Acts 13 – 2019-09-13
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- CHAPTER 13 COMMENTARY
v.1: The list of prophets and teachers ‘symbolized the ethnic and cultural diversity of Antioch,’ a city with a ‘cosmopolitan population.’ Barnabas is mentioned first, possibly because he was the leader of the group. He was a Jew from the Jerusalem church but was originally from Cyprus (4:36), an island west of Palestine. Simeon is a Jewish name, but he is called Niger, meaning black. […] Bruce suggests that Niger was a ‘descriptive addition, given to him perhaps because he was an African.’ Lucius was from Cyrene, which was in North Africa (present-day Libya). […] Manaen is a Jewish name. The NIV translates syntrophos as ‘has been brought up with’ Herod the tetrarch, but it means foster brother or close friend from childhood.”
v.2: “The spirit directed Barnabas and Saul to be set apart for reaching the lost. As we noted above, these were the top leaders of the church, and the young church in Antioch presumably had many needs. But when God calls, we must release even those we consider the most important and valued persons.”
v.9: “From this point on Saul was called Paul. In those days nearly all Jews had two names. One was a Jewish name, by which they were known in their own circle; the other was a Greek name, by which they were known in the wider world. Sometimes the Greek name translated the Hebrew. So Cephas is the Hebrew and Peter the Greek for a rock; Thomas is the Hebrew and Didymus the Greek for a twin. Sometimes it echoed the sound. So Eliakim in Hebrew becomes Alcimus in Greek and Joshua becomes Jesus. So Saul was also Paul. It may well be that from this time he so fully accepted his mission as the apostle to the Gentiles that he determined to use only his Gentile name. If so, it was the mark that from this time he was launched on the career for which the Holy Spirit had marked him out and that there was to be no turning back.”
vv.38-43: Following the exposition of the Christ event is an offer of forgiveness (v.38) and justification (v.39). Verse 39 contains ideas that are typical of Paul’s letters: belief, justification, and the inability to be justified by the Law of Moses. Stott adds to these references some others from elsewhere in the speech: death on the tree (v.29), sin (v. 38), and grace (v.43). After pointing out that Paul was addressing Galatians here, Stott observes that theses ideas provided the foundation stone to his letter to the Galatians, which he would write a few months later.”
vv.44-45: “Evidently the “God-fearing Gentiles” who had heard Paul’s sermon the previous Sabbath had understood that the salvation he proclaimed in Christ included them. The word has spread like wildfire through the Gentile populace, and they were there en masse. The Jews were filled with jealousy and began to speak abusively against the things Paul was saying, perhaps even blaspheming the gospel itself (v.45) The reason for their sudden change in receptivity was evident: their “jealousy” was over the presence of all these Gentiles. It was one thing to proclaim the coming of the Messiah to the Jews. It was quite another to maintain that in the Messiah, God accepted the Gentiles on an equal basis. To them this was little short of blasphemy, and Paul’s witness to them was over.”
vv.46-48: “Paul and Barnabas responded “boldly” (v.46). […] Paul had to focus his attention on those who were receptive—the Gentiles. Since Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled God’s promise to the Jews, it was essential to proclaim the gospel to the Jews first (Romans 1:16, 2:9-10). But the Jews in Antioch had rejected the eternal life that is to be found in Jesus, and Paul had to turn to those who were “worthy” (v.46). Paul backed his decision to turn to the Gentiles by quoting Isa 49:6, an Old Testament text that was “programmatic” for the Christian mission in Acts (Acts 1:8;26:23; cf. Luke 24:47). The text of Isaiah, a “servant” passage, originally envisaged Israel’s destiny as being that of a witness to God to all the nations of the world. As Servant-Messiah, Jesus fulfilled this divine destiny. He was to be “a light to the nations.” Now, the messengers of the Messiah are likewise commanded to be “a light for the Gentiles” (v.47). The Jews of Pisidian Antioch could not accept a messiah who embraced the Gentiles. In rejecting Paul’s witness to the Gentiles, they thus rejected their Messiah as well. […]
One could view the present statement as definitive: Paul would no longer turn to the Jews: he would now witness only to the Gentiles. Such was not the case. In the very next city on his missionary itinerary he would again begin his witness in the synagogue (14:1). Again and again he experienced the rejection of the Jews and turned to the Gentiles of that town. But he never gave up on his fellow Jews (cf. 28:17-28).”
 Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998),373
 Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998),381
 William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), 100
 Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998),387
 John B. Polhill, Acts (Nashville, TN:Broadman Press, 1992), 306-307
 John B. Polhill, Acts (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 308
Acts 13:1-12 (ESV)
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
- Study Questions: Acts 13:1-3
- What is notable about the Antioch church’s leadership from this passage?
- How did God set apart Barnabas and Saul for his work? What false notion regarding “God’s calling” does this passage correct?
- Why was Apostle Paul so harsh with Bar-Jesus (Elymas)?
- Who or what functions like Elymas today? Are there any such forces or people in my life?
- What are some ways this passage applies to my efforts to share the gospel with seekers?