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Acts Chapter 13, verse 33b
As it is written in the second Psalm:
“‘You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.’
By quoting Psalm 2:7, Paul was saying the same thing he later wrote in Romans 1:4: that Jesus Christ our Lord “was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.” Jesus is God’s Son from eternity who came and took on our human nature. God acknowledged Jesus as his Son by raising him from the dead.
Acts Chapter 13, verse 34
The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words:
“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
Paul quoted Isaiah 55:3 to show that the promises made to David would be fulfilled in the Messiah. He was quoting the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Our NIV text of Isaiah 55:3 has the same meaning, but it does not use exactly the same words because it is translated directly from the Hebrew original. In this case Paul found the Septuagint wording more suitable for making his point.
Acts Chapter 13, verses 35-37
So it is stated elsewhere:
“‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’
“For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
Verse 35 is another quotation from the Greek translation. It is Psalm 16:10, which Peter had also quoted on Pentecost (2:27). Paul used it for the same purpose in the same way.
Paul’s point has been that God’s promises to David were not fulfilled to David personally but to David’s Son. David’s Son, Jesus, has been acknowledged as God’s Son, has received the blessings promised to David, and has been raised from the dead. David served God’s purpose only in his own generation, and then he died. David’s Son lives to serve God’s purpose in all generations.
What conclusion were Paul’s listeners to draw from his message? Paul told them in the beautiful gospel summary of verses 38 and 39:
Acts Chapter 13, verses 38-39
“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.
“My brothers” includes all of Paul’s hearers, Jew and Gentile, male and female. Really, it includes all who ever read or hear these words.
Because of what Jesus did, it is possible to say to everyone, “Your sins are forgiven.” Because of what he did, everyone who believes the Word of forgiveness is acquitted, declared innocent, cleared of every charge. The believer is justified already.
The Law of Moses could not acquit, declare innocent, or clear sinners of a single charge against them. It could not justify, but only press charges, demonstrate our guilt, and condemn us.
A few years later Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia: “[We] know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).
Acts Chapter 13, verses 40-41
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.’”
All this God has done through Christ. What would Paul’s hearers do? Paul concluded with a solemn warning, quoting from Habakkuk 1:5, according to the Septuagint. Habakkuk had warned the people of Judah about the invasion of the Babylonians, with all the death and misery that it would bring. Paul adapted the prophet’s words to speak of God’s final judgment on those who scoff at the good news about Christ.
God had done “something” in their days. He had sent his Son, offered him as the sacrifice for sins, raised him up, and forgiven sins through him.
“Someone,” Paul, was telling them this.
Would Paul’s listeners be scoffers and perish and never believe? Or would they accept the good news and trust Jesus for their salvation? The gospel confronts everyone who hears it with this question.
Acts Chapter 13, verses 42-44
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.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
The synagogue congregation, in general, wanted to hear more a week later. But many of Paul’s hearers, Jews and converts, did not want to wait a week for the next Sabbath service. They followed Paul and Barnabas, who urged them to keep on trusting God’s grace in Christ Jesus.
A week later the synagogue had a standing room only crowd. Not only Jews and converts to Judaism and proselytes of the gate, but other inhabitants of Antioch as well gathered to hear the Lord’s message.
Acts Chapter 13, verses 45-47
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
It was not so much that the Jews were jealous of Paul’s popularity. They were jealous for what they thought was God’s honor. They believed that Paul was wrong to say that no one can be justified by the Law of Moses, but only by Christ. They thought that this dishonored God as the giver of the Law. Paul had also thought and spoken and acted that way before his conversion. Then he had learned that God is honored when people accept his Son as the fulfillment of the law and the Savior of sinners.
God had done something, and someone had told the Jews about it. They would not believe. The gospel had been brought to them first as the people through whom God provided salvation for the world. God was willing to give them eternal life. They decided that they were not worthy of that gracious gift. They rejected it. God’s offer of mercy is always sincere, but it is possible to resist his grace.
Now Paul and Barnabas would turn to the Gentiles with the gospel. It was not that they would never preach to Jews anywhere ever again. However, they would not preach to those Jews in that city again. Gentiles believing and Jews rejecting would be a recurring event during the rest of Paul’s ministry.
Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6 from the Septuagint. The first part of that verse helps us understand the application Paul made to his hearers. The Lord addresses his Servant, the Messiah:
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.
The Lord’s Servant was to do that, and it was an important part of his work to restore and rescue God’s remnant among the Jewish people. But he would not be limited to so “small” a service:
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends
of the earth.
(NIV rendering of the Hebrew text at Isaiah 49:6)
Simeon, singing in the temple with the infant Jesus in his arms, knew that these words applied to the baby, that Jesus is the Servant of the Lord: “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). Paul realized that these words also apply to those who serve the Servant, and so he said: “This is what the Lord has commanded us.”
The good news is for the Jews, but not only for them.
Acts Chapter 13, verses 48-49
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.
The Gentiles rejoiced to hear that redemption was for them. They did not have to become Jews first in order to be God’s children.
Jews and Gentiles, “all who were appointed for eternal life,” believed the good news. They became believers by God’s doing, not because of their attitude or decision. No one but God could make such an appointment. The Jews who rejected the gospel and abused the preachers, on the other hand, did not do that because God appointed them to be unbelievers. God has never done that. They counted themselves out.
More and more people in the region around Antioch had the opportunity to hear the good news.
Acts Chapter 13, verses 50-51
But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecutionagainst Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.
The prominent women were proselytes, the kind of people who were often happy to hear and believe the gospel. Not so this time. The leading men were not necessarily the city officials. They were leaders in commerce and civic affairs. Both groups would be influential in getting the government officials to persecute and expel two traveling preachers who were upsetting the leading Jews of the community. The Jews used them for that purpose. Not mob action but legal means were used to oust Paul and Barnabas from Antioch and its environs.
To shake off the dust from the feet was a Jewish way of declaring: “I have no further responsibility toward you.” Jesus said, “But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you’” (Luke 10:10,11).
Iconium was 80 miles southeast of Antioch, a four- or five-day walk. (See map on page 293.) It was an important city in the central plain of Galatia.
Acts Chapter 13, verse 52
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
The preachers were driven out of town, but the believers remained. Theirs was a joyous faith, and their lives were controlled by the Holy Spirit. On the way back to Antioch in Syria after their first mission tour, Paul and Barnabas would stop to strengthen and encourage the disciples at Pisidian Antioch (14:22).
Events in Iconium followed a pattern similar to what had happened in Pisidian Antioch.
Acts Chapter 14, verse 1
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.
“A great number” could include several hundred people. This was not the result of a single visit to the synagogue. The work in Iconium continued for a considerable time. The Gentiles included people who were not proselytes. What made the preaching of Paul and Barnabas so effective was the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit, who works through the gospel.
Acts Chapter 14, verses 2-3
But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.
The missionaries’ response to the destructive opposition of the Jews was to spend more time and speak more boldly for the Lord. They could speak boldly because their faith and their message were based on him and his salvation. The Lord enabled them to do miracles that pointed to the truth of the message. Hebrew 2:4 tells us, “God also testified to [this salvation] by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
Acts Chapter 14, verse 4
The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.
Here for the first time in Acts, Paul and Barnabas are called apostles. The Twelve were apostles, men who had been with Jesus during his ministry, who had seen him alive from the dead, and who testified to his resurrection. Paul was an apostle who saw the risen Christ on the road outside Damascus, and the Lord called him to be a witness to the resurrection.
In what sense was Barnabas an apostle? Since he is coupled with Paul here, he must have qualified by seeing the risen Savior during those 40 days between Easter and the Lord’s Ascension. There was one occasion when Jesus was seen by more than five hundred disciples; Barnabas was very likely one of those witnesses. Some scholars think that he was one of the two with whom Jesus walked and talked on the road to Emmaus.
It is clear from Luke’s use of the word that he did not limit the number of apostles to 12.
Acts Chapter 14, verses 5-7
There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the good news.
This was not legal action as in Antioch, but mob action. The people actually made the attempt to mistreat and stone the apostles.
Someone warned Paul and Barnabas, and the plot on this occasion misfired. Some of the same people would try again at another time and place, with somewhat more success (14:19).
Jesus had instructed his disciples, “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another” (Matthew 10:23). The work of evangelizing Iconium was done, and the apostles fled.
The apostles turned a desperate emergency into an opportunity. They kept on preaching the gospel but in a new area. Lycaonia was a region within the province of Galatia. Lystra was about 18 miles southwest of Iconium. The location of Derbe is uncertain since it no longer exists. It is probably beyond Lystra, since it was visited after Lystra. (See map on page 293.)
In Lystra and Derbe
Acts Chapter 14, verses 8-10
In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
The man’s condition seemed hopeless. The Holy Spirit, who did not move and direct the apostles to heal every illness, had his reasons for moving Paul to act and speak as he did here.
The man’s faith did not accomplish this healing or contribute to it. Faith accepted what God was doing.
Acts Chapter 14, verses 11-13
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
The Lycaonian people were like many other conquered races, in at least one respect. They learned the language of their conquerors, but among themselves, and especially when they were excited, they spoke in their native tongue.
The healing of the crippled man so impressed them that they were ready to worship Paul and Barnabas as divine. The gods of pagan mythology had come to earth in many forms, including human. What the Lycaonians shouted simply agreed with their beliefs.
Zeus was the chief god of the Greek collection of gods. That they called Barnabas “Zeus” might indicate that his appearance was more impressive than Paul’s. But they may have called him that because they expected Zeus and Hermes to appear together, and they had already decided that Paul was Hermes, the chief messenger of the gods. That judgment was based on the fact that Paul was the chief speaker of the two.
The Lycaonians expected Zeus and Hermes to appear together because of a local legend. The story was that an elderly couple, Philemon and Baucis, had entertained the two gods without recognizing who they were, whereas the townspeople had rejected them. The people of Lystra did not want to repeat that mistake. And so the priest and the people were ready to offer sacrifices to Barnabas and Paul. Zeus was the protector of their city, and they must not offend him by failing to recognize him.
Acts Chapter 14, verses 14-18
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
The apostles tore their clothes to express their disapproval of what the pagan priest and the crowds were doing. The heathen may not have understood that their actions were blasphemous, but Barnabas and Paul wanted to reject their sacrifices in the most vivid way.
The apostles were messengers, not gods. Their message was the good news. They called on the people to repent, that is, to turn from idols and idolatry to worship the Creator of the universe.
The living God had not immediately punished the idolatry of those nations that worshiped false gods. Ultimately he will destroy every idolatrous people and punish every unbeliever. He bides his time, letting a nation’s corruption run its course.
Through thousands of years God preserved the various gentile nations by regulating the seasons and granting the harvests. This was to be a testimony to his kindness and his power. The Gentiles’ response had been to make gods for themselves. Even that day at Lystra, it was difficult to turn them from the superstitious act they intended to perform.
Acts Chapter 14, verse 19
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.
Those Jews who came from that distance must have really hated Paul and his message. They turned a crowd that had brought bulls and wreaths for sacrifice into a lynch mob. It was an ugly scene, and the apostle suffered a terrible battering. He was left for the carrion birds and animals to dispose of.
Acts Chapter 14, verse 20-21
But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up andwent back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples.
Years later, as a prisoner of Rome, Paul wrote to Timothy: “You . . . know . . . what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Timothy 3:10,11). The enemies of Christ did their best to kill Paul. They left him for dead. The Lord still had agreat deal of work for his servant to do, and he preserved Paul’s life.
It is remarkable that Paul survived a stoning and more remarkable that he was able to travel the next day. It is most remarkable that his brutal treatment and brush with death did not deter him from continuing to preach the gospel. The Lord gave a generous harvest of disciples in Derbe.