Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Acts 1-12: The Early Church
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
Conquering Lamb of Revelation
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Early Church: Acts1-12
Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Listening for God's Voice
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-135)
Dr. Wilson's Books
2. Paul in Arabia, Tarsus, and Antioch
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
(Acts 9:19b-25; 11:19-13:3, 33-46 AD)
El Greco, 'St. Paul' (1606), Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm, Museo del Greco, Toledo.
Saul of Tarsus has met Jesus and his world has changed. Once passionate to stamp out the Christian movement, he is now part of it. Now his passion is to know this Jesus he has met.
On the Damascus road, Paul is not only thoroughly converted to believe that Jesus is the Jews' Messiah, but is also called into ministry.
Now he is given time to process what this all means before being inducted into full service a dozen years later in Antioch (which we examine later in this Lesson). Towards the end of this Lesson, we'll explore his call to be an apostle and the revelations that marked this period of his life.
2.1. Paul in Damascus and Arabia (Acts 9:19b-25, 33-35 AD)
Paul's Early Travels, 33-46 AD (larger map)
Though Paul won't minister with maturity for another twelve years, he doesn't wait long to begin declaring Jesus.
"Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus." (Acts 9:19b)
"After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him." (Acts 9:23)
Note that Paul's ministry in Damascus is measured in days, not months.
Preaching in the Synagogues (Acts 9:20-22)
Paul makes the most of the time in Damascus. His ministry consists of preaching and arguing from the Scriptures within the synagogues. His ministry didn't yet extend beyond the Jews to the Gentiles.
"At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God." (Acts 9:20)
"Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 9:22)
Just as there are multiple synagogues in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9), so the Jewish community in Damascus has more than one synagogue (Acts 9:20). The text gives us two verbs that characterize Paul's ministry there.
Preaching. "Preach" (NIV, KJV), "proclaim" (ESV, NRSV) is the familiar Greek verb kēryssō that often describes the ministry of the various apostles. The word originally meant "to make an official announcement, announce, make known." Then became more generally, "to make public declarations, proclaim aloud." Specifically here it indicates proclamation that is divine in origin and relates to divinity. Paul is declaring in the synagogues that "Jesus is the Son of God."
Proving. "Proving" is symbibazō, literally, "bring together, unite." Then "to present a logical conclusion, demonstrate, prove." So in Damascus, he seeks to convince the Jews that Jesus is both (1) Son of God (Acts 9:20), and (2) Christ or Messiah (Acts 9:22).
Messiah (Hebrew māshîaḥ) and Christ (Greek christos) both mean "anointed one," here, anointed king. They refer to an expectation that a descendant of David would deliver God's people. This begins with what we call the Davidic Covenant, the promise made to David from God through the prophet Nathan:
"11b The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:11b-16)
This promise is repeated in the Old Testament many times. By the first century AD, there is intense interest in the Messiah's imminent coming.
Son of God. For the Jews, the phrase "son of God" seems to have indicated the Messiah rather than our concept of the incarnate God. Since the Davidic king is sometimes referred to as son (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:6-9), "son of God" is an appropriate title for Jewish ears to designate David's descendant.
However, we Christians know from accounts in Matthew 1:20-21 and Luke 1:31-33 that Jesus is clearly "Son of God" in a spiritual-biological sense as well, God incarnate. In the Gospel of John, the term "Son of God" seems to move towards "equal with God," that is, the incarnate God (John 10:17-18; 19:7).
Escape from Damascus (Acts 9:23-25)
The effect of Saul's ministry is powerful -- increasing in strength day by day (Acts 9:22). Meanwhile, his compelling arguments stir up the Jewish community because they can't seem to answer them. So they decide that the only way to silence him is by killing him.
The Jews are aided in their plot by a governor of the Nabatean subjects in Damascus appointed by King Aretas (reigns 9-40 AD). Though King Aretas isn't a Jew -- and sometimes at odds with both the Herodian kings and the Romans -- his representative participates with the Jewish leaders in Damascus in this plot against Saul's life.
Paul escapes when "his disciples" lower him in a basket over the city wall (Acts 9:23-25; 2 Corinthians 11:32-33). The phrase "his disciples" indicates that Saul's ministry has already borne fruit in followers, even after such a short period of time.
Saul's Sojourn in Arabia (Galatians 1:15-17, 33-35 AD)
Map: 'Arabia' in the Time of St. Paul (Galatians 1:17) (larger map)
The narrative in Acts passes over an important period in Saul's development, his time in Arabia, which would have occurred between verses 25 and 26 of Acts 9. We also need to work in the fact that Paul is in Damascus twice -- immediately after his conversion and then three years later after a time in Arabia. So we're not sure which visit to Arabia occasioned his being lowered over the wall. Paul describes a bit of this period in his Letter to the Galatians.
"15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus." (Galatians 1:15-17)
In those days "Arabia" didn't have distinct boundaries, but was a vast desert area with few cities or trade centers connected by trade routes and lightly inhabited by various Bedouin tribes. The term "Arabia" might even include the Sinai peninsula (Galatians 4:25).
However, Paul is probably referring to the Nabatean kingdom ruled over by King Aretas. Though Damascus probably wasn't included in this kingdom, King Aretas ruled over an area that neared the environs of Damascus to the southeast. The Nabatean kingdom traditionally extended from the Red Sea on the southwest, to the Euphrates on the northeast. Petra, was the Nabatean capital, the last stop for caravans carrying spices before being shipped to European markets through the port of Gaza. Other Arabian cities in this period would include Bostra, Palmyra (Tadmor), Yathrib (Medina), and Mecca.
What is Saul doing in the deserts of Arabia? One might compare his withdrawal to the desert with Jesus' 40 days in the desert to be tempted or tested by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Some imagine that Paul is preaching to the Arab tribes he meets -- which might explain why King Aretas tries to kill him in Damascus. Others imagine that he has gone to Mt. Sinai (Galatians 4:25) to meet God in the traditions of Moses and Elijah. We just don't know. But he need not have gone far from Damascus to be in the "Arabia" of the Nabatean Kingdom. I expect that this is a time of talking with God -- of clarifying God's call, and receiving revelation which will form the basis of his teaching for the rest of his life. We'll consider Paul's revelations later in this lesson and in Lesson 11.1.
Paul's Visit to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18-24; Acts 9:26-30, 35 AD)
After three years in the Arabian desert, Paul goes up to Jerusalem. Paul relates this to the Galatians in the first person:
"18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles -- only James, the Lord's brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie." (Galatians 1:18-20)
Luke describes this visit.
"26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus." (Acts 9:26-27)
Even three years after Paul's involvement in persecuting the church, the leaders are still afraid to talk with him. Finally, Barnabas befriends him and acts as an intermediary, to introduce him to some apostles.
But Paul's visit to Jerusalem isn't without incident.
"28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him." (Acts 9:28-29)
As you recall from Lesson 1.2, the Grecian Jews from the Freedman's Synagogue are the ones who initiate the stoning of Stephen. So Paul goes back to his old friends in Jerusalem and tries to convince them that Jesus is the Messiah. Three words describe his conversation:
- Speaking boldly. "Speaking boldly" (NIV, NRSV, KJV), "preaching boldly" (ESV) is the verb parrēsiazomai, "to express oneself freely, speak freely, openly, fearlessly." This action characterizes Paul's approach in synagogues on his missionary journeys also (Acts 9:27; 13:46; 14:3; 19:8; Ephesians 6:20). Paul is fearless -- and tends to stir people up in the process.
- Talking. The extremely common verb is laleō, "to speak."
- Debating. The verb here is syzēteō, generally, "to carry on a discussion." But the meaning here is a couple of notches above that: "to contend with persistence for a point of view, dispute, debate, argue." The word is used in the Gospels to describe the Pharisees' debates with Jesus (Mark 8:11; 9:14, 16; 12:28), and Stephen's debate with the Jews before his martyrdom (Acts 6:8).
Throughout the accounts of Paul's ministry, we'll be examining just how he presents the Gospel.
2.2. Paul's Sojourn in Tarsus (Acts 9:30; Galatians 1:21, 35-45 AD)
These volatile Grecian Jews who stoned Stephen for blasphemy decide to do the same to Saul, the turn-coat, who had once been one of them but had gone over to the side of Christ. Jesus warns Paul directly.
"When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.'" (Acts 22:17-18)
Indeed, there is a plot against him.
"They tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus." (Acts 9:29b-30)
"Later I went to Syria and Cilicia." (Galatians 1:21)
Map: Tarsus of Cilicia (Larger map)
His new friends in Jerusalem hustle Paul off to the port city of Caesarea, and put him on a ship to Tarsus in Cilicia, Paul's place of birth. The Jerusalem believers want to protect Paul, but they also have another motive; they don't want Paul to stir up persecution against Christians again. Paul remains in Cilicia from about 35 to 46 AD, when Barnabas comes looking for him to help him in the ministry in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). We'll pick up the narrative later in this lesson.
Revelations in Cilicia
However, first we need to ponder why God seems to allow Paul to be on a "back burner" in Tarsus for over a decade. I'm sure he is involved with a Christian community there, and probably engages the Jewish community in many debates. But we are told none of this. Rather, we're told of Paul's revelations while in Cilicia.
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church, he talks about what happened. He starts speaking about this in the third person, as if it were someone else, but soon lapses into the first person. He's talking about himself!
"1b I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know -- God knows. 3 And I know that this man -- whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows -- 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
I don't want to explore what the third heaven was, or the nature of the vision. Rather let's focus on the dating of this event. Second Corinthians was written about 55 AD from Ephesus. If you subtract "14 years ago" from 55 AD, you come up with 41 AD. Paul is in Cilicia and Syria from about 35 to 46 AD, so this revelation happens during Paul's time in Tarsus.
In this passage Paul uses several words to describe the experience:
1. "Visions" (2 Corinthians 12:1b). "Vision" is optasia, "an event of a transcendent character that impresses itself vividly on the mind, a vision, celestial sight."
2. "Revelations" (2 Corinthians 12:1b). "Revelation" is apokalypsis (from which we get our word "apocalypse"), literally, "uncovering." Here, the word means, "making fully known, revelation, disclosure," used of revelations of a particular kind, through visions, etc.
3. "He heard inexpressiblethings, things that man is not permitted to tell" (2 Corinthians 12:4).
4. "Surpassingly great revelations" (2 Corinthians 12:7a). We see something similar in a passage we just looked at:
"When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking...." (Acts 22:17-18a)
"Trance" is ekstasis (from which we get our English word "ecstasy"), "an altered state of consciousness, usually experienced by an individual privately, in which extrasensory sights and sounds, or visions and auditions, are experienced." Peter had been in a trance in Joppa when he saw unclean animals being let down in a sheet (Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17). This is probably similar to the phrase in Revelation, "on the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit" (Revelation 1:10; also 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).
The point I want to make here is that Paul's time before his ministry begins in Antioch isn't empty. It is a time during which God is teaching him through revelations and visions, helping to clarify the gospel that he will begin to proclaim as an apostle, a gospel that includes the Gentiles and involves breaking down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:11-22).
A key insight is found in Paul's letter to the Galatians:
"11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12)
Paul's authority is Jesus Christ revealing himself to him personally. Man's traditions, even traditions of the mother church in Jerusalem, aren't his primary source. However, Paul is clear when he does pass on traditions from the early church.
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread...." (1 Corinthians 11:23)
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures...." (1 Corinthians 15:3)
Nevertheless, much of Paul's understanding of the Gospel is not received from the teachings of the original apostles; he receives it directly from Christ through revelation. In our day, some accuse Paul of reinterpreting the apostolic gospel. The Jerusalem church doesn't think so, however (Galatians 2:9-10; Acts 15:12, 25-26; 2 Peter 3:15-16). Rather, we should understand that God uses Paul to clarify the gospel, especially its relation to the Gentiles.
The prophetic word that Ananias had spoken over him at his conversion has come to pass:
"The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth." (Acts 22:14)
Q1. (Acts 9:30; Galatians 1:15-17) Why do ambitious
Christians struggle so much when they don't seem to be doing anything important?
Why is patience with God's plan so important to growth? Why is a period of
spiritual formation so important to future leadership? To listening for God's
2.3. Paul Ministers in Antioch (Acts 11:19-30, 45-48 AD)
As you recall, Paul has been hustled off to Tarsus, after a conspiracy to kill him makes life in Jerusalem too dangerous (Acts 9:29-30). Indeed, Jesus has spoken to him in a trance to leave at once (Acts 22:18). But later, when it suits God's plan, the Spirit directs Paul to go to Jerusalem, though it becomes clear to him that he will be arrested there (Acts 20:22-24). Paul isn't afraid of danger. Rather, he has learned early on to be responsive to the voice of the Lord.
When we pick up the narrative again in Acts 11, Paul is in Tarsus, where he has remained for perhaps a decade (35-45 AD). He is called as an apostle at his conversion in 33 AD (Acts 9:15; 22:15), but apparently hasn't exercised this gift to any real extent. That is soon to change.
The Gospel Reaches the Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11:19-21)
Let's pause for a moment to consider the structure of the book of Acts as outlined in a key verse spoken by Jesus in the first chapter.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
There is a progressive geographical and cultural extension of the gospel:
1. The Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples (Acts 2)
2. Jerusalem -- many believers find Christ (Acts 2-6)
3. Judea. Believers are scattered to Judea following the persecution led by Saul (Acts 8:1). From the word Judea (formerly known as Judah) comes the words "Judaism" and "Jew." Converts made here early on are Jews who become disciples of Christ. They belong to the same general culture as the Jews in Galilee and Jerusalem.
4. Samaria. Many believers are scattered to Samaria (Acts 8:1). Philip preaches in Samaria and revival results (Acts 8:4-8) This is the first time the gospel has crossed from Jews to Samaritans, seen as a sort of bastard Jews. Peter and John are called from Jerusalem to confirm these new believers with the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-25). For the first time, ministry becomes cross-cultural, through missionaries from the Jewish culture to the Samaritan culture. A summary verse following Paul's conversion puts it this way:
"Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord." (Acts 9:31)
Yes, the gospel comes to the Jews in Damascus in Syria (Acts 9:1-25), but this is from Jew to Jew; no Gentiles yet.
5. Ends of the earth. Then God gives a vision to Peter to go to Caesarea and preach the gospel to a Gentile centurion and his friends. The Holy Spirit comes down, they're saved, and filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized. It's controversial, but the Jerusalem church eventually accepts it:
"They had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'" (Acts 11:18)
There aren't a lot of converts in Caesarea, but the principle is established. The next step towards "the ends of the earth" is Antioch, where Gentiles start coming to Christ in large numbers (Acts 11:19-21). From Antioch, Paul and others carry the gospel to the Mediterranean world as far as Rome and beyond. Paul, a Grecian Jew, now begins to carry the Gospel to Gentiles all over Asia Minor, Greece, and Macedonia. Cross-cultural evangelism comes into its own with Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
There are a number of good commentaries on the Book of Acts by biblical scholars. You'll see my favorites among References and Abbreviations. But I want to draw your attention to one, The Book of Acts: A Commentary (Regal, 2008), by C. Peter Wagner. He's not so much a biblical scholar as a practitioner. He served as a missionary in Bolivia, then as a professor in the School of World Missions (now the School of Intercultural Studies) at Fuller Theological Seminary. He was a leading proponent of the Church Growth Movement, and later wrote extensively on spiritual gifts and signs and wonders. So he brings unique insights into the missiological principles we see in Acts, as well as the "power evangelism" taking place with the miracles and power encounters we see there. I've found his insights extremely useful in understanding the dynamics of the early church and its expansion.
The Gospel Explodes among the Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11:19-21)
Until now, the gospel has been received by Jews and Samaritans, and a few Gentiles in Caesarea. But now the gospel catches fire among the Greek-speaking Gentiles in Antioch in a big way. Thousands are coming to Christ, creating a mass of believers that begins to rival the size of the Church of Jerusalem.
"19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord." (Acts 11:19-21)
Along the banks of the Orontes River, Antioch's ruins lie near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey. Antioch was the third most important city in the Roman Empire, capital of the Roman province of Syria. In Paul's time, it has a population of perhaps half a million, many times larger than Jerusalem. A sizeable revival here has huge implications for the entire Roman Empire, because within a few years, Antioch becomes the mother church for a series of missions to the Roman world.
Barnabas Is Sent to the Gentile Believers in Antioch (Acts 11:22-24)
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The leaders of the Jerusalem Church, the mother church, are struggling to decide how they should deal with this flood of Gentiles becoming Christians. So they send one of their trusted leaders -- Barnabas.
"22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." (Acts 11:22-23)
What do we know about Barnabas?
"Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)...." (Acts 4:36)
Being from Cyprus, he speaks Greek fluently. He is from a Jewish community on the isle of Cyprus, but he thoroughly understands and is comfortable in Greek culture. In a similar way, Paul is a Jew, but understands and is comfortable in the Greek culture of the province of Cilicia, not too far from Antioch.
Because Barnabas is a Cypriot, he can relate to his countrymen, the evangelists who had started the Gentile churches in Antioch -- "men from Cyprus and Cyrene" (Acts 11:20). For a number of reasons, Barnabas is an excellent choice for the Jerusalem Church to send to Antioch.
Barnabas, known as "Son of Encouragement," has a generous heart, giving property to help support the needy in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36-37). He is also a "bridge person" who reaches out to Paul and introduces him to the Jerusalem apostles when they are afraid of Paul. Our passage speaks of his character.
"He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." (Acts 11:24a)
As Pete Wagner puts it, the phrase "full of the Holy Spirit and faith" is "Luke's way of affirming that Barnabas was operating under a strong anointing for power ministries," that is, signs and wonders. And Barnabas's ministry in Antioch was wonderfully effective.
"A great number of people were brought to the Lord." (Acts 11:24)
Barnabas Seeks Out Saul in Tarsus (Acts 11:25-26)
Barnabas's ministry in Antioch is so effective that he needs help.
"25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." (Acts 11:25-26)
This is probably about 45 AD. So far as we know, Paul has been in Tarsus for about 10 years since fleeing Jerusalem in 35 AD. So Barnabas travels about 150 miles (236 km.) each way by road to find Paul and ask him to join the ministry team in Antioch.
I would guess that Paul has been working in the tentmaker trade in Tarsus, studying the Scriptures as part of the considerable Jewish community in this city, contending with other earnest seekers that Jesus is the Messiah, and building around him a group of Christian disciples. This is speculation, I know, but it would be in keeping with what we see of Paul's work in Damascus (Acts 9:19-22) and in the 20 years of active ministry that follow.
On Paul's Second Missionary Journey, Paul and Silas go "through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches" (Acts 15:41). This implies that there are established Christian churches there by about 49 AD. These are probably areas that had been already evangelized by the Antioch church, but Paul may well have been engaged in local evangelism during his "quiet years." He also passes through Tarsus on his Third Missionary Journey, but no mention is made in the text (Acts 18:23), nor does he mention associates from Cilicia in any of his letters.
I think it is likely that by the time Barnabas comes looking for him, Paul is seasoned and experienced enough in Christian ministry to be a great help in Antioch.
"So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people." (Acts 11:26a)
This ministry seems primarily to consist of teaching new Gentile believers and establishing them in the faith, rather than conducting evangelistic missions. That will come later.
Luke tells us,
"The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." (Acts 11:26b)
The Greek word is Christianos, "one who is associated with Christ, Christ-partisan, Christian." The word also occurs in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16, apparently in the mouths of opponents, but begins to be used as a self-designation, by at least the time the Didache is written at the end of the first century AD.
Prophecy of Widespread Famine (Acts 11:27-28)
"27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)" (Acts 11:27-28)
We see regular communication between the churches in Jerusalem and Antioch, with people from the Jerusalem church visiting Antioch from time to time and vice versa (Acts 11:22, 25, 27; 15:1-2).
One of these visitors is Agabus, a prophet, who is mentioned here and in Acts 21:10. In Acts 13:1 we see also see prophets, and a prophetic word: "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul...."(Acts 13:2).
We may not be very familiar with prophets, but they were important in the New Testament church and highly valued by Paul in the leadership of the church (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5; 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; 14:29; 1 Timothy 1:18; 4:14). Judas and Silas minister as prophets to the Antioch Church (Acts 15:32) and Silas travels with Paul on his Second and Third Missionary Journeys. Philip the Evangelist has four daughters who prophesy (Acts 21:9), perhaps in the tradition of Old Testament prophetesses (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14).
Agabus, who lives in Judea, predicts a widespread famine throughout the Roman world. Indeed, classical writers reported famines at various times during the reign of Claudius.
2.4. Paul and Barnabas Carry a Gift to Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30, 46 AD)
Paul joins Barnabas in Antioch about 45 AD. The very next year (46 AD), he journeys with Barnabas carrying a gift of money for the poor saints in Judea. Luke reports:
"29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul." (Acts 11:29-30)
After this, Luke's narrative inserts Peter's escape from prison and the death of Herod (Acts 12:1-25). Then Luke continues,
"When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark." (Acts 12:25)
Meeting with Leaders of the Jerusalem Church (Galatians 2:1-5)
But this trip isn't just about taking a gift in response to Agabus's prophecy. It also apparently includes a private meeting with the leaders of the Jerusalem Church, during which Paul outlines his approach to preaching the gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch.
"1 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain." (Galatians 2:1-2)
Apparently some Judaizers had complained that the Gentile converts weren't being circumcised, and thus becoming law-keeping Jews. The Jerusalem leadership seemed to approve of Paul's ministry, but the matter came up again, before being settled by the Council of Jerusalem, which we'll examine in Lesson 4.2. For now, however, Paul's Gentile ministry is accepted by the Jerusalem church leaders (Galatians 2:3-5).
"7 They saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.... 9b [They] gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews." (Galatians 2:7, 9)
James (Jesus' brother), Peter, and John acknowledge Paul's and Barnabas's calling to evangelize the Gentiles and place no restrictions on them. They also appreciate Paul's help for the poor in Jerusalem. Years later, at the close of his Third Missionary Journey, Paul collects a monetary gift from his churches in Macedonia, Greece, and Asia, and brings it to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3-4; 32 Corinthians 8-9; Romans 15:26).
Paul's Conflict with Peter at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-16)
As you read Paul's comments about "those reputed to be pillars" (Galatians 2:6-10) you sense that he is a bit testy towards the Jerusalem leadership, since the Jerusalem church still hasn't developed a clear understanding that Gentile believers are fully equal with Jewish Christians.
This shows up not long after Paul's and Barnabas's trip to Jerusalem. Peter comes to Antioch in person and spends some time with them.
The problem begins with the firm custom that Jews don't associate with Gentiles in terms of table fellowship. Business, yes, but fellowship, no. God had spoken to Peter rather clearly about this in Joppa, and sent him to declare the gospel to a group of Gentiles in Caesarea (Acts 10-11). God had poured out the Holy Spirit on these Gentiles, showing that he had accepted them. Nevertheless, when he gets back to Jerusalem, Peter is subjected to intense criticism:
"The circumcised believers criticized him and said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.'" (Acts 11:2b-3)
Peter defended his actions by telling how God had demonstrated that he had accepted the Gentiles. The conclusion was:
"When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'" (Acts 11:18)
The criticism is silenced, but the prejudice against Gentiles doesn't go away and still has strong influence in Jerusalem. So Peter tries to stay clear of offending the Jerusalem believers to avoid their biting censure.
Now that we've looked at the back story, let's examine the incident in Antioch.
"11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15 We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.'" (Galatians 2:11-16)
When the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem aren't around, Peter and Barnabas eat with the Gentile Christians as brothers and sisters. But when the Judaizers come, they separate themselves. Paul calls out their hypocrisy -- a very gutsy thing to do for a Pharisee and former persecutor of the Church!
There's a people-pleasing tendency built into many of us that can get in the way of courageous obedience to Jesus, even when it isn't popular. Fortunately, we see that both Peter and Barnabas recover from this mistake and go on to great ministries. There's hope for us!
We think that this confrontation was before the ruling of the Jerusalem Council around 49 AD that finally settled the requirements placed upon Gentiles (Acts 15). But nevertheless, Peter knows better! We'll examine how this issue comes to a head in the Council of Jerusalem in Lesson 4.2.
Q2. (Galatians 2:11-16) Why does Paul call out Peter
publicly in Antioch? What is the reason for Peter's hypocrisy? What is the
central issue on which Paul feels they must not compromise? Why is it so
Sent out from Antioch (Acts 13:1-3)
A fruitful period of ministry in Antioch comes to a close about 47 AD, when Barnabas and Paul are commissioned and sent off together on the First Missionary Journey.
"1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:1-3)
This is a momentous occasion. Antioch's pastors and apostles leave them, and the leadership of the Antioch church passes to new leaders, perhaps those who are named in verse 1.
Let's spend a few minutes examining this passage carefully. I see several important things going on here:
1. Leadership in Antioch includes both prophets and teachers. It is true that, with regards to church leaders, the noun "pastor" occurs only once in the New Testament and the verb "to pastor, shepherd" only seldom. (For more on terms for church leaders, see Lesson 9.3.) However, the early church seemed to have multiple leaders with various gifts. In our day, some tend to despise prophets, or to define prophecy as synonymous with preaching, but in Acts, prophets are active leaders.
2. The leaders in Antioch are a cosmopolitan blend. Barnabas (whom we discussed above) is a Levite from Cyprus. Simeon is likely called "Niger" (which means, "black" or "dark") because of the color of his skin. Lucius is from Cyrene, a Roman colony on the coast of North Africa (in present-day Libya). Manaen is from an elite ruling family who grew up with King Herod Agrippa. And, of course, Saul the Pharisee, is a native of Tarsus in Cilicia. Leaders often reflect the make-up of the congregation. We shouldn't feel guilty if our congregations and the leaders come from pretty much the same race and background. However, Antioch is a cosmopolitan city, and its leaders are from all over the ancient world, from various classes, races, and nationalities. The "homogenous unit principle" outlined in the church growth literature of the 1980s doesn't always apply along lines of nationality.
3. Corporate worship and fasting. The leaders -- and perhaps members of the congregations -- have set aside time for worship. This isn't a weekly gathering, but a special time of seeking the Lord together. It isn't a human-focused "revival" to save souls or return backsliders; it is focused on Jesus, on drawing close to him and listening to him.
4. The Holy Spirit speaks to them through prophecy. Prophecy in such a setting shouldn't surprise us. Why would it surprise us today?
5. Paul and Barnabas are named in prophecy. This prophecy is personal and specific. Apparently, Barnabas and Saul have already heard from God about this "call." Now is the time to go forward with it. "Set apart" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "separate" (KJV) is aphorizō, "to select one person out of a group for a purpose, set apart, appoint"
6. Laying on of hands. "So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." I don't think this sentence means that they fasted and prayed again for confirmation after the prophecy,. But that following this time of prayer and fasting, they obey the voice of the Spirit. Commissioning people by the laying on of hands is customary in the early church (Acts 6:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Numbers 27:23).
Q3. (Acts 13:1-3) Why are the church leaders in Antioch
seeking God through corporate prayer and fasting? How does God respond to their
seeking? Why do you think we don't do more of this sort of thing today? What was
the importance of this to the church at large? To the chosen missionaries?
2.5. Gifts and Calling
Before we leave this period of Paul's life, we need to examine more deeply Paul's call to be an apostle to the Gentiles -- and then examine what we might learn from Paul about honoring and fulfilling our own personal calling.
Modern scholars debate whether Paul's Damascus road experience should be understood as a conversion or a call. This is a false dichotomy, I think. A case can be made for both.
Paul's call to the Gentiles is shown to Ananias before he goes to lay hands on Paul.
"Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16)
The call to bring the gospel to the Gentiles is part of Jesus' original words to Paul himself.
"16b 'I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending (apostellō) you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' (Acts 26:16b-18)
Of course, Paul witnesses to his fellow Jews -- in Damascus, Jerusalem, and in synagogues in nearly every city to which he went -- until they kick him out. But his primary ministry is to the Gentiles. When Paul meets with the apostles at the Jerusalem Council they reach this understanding:
"They saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 8 For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles." (Galatians 2:6-8)
There are many references to his call to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21; Romans 11:13; 15:15b-16a; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 2:7).
Paul Is an Apostle
Paul is an apostle. The Greek noun apostolos is compounded from two words, apo, "off, away" + stellō, "to send." The noun designates one who has been sent with a commission and can mean a "delegate, envoy, messenger." The word is first used to describe the original 12 apostles. Later the word is used to describe Barnabas, James the brother of Jesus, and perhaps Silas -- and, of course, Paul. Apostles had various roles, but we often see them in a foundational church-planting, teaching ministry in the early church.
In the face of false apostles trying to undermine his authority, Paul is adamant that he has been appointed an apostle by Christ himself -- even though he is unworthy of the honor (1 Timothy 1:12-16; Ephesians 3:8).
"Paul, an apostle -- sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead...." (Galatians 1:1)
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God." (Romans 1:1)
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." (1 Corinthians 1:1a)
To some at Corinth who question his authority, he responds sharply.
"Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 9:1b-2)
"I am not in the least inferior to the 'super-apostles,' even though I am nothing. The things that mark an apostle -- signs, wonders and miracles -- were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Corinthians 12:11a-12)
To the Galatians, Paul makes clear that he hasn't been appointed an apostle by men, but by Christ himself.
"But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was...." (Galatians 1:15-17)
Paul's Ministry as a Sacred Trust
To Paul, his apostolic ministry is everything. It defines him. In a sense, he tells us, he has no choice but to fulfill his call.
"16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me." (1 Corinthians 9:16-17)
His ministry is a matter of great grace as well as obedience. Christ has sent him; he must obey. Two words stand out in this passage. Paul preaches both out of necessity, as well as the fulfillment of a sacred trust.
1. Preaching is a necessity. "Compelled" (NIV), "necessity is laid upon me" (ESV, KJV), "an obligation is laid upon me" (NRSV), are translated from two words: the verb epikeimai, "to act through force or pressure," and the noun anankē, "necessity or constraint as inherent in the nature of things, necessity, pressure" of any kind.
2. Preaching is a sacred trust. The phrases, "the trust committed to me" (NIV), "I am entrusted with a commission" (NRSV), "entrusted with a stewardship" (ESV), "a dispensation of the gospel is committed to me" (KJV) translate a second pair of words, the familiar verb pisteuō, "believe," then "entrust oneself." Here it has the force of "entrust something to someone." Paul uses this verb several times to describe the nature of his call to preach.
"I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles." (Galatians 2:7)
"Approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel." (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
"The preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior." (Titus 1:3)
The other key word used in 1 Corinthians 9:17 is the noun oikonomia, "responsibility of management, management of a household, direction, office," which Paul applies to the administration of his office as an apostle.
"Surely you have heard about the administration (oikonomia) of God's grace that was given to me for you." (Ephesians 3:2)
"I have become its servant by the commission (oikonomia) God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness." (Colossians 1:25)
Now that we've studied these two verses, let's read them again:
"16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me." (1 Corinthians 9:16-17)
I've spent some time on these verses because here Paul teaches us the vital importance of using our gifts and fulfilling the ministries given to us.
Spiritual Gifts Are Given to All Believers
Paul, more than any other New Testament author, teaches us about spiritual gifts. Paul indicates in First Corinthians, that various spiritual gifts are given to all believers (1 Corinthians 12:11). Paul teaches extensively about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, with a further mentions in Romans 12:3-11 and Ephesians 4:11 (cf. 1 Peter 4:11). The gift you have received helps shape your ministry. It won't be like anyone else's, but it is important to God's plan. You must not neglect how God has shaped you and gifted you.
To delve more deeply into what Paul teaches about spiritual gifts, see my study, Disciple's Guide to the Holy Spirit (JesusWalk Publications, 2018), Lesson 8 and Lesson 9.
Our Spiritual Gifts Are Given to Us in Trust
So often I see people take their ministry so casually! No! Jesus is gentle with us in leading us to serve him out of love. But let us never forget that we are servants who are called to be obedient.
Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27) to help us understand that a good and faithful servant uses what he is given to advance his Master's cause and Kingdom. Those who neglect this for whatever reason are considered evil and unfaithful servants.
You may think it's too late to obey God. Not so. Paul says with reference to Israel's calling to be God's people.
"God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29)
Yes, the ideal time to obey is immediately upon discerning God's will. But "better late than never." God still loves you, and, in a sense, waits for you. Remember, Paul has to remind Timothy also to stir up the gifts he has received (2 Timothy 1:6).
As for St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:16-17, your spiritual gifts place upon you both a necessity to obey as well as a trust to live up to. Your spiritual gifts are not some hobby for you to indulge when you get the time. You must find ways in Christ to exercise those gifts now, not just some time in the future!
Q4. (1 Corinthians 9:16-17) How does Paul view his call
to preach? How much choice is involved for him? How much honor? How should this
understanding affect our understanding of God gifting and calling us for
ministry? What is the opposite of faithfulness when it comes to using God's
Completing the Task (Acts 20:24)
Paul is faithful to exercise his ministry fully. Just before Paul goes to Jerusalem to face imprisonment and eventual death he tells the Ephesian elders at Miletus.
"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me -- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Acts 20:24).
We may not be apostles or prophets, but God has entrusted each of us with gifts and opportunities that we are to use for his Kingdom. This is not optional, but what disciples take on themselves when they commit their lives to serve Jesus. It is often a great joy, since we tend to excel when we are doing what we are made to do. But it can also entail suffering -- much suffering -- as it did for Paul, Jesus, and Stephen. Nevertheless, serving Jesus, and completing the tasks he gives us, is our joy and our portion. And it fulfills our lives.
Lessons for Disciples
There's lots to meditate on here.
- Time in seeking God is vital in preparing us for future ministry (Acts 9:30; Galatians 1:15-17). It may seem like nothing is going on spiritually, but God is forming us. Let this process work fully in you by yielding to it and spending time in Christ's presence.
- Many of Paul's teachings are direct revelations to him from Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; Acts 22:17-18a; Galatians 1:11-12).
- God uses Paul and Barnabas, two Greek-speaking Jews, as missionaries to bring the gospel to Gentiles in Antioch, moving the gospel out of an exclusively Jewish culture and into a Greek one (Acts 11:19-30). It is valuable to differentiate between evangelism in one's own culture and cross-cultural (missionary) evangelism.
- Like Paul's conflict with Peter in Antioch (Galatians 2:11-16), conflicts between sincere Christians are inevitable, since we are still in the process of becoming molded by Christ. We can challenge one another to faithfulness and help one another grow. The church isn't always peaceful, since we're in the process of change and growth -- and that isn't always easy for us!
- The Holy Spirit is active in sending out Paul and Barnabas. This becomes clear by deliberately seeking God through corporate prayer and fasting (Acts 13:1-3). Church is not a performance or service to attend, but a community to be part of, in which we give and receive ministry and confirmation.
- Paul sees his calling and ministry (based on his spiritual gift of apostleship) as a sacred trust that he is compelled to complete both out of obedience and as a kind of sacred trust (1 Corinthians 9:16-17; Galatians 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Titus 1:3). In a similar way, we must take seriously the spiritual gifts and ministries with which God has entrusted us. They are not casual options, but divine necessities for us.
Available in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats.
Father, thank you for our brother Paul, who set an example for us of faithfulness to his ministry and calling. Correct us when we lag behind. Help us repent of our selfishness. Let us also serve you faithfully all the days of our lives. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
"[We] know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16, NIV)
"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:2-3, NIV)
"When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me." (1 Corinthians 9:16-17, NIV)
 "Baffled" (NIV), "confounded" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is syncheō, literally "pour together." It is used figuratively, "to cause dismay, confuse, confound, trouble, stir up." Here it means "confound, throw into consternation" (BDAG 953).
 Kēryssō, BDAG 543, 2bβ.
 Symbibazō, BDAG 957, 3. This is the only time in the New Testament that the word is used in this sense.
 Psalm 89:35-37; 132:10-12; Isaiah 9:6-7; 16:5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-17; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Amos 9:11-12; etc.
 Matthew 16:16; 26:63; Luke 4:41; John 1:49; 11:27; 20:31; cf. Luke 1:32.
 However, Danker notes that, "there is no undisputed evidence of usage [of 'son of God'] as messianic title in pre-Christian Judaism" (Huios, BDAG 1025, 2dβ).
 "Governor" is ethnarchēs, in general the title of a person appointed to rule over a particular area or constituency on behalf of a king, "head of an ethnic community/minority, ethnic head/leader" (BDAG 276).
 Aretas IV Philopatris was King of the Nabateans (under the Roman overlords) from about 9 BC to 40 AD. The Nabateans were a large Bedouin tribe in northern Arabia, with their capital in Petra. It was King Aretas's daughter whom Herod Anitpas had divorced in order to marry Salome (the wife of Herod's brother brother) -- which led to the beheading of John the Baptist (Wikipedia article; H.E. Dosker, "Aretas," ISBE 1:288).
 F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians (New International Greek Testament Commentary; Eerdmans, 1982), pp. 95-96; Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 41; Word, 1990, p. 34.
 "Desert" is erēmos, "an uninhabited region or locality, desert, grassland, wilderness (in contrast to cultivated and inhabited country) (BDAG 392)
 N.T. Wright, "Paul, Arabia, and Elijah (Galatians 1:17)," Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 115, 683--692.
 Parrēsiazomai, BDAG 782, 1.
 Syzēteō, BDAG 959, 2.
 Optasia, BDAG 717, 1, from the verb optazomai, "to see."
 Apokalypsis, BDAG 112, 1b.
 "Inexpressible" (NIV), "unspeakable" (KJV), "things that are not to be told" (NRSV), "things that cannot be told" (ESV) is arrētos. The word is used (1) of something "that cannot be expressed, since it is beyond human powers, inexpressible," and (2) of something "that must not be expressed, since it is holy, not to be spoken" (BDAG 134).
 "Not permitted" (NIV, NRSV) is exesti, "to be authorized for the doing of something, it is right, is authorized, is permitted, is proper" (BDAG 348, 1d).
 "Surpassingly great" (NIV, cf. ESV), "exceptional character of" (NRSV), "abundance" (KJV) is hyperbolē (from which we get the English word "hyperbole"), "state of exceeding to an extraordinary degree a point on a scale of extent, excess, extraordinary quality/character" (BDAG 1032).
 D. E. Aune, "Trance," ISBE 4:886. The word comes from ek-, "from" + stasis, "place or state."
 Missiology is the study of missions, and the principles that underlie success in cross-cultural evangelism.
 "Good" is agathos, "pertaining to meeting a high standard of worth and merit, good, kind, generous, benevolent" (BDAG 3, 2a). In classical Greek it is used frequently in reference to good citizenship or acceptance of communal responsibility. See Matthew 20:15; 25:21, 23. Joseph of Arimathea is referred to as "a good and upright man."
 Wagner, Acts, p. 234. The phrase, "full of the Holy Spirit and faith," recalls the description of the assistants selected to help the Church's food distribution to Grecian widows -- "known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom." Stephen was described as "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5). He is "a man full of God's grace and power, [who] did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people" (Acts 6:8).
 Christianos, BDAG 1090.
 J. Dickie, "Christian," ISBE 1:657. Self-designations found in the New Testament include: "believers," "saints," "brethren," "the church," "the elect," and "servants of God/Christ."
 "But if [a prophet] has no craft, according to your wisdom provide how he shall live as a Christian among you, but not in idleness" (Didache 12:6).
 Suetonius, Life of Claudius 18, 2; Tacitus Annals, 12.43; Cassius Dio, Roman History 60.11; Orosius, A History Against the Pagans 7.6. The famine is extreme in Judea between 44 and 48 AD, as Josephus explains: "A famine oppressed them at that time, and many people died for want of money to procure food.... Under [Procurators Cuspius Fadus (44-46 AD) and Tiberius Julius Alexander (46-48 AD)] that great famine happened in Judea, in which queen Helena bought corn in Egypt at a great expense" (Antiquities 20.2.5).
 "According to his ability" is two words in Greek: kathōs, "as," and euporeō, "to prosper financially, have plenty, be well off" (BDAG 410), used only here in the New Testament. A similar idea occurs in 1 Corinthians 16:2 regarding the collection for the poor to be collected and taken to Jerusalem: "in keeping with his income" (NIV), "as he may prosper" (ESV), euodoō, literally, "be led along a good road," here in the sense, "have things turn out well, prosper, succeed" (BDAG 410).
 F.F. Bruce (Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, p. 151) and N.T. Wright (Paul: A Biography, pp. 95-100) see the Galatians 2:1-5 visit as prior to the First Missionary Journey, and different from the visit at the Jerusalem Council, but we can't be sure.
 Whether this took place before the First Missionary Journey or shortly after, we aren't sure. The whole identification of the Acts and Galatians accounts of Paul's trips to Jerusalem has been thoroughly debated. For details, see the commentaries. What I've presented here is the order of events that seems most likely to me.
 Poimēn, "shepherd, one who herds sheep," then "one who serves as guardian or leader, shepherd" (BDAG 842, 2bγ).
 Ephesians 4:11.
 Poimainō means "to herd sheep," then, figuratively, "to watch out for other people, to shepherd, of activity that protects, rules, governs, fosters," in the sense of lead, guide, or rule (BDAG 842, 2aα).
 John 21:16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2, and perhaps Jude 12.
 Aphorizō, BDAG 158, 2. Also in Galatians 1:13-15; Romans 1:1.
 Apostolos, BDAG 122.
 Some, including myself, believe that there are apostles today. See more on this in my study, Disciple's Guide to the Holy Spirit (JesusWalk Publications, 2018), Lesson 8.
 Epikeimai, BDAG 373, 2b.
 Anankē, BDAG 61, 1. The word can also refer to a divine dispensation, some hoped-for advantage, custom, duty, etc.
 Pisteuō, BDAG 818, 3.
 Oikonomia, BDAG 697, 1b.
 "Irrevocable" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "without repentance" (KJV) is the adjective ametamelētos, "not to be regretted, without regret" (BDAG 53, 1). "Unrepented of, unregretted" (Thayer, p. 32). God doesn't regret calling you. Also O. Michel, metamelomai, ktl., TDNT 4:629.
 We'll examine this passage at length in Lesson 9.3.
Copyright © 2022, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastorjoyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format.
- 28 Advent Scriptures
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Abraham, Faith of
- Apostle Paul
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- Conquering Lamb of Revelation
- David, Life of
- Early Church: Acts 1-12
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Grace: Favor for the Undeserving
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ
- Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-134)
My books are available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.