The Acts Challenge: Chapter 13, Paul In the Synagogue

When’s the last time you got excited about being thrown out of a place? Well, by the end of this chapter, you’ll know how these guys felt! Day 13 is pretty interesting, as we find Scripture being fulfilled in the ears of the people.

For those who may have missed it, here’s a rundown of the chapters we’ve covered so far, so you can go back and read them in order if you like.

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Separating Barnabas & Saul

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

(Vs. 2) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

(Vs. 3) And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

The church in Antioch had resident prophets and teachers, and they ministered, fasted, and prayed to God. In so many instances, especially in the Old Testament, we see fasting as a form of mourning, often accompanied by putting sackcloth and ashes on a person’s head. Here, though, it seems to be an element of regular worship and service to God.

(Vs. 4) So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

(Vs. 5) And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

Sorcerer, False Prophet, Jew: Barjesus

(Vs. 6) And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:

(Vs. 7) Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

(Vs. 8) But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

Don’t be confused at this verse: Barjesus and Elymas was the same person. It’s not as easy to catch that in Old English phrasing, but praise God, He gives us knowledge in these things!

Barjesus, meaning “false prophet”, is the Jewish version of Elymas, which means “wizard”, in Arabic. I find it interesting how this man wore all these hats: sorcerer, false prophet, and Jew. The latter, “Jew”, meaning he should have known better. A Jew was to be devout, recognizing God and His Word, His Will, and His way.

But in those days, Jews were anything BUT those things! When they should have been calling out this Barjesus for being a false prophet and a sorcerer, they were instead oppressing the brethren, the believers, and calling them blasphemers.

  • Sorcerer – “magos” (Strong’s G3097):
    • A name given by the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, or others, to wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, etc… (Think Daniel and his friends, who were renamed when taken into captivity.)
    • The oriental wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem.
  • False Prophet – “pseudoprophetes” (Strong’s G5578):
    • One who speaks falsehoods, calling them divine prophecies, as they act the part of a prophet.
    • Religious imposter
  • Jew – “loudaios” (Strong’s G2453):
    • Belonging to the Jewish nation, Jewish with respect to birth, origin, and religion.

Saul/Paul Responds

(Vs. 9) Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

(Vs. 10) And said, O full of all subtity and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

(Vs. 11) And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

(Vs. 12) Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Oh to have the kind of boldness of those early Christians! (Really… what’s stopping us??) Paul wasn’t letting that go any farther. The Holy Ghost worked through him to blind the eyes of that sorcerer, for a season, and show the Hand of God still strong among His people.

That strong Hand, and the evidence of a power mightier than anything they’d seen in a long time, caused that deputy to believe! See what can happen when we make ourselves a willing vessel to God, even if it seems “over the top” to us in our flesh? Who knows who might be standing by that would believe on the Lord, to God’s great glory?

Sabbath Synagogue

(Vs. 13) Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

Ruins in Perga
Ruins still standing in the ancient city of Perga.

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 15) And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

Even though they knew the Truth, the “rest of the story” as you might say, Paul and his company went on and attended Sabbath Service when they arrived in Perga. The Old Testament was still an important part of their doctrine, as it still is today. But now, there was something added that was very needed and necessary. And Paul was about to “say on”.

Brother Paul, Say On

(Vs. 16) Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

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

(Vs. 18) And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

(Vs. 19) And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot.

(Vs. 20) And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

(Vs. 21) And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

(Vs. 22) And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil at my will.

(Vs. 23) Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:

Very quickly and effectively, Paul explained the Jewish history in a nutshell. From the slavery in Egypt, all the way up to Jesus. This was “the Gospel”… the “Good News” that Jesus wanted preached!

From slavery to salvation, there was never a time when Jesus was not making a way for His people!

Further Explanation

(Vs. 24) When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

(Vs. 25) And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

(Vs. 26) Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

(Vs. 27) For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

(Vs. 28) And though they found no cause of death in him, yet they desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

(Vs. 29) And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

(Vs. 30) But God raised him from the dead:

Further explaining the truth behind what was then considered “recent events” Paul goes on to talk about Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. And the most important sentence here: But God raised him from the dead.

Glad Tidings

(Vs. 31) And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

(Vs. 32) And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,

(Vs. 33) God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

(Vs. 34) And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.

(Vs. 35) Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

(Vs. 36) For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.

(Vs. 37) But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.

Jesus saw no corruption. Did that mean he wasn’t a bad guy? No. It means his body literally saw no corruption. There was no bodily decay and when he arose, he even had the scars to show where they had pierced him through.

And those scars… were only three days old!

Justification & Warning

(Vs. 38) Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

(Vs. 39) And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

(Vs. 40) Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;

(Vs. 41) Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.

Jesus’ death did what nothing else could do. It justified us from sin! The Law of Moses spoke to ritualistic cleansing and sacrifices that could never fully give us access into the Holy of Holies. But the blood of Jesus, which was shed for us, did that and so much more!

What’s more, even then, it was prophesied that even though Jesus would do a work in our days, there would be those that wouldn’t even believe it if it was declared unto them. This could have well been what Jesus was talking about when he told Thomas, “You are blessed because you SEE and believe… but blessed are those who don’t see and will still believe!” (Paraphrasing, of course!)

The Gentiles Desire the Word

(Vs. 42) And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

(Vs. 43) Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

Apparently, the Gentiles had heard a bit of what was said. They wanted to hear more! But the didn’t approach until the Jews were gone. (Wonder why?) As the Jews did leave, however, Paul and Barnabas encouraged them to go on in God’s grace.

So many times, we might hear a good sermon, only to lose sight of it once we are out in the world again. To continue in His Grace is to know that no matter what happens, HE is more important!

The Gentile Gathering is Massive

(Vs. 44) And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

(Vs. 45) But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

The whole city, or most of it, was there to hear what Paul had said to the Jews the prior Sabbath. But the Jews were “filled with envy”. But why? We can only assume, as is most likely, they were doing everything from a flesh standpoint.

Their services didn’t have those kinds of numbers this meeting had because the law wasn’t popular, even when it was necessary! But they weren’t thinking about that. They were only thinking about the fact that they wanted more people to come and listen to THEM. Them. Not God. Not the Word that can change hearts and lives. To them.

And so, as was their pious, religious custom, they resorted to contradictions and blasphemy. We see that abundantly in our very own day and age as the Pope of the Catholic church draws up “contracts” to sign with other religions… religions that are absolutely blasphemous to the Word and Will of our God. And they purposely use the WORD “God” to embrace the idea of both our God and Allah.

Not one mention of Jesus.

Paul Addresses the Jews

(Vs. 46) Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Paul makes it plain… it was God’s plan that the Jew receives the Word FIRST. But they cast it away, didn’t care about it, and as such, mark themselves “unworthy of everlasting life”. Even though they follow the letter of the law to a T, their turning away from the Word of Life are as damning to them as never having known God at all.

Again, as we see so often throughout the Scriptures, we can BE religious and still miss heaven by a wide berth!

(Vs. 47) For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light to the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

God had every intention of giving this indistinguishable light to the Gentiles. Because THAT was the mode by which it would make worldwide rounds.

(Vs. 48) And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

(Vs. 49) And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

Thrown Out

(Vs. 50) But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

Paul and Barnabas were in good company in their eviction. Even Jesus Himself had been cast out of certain cities. They were cut to the heart with his Words and scared to death of his Works. The miracles, to them, were only a sign that there WAS One greater, and He was even in their midst.

(Vs. 51) But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.

(Vs. 52) And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.

Following Jesus example from when He Himself had been thrown out, they shook the dust off their feet “against them” and carried on. Their next stop was Iconium, and they were happy about it.

The indwelling of the Holy Ghost CHANGES THINGS!

I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments! Thank you for reading!

Ever In His Service,

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