Freedom and Unity. Vermont State Capitol.
Friday, 27 January 2023
“For so the Lord has commanded us:
‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 13:47
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 Barnabas chided those at the synagogue, noting that henceforth they would turn to the Gentiles. With that noted, their words continue with, “For so the Lord has commanded us.”
The apostles, in their turning to the Gentiles, are not without authority to do so. They are acting at the command of the Lord. But instead of citing the words of Jesus in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 about making disciples of all nations, they appeal to the Hebrew Scriptures.
The reason for this is that these Jews have already rejected the idea of Jesus being their Messiah and they have blasphemed His name. To cite Jesus’ words as their authority would simply bring scoffing from the Jews. Instead, they turn to the great prophet Isaiah as they had done on the previous Sabbath. Their citation clearly calls for the word of God to go forth to the nations, saying, “I have set you as a light to the Gentiles.”
The words are cited from Isaiah 49:6 –
“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 49:6
Paul and Barnabas directly equate the words of Isaiah to the coming Messiah. Even if the words of Isaiah were referring to himself at the time, something that could be debated, it was understood that they also had a messianic fulfillment. Thus, their clear intent is that the Messiah would not only come to accomplish His work for Israel but that it would extend to the entire world. That is seen in the next words of the quote, which read, “That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.”
The same phrase is found in Acts 1:8. The Greek is singular and so it should read, “That you should be for salvation to the uttermost part of the earth.” The intent of the words of Isaiah is absolutely clear. The Messiah’s work was to extend beyond the borders of Israel, even to the most remote region on the planet, wherever that may be. This is precisely what Jesus instructed the people just prior to His ascension –
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The work of Jesus Christ was first sent to the people of Israel, but its scope was always intended to extend to the entire world. The logical order of evangelism was followed as directed by Jesus, and it is carefully documented in Acts by Luke, showing that His directives were meticulously followed. With the rejection of the word by the Jews at Antioch of Pisidia, the word was to continue to be proclaimed to those who would hear it.
This same pattern will continue to be followed by Paul as he moves from city to city. Those Jews who accept his gospel presentation will be saved. Eventually, the whole Jewish community will have made their decision, and then Paul will continue by evangelizing the Gentiles. One body will grow out of both classes in each area where a church is established.
Life application: One of the heretical sects that has arisen in the recent past ridiculously teaches that the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 refer to the evangelization of the nations by Israel during the tribulation and even millennial period. The reason for this is that it includes words concerning baptism. This heretical cult doesn’t believe that baptism is a necessary thing for Christians to do.
And yet, the same group participates in the Lord’s Supper, another mark of inclusion in the New Covenant. The thinking is convoluted and depraved. The same Lord who commanded the Lord’s Supper based on His death, burial, and resurrection, also commanded that believers be baptized based on His death, burial, and resurrection.
The words of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13, when taken together with Jesus’ words in Matthew 28, Luke 24, and Acts 1, clearly reveal that the evangelization of the nations during this timeframe is exactly what Jesus was referring to. As this is so, then baptism is a set and expected part of the believer’s walk before the Lord.
Don’t be led astray by those who may have a purposeful agenda to destroy the work of the Lord and obedience to it by His people because of an agenda against the Jewish people. The Jews rejected Jesus, they have been punished for their rejection of Jesus, and the message has continued on among the Gentiles during that time of rejection. The Old Testament Scriptures anticipated all of this.
In failing to understand (or intentionally rejecting) the whole picture of what is spoken of in the Old, it is no wonder that such aberrant cults arise. Believe in the Lord Jesus, receive baptism as a sign of that belief, and actively participate in the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of the sacrificial work of the Lord until He returns for His people, just as the Lord has commanded.
Lord God, may we clearly think through what You have presented to us in Your word. The Old Testament gives instructions that are more fully revealed and explained in the New. May we take the time to be aware of what Your word says in both testaments so that we can make reasonable conclusions about our walk before You all our days, glorifying You through obedience to Your word. Amen.