Paul and the Marriage Supper

19 Nov

It seems that some of the Jews and many of the gentiles who heard Paul speak in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch wished to speak of these things again the next Sabbath (Acts 13:42-43), and both Paul and Barnabas spoke with them at that time and encouraged them to remain in the grace of God. That is, to believe the Gospel is a lot like receiving an invitation to an event and being excited over attending that event. Paul and Barnabas told these believers to remain excited; don’t be persuaded by someone who makes light of its value that the event isn’t worth attending.

I am reminded at this time of our invitation to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). Jesus spoke of the invitation to the event in more detail in Matthew 22:2-14. When the invitation was sent out, those who were invited made light of the whole event and refused the invitation, thinking matters concerning their present life were more important than the event to which they were invited (Matthew 22:3, 5).

Understanding that the Jews of the 1st century CE had a grand evangelistic effort in play (see HERE)—inviting the gentiles into a union or into fellowship with the God of Abraham—it seems quite contradictory for the rulers of the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to be unhappy with the number of gentiles who flocked to their synagogue the next Sabbath, hoping to hear what Paul and Barnabas had to say (Acts 13:44-45). Imagine, all the hard work they had engaged in to attract even one gentile to their worship service, and suddenly all the seats were filled and perhaps even standing room itself was taken up to the point where people crowded around doors and windows to listen to the Gospel invitation. Contradicting their own evangelistic labor, these rulers became zealous for their own traditions which defined what was clean and what was not—who was a Jew and who was not. They were more interested in the things of this life, than in the invitation itself (Acts 13:46; cp. Matthew 22:5).

It seems there wasn’t anything read from the Torah that Sabbath, at least there wasn’t a reading until after the rulers of the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch had rejected the invitation that Paul and Barnabas brought to them in the name of the Lord. So, Paul and Barnabas stood before them, pointing out that, although they were first to be invited, they pushed the invitation away, and in rejecting it, they had judged themselves unworthy of the invitation (Acts 13:46; cp. Matthew 22:8). Therefore, the Gospel, as far as Pisidian Antioch was concerned, would now go to the gentiles (Acts 13:46; cp. Matthew 22:9-10).

In other words, Paul and Barnabas concluded that the Jewish authorities in Pisidian Antioch had unwittingly fulfilled the scriptures, just as their brethren, the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, had done concerning Jesus (cp. Acts 13:27-28). The rulers of the synagogue in this city had ignorantly rejected everlasting life and chose to disbelieve and avoid the responsibility of the Gospel invitation (cp. Acts 13:41; Habakkuk 1:5 and Acts 13:46). By the way, the word despisers at Acts 13:41 probably should read as the Hebrew text: you among the heathen. Luke follows the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) reading. The difference in the translation involves a single Hebrew letter, which if faded in the text would read as the Septuagint.

In any case, at Acts 13:47 Paul and Barnabas quote Isaiah 49:6, and, in so doing, point to the entire prophecy. The idea is that God will be glorified in his Servant, Israel (Isaiah 49:3). The obvious understanding of this verse is that Israel should be taken as the Jews, and this is a valid interpretation, but only if Israel is obedient. The problem is, Israel, as a nation, has never been obedient. Israel in Isaiah 49:3 can be understood as Israel the nation and Israel as a single individual. This is a legitimate interpretation held by the Jews even today, for they consider themselves to be the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, whom Christianity sees as Jesus. Luke also shows this is an applicable interpretation in his recording of Saul’s conversion on the Damascus road. There Jesus asks Saul why he is persecuting **him** (Acts 9:4) when Saul had gone to Damascus to persecute Jesus’ disciples. Moreover, Paul himself points to this interpretation of “all for one and one for all” in his teaching of the Body of Christ. We (all) are the members of Christ’s (one) Body (Romans 12:5).

The problem is, Israel never gathered around the Lord, neither the Jerusalem authorities nor now the authorities at Pisidian Antioch (cp. Isaiah 49:5). Therefore, since it was a light thing that Israel should be gathered to Jesus (Isaiah 49:6; cp. Acts 13:46), the Servant, Israel (Isaiah 49:3)—read Jesus —was sent to the nations to gather them to God (Isaiah 49:6; cp. Acts 13:6).

Upon hearing this, many of those standing in the synagogue and listening at the doors and windows rejoiced and believed Paul and Barnabas, accepting God’s invitation (Acts 13:48), and the Gospel was spread throughout the region. Luke doesn’t tell us how long Barnabas and Paul stayed in the region of Pisidian Antioch, but it seems the time they spent there was longer than what most commentaries allow, especially if we believe the Gospel was spread throughout the region (Acts 13:49). Nevertheless, after awhile, the rulers of the synagogue were able to convince the civil authorities through some of their own prominent women proselytes that Paul and Barnabas should be expelled from the region (Acts 13:50; cp. Matthew 22:6). Nevertheless, Paul and Barnabas left behind a body of believers rejoicing in the Spirit of the Lord (Acts 13:52).

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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Gospel, Paul First Missionary Journey


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