Acts 13 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Acts 13)

Verse 2

[2] As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them — This was not ordaining them. St. Paul was ordained long before, and that not of men, neither by man: it was only inducting him to the province for which our Lord had appointed him from the beginning, and which was now revealed to the prophets and teachers. In consequence of this they fasted, prayed, and laid their hands on them, a rite which was used not in ordination only, but in blessing, and on many other occasions.

Verse 3

[3] And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Then having fasted — Again. Thus they did also, Acts 14:23.

Verse 5

[5] And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

In the synagogues — Using all opportunities that offered.

Verse 6

[6] And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:

Paphos was on the western, Salamis on the eastern part of the island.

Verse 7

[7] Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

The proconsul — The Roman governor of Cyprus, a prudent man - And therefore not overswayed by Elymas, but desirous to inquire farther.

Verse 9

[9] Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

Then Saul, who was also called Paul — It is not improbable, that coming now among the Romans, they would naturally adapt his name to their own language, and so called him Paul instead of Saul. Perhaps the family of the proconsul might be the first who addressed to or spoke of him by this name. And from this time, being the apostle of the Gentiles, he himself used the name which was more familiar to them.

Verse 10

[10] And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

O full of all guile — As a false prophet, and all mischief - As a magician.

Thou son of the devil — A title well suited to a magician; and one who not only was himself unrighteous, but laboured to keep others from all goodness.

Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? — Even now thou hast heard the truth of the Gospel.

Verse 11

[11] And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

And immediately a mist — Or dimness within, and darkness without, fell upon him.

Verse 12

[12] Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord — Confirmed by such a miracle.

Verse 13

[13] Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

John withdrawing from them returned — Tired with the fatigue, or shrinking from danger.

Verse 14

[14] But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

Antioch in Pisidia — Different from the Antioch mentioned Acts 13:1.

Verse 15

[15] And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the chief of the synagogue sent to them — The law was read over once every year, a portion of it every Sabbath: to which was added a lesson taken out of the prophets. After this was over, any one might speak to the people, on any subject he thought convenient. Yet it was a circumstance of decency which Paul and Barnabas would hardly omit, to acquaint the rulers with their desire of doing it: probably by some message before the service began.

Verse 16

[16] Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

Ye that fear God — Whether proselytes or heathens.

Verse 17

[17] The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.

The God — By such a commemoration of God's favours to their fathers, at once their minds were conciliated to the speaker, they were convinced of their duty to God, and invited to believe his promise, and the accomplishment of it. The six verses, Acts 13:17-22, contain the whole sum of the Old Testament.

Of this people — Paul here chiefly addresses himself to those whom he styles, Ye that fear God: he speaks of Israel first; and Acts 13:26, speaks more directly to the Israelites themselves.

Chose — And this exalted the people; not any merit or goodness of their own, Ezekiel 20:5.

Our fathers — Abraham and his posterity. Isaiah 1:2.

Verse 18

[18] And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

Deuteronomy 1:31.

Verse 19

[19] And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.

Seven nations — Enumerated Deuteronomy 7:1; about four hundred and fifty years - That is, from the choice of the fathers to the dividing of the land; it was about four hundred and fifty years.

Verse 21

[21] And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

He gave them Saul forty years — Including the time wherein Samuel judged Israel.

Verse 22

[22] And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

Having removed him — Hence they might understand that the dispensations of God admit of various changes.

I have found David, a man after my own heart — This expression is to be taken in a limited sense. David was such at that time, but not at all times. And he was so, in that respect, as he performed all God's will, in the particulars there mentioned: But he was not a man after God's own heart, in other respects, wherein he performed his own will. In the matter of Uriah, for instance, he was as far from being a man after God's own heart as Saul himself was. It is therefore a very gross, as well as dangerous mistake, to suppose this is the character of David in every part of his behaviour. We must beware of this, unless we would recommend adultery and murder as things after God's own heart. 1 Samuel 16:12,13.

Verse 24

[24] When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

John having first preached — He mentions this, as a thing already known to them. And so doubtless it was. For it gave so loud an alarm to the whole Jewish nation, as could not but be heard of in foreign countries, at least as remote as Pisidia.

Verse 25

[25] And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

His course — His work was quickly finished, and might therefore well be termed a course or race. Luke 3:16.

Verse 27

[27] For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers — He here anticipates a strong objection, "Why did not they at Jerusalem, and especially their rulers, believe?" They know not him, because they understood not those very prophets whom they read or heard continually. Their very condemning him, innocent as he was, proves that they understood not the prophecies concerning him.

Verse 29

[29] And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

They fulfilled all things that were written of him — So far could they go, but no farther.

Verse 31

[31] And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

He was seen many days by them who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem — This last journey both presupposes all the rest, and was the most important of all.

Verse 33

[33] God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee — It is true, he was the Son of God from eternity. The meaning therefore is, I have this day declared thee to be my Son. As St. Paul elsewhere, declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4. And it is with peculiar propriety and beauty that God is said to have begotten him, on the day when he raised him from the dead, as he seemed then to be born out of the earth anew. Psalms 2:7.

Verse 34

[34] And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.

No more to return to corruption — That is, to die no more.

I will give you the sure mercies of David — The blessings promised to David in Christ. These are sure, certain, firm, solid, to every true believer in him. And hence the resurrection of Christ necessarily follows; for without this, those blessings could not be given. Isaiah 55:3.

Verse 35

[35] Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

He saith — David in the name of the Messiah. Psalms 16:10.

Verse 36

[36] For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:

David, having served the will of God in his generation, fell asleep — So his service extended not itself beyond the bounds of the common age of man: but the service of the Messiah to all generations, as his kingdom to all ages.

Served the will of God — Why art thou here thou who art yet in the world? Is it not that thou also mayest serve the will of God? Art thou serving it now? Doing all his will? And was added to his fathers - Not only in body. This expression refers to the soul also, and supposes the immortality of it.

Verse 39

[39] And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Every one that believeth is justified from all things — Has the actual forgiveness of all his sins, at the very time of his believing; from which ye could not be justified - Not only ye cannot now; but ye never could. For it afforded no expiation for presumptuous sins.

By the law of Moses — The whole Mosaic institution! The division of the law into moral and ceremonial was not so common among the Jews, as it is among us. Nor does the apostle here consider it at all: but Moses and Christ are opposed to each other.

Verse 40

[40] Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;

Beware — A weighty and seasonable admonition. No reproof is as yet added to it.

Verse 41

[41] Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.

I work a work which ye will in nowise believe — This was originally spoken to those, who would not believe that God would ever deliver them from the power of the Chaldeans. But it is applicable to any who will not believe the promises, or the works of God. Habakkuk 1:5.

Verse 42

[42] And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

When the Jews were going out — Probably many of them, not bearing to hear him, went out before he had done.

The Sabbath between — So the Jews call to this day the Sabbath between the first day of the month Tisri (on which the civil year begins) and the tenth of the same month, which is the solemn day of expiation.

Verse 43

[43] Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

Who speaking to them — More familiarly, persuaded them to continue - For trials were at hand, in the grace of God - That is, to adhere to the Gospel or Christian faith.

Verse 46

[46] Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Then Paul and Barnabas speaking boldly, said — Those who hinder others must be publicly reproved.

It was necessary — Though ye are not worthy: he shows that he had not preached to them, from any confidence of their believing, but seeing ye judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life - They indeed judged none but themselves worthy of it. Yet their rejecting of the Gospel was the same as saying, "We are unworthy of eternal life." Behold! - A thing now present! An astonishing revolution! We turn to the Gentiles - Not that they left off preaching to the Jews in other places. But they now determined to lose no more time at Antioch on their ungrateful countrymen, but to employ themselves wholly in doing what they could for the conversion of the Gentiles there.

Verse 47

[47] For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

For so hath the Lord commanded us — By sending us forth, and giving us an opportunity of fulfilling what he had foretold.

I have set thee — The Father speaks to Christ. Isaiah 49:6.

Verse 48

[48] And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

As many as were ordained to eternal life — St. Luke does not say fore-ordained. He is not speaking of what was done from eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the Gospel. He is describing that ordination, and that only, which was at the very time of hearing it. During this sermon those believed, says the apostle, to whom God then gave power to believe. It is as if he had said, "They believed, whose hearts the Lord opened;" as he expresses it in a clearly parallel place, speaking of the same kind of ordination, Acts 16:14, etc. It is observable, the original word is not once used in Scripture to express eternal predestination of any kind. The sum is, all those and those only, who were now ordained, now believed. Not that God rejected the rest: it was his will that they also should have been saved: but they thrust salvation from them. Nor were they who then believed constrained to believe. But grace was then first copiously offered them. And they did not thrust it away, so that a great multitude even of Gentiles were converted. In a word, the expression properly implies, a present operation of Divine grace working faith in the hearers.