ACTS - CHAPTER 13: 5-52 - A LIGHT TO THE GENTILES
ACTS -Chapter 13: 5-52- A Light to the Gentiles
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
May 3, 2022, the Year of Our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
In our last study, “Paul, An Apostle,” we used Acts 13:1-5 as the introduction to the message of the activation of Paul’s apostolic ministry by the utterance of the Holy Spirit and the laying-on-of-hands by the presbytery of the church at Antioch.
This week we begin with Paul and Barnabas accompanied by John Mark as their assistant, preaching in Paphos, Cyprus, the capitol and a coastal city in Southwest Cyprus. John Mark is a cousin to Barnabas.
Cyprus was the native home of Barnabas. His knowledge and contacts would be useful. There were numerous Cyprian Jews (who had become Christians) who fled to the island to escape the Jerusalem persecutions (Acts 8:4; 11:19). Cyprus is 60 miles by sea from the port of Seleucia (Syria). Cyprus was a Roman province managed by a proconsul.
They found a Jewish population large enough to require a number of synagogues. The island consisted mostly of Greeks and Phoenicians, but there were many Jews there as well. Since Paul was a rabbi, the synagogues were open to them. Announcing the good news of Jesus to the Jews first became the standard procedure in Paul’s missionary pattern.
13: 6-8: When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
It is 400 miles from Salamis, Cyprus to Paphos, Cyprus, which is the length of the island. Moving steady westward preaching the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ at each town and village. By the time, they reached Paphos, their preaching and reputations were well known and the Roman governor sent for them to hear the Word of God.
In the governor’s entourage was an unscrupulous Jew name Bar (son of) Jesus (Joshua or Savior) who apparently served as the court magician. Elymas means “wise man.” This man was a spirit-medium who claimed supernatural power. As a Jew, Bar-Jesus would have been aware of the O.T. prohibition of all forms of sorcery (Lev. 20:27). The “false prophet”/sorcerer was the first recorded opposition to the missionaries on this trip.
13: 9-11: Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “O’ full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? Now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” Immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
His name meant “son of Jesus,” but Paul recognized him as the “son of the devil.” We can’t be nice to demons. Satan’s man, Elymas, did his best to keep the governor from listening to the gospel. We see a head-on collision between a Spirit-filled apostle of the Lord and a Satan-filled enemy of the gospel. Paul made a direct assault upon the powers of darkness. Blindness upon the sorcerer records the only punitive miracle recorded of the apostles.
13: 12: Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Some ask the question was the proconsul saved? My Bible says he believed! Believe means believe! Unearthed Greek inscriptions confirm the historical accuracy of Luke’s statement that Sergius Paulus was indeed the governor during the mid-first century. Sir William Ramsay found indications that members of the family later became prominent Christians in Asia Minor*.
13:13-14: When Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia, and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. When they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia…
It is 90 miles across the Mediterranean Sea from Paphos to Perga, a sea port of Asia Minor (Turkey). The missionary party is now identified as Paul and his companions.
Luke does not give us the reason for John Mark’s return to Jerusalem, therefore, I will not presume some of the assumptions which are only theories. If you have a theory, I won’t debate with you. It is clear in Acts. 15:38 that Paul considered it a dereliction of duty that John Mark abandoned the work and returned to Jerusalem.
There is not the slightest hint in Luke’s story that Paul fell sick in Perga and decided to get to a healthier climate of the interior. The crossing of the Taurus mountains on to Pisidian, Antioch would have been a difficult undertaking for a sick man. Galatians 4:13 attributes the evangelization of the Galatians to a sudden change of plans due to serious illness, whereas it is precisely at this point in the Acts narrative that Paul comes to the forefront as a leader and decided to get to Pisidian, Antioch because it was an important road junction. We now have two Antiochs in our story. It was the chief civil and military center of that part of Galatia. Paul was particularly anxious to evangelize the Roman colonies strung out along the imperial roads. This Antioch is one of the principal churches to which Paul addressed his Galatian letter. The Roman roads were part of the sovereign plan of God to spread the Gospel “to the world.” God used the Romans to build His roads.
“Pisidian Antioch was a city in the Turkish Lakes Region, which was at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolian regions, and formerly on the border of Pisidia and Phrygia, hence also known as Antiochia in Phrygia.”
Gal. 4:13: You know that because of physical infirmity, I preached the gospel to you at the first.
13:14b-15: When they came to Antioch in Pisidia, they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. 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.”
With a ready-made audience gathered to hear the Word, this was the place to start. After the reading of two Scripture passages, one from the five books of Moses, and the second from one of the prophets, the synagogue officials would ask someone to speak. We come now to Paul’s first recorded sermon.
13:16: Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:”
Paul addresses two classes of people: (1) men of Israel (Jews), (2) those who feared God (Gentiles). Division and persecution are bound to follow the preaching, but meanwhile the Messiah is presented to the Jew first and to the Gentiles in a location which is a crossroads to the “whole world.” Strategic missionary genius!
13: 17-22: The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm, he brought them out of it. Now for a time of about forty years, he put up with their ways in the wilderness. When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he distributed their land to them by allotment. After that he gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. Afterward, they asked for a king, so God gave them Saul, the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. When he had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also he gave testimony and said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will do all My will.
Paul started his sermon much as did Stephen and Peter, Paul outlined the history of God’s dealing with His people Israel. He now reaches his pivotal point, thus, introducing them to the Son of David.
13:23-25: From this man’s seed according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior---Jesus. After John had first preached before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, “Who do you think I am?” I am not He. But beheld, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.”
Sunday evening, we are studying, The Garden of God by George H. Warnock. In chapter one, page 5, He states a beautiful truth about the seed plot of the New Creation. “How wonderful to know that the old creation has become the seed plot of the New Creation, and God is the Creator of both, recognizing, of course, that the old creation has become subject to futility by reason of man’s fall. It is only after the natural instrument has served its purpose in the will of God that God removes it. Therefore, He has removed the serpent of brass, and the ark of the covenant, and the golden candlestick…and every other form of ritual, type, and shadow that belongs to a past order. But the written Word of God remains with us; and so, does the book of old creation. So, must they remain until the full glory and purpose for which they were given is manifested, and the New Creation shines forth in all its brilliance as the very expression of the thoughts and heart of God…the old creation became the fertile soil in which he would drop the seed which would bring forth the new.
Jesus Christ is the seed of David. Jesus delivered to us the New Creation of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. However, Jesus was born into the Old Creation (David’s seed). This Old Order, Old Covenant and Old Creation is what Paul just preached. John the Baptist announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.
13: 26-29: Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. Though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. When they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.
The leaders of the synagogue have just read a passage from the prophets. Luke doesn’t tell us, but perhaps since this is Paul’s emphasis, one of the scriptures just read out-loud was prophetic of the Messiah. All that happened to him was fulfillment of those prophecies which gives a detailed account of the way the Messiah would be treated when he appeared on earth.
13:30-33a: But God raised Him from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. We declare to you glad tidings---that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that he has raised up Jesus.
Paul shifts from the story of Israel’s rejection to the triumphant glad tidings of Jesus’ resurrection. Paul boldly declares the resurrection as God’s act which negated the leaders’ verdict and made possible the preaching of the good news, the incredible made credible by the reliable witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, witnessed by hundreds of people. The Lord is now giving the Jews a second chance to receive Him as their Lord. Savior and King.
13:33b-37: As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are My Son. Today I have begotten You (Ps. 2:7). He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption. He has spoken thus, “I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Isa. 55:3). He also says in another Psalm: “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psa. 16:10). David after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but he whom God raised up saw no corruption.
Now Paul does it! He has made a startling announcement! He even backs it with quotes from familiar messianic passages of the Old Testament. David’s body was still in the grave and had suffered corruption. Only Jesus rose from the dead before His body could suffer any corruption.
13: 38-39: Therefore, let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Paul’s audience receives shock after shock. At least they are still listening. He decrees forgiveness of all sins through faith in Jesus Christ. The Gentiles would be in amazement. This meant they would not have to be circumcised and become Jews to be justified in God’s sight. Paul preached faith in Jesus Christ – period. Here was a man trained under Gamaliel, telling Jews in their own synagogue, that a man crucified in Jerusalem can do for them what the Law of Moses could never do for them---make them perfect in the sight of God! Here Paul crystalized his message of grace which he later expounded in Romans and Galatians.
Neither Peter nor Stephen had hinted at such a thing as failure of the Law. This was something brand new in gospel preaching. Paul boldly says the Law of Moses is inadequate to justify a person, but faith in Christ fully justifies both Jew and gentile in the sight of God. There was mercy under the Law, but never justification. In no way could the Law make a sinner righteous.
13:40-41: Beware, therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you. “Behold you despisers, marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you” (Hab. 1:5).
Paul ends his message by warning his listeners not to turn a deaf ear to his warning. One translation says, “Behold you scoffers.” If they will not listen and if the despisers and scoffers of all generations will not listen, then they will experience divine judgment. The prophet Habakkuk warned Israel prior to the Assyrian invasion that unless they heeded God’s word, they would suffer unbelievable judgment. Similarly, Paul warns his audience that if they reject the salvation offered by Christ, they too, would experience a terrible judgment; and so, it was, in A.D. 70.
13: 42-43: When the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. When the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who speak to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
We were introduced to these folks as God-fearers. They have heard the words of life and now they want more.
13: 44-45: 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.
News of Paul’s preaching spread throughout the city. But, alas, what we as ministers of the Gospel must be prepared to face down, if we gather crowds, raise money, and the power of Christ be revealed through us, we will have to deal with the idol of jealousy and it is a mean demon.
13:46-47: 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” (Isa. 49:6).
This passage was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and to be fulfilled in His Church. It is out of obedience, rather than an offended nature, that they turn from the Jews. Christians should profit from this example. Often a long, fruitless, waste of precious time is squandered on hard hearts, unteachable people, and those who are insubordinate to God’s grace.
13: 48-52: When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. The word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
This sort of persecution is still used today. If a “move of God’ becomes a threat to the establishment and/or tradition, the leaders of those who are threatened will use the affluent to control the populace. We who preach the gospel by the leading of the Holy Spirit must set our faces like flint and never blink at any opposition. We, of course, must not be stubborn, stay humble and meek before the LORD, but we must not be swayed by popularity or social status.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
I entered into the labors of C. S. Lovett’s Lights on Acts; F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary, E. H. Trenchard; George H. Warnock, The Garden of God.
*Sir William Ramsay (The Bearing of Recent discovery of the Trustworthiness of the N.T. 1915 pp 150ff)