Acts 13: Pure or Prejudiced?

Tell me if I am reading this passage wrong:

As Paul and Barnabas were leaving, they [Jews in the synagogue] begged them to come back the next sabbath and tell them more about these things.  Many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed them once the synagogue was dismissed.  They spoke to them some more, and urged them to remain in God’s grace. 

On the next sabbath, almost the whole city came together to hear the word of the Lord.  But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with righteous indignation, and spoke blasphemous words against what Paul was saying. (13:42-45)

At first, when Paul and Barnabas were in a synagogue, the Jews were interested and wanted to hear more.  Less than a week later when the whole city — Jew and Gentile — shows up to hear Paul and Barnabas, the Jews who were rather receptive turn on them in anger and have them driven out of the city.

Why such a strong change?

I am wondering if the answer isn’t at the beginning of verse 45: “But when the Jews saw the crowds.”  Now, when they were out in the city streets, in neutral or even foreign territory, in mixed company, when Gentiles are included in the audience being encouraged to turn to God, things change.  They don’t like what Paul is preaching.  More to the point, they don’t like who Paul is preaching to.  God is our god, they thought.  This party is by invitation-only.  No Gentiles allowed.  The Gentile water-fountain is around the corner.

Why the change?  Well, it wasn’t because of doctrine or theology.  As Paul points out in 13:47, they were arguing with their own prophet Isaiah, not him:

“I have set you for a light to the nations, so that you can be salvation-bringers to the end of the earth.”

Jewish election was not an end unto itself.  God didn’t just want the Jews to receive divine light then keep it to themselves.  The election of Israel was a means to an end.  They were given light in order to shine it on the whole world.  Blessed to bless.  As far back as the calling of Abraham in Genesis 12, the Gentiles were in God’s sights.

So it seems to me that the Jews in Pisidian Antioch (and so many other places) were actually reacting from emotion rather than theology.  Socially driven prejudice, not the Scriptures, flavored their decisions about what they thought God should and should not do.

I am sure glad we don’t ever do that today.

What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “Acts 13: Pure or Prejudiced?

  1. Again, ”there were prophets and teachers” (v1), in my understanding, Christian believe that Jesus is a last prophet. So why this verse calling them as prophets?
    V2- Seem like Barnabas and Niger staying at churches praying and fasting.
    In this chapter, I some hypothesis:
    Peter in 12:11 said Lord sent his angel, but in 13:4, Holy Spirit talk to Barnabas.
    I cannot understand why for Peter, God send His Angel, but for Barnabas, Holy Spirit talk directly to them. What the connection between these four entities.
    V33- “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”(NIV), reading through the commentary, it was different meaning from it should be. I though this verse should refer to Trinity, but it go to prophecy. Many other version referring to “You are my Son, this day have I begotten you”.
    V39- There is different commentary between scholars, but I prefer to take Barnes commentary because it has more details explanation.

    • Christians think Jesus is God, not a prophet. So there can be further prophets. A prophet is just any Christian given the gift of prophecy by the Holy Spirit. We do not pack as much significance into the title as Muslims do.

      I am not sure there is much to make of the difference between God communicating by the HS versus an angel. Both are just ways God communicated in the NT.

      13:33 is a quote from Psalm 2. It is a messianic prophecy as well. Originally, it would have been talking about the king of Israel, who would have been a descendant of David. Kings in the OT were considered God’s metaphorical “sons.” Now, Paul is reinterpreting this verse saying Jesus, who was a descendant of David as well, is a new kind of King for a new kind of Israel and is a new, literal Son to God.

      • So there are prophets in future.
        So how to distinguish between a right and wrong prophets? As I knew, Christian believe in Anti-Christ, etc.

        • Some Christians do believe there are prophets who are inspired by God to speak for him today. Many do not. This camp (and I am generally there) would say God has spoken his truth already; preachers and “prophets” today only make that same message known in particularly convincing and modern ways. The principle for determining true prophecy has always been since the OT whether it is in line with previous prophecy/ethics and whether it comes true. This would be one of the big reasons Christians have a hard time with the Qur’an. It negates key truths of the Bible, a previous prophecy.

  2. “Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas.”

    And there it is. The gospel is not just something you believe, something you respond to with a ritual, while maintaining your normal way of life. The gospel changes your whole “way of life.” It deconstructs what we have thought would be the way to happiness, peace, and prosperity. Today, just like in this story, that is too much to ask for some people, especially those of us deeply invested in our old stories.

  3. I really like the translation of that classic phrase for David in 13:22, “a man who always pursues my heart.” This seems so much better than “a man after God’s own heart,” as if we are talking about David’s nature. This new translation makes it about David’s actions and that seems to fit better. People who pursue will inevitably trip up from time to time. It seems more troublesome when people deemed to be “like God” cheat and murder.

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