We have been studying the ministry of Paul and Barnabas in the City of Antioch. Antioch was in a region called Pisidia, which was in a larger area called Galatia. This is part of Paul's first missionary journey.
Last week we studied Paul's first recorded sermon which he delivered in a synagogue in Antioch. In it he traced the history of the Jewish nation from the time of their deliverance from Egypt through the family of David, from whose loins came Jesus, the Messiah. The apostle spoke of the rejection of Jesus by the chief priests, His crucifixion and resurrection, and the forgiveness of sin that God offers through faith in Him. Paul preached that God has given to Jesus the sure mercies of David:
"And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.' (Acts 13:34 NASB)
This means the Messianic kingdom was being established. Then He gives a warning from Habakkuk. Paul is preaching: You must trust in Jesus as God's Messiah or be judged. Remember what Peter said in Acts 3:23:
'And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' (Acts 3:23 NASB)
From here on ONLY those who follow Jesus are "the people." All those who reject Jesus are the enemies of God and will be judged. This was Paul's message.
There is something interesting here, notice that there is no evidence of God's power manifest in a visible display in or after this message--no healing, no miracles, no mighty wind, just the preaching of the living Word of God and people getting saved.
So how did they react to his sermon?:
And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. (Acts 13:42 NASB)
Those gathered that day at the synagogue wanted to hear more of what Paul was saying. They asked that these two return the next Sabbath, and that he continue with his teaching.
Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 13:43 NASB)
Notice what happened after the meeting ended--"many...followed Paul and Barnabas." The word "followed" is from the Greek word akoloutheo, which means: "to be in the same way with, i.e. to accompany, especially as a disciple." I think Luke is telling us that they followed them as disciples. This is strengthened in the last part of the verse; "Urging them to continue in the grace of God." This signifies that they responded to God's loving kindness and mercy, His unmerited favor, received forgiveness and justification in His Name, and were being urged to continue in it. To continue assumes that they got there, right? You can't continue to be where you aren't.
The Jew was used to living not in the grace of God, but under the law. Paul and Barnabas were saying: Christ justifies you by grace, and the law never could.
and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. (Acts 13:39 NASB)
The Gospel is a new way. It's grace, not law. Paul exhorted them to remain in the grace that they had heard about and not go back to the law.
And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. (Acts 13:44 NASB)
Nearly the whole city came to hear the next Sabbath, and verse 49 indicates that the whole region heard of the word of the Lord. This is a revival! These believers went everywhere telling everyone about it, so that the whole city knew of these men and what they had to say. The crowds were lined up outside the synagogue.
It was one thing to have a few Gentiles present, those who converted to Judaism and thus who did not threaten the system. But now the place was flooded with a bunch of pagans. This little "Jewish island" situated in the middle of a Gentile sea seemed to be sinking out of sight. These people were threatening the Jews very identity:
But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. (Acts 13:45 NASB)
Commenting on this verse one writer says, "These Jewish teachers are jealous because people didn't show up to hear them teach, and now everybody's coming to hear Paul and Barnabas." I don't think that their jealousy is related to a popularity contest. I doubt they were jealous of Paul and Barnabas. They were jealous for God. It did not seem right that all these idol-worshipers should gather to join in the worship of the synagogue.
The word "jealousy" is from the Greek word zelos. It is used 17 times in the New Testament. It is translated as envy, jealous, covet, zealous, and desire. It comes from the Greek verb that means: "to boil." It is used both favorably and unfavorably in Scripture. Here it is not used favorably. The same Greek word is used in Acts 5:17 of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem:
But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy; (Acts 5:17 NASB)
These Jews didn't like Gentiles receiving the salvation and blessing of their God. They were so jealous for the purity, the selfishness, the self-centeredness, the isolation, and the nationalism of their religion that they couldn't stand anybody else getting blessed. That's a sad state, and when they saw the whole city full of Gentiles come to hear the Gospel, they began to "boil". Nothing infuriated them more than the privileges of God extended to uncircumcised Gentiles.
The main issue seems to be Paul's willingness to receive Gentiles directly into the people of God. He offers them an equal share in the spiritual blessings of the Messiah's kingdom simply based on faith, without requiring that they become Jews first So the Jews speak out against Paul's message; they contradict, deny, and speak against what Paul was teaching. They even blaspheme--this has to do with abusive and degrading language directed towards Jesus, whom Paul preached. Most of the Jews in Antioch did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They were "blaspheming" by saying that He was not.
Why would these Jews reject the Messiah they had waited for so long? One great reason was they wanted to keep the division between Jew and Gentile, and if Jesus was to be the Messiah of all men, they wanted no part of Him.
The principle behind the words of Habakkuk (v41) were remarkably "fulfilled." Many of the Jews who were there that day could not face up to the work in their day that they saw. It was beyond their belief that multitudes of Gentiles unconnected with the synagogue should flock to hear the word of God, and what was even worse, respond to it. They saw a work in their day, and it was too much for them with the result that they wondered and perished.
And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46 NASB)
"The word of God should be spoken to you first"--when our Lord gave His apostles their commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, He told them they must begin first at Jerusalem (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47). In obedience, therefore, to this command, the apostles (in every place where they preached) made their first offers of the Gospel to the Jews.
The Intervarsity Press Commentary says, "'The Jew first' (Rom 1:16-17). This priority was a matter of theological necessity, and it applies to the conduct of Christian mission today. We must make sure Jews are not overlooked but are a priority in any evangelistic thrust into an unreached-people's area." It this true? No, God is finished with Israel as a nation. The Church is now God's special people. Most Christians today believe that the Jews, the nation Israel, are still God's special people. Despite all the Bible says about faith, they think there is a special blessing in physical descent.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26 NASB)
There are no Jews today. The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1973) states:
The Jews As A Race: The findings of physical anthropology show that, contrary to the popular view, there is no Jewish race. Anthropometric measurements of Jewish groups in many parts of the world indicate that they differ greatly from one another with respect to all the important physical characteristics. (vol. 12, page 1054)
God wiped out national Israel once and for all in A.D. 70. They're done!
"You repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life"--the Jews' rejection of the Gospel was a decision to judge themselves unfit for eternal life, the life of the age to come. They have pronounced their own sentence:
"He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18 NASB)
They're condemned already because they do not believe. Here we see the Jews of the dispersion follow the example of their Jerusalem counterparts in rejecting Christ, and for the first time, Paul publicly announces his intention of turning his back on them and concentrating on the purely Gentile mission.
The Gentile mission is not "plan B." Paul proves, from the Scriptures, that the Scriptures authorize them to turn from the Jews and go to the Gentiles if the Jews refuse this message. He quotes Isaiah:
"For thus the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU SHOULD BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'" (Acts 13:47 NASB)
This is a quote from Isaiah 49:6 which in context was to include the restoring of Israel to her land (vs. 8). This meant that the Land was being restored in Christ, which meant it was a spiritual land, a heavenly land. In the First Testament a phrase used over and over is "in the land" (322 times in the NASB) whereas in the New Testament the phrase "in Christ" is found 90 times in the NASB. Christ is our dwelling place!
Jesus was the light of the nations! Remember what Simeon said in the temple when he saw the baby Jesus? He said:
"Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart In peace, according to Thy word; 30 For my eyes have seen Thy salvation, 31 Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Thy people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32 NASB)
Messiah wasn't just sent for Israel. He was sent for the Gentiles also. Their own prophet said that, so Paul just really shoots them down. Paul tells them: You have no business being prejudiced and being so negative in responding to this because you see Gentiles coming to Messiah.
Paul sees in the "Servant passage" from Isaiah a command to be a herald of the Servant and take the message to the farthest corner of the earth. Israel had been set apart by God, not just to be saved and receive His blessings by grace, but to proclaim God's grace to the Gentiles so that they too should be saved. If these Jews would reject the grace of God, then Paul and Barnabas must, as obedient Israelites, do that which God commanded Israel to do--to preach the good news of salvation to the Gentiles. The Lord had said of Paul, "He is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles."
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48 NASB)
No more second-class citizenship in the kingdom, as proselytes; no more being under the law, no more working in a futile effort to earn God's favor. If the Jews were angered by grace, which they were, the Gentiles were overjoyed by it.
Now notice carefully what the inspired text says, "As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed"--he could have just said, "And many believed" as he has so many times in this book, but he is careful to tell us that "those appointed to eternal life believed." Luke uses predestination terminology to point out here, as elsewhere, that this faith is, above all, God's work. Salvation is of the Lord.
The commentators are divided on this, of course. One group of commentators view this as referring to the doctrine of election--to God's ordaining men to eternal life. I would be in that camp. Another group views this to their being disposed themselves to embrace the Gospel--to those among them who did not reject and despise the Gospel, but who were disposed and inclined to embrace it. They were disposed, but not of themselves. They were disposed to believe, because God gave them a new heart.
Those who argue against the plain meaning of this text say that the Greek verb used here, tasso, does not imply predestination. This word should be somewhat familiar to us, does it ring a bell? We're all familiar with the word hupotasso, which means to to line up under. Hupotasso comes from two Greek words: the word hupo, which means: "under," and tasso, which means: "to set in place." In other words, the word means to set something in place up under something else.
Tasso is used but eight times in the New Testament. The etymology of the word tasso is: "to place; to place in a certain rank or order." Its meaning is derived from arranging or disposing a body of soldiers in regular order; to arrange in military order. The word is used to denote the following things: To command, or to designate (Matthew 28:16; Acts 22:10; 28:23); to institute, constitute, or appoint (Romans 13:1); to determine, to take counsel, to resolve (Acts 15:2); to subject to the authority of another (Luke 7:8); to addict to, to devote to (1 Corinthians 16:15).
From these eight texts we learn that the word is never used to denote an internal disposition or inclination arising from one's own self. It does not mean that they disposed themselves to embrace eternal life. It has the idea of an ordering, disposing, or arrangement from without, i.e., from some other source than the individual himself; as of a soldier, who is arranged or classified according to the will of the officer.
Tasso does not actually refer to an eternal decree, or directly to the doctrine of election; but that may be inferred from it; it refers to their being disposed to embrace eternal life. This implies the doctrine of election. It was because of God's disposing that they embraced eternal life.
This idea of predestination is seen in many manuscripts. The Vulgate has, "As many as were foreordained to eternal life believed." And there is papyrus evidence to indicate that the verb "tasso" means: "to inscribe or enroll," and that it is used to make out a list, and what it's saying is that as many as were put on the list for eternal life believed.
We see this idea of the elect being on a list in:
Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.(Philippians 4:3 NASB)
What is the book of life? It is only mentioned here and in Revelation in the New Testament. Some say that everyone's name is written in the book, and if they do not accept Christ, their name is erased at death. This verse, in Philippians 4:3, makes no sense if everyone alive is in the book of life. What can we learn about this book from Scripture? When are the names written in the book of life?
And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:8 NASB)
We see here that there are some people who are not written in the book of life. When was Christ slain? From the foundation of the world. We can see from this verse and Revelation 17:8 that some are not in the book of life, and those who are have been there from eternity past. That old Baptist Hymn, "There's a new name written down in glory", is wrong! There are no NEW names written in the book. Those written have been there from the foundation of the world.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48 NASB)
Luke is clearly teaching a doctrine of election or predestination here. You may not understand it, you may not like it, but the Bible clearly teaches that God chooses people to salvation. Paul tells the Thessalonians that they were chosen for salvation:
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB)
Why is it so hard for people to accept that God chooses people for salvation? I think it's because realizing that God chooses people ultimately destroys the idea that an individual can get to heaven of his own volition; he has to be chosen.
The doctrine of election is taught throughout the Scriptures:
"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6 NASB)
God chose Israel. God wasn't sitting up in heaven saying, "I hope some nation will believe in me and choose me." God says, "I choose you, because I love you."
"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 14:2 NASB)
The nation Israel was elect, chosen by God. Why? Because God willed to. Do you have a problem with that? Why Abraham? Did God choose him because he was godly? No! Abraham was a pagan moon worshiper when God called him. Paul began his sermon at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch by referring to God's choice of the fathers of the nation Israel (13:17). Why did God choose you? The "why" rests in God's will. God doesn't call the good people, because there are none:
(For the choir director. A Psalm of David.) The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. 2 The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalms 14:1-3 NASB)
God chose His people Israel by His own free choice. The idea that man has some personal integrity and freedom that God dare not violate is the reverse of what the Bible teaches:
How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee, To dwell in Thy courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, Thy holy temple. (Psalms 65:4 NASB)
It is clear from the Scripture that the nature of our election rests in God's sovereign choice:
In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:18 NASB)
You are a Christian, because God has chosen you. You might think that you are a Christian because you believed the Gospel, but the only reason you believed the Gospel is because God chose you and gave you a new birth. God chooses, He appoints. That is why Luke tells us , "as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."
God must do a supernatural work on the human heart in order for it to believe. Notice why it is that Lydia believes the Gospel:
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:13-14 NASB)
This is the only place in the New Testament that uses the phrase "opened her heart,"and the Bible gives the whole credit for this "opening" to God's power and not to man's will. Arminianism insists that man's free will must furnish the willingness or power, and the Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God furnishes that power or ability in the new birth.
Notice exactly what God did. God opened Lydia's heart (or gave her faith), so she was able to believe. Her natural mind was blind, her natural heart was averse to God, and her will was in bondage to sin and spiritual death. Only the power of God can free her from this spiritual depravity. The giving of this life and power is solely the work of God. Notice that the Bible explicitly gives God alone the credit for Lydia's heart being opened. It is impossible not to see that in this text, unless you simply refuse to accept what God clearly says.
Look at the words carefully: "the LORD OPENED her heart...." If you try to deny that the one single reason that Lydia understood and believed the Gospel was because God deliberately opened her heart and enabled her to believe, you are fighting God's Word. If you try to get man's "free will" as the one determining factor into this text, you are consciously corrupting the Word of God:
Apart from God "opening the heart," no one can in and of themselves come to God:
"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44 NASB)
Jesus clearly teaches here that "no one" can come to Him "unless" the Father draws him. No one comes unless God does something first. What is it that God does? Some have tried to interpret the word "draw" here as "call or invite." But this is not what the word "draw" means. The Greek word translated "draw" is helkuo, which means: "to drag." It is used eight times in the New Testament. To understand what it means, let's look at a few of its uses.
Simon Peter therefore having a sword, drew [helkuo] it, and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus. (John 18:10 NASB)
Now, did Peter invite or call his sword to come out? No! He grabbed it, and pulled it out.
But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged [helkuo] them into the market place before the authorities, (Acts 16:19 NASB)
But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag [helkuo] you into court? (James 2:6 NASB)
The usage of this word makes it very clear that helkuo means: "to draw by irresistible superiority." So, John is saying that no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws them by irresistible superiority.
A sinner absolutely cannot (notice it is not "will" not) come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That "something" is what the Bible calls "regeneration," or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God, the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration.
The doctrine of election is hard for man to accept. It's hard for man to acknowledge that his salvation is an act of God. In his fallen state, he wants to assume some responsibility, even if it's a small responsibility, for having believed. He wants some credit for having made the right choice. The doctrine of election is repulsive to us, because, by our standards, it seems unfair that God should, out of all the human beings, choose some at His own discretion to be saved, and not the rest. Man, in his fallen state, wants a part, because he wants to exercise his pride! Pink states, "The doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God is a great battering-ram against human pride."
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Thy name give glory Because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth. (Psalms 115:1NASB)
Calvin says, "We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God's free mercy until we come to know His eternal election, which illumines God's grace by this contrast: That He does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what He denies to others."
Some might ask, Why bring up such a controversial subject as God's sovereignty in salvation? The main reason I do is because it is in our text! So a better question might be, Why does Luke bring up this controversial subject? I believe that he does it because it is important to believe in the doctrine of election if you are going to be involved in sharing the Gospel, as we all should. If you go out thinking that salvation depends on man's decision, you have no guarantee that anyone will decide to trust in
Christ. As a matter of fact, you have the Bible's guarantee that none will trust in Christ, because it plainly states that none seek after God of their own free will (Romans 3:11). None come to Jesus unless the Father draws them (John 6:44). And, the people you are trying to convince to trust in Christ are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1). So, good luck in trying to get them to trust in Christ.
But, if God has an elect people whom He chose for salvation before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4); if He has ordained that they will be saved by the proclamation of the Gospel (Romans 1:16); if He has the power to raise them from the dead and impart faith to them (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25); then you can share the Gospel with the confident faith that He will use the foolishness of the message preached to save some (1 Cor. 1:21).
And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. (Acts 13:49 NASB)
This is the fourth mention of "the word." In verse 44. The crowds, both Jew and Gentile, come together to hear "the word of God." In verse 46, that "word of God" had been offered to the Jews, but they had put it from them. In verse 48, the Gentiles glorified "the word of the Lord." And in verse 49, "the word of the Lord" goes throughout all the region. The Gospel is God's message, not man's. Luke repeatedly emphasizes this.
In other words, the Gospel did not originate with religiously clever men thinking up
how we can be reconciled with God. All of the world's religions that originate with man involve a system of human works that supposedly will bring us into harmony with God.
Whether Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, or whatever, all these systems have one thing in common: They bring glory to man because salvation is by human works or merit.
But the Gospel is altogether different. It wipes out all ground for our boasting. It takes away every human work and attributes salvation to God alone, who chose us before the foundation of the world before we ever did any good work, including choosing Him. This is why the doctrine of election is crucial, because it alone humbles human pride.
Horatius Bonar, writes, "Faith is not work, nor merit, nor effort; but the cessation from all these, and the acceptance in place of them of what another has done--done completely, and forever" (Justification by Faith Alone, ed. by Don Kistler [Soli Deo Gloria], pp. 65-66).
|Continue the Series|