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Bible Commentaries
Acts 13

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


In the church at Antioch. See notes on Antioch in Acts 11:19-26, This was the “parent congregation” of the Gentile Christians. Antioch was the third most important city in the world at that time. Chrysostom writes that in his day (fourth century) Antioch had a population of 200,000, over half of whom were Christians, and that they supported 3,000 helpless poor people out of the church treasury, Prophets and teachers. Prophets had supernormal knowledge from the Holy Spirit. Teachers did not. See Ephesians 4:11 and note. Barnabas. See Acts 4:36. Simon. Some identify him with Simon from Cyrene (Matthew 27:32), but nothing is known of him. Lucius. Not the writer of Acts, but possibly one of the men in Acts 11:20 who planted the church here, perhaps the Lucius of Romans 16:21. Manaen. The Latin Vulgate calls him “foster-brother” to Herod [Antipas]. And Saul. Paul, the apostle.

Verse 2


While they were serving the Lord and fasting. Fasting and prayer often go together, and these men must have been asking God to show them how they could do more to spread the Good News of Christ. The Holy Spirit said to them. He spoke through one of the prophets. Compare Acts 20:23; Acts 21:0; Acts 10-11. Set apart for me. Both Barnabas and Paul had been chosen by God to preach to the Gentiles. This, then, is a request to officially identify them.

Verse 3


And sent them off. Paul was already an apostle. This simple ceremony identifies he and Barnabas as men who have been chosen for a special mission. These are the first two men to be sent on a tour of missions by a congregation of Gentile Christians. We see them return after their tour, to report their results, in Acts 14:27.

Verse 4


Went down to Seleucia. This was the seaport of Antioch, about sixteen miles away. Cyprus was the old home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36). It had a large Jewish population.

Verse 5


Salamis. On the eastern side of Cyprus. This would be about fifty miles distant from Seleucia, and would take about a day to travel. In the Jewish synagogues. The fact there was more than one, shows the size of the Jewish population. The Gospel had already been planted on Cyprus (Acts 11:19-20). They had John Mark. Johnson thinks John Mark probably did most of the work of baptizing people into Christ (compare 1 Corinthians 1:14-17). John Mark was related to Barnabas (Colossians 4:10).

Verse 6


Across the Island to Paphos. The island is about 130 miles long by 50 miles wide. Salamis is at the east end, and Paphos at the west end. Paphos was the capital, and famous for the worship of Venus. A certain magician named Bar-Jesus. Jewish law prohibited witchcraft and magic of this sort (Deuteronomy 18:9-22), but at this time, Jewish magicians had great influence over the people including government officials.

Verse 7


He was a friend of the Governor. The government officials of this era asked advice from magicians and fortune-tellers as a normal practice. Since Jewish magicians had the greatest influence at this time, Sergius Paulus is interested in two Jews who claim to have a new revelation from God.

Verse 8


But they were opposed. This man could see Christianity in competition with him. He had used his magic to impress people and make himself rich. Elymas. It was usual for a Jew to also have a Gentile name. This man calls himself “Elymas,” which means “Wise Man.”

Verse 9


Then Saul – also known as Paul. From this point on, we know him by his Greek name. He becomes the leader, and Barnabas fades into the background. Was filled with the Holy Spirit. This is to show us that what he does now is directed by the Holy Spirit himself.

Verses 10-12


You son of the Devil! This is the only recorded miracle by an apostle, done for the purpose of injury. Yet this had to be done to show the power of Christ superior to the power of this man. Sergius Paulus and the others were deceived by the tricks of Elymas. Denouncing him and striking him with blindness settled the question of who spoke the truth. Compare Elijah and the priests of Bail. The Governor believed. This implies he became a Christian.

Verse 13


Paul and his companions. Perga is northwest from Cyprus. But John Mark left them. We do not know why. It could have been the dangers he could see ahead in their work; or it could have been his Jewish sense of pride was hurt by preaching to the Gentiles. Acts 15:38-39 shows us it was a serious matter. But it was “worked out” (Colossians 4:10 and note).

Verse 14


And came to Antioch of Pisidia. There were a number of cities named Antioch. This one was almost directly north of Perga, and was the capital of the province of Pisidia. They went Into the synagogue. Whenever there was a synagogue in a city, they went there first with the Good News of Christ.

Verse 15


After the reading. Reading the Bible out loud to the people was very important, since copies were scarce. [They had to be copied by hand.] It was usual for the leaders of the synagogue to invite visiting Jewish brothers to speak to the group. Some think the synagogues followed a “uniform lesson series,” and that since Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 1:31 and Isaiah 1:2 [both from the Septuagint], it proves that this was the forty-fourth Sabbath of the Jewish year [sometime in July or August].

Verse 16


Paul stood up. In Judea, the speakers remained seated. Among the Greek-speaking Jews, they stood up to speak to the group. These next verses show us how Paul preached in the Synagogues. He begins by showing the glory of Israel; then to King David, hero of all Israelites; then to David’s descendant, Jesus Christ. He did this to build up a common bond with them, so they would listen when he told them about Jesus. Compare 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Fellow Israelites. Those who were born Jews. All Gentiles here. Judaism was “missionary-minded” at this time and attracted Gentiles who learned to “fear” [reverence] God and study his word.

Verses 17-19


Destroyed seven nations. See Deuteronomy 7:1-6.

Verse 20


After this he gave them Judges. Johnson thinks the 450 years is counted from the time they came out of Egypt to the time when God made David king. “After this” refers to the events in Acts 13:17-19.

Verse 21


God gave them Saul. He was the first king of Israel.

Verse 22


God made David their king. This young shepherd became Israel’s second king. Is the kind of man I like. This is implied in 1 Samuel 13:14. David was not perfect, but he was not a rebel like king Saul.

Verse 23


As he had promised. See God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7:12; Isaiah 11:1; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12.

Verses 24-25


John preached to all the people. The Jews believed John the Baptist to have been an important prophet. See Matthew 3:1-12; John 5:32-35. John pointed to the Messiah.

Verse 26


It is to us. This Good News of God’s act in Christ to set men free has been sent to both Jew and Gentile.

Verses 27-37


For the people. Paul now explains the facts of the gospel. (1) Christ was rejected by the Jewish leaders; (2) the prophecies made to come true; (3) they force Pilate to kill him, even though they could find no reason; (4) the Scriptures came true in his death; (5) God raised him from death; (6) God’s promise to the ancestors had now been fulfilled to the descendants. You are my Son. This is explained by Romans 1:4. God “became his father” by raising Jesus to life. Never again to return to decay. Others had been raised from death, but Jesus was the first to conquer death. He will never die again! Compare 1 Corinthians 15:20. You will not allow your devoted servant. See notes on Acts 2:27-32.

Verses 38-41


That it is through Jesus. See Acts 4:12 and note. Is set free. Compare Galatians 5:1-6. The Law of Moses could not set you free. Compare Hebrews 10:2-4. Take care, then. It is fatal to reject Christ! Acts 13:41 is paraphrased from Habakkuk 1:5. Just a few years after this, the “scoffers” did “wonder and die” in the siege of Jerusalem (see note on Matthew 24:21).

Verses 42-43


The people invited them. They wanted to learn more about God’s act in Christ. Living in the grace of God. By trusting and obeying him. They could not do this if they rejected Christ. The apostles urged everyone to “reach out through faith to seize the sacrifice of Christ” (compare note on Acts 2:38).

Verse 44


Nearly everyone in the town came. This shows us the intense interest generated by preaching the Good News.

Verse 45


When the Jews saw the crowds. A certain type of Jew (compare Acts 6:9 and note) opposed the Good News, even with violence (see Acts 17:5-9; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).

Verse 46


It was necessary. The Good News was sent first to the Jews (Acts 1:8; Acts 3:26; Romans 1:16). But God had already planned to save the Gentiles. See what James says Acts 15:12-18 and notes.

Verse 47


For this is the commandment. See Acts 26:16-18. Paul quotes Isaiah 49:6 to prove what he says. Jesus is the world’s Savior! God treats all men on the same basis (Acts 10:34)!

Verse 48


When the Gentiles heard this. They were glad, both because of the Good News of God’s act in Christ to set men free, and because the Jewish Scriptures declared this promise. And those who had been chosen. Acts 13:46 shows the Jews acted through their own choice. God chooses those who choose him. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:1 :1 Corinthians 16:15. Wesley says: “Not that God rejected the rest; it was his will that they also should be saved, but they thrust salvation from them.” Became believers. Made a public declaration of their faith.

Verses 49-51


But the Jews stirred up. They did what they could to cause trouble. And threw them out of their region. This interrupted the work of Paul and Barnabas, but not the spread of the Good News. They came back later (Acts 14:21). Shook the dust off. Luke 9:5 and note. Iconium. About fifty miles east.

Verse 52


The disciples in Antioch. Even though Paul and Barnabas had been ejected from their area, they were full of joy and the Holy Spirit because they were new in Christ! Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Romans 14:17.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Acts 13". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/acts-13.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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