Acts 13: 13-52

Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:

“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,

“‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you.’

And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,

“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’

Therefore he says also in another psalm,

“‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:

“‘Look, you scoffers,
be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Understanding And Applying the Text

Luke records John Mark left the team after their success on Cypress. The reason was not given. Luke only states John returned to Jerusalem. We know later this was the cause of a dispute between Paul and Barnabas.

When they left Cyprus they came to Perga in Pamphylia. This was a poor Roman province on the South coast of modern-day Turkey. It was 5 miles inland. Then they arrived at Antioch in Pisdia. This is a different Antioch from where the missionary journey began.

On the Sabbath, the team went into the synagogue. The Sabbath was set aside for worship. It was not a time for sluggishness. They entered the synagogue and sat down. That is, they were part of the congregation. They went to the synagogue to worship.

In the 1st century Jewish synagogue, it was customary to read the Torah (law) and prophets. After the reading, men would give an exhortation from the scriptures. Since Paul was a visitor they asked him if they had a word of encouragement. Paul stood up and said, why yes I do. He then presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Notice the law and the prophets came before Paul presented the Gospel. Things don’t make sense without context. For the Gospel to make sense, it needs the context of the law.

Paul did not speak out of order. He did not interrupt the service. They asked him if he had a word of encouragement. And he did.

Paul addressed Jews, Jewish converts and the God-fearers. “You who fear God,” was a technical term for God-fearers. God-fearers were Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel. Many kept the Mosaic law. But they did not take the final step of circumcision to become a proselyte to Judaism.

He called them all brothers. They were all true Israelites.

Paul recounted Israel’s history. He reviewed the benefits and grace God had shed on Israel. God had shown them grace despite their sins. God “put up with them” for forty years.

God chose the Israelites. They did not choose God. They rebelled against God. Yet, God was faithful to them. Paul’s teaching was not new. He did not turn them away from the Mosaic law. Paul did not preach a new or unknown God.

Paul referred to the destruction of seven nations. This was a reference back to Deuteronomy 7:1-2. There God outlined the seven nations. Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These were the nations God remove from the land.

There is debate over what 450 years covers. It could include the years in Egypt, the conquest of Canaan, and the distribution of the land. Some connect it to the period of the judges. But, this conflicts with 1 Kings 6:1. So that is doubtful.

After God gave Israel the land, Judges ruled Israel. When Samuel was old, he appointed his sons as judges. But they were corrupt. So Israel asked Samuel for a king. They wanted a king like everyone else. (1 Samuel 8:1-5)

They rejected God as their king. They wanted a human king. It showed they were unworthy to have God as their king. Yet God never abandoned them. God kept His promise. He kept His word even when Israel did not keep hers. This review of Israel’s history should give us comfort. It assures us of our salvation. God never abandons those He has chosen. He will not turn His back on us. Even when we commit treason against Him.

God set Saul over Israel as king. Saul was not the ultimate King. He was not the man God wanted to reign over Israel. Why then did God appoint Saul? David was not yet of age. Saul was a place holder. Saul could have been a great king. He could have allowed God’s choice to reign after God prepared him. But Saul allowed jealousy to rule him. So Saul’s reigned ended in battle. Rather than in peace.

We must realize sometimes God replaces us. God may use us for a time in a role and then remove us. God may not remove us because of our abilities or inabilities. God may remove us because that is His plan. In this passage, we see other examples besides Saul, and David, There is John Mark and John the Baptist. And we see different reactions to God’s action.

God removed John Mark from the missionary team. He left and went to Jerusalem. Paul thought John Mark abandoned them. (Acts 15:13) But God had other plans for John Mark. God had him write the Book of Mark. When he tried to rejoin the missionary team it split the team. But writing the Gospel of Mark had a greater impact then Paul or Barnabas could imagine.

John the Baptist stepped aside when Jesus appeared. John knew his role. He did not allow jealousy to get in the way. He knew his job was to prepare the way then step aside.

Saul did not understand his role. When David was ready to be King God removed Saul and appointed David king. God established David’s house to reign forever. Jesus came through David’s line.

God said, “I have found in David, the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” How could God say that when David sinned so? There are two answers to that. First, God referred to the totality of his life. Second, David was not righteous by his merit. His righteousness came from Christ. There is no doubt David deserved death. His sin against Bathsheba and Uriah was great and deserving of death. (2 Samuel 11:1-27). From that unholy marriage, Solomon was born. That was the line from which Jesus came. David’s sin was grievous. Yet because he followed God throughout his life, God praised him. He showed himself obedient to God. God is indeed merciful.

Verse 22 says God raised David. Paul engaged in a little wordplay. The expression “raised up” refers to bringing someone onto the scene of history. (Verse 22) It parallels Jesus’ resurrection, whom God “raised up.” (Verse 30)

Through David, God sent Israel a savior, Jesus. God fulfilled His promise. Not only did God send a savior, But He also prepared the path for Him. He sent John the Baptist.

Most men thought of John as God’s prophet. Paul spoke to the congregation as if they already knew about John. John was well known. He was better known than Jesus.

John’s message was a message of the baptism of repentance. The law had provisions for baptisms or washings which were exercises of repentance. But John’s message was of a strange baptism. John called it the baptism of repentance. In doing so he did not intend to suggest it was a remission of sins. He did not say there was no need for remission of sins. Rather he spoke in the circumstance of the time. His baptism was a preparation for faith in Christ.

John never claimed to be Christ. He said he was not the Christ. The Christ would come after him. John even abased himself by saying he was unworthy to untie the shoes of the Messiah. He did not want his popularity to cast a shadow over Christ’s glory. He wanted to do only what God charged him with doing. He desired that Christ have the preeminence.

Paul addressed more than Jews alone. He addressed all who feared God. God has sent the message of salvation to all. Who would believe? While this passage contains much comfort. It also contains much to fear. The next part should cause a shiver to go down our spines.

Those who lived in Jerusalem and their rulers put Christ to death. They did this despite the fact they knew the law. They knew the prophets. But knowing the law and prophets did not help them recognize Christ.
They knew the law and prophets but they did not understand them. That is what is scary.

There is a difference between knowing and understanding. On judgment day they are not going to be able to say “We didn’t realize Jesus was the Christ.” They knew. But they did not understand. The fact the rulers knew the scriptures but did not understand them ought to scare us to death. Pray that not only will you know the scripture but you understand them. The words of scripture are worthless to us unless there is a fear of God in our hearts. The rulers heard the words but did not understand them.

Some may claim the Jews fulfilling the scripture ought to excuse them. They behaved according to what they understood. The Jewish rulers are without excuse. Their will was wicked. As Joseph told brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20) They must answer for their actions. Not for what God caused to happen from their actions. They found Jesus guilty of nothing. Yet they brought Jesus to Pilate for crucifixion.

The congregation needed to understand Jesus was guiltless. Jesus’ death would have no justifying benefit if He were guilty of any sin. Pilate put Jesus to death not as an act of justice but of expedience. When Christ died all the prophecies about Him were fulfilled.

Christ was dead and buried. But He did not stay dead or buried. God raised Him. His enemies had placed guards at the tomb. This was to ensure the Jesus’ disciples did not steal the body. They were aware Jesus said he would rise after three days. (Matthew 27:63)

Jesus’ burial place was well known. There was an empty tomb. That was easy to verify. And Christ appeared to a lot of people at different times. And He appeared in different places.

We must set the glory of the resurrection against the shame of the cross. The empty tomb along with witnesses and the prophet’s testimony proved the resurrection.

Christianity is the only religion that can be proven false. Find the body and it is proven false. Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.

Paul concluded the history lesson by answering the question, “So what?” The so what is because of all God had done Paul brought the good news. God has fulfilled His promise to the fathers of Israel. This was not a new religion. It was a fulfillment of the law and the prophets.

Paul explained the law and the prophets all pointed to Christ. God fulfilled His promise by raising Jesus from the dead. If Christ had remained dead, he would not have been the true Son of God. If Jesus had remained dead the covenant God made with David was still unfulfilled.

God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus will never die again. His body never saw corruption. And He will never see corruption. He lives eternally.

Paul’s referenced the Psalms. It points out the promise to not let the Holy One see corruption is not a reference to David but Jesus. David’s corpse rotten in the grave. That is, he saw corruption. Jesus’ body did not decompose. It did not start decomposing. Jesus did not see corruption.

Paul had outlined how Christ purchased salvation. Next, he presented the benefits of what Chris had done. It is through Christ’s work we have forgiveness of our sin.

After he recounted how God fulfilled His promises. Paul stated in clear unambiguous terms Jesus brought forgiveness of sins. Christ’s death freed us from the things the law could not. This is a gift to all who believe.

The law points the sinner to Christ. (Gal. 3:24). “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16). When Christ justifies us, God declares us righteous. (Rom. 3:21, 22), Though Christ, we are granted forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7).

Paul then warns his hearers. They were to take care not to let what the Prophets said to be true about them. “Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.”This is from Habakkuk 1:5. The irony in the phrase “even if one tells you.” Paul had now told them. The warning is to believe or face the peril of scoffers whom God will judge. The parallel from Habakkuk is this. Israel failed to see how Babylon’s rise to power meant judgment for them.

When Paul finished, the people wanted more. They begged Paul to tell them more on the next Sabbath. Many of them even followed Paul and Barnabas out of the synagogue. They encouraged Paul et al. to continue in the grace of God. That is, to adhere to the Gospel or Christian faith. Many trials awaited them.

It would appear the news of the Gospel had spread throughout the town. The next Sabbath the whole town turned up at the synagogue. They wanted to “hear the word of the Lord.” “The word of the Lord” is a technical expression in Old Testament literature. It refers to a divine prophetic utterance. In other words, they came to hear the word God gave Paul and Barnabas.

The attention the missionary team got filled the Jews with jealousy. They began to argue and contradict the Gospel. Paul and Barnabas spoke stronger.

They then incited women and city leaders against the missionary team. When we preach sound doctrine, the wicked become more and more violent.

They threw Paul and Barnabas out of the town. But the Gospel spread throughout the region. Wicked men may try to foil God’s plan but they cannot. Paul and Barnabas shook the dust of the town off their feet. This was a sign of cursing the town. The disciples left filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

This text is not a common text to support the doctrine of election. Nonetheless, here it is. Verse 48. “…and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Notice the order. Those who were appointed to eternal life believed. It is not those who believed were appointed to eternal life.

Let’s examine this from both sides.

Those who affirm the doctrine of election see this a clear affirmation of the doctrine. God had chosen these people beforehand, and now through conviction and repentance (11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25) brought them to faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8). Luke uses the passive voice (“were appointed”), indicating that God is the agent. Only God grants eternal life (Matt. 25:46; John 10:28; 17:2). Reformation Study Bible

Therefore either all were not appointed to everlasting life, or either all believed, but because all did not believe, it follows that certain ones were ordained: and therefore God did not only foreknow, but also foreordained, that neither faith nor the effects of faith should be the cause of his ordaining, or appointment, but his ordaining the cause of faith. -Geneva Commentary

How do those who deny the doctrine of election handle the text? John Wesley is the best known and most respected commentator.

St. Luke does not say fore – ordained. (Wesley is using the KJV translation) He is not speaking of what was done from eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the Gospel. He is describing that ordination, and that only, which was at the very time of hearing it. During this sermon those believed, says the apostle, to whom God then gave power to believe. It is as if he had said, “They believed, whose hearts the Lord opened;” as he expresses it in a clearly parallel place, speaking of the same kind of ordination, Act 16:14, &c. It is observable, the original word is not once used in Scripture to express eternal predestination of any kind. The sum is, all those and those only, who were now ordained, now believed. Not that God rejected the rest: it was his will that they also should have been saved: but they thrust salvation from them. Nor were they who then believed constrained to believe. But grace was then first copiously offered them. And they did not thrust it away, so that a great multitude even of Gentiles were converted. In a word, the expression properly implies, a present operation of Divine grace working faith in the hearers. -John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible

Lets translated Wesley into modern language and test it against itself.

Wesley is doing a lot of grammatical gymnastic to reverse the order. According to Wesley they were appointed because they believed. But the text say those who were appointed believed. Sorry Johnny I think you got this one wrong.

This happens even to the most Godly of men. It happens when you come to the scripture with a predetermined doctrine. Let the bible determine your doctrine.

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