Acts Part 11

Notes on Acts
Part Eleven

Read chapter 13.
“Arriving at the main port city, Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. To preach the gospel first to the Jews was Paul’s custom throughout his missionary journeys. Cyprus had a Jewish settlement large enough to support several synagogues in Salamis. As they travelled from  synagogue to synagogue, Saul and Barnaba had John Mark as their helper. He was a native of Jerusalem (12:12) and was Barnabas’s cousin (Col. 4:10). When Saul and Barnabas returned to Antioch from Jerusalem after delivering relief aid, John Mark came with them (12:25). He had undoubtedly left Antioch along with Saul and Barnabas.” 

When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 

Paphos was the capital of Cyprus, on the other side of the large island, about 100 miles away from Salamis. To reach the capital would have taken about one week. Although the text does not say it, we can be fairly confident that Saul and Barnabas continued to proclaim Jesus along the way. Elymas (Bar-Jesus) opposed them as they told Sergius about the faith.

“It is well to remember the lesson of these verses. Leading someone to Christ is not merely an academic exercise, nor is it a matter of making a successful sales pitch. Rather, it involves all-out war against the forces of hell. Saul and Barnabas battled Bar-Jesus for the soul of Sergius Paulus.” 

But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 

See that Paul called Elymas a “son of the devil” and an “enemy of all righteousness.” He told him that he was “full of all deceit and villainy!” Modern disciples are reticent to call people names. Actually, probably in many instances, name-calling is inappropriate. We should first try to educate and inform others of the reality of sin, the horror of sin, the destructiveness of sin, and the condemnation of sin. If conviction is evident then we should also present he gospel. Throughout this whole process, we answer objections and we ought to be “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 

But as we do this, if a person begins to strongly oppose the truth of God, then it is right to identify them, declaring who they really are. That is, call them what they are.

Jesus called his audience, at times, a “wicked and adulterous generation”: Mat. 12:45; 13:49; 16:4; 18:32; 21:41; 25:26; Luke 19:22. As did the apostles: I Cor. 5:13; 2 Thes. 3:2; 2 Peter 2:7; 3:17.

Calling a person a dog might be necessary if they act like animals: Mat. 7:6; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Rev. 22:15.

Even a pig! Mat. 7:6

Both John the Baptist and our Lord called people vipers: Mat. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Luke 3:7.

If they are hypocrites, tell them: Mat. 6:2, 5; 15:7; 16:3; 22:18; 23:13-15; 24:51; Mark 7:6; Luke 11:44; 12:56.

If they are perverse, tell them! Mat. 17:17; Luke 9:41; Acts 20:30; Phil 2:15; I Tim 6:5.

Some are reprobate. Let them know: 2 Cor. 13:5-7; Romans 1:28; 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:16.

We ought not to call our brothers and sisters in the Lord “fools” (or comparable terms). But, it is appropriate for opposers of the gospel: Mat. 23:17, 19; Luke  11:40; 12:20; 24:25; I Cor. 15:36; Eph. 5:15.

If we come across someone who has some faith but not enough, tell them! “You of little faith” – Mat. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31.

The New Testament is replete with name-calling! (“Stiff-necked” Acts 7:51; “Liars” Titus 1:12; “Evil beasts” 2 Peter 2;12; Titus 1:20; “Unreasoning animals” Jude 10; “Adulterers” James 4:4; ”Adulteress” Romans 7:3; “Fornicators” Hebrews 13:4.

The KJV uses the name “whoremonger” many times, such as in Eph 5:5; I Cor. 5:9; 6:9; I Tim 1:10; and Hebrews 13:4. Similarly, it uses the word “whore” several times.

Observe that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit when he depicted Elymas with these designations. The Holy Spirit will give us boldness to call things (and people) what they really are.

One man of God has written: “Name-calling has always been a definite part of biblical ministry. Remember, our job is to communicate in the most clear and specific manner possible, not based on the reaction of the hearers, but rather to the righteousness of the situation.” 

At first, the person or persons will be offended. It doesn’t matter. If they are being called then the Spirit will bring conviction. The name itself will be used by the Spirit to bring conviction. Cindy Smock tells the story of when Jed Smock came to the University of Florida, where she was a student, she heard him preach and she opposed him. He said to her, “Repent, you wicked sinner.” She was offended but she also knew he was telling the truth. She finally did repent and married him!

Bob Enyart, a syndicated radio talk show host who recently passed away, tells the story of how one homosexual called into the show trying to defend his sin. He was saying that he was “born that way.” Bob called him perverted and degenerate. He became incensed and hung up. He called back a year later and said that what Bob had said angered him so much that he fumed about it for months. But it also bothered him in a deeper way. He finally saw that what Bob said was true. He repented and gave his life to Christ. That is when he called Bob back to tell him.

I (CR) once told a woman who admitted to having an abortion that God hates those who shed innocent blood. My implication was clear: God hated her. She was the owner of a restaurant and had a rather “hard edge” to her. I thought she would throw something at me. Instead, she started crying. The Holy Spirit moved Paul to call Bar-Jesus names! And, he will use names to convict people!

Then Paul says:

And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.  

“Welcome the Lord’s hand, even though its stroke be painful, when it prepares the way for the Lord’s word! If we had access to the great multitude who stand round the throne in white clothing, and could ask each saved saint to tell his own experience, probably nine out of every ten would answer that providence, generally feared and fretted at, came crushing forward first, and broke up a way for grace to follow.” 

Salvation often comes through very difficult circumstances because the human heart is so self-centered that it must be shaken. 

We do not know if Bar-Jesus ever came to faith. But Sergius did! Not only so, but history shows that both his daughter and grandson became disciples of Christ. The grandson, Gaius Caristanius Fronto, became a Roman Senator! 

And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 

Some became followers. Paul and Barnabas persuaded them “to continue in the grace of God.” Once we become followers we must continue in God’s grace. There are two ways by which we fall from grace. One way is by going back to moralism, that is, thinking that we are acceptable to God based on our adherence to the law. Of course, God desires and expects us to follow  divine law, but not as a means of being accepted by God. Such an idea will rob us of peace because we will fail.

For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. 

This was a particularly strong temptation for the Jewish converts who would have been accustomed to law-keeping as a means of acceptance by God.  

However, all people, including today’s Christians, can fall into this error.

The other way that we can fall from grace is through sin. That is, sin that is not confessed and renounced:

Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness —without it no one will see the Lord.  15 Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.  16 And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal.  

In this passage, the one who “falls short of the grace of God” is one who is living in sin – having a root of bitterness (against another brother or sister) or being immoral or being irreverent.

Thus, these two things will keep us in the grace of God: faith (as opposed to law-keeping) and a good conscience (confessing and renouncing all known sin in our lives):

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight,
    19    keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. 

Continuing in Acts 13, we come to our memory verse:

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.  

Notice that as many as were already appointed to eternal life are the ones who believed. This refutes the Arminian view that teaches that the way that God predestines people is that he “looks down the corridor of time and sees who will believe, then he ordains them to eternal life.” If that were true then “those who believed were appointed to eternal life.” But Luke reverses the order! “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” The appointment by God comes first, then the one appointed will believe.

John MacArthur’s commentary on this verse is worthy of review:

“That last phrase (vs. 48) is one of the clearest statements in all of Scripture concerning God’s sovereignty in salvation…The Bible unhesitatingly affirms that in salvation man does not choose God, but God chooses man. “No one,’ Jesus stated plainly, ‘can come to me, unless it has been granted him from the Father’ (John 6:65). Paul described Christians as ‘those who have been chosen of God’ (Col. 3:12; 2 Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1). To the Thessalonians he wrote, ‘We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth’ (2 Thes. 2:13). In fact, the term elect is used as a title for believers in such passages as Matthew 24:22, 24, 31; Luke 18:7; and Romans 8:33. Peter calls believers ‘those…who are chosen’ (1 Peter 1:1). This choice by God was made before the word began (Eph. 1:4), when their names were actually written in the book of life (Rev. 13:8). The matter of human will and divine election is so inscrutable, so incomprehensible to our minds, as to demand that we believe both without being able to comprehend how they fit together in God’s mind.” 

And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. 

“Evangelism always follows true salvation, as those who are saved naturally desire to share their faith. The converts in Antioch were no exception. Through their enthusiastic testimony, the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. As always, the agent through which salvation came was the word of the Lord (verses 44, 46, and 48). Antioch was turned upside down not because Paul discoursed on self-esteem, politics, or social issues, but because he proclaimed God’s word.” 

MacArthur’s observation is spot on. We must see again, as we have several times already in our study of Acts, that there is such a thing as a said faith, which is intellectual assent, and there is genuine faith. Real faith, a faith that is begotten by the Holy Spirit, changes people radically, not just a little bit. 

Per MacArthur, those who only attend church will frequently talk about politics or what is happening in the nation (“social issues”) but seldom talk about the word of God. Those who have been born again will speak the oracles of God far more than politics or the news. Those who have only made a mental agreement to the facts of the gospel will speak about the news more than the oracles of God.

“Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God.” (I Peter 4:11; ESV)

Both the gospel of Matthew and the book of Acts, in a sense, are mirrors. They allow us to see ourselves as we really are rather than what we think we are. By comparing the teachings of Christ (which are most demanding in Matthew, as compared to the other gospels) with our living, and by comparing the lives of the disciples in Acts with our living, we can assess whether we are truly Christ’s or whether we have been playing church. We are what we do, not what we say!

Or, we may be those who did live the way the early disciples did at one time – speaking the gospel to others (more than once or twice) and speaking the oracles of God – but lately have left that life for something else (comfort, sports, hobbies, even household activities or a vocation). Then, we simply need to get back on track!

The life of a disciple is more than attending church. It is sharing the gospel. It is speaking the oracles of God. It is having a hunger for God’s word. It is seeking God’s will daily.

his delight is in the law of the LORD, 
and on his law he meditates day and night.  

We have seen previously that one who claims to be a disciple but is not an active part of a local church is not saved (I John 2:19; Mark 10:28-30; Hebrews 10:24-26). This is because of a false gospel that has been promoted among evangelicals for decades that teaches that one only has to believe facts and then one is saved. That is, it was said that if you believe that Jesus died for sins and rose from the dead then you are saved. Those are facts of the gospel but are not the gospel in its entirety. The demons believe these facts. One must believe these facts, to be sure, but only believing the facts does not save.  The gospel includes genuine repentance. Repentance is a complete turning away from sin and a submission to Christ as Lord. The gospel includes a commitment to follow the Lord Jesus and obey him.

So, although we have seen that those who do not regularly participate in a local church are not saved, just because someone does regularly attend church doesn’t prove that they are saved. As MacArthur has pointed out, and as the NT reveals, there is a certain living that testifies whether a person has been born again, such as sharing the gospel, speaking the oracles of God (telling others what God has spoken), and relying upon God’s word (spending time in Scripture as opposed to primarily taking in news and politics; Psalm 1:2; 63:1; 119:9-11; Joshua 1:8; John 8:31-32; Matthew 4:4)

We should never think, however, that we must do these things to be saved. If we think in those terms it becomes nothing more than law-keeping for salvation, the very thing that Paul warned about in Galatians. Rather, these things (proclaiming the gospel, speaking the word of God, abiding in Scripture, and seeking to obey Christ in all things) characterize the life of one who has been born again because their desire is for these things. They want to do them because their hearts have been radically changed.

At the risk of being repetitive (but necessary), there is the danger of being self-deluded. We may like those things and then interpret our liking as a desire. But our true desires are revealed by what we do, not by what we feel or say. Simply put, if we are not doing these things then we don’t truly desire them.