Through the Bible in One Year

Day 212

Acts 13:13-43

When we last left Paul and Barnabas they were in Cyprus with a man by the name of John-Mark.  While they were on Cyprus they were able to convert quite possible the first member of the nobility to Christianity.  And now today we are going to see Paul and Barnabas move on to Perga and then finally on to Pisidian Antioch.

From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”—13:13-15

The team (led by Paul) sailed to the mainland, arriving at Perga in Pamphylia, 12 miles inland.  John-Mark’s departure is expressed as a desertion in Greek.  The team then traveled to Pisidian Antioch (so-called to distinguish if from the city of the home church), and there they followed the practice of going to the synagogue first.  While modern Christians are used to a specified speaker teaching the Word, the ancient synagogue practice was different.  On the Sabbath, the leader of the synagogue, who had oversight of the spiritual health of the community, asked for a volunteer to speak.  Here, the leader asked for a word of exhortation.  This practice was ready-made for Paul to evangelize, though at times at a high cost.  Paul jumped at the chance.

Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years.

“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.—13:16-21

Paul’s address begins with the history of Israel.  As such it leads naturally to the claims of Christ, for the story line of the Bible is fulfilled only in Christ.  The 450 years (v. 20) covers the time in Egypt (400 years), the wilderness wanderings (40 years) and the inheritance division (approximately 10 years).  Paul also refers to the 40 years of King Saul’s reign (v. 21).  The text of 1 Samuel 13:1 refers to “forty-two year,” but this may be either a scribal issue or the length of time King Saul reigned until he mounted a campaign agains the Philistines.

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’—13:22-25

The next step in the story is King David.  The heart in antiquity was not the seat of the emotions, as in modern convention, but the seat of the will.  David was called a man after God’s heart because he was committed to do God’s will.  To reference David is to appeal to the promise of 2 Samuel 7:12-16 that the Messiah would come through David.  Paul next mentions John the Baptist (Acts 13:24), who prepared the way for the Messiah.

“Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.

“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 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.’

God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,

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

So it is also stated elsewhere:

“‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’

“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.—13:26-37

Paul’s recitation of the gospel is very similar to 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.  Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture.  He was declared innocent.  He was executed and laid in a tomb.  He was raised from the dead and appeared to many, who are now witnesses.  Paul expounds the Good News in a defense of the resurrection in two proofs.  First, citing Psalm 2, the resurrection was Jesus’ enthronement.  Second, the resurrection is confirmed by Psalm 16 because the Messiah did not suffer decay.

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:

“‘Look, you scoffers,

wonder and perish,

for I am going to do something in your days

that you would never believe,

even if someone told you.’”

As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.—13:38-43

In Christ, then, forgiveness of sins may be attained through faith.  Paul cites Habakkuk 1:5, warning about the consequences of not believing.  The first response to Paul’s message was positive (Acts 13:42-43).  Luke mentions Jews and devout converts (circumcised Gentiles) who wanted to hear more.

Now let’s focus out attention to Paul’s words in verse 31, “And for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.  They are now his witnesses to our people.”

A “witness” (in Greek “martus”) is “one who testifies by actions or words to the truth.”  Christian witnesses are those who confirm and testify to the spiritually saving work of Jesus Christ by word, actions, lifestyle and, if necessary, even death.  Witnessing involves seven principles:

  1. Christian witnessing is the responsibility of all followers of Christ.
  2. Christian witnesses must be missionary-minded, determined to communicate the message of Christ to all people of all cultures in all nations—to the ends of the earth.
  3. Christian witnesses speak mainly about the meaning of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, saving power and promised gift of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Christian witnesses must allow the Holy Spirit to work through them to bring conviction, that is to expose and convince them of their spiritual need.  This concerns their guilt in regard to sin against God, their need for a right relationship with him through Christ and their ultimate accountability to God.  This kind of God-inspired witness will challenge people to respond to God with faith and to accept a personal relationship with him.
  5. Christian witnesses at time will suffer.  The word “martyr” (one who dies for a cause or belief) comes from the Greek word for witness.  Discipleship involves commitment, no matter what the cost.
  6. Christian witnessing must involve separation from the ungodly practices of the world.  It must stem from a life that follows God’s standards of right and wrong (Romans 14:17) and relies totally on the Holy Spirit.  As a result, God’s presence and power will be obvious in the life of the witness.
  7. Christian witnessing is prophetic in that it involves using one’s voice to honor God through the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we see the conclusion of Paul and Barnabas’s trip to Pisidian Antioch.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

2 Chronicles 30-31, Romans 15:1-22, Psalm 25:1-15 and Proverbs 20:13-15


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