For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

13:1.  “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”

1 Co 13:8 makes it clear that prophecy was one of the temporary gifts given for use in the early apostolic age, and in 2 Pe 2:1 we read that the prophet would be replaced by the teacher.  The prophet was one who received direct revelations from God, the Scriptures having been given by such direct revelation.  The prophets didn’t necessarily understand all that was revealed to them.  Their work was simply to transmit orally or in writing what they had received from God; and when John had completed the book of Revelation the prophetic office ceased.  It was no longer needed.  All that God wished to reveal of Himself, which finite minds could grasp, is given in the Scriptures, and that is where the work of the teacher comes in.  Unlike the prophet, he does not receive direct revelations from God.  His special gift is to understand what the prophets have written, that understanding being given by the Holy Spirit; and his work is to transmit that knowledge to believers, orally or in writing.

Here it was still the Jewish age, hence the presence of the prophet, for prophecy is connected with Israel, not with the Church.  The canon of Scripture wasn’t yet complete; but the presence of the teacher tells us that it was also a time of transition.  The Jewish age was ending, and that of the Church beginning.  Jewish ordinances were still used by Jewish believers, but not by their Gentile brethren, because the millennial kingdom - in which those ordinances will be restored and will constitute the universal order of worship for both Jew and Gentile - was still being offered to Israel.  That offer ceased in AD 70, the destruction of the Temple making the Jewish order of worship impossible.  Thereafter the Gentile form of worship became the norm for Jew and Gentile alike during the Church age.  Following the rapture of the Church the Jewish order will be reinstated, for God will again be dealing with His earthly people Israel.

13:2.  “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”

“Ministered” here means that they served the Lord; and their fasting confirms that it was still the Jewish age, for fasting is not for the Church.  During this present Church age, the equivalent of literal fasting is spiritual and therefore higher: it is to give up the things of the world.

The separation of Barnabas and Saul does not in any way imply ordination in the sense in which it is used in Christendom today.  It simply means that the believers were to understand that God was taking these two servants from their midst because He now had other work for them to do.  The church in Antioch had nothing to do with this call to a new work.  It was the Holy Spirit Who called them, and His command to the believers was to recognize that fact.  Scripture knows nothing of human ordination, and the travesty which governs Christendom today is simply man’s usurpation of the Holy Spirit’s prerogative.  It is He, and He alone, Who appoints each believer his sphere of service.  Those who insist that this is the authority for human ordination, fail to realize that these two servants had already been gifted and called, and were already doing the Lord’s work.

13:3.  “And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”

Their laying their hands on Barnabas and Saul signifies nothing more than that they were thus symbolically showing their wholehearted identification with the two dearly loved brethren who were about to leave them.  It does not in any way imply the conferring of power upon them, nor does it imply that the two were under their authority.  It is to be recognized that not even elders have been given authority to direct the work of any other believer; nor does Scripture furnish any authority for the creation of a board or committee to superintend the work of any believer.

It is generally agreed that “sent them away” is better translated “let them go,” or “bade them farewell,” see the next verse.

Some insist that the hands laid on the two were those of the other prophets and teachers only, and did not include those of the elders and the rest of the church, but it seems very unlikely that the elders at least would not also have laid their hands on them.

13:4.  “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.”  

It continues to be emphasized that it was the Holy Spirit, and He alone, Who directed the activities of Barnabas and Saul.  Man had no part in it, nor can Scripture be found conferring that authority on any man, in spite of the entrenched system which has governed Christendom for almost two thousand years.

Seleucia means white light; and Cyprus, love: a blossom.  He who does the Lord’s bidding dwells in the light, and walks in the enjoyment of God’s love; and since a blossom is the forerunner of the fruit, there may be here a suggestion of the fruitfulness that attends obedient service. 

13:5.  “And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.”

It was still the Jewish age, and the millennial kingdom was still being offered to Israel, hence the preaching of the word “in the synagogues of the Jews,” even though Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.  Until AD 70, when Israel was finally cut off, the gospel must first be preached to the Jews.

John means Jehovah is gracious giver, and their having this man as their attendant or helper reminds us that all who are obedient have also the assurance of God’s blessing.  

13:6.  “And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos (suffering), they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus:” 

Where the true servant goes, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, there is light and truth in the midst of a sea of darkness and error; but the path of obedience leads eventually to Paphos suffering.  The Lord Himself declared, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” Jn 16:33. 

Sorcery points back to Satan, the source of all error, and of all persecution of those who belong to God.  Like every other false prophet, he sought to corrupt the Word - ever Satan’s method.  The world is not irreligious.  Scripture is frequently appealed to by the men of the world, but it is Scripture whose meaning is unknown to them.  His being a Jew marks him as one who claimed to belong to God.  It is significant that the strongest opposition, and bitterest persecution of believers have always come from those claiming to belong to God, e.g., Jewish persecution of Christ and the early believers; Rome, the deadly foe of the true Church. 

“Whose surname was Bar-jesus,” lit., son of Joshua Jehovah is salvation.  Here is the confirmation of what has just been noted.  The believer’s most dangerous foe is the man masquerading as a child of God. 

13:7.  “Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.”

Deputy here means proconsul or governor.  Sergius means earth-born: born a wonder, and Paulus means little, but I can’t see any spiritual significance in this name, except that the meaning earth-born describes the natural state of all men, as it is written, “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven” 1 Co 15:47.  His being prudent means that he was a man of intelligence or good sense, while his calling for Barnabas and Saul indicates that he had already heard something of what they preached, and desired to hear more.  He is a prudent man, who hearing something of God’s Word, desires to hear more, for he who truly seeks God, will find him (Isa 55:6; Mt 7:7).

13:8.  “But Elymas (for so is his name by interpretation) the sorcerer withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.”

13:9.  “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,”   

Elymas means sorcerer: wise: learned (in a bad sense).

This is the first time the apostle is called Paul, and the last time he is called Saul.  Throughout Scripture a change of name is synonymous with a change of state, e.g., Abram became Abraham, and Jacob became Israel, after they had entered into a right relationship with God.  The old name is associated with the old nature, as the new name is with the new, and it is significant that throughout his life both names were used for Jacob because he is a type of the believer subject to all the frailty of the flesh.  Jacob in fact is the name used in relation to his death, see Ge 49:33.  The flesh predominated in his life, as regrettably it does also in most of us.  Not so with Paul, however.  It is instructive to note that immediately associated with the first mention of his new name is the statement that he was  “filled with the Holy Ghost.”  Paul walked in the Spirit.  The flesh played little part in his life.  He was not just propounding a theory when he wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Ro 8:1.  (All of Romans 7 and 8 should be read carefully here).  More of God’s peace and power would be available to us if we obeyed Paul’s injunction and followed his example, as he invites us to in 1 Co 4:16, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me,” adding in 1 Co 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

13:10.  “And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” 

This is a far cry from what is being urged today.  Many would forbid the rebuke of evil, and have everything accepted in the name of love; yet strangely the proponents of this new unscriptural doctrine have no compunction about employing the harshest language to denounce those who oppose them and seek to maintain God’s order both in the Church and in the world.  Neither the Lord nor His servants minced words when dealing with evil on the part of those professing to be God’s servants, but who were in reality the servants of Satan, see Mt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33, 39.

13:11.  “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for season.  And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.”

God eventually blinds those who have first blinded themselves, e.g., Pharaoh.  There is ominous significance in its being said that “thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season.”  The darkness of all those who reject light, will also be for a season: illumination will come, but tragically too late.  The sun is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, and those who refuse to trust Him as Savior will have to meet Him as the Judge Who will banish them first into hell, and ultimately into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.  Unbelief exists only on earth.  There are no unbelievers in hell, none unenlightened in that dreadful place, but their faith and enlightenment have come too late.  They are doomed eternally.

“...not seeing the sun for a season” has also prophetic significance, for few will fail to see that in this “sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew,” who sought to keep Sergius Paulus from salvation, we are being presented with a typological portrait of Israel as she has been for the past two thousand years, and whom the Lord scathingly denounced as recorded in Mt 23:13, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”   She hasn’t “seen the sun” since the day she crucified Christ; nor will the “mist and darkness” be removed until the Tribulation judgments have brought a remnant to repentance, that believing remnant becoming the new Israel that will enter the Millennium, from which she will then pass into the enjoyment of eternal blessing.  Concerning rebellious Israel it is written, “... blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  And so all Israel (the believing remnant) shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” Ro 11:25-26.  And again in Ac 28:25-29, “And when they (the Jews) agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.  And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and  had great reasoning among themselves.”

“And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness.”  God’s judgment comes swiftly once His patience is exhausted.  “Mist and darkness” seem to imply first partial blindness, and then total.  “He went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.”  He who sought to lead others astray, was now dependent on others to lead him. 

13:12.  “Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.”   

There is peculiar fitness in that God’s judgment of the one who had tried to mislead the deputy, should be the very means of the latter’s  conversion: it was fear that impelled him.  He learned that he was dealing with the God Who will punish sin; and a truth largely forgotten today is that fear must always precede conversion, for how can a man be saved until he becomes aware that the only thing separating him from hell is the breath given by the God who commands sinners to repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior?  The lack of fear of God displayed in the disobedience of many professing Christians today raises the question as to whether they have ever been born again.

13:13.  “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos suffering, they came to Perga much earth: very earthy in Pamphylia all sorts: all tribes: and John Jehovah is gracious giver departing from them returned to Jerusalem.” 

The meanings of Perga and Pamphylia may indicate the nature of the people, not only of that city, but of the whole world.  Man in his natural state is earthy, and has no ear for spiritual things.

Since Scripture furnishes no information relative to John Mark’s reason for leaving Paul and Barnabas, and returning to Jerusalem, speculation is pointless.  It is sad, however, to learn from 15:38 that it resulted in the ultimate separation of Paul and Barnabas.  The fact that it did produce that separation makes it clear that John Mark’s departure here was against Paul’s wishes, which seems to indicate that John Mark may have been in the wrong.

13:14.  “But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch driven against in Pisidia persuasion of right, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.”

13:15.  “And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”

This Antioch in Pisidia is not to be confused with the one in Syria mentioned in 11:19,26.  Note all the references to things Jewish: synagogue, sabbath, law, prophets, etc.  The Jewish age had not yet ended. Christ, and the gospel, are just as clearly set forth in the OT as in the New, e.g., Lk 24:27 in which we read, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

God was leading here.  He provided opportunity for them to speak, and when He did, Paul had something to say.  It would we well if every one who stands up to address God’s people had something to say, for it is painfully apparent that sometimes the saints are wearied rather than edified by ministry so-called.

13:16.  “Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.” 

His standing up is symbolic.  From here on he is the prominent man in Acts as God prepares to abandon Israel and turn to the Gentiles.  “...beckoning with his hand (for silence).”  There is no point in preaching to an inattentive audience.

“Men of Israel, and ye that fear God.”  There were two distinct groups in the synagogue: Jews, and God-fearing Gentiles.

13:17.  “The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.”

Paul began by rehearsing the history of the people of Israel (a theme familiar to the audience), so that he might point them to God as the Source of life (He had “exalted the people,” i.e., multiplied Jacob’s family into a nation), and as the Deliverer, the One Who had then displayed His omnipotence by delivering them from Egyptian bondage.  As already noted, the gospel is presented in the typological language of the OT just as clearly as in the literal language of the NT.  Down through the centuries countless multitudes of spiritually enlightened men and women have been able to see in the Egyptian bondage of Israel a clear symbolic picture of the spiritual bondage in which all men are held by reason of their descent from Adam.

13:18.  “And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.”

Four, whether multiplied by ten or any power of ten, is the biblical number of testing.  As has been discussed already, those forty years in the wilderness can be divided into two parts: two years which brought them to the border of Canaan, which they refused to enter, and another thirty-eight years during which God caused that faithless generation to die out while their children, the second generation, grew up and went into the land to enjoy the blessings forfeited by the faithlessness of their fathers. 

Incidentally, the setting aside of the first, and the blessing of the second, is a principle which pervades Scripture, Heb 10:9 “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second,” e.g., Cain and Abel; Esau and Jacob; Ishmael and Isaac; Reuben and Joseph; Manasseh and Ephraim; Saul and David; Adam and Christ.  The lesson being taught is the necessity of a new birth, as declared by the Lord Himself, “Ye must be born again,” Jn 3:7.

What was hidden from those addressed by Paul that day was the truth that they themselves were about to fulfill the type.  They were being invited to accept deliverance from a bondage far more terrible than that suffered by their fathers in Egypt; and to enter into the enjoyment of better blessings than those made available to that second generation which grew up in the desert: they were being offered the blessings of millennial Canaan, and following those thousand years, eternal blessing on the new earth.  But, like their unbelieving fathers, they would not go in.  They would not believe that the Jesus they had crucified was their Deliverer, their Savior Messiah, the One Who had been willing to die for the remission of their sins, but Who had been raised again to lead them into eternal blessing, as it is written, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” Ro 4:2.

Like their fathers, they would not believe, with the result that a “second generation,” the Gentiles would believe and would inherit the blessings forfeited by their unbelief.  Christ was crucified in AD 32, and Jewish autonomy ended in AD 70: thirty-eight years corresponding to the earlier thirty-eight years which saw the old unbelieving generation die out in the desert, and a new believing one grow up.  Acts was written c. AD 60.  The thirty-eight years of Israel’s probation were almost ended, and during that time a “new” second generation, believing Gentiles, was maturing.

13:19.  “And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot.”

There were more than seven Canaanite nations, but seven, the biblical number of perfection, completeness, etc., is chosen to indicate the completeness of God’s judgment upon the Canaanites.  It was the second generation to whom the land was divided by lot.  There must be a new birth before there can be blessing. 

The assignment of each man’s possession “by lot,”  reminds us that it is God Who assigns each man his portion here on earth.  The knowledge that the assignment is impelled by perfect love and perfect wisdom ought to preserve us from dissatisfaction with the circumstances attending our lives.  They are all ordained or permitted by Him Whose will is “good, and acceptable, and perfect,” Ro 12:2. and are all accompanied by the assurance that “All things work together for good to them that love God,” Ro 8:28.

The tribes of Israel represent characteristics of believers; and the lot assigned to each represents some aspect of each believers life, e.g., Judah represents praise.  We are to be a praising thankful people.  Issachar represents service.  We are to serve God.  Simeon represents obedience.  We are to be an obedient people.

13:20.  “And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.”

The era of the judges typifies the Church age, the judges, in that context being types of the elders of the churches, but in another context, types of Christ.  That age was marked by increasing apostasy and anarchy, ending in the tyrannous misrule of Saul the usurper (type of the Tribulation-age beast ruler), which was followed by the reigns of David and Solomon during which Israel reached the zenith of her OT glory.

Samuel, meaning his name is of God, is a type of Christ, and his being the last of the judges confirms the view that the era of the judges represents this present Church age, for as noted above, that era was followed by the reign of Saul, as the Church age will be followed by the reign of the beast.

As Israel rejected Samuel, see 1 Sa 8:7, and were given the tyrant Saul, so have they also rejected the One portrayed by Samuel, and in the coming Tribulation will be given the beast, of whom Saul is clearly a type.  The Church has followed the same path.  By the blood of the true passover Lamb we have been delivered from a far more terrible bondage than that experienced by Israel in Egypt.  Physically we are still in the world as represented by Egypt; but as to our souls we walk through the world which for us has become a spiritual desert, and are just as faithless and rebellious as was Israel in the wilderness.  Spiritually we have been brought into the sphere of blessing represented by Canaan, the place which God has assigned each of us in life corresponding to the literal lots assigned Israel in Canaan, and here too we have followed in Israel’s disobedient footsteps.  We have failed to expel the enemy from our personal lives, our homes, our businesses, and our churches, having  adopted the ways of the world while giving to its gods: money, pleasure, education, etc., the worship which belongs to God alone.

13:21.  “And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis (Kish), a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.” 

The generation addressed by Paul had followed in the footsteps of their disobedient fathers.  As those fathers had rejected God, and chosen to have a man (Saul) reign over them, see 1 Sa 8:7, so did their children reject Christ and choose Caesar, see Jn 19:14-15, “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him.  Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King?  The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.”    Saul brought Israel to ruin, and it was a Caesar who brought her to ruin again in AD 70.

The apostate travesty, which today masquerades as the church, will be left on earth when the true Church is raptured to heaven, and at the mid point of the Tribulation will be brought to ruin by the beast, the head of the revived Roman empire, who will seize her wealth and arrogate her power.

Cis or Kish means a snare.  The coming beast, of whom Saul was but a type, will prove to be a greater snare, not only to Israel, but to the whole world.

Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin which was not the kingly tribe.  God’s king, as to His humanity, is descended from David, meaning beloved, who was of the royal tribe, Judah.

13:22.  “And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.”

Jesse, meaning of him who is, is linked with the verb to be, the same as the name of God I am.  As the father of David he is a type of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The true David is the Son of the One Whose conversation with Moses is recorded in Ex 3:13-14, “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto yo; and they shall say to me, What is his name?  What shall I say unto them?  And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”

But David is only a type.  There were no flaws, no failures in the life of the true David.  He alone was the Man after God’s own heart.  He alone fulfilled all God’s will perfectly.  It is He Who will “remove” (destroy) the beast at the end of the Tribulation, and Who will reign in righteousness, not only over Israel, but over the whole world, as King of Kings and Lord of lords.

(Scripture indicates that in the Millennium Christ will rule over the earth from the heavenly Jerusalem, exercising His dominion through a regent who will be a literal descendant of David, and who will occupy the throne of the earthly Jerusalem).

In the passing away of the old disobedient generation, and its replacement by the new, God would have us see a picture of His ideal for each believer.  The old I should be fading away daily, and the new man Christ, represented by David, should become more apparent, until eventually Christ only is seen in me, as it is written, “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is removed day by day,” 2 Cor 4:16, and again, “”I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me....” Ga 2:20. The ideal will not be achieved on earth, but it will in heaven.  We are predestinated be conformed to the image of Christ (Ro 8:29).

13:23.  “Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus:”

Having traced Israel’s literal history, in which spiritual minds discern clearly the typological presentation of their own spiritual experience, Paul proceeded to show them that their long-awaited Messiah, as to His humanity would be a descendant of David, and that the Jesus they had rejected and crucified was in fact that Savior Messiah.  Israel was without excuse, for all that is foretold in their Scriptures, Christ has fulfilled.

13:24.  “When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.”

John the Baptist, as the forerunner of the Messiah, preceded Him, preparing Israel for His coming and warning them of the need to repent, the baptism he enjoined being the outward sign of that necessary repentance, just as believer’s baptism today is also the outward sign of repentance and faith in Christ.  It is necessary to emphasize, however, that the saving element is not baptism, but the faith of which baptism is but the outward symbolic confession.  The reference to baptism reminds us that following conversion, we are called upon to walk in newness of life in view of entering into a heavenly inheritance. 

John’s call, like that also of Christ, was to Israel only; and here Paul continued to call them to repentance in order that they might have the long-promised millennial kingdom.   They couldn’t have the kingdom, however, without the King, and the passage of time confirmed, that as a nation Israel would not accept the King because they refused to believe that the despised Jesus Whom they had crucified was the King.

13:25.  “And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am?  I am not he.  But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.”

Each believer has also a course to fulfill.  We are to point men to Christ, and as John was willing to be nothing so that Christ might be everything, so should we.  There should be no glory-seeking for ourselves.  Each should be satisfied to do willingly his assigned task, realizing that  we are only part of a great work in which others have preceded us, and in which others will follow us.  We are to point men to the coming Christ, and while doing so are to measure ourselves, not by other believers, but by Him, leaving with Him the evaluation of our work, Ac 20:24; 2 Tim. 4:7.  This will lead us to take the servant’s proper place of obedience.

13:26.  “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.”

God was still dealing with Israel, but the phrase “whosoever among you feareth God” is the reminder that the salvation which is available to all men becomes the possession only of those who fear God.  True conversion occurs only when fear of meeting a holy God impels men to realize their need of a Savior, and leads them to put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The popular “gospel” which doesn’t induce fear, and which requires only a verbal assent to the historicity of Christ, is spurious, and will produce many professions, but no conversions.

13:27.  “For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.”

Since Jerusalem means dual peace shall be taught: lay (set) ye double peace, this reference to their dwelling at Jerusalem reminds us that like multitudes today, the Jews, clinging to a dead religious ritual, were enjoying a false peace, their religion, like all religions, putting them at enmity with God and with those who belong to Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The special mention of “their rulers” points to the truth, that not only the true elders of assemblies, but all who assume positions of religious leadership over people, have a special responsibility which will bring a corresponding measure of reward or condemnation depending on whether that leadership has been according to truth or otherwise.

“...because they knew him not” is the succinct statement of what constitutes a man’s guilt or innocence in the sight of God.  The only people who know God are those who accept His indictment that all men are sinners by birth and by practice, and who are cleansed from sin by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Others may know about God, but they don’t know Him as the savior God Who has made salvation available as His priceless gift to be received by faith in the death and resurrection of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.  Every unbeliever is guilty and condemned in God’s sight.

“...nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day” adds the further condemnation that they were without excuse, for the writings of the prophets - and they were familiar with those writings, for they were read publicly in their gatherings every sabbath day - testified of Christ, as it is written, for example in Ac 10:43, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”

The Jewish sabbath is associated with the law, and the present reference to it here, confirms that what Paul called “the Jews’ religion” (Ga 1:13-14) was an empty religious ritual divorced from faith, its spiritual significance being perceived only by the believing remnant who had the faith to recognize that all of it pointed to the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, that believing remnant being represented at the time of His birth by such as Joseph, Mary, Anna, Simeon, and others.

“...they have fulfilled them in condemning him.”  The unbelieving Jewish rulers, together with the equally faithless majority of the nation, in fact, fulfilled the words of the prophets, whose writings abound with their condemnation of Israel’s rejection of God and His Word; and the generation of Christ’s day had crowned the guilt of past generations by being the one that had actually killed the Messiah to Whom the prophets bore witness.

When man justifies himself, he condemns Christ, for  salvation is available only to the man who sees his own condemnation as being just, for until that is seen, the necessity of Christ’s death can’t be seen, so that it is considered an unnecessary, and therefore a worthless thing.

13:28.  “And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.”

The determination of the Jewish leaders to kill the Lord was so venomous that anything, no matter how unjust, would furnish cause to execute their evil desire, and in this we have demonstrated the hatred of the natural mind against God and against those who belong to Him, as it is written, “The carnal (natural) mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” Ro 8:7.  So intense is the natural man’s hatred of God that it blinds him to all sense of justice, and of right and wrong.  Even though Pilate, after an examination of the Lord, announced that he found no fault in Him, the Jewish leaders still insisted that He be crucified.  Though it may hide under the mask of religion, that same hatred of God burns in the heart of every unconverted man, just as it did in the hearts of Israel’s religious leaders; and nothing provokes the activity of that hatred as does the preaching of the plain unvarnished gospel which declares man a guilty sinner who can be saved from hell and fitted for heaven only by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

How great will be the remorse of those same Jewish religious leaders at the great white throne where they will be compelled to confess the justness of their own condemnation pronounced by the Christ Whom they unjustly condemned to die on Calvary’s cross!

13:29.  “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.”

They had had time to see that all they did to Christ was what had already been written in Scripture.   “..they took him down from the tree ... and laid him in a sepulchre.”  Christ must be buried in order to fulfill Scripture, as it is written, “He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,” (Isa.53:9), but He wasn’t buried in a malefactor’s grave, though that was undoubtedly the intention of those who had condemned Him to death.  God saw to it that the Lord’s body suffered no further indignity.  It was laid lovingly and with dignity in the tomb of the rich believer, Joseph. 

13:30.  “But God raised Him from the dead:”

God, having permitted wicked men to do their worst to His beloved Son, “raised Him from the dead,” or more correctly “from among the dead,” that resurrection demonstrating the puniness of man’s might, and the utter folly of contending with God.  The ultimate power of Satan and of men is to consign men to death, but that ability is worthless against the God of resurrection, and worthless therefore against those who have put their trust in Him.

13:31.  “And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.”

The “many days” were forty, and those privileged to enjoy His resurrection ministry were accorded the further privilege of being His witnesses, first to their unbelieving fellow Jews, and ultimately to all men, and their witness was to be to His resurrection, for that resurrection is a basic tenet of the Christian faith, see for example, Ro 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  See also 1 Co 15, the great resurrection chapter of the Bible.  It is instructive also to consider the many OT types of the Lord’s resurrection, e.g., Adam from the deep death-like sleep into which he fell at the time of Eve’s creation; Abel replaced with Seth; Isaac released from the altar; Joseph from the pit and the dungeon; the Shunamite’s son, etc.

“... from Galilee to Jerusalem.”  Galilee is always associated with the believing remnant, and Jerusalem represents peace, so that their coming from Galilee to Jerusalem speaks figuratively of the joy and peace into which believers enter as a result of the Lord’s resurrection, His resurrection being the guarantee of theirs should they come to the end of life’s journey before the Rapture.

Their being His witnesses unto the people reminds us that we too are to be His witnesses, that witness requiring not only a Christ-like life, but also a fearless proclamation of the gospel.  

13:32.  “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,”

13:33.  “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also  written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”

There has been needless conflicting teaching relative to the meaning of these two verses, much of the problem centering on the word again, which is not found in the better manuscripts, so that the correct rendering of the second clause of verse 33 is “... in that he hath raised up Jesus; as it is also written in the second Psalm....”  The promises made to the fathers were fulfilled in Christ’s being “raised up” at His incarnation, not at His resurrection, as the reference to the second Psalm makes very clear, for that Psalm says nothing about resurrection.  It was Christ’s incarnation, not His resurrection, that was the manifestation of His Sonship, the authors of the Jamieson, Faussett and Brown Commentary pointing out that, “... the apostle in Ro 1:4 regards the resurrection of Christ merely as the manifestation of a prior Sonship.”  (It is to be noted, incidentally, that the Lord’s incarnation was not the beginning of His Sonship.  He has been God’s Son from eternity).

The glad tidings were that Christ’s incarnation was the fulfillment of the promises made to the fathers, the angelic announcement on the night of His birth being, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord,” Lk 2:10-11.  See also Ac 13:23, “Of this man’s (David’s) seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a savior, Jesus.”  (Some take this to refer to Christ’s baptism at the beginning of His public ministry, but the language seems to point rather to His incarnation).

13:34.  “And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.”

The Apostle, having referred to the Lord’s incarnation in the preceding two verses, now takes up the matter of His resurrection, the words “now no more to return to corruption” meaning, not that the Lord’s body experienced corruption, but that it had lain for three days in death in the tomb, an experience which brought corruption to the bodies of all others, but not to His.

“I will give you the sure mercies (promises) of David,” David had been promised an everlasting throne and kingdom, and Isa 55:3, is the assurance that in Christ all the promises made to David will be fulfilled, for Christ, humanly speaking, was a descendant of David, so that David’s life was perpetuated in that of his greater Son, Who having died, and risen from among the dead, proved that His power was greater than that of death.  Death had prevented the complete fulfillment of all the promises made to David, but it has no such power relative to Christ, His power over death being demonstrated in His resurrection, as it is written in Ro 6:9, “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him.”

The holy and pure nature of the mercies or blessings promised to David are declared in that “sure” is better translated “holy” or “sacred.”  The eternal blessings promised to faith have the same character as the One through Whom they have been made available: they are not only eternal, but also holy.

Christ’s claim to the throne of David has a double verification.  Mary was of Davidic descent, as was also her husband Joseph, Christ’s legal father; and the eternal duration of His reign is guaranteed by His resurrection.

13:35.   “Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” 

The reference is to Ps 16:10, in which David declares, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”  In the first part of the verse David is speaking of himself relative to his soul; but in the second part, of the Lord, God’s Holy One, and the reference is to the Lord’s body, not His soul.  His  body would see no corruption.

13:36.  “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.”

13:37.  “But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.”

David during his lifetime served the will of God, i.e., through him the purposes of God were accomplished during that era; but the accomplishment related only to that brief period.  It would be through the life, death, and resurrection of David’s greater Son that God’s eternal purposes for the eternal blessing of men would be consummated.

It is instructive to note, however, that in David we have a very clear type of Christ, and in the events of his  life the foreshadowing of the greater accomplishments of Christ.  For example, in the tyrannical and disastrous reign of Saul, David’s enemy, we have a type of the rule of Satan and the reign of the Tribulation age beast, but as Saul was succeeded by David so will the reign of the beast be followed by that of Christ.  Furthermore, while David still lived he passed the scepter to Solomon under whose reign Israel was brought to the zenith of her OT glory, the type being fulfilled when Christ, having vanquished His foes in the conflict of Armageddon, will then inaugurate His millennial kingdom.  (For a more detailed look at this typological picture, see the author’s introduction to Judges Verse by Verse).

Having, in the events of his life, provided a typological foreshadowing of events still future, David died, and his body, like that of other men, “saw corruption,” that is, it returned to the dust from which it had come until the resurrection of life when it will be raised incorruptible, immortal, glorious, see 1 Co 15.

The body of Christ, the Holy One through Whom all God’s purposes will ultimately be fulfilled, did not experience corruption, because He was not of Adam’s fallen race, and therefore had no taint of Adam’s corrupt nature.

13:38.  “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:”

Israel was looking for an earthly kingdom and earthly blessings, not realizing that the better heavenly and eternal holy blessings being offered by God were only for a holy people, that necessary holiness being available only to those who would have their sins forgiven through faith in God’s Holy One, the Jesus they had despised, rejected and crucified.  And so is it with all men.  Apart from remission of sin there can be no blessing.

13:39.  “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

By God’s matchless grace that “all” goes beyond the boundary of Judaism to include also the Gentiles.  Every man who will trust in Christ as Savior is “justified from all things,” that is, he is cleared from every charge, fully acquitted, so that in Christ he stands before God, clothed  in the righteousness of God’s Holy One, as holy as though he had never sinned - and all because that Holy One was willing to be made sin so that all who trust Him as Savior might be made the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Co 5:21.

The impossibility of being justified by law keeping is emphatically declared for the warning of all who would attempt to be made holy by the futile attempt to keep a law which was given, not as a means of salvation, but to teach that man is incapable of reaching God’s standard.

Nor are sinners pardoned at the expense of justice.  The fact that every believer is justified reminds us that our pardon rests on a basis of absolute justice.  God didn’t just lower His holy standard and sweep our sins under the rug.  Sin carries with it the sentence of death, Ro 6:23, and the Lord Jesus Christ loved His Father and us enough to die in our guilty stead, thus preserving God’s moral integrity, and making possible not only pardon, but our justification, as it is written, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus,” Ro 3:24-26.  As someone has very aptly put it, “By Christ the believer is justified from all things, whereas the law justifies from nothing.”

13:40.  “Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;”

13:41.  “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”

This reminds us of what is written in Dt 11:29 relative to Israel’s entering Canaan, “... thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal,” and in Dt 27:12-13, “These same shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people.... and these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse....”  Now as a later generation of that same nation was being invited to enter into the enjoyment of the better blessings of millennial Canaan, and at the end of the Millennium, the enjoyment of eternal blessings, the pattern repeats itself: having been told of the blessings that would attend obedience, they were also being warned of the consequences of disobedience.

The quotation in verse 41 is from Hab 1:5, which records the warning of Jehovah to an earlier generation of the nation being addressed by Paul, “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.  For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans (Babylonians), that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.”  They had been warned that continued rebellion against God would result in their being carried out of the land to be captives in Babylon; and now the apostle is warning this later generation that their continued unbelief would also bring upon them the judgment of God.

That earlier generation had refused to repent, with the result that they were carried captive into Babylon; and those addressed by Paul, ignoring the warning and also refusing to repent, were also about to tread the same path of folly, for in a few short years, in AD 70 they too, rejecting blessing, inherited judgment.  The Romans slaughtered thousands, burnt their city, and led multitudes of the survivors away as slaves, the few who managed to escape, having to flee into the lands of the Gentiles, where their descendants have remained until 1948 when they were permitted to return to Palestine, that return being the evidence that God is about to resume His dealings with His rebellious, but beloved people.

The practical lesson, not just for Israel, but for all men is that repentance, coupled with faith in Christ, brings blessing; and rebellion, judgment.  Israel, refusing to believe what the prophets declared relative to the Assyrian captivity, maintained that the prediction was for a far distant future day; as did Judah relative to the foretold Babylonian captivity, nor did they grasp the terrible nature of those judgments until they actually came.  And so was it with the generation addressed by Paul.  They too failed to grasp either the imminence or the terrible character of the judgment soon to fall upon them.  All these, however, are but the foreshadowing of the awful eternal judgment to which every unbeliever is hastening, and of his disbelief both of the certainty and the dreadful eternal character of that judgment.

13:42.  “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.”

The words “the Jews,” “ of the synagogue,“ and “Gentiles” aren’t in the better manuscripts, and many understand the correct meaning to be that as Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the congregation asked them to continue the same line of teaching the next sabbath, which would indicate the impact the message had made.

13:43.  “Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”

It is clear that many of the Jews, and Gentiles who had converted to Judaism, had now, in response to Paul’s preaching, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and adhered to Paul and Barnabas who encouraged them to continue in their newfound faith to which the grace of God had brought them.

13:44.  “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.”

Nothing has such power to touch men’s hearts as the gospel preached in fellowship with an ungrieved and unquenched Holy Spirit.  The assembling of such a multitude indicates that those who had listened to Paul’s message had been actively sharing the good news with others during the week.  Such messages, and such enthusiastic spreading of the good news, are rare today, if not in fact, non existent.  Today’s polite platitudes which have largely replaced the biblical gospel will neither win converts nor stir hearts.

13:45.  “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.”

Angrily jealous of seeing the Gentiles blessed, the unbelieving Jews did everything in their power to silence God’s messengers by heaping violent verbal abuse upon them.  (The word “contradicting” is not in the better manuscripts).  Nor has it ever been different.  The Jew will neither accept the gospel himself, nor allow others to do so, as the Lord Himself declared, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in,” Mt 23:13.

Blaspheme here means to revile men rather than God, even though in reviling His servants they were reviling the Lord Himself.

13:46.  “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”

This is the first direct announcement of God’s turning from Israel to the Gentiles, but it is followed by two others.  Faced with the same opposition and blasphemy from the Jews in Corinth, Paul “shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles,” 18:6; and finally in Rome when discussing salvation with the Jews who had come to his lodging, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it,” 28:28.  This thrice repeated announcement of abandonment by God recalls a similar departure from an earlier generation as recorded in Eze 9:3, where the divine glory departed, with obvious reluctance, from above the mercy seat to the threshold of the temple; and then from the threshold to the mountain, 10:4,18; 11:23.

This self-willed rejection of the gospel by the Jews is another refutation of the error of Calvanism that some, without choice, are predestinated to be saved; and others, also without choice, to be lost.  The clear teaching of Scripture is that a man will be in heaven or hell as a result of his own free-willed choice to accept or reject Christ as Savior.

13:47.  “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”

This quotation is from Isa 49:6, “... I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles;, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth,” and the context makes it clear that this is the record of God’s words to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is He Who is the Light of the world, Who alone is the light to Jew and Gentile alike.  The evangelists are set to be a light of the Gentiles only in the sense that as heralds of the gospel they were the Lord’s representatives.

The tragedy of Israel’s rejection of Christ is that she cut herself off from blessing because her selfish spirit couldn’t bear the thought of sharing that blessing with others, even though it wouldn’t diminish her own glory, but rather bring her exaltation, for God has ordained that in the day when she is willing to share His blessing with the Gentiles, she will be set in a position of supremacy over all nations.

That it was God’s will for Israel to hear the gospel first is declared in such passages as Mt 10:5-6, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and Mt 15:24, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and Ro 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

13:48.  “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

The gospel received always brings joy.  Their glorifying it means simply that they thanked and praised God for it.

“... as many as were ordained to eternal life” has to be understood in relation to the teaching of the rest of Scripture which makes it clear that salvation is received or rejected, not according to God’s predestination, but as the result of a free-willed choice to accept or reject the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Those who believe in Him, place themselves, by that choice, amongst those who are ordained to eternal life.  Those who refuse to believe, place themselves, by that choice, amongst those who are ordained to eternal torment in the lake of fire. 

That no one is predestinated to be saved or lost is made clear by such verses as 2 Pe 3:9, “The Lord ... is longsuffering ... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” and Jn 6:40, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”

To adduce Eph 1:4 as proof of predestination to salvation is to embrace a concept which is contradicted by the clear teaching of Scripture.  That verse is simply declaring that before the foundation of the world, God foreknew those who would choose to be in Christ, they, by that choice, making themselves His chosen ones.

13:49.  “And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.”

It seems that the converts were energetic in spreading the good news, reminding us that we have the same responsibility, but sadly, not their zeal.

13:50.  “But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.” 

Hiding the evil in their own hearts under the cloak of religion, the Jews, as frequently, incited others to do their wicked work.  As they had used the Romans to crucify Christ, so  would they now use others to persecute the Lord’s servants, and if possible stop the spread of the gospel, all the while failing to realize that they themselves were but the dupes of Satan, the ultimate enemy of all that is of God.

These women appear to have been proselytes to Judaism, or near-proselytes known as God-fearers, zealously devoted to their adopted religion, and therefore easily persuaded to defend it from every imagined attack.

Further seeming legitimacy was added to their evil scheme by the support of the principal men of the city, and it isn’t difficult to see in all of this what has been true throughout the history of the Church: it is the combined power of false religion, wealth, and established government, that has always been the most formidable foe of the gospel.

They might succeed in expelling God’s servants from the territory, but theirs was a hollow victory, for left behind were those who would continue to spread the good news of salvation for all men who would confess themselves sinners and put their trust in the crucified and risen Christ, while the apostles simply moved on to spread the good news further afield.

13:51.  “But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.” 

The Lord had commanded them to shake off the dust of their feet as a testimony against those who refused them and their message, see Mt 10:14; Mk 6:11; Lk 9:5; 10:11.  It is a fateful day in the life of man or nation when God’s patience is exhausted, and He turns away, His warning being, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, Ge 6:3, and again, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Pr 29:1.

13:52.  “And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.” 

Paul and Barnabas might be taken from them, but nothing could take away the joy of these new converts who were being left behind.  Joy and the filling of the Spirit are inseparable.  Though separated from Philip, the Ethiopian eunuch, “went on his way rejoicing.”  He who has Christ has everything he needs.

[Acts 14]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough