Acts 13:42-52 Grace, Beginning To End.
The gospel was received differently by many of the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles. It was a time of transition. There were always some Gentiles in the larger covenant community, but with the coming of the Messiah there was a deliberate and planned effort to take the good news of salvation to the whole world. However, many of the Jews had the same reaction to the gospel as did the Gentiles. They wanted to hear more, either by pleading with Paul and Barnabas to return, or to following them. Their message was simple, they “persuaded them to continue in the grace of God” (v. 43). To continue in the grace of God means that they had also begun with the grace of God.
If one had limited time to speak to those who had recently come to faith in Christ, what one would want to say is you began with grace, and it is important to continue in grace (Cf. 11:23; Titus 2:11; I Pet. 5:12). News spread, and when they returned the following Sabbath “almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (v. 44). The Jewish leadership, when they saw this interest, were envious. How many years had they been going to the synagogue, but preaching a message of works righteousness. They would not receive the witness of the prophets, so the Lord’s messengers spoke to those who were open to hearing the word.
However, envy not only covets what another has, but it seeks to take it away so that no one can receive it, therefore “contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul” (v. 45 Cf. 18:5-6). This made Paul and Barnabas all the more bold. Paul’s whole approach was to take the gospel to the Jew first, but when it was heard but rejected, he did not hesitate to take it to the nations. Paul was clear, the Jewish leadership rejected the word, not just their opinion (Cf. Mt 10:6; Rom. 1:16). Paul also employed another method with regard to his fellow Jews. Even as he was rebuking them for rejecting the word, he does so in such a way as to perhaps cause them to desire this hope of eternal life, for they had, in Paul’s words, judged themselves “unworthy of everlasting life” (v. 46). No doubt they opposed Paul’s view of Christ.
Taking the gospel to the Gentiles was something that the Lord commanded Paul and Barnabas to do, in fulfillment of the prophetic word (v. 47 Cf. Is. 42:6; 49:6; 52:10; Lk. 2:32). The Gentiles were indeed glad, because Paul and Barnabas were not only preaching the gospel, but they were also saying that one could become a child of God without first becoming a Jew. “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (v. 48b Cf. 2:47). These two truths were not contradictory. Those who opposed the word had deemed themselves unworthy of eternal life, but those who received the word with gladness, ultimately did so because they were sovereignly chosen and effectually called to this end.
“And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region” (v. 49). It is a basic reality which one will find throughout scripture and history, that wherever the word is spread and received there will be opposition, usually led by the religious leadership of the day. The religious leadership led other leaders in the region, to raise up a persecution against the preachers of the word (v. 50 Cf. 7:52; II Tim. 3:11). At this point in time, Paul and Barnabas had the opportunity to escape, which they took (v. 51). Shaking the dust off their feet was a testimony against them-one of judgment to come (Cf. 18:6; Mt. 10:14; Mk. 6:11; Lk. 9:5). “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (v. 52).