Tod Kennedy, February, 2000
Main points of application or “So what?” from Acts 13
- It is helpful when spreading the gospel to take into account the frame of reference (background, education, experience) of those to whom you witness about Christ; you simply accurately and clearly and honestly witness to them so that they understand the gospel and may believe it.
- The message of the missionary is the eternal life gospel of Jesus Christ—Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The missionary’s mission is not to change the society; that only comes with teaching and application of the Bible in the lives of believers.
- One way to present the gospel to a group is to take them through a brief biblical history of mankind and show that history leads to Jesus Christ—to his first coming, to each person’s belief or unbelief in him as savior, to his second coming for the church and later his coming to earth, to his reign on earth, and to his rule in eternity.
- Different responses: some people will believe the gospel, and many will reject it. Some who believe in Christ will pass the gospel to others while some who reject Christ will cause great trouble for believers.
- Regardless of circumstances, believers have the privileges of being filled with the Holy Spirit and being filled with inner happiness.
- God does have a plan for the life of each believer and because of that each of us can have security and confidence.
- During the course of the church’s Christian life ministry at Antioch, which included prayer and fasting in order to more fully concentrate on God’s will, the Holy Spirit directed the believers to set Barnabas and Saul apart for missionary work. John Mark went with them as their helper (Acts 13.1-3).
- Barnabas and Saul first stopped at Salamis on the island of Cyprus. They preached initially in the synagogue. Why did they go there first if the gospel was open to all people? Because the Jews had a frame of reference for the gospel and because the gospel was offered to “the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1.16; Acts 13.4-5).
- At Paphos, the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, wanted to hear the truth of God but a magician named Bar-Jesus or Elymas tried to prevent the proconsul from listening to the gospel and believing in Christ. Bar-Jesus demonstrates religious negative volition and Sergius Paulus demonstrates positive volition at God consciousness. Later critics criticized Luke for using the title “proconsul” in Acts 13 because Cyprus was an Imperial province; critics said that the correct title was “propraetor.” A proconsul was governor of a province ruled by the Roman Senate (a Senatorial province), while a propraetor was governor under the direct control of the emperor (an Imperial province). But history tells us that Augustus made Cyprus a Senatorial province in 25 BC, and so proconsul is the accurate title. Again the Bible is accurate (Acts 13.6-8).
- Saul, also now using the name Paul, froze Elymas with a stare; Paul had correctly diagnosed the spiritual antagonism of Elymas. Then the Lord, through Paul, temporarily blinded Elymas. This, of course, got the proconsul’s attention. He was so amazed at the works of the Lord that he believed what Paul had said—apparently about Christ and eternal life. This is another example of the temporary spiritual gift of miracles being used to get one’s attention and authenticate the apostles’ message (Acts 13.9-12).
- The next stop was Pisidian Antioch, a commercial center in Phrygia but near Pisidia in the middle of Asia Minor; it was on the trade route between Ephesus and the Cilician Gates (near Tarsus). John Mark returned to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas did as before: they went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day where, after the Scripture reading, they were asked to speak to the congregation. Paul did as Stephen had done; he talked through the history of Israel; today we would call this a walk through the Old Testament (Acts 13.13-16).
- Paul began by saying that God had, through the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), chosen Israel; he then formed the nation in Egypt before he led them to Canaan in the Exodus (Acts 13.17-18). Paul continued his message by speaking of Israel’s conquest of Canaan (Acts 13.19), the judges (Acts 13:20), King Saul and King David (Acts 13.21-22). Paul noted that the promised savior, Jesus, came from David’s line (Acts 13.23). Paul made the direct link from David to Jesus. Paul, of course, was referring to God’s promises that were found in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. The most recent prophet of Jesus was John the Baptist (Acts 13.24-25).
- At this point in his message, Paul applied his Old Testament walk through to his audience. He began by saying that the message of salvation has been sent to them. The Jewish people, including their rulers, rejected Jesus and had him crucified; God raised Jesus from the dead and then his disciples and many people saw him alive (Acts 13.26-31).
- Paul concluded his message by clearly stating that he and Barnabas preached the good news about the promised savior, Jesus, whom God resurrected from the dead (Acts 13.32-33). David, in Psalm 16, even spoke of resurrection—not his own, but the promised savior’s resurrection (Acts 13.34-37). Paul said that forgiveness of sins comes through believing in Jesus (Acts 13.38-39). He closed his message by warning them that the prophets said that many, called scoffers, would see Jesus, marvel at him, and perish because they would not believe the message; Paul told them not to be among that group (Acts 13.40-41).
- There were two clear responses to the good news that Paul preached: many Jews and God-fearers wanted to hear more about God’s grace through Jesus, while many others turned on Paul and repudiated the good news (Acts 13.42-45). At this point Paul had fulfilled “to the Jew first” and now turned his ministry to the Gentiles. The Gentiles rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord. Many believed the gospel and therefore gained eternal life (Acts 13.46-48). “Appointed to eternal life” means that God had previously positioned them in his eternal salvation plan because he knew that they would, at a time in their lives, believe the gospel.
- The Word of God continued to spread with the result that unbelievers intensified their action against the gospel and those who proclaimed it, while believers who kept their minds on Christ and the Word of God had inner happiness and lived by the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, Paul and Silas had fulfilled their mission in Pisidian Antioch, so they moved on to Iconium (Acts 13.49-52).
Doctrine Summaries, Definitions, and Descriptions
- Missions is the spiritual ministry that takes the gospel to people who live in geographical regions (foreign missions or home missions) where the gospel is not accurately proclaimed; “regions beyond” were Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10.16 (Matthew 28.19-20; Acts 1.8; Romans 1.14-16; Acts 13-28 is Luke’s record of the missionary trips; Ephesians 4.11-16). The purpose of missions is 1. to proclaim the good news that eternal salvation is a free gift to all who will believe in Jesus Christ as savior, 2. to teach the new believers Bible doctrine for spiritual growth and ministry, 3. to help the indigenous believers to form a local church, select a pastor-teacher and deacons, and begin to grow and serve Christ. The missionary will then repeat this process with other people in the same, similar, or different regions. Missionaries ought to revisit the new churches on occasion in order to encourage and teach the believers until they are self-sufficient. Missionaries should be sent out from a home local church and be supported by that church and possibly by other churches in that geographical area. Missionaries ought to return to their own local church to report on their ministry and to be taught and further equipped by the pastor-teacher. A missionary ought to have one of the public communication spiritual gifts: evangelist, teacher, or pastor-teacher. Missionaries must be biblically grounded in all Bible doctrine, but especially the gospel, grace, faith, and basic Christian life doctrines (occupation with Christ, knowledge of the Word, faith-rest, confession of sin, spirituality, prayer, and ministry).
- Election, in practical terms, means that God has selected and secured those whom he knows will believe in Christ. The word “election” means selection, choice, differentiation. Charles Ryrie, in A Survey of Bible Doctrine, page 116, writes that election is “the action of God in choosing certain people for certain purposes. The reason the definition is so broad is so that it can include the various people and groups who are said to be elect in the Bible.” God selects those who will believe in Christ for eternal life, for privileges, and for opportunities. Life, privileges, and opportunities are only given to those who are related to God by faith (Ephesians 1.3-14). He elected people according to their foreknown faith response to the gospel. He selected and secured these faith people for personal participation and blessing inside His gracious plan (Ephesians 1.3-14; Ephesians 1.4-5; 1 Thessalonians 5.9; 2 Thessalonians 2.13; 1 Peter 1.1-2). Acts 13.48, “and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed,” links God’s election in the past to man’s belief of the gospel in the present. The meaning of “election” has been hotly debated. I believe the following interpretation of election according to God’s foreknowledge answers the most questions and best brings all the Scripture on this subject together. Many think election means that God simply programs people to believe or not believe, and that this definition of election protects God’s sovereignty, but it takes greater sovereignty and power to create beings who have the freedom and ability to accept or reject God’s gift of salvation than to create beings who do just what they were programmed to do. God created man with volition; God was smart enough and powerful enough to plan for every contingency, every bad decision and every good decision and make it all come out to fulfill his plan and honor his character. Predestination is different from election and only applies to believers. It means God designed a destiny for every believer. That destiny is that he will be like Christ (Romans 8.29; Ephesians 1.5-6). Believers, therefore, are predestined to be like Christ. Predestination has nothing to do with man’s eternal destination.