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Tue, Jan 22, 2013

96 - To the Jew First [b]

Acts 13:1-25 by Robert Dean
The gift of prophesy still existed in Acts before direct revelation ceased after the Canon was complete. The Holy Spirit, in specific divine guidance, actually called out Barnabas and Saul (who certainly had this gift), to take the gospel to these destinations. Learn the meaning of Saul’s name and the significance of his new name. Travel their path; encounter their resistance and the positive response. Learn about how the synagogue functioned. See how Paul spoke to these Jews, encapsulating Jewish history and focus in few words and introducing its long-awaited fulfillment through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We learn that evangelism may be most effective when the presentation is specific to the hearer.
Series:Acts (2010)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 33 secs

To the Jew First
Acts 13:1-25
Acts Lesson #096

We are now looking at Paul's approach in the first missionary journey as they left Antioch and proceeded to Cyprus, and then from there into the southern part of what is now Turkey but at that time was known by various different names. We see that his methodology was to go to the Jew first.

Acts 13:4 NASB "So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus." Seleucia is the port on the Mediterranean, approximately 90 miles from Cyprus. Salamis is the city they went to first on the east coast, then they went to Paphos on the south west coast, and that was the capital of the Roman province. They were going to focus on the large urban areas where most of the people were. "being sent out" is an aorist passive participle which has the main verbal idea of people being acted upon by someone. In the English it would seem to indicate means, but it is not talking about the Holy Spirit as the means or the instrument there sending in a grammatical sense. In the Greek the preposition that is used there is hupo [u(po], and it always indicates the one who performs the action. So the Holy Spirit sending them out isn't instrumental, it is the reverse of what we saw in verse two; the Holy Spirit told them to go. All that is being said here is, after the Holy Spirit told them to go, they went down to Seleucia.

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and it has some significance for biblical studies. Baranabas was from Cyprus. He was a Levite and there is some indication that he may have left Judea as a Christian during some of the earlier persecutions, or he may have just been a Levite in the diaspora and may have returned to Jerusalem where he learned about Jesus when he was serving in the temple once he was thirty years of age and then became a priest. That is the most likely explanation. There was another early disciple who lived in Jerusalem who later hosted the apostle Paul and his companions from Caesarea in Acts 21:16. But Luke also mentions that there were a number of unnamed believers from Jerusalem who early on left Jerusalem and took the gospel to Cyprus. So the apostle Paul and Barnabas were not the first to bring the gospel to Cyprus. Acts 11:19 NASB "So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone." Those among this group established the church in Antioch and that was in about 35 AD. It is now 48 AD. So 13 years have transpired since Acts 11:19 and the congregation at Antioch is now well established.

Coming to Salamis they run into two rather interesting individuals. Acts 13:5 NASB "When they reached Salamis, they {began} to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper." This is the act of making an announcement. It is not the normal word for either preaching or the word for evangelism; it is the word katangellazo [kataggellazw] which means to announce something. And they went first to the synagogues of the Jews.

We need to understand a little bit about the synagogue. What exactly is a synagogue and how did a synagogue function then? It functions differently now, depending on which sect of Jews. Orthodox are the only ones that are comparable to our understanding of historical Judaism; it was the natural development of Pharisaical theology. The actual origins of the synagogue are somewhat debated. According to the Encyclopedia of Judaism there really isn't unanimity among scholars on the origin of the synagogue. There are some traditions that connect its founding with Ezra after the return from the exile of a number of Jews, as mentioned in Nehemiah 8:1-10. So this would be a post-exilic development of the synagogue. Others argue that it developed during the exile as there were different pockets of Jews scattered around, not only in Babylon but also in Egypt and what is now Turkey, and they originated as houses of prayer. But we are not sure when exactly they developed as houses of prayer, whether it was during the exile or after the exile. There were not only synagogues developed outside of the land but also in Judea and in Galilee. There were quite a few synagogues and we know that Jesus spoke in the synagogue in Capernaum. These were the places that were the center of Jewish community life and social life.

As they originally developed the focus was on a place to gather for prayer. They were often referred to as houses of prayer, referenced by the Greek word proseuche [proseuxh] indicating prayer. There are several examples from Greek inscriptions that we have prior to the New Testament on ancient synagogues whose ruins have been discovered. One example is from the second (and possibly first) century BC is a Greek inscription from approximately 150kms or so south of Alexandria which reads: "On behalf of king Ptolomy and queen Cleopatra … the Jews of … dedicate the place of prayer (the synagogue) to the Most High God." There were a number of others. There were a large number of these inscriptions found in different locations in Egypt and well as in Babylon and Asia Minor. 

Basically, the synagogue service was focused on prayer initially and then they added to that the reading of the Torah. In the early period here the influence out of the area of Judea was that the law and the prophets were divided into a three-year cycle. New Testament references regrading Jesus in the synagogue in the Gospels, the apostle Paul in Acts, show that the typical synagogue setting involved teaching, and it also involved discussion, question and answer, and debate as a part of the format. Prayers were very much a part of the service. They would usually begin by reciting the Shama from Deuteronomy 6:4.

The synagogue was the place of community, the place of Jewish communal and social life. It was not a place of sacrifice or a place of replacement for the temple; but in the diaspora it was a place where the Jews could come together where they could study the Torah, where they could learn, where they could hear news about what was going on in Jewish communities around the world and back in Judea as well. It eventually came to embrace an extremely wide range of religious activities, including the singing of hymns, sermons, and the reading of religious poetry.

Acts 13 is the beginning of the first missionary journey. "When they reached Salamis, they {began} to proclaim the word of God…" Contextually what was going on here is that they were announcing the gospel: who Jesus of Nazareth is as the Messiah. We are going to see that spelled out in the message that Paul gives when he goes to the other Antioch in Pisidia. After they leave Salamis, taking along John Mark, Acts 13:6 NASB "When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus." They find a good guy and a bad guy when they get to Paphos. The good guy is going to be the proconsul; the bad guy is this sorcerer, the person who is influenced by demonism, a Jewish false prophet whose name is Bar-Jesus. The Aramaic name "Jesus" [Joshua] was a very popular and common name at the time of the first century. The "bar" at the beginning is Aramaic for "son of." He is a false prophet and clearly involved in demonism and is close to a position of power and influential with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus (That he is called a proconsul indicates that this is a province directly under the authority of the Roman senate). So the proconsul was in a position of tremendous influence and authority because he represented the senate of Rome.

Luke tells us the Sergius Paulus was an intelligent man. He wants to sit down and understand what it is that they are proclaiming and why. Acts 13:7 NASB "who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God." But there is a spiritual battle taking place because [8] "But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith." There are a lot of similarities here between this confrontation and the confrontation between Peter earlier in Acts with some of those who opposed him.

Acts 13:9 NASB "But Saul, who was also {known as} Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him." This is not the filling of the Holy Spirit that we talked about in terms of the command in Ephesians 5:18, to be filled by means of the Spirit. It is a different verb and it is not a "filled by means of the Spirit," it is not using the preposition en [e)n] plus a dative, it is using a genitive construction and it indicates someone who is spiritually and directly guided by the Holy Spirit. It is not a sanctification methodology indicated here. Every time we find this phrase it is followed by speaking or saying something, or in a couple of instances engages in some action that is the result of this revelatory ministry of God the Holy Spirit. So this is not a term that is related to spiritual growth and Ephesians 5:18. The apostle Paul is now being overshadowed by God the Holy Spirit just as he would be later on when he wrote Scripture, guided and directed in a special way.

There is an interesting play on words here between Paul who is full of the Holy Spirit and Elymas who is full of deceit and all fraud. It is the same grammatical construction in saying the word for "full" – pimplemi [pimplhmi] – that is in verse 9. So in contrast to Paul who is being led and guided and powered by God the Holy Spirit in a distinct revelatory way, Elymas is full of deceit and all fraud. This is expressing his character. He is motivated and guided by deceit and fraud and Paul addresses him straight on. He doesn't mince words, he speaks the truth. Acts 13:10 NASB "and said, 'You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil …" Not Bar-Joshua but Bar-diabolos [diaboloj]. "… you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?'" So Elymas has directly set himself up as an opponent of the gospel and an opponent of God, and he is clearly in league with demonic forces. Whether he is demon-possessed or demon influenced we don't know but at the very least he is demon influenced and purporting the doctrines of demons. This means he has rejected the truth of God's Word and he is promoting false doctrine. He is an enemy of righteousness; he perverts the truth.

Acts 13:11 NASB 'Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.' And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand." A miracle occurs showing that the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than all the power Elymas can call upon.

The result of this is that the proconsul believes. Acts 13:12 NASB "Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord." There was a pastor by the name of John Wember back in the seventies who went through various passages and said what is wrong with the church today is that we don't believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to heal people and to perform miracles and so we need to go back to what the apostles did and have (what he called) "power evangelism." The only problem with that is there are numerous examples in Scripture where miracles were performed, the miracles of Jesus, that didn't convince a lot of people. The ultimate issue is not an intellectual issue, it doesn't have anything to do with seeing signs and wonders; they are evidences but they do not overwhelmingly convince people, because there were tens of thousands of Jews in Judea at the time of Christ who witnessed those miracles and they just explained them away. The core issue was that they rejected God and it didn't matter how many facts they saw or what miracles they saw, they rejected it. So the whole idea of if we just had miracles today like they had in Jesus' time people would change. No they wouldn't. They didn't change then and they are not going to change now. It is a matter of volition and a matter of a person's desire to know God.

The proconsul had positive volition and he believes. And notice that that is all he does. It is his response to the teaching of the Lord that generates his belief. The issue that we have to understand is that it is the content of the Word of God and the teaching and instruction from the Word of God that is what changes people's lives under the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit.

Having completed their time in Paphos Paul and his party then set sail and they came to Perga in Pamphylia, verse 13. " … but John left them and returned to Jerusalem." Luke doesn't seem to make a very big deal out of what happens here. Later on we learn that John leaves because he can't hack it. There is rugged travelling, opposition, it is difficult, and he is too young; he just hasn't got what it takes to stay will Paul and Barnabas. Later on this is going to cause a split between Paul and Barnabas. When Paul wants to go on his second missionary journey Barnabas wants to take John Mark with him and Paul says no, so Barnabas and John Mark went their way and Paul went on his second missionary journey. Later on we discover that John Mark, when he matured, and Paul became very close and the apostle Paul depended upon him in 2 Timothy; Paul requested John Mark to bring him some of his possessions. But at this stage Paul is showing that he doesn't want to put up with somebody who can't cut it. He is not ready to be patient with some young kid who is just not ready to take on the rigors of travel.

Acts 13:14 NASB "But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down." They go into the synagogue. This was Paul's pattern—Romans chapter one: to the Jew first and also to the Greek; take the gospel to the Jew first. Why? Remember the focal point of Acts from the very beginning is the command to the Jews to repent and to turn back to God and the times of refreshing would come as the apostle Peter said in his sermon. There is still that offer of the kingdom going out to the Jews hoping there would be a turning among the Jewish people.

Acts 13:15 NASB "After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, 'Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.'" The word "exhortation" is parakaleo [parakalew] has to do with a challenge to the people—"say on." This was an opportunity given to them and was typical that learned Jews came in and they would be asked to give a message to the congregation. 

Acts 13:16 NASB "Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, 'Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen." The "men of Israel" is addressing the Israelites, "those who fear God" would be the Gentiles who were the God fearers. [17] "The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it."

In this sermon Paul has basically three points to make, and in this he is going to brilliantly summarize several thousand years of Jewish history and six or seven books of the Bible. It shows his complete understanding of the Old Testament. His first main point is that God sovereignly chose the Jewish patriarchs and made an eternal and unconditional covenant with them, as seen in Genesis 12:1-7; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-12. It is God who did these things and exalted the people, and brought them out of slavery.

Acts 13:18 NASB "For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness." He is reminding them that the exodus generation wasn't chosen because they were so wonderful. They were grumblers, complainers. They revolted against Moses, against God in the wilderness; nevertheless God continued to work with them. So what we see here is that the ultimate hero in the whole story is "the God of this people Israel," mentioned in verse 17.

Acts 13:19 NASB "When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance—{all of which took} about four hundred and fifty years." Now in three verses we have covered Genesis to Joshua. Paul has synthesized all of that to make the point that God is the one who controls the history of Israel. [20] "After these things He gave {them} judges until Samuel the prophet." There is a lot of discussion about the chronology there. The best way to understand this is that he is saying all these historical events took place in a period of about 450 years. That would include the four centuries during which time the Israelites were in Egypt. From 1846 BC when they first go to Egypt with Jacob and Joseph, through the exodus event in 1446. Then add to that forty years in the wilderness which takes us up to 1406 BC, and then seven more years under Joshua's leadership to conquer the land takes us up to 1399 BC—447 years. That is rounded off to 450 years, so he is speaking in terms of generalities, up until Samuel.

Acts 13:21 NASB "Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years." So the first thing he emphasizes is that God entered into a covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, making them a unique people. No matter how badly they failed God continued to be faithful to His promise and to His covenant. Once that period of discipline ended in the wilderness God then provided them with a king. That was a lesson in what they didn't want because Saul was disobedient to God and brought divine judgment on them. Sometimes we get the leaders we deserve because God is trying to teach us what we don't want.

Acts 13:22 NASB "After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.'" Did God make a mistake? Because David surely sinned. But when God says that He is not saying David is not a sinner anymore. David is a man who basic volitional orientation is to do what God wants him to do. Sure, he is going to fail. But can it be said that our prime motivation in life is to do what God wants us to do and to serve Him? We are going to fail, but is that our primary motivation. That is what it was with David. His desire above all things was to serve God. That is what God means by "A man after His own heart."

Acts 13:23 NASB "From the descendants of this man, according to promise [Davidic covenant], God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, [24] after John [the Baptist] had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel."

Acts 13:25 NASB "And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not {He.} But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.'" Here we see the lead up to the gospel. Notice how Paul approaches the gospel. Who is his audience? Jews who are knowledgeable of the Old Testament. That is why he can summarize all of the Old Testament in just a few short sentences. The audience knows all the details and knows all the facts. All Paul is doing is picking the high points so that he can weave it together to make his main point. When we get to chapter fourteen we see another approach in the presentation of the gospel Paul has a completely different audience, one that has no background in the Bible whatsoever.