Acts 13: 44 – 52 In Pisidian Antioch – Part 2
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourself worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
‘ “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” ’
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
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What astonishes me as I read these chapters in Acts, is the enormous appetite for the word of God that Paul and Barnabas found. ‘On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.’
Now, not all these people became believers. As Luke says, ‘All who were appointed for eternal life believed.’ But what was it called the crowds out in such numbers?
One possibility might be traced back to Paphos in Cyprus, to Sergius Paulus, the Proconsul. It would seem that the Sergius family, of which he was a prominent member, had extensive estates in the region of Pisidian Antioch. Sergius Paulus had come to faith in Jesus, and it is by no means impossible that he would have arranged a welcome for Paul and Barnabas in his home city.
[Sergius Paulus is quite well attested in history and archaeology. There are a number of inscriptions that place him in Cyprus at the right time to have met Paul and Barnabas. There is an inscription in Antioch naming his family. He was also an author who wrote about natural history with sufficient expertise and knowledge to be quoted as a source by Pliny the Elder]
In any case, the great interest shown by the people was a mixed blessing. It allowed the word of God to be proclaimed as widely as possible, but it also stirred up the opposition of those whose self-interest was challenged. The Jewish leaders ‘began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.’
Paul and Barnabas took a hard line with them. ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourself worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.’
Luke records, ‘When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.’ The last part of that statement is important. Luke is making the point that the missionary work wasn’t hindered by the opposition.
The opposition, though, increased. The Jewish leaders were not the only people whose interests were threatened. They ganged up with other influential people, and expelled Paul and Barnabas from their region. This perhaps supports the idea that the Sergius family had championed Paul and Barnabas. The Sergius family would have been one of a number of important families. When it looked as though the new faith was going to increase their influence, it would hardly be surprising if their competitors sought to prevent this.
But, as Luke says, ‘When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.’
And then he concludes, as they shake the dust of the city off their feet, ‘And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.’
And I shall conclude this post with two quotations.
Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin. (Acts 13: 38)
All who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13: 48)
You are the source of all goodness. Help me to be humble so that I can do your will, and receive the gifts you want me to have.
In Jesus name, Amen