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Bible Commentaries
Acts 13

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

1. The church at Antioch was well established by this time. We do not know the size, but it seems to have been larger because of their support for Jerusalem during the drought.

2. Prophets - inspired speakers; Teachers - instructors - - Here, and in some other places the two words are used together. This passage does not refer to two seperate offices in the church but to those inspired (spiritual gift of prophecy) and the ability to teach and instruct the church.

3. Barnabas - We were introduced to him in Act_4:1-37 and will know more about him in the next few chapters.

4. Simeon , the black - There is some disagreement if this man was black (skin color) or black (hair color) or some other feature.

5. Lucius - Act_11:20 tells us that there were in the church at Antioch some who came from Cyrene. Cyrene is a city in northern Africa, close to the modern city of Tripoli.

6. Manaen - He was probably a foster brother to Herod Antipas.

7. Saul - The Apostle Paul is listed last in this list of five prophets and teachers.

Verse 2

2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, " Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. "

1. Fasting is a lost and forgotten part of our religious lives. Few of us ever fast. When we do it is more from distraction than from a conscious decision to spend some time in prayer and meditation. We might fast when we are distraught because of a family member in critical condition or following their death.

1. Under the Law of Moses, fasting was required at certain times of the year.

2. In the New Testament, fasting is not required, but clearly taught, commanded, and required.

3. The purpose is to spend some time to focus on the spiritual, rather than the physical and material things.

4. There are many types of fasts:

1. Total - no food intake, only water to drink, for a limited time

2. Partial - leave off a food or food group, for example, no meat

3. Reduction - a decision to eat less, smaller portions

4. Brief - Skip lunch to read your Bible and pray

2. The Holy Spirit said - Remember these men are inspired prophets, so messages from the Holy Spirit is not new or unusual for them.

3. Separate Barnabas and Saul - They have been working with the church at Antioch for one year. Now it is time to branch out into new territory.

4. Called work - When Paul was confronted on the road to Damascus, Jesus told him he was chosen vessel to carry the word to the Gentiles. NOW it is time.

Verse 3

3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

1. Fast and pray - Often these words are used together. A conscious decision to take a day and spend it without food is half of fasting.

2. Fasting is not a diet plan. The purpose was not to lose weight. The purpose was to spend that time in spiritual renewal. Pray. Read and study the Bible. Meditate. Spend this time in reflection, renewal, dedication to God.

3. Laid hands on them - not to bestow on them spiritual gifts, but to give them support and appoint them to the work they have been assigned.

Verse 4

4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

1. Following the direction of the Holy Spirit - they went to Seleucia. This is the sea port town near Antioch. This is where they could board a ship.

2. The sailed to Cyprus. Cyprus is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is about 150 miles long and 40 miles wide. It is the "Chittim" mentioned in Num_24:24 .

Verse 5

5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.

1. Salamis - is a city on the south east corner of the island. A ship coming from Israel would arrive here first.

2. They went to the Jewish synagogues and preached.

3. We are also told that another man on the this trip was John. This is John Mark, whom we met in Act_12:25 . We know him by Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark.

Verse 6

6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus,

1. Paphos - a city at the far western end of Cyprus. They had covered the island from one end to the other. They started at Salamis in the south east corner. Now they are 148 miles away, at the extreme western end of the island.

2. They found a sorcerer named Bar Jesus.

1. Bar - is the Hebrew term for "son of" and was often used as a descriptive term to identify a man by naming his father.

2. Jesus (Joshua in Hebrew) was not an unusual name. Jesus (Greek) and Joshua (Hebrew) both mean - savior. See Mat_1:21 .

Verse 7

7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.

1. Proconsul - Thayer explains - "The emperor Augustus divided the Roman provinces into senatorial and imperial. The former were governed by proconsuls; the later by legates of the emperor, sometimes called propraetors." We might say he was the mayor or head of a county government.

2. He is an intelligent man. He wanted to hear the Word of God.

3. Sergius Paulus - Sergius indicates that he is Roman (free born Roman citizen) and Paulus is another form of Paul.

Verse 8

8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

1. Elymas - is his first name. Bar Jesus - identifies him as the son of Jesus (Joshua).

2. Elymas is his Arabic name. This would seem to indicate that, while he was Jewish by birth and blood, he was seeking to hide or shed his Jewish identity.

3. Withstood them - He set himself against Paul and resisted and opposed the teaching of the gospel.

Verse 9

9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him

1. Saul / Paul - Saul is the Hebrew name. Paul is the Greek name. Paulus is the Latin (Roman) name. All three have the same meaning.

2. This verse is a transition - Previously he was called Saul, the Hebrew name. Now he is heading into Gentile mission work. Now he will be called Paul, the Greek name.

3. Filled with the Holy Spirit - (Again.) Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit following his baptism in Act_9:1-43 . We also noticed that Peter and other apostles were "filled" multiple times. This term indicates that what he is about to do or say is God directed or inspired.

4. Looked intently - There is another word for a glance or casual look. This word indicates a deeper look into rather just a surface glance. This word is used when Jesus "looked" at the rich young ruler and loved him. Jesus did not just look at the clothing and how his hair was combed. Jesus looked inside and loved the heart He saw.

5. Here, Paul looked inside, at the heart, mind, and intent of the this man.

Verse 10

10 and said, " O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?

1. Paul does not "pull any punches" here. In clear, unmistakable terms Paul declares that this man is:

1. Full of deceit - The Greek word means "craft, deceit, subtlety, guile"

2. Fraud - Thayer explains this word - "unscrupulous, cunning, mischief"

3. Son of the devil - This phrase could mean he is a child of Satan, or "metaphorically applied to a man who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him"

4. Enemy of all righteousness - He stands in opposition to all that is righteous.

5. Perverting the way of the Lord - He is seeking to distort and turn aside the will and command of God.

2. Was Paul "judging" this man? NO. Paul was expressing the heart and soul of this wicked man.

Verse 11

11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time. " And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand.

1. God will deal with people like this. Here is what is about to happen.

2. You will be blind - not see the sun.

3. It will be temporary.

4. He is now blind and needed someone to lead him by the hand. He could not find his way home.

Verse 12

12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

1. Sergius Paulus believed. He saw the miracle. He was amazed.

2. NOTE : Miracles don't save people. Miracles confirm that the message is from God. If God is helping this man do miracles, then I must pay attention to the message.

Verse 13

13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.

1. Leaving Cyprus, they head for Perga.

1. Perga is a city in the region of Pamphylia.

2. It is about 7 miles up stream from the mouth of the Cestius River.

2. NOTE : A subtle change took place here. Paul is now named first.

1. At the beginning of this chapter he was fifth of the five prophets at Antioch. (13:1)

2. As they left on this this journey he was named second. (13:2)

3. Now, and from now on, Paul will be named first. In the movie industry this is called "top billing."

3. John (Mark) departed from them and went back to Jerusalem.

1. This is what caused the dispute between Barnabas and Paul in Act_15:1-41 .

2. Later, Demas would do the same. ( 2Ti_4:10 )

Verse 14

14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.

1. Now it is just Paul and Barnabas. They leave Perga and head north.

2. They arrive at Antioch of Pisidia and enter the synagogue. It is the Sabbath. They just entered and sat down.

Verse 15

15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, " Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. "

1. Law and Prophets - This verse mentions two of the major divisions of the Old Testament scriptures as the Jewish people arranged them.

2. The Jews had the same 39 books that now appear in our Old Testament with some changes in the order and arrangement of the books.

3. Most of their study was from the Law (5 books of Moses) and the Prophets (sometimes meaning the major books of prophecy and sometimes used to refer to all the rest of the Old Testament scriptures. There was the Law and all the rest were the Prophets. Jesus used the term this way in Luk_24:44 . Jesus added the Psalms (books of poetry) to the list of divisions.

4. It was customary to read a section of the Law. They had divided the Law into 53 sections. So each week they would read one section and on special days read the other section. The Law would be read through each year of Sabbaths.

5. They would also read sections from other parts of the Old Testament.

6. It was also customary to allow men to expound, explain and exhort everyone to understand and keep the commands they had just read.

Verse 16

16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, " Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:

1. Paul stands to speak. He respectfully addresses them as men of Israel and men who fear God.

2. He invites them to listen, heed, pay attention to his words.

Verse 17

17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it.

1. God chose our fathers - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were not special. God chose Abraham over all people on earth to be the father of a great nation.

2. God chose Isaac over Ishamael. God chose Jacob over Esau.

3. God brought a group of slaves out of Egypt and formed a nation out of them.

4. He raised their status from slave to land owner. He brought them out.

Verse 18

18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness.

1. Forty years in the wilderness corresponded with the 40 days the spies were in the land of Canaan and brought back a report of unbelief.

2. God "put up with" a lot in the wilderness - griping, complaining, unbelief, idolatry, adultery, disobedience, and many other sins.

Verse 19

19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.

1. Seven nations (tribes of people) were the former occupants.

2. See Deu_7:1 for the list of these nations.

3. The land, under the direction of Joshua, was divided among the tribes of Israel.

Verse 20

20 " After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

1. After the nation was occupied and settled - there began a series of judges to oversee Israel. The book of Judges tells about the events of this period.

2. The period of Judges was about 450 years and ended with Samuel.

Verse 21

21 And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.

1. Israel desired a king "like all the nations" around them.

2. God allowed them a king and Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin was the first king.

Verse 22

22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart , who will do all My will. '

1. When God removed Saul's family, and Saul, from the kingdom, it was given to David.

2. David was chosen because he was "a man after My own heart."

1. David was not sinless - far from it.

2. David, when confronted with his wrong - confessed, repented, prayed, begged for forgiveness.

3. David and Solomon served as kings that began a dynasty of kings over Judah.

Verse 23

23 From this man ' s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior-Jesus-

1. God promised that from the seed of David, Jesus would come.

2. Jesus would be establish an eternal kingdom, the church, which would stand forever. ( Dan_2:44 ) Jesus is now King of kings and Lord of lords.

Verse 24

24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

1. Paul now moves to more current times - John (the baptizer) first preached to prepare the way for Jesus.

2. John preached repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. ( Mar_1:4 ; Luk_3:3 )

Verse 25

25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose. '

1. Just as John was rising in fame, he turned his followers over to the one for whom he was preparing the way - Jesus.

2. John knew that Jesus was superior to himself.

Verse 26

26 " Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent.

1. Again Paul addresses the the men at the synagogue. He is speaking to sons of Abraham. He is speaking to those who know all that he has rehearsed in their presence.

2. God has sent salvation to you. You are the ones who got to see the fulfillment of all the prophecies about the coming Messiah.

Verse 27

27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him.

1. Back in Jerusalem - the rulers, scribes, sect leaders, lawyers, and priests - did not recognize, realize or know that this Jesus, in their midst, was the Messiah.

2. They read the law and the prophets each Sabbath, but they did not realize that Jesus was the fulfillment of those Scriptures.

3. To use a modern proverb - They could not see the forest for the trees. They were reading these passages every Sabbath, but they could not recognize the fulfillment was walking among them.

Verse 28

28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death.

1. All they knew was that He was not following their leadership. They saw He was gaining many followers; and they were losing their grip on the people.

2. They knew He was not guilty of any offense. They requested Pilate for a death sentence.

Verse 29

29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.

1. These who opposed Jesus - actually helped prove He was the Messiah. They fulfilled all that was written about Him.

2. They killed Him and laid Him in a tomb.

Verse 30

40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:

1. The Old Testament Scriptures offer promises, prophecies, and hope.

2. They also issue severe warnings. Paul has shown them the promise. Now he turns to the warning.

Verse 31

31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people.

1. Jesus did not go into hiding. He was seen by many people, over 500 at one time, by groups of people on other occasions.

2. All of these became witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.

Verse 32

32 And we declare to you glad tidings-that promise which was made to the fathers.

1. Paul is reaching his conclusion. I am here today to tell you about this Jesus, the fulfillment of all the prophecies you read each Sabbath.

2. The promise that was made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and all the other prophets.

3. God kept His promise. Jesus is the promise kept.

Verse 33

33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. '

1. God kept His promise. See 2Co_1:20 . We sing the song, "Standing on the Promises of God."

2. Every promise that God made, every prophecy recorded; ALL was fulfilled.

3. Now comes the "clincher" passage. Paul quotes the second Psalm. ( Psa_2:7 )

4. Jesus is the Son of God. He is the only begotten of the Father. ( Joh_3:16 )

Verse 34

34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David. '

1. God promised that the Messiah would come from the house of David. ( 2Sa_7:10 )

2. The quote is from Isa_55:3 .

3. I lack space here to fully discuss the word - "mercies" - also translated loving kindness, sure mercies, mercy, goodness, and kindness. The Hebrew word "Chased" describes the loving oversight, intervention, and protection that God has exercised to defend His people. It is an important study of God and His dealing with man.

Verse 35

35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm : ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption. '

1. Paul now quotes from Psa_16:10 .

2. Jesus would be put in a tomb. He would NOT be there long enough for the body to decay. The Jews considered this the fourth day. Study the events with Lazarus in Joh_11:1-57 . He had been dead four days and the body had started to stink with decay.

3. Jesus was in the tomb only parts of three days - actually about 30 hours from death to resurrection. His body did not remain dead long enough to begin the process of decay.

Verse 36

36 " For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption;

1. Paul makes a similar argument as Peter made on Pentecost.

1. David died a long time ago.

2. His body remains in the tomb. Thus - David was not making reference to himself.

2. David died, as all men face death. He was buried. His body went through the same decay and corruption as all bodies do.

Verse 37

37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.

1. Jesus did not see this corruption.

2. Jesus was not dead and in the tomb long enough for the decay to even begin.

Verse 38

38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;

1. Paul offers them salvation, forgiveness of sins. Not on his own. He offers them salvation through this Man - Jesus - the man that was the fulfillment of all the prophecies that you read each week in the synagogue.

2. Now you have a choice. You can keep reading, praying for, waiting for God to keep these promises - OR - you can turn to Jesus the answer to all that you have been discussing in the synagogue.

Verse 39

39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

1. Through Jesus - all who believe will be justified.

2. Paul then reminds them - He is offering something the Law of Moses did not offer; could not offer; could not give = Forgiveness.

3. Justification is not by keeping the Law of Moses - never was, never will be.

Verse 41

41‘Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you. '"

1. Paul quotes Hab_1:5 .

2. If you despise the promises you will perish. (See Luk_13:3 )

3. If you choose to reject, and refuse to believe - you will be declaring your own end.

Verse 42

42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.

1. The Jews went out - talking and discussing what Paul had taught.

2. The Gentiles heard about all the buzz in the town. They asked Paul to preach to them the next Sabbath.

Verse 43

43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

1. Many Jews were converted to Jesus and began to follow the teachings of Paul and Barnabas.

2. They were persuaded to remain faithful and keep on living in the grace of God.

Verse 44

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.

1. One week later - almost the entire population came together.

2. For one week Antioch of Pisidia was buzzing with anticipation.

3. I do not know the population of this city but almost everyone was here to hear what Paul would say.

Verse 45

45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.

1. When the Jews say how many people turned out - they were envious.

1. They had already lost many who were converted from Paul's sermon in the synagogue last week. I am sure many more were added thorough the week.

2. Now they see their entire base of support eroding from under them.

3. They opposed what Paul was teaching. No logic. No Scripture. No reasoning or discussion. Just opposition. All they could do is contradict Paul and accuse him of blasphemy.

Verse 46

46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, " It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

1. With the swelling crowd, Paul and Barnabas were emboldened.

2. Paul explains that he always would go first to the Jews.

3. But if you (Jews) reject the message:

1. You judge (condemn) yourselves.

2. You declare yourselves rejecting eternal life.

4. Since that is the case - we will leave you alone. We will turn to the Gentiles, who are interested, eager, and willing to hear and obey.

Verse 47

47 For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth. '"

1. Isa_49:6 is quoted to show the Jews that preaching to the Gentiles was the plan of God. Paul was not violating the will of God, he was keeping it.

2. Paul was now ready to move his mission work into "Phase 2" and begin work among the Gentiles.

Verse 48

48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

1. For the FIRST time, the Gentiles were hearing some good news. Until now the teachings of the Old Testament were sheltered within the synagogues and not taught or shared among Gentiles.

2. Now the Gentiles were seeing the door open. Not just a crack, it was being swung wide open for them to hear and respond to the same gospel preached to the Jews.

Verse 49

49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region.

1. This general statement is a summary of the work of Paul and Barnabas in this area.

2. The word is spreading across the land, from one village to the next. Word of mouth will spread the news faster than Paul can travel.

Verse 50

50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.

1. The Jewish leadership in the local synagogue saw that they were losing the struggle to these men from outside.

2. They stirred up:

1. Prominent women

2. Chief men of the city

3. They were trying to incite a rebellion against Paul. They sought to expell them from the region.

4. When you put water on a grease fire - it does not go out - it spreads. The Jews were squirting water in this fire - and it spread.

Verse 51

51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium.

1. They "shook the dust off their feet" and went elsewhere.

2. Jesus used this phrase ( Mat_10:14 ) in sending out his apostles.

3. The dust was "against" the Jewish leaders. The blood (souls) of those not taught and concerted will be the responsibility of these leaders who ran them out of town.

Verse 52

52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

1. The disciples in Antioch (and every place Paul preached) were happy.

2. Filled with joy.

3. They were also filled with the Holy Spirit.

1. This could mean that Paul imparted to them some spiritual gift.

2. More likely that they were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised in Act_2:38 .

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 13". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-13.html. 2021.
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