A Light for the Gentiles

by LA UBF   05/22/2010     0 reads



Acts 13:1-52

Key Verse: 13:47

"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.'"

Read verses 1-3. What was special about the Antioch church? (11:19-21) Who were the Bible teachers? Why and how did they send out Barnabas and Saul as missionaries?

Read verses 4-12.  Where did they go and to whom did they first preach? What is notable about Sergius Paulus?  Who was Elymas and what happened to him? How did God work?

Read verses 13-15.  Where else did Paul and his companions travel before they went to Pisidian Antioch?  After they arrived in Pisidian Antioch, when was their first opportunity to preach the gospel there?  

Paul briefly breaks down Israelite history into two periods.  (vs.16-20;21-25). What are the key aspects of each period? What role did King David play? (vs. 22b,23)

In vs. 26-31,37, what are some of the key facts on salvation which are presented here? In vs. 32-35, what did God promise David, and how did he fulfill it? How did David live his life? (36)

Read verses 38-41. What is the good news? (38,39)  What is Paul's warning? (40, 41)  How did the people initially respond to Paul's preaching in vs. 42,43?

Read verses 44-52. What happened the next Sabbath? Why did persecution arise? How did the course of world mission history turn toward the Gentiles? How did Paul see this in the light of scripture and God's sovereignty?





Acts 13:1-52

Key Verse: 13:47

"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.'"

Acts 13 marks a turning point in world mission history.  In Acts 1:8 Jesus said to disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 13 is the beginning of the third part of Jesus command.  Through the Sunday passages we have seen how these events unfolded. The apostles preached boldly in Jerusalem after the Day of Pentecost.  Due to persecution after Stephen was martyred the apostles scattered to Judea and Samaria preaching the word wherever they went.  In this chapter, we see the very beginning of the last phase.  We also see the beginning of the apostle Paul’s ministry. 

1.  The Antioch Church, A missionary sending Church
In vs. 1 and 2 we see that in the church of Antioch there were prophets and teachers listed.  Among them were Barnabas and Saul.  In vs. 2 it says that while they were fasting and praying, the will of the Holy Spirit was revealed to them.  Antioch the third largest city in the Roman Empire, and was the capital of Syria.  It was known as the “Heathen Queen.”  Yet from this spiritually dark place, God began a wonderful work of world mission.  The people listed in vs. 1b, are Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manean, and Saul.  .  These people each with their unique abilities, backgrounds joined together serving the Lord.  In vs. 2a it says that while they were fasting and worshiping the Lord, the Holy Spirit spoke to them revealing to them clear direction.  The direction was to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work which God had called them to do.”  One thing we can learn is that the Holy Spirit spoke to them while they serving the church diligently.  We can learn a lesson here in finding God’s direction.  Many times people in the church might pray to God for direction for their lives.  Maybe they pray, “Please, Lord show me your will for my life.”  Yet an answer does not come.  There may be some people in this ministry, who can share about their personal experience in this matter.  In the passage it says, while they were fasting and worshiping the Lord.  The people in the passage were spiritually active.  They were committed to doing something in the church.  We can learn from the passage to commit to doing one thing in the church.  Maybe one can commit to something like the discipleship training meetings, or commit to an evening prayer meeting, morning Daily Bread, regular Sunday Worship Service attendance, etc.  There are many ways in this ministry, where we can make some commitment before.  When we commit to putting ourselves in the will God, in time God’s will for our lives will become clear.  Another thing they were doing in the passage was fasting.  Why were they fasting?  Were they trying to lose weight?  No.  Fasting is a way to seek God’s direction.  There are many occasions in the Bible were we can see people fasting.   It was usually during an occasion of deep spiritual concern.  Fasting intensifies prayer and helps one to seek God’s guidance.  It’s also a way to seek God’s mercy.  Fasting also makes one’s spirit alert.  When we look around our community, there are so many fast food places and nice restaurants.   I have such a hard time fasting.  Occasionally when I or my family might get invited to eating fellowship, I always feel obligated to eat as much as I can.  During bible conferences at meal time, the serving arrangement is usually all you can eat buffet.  I can’t resist. Fasting for me is definitely an unfamiliar activity.  Yet, fasting is very beneficial.  In the passage fasting is combined with prayer and worship.  In vs. 2 it says, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting.”  the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work which I have called them.’  The church obeyed.  The church could’ve expressed reservations regarding the selection of Saul and Barnabas.  They could’ve protested.  “O Lord, we can’t set apart Saul and Barnabas.  They are the leaders of our fellowship here.  Please choose someone else.”  Yet, the church didn’t do this.  They obeyed the direction of the Holy Spirit.  They placed their hands on them, and sent them off.  

II. On to Cyprus (vs. 4-12)

In this passage, for Paul’s first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas went to Seleucia, and sailed to Cyprus.  When they arrived at Salamis, they preached the gospel in the Jewish synagogue there.  Then they traveled throughout the island until they came to Paphos.  There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar Jesus.  He was the attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus.  The proconsul was an intelligent man.  In the passage it says that he sent for Paul and Barnabas, because he wanted to hear the word of God.  This is really remarkable.  Usually people in a high position in society are not interested in things like Bible study or the word of God.  Due to their position, they can enjoy many things the world has to offer.  Things like Bible study, whose benefits seem to be so intangible, are of little interest to such people.  Yet, the passage says that the proconsul was an intelligent man.  Maybe he felt unfulfilled.  He somehow recognized that there was more in life than being a successful man of high position.  When heard about the message that Paul was preaching, spiritual desire arose in his heart.  He really wanted to meet with Paul, and learn about the gospel message.  Yet there was an obstacle preventing Sergius Paulus from meeting with Paul.  It was his attendant, Bar Jesus. Bar Jesus opposed Paul and Barnabas, and he tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.  In vs. 9, it says that Paul filled with the Holy Spirit rebuked the false prophet.  In vs. 10,11 Paul said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?”  Then he said, “Now the hand of the Lord is against you.  You are going to be blind, and for a time you will unable to see the light of the sun.”  Immediately mist and darkness came over him.”

When the proconsul saw how Paul rebuked him, he was amazed.  He could have joyful Bible Study with Paul. When we look at vs. 12, it says that the proconsul believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.  Wow.  Thank God.  The false prophet tried to prevent, yet Paul rebuked him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This shows that the mission field is definitely a spiritual battle field.  To be successful, we need the Help of the Holy Spirit.  There are so many people on the university and colleges campuses these days, who are intelligent and able like the proconsul.  Yet, they don’t know or understand about Jesus.  Despite the success that they may have in school, they still feel unfulfilled.  They don’t understand that they need Jesus.  There aren’t any false prophets on campus like Bar-Jesus.  Yet there are other dark forces, which Satan uses to keep students from Bible Study.  Probably the most common is, I’m not interested.  Another might be, I can’t make time for Bible.  I’m too busy with work and school.  Or maybe some are on a scholarship, and if they get a bad grade, all of a sudden they are in big trouble.  Of course, these are legitimate issues that we need to be mindful of.  Yet, we need to learn from Paul, that the mission field is a spiritually hostile place.  We need to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer.  When we pray, maybe even fast and depend on the Holy Spirit, students will overcome their fear and doubt.  They will accept the invitation to Bible Study.  In addition to being successfully completing their studies, they can receive the greatest blessing, which is salvation through Jesus Christ.  Amen.  So in serving campus mission, may God help us to learn how to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.

III.  In Pisidian Antioch (13-41)

On the Sabbath, they entered the synagogue.(vs. 13-15)  After the reading from the Law and Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.”  This was Paul’s opportunity to speak to the people.  Paul understood Israel's history.  He also knew that most that most of the people in attendance were Jewish, and they didn’t understand how the Law and Prophets pointed to Jesus as the promised Messiah.  Paul summarized the history of Israel from the time of the Patriarchs, and their slave life in Egypt, all the way through Samuel, and when David was made king.  David was a successful king, before the eyes of God.  In vs. 22 it says, “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”  David was successful, because he obeyed God.  Not only did David to everything God wanted him to do, when David committed a great sin before God, he repented in tears and humility.  David had faith in God’s sin forgiving love.  As God promised, God sent the Savior through David’s line.

In vs. 24-31, Paul presented the facts of Jesus life and death.  First John the Baptist came preaching repentance.  He worked to prepare the peoples hearts for the coming Messiah.  Yet, when Jesus came, the people of Jerusalem and the rulers did not accept Jesus.  Jesus was arrested tried, and condemned to die on the cross, even though he had not committed any crime.  After Jesus was crucified, he was taken down and laid in a tomb.  Yet, Jesus death was not a tragedy.  Jesus death was the fulfillment of prophecy.  Jesus died in obedience to God’s will.  Three days after he was buried, Jesus rose from the dead.  For about forty days, he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.  Those people became his resurrection witnesses. 

The main point of Jesus resurrection is that all who believe in Jesus are justified.  In vs. 32-41, Paul quoted several Old Testament verses to show that Jesus’ resurrection fulfilled the promises of God.  People in this world seem to have so many problems.  The only real or fundamental problem that man has, however, is death.  Everyone will eventually die, and turn to dust.  Then we’ll have to pay the penalty for our sins.  Yet, look at vs. 38,39.  “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”  No one can keep the law of Moses 100%.  So all those under the law of Moses will die, and then suffer condemnation.  The good news is that through Jesus we have the forgiveness of sins and are justified.  Through faith in Jesus we are declared “Not guilty.”  This is good news to all people.  This is good news even to the Jews in this passage.  Paul outlined God’s world salvation plan in such a way, that now it was the peoples turn to make a decision. They needed to either accept the good news of Jesus or reject it. Those who believe the message of Jesus will be saved.  Thank God.  So how do we want to respond to the message of Jesus?  Let’s accept the message of Jesus right now, and make ourselves to be declared ‘not guilty’, before the eyes of God.  Amen.

IV.  A Light For the Gentiles

The people were touched by Paul’s message.  They recognized that through Jesus, they were free from the burden of the law.  As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about those matters the next week.  After the meeting, many followed Paul and Barnabas.  They received much grace from the message and wanted to know more.  Maybe they had group Bible study over a meal at Paul’s place.  Maybe they had some one to one Bible Studies throughout the week.  The one thing we do know is that word of God worked powerfully.  On the next Sabbath, almost the entire city gathered at the synagogue.  They were all there to here about the word of God from Paul.  It was a very blessed scene.  Yet, rather quickly problems arose.  The Jews saw the crowd of people so eager to here the word of God about Jesus.  They became jealous.  They talked abusively against Paul, Barnabas and the message they were proclaiming.  It must’ve been a painful moment for Paul and Barnabas.  Paul and Barnabas had brought the message of the life giving gospel to them.  The week before the people’s view toward the message had been so positive.  Now, out of jealousy, the Jews were speaking abusively against the message.  Not only did the Jews reject the message, but they became enemies of the gospel.  Paul and Barnabas came to these people, and offered the good news of the gospel of Jesus.  Yet, they just shut the door.  They lost their opportunity to accept the saving grace of Jesus. 

Paul and Barnabas responded in vs. 46-47.  “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 yourselves 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.’”  Paul and Barnabas did not feel disheartened by the rejection of the Jews.  They saw that God’s plan to reach for the Gentiles was unfolding right before them.  From the very beginning it was always God’s intention to share the message of his blessing to the whole world.  From the Garden of Eden, the four headwaters flowing from the Garden, represented God’s desire to bless the whole world.(Gen. 2:10)  After Adam and Eve sinned, and God pronounced judgment on them, God also gave the promise that through the offspring of woman, he would crush the head of Satan.(Gen. 3:15).  When God called Abram to be the ancestor of the nation of Israel, he promised him, “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3b)  God’s plan to bless the whole world through Jesus was unfolding right before them. 

 In vs. 48 the Gentiles were glad when they heard the message, and they honored the word of God.  All who were appointed for eternal believed.

When Paul said, “The Lord has commanded us:  ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles…”  This was a quotation from the prophet Isaiah.  The complete verse is in Isaiah 49:6.  “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”  God’s plan was for world salvation was to use the nation of Israel to reach all peoples as a king of priest and a holy nation.  Unfortunately, the Jewish nation as a whole did not accept God’s plan.  In Acts we see many examples where the Jewish leadership was even hostile toward the gospel workers.  Paul on the other hand accepted this purpose fully for himself. 

There have been many who throughout history recognized the blessedness of the gospel message, and what a privilege it is to be servant of the gospel message.  In Isaiah 6, when God Isaiah heard God’s calling,  he joyfully responded in Isaiah 6:8b, “Here I am.  Send me!”   In more contemporary times, we can see William Carey who went to India; David Livingston who went to Africa, Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward and Charles Studd who went to China.  In this ministry, we can see many who went as missionaries to foreign lands.  Think of the ubf missionaries who have given their lives to serve mission fields like China, Russia, Africa, South America, and here in the US.  Through accepting the word of God through Bible Study all of us here have become part of God’s world mission plan.  May God bless us to be used as his instruments to preach the gospel to all nations starting at the colleges and universities, right here in our own backyard. 

I have been serving and praying for UCI campus with my wife, and with Missionary Timothy and Faith Kim.  One of our long time prayer topics has been to establish 100 1:1 Bible Studies and raise 12 disciples.  Looking at the environment at UCI, and also recognizing that this prayer topic may have been adopted out of pride, and a bit of ego.  I wanted to change it.  Yet, I was encouraged to maintain the prayer topic.  The reason is that when God does his work it will be God’s doing.  What I need to do, is to pray, and somehow trust God, that God can do it.

One Word:  I have made you a light for the Gentiles