Acts 14:27

Super cool overpass. Vermont.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27

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 had left Attalia and returned to Antioch from where they had begun their missionary journey. Having now arrived, it says, “Now when they had come and gathered the church together.”

Luke omits any details between arriving on the ship and the gathering of the church. The effect is to show the importance of the event and to give a sense of immediacy, even if the two arrived on a Wednesday and the church didn’t meet until Saturday or Sunday. In this, he is highlighting the mission and not the life of the missionaries.

It is this same congregation that had sent them forth with fasting, prayers, and the laying on of hands in Acts 13:2, 3. It is unknown if letters were sent back to the church or if this is the first time any word concerning them had come since John’s departure in Acts 13:13. With their return, however, there would be excitement to hear what the Lord had done through them, knowing that it was the Holy Spirit who originally called for them to be sent.

Once the church was gathered together, it next says, “they reported all that God had done with them.” Rather, the verb is imperfect, saying, “they were reporting all that God had done with them.” They probably started right from the beginning as they arrived downriver at Selucia and just kept talking the audience through the entire journey.

Of certain note would be the animosity of the Jews along the way concerning the message of Jesus being the Messiah. And yet, there was also another remarkable detail that would hopefully bring great encouragement to the church, but which may also have brought a measure of concern or even jealousy to a portion of it. That begins to be seen in the words, “and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”

There is no article before “door.” It more closely reads, “and that He had opened to the Gentiles a door of faith.” The meaning is obvious. Unlike the Jews who were required to circumcise, even before the introduction of the Law of Moses, the Gentiles were not given such a requirement. This then once again set Israel’s circumcision apart as a cultural identity, but not a requirement for salvation. It is the state in which Abraham was admitted into fellowship with God in Genesis 15, before he was circumcised –

“And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’
And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:4-6

Circumcision was mandated for this covenant group of people years later in Genesis 17. Eventually, it was mandated under the Law of Moses. But the Gentiles had now been admitted apart from circumcision, and thus, apart from the Law of Moses and without the cultural identifier of physical circumcision.

In addition to this, the term “a door of faith to the Gentiles” brings in an entirely new dynamic that has not yet been seen, demonstrating that the missionary trip was not “to the Gentiles” in the minds of the church, only in the mind of God. The evangelism of Paul and Barnabas never noted Gentiles on the island of Cyprus. Not until Sergius Paulus called for them to speak was any contact with the Gentiles noted. Rather, only preaching in the synagogues was.

This was such a remarkable event that it was deduced at that time that this is when Saul’s name was changed in the narrative to Paul. The purpose of his apostleship was apparently becoming clear to him.

Upon arriving on the mainland, it wasn’t until Acts 13:46 that Paul and Barnabas exclaimed to the Jews, “but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.” It can be seen that this was the defining transitional moment when it was realized what God was doing and why these two had been sent. A door of faith had been opened to the Gentiles and these men were there to usher them through it via their preaching.

This will become perfectly evident as Chapter 15 begins and the word of these events reaches the ears of the Judaizers. What occurs there and after will become the basis for the writing of the book of Galatians.

Of the term “door of faith,” Charles Ellicott notes the following –

“This is noticeable as the first occurrence, as far as the chronological order of the books of the New Testament is concerned, of a very characteristic phrase. It would seem to have been a favourite metaphor of St. Paul’s (comp. 1Corinthians 16:1; 2Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3), and comes in here, probably, as a fragment from his speech. From this point of view it is interesting to note the recurrence of the phrase in Revelation 3:8, both St. Paul and St. John, representing as they did different sections of the Church (Galatians 2:9), agreeing in the thought that the door of the Father’s house was now opened wider than it had ever been before, and that no man might shut it.”

His words are well stated and they, again, demonstrate that the door is faith and that it is referring not to Jews of the end times. Rather, it is an offering to Jews and Gentiles during this dispensation known as the church age. The Law is fulfilled in Christ, and thus works are excluded. It is faith in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ alone that allows entrance into the kingdom.

Life application: The transition of stewardship of the faith is being made from Jewish leadership to Gentile leadership in these chapters of Acts. Eventually, that transfer will be complete and the nation of Israel will be dispersed and without any standing in what God is doing in the redemptive narrative.

And yet, Jews are not excluded from what He is doing. Rather, they are on the same level as the Gentiles, as is evidenced in verses such as Galatians 3:28. Despite this, it does not mean that God is through with Israel as a nation. Rather, Paul explains that issue in Romans 9-11. As a very simple example of what is occurring, we could say that the Hatfield family is given the stewardship of an apple orchard. For a McCoy to be a part of the farm, he needs to join the Hatfield family.

However, the Hatfields eventually have their stewardship taken away from them and it is transferred to the McCoy family, but with a proviso that the Hatfields will again, someday in the unknown future, be granted the stewardship again. In the meantime, any Hatfields – still remaining Hatfields – may enjoy partaking in the stewardship transferred to the McCoys if the preconditions for inclusion are met.

This is what is happening now in the transition of stewardship from Jew to Gentile in Acts. In the past, Gentiles who wanted to participate in what God was doing under the law had to join Israel, becoming a part of them. Under the new stewardship, the commonwealth remains the same, but the stewardship is granted to a new entity. Those of Israel who do not accept the current provisions are not a part of that commonwealth, even though they are of Israel the nation. Those of the Gentiles who accept the provisions are included in the commonwealth even though they are not a part of Israel the nation.

Keep the boxes straight, understand that God is in charge, and accept that His choices in these matters are what is important. What we like or do not like is wholly irrelevant. This is God’s world, it is His offering of salvation, and we are obligated to what He is doing at any given time in the process of living through His dispensations.

Lord God, we are so thankful to You for allowing us to be a part of what You are doing in the world. You have sent Jesus Christ to save us from this life of corruption and death, giving us a new hope that we shall dwell in Your presence for all eternity. Thank You for what You have done for us, O God. Amen.