The church in Antioch was an excellently cared-for church! We do not see anything in the New Testament of that which is so common today: one lone minister set over a congregation; but we find the Spirit of God giving gifts as it pleased Him. In one congregation there might be a number of men ministering the Word, and that without jealousy one of another, each seeking to minister the gift God had given him.
A Missionary Church (Act_13:1-3)
In the church of Antioch we find five ministering the Word. First of all, there was Barnabas, the Levite, who had sold all his patrimony and put everything he had into the work of the Lord. He was seeking now to minister to the people at Antioch.
Then “Simeon that was called Niger”-that is, “Simeon the black man.” We wish we knew more about him. He is the one outstanding man in the New Testament who comes before us as a servant of God from the Negro race. There was no racial prejudice in this church. People of different color skin and of different religious background were found happily worshiping together-Jews, Gentiles, people of various races. This is all we read of Simeon, yet it is enough to tell us that the grace of God was working in a mighty way, breaking down carnal prejudice.
Then we read of Lucius of Cyrene. The name is probably Gentile, evidence that God had already begun to gift these Gentile believers in a special way.
And then Manaen. We have no way of ascertaining his background, but we know that he was brought up with Herod the tetrarch, who was part Samaritan and part Idumean. Though nurtured in the royal court, in all the corruption of those days, he occupied a much higher position than Herod ever obtained-a minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last of all we have Saul, the former persecutor, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. He had tried to root Christianity out of the earth, but had been so marvelously converted that now he sought to further the Christian cause by preaching the faith he had once endeavored to destroy.
“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.” We do not know just how the Holy Spirit revealed His will: whether it was a deep impression made on the hearts of Saul and Barnabas, or whether, on the other hand, it was a deep impression on the members of the church. But certainly they began to talk about it and said, “These men ought to reach out and go to the regions beyond. God has given us abundant witness here, and now we should think of those who have never heard the gospel story.” In either event, the Spirit of God revealed His mind.
He still speaks to men, impressing them with the deep need of a lost world. The history of missions is a story of the miraculous working of the Spirit of God down through the centuries. One can think of many whose names will shine brightly before the judgment seat of Christ because they were aroused by the Spirit of God and obeyed the call to carry the message of Christ to the lost, both at home and abroad. These spiritually impressed men and women felt they could not go on in the ordinary walk of life but must give their talents to reach those who had never heard the name of Christ. So they went out to the ends of the earth carrying the gospel message of the grace of God. It was so here in the beginning of world evangelism as the Holy Spirit said, “I want Barnabas and Saul for a special ministry. I want them to go out into the world with the message of salvation.” The church united in this effort. There was nothing unusual. They fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, and sent them away.
Some have thought of this as the ordination of Barnabas and Saul as gospel ministers. That is absurd on the face of it. Both had been preaching the gospel many years. This laying on of hands was an expression of the fellowship of the Antiochian church with these men as they started the work of world evangelization.
In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the offerer, recognizing his need of atonement and feeling oppressed by his sinfulness, placed his hand on the head of the offering. In this way he identified himself with the offering. Isaac Watts expressed the meaning of that when he wrote in one of his hymns:
My faith would lay her hand
On that blest head of Thine,
While, as a penitent, I stand
And there confess my sin.
So today when a poor sinner reaches out the hand of faith and places it, as it were, on the head of the Lord Jesus Christ and says, “I recognize that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me; I am identified with Him in His sacrifice”-then his soul is saved.
As the brethren in Antioch laid their hands on Saul and Barnabas, they identified themselves with their missionary efforts. They said in effect: “Brethren, we are one with you in this missionary enterprise. You go out into the regions beyond, and we shall stay by you here at home. You go down into the dark caverns of the earth, and seek to find the gold and precious things that shall adorn the crown of the Lord Jesus Christ in the ages to come, and we will hold the ropes and look after your temporal needs and pray.” This should always be the attitude of those at home toward those who carry the message to the uttermost parts.
Evangelism in Cyprus (Act_13:4-13)
“So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” Notice that while the church had full fellowship with them in their going out, we are not told they were sent by the church. They did not get their commission from the church, but from the risen Lord who had told them to go into all the world.
Some people talk as though this question of missions is a mere matter in which the church may decide whether it is wise or not, but that is not the case. The Lord answered that question plainly and clearly when He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the [consummation of the age].”
Some years ago there was a great missionary rally in the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, and a clergyman turned to the Duke of Wellington (the “Iron Duke,” whose armies had defeated Napoleon) and asked, “My lord Duke, do you believe in missions?” “What are your marching orders?” asked the Duke, “Of course, the Bible says to go into all the world,” answered the clergyman. “Then you have nothing to say about it. As a soldier you are to obey orders.” And that is true of the church down through the centuries to the end of the dispensation. It is the Lord who commands us to go; it is the Lord who sends His workers out, and the church is to have fellowship with them to the utmost of its ability.
Seleucia was a city on the sea coast. From there the two apostles sailed for Cyprus. Doubtless the heart of Barnabas was burdened for Cyprus. Born there, it was his former home. We can understand him saying, “I should like to go first to my island home and tell the people there about the matchless grace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.” We read, “And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews,” but at first did not find an opening to go to the Gentiles.
Act_13:5 refers to John Mark, cousin of Barnabas and son of Mary of Jerusalem, a wealthy woman with a large house where many of the early services were held. John Mark was the author of the second Gospel. At this point he joined their journey.
“And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus.” As bar means “son,” his name really meant “Son of Jesus.” He was a renegade Jew who had gone out among the Gentiles pretending to be a marvelous wonder-worker, and thereby trying to profit. He undoubtedly had heard of the Lord Jesus Christ and His miracles. That name had been mentioned here and there throughout the world. He said in effect, “I am the son of Jesus and I am able to work wonders, even as He did.” He was there with the proconsul of the country, Sergius Paulus. Paulus is exactly the same name as Paul, and it is interesting to note that from this time on we never read again of Saul; it is as though Paul took the name of his first illustrious convert.
Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer…withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, 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? (Act_13:7-10)
The word translated “child” is slightly different; in the original it is the word son. In withstanding Elymas the sorcerer, Paul was acting for God because this man was seeking to hinder the salvation of the soul of Sergius Paulus.
It is a serious thing to trifle with the souls of men. How inexcusable it would be if one professed to be a physician and tried recklessly to minister to sick people, using medicines which he did not understand, some of which were deadly poisons! He would be subjected immediately to the law and there would be severe consequences. There have been such men in days gone by. But if it is a serious thing to tamper with the human body, it is far more serious to tamper with the souls of men. Because Elymas was trying to do just that, Paul spoke to him as he did, calling him “Son of the devil.”
The Spirit of God never used a term like that of ordinary unsaved men. The Lord Jesus said of certain ones of His day, “Ye are of your father, the devil.” He did not address everybody like that, but only those men who deliberately and definitely set themselves to oppose the divine program. In the First Epistle of John, the apostle spoke of Cain and Abel, and said, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
All men by nature are children of wrath, but no man is called a “child of the devil” unless he deliberately gives himself to Satanic propaganda and takes a stand as a positive enemy of God. That was the position Elymas the sorcerer took and Paul invoked a judgment on him for that: “Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.” The physical judgment that fell on him was the expression of the darkness of this man’s soul.
When Sergius Paulus saw this and saw how Elymas was confounded before the messenger of the true gospel, we are told he “believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” And so he was the first Gentile convert on their first missionary journey. He was a man of position and authority and his conversion doubtless meant a great deal in the island of Cyprus. The people generally would say, “The proconsul has accepted the new message. He has received the gospel and now believes in this Jesus whom Paul and Barnabas preach.” Many were no doubt impressed.
We are told, in verse thirteen, they came back to the mainland. They had finished their work in Cyprus for the time being. Cyprus, however, was visited later by Barnabas, who spent some time there.
“Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia.” This was a mountainous country, difficult to reach. And we are told that “John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.” The Spirit of God does not tell us why he did not go on with them, yet it does not seem hard to read between the lines. We shall see later on that the apostle Paul felt there was no legitimate reason for this young man to leave them. John Mark, you know, was the son of a rich woman. That isn’t always the best start in life-to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth! He had been sheltered and perhaps coddled all his days, and when his cousin Barnabas went into missionary work he was impressed and desired to go along too. But when he found himself in difficult circumstances, perhaps he contrasted his discomforts with the calm and agreeable atmosphere he had left in Jerusalem. He might think, “Mother would never let me suffer like this.” So, when at Perga as he looked at that high mountain range and thought of the stress and strain of what lay ahead, a great spasm of homesickness came over him and he decided to give up the work.
Paul did not approve of that. He felt this business of missions was not merely a junketing trip. It was not a matter of going to foreign lands just to see strange people and places. It was a tremendously serious matter, calling for true soldierly bearing, and he felt John Mark had failed in this and was unworthy of confidence. Barnabas, who was related to John Mark, did not quite share this view. Later God allowed him to rectify his action, and he became a devoted servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we have here the beginning of Christian missions. We can thank God that, through the centuries since, this work has continued. For a period the church seemed to forget its responsibility, but during the last 150 years there has been a greater awakening in the church of God toward missionary effort. Again we thank God for having put upon the hearts of so many a burden for the lost world.
Paul’s Sermon at Pisdian Antioch (Act_13:14-43)
After Paul and Barnabas departed from Perga they made their way over the mountains, and at last reached the principal city of that district, another Antioch. Do not confuse Antioch in Pisidia with Antioch in Syria. The Syrian Antioch, directly north of Palestine, was where the first great Gentile church was formed; the Pisidia Antioch was considerably farther north, and there another mighty work of God began.
When Paul and Barnabas reached Antioch in Pisidia, they went into the synagogue and sat down. Paul always put the Jews first. Everywhere he went there were generally to be found little congregations of Hebrews. He knew they had the Scriptures, and he felt his first responsibility was to go to them and present the One for whom they had long waited. And so the two went in and took their places. After the law and the prophets had been read, the rulers of the synagogue, perhaps recognizing Paul and Barnabas by their dress as teachers or rabbis, said, “If ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” There was a great deal more liberty in the synagogues than you will find in some Christian churches today, which never allow a stranger such opportunity.
There were two classes of people in the synagogue-men of Israel and those that feared God. The latter group was composed of proselyte Gentiles who had accepted the God of Israel as their God and sought to order their lives in accordance with the law of Moses. Paul addressed both. In this marvelous sermon of his, which we have with a great deal of fullness, he traced out something of Israel’s history and God’s promise, and then showed how in a wonderful way that promise was fulfilled. Then he stressed the responsibility of all the people to accept the Savior whom God had provided.
First he pointed out how graciously God had tolerated the failures of His people Israel in the wilderness. In spite of all their murmurings against Him, He had provided bread from Heaven and water out of the smitten rock. At last He brought them into the land of promise and consented to dwell in the sanctuary they had prepared for Him.
How patient He has been throughout the years! As we look back over the history of the church, we have nothing to boast of. You say, Israel failed very grievously. They did-but we, the church in this dispensation, have failed even more inasmuch as our privileges are greater than theirs. How sad much of the history of the church is, but God has endured our conduct in the wilderness when we have acted like fretful, irritable children. He has dealt with us in such lovingkindness not only collectively but individually. Too many of us can look back over the years and see how we failed the Lord, but He has never failed us. He has undertaken for us so graciously. How our hearts ought to thank Him for His lovingkindness. How He has sustained us! What a gracious God we have!
Paul reviewed the history with which these Jews at Antioch would be thoroughly familiar from their study of the Old Testament Scriptures. And then he went on to speak of David, their great poet and shepherd king, who was a prototype of this greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Skeptics have questioned the description of David as a man after God’s heart. They ask, What about the dreadful sins David committed? David faced those sins and repented and God forgave him. That is a great deal more than some of David’s critics can say. But it was when God found David as a shepherd lad He said, “I have found.. .a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.” That is, David would fulfill God’s will in regard to the kingdom and ruling the people of Israel (see 1Sa_13:13-14).
God promised to raise a savior for Israel from the seed of David. He said to David that He was going to give him a Son who would sit on His throne and that it would be established forever. Those words could not refer to King Solomon nor to any other of David’s line, until at last Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem of Judea. In His veins flowed the blood of David, for Mary the mother of Jesus was a direct lineal descendant of King David through Nathan. Mary’s husband Joseph, who was not actually the father of Jesus, was also of David’s line. The title to the throne really belonged to him, so by virtue of Joseph’s position Jesus had title to the throne of David.
Always before the glad and glorious message of the Savior Jesus, comes the message of John the baptist. It is the message of repentance for the remission of sins. In other words, men will never really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him in their hearts as Savior until they turn to God first of all as repentant sinners.
One reason we have so many shallow conversions today, so many church members who have never really known the grace of God, is because there is so little preaching of the need for repentance. Jesus Himself said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” If men do not realize their sinfulness and lost condition before God they will never appreciate the saving grace of God as revealed in Christ. So the call to repentance should never be divorced from the message of faith-repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
John’s ministry was utterly self-effacing. He came not preaching himself, nor attempting to attract men’s attention to himself. But he proclaimed the coming One, the One of whom he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” This should be the attitude of every true messenger of God-preaching not ourselves, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is the message we can bring to all men everywhere today. Whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, if in your heart you have any fear of God and you desire to know His way and be obedient to His will, we come to you to say: “To you is the word of this salvation sent.”
There is no man so ignorant or so degraded beyond the salvation God has provided through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. But not until men confess their sin and bow at the Savior’s feet in repentance will this salvation actually become theirs, “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom_3:22-23). There is not one gospel for the Jews and another gospel for the Gentiles. “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” Therefore, whether Jew or Gentile, if men bow before God as sinners and look up to Him in faith and receive the Savior He has provided, they will know His delivering power.
Paul next takes up the story of Jesus and tells these Antiochians, Jews and Gentiles, what had taken place in Palestine. The very people who possessed the Old Testament Scriptures in which the coming of God’s Messiah was so plainly foretold, fulfilled those Scriptures in condemning the Lord of Glory! That is a solemn fact. You will remember how when the wise men came from the East to Jerusalem inquiring of the birthplace of the Messiah, King Herod called the leaders of Israel and asked them where the Savior was to be born. They turned immediately to the book of the prophet Micah. They knew exactly where to locate His place of birth, and yet they spurned Him. Why? Because they loved their sins more than Christ, and that is why men refuse Him today and spurn the Word of God.
Some say, I cannot believe the Bible; I cannot believe it is the Word of God. As a rule these are not the people who know the Bible, who read it thoughtfully and carefully. But if you do read it and you still cannot believe it, it is because you are living in some sin the Bible condemns and you do not want to repent of it. Sin blinds men’s eyes to the truth. Sin blinded the eyes of the people of Israel to the fact that God was revealed in Christ here on earth. And sin keeps people from receiving Him today. Jesus Himself said, “If any man will to do his will [that is, if any man desires to do the will of God], he shall know of the doctrine” (Joh_7:17). If you want to know the truth, you may. If you are willing to obey God, willing to judge your sin, willing to repent of it and ask Him to make the truth known, He has pledged Himself to reveal it to you. But it is a very solemn fact that it may never grip the consciences of some people for they are determined to go on in some sin the Word of God condemns.
As we read Act_13:30 we are reminded how often in Scripture the two words But God appear together. You will remember in the Epistle to the Romans, after Paul wrote of man’s lost and sinful condition, he said, “But God”-and then you go on to read what God has done (Rom_5:8). Men nailed Jesus to a tree, friends laid Him in Joseph’s new tomb; but God, by His omnipotent power, raised Him from the dead!
“And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people” (Act_13:31). Remember, when Paul uttered these words there were scores of those living who had actually seen the Lord Jesus Christ in resurrection glory and could give testimony concerning this. It was not done in an isolated corner, but it was something witnessed by a vast number of people.
In Act_13:33 (KJV) you might omit the word again. The translators have put it in, but it is not found in the best Greek text, and it is not needed here. It actually makes confusion.
Paul reminded his hearers that David had predicted that the Savior was to die and then be raised from the dead; for in Psalm 16 we read, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” So the body of the Lord Jesus lay in the grave three days but it did not see corruption. It came forth in resurrection life, a testimony to the victorious power of God over death and Hell and all foes.
Based on this declaration of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul gave us one of the grandest gospel statements that we have in all the Bible:
Be it known unto you therefore,…that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Act_13:38-39).
What a wonderful declaration! Forgiveness of sins and justification from all things-offered to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! Forgiveness and justification stand absolutely in contrast one to the other. Man cannot do what Paul declared God would do through Christ Jesus. You could not forgive a man and justify him at the same time. If you forgive him he is guilty, and you cannot justify him. If a man is justified he does not need forgiveness.
You can imagine a court scene-you are on trial and the jury decides you are innocent of the charge against you and they bring in the verdict. “Not guilty!” It means you are justified. As you walk out of the courtroom, suppose someone comes up and says, “That was an interesting session this morning. I think it was very gracious of the judge to forgive you.” You look at him with indignation. “Forgive me! The jury cleared me. I am justified, I am not forgiven, for I did not need pardon for a crime I had not committed.”
But it is otherwise with God in His dealing with sinners. We are all guilty and have come short of the glory of God. We have all failed again and again, and there is no hope until we come into His presence and acknowledge our sins. Then, if we confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But is that all? No, we are now linked up with divine life by the Christ who died and rose again, and we now stand before God on altogether different and new ground, and God can say, “I justified that man; from henceforth I look on him as though he had never committed any sin at all. I hold him clear of every charge. Christ has settled for everything.”
That is the gospel message. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” and, “by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” The law of Moses said, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” The law of Moses can only condemn. We cannot be justified by the deeds of the law. But the gospel of the grace of God tells us that He who never violated that law, God’s own blessed Son, went to Calvary’s cross and bore the judgment of the law and was made a curse for us that we might be the righteousness of God in Him. And when we trust Him, we stand before God cleared of every charge, in Him. This is justification. Oh, how full it is!
But now Paul had a solemn word of warning for these people in Antioch in Pisidia:
Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; 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 (Act_13:40-41).
In other words Paul said: “When this message of the gospel comes to you it brings with it added responsibility. You will never be the same again after you have heard the message. If you accept it, you are justified from all things; if you reject it, your condemnation becomes greater than it ever was before because you are in possession of light and knowledge you did not previously have.” And so I say today to everyone who has heard the gospel message, you may take these words to heart, receive Christ, and so be justified, or reject these words, spurn the Savior, and endure instead the unspeakable judgment that will fall on all who have heard the message of grace only to refuse it. He who hears the gospel for the first time becomes more accountable than he has ever been before.
Well, what were the results of this great sermon in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia? There was a real awakening. Most of the Jews were earnest, honest seekers after the truth, and as they realized their condition they desired to know more about the gospel. Many of the proselytes questioned Paul and Barnabas who took the opportunity to open up the Word of God to them, and lead them to acceptance of Christ as their Savior. They then persuaded them to go on in the grace of God, learning more and more of God’s sovereign goodness.
The Effect of the Gospel Message (Act_13:44-52)
It is always of interest to notice the various ways in which the gospel message affects different people. When Paul preached that great sermon in the Jewish synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, we are told that many of the Jews and religious proselytes opened their hearts to the truth and received the Lord Jesus Christ and took their stand definitely on His side. But there was another group that did not receive the truth. These became violently antagonistic.
“The next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.” The people’s interest was great and they thronged the synagogue in such numbers it aroused the envy and enmity of the unbelieving Jews. It grieved them that so many were anxious to listen to these strange teachers who had come to their city. They could not accept peaceably the interest shown, so began to contradict the things spoken by Paul, and even to blaspheme. So intense was the opposition, the apostles saw that they must go elsewhere. It was useless to continue ministering to the Jewish population of that city-they would go to the Gentiles.
We read that the apostles said to these dissident Jews, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you.” It was God’s way to give the message first to His earthly people, Israel, those who had the Old Testament and the promise of the Messiah. It was incumbent on the apostles to tell them first that the prophecies had been fulfilled, that Messiah had come and had laid down His life and risen from the dead, and that through Him God now granted remission of sins to all who trusted Him. But Paul continued, “But seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” What a solemn thing this is! Here were the chosen people-people who had been waiting hundreds of years for the coming Messiah-and at last when He had come, they deliberately shut their eyes to the truth. Paul said, “You [show] yourselves unworthy of everlasting life.”
Let us not think only of unsaved Israel doing that. Myriads of Gentiles are doing the same thing! Perhaps among you, my readers, are some who have heard the message of grace over and over, who know something of the corruption of your own hearts and your inability to save yourselves. You know God sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to redeem you, and you know that if you would turn to God and trust Him you would be saved. What are you doing about it? Is it not true many of you deliberately turn away from the true God, and thus show that you judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life?
Strictly speaking, no man is worthy of eternal life. But God in His grace is offering it to all men everywhere; and when men repent of their sin and receive the Savior He has provided, they are accounted worthy of this great gift. When they turn away from Him, trample the love of Christ underfoot and spurn the message of grace, they judge themselves to be utterly unworthy of the good things God is offering them. In other words, the man or woman who rejects the Lord Jesus Christ sins against his or her own soul. It is not merely sinning against God (there is not any greater sin you can commit than to reject the Lord Jesus Christ), but you are sinning against your own soul in that you are shutting the door of Heaven in your own face and therefore you are responsible for your own judgment.
It was this that Paul stressed in dealing with these unbelieving Jews in Antioch in Pisidia. The apostle said, in paraphrase, “You have made up your minds; you are responsible for the message you have already heard. Now we will turn to the Gentiles, to this great throng crowding the synagogue, anxious to hear. If you do not want to hear, we will go to them, ‘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.’” These words were first spoken through the prophet Isaiah, but they were spoken directly by the Spirit to Messiah Himself. Isaiah was looking down through the centuries and pictured God the Father addressing His Son, saying, “I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”
I suppose the greater number of the people reading this book have been poor lost sinners of the Gentiles. What mercy God has shown to us! Think of the darkness of idolatry and paganism into which our forefathers had sunk! But when the gospel of grace came to them who were strangers to the covenant of promise, they received it and were saved.
A dear Jewish friend said to me: “If Jesus is the Messiah, He came for the Jewish people. Then what are you Gentiles doing with Him?” I replied, “You see, you did not want Him; you spurned Him and then God said, I have set Him to be a light of the Gentiles. So He sends Him to those who are strangers to the covenant of promise. There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.”
“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” (Act_13:48). I do not think we need attempt to look back into the counsels of God and see whether we have been ordained to life or not. Another clear rendering for the word ordained is, “as many as were determined for eternal life believed.” Wherever you get a man determined to have eternal life, he can have it through believing on Jesus Christ. He does not have to stop and ask if he is elect or not. If he is willing to repent of his sin and come to Christ, he may have eternal life.
“The word of the Lord was published throughout all the region,” but hostilities continued. “The Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women.” These were probably Gentile proselytes. It is a fact that in our own country (as elsewhere), the most intense religious zealots are women. So when the Jews got hold of these women and stirred them up, they of course stirred up their husbands, “and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.”
Then the apostles acted in accordance with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you” (Luk_10:10-11). And so we read that the apostles “shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.” But we learn that those who were left behind “were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.”