Hallway in Vermont State Capitol building.
Wednesday, 4 January 2023
“after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. Acts 13:24
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).
Paul is in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. He has been addressing those gathered on the Sabbath, telling them about God’s plan of salvation. In the previous verse, he specifically introduced Jesus as the Savior. He now notes that Jesus’ ministry began “after John had first preached.”
This is referring to John’s preaching which immediately preceded the ministry of Jesus. It was not that John preached before the coming of Jesus at His birth, but before the designated time for His ministry to begin.
The significance of this was that John didn’t preach like the other prophets, as if the Messiah was coming at some unstated point in the future. Rather, his words indicated that the Messiah was right at hand and ready to appear. This was, as Paul continues to note, “before His coming.” The Greek literally reads “before the face of His entrance.”
It is a Hebrew expression indicating an appearance, the face representing the person’s presence. In this, a new word is used, eisodos. It is essentially the opposite of exodus. It indicates an entrance and extends to a means or place of entrance. Because Paul is connecting John’s ministry to that of the coming of the Messiah, he is indicating that the two events are inextricably linked. The herald had come and then the One he proclaimed had immediately followed. As for John, his proclamation was “the baptism of repentance.”
The meaning is that John called the people to repent. In his calling, those who agreed with his proposition were then baptized to outwardly acknowledge the inner change that had taken place. It was a symbolic act of repentance. The word “repent” must be defined to understand what is being said –
“A word compounded of the preposition μετά, after, with; and the verb νοέω, to perceive, and to think, as the result of perceiving or observing. In this compound the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by after and different; so that the whole compound means to think differently after. Μετάνοια (repentance) is therefore, primarily, an after-thought, different from the former thought; then, a change of mind which issues in regret and in change of conduct. These latter ideas, however, have been imported into the word by scriptural usage, and do not lie in it etymologically nor by primary usage. Repentance, then, has been rightly defined as ‘Such a virtuous alteration of the mind and purpose as begets a like virtuous change in the life and practice.’ Sorrow is not, as is popularly conceived, the primary nor the prominent notion of the word. Paul distinguishes between sorrow (λύπη) and repentance (μετάνοια), and puts the one as the outcome of the other. ‘Godly sorrow worketh repentance’ (2 Corinthians 7:10).” Vincent’s Word Studies
It was this changing of the mind that John was called to proclaim. The Messiah was soon to appear and there was to be a national preparing for His arrival –
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.”’” Matthew 3:1-3
This call for the people to change their minds was “to all the people of Israel.” Jesus came to the people of Israel. His ministry was to the nation of Israel. No Gentiles were a part of the nation. He had come to fulfill the law and then initiate a New Covenant. This covenant was to be “with the House of Israel and with the house of Judah” as stated in Jeremiah 31:31.
As such, what Paul is conveying to those at the synagogue is a restating of the process of preparation for Israel to enter into this New Covenant based on their lives under the Law of Moses. As the Gentiles were never under the law of Moses, what Paul says here does not apply to them. It is simply a restating of the facts as they occurred just as the Messiah was ready to come forth. That was prophesied by the prophet Malachi –
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
6 And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:4-6
Commentaries quite often shove Paul’s words here in Acts 13 into their “Gentile” theology concerning entry into the New Covenant, meaning “how to be saved.” But this is entirely inappropriate. Christ has come. And more, the Law of Moses was never in effect for any Gentile at any time or place in human history. The entrance of Gentiles into the New Covenant was anticipated by Isaiah, and it is something that was only available after the work of Christ was accomplished –
“And now the Lord says,
Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
To bring Jacob back to Him,
So that Israel is gathered to Him
(For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord,
And My God shall be My strength),
6 Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Isaiah 49:5, 6
Israel had to repent because they were under the law. To be brought out of that state, they needed to be in the right condition for that to occur. Now, with Christ’s work complete, salvation is solely by faith in what He has accomplished.
Life application: Remember the basics of the gospel –
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3:4
By faith in this message, one is saved. At that time, the Holy Spirit is given as a seal, a guarantee, of that salvation –
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14
The process is of God. The work is accomplished by Jesus. Belief in this results in eternal salvation. Nothing can be added to this message without causing damage to its purity.
Glorious God, we stand in awe of what You have done. You have brought us from darkness into the wonderful light of Christ. Thank You for restoring us to Yourself. And thank You for Your word that reveals these things to us. We can have confidence in our walk and hope concerning our future because of what You have provided for us. Hallelujah! Amen.