This is how it was. Things have changed a bit.
Monday, 26 December 2022
And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” Acts 13:15
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).
In the previous verse, Paul and those with him had gone into the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia on the Sabbath day and sat down. Now the narrative continues, saying, “And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets.”
Of these words, Ellicott brilliantly brings the narrative to life, not only explaining the meaning of the words before us but of the words of the coming verses –
“After the reading of the law and the prophets.—The order of the Sabbath lessons was fixed as by a kind of calendar, the Law—i.e., the Pentateuch—being divided into fifty-three or fifty-four paraschioth, or sections. These, probably, came into use soon after the return from Babylon. To these were afterwards added special lessons, known technically as the Haphtaroth, from the prophets. We are enabled, by two curious coincidences, to fix, with very little uncertainty, the precise Sabbath on which the mission-work at Antioch opened. The opening words of St. Paul refer to Deuteronomy 1:31 (see Note on Acts 13:18) and this was the lesson for the forty-fourth Sabbath in the year, which fell in July or August; the corresponding second lesson from the prophets being Isaiah 1:1-27, from which he also quotes. He starts, as was natural, from what the people had just been listening to, as the text of his discourse.”
The reading of the Law and Prophets is still read in this manner. Once it was read, it next says, “the rulers of the synagogue sent to them.”
This is specifically referring to Paul and his associates. It is probable that these rulers had become aware that Paul was a Pharisee, trained in Scripture. Barnabas was a Levite. As such, the rulers would be interested in spoken comments from one of them on what had just been read. Another possibility is noted by Ellicott –
“The elders apparently saw strangers taking the position of teachers, probably in the garb of Rabbis, and it belonged to their office to offer such persons an opportunity of addressing the people.”
Either way, whether through earlier introduction or by their choice of seating within the synagogue, it was alerted to them that they were men skilled in the law. That is indicated in the next words, “saying, ‘Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’”
The Greek is in the imperative – “Speak!” It is a complete allowance and a firm suggestion for them to feel free to discuss what was read and to give any insights they had. The words of response will begin in the next verse and will continue until verse 41. In his words, Paul will clearly explain the coming of the Messiah, what his mission was, and how that then ties into justification before God apart from the Law of Moses.
Life application: Suppose you were to have one chance to talk to a Jewish believer about Jesus being the Messiah, would you be able to do so? What if you were asked about a particular part of Scripture that he was curious about? Remembering that the Jews who are not believers in Jesus do not hold to the New Testament, could you satisfactorily explain the passage and how it anticipates Him?
It is obviously impossible to ignore the New Testament when explaining how Jesus fits into the Old Testament passage because the New Testament is what explains who Jesus is and the things He did, but there must be a connection to the Old Testament’s relevance concerning Him for the curious Jew to logically put the two together.
But this cannot be done if you are not familiar with the Old Testament. Therefore, be sure to read it and think about it. Ask yourself, “How does this point to Jesus.” Someday, you may be just the person who is able to satisfactorily show a Jew how Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture. Be ready with a response! Know the Old Testament as well as the New!
Lord God, give us the strong desire to know Your word and to be ready at all times to share it with others. We may not have all the answers, but we can at least be prepared enough to get them headed in the right direction. Give us the desire to know Your word more each day. May we be prepared for such times, O God. Amen.