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Bible Commentaries
Acts 13

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Verse 1

1. Spirit-commissioned Mission of Barnabas and Paul from Antioch , Acts 13:1-3 .

1. There were… at Antioch How they came there, the whole five, from Jerusalem, is pleasantly narrated in Acts 11:19-30. The twelfth chapter is mainly an episode. The present chapter recommences or would had it begun as it should at Acts 12:24 the main narrative.

Prophets Inspired utterers, whether of prediction, doctrine, or exhortation.

Teachers Expositors of biblical or doctrinal truth specially endowed by nature or grace, 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11.

Barnabas The leader of the five founders of the Antiochian Church. Each of the five was a man of mark.

Simeon… Niger Simon the negro, as it might with scarce an impropriety be rendered; for the literal Greek phrase, Simon the called Niger, seems to imply an epithet rather than a name; an epithet in Latin, signifying black, and, doubtless, referring to Simon’s country and colour. Now, as we are told (Acts 11:20) that some of these Christians from Jerusalem were Cyrenians, we have a strong ground for suspecting that this was the very Simon, the Cyrenian, who bore the Saviour’s cross. Luke’s omission to call up this reminiscence, as he has that connected with Manaen, may have arisen from the fact that the well known surname of Simon amply identified him to his contemporaries. He may have been a member of the Pentecostal Church through its seven years’ life.

Lucius of Cyrene See our note on Acts 6:9. Alford, Wordsworth, and most later commentators decide, without giving reasons for it, that Lucas is identical not with Lucius, but with Lucanus. There is no philological reason that we are able to discover why it may not be identical with either and both. The root of the name is Lux, light; of which Lucanus, Lucius, and Lucilius are adjective forms, signifying luminous, and actually appearing in our English word lucid. So Wetstein quotes Varro as saying, Qui mane natus dicereter Manius; qui loci Lucius He born at dawn is called Manius; by daylight, Lucius. Alford objects that it is improbable that Paul would call the same man at one time Lucius, and at another Lucas. But the senior apostle was variously called Simon, (and Simeon, Acts 15:14,) Cephas, and Peter, doubtless, usually with some reasons for the discriminations. (See note on Acts 13:9.) So it will be found that our historian is called Lucius in his Roman relations, and Lucas in his Greek.

Wordsworth refers for his authority to Bentley’s Latin Epistola ad Millium; but our own examination of that very learned treatise discloses rather a proof than a disproof of the identity of Lucius and Lucas. The only matter touching on this point we can there find is a full list of examples of parallel names. One example is precisely in point. Λεοντιος , Leontius, Λεοντας , Leontas, is an exact instance of the identity of the terminations ιος , ius, and ας , as, such as we have in Λουκιος , Lucius, and Λουκας , Lucas.

The coincidences between Lucius and Luke are very decisive. Lucius is a prophet and a teacher, and so is Luke, being a preacher and an evangelist. Lucius is at Antioch; Luke was so permanently at Antioch as to be very generally held by ecclesiastical writers an Antiochian. Lucius, at Corinth, joins Paul in his salutations, (Romans 16:21,) but Luke had preceded Paul at Corinth as the bearer of his epistle thither. (2 Corinthians 8:18.) It was in writing to Rome that Paul uses the Roman form of the name; it was in writing at Rome (his Acts) that Luke here uses the Roman form. Luke here records his name because he is giving the exact list of the authorizers of this first regular Christian mission.

By this view we see that Luke, who professes that in his Gospel he had to use others as eyewitnesses, is in his Acts essentially an eyewitness, we may say, throughout the whole. He was in Palestine from the resurrection to the dispersion of the Pentecostal Church. He is now at Antioch, where his history centres, to the end of the fifteenth chapter. From this present verse to its end this book might be entitled The Acts of Paul; and this concentrating upon Paul was because he was for the rest of his life closely identified with him; and he was so identified because he was a Gentile evangelist, and Paul was apostle to the Gentiles. The result of all these facts is, that the authenticity of the book of Acts is set in a most resplendent light, and the full dimensions of Luke’s life and character are strikingly drawn out. (See notes on Luke 24:13; Acts 6:9; Acts 16:10.) Scholars of eminent name have maintained this identity, such as Grotius, Poole, Lightfoot, Wetstein, and Stuart. [We are indebted for a confirmation and extension of our impressions on this subject to “Horae Lucanae, by Mr. H.S. Baynes, London,” a new work received while revising the proofs of this volume.]

Cyrene See note on Acts 6:9.

Manaen Hebrew Manahem, the name of a king of Israel, (2 Kings 15:14.) There was, according to Josephus, an Essene of this name who foretold to Herod the Great his future attainment of the crown, and was ever held in great honour by Herod after he became king. Quite likely this was a son of that associated with Herod Antipas, as the former was favoured by the first Herod. Manaen is probably an instance of one who passed from Essenism to Christianity, (see note on Matthew 3:7,) and became one of the saints in Herod’s household. (See note on Matthew 14:2.)

Brought up with The foster-brother. That is, either his mother was nurse of Herod Antipas, so that both were nourished at the same breast, or he was his mate, associated, as was often the case, to incite the young prince to good conduct. It was singular that such a man should, while Herod was in his dismal exile in Lyons, be in this great metropolis a Christian teacher.

And Saul The man of the most singular antecedents, and of the most brilliant future, comes last, as far the youngest and the latest converted. The last shall be first.

It was about A.D. 45, fifteen years from the founding of the Pentecostal Church, when Paul was near forty years of age, that this primitive initiation of Christian missions took place.

Verses 1-52


CHRISTIANITY AMONG THE GENTILES. From Chapter Acts 13:1, to End of Acts.

Through the remainder of his work Luke’s subject is the evangelization of the Gentiles, and his hero is Paul. His field is western Asia and Europe; his terminal point is Rome, and the work is the laying the foundation of modern Christendom. At every point, even at Rome, Luke is careful to note the Gospel offer to the Jews, and how the main share reject, and a remnant only is saved. And thus it appears that Luke’s steadily maintained object is to describe the transfer of the kingdom of God from one people to all peoples.

I. PAUL’S FIRST MISSION From Antioch, through Cyprus, into Asia, as far as Lystra and Derbe, thence back to Antioch, Acts 13:1 Acts 14:28.

Verse 2

2. They These five Christian ministers alone. Nothing is said of any others as being present or sharing.

Ministered In prayer, praise, and, perhaps, sacramental communion. It was a special devotional assemblage of these five eminent men, probably, intended to learn the will of God in the promotion of the Christian cause.

Said Either to one, or, more probably, to all alike, by a supernatural communication, heard, in the very words here given, by the ear of the human spirit.

I have called The Spirit gave the call; the ministers authenticated that call to men by visibly laying their hands upon the persons of these same men, and no other. To all, then, who recognised the authority, or acknowledged the weight of character of these layers-on of hands, the men sent were duly certified.

Verse 3

3. Laid their hands The imposition of hands is here used to “ordain” these men, not to an “order,” but to a mission. It did not make them deacon, elder, or bishop, but missionaries, either for this single expedition, or to the world at large, Jew or Gentile, as the Spirit pleased. The rule that limits the laying on of hands to special permanent orders is ecclesiastical rather than biblical. The two were not certainly at this time ordained as apostles, for no man was ever so ordained but by Christ himself. Christ’s acts ordained the twelve; his choice through the lot ordained Matthias, (Acts 1:23-25;) his call (Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17) ordained Paul, as the fulness of the Spirit authenticated him. (See note on Acts 13:9.)

Sent them away As in the following verse they are said to be sent by the Holy Ghost.

Verse 4

2. Barnabas and Paul in Cyprus Elymas the Sorcerer , Acts 13:4-12 .

4. So… departed… to The words indicate that the same Spirit that sent, directed their course. Crossing the Orontes, they probably took the south of that river, and proceeded sixteen miles to Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch. The city itself was situated on a high eminence, and the port below. From Seleucia, in a clear day, the isle of Cyprus was dimly visible a hundred miles west.

Cyprus This island lies in shape like a tadpole, with his long tail stretching toward (Issus) the Syrian Gates. In it Barnabas and Saul would find a base of Oriental population with a large infusion of Jews, overlaid with a Greek civilization, and overruled by Roman power. The synagogues furnished the apostles the means of bringing the Gospel before them. Looked upon alike by Antioch and Tarsus, Cyprus formed with the two a triangle; and as the home of Barnabas, was an obvious field for both missionaries.

Salamis The nearest city in their approach to the island after a few hours’ sail.

Preached With what success the missionaries were favoured in this, their first effort, we are not informed; but it seems neither to have detained nor discouraged them; for they took the high straight road for Paphos, the capital, at the southwestern end of the island.

John John Mark, author of the second Gospel. (See note on Acts 5:15.)

Minister The original Greek word etymologically signifies an under-rower; hence a subordinate of any kind. As a junior, he doubtless performed many of the inferior duties of travel; and as Paul, like Jesus, seldom baptized, the minister generally performed that function. (1 Corinthians 1:14-17.)

Verse 6

6. Paphos This city would be reached by an easy journey over a Roman road of a hundred miles. Paphos was celebrated for its temple of Venus, and for the corresponding dissoluteness of its inhabitants. Here, too, resided Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor of the island.

Sorcerer According to the Greek, a magus or magian. (See note on Acts 8:9; Matthew 2:1.)

False… prophet Who falsely professed to be a prophet of the true God; for, as a Jew, he would be a professor of the doctrine of one God, and his monotheistic discourse formed his doctrinal attraction to Sergius Paulus. The prefix Bar in Hebrew (like the prefix Mac in the Celtic) signifies son of; and Bar-jesus signifies son of Jesus or Joshua; Jesus being the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua. It was singular that this opponent of Jesus should bear his sacred name.

Verse 7

7. Deputy The proconsul. When Augustus became by military fortune master of the Roman empire, he provided that all the provinces requiring a military government should be in his own imperial hands; and those at peace, and needing only a civil authority, should be in the hands of the Senate; thus skilfully retaining all military power under his own control. The provinces under the emperor were governed by a legatus or representative, namely, of the emperor. The provinces under the Senate were governed by a proconsul. This title is rendered deputy in our translation, from the fact that the officer was deputed by the Senate to govern under its authority. The original term proconsul really signifies literally a consul’s substitute, a title which was inherited by the Senate from the republican age of Rome. Now, a century ago, according to all existing evidence, it was supposed that Cyprus was under the emperor, and that its governor was not a proconsul, as Luke calls him, but a legatus, and Luke’s accuracy was impeached. And, in fact, it was governed by a legatus at first; but later investigations have historically proved that Augustus subsequently surrendered the island to the Senate; and thus was shown Luke’s peculiar accuracy in calling the governor just at this time proconsul. Later still a medal has been found bearing the picture and name of a proconsul of Cyprus.

A prudent man An understanding man; namely, in the matters here discussed.

Called in consequence of his intelligent interest in spiritual and religious matters he had a desire to know what these preachers of the crucified Jesus could present.

Word of God He sent not to see prodigies, but to hear truths. He both saw and heard, and, in consequence, believed.

Verse 8

8. Elymas An Oriental name signifying wise-one, or wizard, and was doubtless assumed as a profession of knowledge of supernatural matters.

Verse 9

9. Also… Paul Literally, Saul, the also Paul. It has ever been a question how, when, and why this second name was assumed. We have repeatedly had occasion to allude to the custom of the Jews, when surrounded with Gentiles and speaking two languages, to have two names, a Hebrew and a Greek. Sometimes the one was a translation of the other, as Thomas became Didymus, both signifying twin. Sometimes the new name was conferred, even in the same language, from some new event or newly developed fact or quality; thus Joses became Barnabas, a son of Christian exhortation. Sometimes the new name was selected from vocal resemblance, as Jesus, Justus. As to Paul’s name we may note, 1. From this time his mission and apostolate were to be among Gentiles, and all the ordinary rules of custom and convenience required the adoption of a Gentile name. Luke’s mention of the change at this point, his uniform use of Saul heretofore, and uniform use of Paul hereafter, decisively prove that it was at this point that this change was made. The Gentile apostle assumes a Gentile name. This amply explains the assumption of a new name, but not of this particular name. 2. For the particular name there was the resemblance of sound. The almost identity of Saul and Paul would render the last of all names most suitable. But the singular proximity of the proconsul Paulus does clearly suggest a confirmatory reason. So that we must finally agree with Jerome, who says that, as Scipio was surnamed Africanus from having conquered Africa, so Saul became Paul from the conversion of Sergius Paulus. With this transition from Saul to Paul there is a plain transition to the full recognition of his apostolic and Gentile office. Paul was his apostolic as well as Gentile name, perhaps divinely bestowed.

Filled with the Holy Ghost From this moment of filling by the Spirit and mighty authentication by consequent miracle and assumption of his new apostolic name, Paul, as acknowledged apostle, henceforth takes precedence of Barnabas.

Set his eyes Burning with an inspired indignation.

Verse 10

10. Full of all subtilty As the apostle was filled with the Holy Ghost.

Child of the devil A striking contrast with, perhaps an allusion to, his name Bar-jesus.

Right ways Literally, straight ways.

Of the Lord Of Jehovah-Jesus. The straight ways of the Lord are God’s straight course in Jesus, saving the world through him. These straight ways Elymas distorted, made crooked, by his sophistical mis-constructions and perversions.

Verse 11

11. And now Most of the miracles of the New Testament are miracles of direct mercy; this was one of justice in that it was a due yet slight penalty for sin; but also of mercy, as it converted the proconsul, and may have ultimately resulted in the conversion of the sorcerer himself.

For a season Mercy in judgment. Proof that the apostle spake not in personal resentment. Perhaps it intimated that, like Saul himself, the sorcerer should find his blindness of body result in light both to soul and body.

Immediately So instantly as to prove the connection between the apostle’s words and the sorcerer’s ill.

A mist Deepening to a darkness.

Seeking… hand Titus showing how little fit he was to lead men by the hand to the true light. The original is very expressive: He, groping about, was seeking for hand-guides; a line which has furnished a subject for one of the masterpieces of Raphael’s pencil.

Verse 12

12. Done, believed The penal miracle performed upon the magus overthrew the divinity of his claims; performed by the apostle, it established his. So the superiority of the miracles of Moses over and in penalty upon the sorcerers of Egypt, and of Paul over and upon those of Ephesus, are specimens of the divine method of defeating the preternaturalisms and demonisms of paganism by the supernaturalisms and miracles of Jehovah and Jesus.

Astonished Thrilled, electrified. The miracle wrought belief; the doctrine wrought salvation.

Verse 13

3. Paul and Barnabas at Pisidian Antioch Address and Results , Acts 13:14-43 .

13. Paul and his company At once Luke uses language which implies that Paul has become chief, and the rest, including Barnabas, are sunk to the position of subordinates. The Greek phrase is literally, those about Paul, an idiom frequently used in Greek. Those about Proserpine (Thucydides) means Proserpine and her attendant maidens. Those about Socrates means Socrates and his scholars. Those about Xenophon means Xenophon and his soldiers. Those about Paul must mean Paul and his retinue. Of this change of Paul’s position, the change of his name, when the Holy Ghost empowered him to rebuke Elymas with anathema and blindness, is the palpable crisis. He was an apostle elect when first called by Jesus: he rose to the fulness of his apostolic power and position when then filled with the Holy Ghost.

Loosed Set sail. The only marked success which Luke mentions in their entire tour through Cyprus is the conversion of the proconsul. Why their movements were so rapid and their stop at each place so brief, we are unable to conjecture; but the whole life of Paul was of that same arduous and rapid strain. He was one of those rare mortals who seem so charged with an intensity of nature that rest is impossible, and they are impelled by the sense that their mission requires the utmost tension of nerve, through every instant, for its fulfilment. What rebukes are the lives of such men, when devoted to the sublimest of all ideas, to the levity of the vast numbers who make our solemn life an easy time, a play-spell, a series of trifles!

Came… Pamphylia Trace their course from Paphos, cutting the Mediterranean with their keel, in what would now be considered a light row-boat with sail superadded, in a slant line northwest-ward into the gulf, and up to the continental shore of Pamphylia in Asia Minor. Very probably the reason why Paul chose this missionary field was because Pamphylia bordered on his native Cilicia. as Cyprus was the native home of Barnabas, and as he had already, while residing at Tarsus, planted Churches in Cilicia, he had reasons for believing that he could extend the work into Pamphylia. Dwellers in Pamphylia (Acts 2:10) had shared the pentecostal outpouring, and had carried, probably, an ardent but not fully instructed Christianity into that province. Yet it needed an apostle to found Christianity amid the wild population of Pamphylia.

John (See note on Acts 13:5 and Acts 12:12.) Their young servitor, Mark, may with unquestionable truth be said to have deserted them and the work. Nobly did the young minister, however, subsequently redeem his reputation, regain the high regards of Paul, and record a Gospel of Jesus, which, though said to be drawn from the narrations of Peter, possesses much of the nerve and fire of the mighty Paul. The obvious conclusion is, that the highlands of Pamphylia, familiar as they were to Cilician Paul, loomed so darkly before the inexperienced eye of Mark that he longed for his quiet Jerusalem home and returned. For it was amid the fastnesses of Pamphylia and Pisidia that Paul encountered his “perils by robbers” and “perils by rivers.” The very name, Pamphylia, signifies All-tribes-land, from its heterogeneous races and dialects. Here was the meeting of the oriental and occidental populations, Greek predominating in numbers, Latin in power, underlaid with intermingled Phenicians, Syrians, and Jews. Robber chiefs often held the fastnesses, and even Alexander the Great encountered some of the worst dangers of his wars in passing from Perga to Phrygia.

Verse 14

14. On the sabbath day They seem to have withheld any proclamation of their doctrines until the synagogue opened the way.

Sat down Not, as some think, in a seat of dignity as prepared to teach, but quietly in the congregation.

Verse 15

15. Sent unto them As strangers of Jewish features, pious demeanour, and intellectual expression.

Men and brethren Literally, men-brethren, or simply brethren.

Word of exhortation Or consolation. For with Israel in her history of sorrows, consolation and exhortation were the same word. And by that same word, consolation of Israel, (Luke 2:25,) was the Messiah designated. When Paul, therefore, unfolded the Messiah to their view, he very suitably responded to their courteous, we might almost say Christian, invitation.

Verse 16

1. Jesus grounded in Old Testament history , Acts 13:16-23 .

16. Paul stood up The first presentation of Paul, the Christian orator.

Beckoning with his hand Waving down his hand, as if solemnly invoking their attention. It expresses in majestic action what give audience does in majestic words.

Ye that fear God That is, Gentiles who conscientiously adore the only true God. He thus addresses both classes of men, the men of Israel and the Gentile proselytes, and all conscientious believers in monotheism.

Give audience Thrice does he, in the train of this address, make a similar solemn invitation, namely, besides this at Acts 13:26; Acts 13:38. To such history as follows the Israelite never tired of listening, being their old ancestral story. To it the Gentile proselyte ever listened, as revealing a scene of novelty and wonder.

Verses 16-41

3. Paul’s Missionary Argument at Pisidian Antioch , Acts 13:16-41 .

Luke here at length furnishes a first specimen of Paul’s preaching, enabling us to judge by what methods Paul proclaimed to these provincial Jews that their long expected Messiah had come, and that upon him they must rely for eternal salvation.

1 . In 16-23 he gives a preparatory rehearsal of the main points of Israel’s Old Testament history from Abraham to David, as the Messiah’s progenitor. This furnishes the historic grounding for Jesus. 2. In 24, 25 he grounds the same Jesus upon John the Baptist. 3. We have, 26-31, the Jesus-history given, presenting him as rejected indeed by Jerusalem, but predicted by the prophets, and, when slain by Pilate, raised from the dead by God, as attested by chosen witnesses. Thus the Jesus-history is embedded in the Israel-history. 4. Glad tidings, therefore, (32-37,) does the orator bring, that God’s Messianic promise is fulfilled, as prophesied of old, in the birth of God’s Son, and in his miraculous resurrection as the Holy One above all corruption. 5. A proclamation (38-41) of the joyful conclusion, an era of sin forgiven with a power unknown heretofore to Moses’ law: yet with the sad finale of perdition to all rejecters. Thus we have the skilful Christian argument by which the crucified Jesus is installed and incorporated into the divine history of Israel as her true Messiah, and her only Redeemer from sin and perdition.

Verse 17

17. Chose our fathers These words send the thoughts back to the dim beginning at the call of Abraham.

Exalted the people Namely, exalted Israel, even in her slavery, over despotic Egypt, by inflicting plagues on the despots withheld from the bondsmen.

Verse 18

18. Suffered he their manners Instead of the reading ετροποφορησεν , suffered he their manners, the reading preferred by modern scholars, ετροφοφορησεν , he bore them as a nurse.

Verse 19

19. Seven nations The names of which may be found in Deuteronomy 7:1.

Verse 20

20. After that The true reading of this passage, as adopted by Bornemann, Lachmann, and Wordsworth, would be: “He assigned their land to them by inheritance for about four hundred and fifty years; after that he gave them judges.” The about four hundred and fifty years would measure the period of covenanting the inheritance, namely, from the birth of Isaac to the commencement of the judges. There is, then, no discrepancy between this passage and 1 Kings 6:1. But see Alford, who, after his method, denies that the two passages can be reconciled.

Verse 21

21. Son of Cis The Greek Kis, being the softened form of the Hebrew Kish.

Forty years The apostle furnishes these repeated lengthened periods to show the perpetuity and constancy of the dealings of God with Israel.

Verse 22

22. After mine own heart Not as being absolutely conformed to the perfect heart of God, but, as compared with Saul, a king who would reign according to the law of Moses, and in obedience to the commands of God. Paul traces the history of Israel to its culmination in the person of David, the regal type and ancestor of the Messianic king, and then fastens Jesus the Saviour to him by the tie of hereditary and prophetic lineage.

Verse 23

23. Of this man’s seed In this verse, which may have been uttered before the Gospels were written, it is remarkable that Paul gives his attestation beforehand to the truth of the genealogies which trace the time of Jesus up to the royal David, thus making Jesus a human prince and legal heir to the throne of Palestine.

Verses 24-25

2. Jesus grounded upon John the Baptist , Acts 13:24 , Acts 13:25 .

We do not suppose that even here, in distant Pisidian Antioch, the name of Jesus was wholly unknown. And John the Baptist, whom all the people of Palestine held to be a prophet, was a familiarly known and revered authority.

Verse 25

25. John… said Paul here quotes in substance words spoken by John in testimony to Jesus as given by different evangelists, and probably uttered at different times by the Baptist.

Verse 26

3. The Jesus-history unfolded as sustained by prophecy and miracle , Acts 13:26-31 .

26. Men and brethren Opening now the evangelic history the apostle makes an earnest recommencement.

To you… sent He presents Jesus as a precious boon sent to them in consideration of their Abrahamic lineage.

Verse 27

27. They that dwell at Jerusalem Paul here touches with delicate skill upon a critical point. Have the hierarchy at our spiritual capital accepted this Jesus? And, if not, shall we in the distant wilds of Pisidia, accepting this stranger’s word, pretend to know better than they?

Voices of the prophets In these beautiful words does the apostle refer them to a higher authority than himself, or even the hierarchy of the day. The voices of the prophets speaking from the holy record are resounding through the world in the synagogue service of every sabbath day even in this synagogue of Pisidian Antioch. The rulers knew not this Jesus aright, because they understood not the sweet utterances of those old prophetic voices.

They have fulfilled them They have not only not known the prophecies, but they have actually in their ignorance fulfilled them. And here the apostle is a true Protestant. He appeals from the hierarchy and the pontiff to the private judgment and the individual conscience.

Verse 28

28. No cause… yet desired… be slain These be bold words following upon the apostle’s heart-touching appeals to his brethren in the flesh. They are a charge of causeless murder against the spiritual lords of Judaism. There could be no doubt that upon some minds in the assembly the words would be appalling. But it would not be the Gentile monotheists, but the Judaists that would be thrilled with horror.

Verse 29

29. Fulfilled all… written of him And so by their very slaying him demonstrated his Messiahship.

Verse 30

30. God raised him Here by one bold stroke the malefactor is made divine. Jesus not only worked miracles, but he was in his history and in himself the greatest of miracles. Is the Sanhedrin great? this Jesus is infinitely greater.

Verse 31

31. From Galilee… witnesses The predictions are proved by the record, their fulfilment by living testimony.

Verse 32

4. Glad tidings! the promise fulfilled , Acts 13:32-37 .

32. Glad tidings The news which Paul brings is not a message of terror or destruction, but glad tidings of salvation, promise, remission of sins.

Verse 33

33. Raised up Jesus again The word again is here unauthorized by the Greek. We do not understand the passage here quoted from the second Psalm to describe or prove the resurrection of Christ, but his birth and consequent inauguration as king upon Zion. Paul in the three Acts 13:33-35 quotes three proof texts in the order of a beautiful climax. This first quotation proves the divine Sonship of Christ, which prepares us to accept the proof of his superiority to death and corruption. The second, from Isaiah 55:3, (Septuagint version,) proves the everlasting kingdom of the Messiah, and his consequent personal immortality. The third, from Psalms 16:10, directly proves the exemption of Messiah from bodily corruption, thus bringing the argument to its complete point.

Thou art my Son In this second Psalm, which was applied by the Jewish Church to the Messiah, Jehovah is introduced as inaugurating his Son upon Mount Zion. That Son is heir to the uttermost parts of the earth; the Gentiles, with all their kings, are bidden to forestall a forced subjection by a voluntary obedience. It is this Messiah whom Paul this day proclaims to Antioch.

Verse 34

34. Sure mercies of David We can give no better commentary upon these words than is furnished by Bishop Pearce: “For the sense of these words we must have recourse to what God said to David in 2 Samuel 7:11-12, etc., explained by what is said in Psalms 89:3-4; Psalms 89:28-29; Psalms 89:36, where frequent mention is made of a covenant established by God with David, and sworn to by God, that David’s seed should endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven, and as the sun, to all generations. This covenant and this oath are the sure and sacred things of which Isaiah (Isaiah 55:3) speaks, and Luke in this place. And Paul understood them as relating to the kingdom of Jesus, (the son of David,) which was to be an everlasting kingdom; and if an everlasting one, then it was necessary that Jesus should have been (as he was) raised from the dead; and to support this argument, Paul, in the next verse, strengthens it with another, drawn from Psalms 16:10.”

Verse 35

35. Holy One… corruption Paul here uses the same argument with Peter in Acts 2:25-31, yet in words and connexion so different as to show them to be independent arguments.

Verse 36

36. Fell on sleep Old English for fell asleep.

Verse 38

38. Through this man For, perfect man as Jesus is, it is through his great name the salvation must come.

Verses 38-41

5. The general conclusion; salvation by faith in Jesus , Acts 13:38-41 .

With a fresh vocative, men and brethren, Paul now gathers up the summary conclusion. This mission of joy must be accepted as the only deliverance from ultimate ruin. The ruin is not part of the message proper, but is the result from which the message would rescue.

Verse 39

39. Justified Paul’s favourite term, borrowed from the Roman law, being the key-word to the doctrine here indicated, but more fully expanded in his epistles. While thus introductorily preaching to unconverted Jews and Gentiles, the resurrection is the prominent topic; but in writing his epistles to his converts, he unfolds the consequent doctrines of faith and the atonement.

Verse 40

40. Beware therefore Having unfolded the Gospel, Paul now warns them against the perdition resulting from its rejection.

Verse 41

41. Behold The words are quoted from Habakkuk 1:5, Septuagint version.

Ye despisers In the Hebrew text, Ye among the heathen; which, however, the Septuagint, apparently from a different Hebrew text, translated as here quoted by Paul. The work in Habakkuk refers to God’s judgment in bringing upon Israel an invasion by the Chaldeans. It here, perhaps, dimly foreshadows the overthrow of the State by the Romans.

Perish The original word signifies to disappear from recognised existence, to perish.

Though a man Authorized to reveal the truth.

Declare it Make clear and announce it.

Verse 42

42. Jews were gone out The congregation was not broken up until the next verse. Hence it is supposed that the Jews, in anger, left the synagogue instantly upon the close of the discourse, leaving the Gentiles in a very different state of temper. That the Jews were in a state of irritation is clear from 45-48, but it is to be noted that the best manuscripts omit both the words Jews and Gentiles. And the meaning, then, would be, that as the apostles were going out, they that is, impersonally a number desired their preaching again next Sabbath. The reading adopted by our authorized translation probably arose from additions made by explanatory words creeping into the text. The explanatory words, perhaps, express the full facts as they really took place.

Verse 43

43. Congregation was broken up Namely, after the going out of the previous verse, whether of offended Jews or of apostles only.

Many of the Jews Yet probably a small minority of the whole.

And religious proselytes Namely, Gentile monotheists, being a commencing number enlarged at Acts 13:48.

Followed Paul As the apostles were walking from the synagogue, these awakened persons followed to converse with them, and receive from them strong persuasion not to allow their awakening to pass away, but to continue in the grace of God. How often the impressions produced during a faithful sermon are breathed away by the fresh air after leaving the house of God! How all important it is that the mind of the convicted person should refuse to allow the gracious impression to depart like the morning dew! Let such persons like these Jews and Gentiles hold solemn converse with their minister. Let the minister be in heart and soul fully prepared to persuade them to continue in the grace of God.

Verse 44

5. Second Sabbath at Pisidian Antioch Jewish Unbelief and Gentile Faith , Acts 13:44-52 .

44. Almost the whole city Antioch was that day, almost entire, within the synagogue. The apostles for one day had near a whole city for a congregation: for the report of the preceding Sabbath, with the intervening excitement, had aroused the inquiring population. Not wholly lost was the effect, for by Acts 13:49 we learn that in consequence the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. One of these noble apostles may have addressed the multitudes within the house; the other may at the same time, standing near the threshold, have harangued the multitudes in the front area.

Verse 45

45. Filled with envy With indignation at seeing these two itinerant Nazarenes taking possession of their synagogue, and filling it with the city population.

Verse 46

46. Waxed bold Rising above all useless altercation with the Jews.

Judge yourselves unworthy Not that they literally believed themselves to be unworthy of life eternal. On the contrary, they believed themselves eminently, and even exclusively, the heirs of that inheritance. But they determined themselves to be such sort as truly is unworthy eternal life.

Everlasting life Eternal life is not solely a future, but a present, possession. (See notes on John 4:14; John 5:24; John 6:40.) It is a possession commenced in this life to be perpetuated, in a life to come. There is a present as well as a future salvation. These Jews were indisposed to eternal life, and so rejected the Gospel; the Gentiles, in Acts 13:48, as many as were disposed to eternal life, believed.

Verse 47

47. A light of the Gentiles Paul here quotes Isaiah 49:6. What Isaiah there says in a diluted sense of himself, the apostles here apply in its fulness to Christ. Having complained of his rejection by his own countrymen, the prophet is assured by God that to gain the Jews were a small thing, for he is beautifully told that he should be a light of the Gentiles, a salvation to the ends of the earth.

Verse 48

48. Gentiles… glad When now these Gentiles learn from the gracious words of Hebrew prophecy that this Gospel was promised to them of old, their hearts go forward with eager joy to embrace it.

Ordained to eternal life Should be rendered, disposed to eternal life. It plainly refers to the eager predisposition just above mentioned in the heart of many of these Gentiles on learning that old prophecy proclaims a Messiah for them. As many as were so inclined to the eternal life now offered committed themselves by faith to the blessed Jesus.

Rarely has a text been so violently wrenched from its connections with the context, and strained beyond its meaning for a purpose, than has been this clause in support of the doctrine of predestination. There is not the least plausibility in the notion that Luke in this simple history is referring to any eternal decree predestinating these men to eternal life. The word here rendered ordained usually signifies placed, positioned, disposed. It may refer to the material or to the mental position. It is a verb in the passive form, a form which frequently possesses a reciprocal active meaning; that is, it frequently signifies an action performed by one’s self upon one’s self. Thus, in Romans 9:22, The vessels of wrath fitted to destruction are carefully affirmed, even by predestinarians, to be fitted by themselves. Indeed, the very Greek word here rendered ordained is frequently used, compounded with a preposition, in the New Testament itself, in the passive form with a reciprocal meaning. Thus, Romans 13:1, Be subject unto the higher powers, is literally, place yourselves under the higher powers. So, also, Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 16:16; James 4:7, and many other texts. The meaning we give is required by the antithesis between the Jews in Acts 13:46 and these Gentiles. The former were indisposed to eternal life, and so believed not; these were predisposed to eternal life, and so believed. The permanent faith of the soul was consequent upon the predisposition of the heart and the predetermination of the will.

Verse 49

49. Word… published… all the region This Romanized city of Antioch applied the old pagan Latin language, with all possible flexibility, to uses it had never known before, to thoughts of faith, and joy, and love new to the Roman soul.

Verse 50

50. Devout and honourable women It is noted in the history of these times that many pagan women of the higher ranks were predisposed to Judaism. These honourable women were probably wives of the chief men of the city, and used their influence with their husbands against the preachers of the new doctrine. It is a curious corroboration of this narrative that Strabo, the Greek geographer, speaking of this district, says: “All agree that the women are prime leaders in superstition, and these appeal to the men in favour of large reverence of the gods, and feasts, and worships.”

Verse 51

51. Shook off the dust According to the command of Jesus, (Matthew 10:14,) upon which see our note.

Unto Iconium For Iconium see Acts 13:1 of the next chapter.

Verse 52

52. Disciples Luke does not adopt the name Christians himself, but still retains the usual epithet disciples.

Filled with joy As the Gospel was a message of joy, so those who were filled with it were filled with joy.

And with the Holy Ghost And this was the source of their joy, their strength, and their firmness. Great is the power of Christian joy. A religion of gloom, of asceticism, of self-accusation, may be sincere and solid; but it wants the abounding strength, the rich consolation, the glorious attractiveness, of a religion of joy, especially if it be the joy of those filled with the Holy Ghost. Our apostles were slandered, were persecuted, were banished; but they left behind them blessed, joyous, living monuments of their labours: monuments enduring unto that eternal life for which they were disposed, in which they believed, and by which they triumphed.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/acts-13.html. 1874-1909.
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