Paul, Peerless Apostle and Prophet (4 of 15)
Focus Text: Acts 13.44-47
“But when they [Paul and Barnabas] departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” (Acts 13.15-16).
Prior to the thirteenth chapter of Acts it had been Barnabas and Saul; now it is Paul and Barnabas, Paul coming to the forefront through the efficacy of his service. What better opportunity could a couple of preachers want beyond being asked forthright to speak to a large group of people? This was the situation in Antioch of Pisidia (distinguish this from Antioch of Syria where the disciples were first called Christians; see Acts 11.35); Paul and Barnabas had an unbridled invitation to speak their convictions in a Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath day!
Paul took the lead and delivered a speech aimed entirely at convincing the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was Messiah of the Old Testament. He cited proof after proof to sustain his proposition. Not everyone believed and most likely, not even most of his hearers believed. However, so forceful was his argumentation that “…when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas.” (Acts 13.43).
“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: “I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.”’” (Acts 13.44-47). Note the reaction of the Jews to the crowds clamoring for proofs to sustain Paul’s position regarding Jesus of Nazareth; “…they were filled with envy.”
The events described in the focus text are significant in that they signal a step-change in Paul’s strategy; no longer will he and Barnabas primarily target the Jews; they turned to the Gentiles and this with good authority! Isaiah had spoken of this day (see Isaiah 49.5-9); Simeon had cited Isaiah in rejoicing over the Gospel coming through Jesus and eventually to the Gentiles (Luke 2.35-39). Peter had cited the fact of the Gentiles coming under the Gospel System by going back to Abraham and the promise that all nations would be blessed through his seed (see Acts 3.25). With his audience being entirely Jewish, Peter said, “To you [the Jews] first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3.26). Here was God’s mandate, the one which compelled Paul to turn from the Jews to the Gentiles!
Paul’s determination was to submit to the will of the Father – regardless of the cost!
1. Which Antioch is in today’s story? How is it distinguished from another famous Antioch?
2. After Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue in Antioch, who followed them?
3. How do the events in this chapter correspond with the Lord’s directions in the great commission (Matthew 28.18-20).
4. Did Paul stop entirely his preaching to the Jews? If not, what was meant by the statement that they turned to the Gentiles?
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