Acts 13:13-19 The Postmillenial Vision-A Conflict Of Covenants.

So, together with John-Mark, Barnabas and Paul*, sail from Paphos, the provincial capital of the island of Cyprus, to Perga a southern city in the province of Pamphylia (in Asia Minor or Modern Turkey). Luke notes that at this time John-Mark decided to return to Jerusalem (v. 13). As was their custom, they “came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down” (v. 14). They followed the custom of the day and entered the synagogue and sat down just prior to the beginning of the service. “And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, ‘Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on’” (v. 15). “A worship service in the synagogue would include the creed (Deut. 6:4), the prayer of “Eighteen Blessings,” a reading of the Law and another from the Prophets, an exposition and application (Luke 4:16-30), and a concluding benediction” (NGSB p. 1735). This was the pattern that Jesus Himself followed (Lk. 4:16).

“Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, ‘Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen’” (v. 16). “You who fear God,” being singled out in addition to “men of Israel,” speaks to the reality that there were also covenant Gentiles in the synagogue. What Paul wanted them to listen to was not a break with the biblical past, but rather he begins to unfold a thread of covenantal continuity. Beginning with the deliverance out of Egypt, Paul makes the point that redemption flowed from election-God “chose our fathers, and exalted the people” (v. 17 Cf. 7:17ff; Ex. 14:8; Dt. 7:6-11). And we must not forget that he also said this before Gentiles “who fear God.” Even Peter had noted earlier that “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (10:35). However, Paul doesn’t forget the failures either. “For a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness” (v. 18). Only Joshua and Caleb, and the next generation with them, had a postmillennial vision and faith (Cf. Nu. 13:30-31; 14:6-10, 34).

“And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment” (v. 19). It was not to those who did not believe in the postmill vision, whose bodies fell in the desert, and Moses with them, who inherited the land, but it was Joshua and Caleb, and the next generation under them, who would inherit the promised land. If one were to say to a group gathered one Sunday morning, “the meek shall inherit heaven,” as I once did, one might be surprised to see the number of people who not only do not bat an eye, but who actually nod in agreement. When you then quote Jesus, as I did, you might also see looks of astonishment. It also helps define what is meant by the word ‘meekness’. Joshua and Caleb were men of meekness, when with the strength that the LORD provided, they became the instruments though which these nations were conquered. Meekness is that evidenced by those who put all their trust in the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD (Cf. Dt. 7:1-2; Josh. 14:1-2, 6ff; 19:51).

* Cf. 13:9 “’Saul’ was his Jewish name and ‘Paul’ his Roman name, probably going back to his life in Tarsus. Luke uses the occasion of the conversion of a prominent Gentile official, Sergius Paulus, to introduce the familiar name of the apostle to the Gentiles” (NGSB p. 1734).

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