Pisidian Antioch, Paul's Sermon & the Reaction, Part 4, Section 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens, SC)

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

October 21, 2014

Acts of the Apostles


Part 1: verses 14-31
Part 2: verses 32-37
Part 3: verses 38-41
Part 4: verses 42-52

PART 4: VERSES 42-52


Scripture (Acts 13:42-52; KJV)

42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.



Commentary

Note: This is still the sermon preached by the Apostle Paul at Antioch of Pisidia.


42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

One of the first things Paul did when entering a new city was to go to the synagogue and preach the Gospel, and on this occasion, his audience seemed favorably impressed by what he had to say. When he finished and the service ended, they all began to leave when some in the congregation asked Paul and Barnabas to return on “the next Sabbath” and preach more of the Gospel of Jesus “to them.” At this time they did not express much interest in the Gospel, but when the “next Sabbath” arrived they would become anything except disinterested.

Some in the congregation, both Jews and “devout converts,” followed Paul and Barnabas, discussing the sermon with them and among themselves. The converts were definitely proselytes, Gentiles who had become full converts to Judaism. There were other Gentiles in the congregation who believed in and worshipped God, but were unwilling to undergo the rite of circumcision which would qualify them as full converts—“Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: "Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!” (Acts 13:16).They must have been thrilled over the prospects of a salvation without the burdens of proselytism, as well as Paul’s proclamation of the forgiveness of sins through Christ. Some of this group may have been among those who showed a keener interest in the testimony of Paul and Barnabas. These “God-fearers,” as Luke calls them, were attracted by the pure worship of Judaism, and even kept the Jewish law to some extent, that is, by observing the Sabbath. The two missionaries urged them “to continue in the grace of God,”that is, to continue down the path they had started out on, and to remain open to the grace of God. These people formed the nucleus of Paul’s converts in most of the cities he went to, since he offered them through Christ equal rights before God with Jewish believers, without the necessity of observing Jewish ceremonial law and becoming proselytes. Those who are truly saved persevere and validate the reality of their salvation by continuing in the grace of God—“The enemies left our group. They didn't really belong to us. If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by leaving they showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).


44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

When the “next Sabbath” arrived and Paul and Barnabas returned to the synagogue in response to the invitation they had received from the Jews, the situation rapidly worsened. “Almost the whole city” had gathered to hear the two Christian missionaries. Since Pisidian Antioch was predominantly Gentile, this would suggest that the Jews were considerably overshadowed by the large number of Gentiles who came to hear Paul preach the word of God. Perhaps the “God-fearing Gentiles” who had heard Paul’s sermon on the preceding Sabbath had realized that the salvation he preached was for them, and then the joyous proselytes invited their neighbors to go with them to the synagogue. The word had spread like wildfire and they responded by turning out en masse (in large amounts).

45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

The news that a powerful new message was being preached in the synagogue by visitors from Palestine brought a great crowd together, but this widespread interest had the effect of stirring up the jealous opposition of unbelieving Jews. The Jews were filled with jealousy and began to insult Paul, ridicule and disrupt his sermon, and perhaps even “contradicting and blaspheming” the Gospel itself. The reason for their sudden change in demeanor was clearly evident: they were jealous over the presence of all these Gentiles. It was one thing to proclaim the coming of the Messiah to the Gentiles. It was quite another thing to preach that God accepted both Jews and Gentiles on the same basis; faith in Jesus as Savior. To them this was blasphemy, and they could not listen to any more of Paul’s message.


46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Paul and Barnabas responded “boldly” to the taunts and accusations made by the Jews. When the expression “bold witness” is used it generally appears in contexts that emphasize the inspiration of the Holy Spirit behind the “witness,” and that is probably implied here.

Here “the word of God” includes much more than the Scriptures; it designates the proclamation of the Gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Paul was being prepared and led to a decisive turning point in his ministry. The Jews had rejected the Gospel of Christ that embraces all people without partiality, just as they had rejected Christ Himself. The Christ-rejecters showed by their attitude that they were “unworthy of everlasting life.” Paul had to concentrate his efforts on those people who were willing to listen—the Gentiles. Since Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled God’s promise to the Jews, it was essential that the Gospel was preached first to the Jews—“We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: " 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (Acts 13:32, 33).However the Jews in Antioch had rejected Paul, the Gospel message, and eternal life1 through faith in Jesus Christ, therefore Paul had to turn to those who were open to the Gospel; but then, God never planned for salvation to be an exclusive possession of the Jews (Isaiah 42:1, 6; 49:6).


47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

Paul supported his decision to turn to the Gentiles by quoting Isaiah 49:6—“he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth”—an Old Testament text that was vital for the Christian mission in Acts. This verse, in which God is speaking to the Messiah, originally envisioned Israel’s destiny of being a witness for God to all the nations of the world. As Messiah, Jesus fulfilled this divine destiny. He was to be “a light to the nations.” Today, the Messiah’s messengers are also commanded to be “a light for the Gentiles,” since they are His instruments to bring “light” and “salvation” to the nations. The Jews of Pisidian Antioch could not accept a Messiah who accepted and welcomed the Gentiles. By rejecting Paul’s witness to the Gentiles, they for all intents and purposes, rejected their Messiah as well.

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