Acts 13:14

From Perga to Antioch of Pisidia.

Sunday, 25 December 2022

But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. Acts 13:14

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse spoke of Paul and those with him going to Perga. At that time John departed from them. Now, it continues, saying, “But when they departed from Perga.”

More literally, it reads, “And they, having passed through from Perga.” In other words, it is speaking of the area that is traversed between Perga and the next location. They left Perga, traveled through the land and “they came to Antioch in Pisidia.” Rather, it should read Antioch of Pisidia. Albert Barnes explains the place and the reason, saying –

“Pisidia was a province of Asia Minor, and was situated north of Pamphylia. Antioch was not in Pisidia, but within the limits of Phrygia; but it belonged to Pisidia, and was called Antioch of Pisidia to distinguish it from Antioch in Syria – Pliny, Nat. Hist., 5, 27; Strabo, 12, p. 577 (Kuinoel; Robinson’s Calmet). The city was built by Seleucus, the founder of the Antioch in Syria, and was called after the name of his father, Antiochus. He is said to have built 16 cities of that name (“Life and Epistles of Paul,” vol. 1, p. 122).”

This area was inland to the north of Pamphylia and Antioch lay at the very northern end of it. Of this area, Cambridge makes an interesting comment –

“Dean Howson (Life and Epistles of St Paul, i. 175) suggests that it was perhaps in this journey that St Paul and his companion were exposed to those ‘perils of robbers’ of which he speaks 2 Corinthians 11:26. Pisidia was a mountainous district rising gradually towards the north, and the quotations given by Dr Howson from Xenophon and Strabo shew that there was a great deal of brigand-like life there even in these times, from which Paul and his company may have been in danger.”

Once they arrived in Antioch, it next notes, “and went into the synagogue.” Again, an aorist participle is used, “and having gone into the synagogue.” Each step is detailed methodically by Luke to give the sense of the journey’s motion for the reader to join in. Once in Antioch and having gone into the synagogue, it next records that it was “on the Sabbath day.”

The words in Greek more precisely state, “on the day of the Sabbaths.” This is what Paul refers to in Colossians 2 when arguing against observing Sabbath days and other things fulfilled through the work of Christ –

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Colossians 2:16, 17

It is a way of designating the day as the Sabbath as a recurring Feast of the Lord (see Leviticus 23:2). Now, having arrived at the synagogue and entered it on this feast day, it says they “sat down.” Like going into a church, the people would go in, sit and await the word from the leader of the synagogue or whoever was designated to begin conducting the Sabbath affairs.

Life application: As noted above, Paul clearly argues against the observance of sabbaths in Colossians 2. The entire passage there refers to the work of Christ ending the Law of Moses. The words hinge especially on verse 2:14 when speaking of the abolishment of the law –

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13, 14

The words “having wiped out the requirements” is speaking of the Law of Moses. To wipe out something indicates its removal, like chalk on a chalkboard. To take something out of the way means it was an obstruction that has now been removed. And the metaphor “having nailed it to the cross” specifically speaks of the death of Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the law. In His death, the law is abolished (see also Ephesians 2:15).

The reason for this detail is that people will argue that the word “sabbaths” in Colossians 2:16 is not referring to the weekly Sabbath. This is entirely incorrect. It is, as noted in the commentary above, the plural term used to speak of the fifty-two weekly Sabbaths. The same plural terminology is found in the Old Testament concerning the weekly Sabbath over 100 times.

Exodus 31:31 for example, while speaking of the weekly Sabbaths, refers to them in the plural. The Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ. Hebrews 4:3 says that we rest in Him now. Therefore, a Christian is to not let anyone judge him for not observing a Sabbath Day.

As a point of doctrine: There is no such thing as a Sunday Sabbath. The Sabbath is a Saturday, and only a Saturday. Christian tradition eventually started to claim that worshiping on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) had replaced the Saturday Sabbath. The claim is that this day of worship was now the “Sunday Sabbath.” This is incorrect. There is one Sabbath, and it is a Saturday. It is fulfilled in Christ. He is our Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:3).As such, don’t allow anyone to pull a fast one on you and steal the prize from you. Rest in Christ, trust in Christ, and stay away from law observance, including the Sabbath day observance.

Lord God, help us to accept Your word as it teaches us its progressively revealed truths. We are free from the law, we are free from the bondage it imposes on us, and we are at liberty in Christ who has accomplished all things for us. Now, help us to be obedient to faithfully follow You through the New Covenant that came at such a high cost. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.