Pisidian Antioch, Paul's Sermon & the Reaction, Part 3, Section 2
by John Lowe
41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish
In the present context, the threat seems to be that God would once again have to bring judgment upon His people if they failed to accept the mercy and forgiveness now offered to them in Jesus. If they continued in their rejection, they would be rejected. Here the “despisers” (scoffers), which Paul may have observed in the congregation were in danger of final judgment on unbelief. Unbelief ruins many—those that will not “wonder” and be saved, shall “wonder, and perish.”
For I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
Having begun his appeal with an invitation, Paul concluded with a warning. Here, at the end of his message, is the apostle’s appeal for them NOT to reject the message, for to do so would expose them to the doom foretold by the prophet Habakkuk—“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5)—which originally had warned Israel of King Nebuchadnezzar’s rise to power and the threat of an invasion from Babylon if the nation failed to repent. But the warning proved to be fruitless against the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans and the Babylonian captivity. In Habakkuk’s day, the “work which” God was doing that “ye shall in no wise believe” was the raising up of the Chaldeans to chasten His people, a work so remarkable that nobody would believe it, even if he told them in advance. After all, why would God use an evil pagan nation to punish His own people, sinful though they might be? God was using Gentiles to punish Jews! But the wonderful work in Paul’s day was that God was using the Jews to save the Gentiles!
Paul had a warning for them from God, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days.” It might have referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, but it would also include God’s eternal judgment of those who reject His Son.
It is remarkable how quickly Paul’s warning came to bear. In Part 4 of this lesson, Habakkuk’s prophesy was once again fulfilled—among the Jews of Pisidian Antioch as they rejected the words of Salvation. God did something they would never dream of—He turned to the Gentiles.
1 Throughout Luke-Acts, the work of Christ is described in terms of the forgiveness of sins. It is very much involved in Paul’s whole idea of justification.