Acts Lesson Twenty-eight: 13:13-52 – Paul’s Message in Antioch Pisidia

Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and went back to Jerusalem. 14 They continued their journey from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, you can speak.” 

16 Then Paul stood up and motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen! 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors, exalted the people during their stay in the land of Egypt, and led them out of it with a mighty arm.  18 And for about 40 years He put up with them  in the wilderness; 19 then after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave their land to them as an inheritance. 20 This all took about 450 years. After this, He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for 40 years. 22 After removing him, He raised up David as their king and testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man loyal to Me, who will carry out all My will.’ 

23 “From this man’s descendants, according to the promise, God brought the Savior, Jesus, to Israel. 24 Before He came to public attention, John had previously proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 Then as John was completing his life’s work, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not the One. But look! Someone is coming after me, and I am not worthy to untie the sandals on His feet.’ 

26 “Brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and those among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. 27 For the residents of Jerusalem and their rulers, since they did not recognize Him or the voices of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled their words by condemning Him. 28 Though they found no grounds for the death penalty, they asked Pilate to have Him killed. 29 When they had fulfilled all that had been written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and put Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead, 31 and He appeared for many days to those who came with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now His witnesses to the people. 32 And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. 33 God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm: 

You are My Son; 

today I have become Your Father.  

34 Since He raised Him from the dead, never to return to decay, He has spoken in this way, I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David. 35 Therefore He also says in another passage, You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay. 36 For David, after serving his own generation in God’s plan, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed.  37 But the One God raised up did not decay. 38 Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, 39 and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses. 40 So beware that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you: 

41 Look, you scoffers, 

marvel and vanish away, 

because I am doing a work in your days, 

a work that you will never believe, 

even if someone were to explain it to you.”

42 As they were leaving, the people begged that these matters be presented to them the following Sabbath. 43 After the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and persuading them to continue in the grace of God. 

44 The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the message of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to oppose what Paul was saying by insulting him. 

46 Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: “It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first. But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles! 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: 

I have made you 

a light for the Gentiles 

to bring salvation 

to the ends  of the earth.”

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the message of the Lord, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 So the message of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the prominent women, who worshiped God, and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district. 51 But they shook the dust off their feet  against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. (HCSB)

In this passage, we see Paul’s first detailed sermon in Acts. In it, we see many similarities with Peter’s sermons to the Jews. It also contains a feature that Stephen included in his defense before the Sanhedrin, a lengthy introduction of Jewish history. Later, when Paul focuses on the Gentiles, his sermon outline will change.

There are four main sections to this passage.

  • A Historical Foundation – verses 13-25.
  • A Universal Gospel – verses 26-37.
  • An Explanation of Biblical Forgiveness – verses 38-43.
  • Paul’s Evangelism Shift from Jews to Gentiles –  verses 44-52.

Before we get into the passage, let’s look at some information regarding the two main locations where the events take place, the cities of Perga and Antioch of Pisidia.

  • Perga
    • It was located about twelve miles inland from the coast.
    • It was between the Taurus mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
    • Lycia was to the west and Cilicia to the east.
    • The province of Pamphylia became a separate Roman province in 25 b.c.
    • It could be reached by traveling seven miles up the Cestrus River from the Mediterranean port of Attalia and then fives miles west on foot.
  • Antioch of Pisidia
    • It was located 100 miles north of Perga.
    • It required the crossing of the Taurus mountain range.
    • The route was barren and often was flooded by mountain streams.
    • Bandits often attacked the route, and even the Romans had difficulty keeping security along the route.
    • It was located about 3,600 feet above sea level.
    • It was one of sixteen cities established around 300 b.c. by Seleucus Nikator in honor of his father, Antiochus.
    • It was located in the Roman province of Galatia.
    • It was the leading city in the southern part of the province.
    • It had the status of a colony city, which enjoyed the privileges of local autonomy and exemption from paying imperial taxes.
    • There was a large Jewish population located there.

One other issue brought up in the first verse needs addressing, John Mark leaving them and returning to Jerusalem. There are many possible reasons for his return. Here are some that scholars think are possible.

  • He may have become homesick.
  • He may have become unhappy because Paul had assumed the mantle of leadership that his cousin, Barnabas, had previously occupied.
  • John Mark was a devoted Jew, and he may have become uncomfortable with the idea of Gentiles receiving salvation. Coupled with this thought, his return to Jerusalem helped fuel the opposition of the legalistic Judaizers who later opposed Paul.
  • The fear of danger as the group moved into new and challenging areas.
  • He may have contracted malaria in the Pamphylian lowlands.
  • In the end, we don’t know the reason or reasons.

A Historical Foundation – verses 13-25

It was customary for Paul and Barnabas first to visit the local synagogue when visiting a city. For the Jews scattered during the Diaspora, the synagogue was more than a place of worship. It was the focal point for the local Jewish community; a house of worship, a center of education, a judicial center, a social gathering place, and a general “civic center.” If contact with the Jewish community was intended, this was the place to start. It was also the place to begin evangelism. Since Jesus was the expected Jewish Messiah, it was natural to share Him first with the Jews. It is also possible that the synagogue leaders extended an invitation for Paul to speak.

Let’s compare Paul’s sermon with others found in Acts.

  • It has much in common with Peter’s sermons.
    • The emphasis on the Jerusalem Jew’s responsibility for Jesus’ death.
    • The contrast between the death on the cross and the triumph of the resurrection.
    • The apostolic witness.
    • The Scripture text proofs.
    • The call to repentance.
  • It also has a feature in common with Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin.
    • The long introductory picture of Jewish history.
    • However, the two have very different functions for the history lesson.
      • Stephen used Old Testament history to illustrate the rebellious nature of the Jews to their divinely appointed leaders.
      • Paul used Old Testament history to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to His promises for Israel that were ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.
        • God chose Israel – verse 17.
        • God exalted Israel during their time in Egypt – verse 17.
        • God led them out of Egypt – verse 17.
        • God displayed patience – verse 18.
        • God gave them Canaan as an inheritance – verse 19.
        • God gave them Judges – verse 20.
        • God gave them a king – verse 21.
        • God raised up David – verse 22.
          • “Raised up” is an expression for bringing forth a prophet or ruler to serve the people.
          • It is also an expression for Jesus’ resurrection.
          • The promised descendant of David was Jesus.

Here are some facts to note about the sermon.

  • Paul understood there were two main groups in attendance.
    • Men of Israel – the Jews.
      • The primary group being addressed.
      • The group who ultimately rejected the message and became hostile.
    • You who fear God – Gentiles who worshipped Yahweh.
      • The secondary group who is being addressed.
      • The group that would respond favorably to the Gospel message.

A Universal Gospel – verses 26-37

For the second time in Paul’s sermon, he addressed those in attendance as “brothers.” Since both Jews and Gentiles were gathered, it is clear that anyone is a brother if they are united in faith in Jesus regardless of ethnicity. 

A supporting idea to this section of the passage is that just as David was Jesse’s son, Jesus is God’s son. Because of this connection, Paul’s message stresses the crucifixion, resurrection, and eyewitness testimony of Jesus being alive to confirm the truth and meaning of the Gospel. Paul presents a fourfold Christian confession that is strikingly similar to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5.

  • Jesus was crucified.
  • He was buried in a tomb.
  • God raised Him from the dead.
  • Many witness saw Him.

Paul quotes three passages of Scripture in this section.

  • Psalm 2:7 – referring to the resurrection of Jesus.
  • Isaiah 55:3 – referring to the covenant God made with David.
  • Psalm 16:10 – the same passage Peter quoted in Acts 2 and considered a messianic psalm, indicating it applied to Jesus and not to David.

An Explanation of Biblical Forgiveness – verses 38-43

For the third time, Paul addresses those in attendance as “brothers.” He now turns to the most essential part of his message, a call to repentance. Paul had illustrated God’s continuous acts of grace and mercy throughout his sermon. Now, Paul directs the listeners to the greatest act of mercy, the forgiveness of sins through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus. In verse thirty-nine, Paul reaches the pinnacle of his message, “everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything that you could not be justified from through the Law of Moses.” 

Several points to note about this section.

  • Paul emphasizes that faith in Jesus is the sole requirement for salvation.
  • We are justified when we place our faith in Jesus. Justification is understood as being acceptable to God.
  • We could never be justified by following the Law.
  • Paul concludes his call to repentance with a warning taken from Habakkuk 1:5.
    • The original intent in Habakkuk was a warning of King Nebuchadnezzar’s rise to power and threat of invasion if Israel failed to repent.
    • In the context of Paul’s message, God would again bring judgment on His people if they failed to accept the mercy and forgiveness found in Jesus.
    • If the people continued to reject the offered mercy, they would also be rejected.
    • This warning quickly proved true as the Jews in Antioch Pisidia rejected the message, and Paul turned to the Gentiles.

This section concludes with the people leaving after Paul completed his sermon. Those in attendance were impressed with what Paul had said and “begged” for the message to continue on the next Sabbath meeting. As they were walking, both Paul and Barnabas encouraged them to continue down the path they had started. At this point, it would appear that both the Jews and Gentiles were looking forward to the following week’s meeting. However, things will change significantly once the meeting begins on the next Sabbath.

Paul’s Evangelism Shift from Jews to Gentiles –  verses 44-52

As we begin the discussion on this final section, it is important to remember that Antioch Pisidia was a predominately Gentile city with a Jewish component. When verse forty-four says that “almost the whole town assembled,” that would indicate the crowd was predominately Gentile. Because of this, the Jews in attendance became jealous. We see here how the unity in Christ is challenged and that a rift will cause a group, the Jews, to reject the message because of a jealous heart. We also see how the enemy works. The previous week, Paul and Barnabas enjoyed great success in their message. Now, as they gathered again, hopeful of more souls being saved, the enemy crashes the party and sows dissension among those in attendance. 

Let’s look at some details in this section.

  • The “devout proselytes,” Gentiles, understood that the message of salvation through Jesus was also available to them.
  • This message would have spread quickly among the Gentile population, resulting in their large turnout on this Sabbath.
  • The Jews were filled with jealousy. 
  • The Jews began to oppose the message Paul was delivering. It is possible they were even speaking against the Gospel message.
  • In the minds of the Jewish population, it was blasphemy that in Jesus, God would accept the Gentiles as equals with the Jews.
  • This effectively ended the Jew’s acceptance of Paul as an evangelist.

Verses 46-48 outline a pattern that Paul would follow on his missionary journeys. We often hear or read that Paul only evangelized the Gentiles, but this would be incorrect.

  • At the very beginning of chapter fourteen, Paul begins in the local synagogue.
  • He repeatedly was rejected by the Jews in any given city. Once that occurred, he turned to the Gentiles.
  • Paul could never believe that God had completely turned from the Jews.
  • Paul’s greatest success in evangelism was with the Gentiles, but he never turned his back on the Jews.
  • Paul includes a section from Isaiah to support salvation to the Gentiles.
  • When the Gentiles heard this, they rightly rejoiced.
  • From this, we see an example of how the modern church should approach evangelism. We should never adopt a mission policy that only targets those who are most receptive to the Gospel message. All people groups should be evangelized, regardless of the previous success or failure in reaching them.

The chapter ends with a summary of what had transpired in Antioch Pisidia.

  • The success.
    • The message spread throughout the whole region.
    • The Gentiles understood that they were included in salvation by faith.
    • The Gentiles were equal with the Jews before God.
    • Those who placed their faith in Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy.
  • The opposition.
    • The Jews, in their jealousy, stirred up opposition and persecution against Paul and Barnabas.
    • Paul and Barnabas were expelled from the  area, likely with threats.
    • Paul and Barnabas pronounce judgment by shaking “the dust off their feet against them” as they leave the region and travel to Iconium.

Applications

  • Are you willing to share the Gospel where God leads you? This past week I gave a message at a Word of Life high school camp here in South Korea. The message was on the topic of “Grow” as it applied to the life of each disciple. I shared that all of us are either missionaries in some sense, or we are false followers of Jesus. The crux is that we can be missionaries to our neighbors next door; we don’t have to go to another country. Of course, if God leads you to another location, obedience is required.
  • The Gospel message is for everyone. There are no longer any special groups of people when it comes to sharing the message of Jesus. Jesus died for each of us, regardless of race, color, gender, socio-economic status, education, or age.
  • If a group rejects your message, concentrate on those who do respond. However, never give up on a group just because some choose to reject or even become hostile to the message.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s