink away when you encounter opposition. Jesus was bold when the Pharisees and teachers of the law challenged him. He answered their questions and challenged them right back (Mark 2:6; 2:16; 7:1-5; 8:31; 9:14; 10:33; 11:18, 27-28; 14:1, etc.). People over-interpret his silence before his accusers during his trial (Matt. 27:12-14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4-5; John 19:8-9). These interpreters don’t take into account that he was destined to give up his life, although he could have asked the Father for twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53).
If you find yourself timid before opposition, you can pray every day for the inner strength and anointing and power to stand and not to flag or fold during satanic and broken human attacks. I pray this almost every day, and it works!
You know the Spirit is flowing through you when you have boldness. God has not given you a spirit of fear or timidity (2 Tim. 1:7).
“word of God”: it is logos again, and see v. 5 for a deeper look.
“first”: Paul says the gospel went to the Jew first:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Rom. 1:16, NIV)
Now the gospel goes to the Gentiles.
“believed”: see v. 12 for more comments.
“reject”: it comes from the Greek verb apōtheō (pronounced ah-poh-theh-oh) and means “push away” or “shove aside.” People can reject the message of the gospel, which seemingly contrasts with what we are about to read in v. 48 about people being appointed to believe. But does it contrast with v. 48?
“do not judge yourself worthy”: Paul is using irony here. “You actually think you’re too good for the gospel, but you’re the ones who are self-deceived. The gospel is for everyone, except for those who think too highly of themselves.”
“eternal life”: God offers people who love and know him eternal life in the here and now, so it means both life now and life in the age to come.
Now let’s look at life more closely.
It is the noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, and girls are named after it, e.g. Zoey). BDAG is the authoritative NT Greek lexicon, and it says that it has two senses, depending on the context: a physical life (e.g. life and breath) and a transcendent life. By physical life the editors mean the period from birth to death, human activity, a way or manner of living, a period of usefulness, earning a living. By transcendent life the lexicographers mean these four elements: first, God himself is life and offers us everlasting life. Second, Christ is life, who received life from God, and now we can receive life from Christ. Third, it is new life of holiness and righteousness and grace. God’s life filling us through Christ changes our behavior. Fourth, zoē means life in the age to come, or eschatological life. So our new life now will continue into the next age, which God fully and finally ushers in when Christ returns. We will never experience mere existence or death, but we will be fully and eternally alive in God.
“to you first”: Paul said the gospel goes to Jews first in Rom. 1:16. In Acts, Luke is accurately describing Paul’s ministry.
In v. 47, the gospel is for everyone, and now Paul is fulfilling the other side of the same coin. One side is Jews, the other side Gentiles. Both camps have to receive the ministry of God through the good news.
“salvation”: see v. 26 for further comments.
“glorified”: this really just means they celebrated the Word of God, which is glorious. Using Bible-based thinking, I like to imagine the women getting out their tambourines and other instruments and the men getting out their musical instruments and dancing before the Lord, and no longer before old pagan deities near temples.
“word of the Lord”: it is logos, yet once more! See v. 5 for a fuller explanation.
“appointed”: it comes from the Greek verb tassō (pronounced as it looks), and its basic meaning is to “arrange,” “place,” “station,” or “assign,” and secondarily to “order, fix, determine, appoint.”
A literal way of translating the Greek: “… and they believed, as many as had been appointed for eternal life.” It is used here in the perfect tense and passive voice; in other words, the Gentiles had been acted on in the past.
Of course they were acted on, because the gospel went forth via or through the power of the Spirit. Yet some of them rejected or pushed it aside (vv. 46 and 50). But on the return visit more people were acted on and received the gospel (Acts 14:21-25). So the people who were now appointed believed during the first visit, but more people will soon be appointed and believe during the second visit. All of this shows that the Holy Spirit woos and calls the human spirit, with the initiation coming from God. Then the human responds in faith for salvation.
Any interpretation that says these Gentiles were unconditionally saved before the foundation of the world goes beyond what this text says. Any interpretation which says that those who did not respond can never resist God’s grace so therefore they were not chosen goes beyond what the text says. The Jewish leadership was filled with jealousy. They resisted the call of the gospel. God’s grace and gracious invitation can be resisted.
And once you respond to the gospel through your faith, then of course you were appointed, but it does not follow that the others were not appointed. The verse merely affirms that they resisted the call of the gospel because of other internal issues, like jealousy or a stubborn will to hold on to their old religion. Free will is a gift of God, but free will can be burdened by vice and blindness and can resist the call of God.
In my view, people cannot strut into God’s kingdom unassisted by the Spirit-energized Word in some form (even a dream of Jesus, as Muslims are now getting), but they can reject the Spirit-energized Word of God without converting to Christ. They have enough free will to reject it, but not enough free will to accept it. They need divine help to accept it. And in Pisidian Antioch they got it from the Spirit and the Word through Paul and Barnabas. And no doubt the reading of the law and prophets before the two missionaries got there softened their hearts as well.
The Spirit + The Word = Sufficient to Save People
The Spirit woos through the Word. People then respond to accept salvation, if their hearts are open. They can resist if their hearts are closed.
“life”: see v. 46 for more comments.
“word of the Lord”: logos, one last time in this chapter! Luke loves the Word! See v. 5 for a deeper look. And of course it spread around the entire region. Regular folk of the first century were very religious, unlike certain people of the modern Western world. It is a blessing that the vast majority of people around the globe are prone to religious belief. Now the gospel can penetrate without too many intellectual roadblocks, which, by the way, can be overcome or lowered with good old fashioned rational thinking and argumentation and apologetics (defense of the faith).
Polhill summarizes how vv. 46-48 are programmatic for Paul. He never gave up on his fellow-Jews.
But he never gave up on his fellow Jews. It was very much the problem he wrestled with in Rom 9–11. In spite of the overwhelming rejection of the gospel by his own people, Paul could not bring himself to believe that the rejection was final and that God had deserted them. His great successes in witness were indeed among the Gentiles, but he never abandoned his witness to Jews. The ambiguity of the witness to the Jews persists to the very end of Acts and is never definitively settled (cf. 28:17–28). The contemporary church can learn from Paul’s persistence. His actions caution against a mission policy that only targets those who are most receptive to the gospel message. (Comment on vv. 46-48)
It was a painful for him to confront such hostility from them (Rom. 9:1-5). But he never gave up on them!
Never give up on your most stubborn relative / family member. Keep praying!
GrowApp for Acts 13:42-49
A.. The people received the gospel gladly and openly. How long did it take you to receive the gospel? Rapidly or gradually?
B.. Have you ever been jealous of another person’s success? How did you see your jealousy and repent of it?
C.. Jewish hostility to the gospel saddened and sometimes angered him. Are you praying for an extra-stubborn family member? Will you give up on him or her?
Paul and Barnabas Are Run Out of Town (Acts 13:50-52)
50 But the Jews incited God-fearing, prominent women and leading men of the town and provoked persecution against Paul and Barnabas and ejected them from their district. 51 So, after they shook off the dust from their feet at them, they went to Iconium. 52 The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
“Prominent women”: “prominent” comes from the Greek adjective euschēmōn (pronounced yew-skhay-mohn). It combines eu– (good or positive) and schēma (appearance, outward appearance, form, shape and even way of life, BDAG, p. 981). Here it means “presentable, proper; prominent, of high standing, repute, or noble” (BDAG, p. 414). In other words, picture women who had extremely fabulous jewelry and clothing and expensive carriages and servants walking alongside them in an entourage. People cleared the way for them when they walked down the street or more likely rode in their carriages.
Inscriptions and literary references demonstrate beyond doubt that the women were rich in their own right and power, without being subjected to male guardians or tutors. They handled their own money. They contributed to public works from their own wealth in this or that town, and the town in turn honored them with inscriptions. They also occupied high local political offices.
However, Luke omitted those details. Does that mean he suppressed these women and silenced their voices? No, for three reasons. First, he was silent on the details about the leading men, too. Second, if he had intended to suppress and silence them, he could have omitted them completely. Third, when a first-century reader came across the adjective euschēmōn, he knew instantly what she was. The reader lived in that environment and saw her every day, if only from a respectful distance. If we wrote a story, would we need to pause the flow of the main storyline to explain what a CEO is? No. Too disruptive and takes away from the hero, in this case Paul and Barnabas. Incidentally other women of this high rank will convert (Acts 17:12). Once again, the book of Acts, like the four Gospels, is elliptical. Luke assumes his first-century readers could fill in the social blanks with social data they understood firsthand.
Please see my 2004 article Lifestyles of the Rich and Christian:
“leading men”: “leading” comes from the Greek adjective prōtos (pronounced proh-tohss), and it means “first.” Greek inscriptions and literary references also prove the same thing about them as they do about the women. They had lots of local power and showed it off by acts of generosity with their own money.
It was clever of the persecutors to incite the rich and powerful leaders. Win the leaders, win the region. But is the opposite true? Lose the leaders, lose the region? Not here, because the Word of the Lord spread around the district.
“shaking the dust off”: Jesus said to do this (Matt. 10:14 // Mark 6:11 // Luke 9:5 and 10:11). Originally it symbolized placing people or a town under divine judgment, and even their dust or the dust of their town had to be shaken off in case the judgment stuck to the dust, but here it just means it was time to go (see also Acts 18:6, 22:22). They would come back a short time later, so there was no divine judgment placed on the town (Acts 14:21). However, individuals who reject the gospel throughout their lives are in danger of the judgment of God, when they die.
But back here in this town, sometimes it’s good to show a little sass in front of false accusers who stir up opposition. It shows the opposite of fear and intimidation.
Further, shaking the dust off of their feet is what Jews did when they left pagan territory, so they could remove the ceremonial uncleanness. But the ceremonial uncleanness is not the point here because the missionaries were preaching to Jews. Instead it means “you—not we—take responsibility for your decision!” It signifies that rejecting the kingdom of God is deadly serious. Nehemiah shook the dust out of the fold of his garments when he made the returning Israelites give back the property and children who were sold into slavery, in a promise that apparently required the shaking. “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!” (Neh. 5:13, NIV). In Macedonia Paul spoke to the Jews about Jesus the Messiah, but they rejected and mocked him. “When they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his clothing and said to them: ‘Your blood be upon your head! I am clear! From now on I shall go to the Gentiles!’ (Acts 18:6, my translation).
Is this a “throw-away” summary verse? No. Let’s take it as Luke intended: this actually happened.
“Full of joy”: If you ain’t got joy, you ain’t got the Spirit (so to speak). Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). It flows out of your heart and soul naturally. You don’t have to ginger it up. However, if you have a body chemical imbalance that makes you depressed, go to a doctor who can help you (hopefully without prescribing bad antidepressants).
In any case, as I noted in v. 48, using Bible-based and Spirit-filled imagination, I like to imagine that the women and men broke out the musical instruments, like tambourines, and danced before the Lord, no longer before old pagan deities housed in temples. A new Christian community was forming. Good to see (or read about) this! Here are other verses in which disciples were full of joy and the Holy Spirit during persecution: Acts 2:46; 4:31; 5:31; 7:55; 8:39; Rom. 5:3-5; 15:13; Phil. 2:17.
“Full … of the Holy Spirit”: Is it possible to be full of the Holy Spirit with Paul and Barnabas on the scene and not have some kind of manifested gift, like Spirit-inspired languages? Recall that Paul said he would like everyone to speak in their prayer languages (1 Cor. 14:5). He proclaimed that he spoke in his prayer language more often than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18). He said not to forbid speaking in Spirit-inspired prayer languages (1 Cor. 14:39). Luke does not openly state that Barnabas got his prayer language, but he was full of the Spirit (Acts 11:24), and he was Paul’s associate, so it is inconceivable that he would not have his heavenly language. The same must be true of the disciples in the town of Pisidian Antioch and its surrounding region.
Once again, Acts is elliptical (omits details), so we the reader must fill in the ellipses with the full power of the Spirit and manifested gifts because the entire book of Acts is very charismatic.
I like how Bock summarizes v. 52 and the interaction between Barnabas and Paul:
We also see how Barnabas and Paul worked together: Barnabas was able to share the stage with Paul and eventually trained him to be able to step ahead. Good leadership can often be measured by whether it leaved a trail of successors behind it. Barnabas not only encouraged Paul, he also enabled him. Barnabas did not feel the need to be always the front man. So, although Paul is the focus in this text, in many ways Barnabas is a hero in the passage because of the way he teamed with his partner. (comment on v. 52)
GrowApp for Acts 13:50-52
A.. The disciples who received the word were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. When did you first experience joy and the Holy Spirit? Tell your story.
Observations for Discipleship
Wow! At the beginning of the chapter, Barnabas and Saul were launched out of Antioch in Syria, and at the end they wind up in Antioch in Pisidia, in southern Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). They sailed by ship to Cyprus, Barnabas’s old home island, and walked the length of it. When they got to the west side, in Paphos, they met a high-ranking Roman, who was really open to the gospel. Saul’s cognomen was revealed—Paul.
In that town, Paul, filled with the Spirit, confronted a Jewish magician and pronounced judgment on him. Don’t try this in your normal daily routine!
The phrases “the Word of God” or “the Word of the Lord” were used often in this chapter. The Greek noun logos has built into it a rational and logical meaning—the stem log– is how we can build our words, theology or logic, for example. Renewalists should never allow their church meetings to leave behind a sensible and orderly and logical presentation of the gospel and the Bible. I’ve been in small movements within the bigger Renewal Movements, and when the meetings get too wild over a period of time, they don’t last. God gave minds and brains to people; leaders must not stomp on or neglect them. Present the Word sensibly, and watch how God will honor it over the long haul.
Further, never neglect getting the best education you can. Don’t buy the lie from fiery, nonintellectual Renewalists and revivalists that “cemetery”—I mean seminary!—is a waste of time. At least go to Bible college and get trained up. Be smart, be intelligent, be Spirit-filled. The fulness of the Spirit includes praying in Spirit-inspired languages (archaically and formerly known as “tongues”), which bypasses your intellect (1 Cor. 14:15). Don’t neglect the Spirit and the Word. Combining those two things, you will last.
Finally, here are two bottom lines from v. 39, which is about the contrast between obeying the law of Moses and putting your faith in “the one”—Jesus. The bottom lines are put in an either / or format.
First, either you earn righteousness by obeying the law of Moses for the rest of your life, or you receive the gift of righteousness by putting your faith in Jesus.
Choose the second one—believe in Jesus.
Second, either you work to maintain your earned righteousness by obeying the law in all its parts, or you receive the Holy Spirit to help you walk in love for him and love for your neighbor, which fulfills the law (Rom. 13:8-10).
Choose the second one.
The first bottom line is about salvation.
The second bottom line is about sanctification or becoming like Christ.
Salvation and sanctification are distinct, but linked.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.
Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.
Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.
Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.
Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.
Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.