I. The Story
A. Saul and Barnabas called (13:1-3)
- In our last study of Acts we saw the death of Herod because he did not stop the people chanting "the voice of a god and not of a man." Peter also escaped from prison by the miraculous work of an angel of the Lord.
- Chapter 13 begins by telling us there were five prophets and teachers in the church in Antioch. Unfortunately, we know nothing about these men except for Barnabas and Saul. While worshipping and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work which the Holy Spirit had called them. Therefore, after prayer and fasting, Barnabas and Saul are sent off to preach the gospel.
B. Confrontation at Paphos (13:4-12)
- Saul and Barnabas, along with John Mark, arrive at Cyprus and preached the word of the Lord in the Jewish synagogues. They traveled through the whole island and came to a town on the other side of the island called Paphos. Once in Paphos, they found a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus. Paphos was the capital of this Roman province. Bar-Jesus was with the man in charge of the province, the proconsul Sergius Paulus. Archaeology has found two inscriptions that has a listing of the proconsuls on Cypress, and Paulus name is on that list. This is only further evidence that the Bible is a reliable historical document.
- Paulus sends for Barnabas and Saul because he wants to hear their message about God. However, Bar-Jesus opposed Barnabas and Saul and attempted to turn Paulus from the faith. What we have is a showdown between God and the sorcerer. Then Saul, whose Roman name is Paul, looked at Bar-Jesus and said, "You son of the Devil, full of all deceit and all fraud, enemy of all righteousness! Won’t you ever stop perverting the straight paths of the Lord? Now, look! The Lord’s hand is against you: you are going to be blind, and will not see the fun for a time." Immediately a mist fell around Bar-Jesus and went around seeking for someone to lead him by the hand. Clearly God is the true and all-powerful God. Seeing this, the proconsul believed and was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
C. Teaching in Antioch of Pisidia
- Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga. But John Mark, for reasons not revealed to us, left them and went back to Jerusalem. From Perga, Paul and his companions continue on to Antioch in the region of Pisidia and on the Sabbath went into the synagogue and sat down.
- After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue asked them if they had a message of encouragement for the people to hear. Such a request was customary in the synagogues. Paul will take advantage of the opportunity. Paul preaches a sermon on the history of Israel. If you remember, Stephen also preached on the history of Israel in Acts 7 before the Sanhedin. In both cases, the audience is very aware of the history of Israel. There is no doubt that everyone in the synagogue could recite the history of the mighty works of God toward Israel. Understanding this means that we need to look for a greater reason as to why Paul is preaching such a sermon. Paul is not simply rehearsing something everyone knows. If you recall, though giving a history of Israel, Stephen emphasized the repeated rebellion and rejection of God’s servants found in Israel’s history. Let us read Paul’s sermon and see what he emphasizes about Israel’s history.
D. Lesson on fulfilled prophecy
- God fulfilled prophecy (13:17-25). I believe as you read this sermon you will find the key point to be concerning the fulfillment of prophecy. First, Paul points out that God has fulfilled his word. God led the people of Israel out of Egypt and conquered the land of Canaan. God gave the people kings, as they requested, and through king David the promise of the Messiah would be fulfilled. John the Baptist declared that One was coming after him would is the prophesied Messiah.
- The Jews fulfilled prophecy (13:26-29). The message of salvation has been sent. However, the residents of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize him as the Messiah, nor applied to him the words that are read every Sabbath. By condemning Jesus and having him killed, the Jews fulfilled the prophecy of the scriptures concerning the suffering of the Messiah.
- Jesus fulfilled prophecy (13:30-39). But God raised Jesus from the dead who appeared alive to many witnesses. By Jesus raising from the dead, this was the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Psalm 2:7, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you." Jesus was also the fulfillment of the prophecy made by Isaiah, "I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David" (Isaiah 55:3). Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy, "You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay" which could not have been fulfilled by David since he died and was buried. It is through Jesus that forgiveness of sins is proclaimed and everyone who believes in him is justified.
- You, do not fulfill prophecy (13:40-41). Now Paul gives the listeners in the synagogue of Antioch a warning that they do not fulfill the prophecy of Habakkuk, "Look, you scoffers, marvel and vanish away, because I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you" (Habakkuk 1:5). Paul calls upon them not be scoffers concerning the great work of God revealed in Christ.
- After a lesson, the synagogue service would end in a blessing or prayer. As Paul and the companions were leaving, begged them to speak again on these things the next Sabbath. The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the message. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began opposing Paul through insults.
- We have fulfilled prophecy (13:46-49). Paul and Barnabas responded to these Jews by declaring that God’s message had been spoken to them first. But since they rejected it and considered themselves unworthy of eternal life, the message is being spoken to the Gentiles. This also fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 49:6, "I have appointed you as a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth."
- When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the message of the Lord. So the message of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and had them thrown out of their district. So Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet and went on the city of Iconium.
A. Worthy of eternal life?
- Of this whole story, I was fascinated by one sentence made by Paul and Barnabas: "But since you reject it, and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles!" To reject the gospel is to consider oneself unworthy of eternal life.
- After hearing this sermon of Paul’s the point becomes very simple and clear: God has done his part by keeping his promises of sending a Messiah to take away our sins. We now can be justified from the law of sin and death. The Jews fulfilled their part, fulfilling the prophecy of the suffering Savior. They rejected Jesus as their Messiah, handed him over to Pilate who crucified him. God raised Jesus up from the dead, proving that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus did his part by allowing all these things to take place and allow the scripture to be fulfilled concerning him.
- Will we also fulfill the prophecy made about the scoffers who will not believe in the mighty and great works of God? Will we obey the Lord and receive salvation or continue to question and perish? How little or how much do we think of ourselves? We ought to think enough of ourselves to plan for our eternal destination. We make many plans in life. We plan retirements, living situations, and other such goals for the end of life. But then what will happen to us? What will become of us after these things? What will happen to you after you die? Have you made plans for eternity or have your considered yourself unworthy of eternal life?
- Instead of wondering and allowing ourselves to perish, let us use the time right now to receive justification through Jesus Christ. You may not know all the doctrine found in the scriptures. You may have doubts about what God wants you to do. You have fears that you cannot live up to the standards of the Lord. You may be unsure about God and the Bible. But these are not things to prevent us from taking care of our eternal destination. You can take care of your uncertainty regarding what will happen to you after you die: receive the grace of God by trusting your life to God and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins. The message is simple, so simple it causes others to scoff. Do not be like those who scoffed and perished. Obey today.