Acts 13: 13 – 43 In Pisidian Antioch – Part 1
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the law and the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.’
Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: ‘Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years.
After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled for forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”
‘From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: “Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
‘Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognise Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb, but God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had travelled him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
‘We tell you the good news: what God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second psalm:
‘ “You are my son; today I have become your father.”
God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,
‘ “I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.”
So it is also stated elsewhere:
‘ “You will not let your holy one see decay.”
‘Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
‘Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
‘ “Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe even if someone told you.” ‘
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
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As a Christian, I believe that God intervenes directly in history. Jesus is the key intervention. His life, death and resurrection is God’s most powerful way of saying that he has created the world in such a way that ultimately good/love triumphs.
What about earlier interventions? What about “he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance.”? These were not peaceful displacements. One of the ways I have tried to understand the suffering of people who are innocent has been to imagine that God’s plan somehow compensates them after death. Can that really be correct?
In his address to the people of the synagogue, Paul refers to King David like this: ‘God testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” ’ David was far from sinless, murdering a rival so that he could steal his wife. Yes, he repented, and yes, he showed almost total trust in God throughout his life, but does this justify such a glowing description? Also, if David is forgiven for the sin of murder after he has repented, how does that concur with Paul’s statement: “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” ? David was under the law of Moses, and was apparently set free from the sin of murder.
There seems to be quite a disconnect between the teaching of the earthly Jesus, and the teaching that Paul gives here. During Jesus’ lifetime, everybody was astonished because Jesus spoke with authority and not like one of the scribes. Additionally, at the beginning of Acts, Luke tells us of the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower the apostles. Paul’s message here, though, harks back to arguments based on scriptural authority.
It would seem the appeal to Jewish history was successful, because, “When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” But what were they believing?
I know I don’t properly understand your plan, even the little bit that you are trying to show me, and I’m sorry. Thank you for your patience. Please help me to do what you want with my life.
In Jesus’ name, Amen