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Paul's Self-Perception (Acts 13)

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Acts 13


The first missionary journey
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas and Symeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene and Manaen the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 And as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said: Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work unto which I have called them. 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
   4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they were at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; they had also John to assist them. 6 And when they had gone through the whole island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of understanding. The same summoned Barnabas and Saul, and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, 10 and said: You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and all villainy, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 11 And now, the hand of the Lord is upon you and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness, and he went about seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
   13 Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 But they, passing through from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia; and they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent for them, saying: Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, speak. 16 And Paul stood up and beckoning with the hand, said: Men of Israel and you that fear God, listen.

Paul’s sermon at Antioch
   17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they sojourned in the land of Egypt, and with a high arm He led them out of it. 18 For about the time of forty years, as a nursing father He carried them in the wilderness. 19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave them their land for an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years. 20 And after these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.
   21 And afterwards they asked for a king; and God gave to them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for the space of forty years. 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, to whom also He bare witness and said: I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who shall do all My will. 23 Of this man's seed has God according to His promise raised up to Israel a Saviour, Jesus; 24 after John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was fulfilling his ministry, he said: Who do you suppose I am? I am not he! But look, there comes one after me the shoes of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.
   26 Brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us is the word of this salvation sent. 27 For they that dwell in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28 And though they found no cause of death in him, they asked Pilate to have him slain. 29 And when they had fulfilled all things that were written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead. 31 And he was seen for many days by those that came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.
   32 We bring you good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled the same to our children, in that He resurrected Jesus. As also it is written in the second psalm: You are My Son, this day have I begotten you. 34 And as for the fact that He raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken in this way: I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David. 35 Because He said also in another psalm: You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 36 For David, after he had in his own generation served the will of God, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers, and saw corruption. 37 But he whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Therefore, be it known to you, brothers, that through this man is proclaimed to you the remission of sins. 39 And through him, everyone that believes is declared righteous in all things in which the law of Moses could not declare you righteous. 40 Therefore beware, lest that which is spoken in the prophets comes upon you: 41 Behold you despisers, wonder and perish. For I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in no way believe, even if someone declares it to you.

Paul turns to the Gentiles
   42 And as they went out, they pleaded that these words might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the meeting of the synagogue was dismissed, many of the Jews and of the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas; who, speaking to them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
   44 And the next Sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul and blasphemed. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said: It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing you thrust it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so has the Lord commanded us: I have set you for a light of the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the uttermost part of the earth. 48 And as the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spread about throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews incited the religious women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them and came to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit.


13:1 Niger- probably a black brother, who was an elder in the church on the same level as Paul.

13:2 As they ministered- It is in the course of daily service to God that He invites us further in His service. The calls to service don’t come dramatically out of the blue, they are within a context of what we already are doing for God.

13:9 Paul means “the little one”. There’s no record of any specific name change, but it seems that as he began his missionary preaching, Saul changed his name to “the little one”. Humility is vital if we are to preach the Gospel. Arrogant, proud evangelists are an abomination to God. Saul, Israel’s first king, was only acceptable to God whilst he was “little in his own eyes” (1 Sam. 15:17). Paul seems to have thought on this carefully, and taken the implications to heart.

13:11 This is exactly what happened to Paul on the Damascus road. He wanted others to share his conversion path.

13:18 Nursing-father- We see here the gentleness of God as He lead His people through the wilderness. After baptism we pass through the wilderness of life towards God’s Kingdom... and God is so gentle in His leading.

13:21 God was Israel’s King, they were His Kingdom. So it grieved God that they wanted a human king, to be like the nations around them. But He made a concession to their weakness, and gave them a king. We should not be unbending, but also willing to make concessions to others’ weakness, even as God does to us.

13:25 To untie the sandals of a man was an idiom which meant ‘to be his messenger or herald’. John in this sense did untie the sandals of Jesus by preaching of His coming; but he said that he was unworthy to do that. Humility is vital for the preacher.

13:39 Declared righteous- If we are in Christ, and believe in God’s grace, then He counts us as if we are righteous, although we are not. We are clothed in His white garments at our baptism into Him. Keeping the Law of Moses [including the Sabbaths, food laws and feasts] doesn’t make us righteous; faith in Christ does.

13:45 Jealousy is a word and idea which keeps occurring in the Gospels and Acts. Opposition to us comes so often because people are jealous that we have something which they don’t have- even though they say they don’t want or need it.

13:46 Judge yourselves- The only people who will be condemned at the last day are those who have effectively condemned themselves. God’s judgment is only a confirmation of peoples’ own judgment of themselves.

13:47 Paul here quotes a prophecy about Jesus as the light of the world, and applies it to himself. All that is true of Jesus is to be true of us. If we imagine how He would be in our situation, then we have our life’s mission. He Himself taught that He personally was “the light of the world”, and yet He said that we also are “the light of the world”.

13:52 After such opposition, they were joyful! This is the unique ability of Christians, to perceive victory in defeat [the cross is the greatest example], to bring good out of bad.