Excerpt from Vermont Constitution.
Friday, 6 January 2023
“Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. Acts 13:26
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Paul had just spoken of John the Baptist’s denial of being the Messiah, instead pointing the people of Israel to the One who was coming after him. Paul now proclaims that this One has come. His words begin with, “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham,”
The words are surprisingly widely translated, dividing the three designations into two or three categories. Literally, the words read, “Men, brothers, sons of the stock of Abraham.” This is probably how Paul intended. He is speaking to the men of the synagogue. He refers to them next as brothers. And then, he notes their lineage being traced back to Abraham as a particular point of note because of what he will say in verse 13:32 concerning the promise made to the fathers, a promise that first came to Abraham.
He is carefully defining them so that they pay heed to the details of what he will say. The importance of heeding or not heeding will make all the difference in their eternal future. Therefore, he speaks precisely so that they will be without excuse in their decision concerning the matter presented. Next, he adds another category, saying, “and those among you who fear God.”
An important question arises here: Is this another descriptor of those he just addressed or is it a separate category altogether? In other words, is this a way of saying, “You sons of Abraham who fear God,” or is it “and anyone who is not a son of Abraham but who fears God” as in verse 13:16? Notice the difference between the two verses:
13:16 – and those fearing God
13:26 – and those among you fearing God
The reason this is important is that these are words of warning to his people as much as they are words heralding the good news concerning Jesus. The two are actually inseparable. To reject the good news will lead to being handed the results of that rejection.
The confusion continues with the next words to some degree. They say, “to you the word of this salvation has been sent.” In this, the words are directed to whoever is hearing, be it Jew or Gentile. However, some manuscripts say, “to us.”
In this, it may or may not change the meaning. It still could mean that God’s salvation has been sent to both Jew and Gentile, but it also may be that he is saying that God’s salvation was sent to the literal descendants of Abraham who fear God as opposed to Abraham’s literal descendants and those Gentiles who fear God as well.
In Acts 10:2, the same term is used when referring to Cornelius. He was a man “that feared God.” Because of this, it is hard to be dogmatic, but even if it extends to proselytes of the gate who are in attendance, the result will ultimately remain unchanged. If those proselytes were to reject the message of Paul and continue with observance of Moses, they would – henceforth – be separated from what God is doing in Christ.
This is to be seen quite clearly in verses 13:38 & 39 –
“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
Whether Paul’s words include the proselytes of the gate, or whether they are solely directed to the Jews at this point, an absolute distinction is made between “everyone who believes” and “the law of Moses.” To follow the law will mean that you are not included in everyone who believes. That then means no justification and thus eternal separation from God. This is because, as Paul says in Galatians –
“…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Galatians 2:16
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’” Galatians 3:10-12
Life application: Faith in Jesus Christ saves. Nothing else will do.
Heavenly Father, help us to be people of faith, trusting in the merits of Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. And then, Lord, help us to be faithful people, working out our salvation in righteousness and holiness all our days. May our walk be in accord with the honor bestowed upon us when we first believed. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.