Acts 13

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Acts 13

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The Bible Exposition Commentary. 1

The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 1

Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines. 1

The Bible Exposition Commentary

Antioch in Syria—Decision (Acts 13:1–5)

That sainted missionary to India and Persia, Henry Martyn, once said, “The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.” Paul (Saul) and Barnabas had that experience as they ministered in Antioch and were called by the Spirit to take the Gospel to the Roman world.

Until now, Jerusalem had been the center of ministry, and Peter had been the key apostle. But from this point on, Antioch in Syria would become the new center (Acts 11:19ff), and Paul the new leader. The Gospel was on the move!

Luke listed five different men who were ministering in the church: Barnabas, whom we have already met (Acts 4:36–37; 9:27; 11:22–26); Simeon, who may have been from Africa since he was nicknamed “Black”; Lucius, who came from Cyrene and may have been one of the founders of the church in Antioch (Acts 11:20); Manaen, who was an intimate friend (or perhaps an adopted foster brother) of Herod Antipas, who had killed John the Baptist; and Saul (Paul), last on the list but soon to become first.

These men were serving as “prophets and teachers” in a local church. The prophets helped lay the foundation for the church as they proclaimed the Word of God (Ephesians 2:20 "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"; 1 Corinthians 14:29-32 "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets."). They were more “forth-tellers” than “foretellers,” though at times the prophets did announce things to come (Acts 11:27–30). The teachers helped to ground the converts in the doctrines of the faith (2 Tim. 2:2).

God had already called Paul to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 21:17–21), and now He summoned Barnabas to labor with him. The church confirmed their calling, commissioned the men, and sent them forth. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, working through the local church, to equip and enlist believers to go forth and serve. The modern mission board is only a “sending agency” that expedites the work authorized by the local church.

***HELPS MINISTRY: Barnabas and Paul took John Mark with them as their assistant. He was a cousin to Barnabas (Colossians 4:10 "Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)"), and his mother’s home in Jerusalem was a gathering place for the believers (Acts 12:12 "And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying."). It is likely that it was Peter who led John Mark to faith in Christ (1 Peter 5:13 "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son."). John Mark no doubt helped Barnabas and Paul in numerous ways, relieving them of tasks and details that would have interfered with their important ministry of the Word.

Paphos—Deception (Acts 13:6–12)

It was logical to go first to Cyprus, for this was the home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36). Luke gives us no details of the ministry in Salamis, the great commercial center at the east end of the island. We trust that some people did believe the Gospel and that a local assembly was formed. The men then moved ninety miles to Paphos on the west end of the island, and there they met their first opposition.

Paphos was the capital of Cyprus, and the chief Roman official there was Sergius Paulus, “an understanding man” who wanted to hear the Word of God. He was opposed by a Jewish false prophet named “Son of Jesus [Joshua].” It is unusual to find a Jewish false prophet and sorcerer, for the Jews traditionally shunned such demonic activities. The name Elymas means “sorcerer” or “wise man” (cf. the “wise men” of Matt. 2).

This event is an illustration of the lesson that Jesus taught in the Parable of the Tares (Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43): wherever the Lord sows His true children (the wheat), Satan comes along and sows a counterfeit (the tares), a child of the devil. Paul recognized that Elymas was a child of the devil (John 8:44), and he inflicted blindness on the false prophet as a judgment from God. This miracle was also evidence to Sergius Paulus that Paul and Barnabas were servants of the true God and preached the true message of salvation (Heb. 2:4). The Roman official believed and was saved.

Acts 13:9 is the first place you find the familiar name Paul in the New Testament. As a Jewish Roman citizen, the apostle’s full name was probably “Saul Paulus,” for many Jews had both Jewish and Roman names.

Perga—Desertion (Acts 13:13 "Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.")

Why did John Mark desert his friends and return to Jerusalem? Perhaps he was just plain homesick, or he may have become unhappy because Paul had begun to take over the leadership from Mark’s cousin Barnabas (note “Paul and his company” in Acts 13:13). Mark was a devoted Jew, and he may have felt uncomfortable with the saved Gentiles. Some students think that John Mark’s return to Jerusalem helped start the opposition of the legalistic Judaizers who later opposed Paul (see Acts 15 and the Epistle to the Galatians).

Another possibility is the fear of danger as the party moved into new and difficult areas. But whatever the cause of his defection, John Mark did something so serious that Paul did not want him back on his “team” again! (Acts 15:36 "And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.") Later, Paul would enlist Timothy to take John Mark’s place (Acts 16:1–5). John Mark did redeem himself and was eventually accepted and approved by Paul (2 Timothy 4:11 "Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.").

During my years of ministry as a pastor and as a member of several mission boards, I have seen first-term workers do what John Mark did; and it has always been heartbreaking. But I have also seen some of them restored to missionary service, thanks to the prayers and encouragement of God’s people. A.T. Robertson said that Mark “flickered in the crisis,” but the light did not completely go out. This is an encouragement to all of us.

Antioch in Pisidia—Disputation (Acts 13:14–52)

Paul and Barnabas traveled 100 miles north and about 3,600 feet up to get to this important city on the Roman road. As you follow Paul’s journeys in Acts, you will notice that he selected strategic cities, planted churches in them, and went on from the churches to evangelize the surrounding areas. You will also notice that, where it was possible, he started his ministry in the local synagogue, for he had a great burden for his people (Rom. 9:1–5; 10:1), and he found in the synagogue both Jews and Gentiles ready to hear the Word of God.

This is the first of Paul’s sermons recorded in the Book of Acts, and it may be divided into three parts, each of which is introduced by the phrase “men and brethren.”

Preparation (vv. 16–25). In this section, Paul reviewed the history of Israel, climaxing with the ministry of John the Baptist and the coming of their Messiah. He made it clear that it was God who was at work in and for Israel, preparing the way for the coming of the promised Messiah. He also reminded his hearers that the nation had not always been faithful to the Lord and the covenant, but had often rebelled. Every pious Jew knew that the Messiah would come from David’s family, and that a prophet would announce His coming beforehand. John the Baptist was that prophet.

Declaration (vv. 26–37). As Paul addressed both the Jews and the Gentile “God-fearers” in the congregation, he changed his approach from third person (“they”) to second person (“you”). He explained to them why their leaders in Jerusalem rejected and crucified the nation’s Messiah. It was not because they had not read or heard the message of the prophets, but because they did not understand the message. Furthermore, the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was even promised in the prophets. (Peter took this same approach in his second message, Acts 3:12–18.)

It was the resurrection of Jesus Christ that was the crucial event: “But God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:30). (See Acts 13:33–34, 37, and note that “raised” in Acts 13:22–23 means “brought.”) Paul has declared the Gospel to them, “the word of this salvation” (Acts 13:26) and “the glad tidings” (Acts 13:32). Christ died, He was buried, and He arose again!

Since Paul was addressing a synagogue congregation, he used the Old Testament Scriptures to support his argument. In Acts 13:33, Psalm 2:7 is quoted; and note that it refers to the resurrection of Christ, not to the birth of Christ. The “virgin tomb” (John 19:41) was like a “womb” that gave birth to Jesus Christ in resurrection glory.

Then he quoted Isaiah 55:3, referring to the covenant that God made with David, “the sure mercies of David.” God had promised David that from him the Messiah would come (2 Sam. 7:12–17). This was an “everlasting covenant” with a throne to be established forever (2 Sam. 7:13, 16). If Jesus is the Messiah, and He died and remained dead, this covenant could never be fulfilled. Therefore, Jesus had to be raised from the dead or the covenant would prove false.

His third quotation was from Psalm 16:10, the same passage Peter quoted in his message at Pentecost (Acts 2:24–28). The Jews considered Psalm 16 to be a messianic psalm, and it was clear that this promise did not apply to David, who was dead, buried, and decayed. It had to apply to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Application (vv. 38–52). Paul had declared the Good News to them (Acts 13:32), and now all that remained was to make the personal application and “draw the net.” He told them that through faith in Jesus Christ, they could have two blessings that the Law could never provide: the forgiveness of their sins and justification before the throne of God.

Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Jesus Christ. It has to do with the believer’s standing before the throne of God. The Jews were taught that God justified the righteous and punished the wicked (2 Chron. 6:22–23). But God justifies the ungodly who will put their faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:1–8).

The Law cannot justify the sinner; it can only condemn him (Rom. 3:19–20; Gal. 2:16). God not only forgives our sins, but He also gives us the very righteousness of Christ and puts it on our account! This was certainly good news delivered by Paul to that searching congregation of Jews and Gentiles who had no peace in their hearts, even though they were religious.

Paul closed his message with a note of warning taken from Habakkuk 1:5 (and see Isa. 29:14). In Habakkuk’s day, the “unbelievable work” God was doing was the raising up of the Chaldeans to chasten His people, a work so remarkable that nobody would believe it. After all, why would God use an evil pagan nation to punish His own chosen people, sinful though they might be? God was using Gentiles to punish Jews! But the “wonderful work” in Paul’s day was that God was using the Jews to save the Gentiles!

What was the result? Many Jews and Gentile proselytes believed and associated with Paul and Barnabas. The Gentiles were especially excited about Paul’s message and wanted him to tell them more, which he did the next Sabbath. The people had done a good job of spreading the news, because a great crowd gathered. They were probably predominantly Gentiles, which made the Jews envious and angry.

Paul’s final message in the synagogue declared that God had sent the Word to the Jews first (Acts 3:26; Rom. 1:16), but they had now rejected it. Therefore, Paul would now take the Good News to the Gentiles; and he quoted Isaiah 49:6 to back up his decision. (Note also Luke 2:29–32.) He was ready to go to the ends of the earth to win souls to Christ!

Acts 13:48 gives us the divine side of evangelism, for God has His elect people (Eph. 1:4). The word translated ordained means “enrolled,” and indicates that God’s people have their names written in God’s book (Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3). But Acts 13:49 is the human side of evangelism: if we do not preach the Word, then nobody can believe and be saved. It takes both (see 2 Thes. 2:13–14 and Rom. 10:13–15).

The unbelieving Jews were not going to sit back and let Paul and Barnabas take over. First, they disputed with them, and then brought legal action against them and expelled them from their borders. The missionaries were not discouraged: they shook off the dust of their feet against them (Luke 9:5; 10:11) and went to the next town, leaving behind them a group of joyful disciples.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

13:1. The church at Antioch now became the base of operation for Saul’s ministry. Jerusalem was still the mother church, but the missionary church was Antioch on the Orontes River. Furthermore, Peter was no longer the central figure; Saul became that.

The diversity in the backgrounds of the leaders of the church at Antioch shows the cosmopolitan nature of the church. Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus (4:36). Simeon was also a Jew, but his Latin nickname Niger not only indicates he was of dark complexion but also that he moved in Roman circles. He could be the Simon of Cyrene who carried Christ’s cross (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21), but this is highly debatable. Lucius was from Cyrene in North Africa (cf. Acts 11:20). Manaen had high contacts for he had been reared with Herod the tetrarch, actually Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist and who treated the Lord so shamefully at His trial (see the chart on the Herod family at Luke 1:5). One in that court (Manaen) became a disciple; the other (Herod) an antagonist! At the end of the list, for he was last on this scene, was Saul, a Jew trained in Rabbinical schools. Despite their variegated backgrounds, these men functioned as one.

Perhaps the name of Barnabas appears first in the list because as the delegate from the mother church in Jerusalem he held the priority position.

13:2. Evidently God made His will known by means of the “prophets” in the church (cf. v. 1). Frequently in Acts the Holy Spirit gave directives to God’s leaders (e.g., 8:29; 10:19; 13:4). Here He directed the five, while they were worshiping . . . and fasting, to set apart for Him Barnabas and Saul. Once again the principle of two men working together is underscored. The verb “set apart” (aphorizō) is used of three separations in Saul’s life—at his birth he was separated to God (Gal. 1:15); at his conversion he was set apart for the gospel (Rom. 1:1); and in Antioch he was separated for a specific service (Acts 13:2).

13:3. The church leaders placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off. The laying on of hands identified the church with their ministry and acknowledged God’s direction for them (cf. Ananias’ identifying himself with Saul by laying hands on him, 9:17). Two of the choicest were sent on this significant mission.

2.     the circuit in asia minor (13:4-14:28).

a.     At Cyprus (13:4-12).

13:4. Directed by the Holy Spirit (cf. v. 2) they first went down to Seleucia, a seaport 16 miles from Antioch, and sailed from there to Cyprus. This island, known in the Old Testament as Kittim (Gen. 10:4), was the homeland of Barnabas (Acts 4:36). This implies Barnabas was the leader of the party (cf. the order of names in 13:2, 7).

13:5. Salamis was the largest city in the eastern half of Cyprus. Evidently a large number of Jews resided there, for Barnabas and Saul proclaimed God’s Word . . . in the . . . synagogues, not “a” synagogue.

There was wisdom in going to these religious centers: (1) It gave priority in that generation to the Jews receiving the gospel first (cf. Rom. 1:16; Acts 13:46; 17:2; 18:4, 19; 19:8). (2) Gentiles in the synagogues would be a fruitful field for sowing the gospel because they would already be acquainted with the Old Testament and its anticipation of the Messiah.

John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), was with them as their helper (cf. Acts 12:25). What is meant by the term “helper” (hypēretēn) is debated. Probably he instructed new converts, assisted in baptisms (cf. 1 Cor. 1:14-17), and helped in any way he could.

13:6. The results of the ministry in Salamis are unstated. Paphos, 100 miles southwest of Salamis and the seat of the provincial government, was their next point of ministry. What took place here is of great significance in the progression of the gospel to Gentiles.

At Paphos, Barnabas and Saul met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus. The word “sorcerer” (magos) could describe a counselor or honorable gentleman (e.g., the “Magi” in Matt. 2:1, 7, 16) or it could refer to a fraudulent wizard, as here. It is related to the verb “practice sorcery” (mageuō) used of Simon (Acts 8:9).

13:7. It so happened that Bar-Jesus was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. This sorcerer was greatly threatened by the intelligent proconsul’s interest in the gospel. Proconsuls were governors appointed by the Roman senate; procurators, on the other hand, were appointed by the emperor. Three Judea procurators are mentioned in the New Testament: Pontius Pilate (a.d. 26-36), Antonius Felix (a.d. 52-59?), and Porcius Festus (a.d. 59-62).

13:8. The sorcerer . . . tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.

The name Elymas is something of a problem. Probably it is a Semitic word meaning “sorcerer,” which was given or taken by him as a nickname.

13:9. At this juncture Saul, now for the first time called Paul, stepped to the fore and assumed leadership. He probably was more aggressive and also knew Gentile minds better than Barnabas. From this point on Paul was the leader and his name preceded Barnabas’ name except when they were in Jerusalem (15:12, 25) and in 14:14.

Furthermore, the Roman name Paul was used from here on; the Jewish name Saul was used only when he in his personal testimonies referred to his former life (22:7; 26:14).

13:10. In Aramaic, Bar-Jesus means “Son of Jesus.” But Paul told him that instead of being a son of Jesus (“Jesus” means “Yahweh is salvation”), Elymas was a child (huie, lit., “son”) of the devil. Paul lashed at him with strong language: Bar-Jesus was an enemy of everything that is right (lit., “righteousness”), he was full of . . . deceit (dolou) and trickery (rhadiourgias, “unscrupulous mischief, work that easily deceives,” used only here in the NT) and perverting the right ways of the Lord. Sorcery, exercising power by the help and control of demons, had led him into all kinds of deception of others and distortion of the truth. The occult is indeed dangerous.

This is the second of four incidents of conflict with and victory over demonic powers in the Book of Acts (cf. 8:9-23; 16:16-18; 19:13-17).

13:11-12. In judgment Paul inflicted a temporary blindness on Elymas. This is the first of Paul’s recorded miracles and it was performed in conflict with a Jew over giving the gospel to a Gentile.

Seeing this miracle, Sergius Paulus’ interest in the Word of God (v. 7) blossomed into genuine faith in Christ. Interestingly the Greek names of this proconsul and of the apostle were the same: Paulus.

This incident is significant for three reasons: (1) It marks the beginning of Paul’s leadership in this journey; verse 13 refers to “Paul and his companions.” (2) From this point on the ministry took on an even more decidedly Gentile slant. (3) It is filled with figurative nuances. A Gentile with the name Paul accepted the message while a Jew opposed it. The Jews’ blindness pictured the judicial blinding of Israel (cf. 28:26-27). Luke by this means emphasized the transitional nature of the Book of Acts. On one hand Gentiles became the primary object of the gospel, and on the other God temporarily turned from the Jews and thus judged them.

b.     At Pisidian Antioch (13:13-52).

(1) The defection of John Mark. 13:13. Barnabas’ greatness is displayed by his willingness to let Paul be the leader. So Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia. But John (i.e., John Mark) left them and returned to Jerusalem. What caused Mark to desert is open to speculation: (1) Perhaps he was disillusioned with the change in leadership. After all, Barnabas, the original leader, was John Mark’s cousin. (2) The new emphasis on Gentiles may have been too much of an adjustment for a Palestinian Jew like Mark. (3) Possibly he was afraid of the dangerous road over the Taurus Mountains to Antioch which Paul was determined to travel. (4) There is some evidence Paul became quite ill in Perga, possibly with malaria, as the city of Perga was subject to malarial infections. Furthermore, Paul preached to the people of Galatia “because of an illness” (Gal. 4:13). The missionary party may have gone inland to higher ground to avoid the ravages of malaria and Mark in discouragement over this may have returned home. (5) Some think Mark was homesick. His mother may have been a widow (Acts 12:12); perhaps Mark became lonesome for her and home. Whatever the reason, Paul considered it a defection and a fault (cf. 15:38).

(2) The discourse on the first Sabbath (13:14-41). 13:14. This Antioch was actually in Phrygia but was known as Pisidian Antioch because it was so near Pisidia. Like other cities—such as Lystra, Troas, Philippi, and Corinth—Antioch was a Roman colony. Paul visited these cities because they were located at strategic points.

13:15. The first opportunity for Paul and Barnabas to preach came in the synagogue. In the Sabbath service it was customary to read two portions of the Old Testament—one from the Law (the Pentateuch) and one from the Prophets. “The Law and the Prophets” means the entire Old Testament (cf. Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 24:14; 28:23; Rom. 3:21). Evidently Paul and Barnabas had made themselves known to the rulers of the synagogue before the meeting. After the Scripture reading they were invited to share a message of encouragement for the people.

13:16-25. Paul seized the opportunity to present the fulfillments of Old Testament expectations of the Messiah in Jesus. Luke recorded a number of “sample sermons” of Paul in Acts (cf. 14:15-17; 17:22-31; 20:18-35). This, the first recorded discourse of Paul and the most completely preserved, illustrated how Paul preached to an audience grounded in the Old Testament.

The message may be divided into three parts by the three occurrences of direct address (13:16, 26, 38) and outlined as follows: (1) the anticipation of and preparation for the coming of the Messiah (vv. 16-25), (2) the rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (vv. 26-37), and (3) the application and appeal (vv. 38-41).

The apostle began with the vocatives, Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God (v. 16). This address embraced both Jews and Gentiles. Probably the Gentiles were not full-fledged converts to Judaism. And yet, though they revered the Yahweh of Israel (cf. vv. 26, 43), they did not have New Testament salvation. (The phrase trans. “devout converts to Judaism” in v. 43 should be trans. “worshipers.” It refers to pagan worshipers but not full-fledged proselytes to Judaism. In Acts the phrase is used in almost a technical sense.)

In surveying the history of Israel, Paul mentioned the key events and people: the stay in Egypt (v. 17), the Exodus (v. 17), the 40-year wilderness sojourn (v. 18), the Conquest and possession of Palestine (v. 19; the seven nations in Canaan which God overthrew are listed in Deut. 7:1), the period of the Judges (Acts 13:20), and the monarchy under Saul and David (vv. 21-22). Mention of David made an easy transition to refer to the Savior Jesus (v. 23) and to His harbinger John the Baptist (vv. 24-25). (Cf. Stephen’s message in 7:2-47.) The 450 years (13:20) includes the oppression in Egypt (400 years), the wilderness sojourn (40 years), and the Conquest of Canaan under Joshua (10 years).

13:26-37. Paul, like Peter (2:23, 36; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:39) and Stephen (7:52), directly blamed the Jews for killing Jesus. His resurrection, frequently spoken of by His followers in Acts, was witnessed for many days. This is the fifth time in Acts that the apostles stated that they were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39-41; 13:30-31).

Do the words by raising up Jesus (v. 33) refer to His resurrection or to His exaltation? It probably refers to the latter for several reasons: (1) When the Resurrection is mentioned in the next verse it is explained as being from the dead. (2) The same verb “raise up” (anistēmi) is used in the sense of elevation in 3:22, 26; 7:37 (“send,” niv). (3) A synonym (egeirō) is used in 13:22 to refer to David’s promotion to kingship. (4) The primary reason for taking it to refer to Jesus’ exaltation is the meaning of Psalm 2:7. This Old Testament passage, quoted by Paul (Acts 13:33), described the anointing of the King, which will find its ultimate fulfillment in the Millennium.

Paul confirmed the fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead by quoting from Isaiah 55:3 and Psalm 16:10 (Acts 13:34-35). Earlier Peter had argued similarly from Psalm 16:10 (see comments on Acts 2:25-32).

13:38-39. Forgiveness of sins was mentioned frequently by the apostles in Acts (cf. 2:38; 5:31; 26:18). Acts 13:39 gives the thesis of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, which was probably written shortly after his first missionary journey and before the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). (See the chart “Paul’s Epistles, Written on His Journeys and during His Imprisonments.”)

13:40-41. Habakkuk 1:5, quoted in Acts 13:41, is an appropriate warning against impending judgment. Judah, the prophet had said, would fall to Babylon (Hab. 1:6), which would be God’s doings. Here Paul left unnamed the source of the judgment on the unbelieving Jews in his day. Paul’s warning: believe or be judged.

(3) The disputation on the second Sabbath (13:42-52). 13:42-43. The leaders were interested in Paul’s message and desired to hear more. Some were disposed to accept the gospel; Paul and Barnabas . . . urged them to continue in the grace of God.

13:44-45. On the next Sabbath . . . the Jews (i.e., Jewish leaders), moved by jealousy . . . talked abusively against what Paul was saying (“abusively” renders the Gr. participle blasphēmountes).

13:46. To combat this Jewish opposition Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly, We had to speak the Word of God to you first. Apostolic preaching was noted for its boldness (cf. comments on 4:13).

It was necessary that the apostles go to the Jews first for a number of reasons. First, the coming of the earthly kingdom depended on Israel’s response to the coming of Christ (cf. Matt. 23:39; Rom. 11:26). Second, only after Israel rejected the gospel could Paul devote himself to the Gentiles. Third, the message of Jesus is fundamentally Jewish in that the Old Testament, the Messiah, and the promises are all Jewish. (On “the Jew first,” cf. Acts 3:26; Rom. 1:16.)

So Paul turned to the Gentiles in Antioch. This pattern was repeated in city after city until Paul reached Rome (cf. Acts 13:50-51; 14:2-6; 17:5, 13-15; 18:6; 19:8-9). There for the final time in the book the Apostle Paul turned from Jews to Gentiles (28:23-28).

13:47. In thus turning to the Gentiles Paul and Barnabas saw an outworking of the prophecy of Isaiah 49:6, I have made you a light to the Gentiles. This Old Testament passage has at least three applications—to Israel (Isa. 49:3), to Christ (Luke 2:29-32), and to Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

13:48. The Gentiles rejoiced in this turn of events and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. It is difficult to miss the doctrine of God’s election here; the words “were appointed” come from the verb tassō, a military word meaning “to arrange” or “to assign.” Luke used it here to show that God’s elective decree included Gentiles.

13:49-51. The good news was shared so that the Word of the Lord spread through the whole region (cf. 6:7; 12:24; 19:20). But the Jews had contacts in high places and used these to stir up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, who in conformity with the Lord’s instruction (Matt. 10:14) shook the dust from their feet in protest and left the city.

13:52. Joy was again a fruit of the gospel (cf. v. 48; 2:46). In addition they were filled . . . with the Holy Spirit (cf. 2:4)

Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines

Acts 13

We now begin the third and final section of Acts, “The Period of Triumph” (chaps. 13–28), during which the Gospel of the grace of God was preached to the Roman world and the local churches were established through the ministry of Paul and others. We witness, as it were, a new beginning of a new ministry from a new spiritual center—Antioch in Syria. We read of Paul’s first missionary journey and his first sermon. We hear for the first time in Acts that wonderful word “justified” (13:39).

I.     In Antioch: Called by the Spirit (13:1–3)

Keep in mind that the center of the church’s operation had moved from Jerusalem and the Jews to Antioch and the Gentiles (Acts 11:19–30). Do not confuse Antioch in Syria, Paul’s “home church,” with Antioch in Pisidia (13:14–52). Note that as the servants of the Lord ministered in this local church, God called two of them (the first and last names on the list in v. 1–and soon the last would become first) to a world ministry. It is the servants who are faithful at home that God uses elsewhere.

“Prophets” (v. 1) means NT prophets (Eph. 4:11). These men spoke for God and were led directly by the Spirit. Now that we have the written Word of God, we do not have prophets in the church. Some suggest that Simeon was the man who carried Christ’s cross (Mark 15:21) and also was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Manaen was “foster brother” to the Herod who killed John the Baptist. Not many people of nobility are called, but thank God, some do find Christ!

Verses 1–3 describe the NT program for sending out missionaries: (1) God calls those whom He chooses; (2) the church certifies this call; (3) the church and the Spirit send the missionaries forth, backing them with prayer and support. It is right that missionaries report to their churches (14:26–28). It is also not unbiblical for local churches to band together and organize agencies for sending out missionaries.

II.     In Cyprus: Opposed by the Devil (13:4–12)

In the parable of the tares (Matt. 13:24–30 and 36–43) Christ promised that, wherever the true children of God were planted, Satan would plant counterfeits. This is what happened at the missionaries’ first stop. Satan came in the person of an apostate Jew, a false prophet, a child of the devil (v. 10). In the power of the Spirit, Paul smote the deceiver with blindness. Isn’tthis like the nation of Israel, having rejected Christ, now smitten with blindness? See Rom. 11:25. Note that here “Saul” uses his better-known name “Paul,” which means “little.”

III.     In Perga: Deserted by Mark (13:13)

Note that it is no longer “Barnabas and Saul” (v. 2) but “Paul and his company.” We are not sure why Mark left the party, but Paul considered his act desertion (see 15:38). Was it because Paul had become prominent and Mark’s cousin Barnabas was no longer leader? Was it because of the dangerous situations that lay ahead? Was the youth homesick? Whatever the reasons, his deed later caused the two missionaries to part company, although Paul later did forgive and receive Mark (2 Tim. 4:11). How wonderful it is that God gives us another chance! More than one servant of God has failed in his early ministry, only to be successful later.

IV.     In Antioch of Pisidia: Received by the Gentiles—(13:14–52)

Why did Paul go to the Jewish synagogue when his special commission was to the Gentiles? For several reasons: (1) he knew he would get a hearing among the Jews in the synagogue, and this was the logical place to start; (2) he had a personal burden for his people (Rom. 9:1–3 and 10:1); (3) he wanted his nation to hear God’s Word and so be without excuse.

In this sermon, he stated that Christ came “to the Jews first” (vv. 23–27 and v. 46), but he was careful to state that salvation is for “all that believe” (v. 39). In vv. 17–22 Paul showed how the OT was a preparation for Christ. In vv. 23–37 he outlined the life and death of Christ, proving His resurrection, and pointing out that Israel (“they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers,” v. 27) rejected their Messiah. Verses 38–41 give the personal conclusion of the message showing that salvation was not through obedience to the law, but through faith in Christ. The warning in vv. 40–41 comes from Hab. 1:5. The “work” referred to here is God’s program of saving the Gentiles. How unbelievable this must have been to the Jews! When the prophet Habakkuk spoke these words, the Gentile ruler Nebuchadnezzar was rising to power and would be invading nation after nation. Paul used these words to warn the Jews that, if they did not believe and receive the Gospel, they would perish like the unbelieving Israel of days past. He preached the Gospel of the grace of God (see v. 43), the message we are to proclaim today.

What were the results? Some Jews and Gentile proselytes immediately believed. It is obvious that these religious people, trained in the Scriptures, would be best prepared to receive the message. The next week the whole city was gathered together! This meant that the Gentile believers had spread the word among their friends, so that the majority of the congregation that Sabbath Day was Gentile. This provoked the Jews to jealousy and they hindered Paul’s ministry, so he turned from them to a ministry among the Gentiles. He explained his action in v. 46; according to God’s program outlined in the OT, it was necessary that the Word go to the Jews first; but now that they had (like their brethren in Jerusalem) proved themselves unworthy, the message would go to the Gentiles. Paul quoted Isa. 49:6, where God said that Christ (the “I” does not refer to Paul) was a Light to the Gentiles. See also Luke 2:29–32.

Do not “tone down” the phrase in v. 48 that indicates that certain people were “ordained to eternal life.” The Gk. word actually means “enrolled,” and has the idea of names written in a book. While salvation is by grace, through faith, there is also that mysterious working of God whereby we are “chosen in Christ” (Eph. 1:4). We do not know who God’s elect are, so we offer the Gospel to all and have confidence that the Spirit will work.

Of course, where the seed is bearing fruit, Satan comes to oppose; and note that he can use “religious people” to do the work. True Christianity does not persecute anyone, but religious people have persecuted and murdered in the name of Christ. (For Paul’s comment on persecution see 2 Tim. 3:11.) The opposition did not stop Paul and his associates; filled with joy and the Holy Spirit, they continued to minister the Word.


Opportunities come to people busy serving the Lord. God calls people who take time to worship and minister to the Lord. If you want God’s guidance, get busy where you are, and He will show you the next step.

Opportunities usually produce opposition (1 Cor. 16:9). Here is another example of the parable of the tares (Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43): God sowed the good seed (Paul and Barnabas),and Satan sowed a counterfeit.

Opportunities reveal character. Paul and Barnabas kept going, but John Mark returned home. We do not know why, nor should we pass judgment (1 Cor. 10:12). Barnabas reclaimed John Mark (15:36–41) and Paul eventually accepted him (2 Tim. 4:11).

Opportunities develop leadership. The trip began with “Barnabas and Saul” (v. 2), but it became “Paul and his party” (v. 13). Barnabas rejoiced to see Paul being used so mightily of God (Rom. 12:9–11). It was a team effort, and the vital thing was the glory of God.

His Word Endures Forever Note the emphasis in Acts 13 on the Word of God (vv. 5, 7, 15, 26, 44, 46, 48–49). In his preaching, Paul quoted from 1 Samuel, Isaiah, Habakkuk, and Psalms. He preached salvation by faith in Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead (vv. 38–39). Our words do not last, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.


cf. confer, compare

v. verse

e.g. exempli gratia, for example

lit. literal, literally

NT New Testament

i.e. id est, that is

vv. verses

trans. translation, translator, translated

Gr. Greek

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