A quote by Cal. Vermont State Capitol.
Wednesday, 11 January 2023
“He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. Acts 13:31
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
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The previous verse contained the most wonderful words ever recorded. Paul had told those in the synagogue, “But God raised Him from the dead.” Wonderful words of victory, indeed! Now, he continues with what occurred after that, saying, “He was seen for many days.”
Paul bears conviction in his words. Even though he did not personally share in the events he now conveys to those in the synagogue, he had seen the risen Lord and knew that what he had been told by those who saw Jesus after the resurrection was true. The “many days” Paul refers to is explicitly stated by Luke as he opened the book of Acts –
“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:1-3
Paul next states who those were who were blessed to share in these post-resurrection events, saying that it was “those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem.”
Paul’s words focus on the apostles. It is true that the women saw Him immediately after the resurrection and many others did as well. In fact, Paul expands on these events in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 –
“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, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
As these things are stated as a fact in 1 Corinthians, one might wonder why Paul focuses on “those who came up with Him from Galilee.” The answer is found in this same paragraph –
“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. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.”
The events that occurred in the rejection and crucifixion were led by those in Jerusalem and by the rulers of the nation. But they were the stewards of the law. As they chose to reject the One who had fulfilled their law and enacted a New Covenant, Christ revealed Himself after the resurrection to those who had been appointed to administer this New Covenant. It is the same theme found throughout Scripture: Law vs. Grace.
Jerusalem, emblematic of the law, was now to be replaced by a new form of worship –
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’
21 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’” John 4:19-24
This new form of worship was to enter not merely as being at a physical location (meaning at a temple in Jerusalem), and yet it was to include a kingdom, nonetheless. In Luke 22, Jesus participated in the Passover. There it notes that His twelve apostles were with Him (Luke 22:14). Later in the chapter, it says –
“But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. 29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke 22:28-30
It is these (minus Judas who hung himself) that Paul focuses on in his words to those in the synagogue. The apostles had a message to convey. As for the audience now, they were of Israel, and they had a choice to make, just as those in Jerusalem and their rules had. It is these apostles who were appointed to herald this New Covenant, and “who are His witnesses to the people.”
Someone had to tell what Christ Jesus had done. Those in Jerusalem rejected Him, but those who continued with Him in His trials did not. They would be the ones to judge Israel. As for the direction Paul and those with him were set to take, that will be referred to later in this chapter, specifically in verse 13:47.
Life application: There is no contradiction in the idea of those who come to Jesus, who worship in spirit and truth, while at the same time there is a kingdom that will be judged by the twelve apostles that will also be set up. The nation of Israel is not the entirety of what God is doing. The New Covenant allows for the inclusion of Gentiles, but the nation of Israel still has messianic prophecies that are to be fulfilled in the millennium.
As such, there is one New Covenant that is based upon a single gospel. How God structures things within that New Covenant is entirely different than what existed under the Law of Moses. Just because Israel will be at the head of the nations someday, that has no bearing on how the gospel is now received. Any who come to Christ, Jew or Gentile, must do so through faith in what He has done, as is revealed in the gospel mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 above. As Paul says in that same chapter while speaking of Peter and the others, “Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:11).
Hear the gospel! Accept what it says through faith! Believe and be saved! Call on Jesus today!
Glorious Heavenly Father, how good it is that You have opened the door for the whole world to be saved through the work of Jesus Christ. Those who were never under law are brought into the commonwealth of Israel. And those of Israel who believe are brought out from under the law. All are saved by Your grace through faith in the finished, final, and forever work of Jesus Christ our Lord. Thank You for the gospel, O God! Amen.