Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Opossition of Paul and Barnabas

Acts 13:42-52

New International Version

42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

46 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. 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.’”

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 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. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Verses 42-43 Jews and ‘devout converts’ wanted to hear more about the good news. It seems that some already believed. Luke writes that Paul and Barnabas ‘urged them to continue to live in God’s grace’ (verse 43). This is good advice for every believer. When we have accepted Jesus as our Saviour, God’s grace helps us to live for him. God’s grace is a gift. But we must accept this gift and we must use it. We must not trust in our own strength. We must obey God and we must serve him. God will give us all that we need for that.

Verses 44-48 The people who heard Paul and Barnabas’s message probably told many other people about it. So, ‘nearly everyone in the city came to hear God’s message’ (verse 44).

But the Jews were jealous. Perhaps it was because the missionaries were so popular. More probably, the Jews did not like the missionaries’ message. The Jews were God’s special people. Paul and Barnabas’s message was about God’s grace. And that grace was for everyone who believes in Jesus (verse 39). Many Gentiles had come to the synagogue to hear about this. Perhaps the Jews did not like them to come. The Jews did not believe that God accepts Gentiles. They did not want Gentiles to be equal with Jews in front of God. So, the Jews insulted Paul and they opposed his message.

Paul and Barnabas were not afraid to answer the Jews. They agreed that the Jews should hear God’s message first. When the Jews rejected it, they were making themselves guilty. This was because they had rejected everlasting life. So, they could not enter God’s kingdom.

Then Paul and Barnabas would preach the message to the Gentiles. This was what God wanted. Paul proved this with words from Isaiah 49:6. Wherever they went, Paul and the other missionaries preached to the Jews first. Then they went to the Gentiles. (Look at Romans 1:16.)

The Gentiles did not reject the message. They believed it. And it made them happy. People are very happy after they accept Jesus as their Saviour. Even if that causes trouble for them, they still have joy.

Verse 49-50 The Jews could not stop the good news about Jesus. So, they made it difficult for Paul and Barnabas to stay. They persuaded the leaders of the city to oppose the missionaries.

In many Roman cities, people did wicked things. Some women sold their bodies to men for sex. Men had sex with women who were not their wives. As a result, many women suffered. Their families also suffered. Many Gentile women wanted to live in the right way. So, some Gentile women followed Judaism, because it had rules about sex. The Jewish Law taught also that people should not steal. They should not lie, nor should they do other bad things.

Some such Gentile women in Pisidian Antioch were married to important men. The Jews persuaded them to make their husbands oppose Paul and Barnabas. The Jews forced the missionaries to leave.

Verses 51-52 ‘Paul and Barnabas shook the dust from that place off their feet’ (verse 51). Jesus told his disciples to do this in places where people did not welcome them (Luke 9:5; 10:11). Paul and Barnabas travelled to Iconium. This ancient city was 129 kilometres (80 miles) away to the south-east. The believers in Pisidian Antioch were not worried, nor were they upset. They were still happy. They had the Holy Spirit to help them. When Christians are full of the Holy Spirit, their circumstances do not matter. Bad things may happen to them. But the Holy Spirit gives joy inside them. It is joy that nobody can take away.

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