Acts 13:42-52 – Reaction to Paul’s Sermon

Like Jesus (Luke 4:22) and Peter (Acts 2:40-41), there is a great deal of interest in Paul’s message. The apostles are invited back for a second Sabbath to continue this discussion. Luke mentions those who were most attracted to Paul’s message were the “devout converts,” or people who were ethically Gentile, but are at some advanced level in their conversion to Judaism as a religion. If Paul’s message was understood as acceptance of the God of the Hebrew Bible, the ethical and moral standards of the Law, and an ultimate salvation through Jesus apart from the sacrifices of Judaism, then perhaps many of the Gentiles were eager to accept Paul’s message.

On the next Sabbath “the whole city” gathers to hear Paul, sparking jealousy. Luke is likely using some hyperbole here, he means all the adult males who would be part of the Synagogue have turned out to hear Paul, although it is possible that many of the gentile converts brought other gentiles to hear them preach.

angry-mobThe Jews begin to argue against Paul (ἀντέλεγον, is an inceptive imperfect, focusing on the beginning of the action). The verb has the sense of contradicting an argument or reaching. In Titus 1:9 one of the functions of an elder is to “contradict” false teaching. In 3 Macc 2:28 the verb is used for anyone who opposes the poll tax imposed by the Selucids; if anyone “speaks against” this new law, they are to be executed! They make this argument against Paul not through rational debate, but by “speaking abusively” (βλασφημοῦντες) against Paul. The verb has the sense of slander, “to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates, maligns” (BDAG). In an honor-shame culture, this kind of an attack is intended to cast doubt on speaker by pointing out their personal flaws.

Paul “answers boldly” this slander of his Gospel. The word had to go to the Jews first, reflecting Paul’s mission statement in Romans 1:16-17.  This does not mean that Paul did Jewish ministry only up to this point and now he will do exclusively gentile ministry; in terms of salvation history it is true the gospel went to the Jews exclusively (Acts 2-8), and not it is going into socially and culturally Gentile people.  But Paul’s ministry will always be to the Jew first and then to the Gentile, in order to win his own people first before turning to the gentiles.

Paul then quotes Isaiah 49:6 for his mission statement: he is the light to the Gentiles. This looks back to his own calling and commission from the Lord, but also to the same messianic texts he cited in the synagogue a week earlier.  He is the one that fulfills the messianic role of light to the Gentiles in the present time.

Many believe and join Paul, but there was enough angry rejection that the Jews persecuted Paul and Barnabas, thus they “shake the dust of their heels” in protest and continued their journey. This “shaking of the dust” is symbolic of a rejected negotiation, or a pronouncement of judgment.  Paul is saying that these Jews have rejected his teaching, and he is turning from them to go where he will have an audience, the Gentiles. This is not unlike what Jesus tells the disciples in Matthew 10, that they were condemn any city that rejected their teachings.

To what extent is this a “rejection of the Jews” (as it is sometimes described)? Paul continues to target Jewish audiences in the Synagogue and he will continue to argue persuasively from the Scripture that Jesus is the Messiah. But this is the first of three times Paul says he is now “turning to the Gentiles” What does this rejection mean in the overall plot of the book of Acts?

13 thoughts on “Acts 13:42-52 – Reaction to Paul’s Sermon

  1. It tells us that Paul and Barnabas did try to reach the Jews through their ministry. But, the Jews were not willing to hear it as it says in Acts 13:46. Paul and Barnabas then continue to say in verse 46 and 47 that since the Jews rejected them they went to the Gentiles. The change in ministry changes the way Acts was written. I think the Jews rejected Paul and Barnabas because of their preaching. Then as a result Paul and Barnabas gathered a different audience. It says in Acts 13:47 that God commanded them to be a light to the gentiles. Our blog refers to this passage as a rejection of the Jews and turning to the Gentiles. I think rejection is a harsh word to use. It says also in Acts 13:47 that through the light that Paul and Barnabas are demonstrating salvation will be brought to the ends of the earth. It is ultimately about God’s glory growing. In Acts 10:51 it says they shook the dust off their feet in protest when they left a city or home. That verse can be connected with Matthew 10:14 which is where Jesus told to do so if they were not welcomed in when they spoke. I think this passage is more about the disciples being rejected first more than rejecting others.

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    • Alyssa, great job on your discussion post this week. I thought what you wrote was very insightful. I, too, do not see this as a rejection to the Jews but rather a response to the Jews actions. Since they are turning their backs on Paul and not wanting to hear the good news, he is doing what anyone else would do and taking it elsewhere. Especially, when the Jews are willing to persecute him for his faith (Acts 13:50). Why would he continue to preach to those who are unwilling to listen and go so far as to harm him if continues to preach? However, I do believe this was God’s overall plan in the end because that was what helped Paul transition to reaching out to the Gentiles and the ends of the earth like God had wanted. “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth (Acts 13:47).” Also, Paul turning to the Gentiles goes with the overall theme of Acts by showing God loves everyone, wants everyone to believe in Jesus and follow Christ, and for the word to go to the ends of the earth.

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  2. In verses 48-49 Luke describes the Gentile’s reaction to Paul’s message. Specifically, verse 49 describes, “the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” To me this indicates that perhaps, Paul and Barnabas continued ministry in this area but that the focus was now on the Gentiles. This may not have been a judgment pronounced on all Jews but was instead something said to the Jews in this place. I think that if you allow for some time between Paul’s declaration in verse 50 where the Jews incite a riot this may answer the question as to Paul’s purpose. If there is time between the two we see that Paul goes to the Gentiles in a location and then depending on the reception by the Jews he either expands his target audience to Gentiles or turns to them completely.

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  3. Spreading the gospel even though they knew what the consequences were showed the boldness of Paul and Barnabas. They would continue to minister to the area, focusing whether on the Jews or the Gentiles. They were both called to be a light to the ones who are walking in darkness. Because of that Paul and Barnabas had to change their audience and had to seek the ones who were in the darkness, not the ones already in the light. There an encouragement message speaking on the matter that if we are not welcomed where we try to proclaim the truth of God, then we should get up and start proclaiming somewhere else. I believe that does not make us weak or vulnerable. Rather it shows we, as lights of Christ, have a priority and that is to constantly preach on the matter of who needs it and if no one will accept it to continue on until you find someone who will.

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  4. As Paul moved from city to city preaching, he faced many confrontations. Surprisingly enough, much of the conflict came from the Jews within the town. It is indicated that much of their rejection stems from jealousy. It seems that they do not appreciate a new message being spread though their town. Paul is offering a gospel message that does not require the Gentiles to offer sacrifices, but rather to follow Jesus who already offered them a removal of sins (Long). Many Gentiles were excited by this opportunity. The devout Jews were not happy with this, and this is where their jealously sprung from. They rejected the message of Jesus and further than that they blatantly rejected the men that God had sent. In order to remove Paul and Barnabas from their town, the Jew people slandered them. By doing this they turned the listeners’ minds and hearts against the message that Paul and Barnabas were trying to bring to the people (Long). Now there were some Jewish people who positively responded to the gospel message, but there was still enough judgment that Paul felt it was time to shift their ministry’s attention to the Gentile (Jipp 113). This rejection was a major turning point for Paul’s mission. Yes, he did still minister to Jews, but he focused on the Gentiles more from that point on. When Paul and Barnabas left in Acts 13, they “shook the dust off their feet as a warning” (13:51). They were letting the Jews know that they were now focusing on other people, but they still needed to make that change and decision. The change in ministry was important because it shows the shift that occurred in Acts. Previous to Acts, much of the gospel ministry was directed at the Jews, but with the shaking of their feet, these men of God were establishing the beginning of a ministry angled toward the Gentiles. That was and is crucial to the ministry of Jesus that exists today.

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  5. As Paul moved from city to city preaching, he faced many confrontations. Surprisingly enough, much of the conflict came from the Jews within the town. It is indicated that much of their rejection stems from jealousy. It seems that they do not appreciate a new message being spread though their town. Paul is offering a gospel message that does not require the Gentiles to offer sacrifices, but rather to follow Jesus who already offered them a removal of sins (Long). Many Gentiles were excited by this opportunity. The devout Jews were not happy with this, and this is where their jealously sprung from. They rejected the message of Jesus and further than that they blatantly rejected the men that God had sent. In order to remove Paul and Barnabas from their town, the Jew people slandered them. By doing this they turned the listeners’ minds and hearts against the message that Paul and Barnabas were trying to bring to the people. Now there were some Jewish people who positively responded to the gospel message, but there was still enough judgment that Paul felt it was time to shift their ministry’s attention to the Gentile (Jipp 113). This rejection was a major turning point for Paul’s mission. Yes, he did still minister to Jews, but he focused on the Gentiles more from that point on. When Paul and Barnabas left in Acts 13, they “shook the dust off their feet as a warning” (13:51). They were letting the Jews know that they were now focusing on other people, but they still needed to make that change and decision. The change in ministry was important because it shows the shift that occurred in Acts. Previous to Acts, much of the gospel ministry was directed at the Jews, but with the shaking of their feet, these men of God were establishing the beginning of a ministry angled toward the Gentiles. That was and is crucial to the ministry of Jesus that exists today.

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  6. Paul’s sermons are very interesting. A man who was once a persecutor of the Jews, to a man who is preaching of God and what God is doing. Since he was a persecutor many people did not like Paul and these sermons. Just like the article writes: “the Jews begin to argue against Paul.” People were arguing violently. We even read in Acts 21, that Paul gets arrested, which is not the first time during this journey that he faces confrontation from doing all of these preaching’s. Most of it can be stemmed from jealousy or hate since the Jews don’t want to hear from Paul in the first place. This form of rejection doesn’t really seem to stop Paul from what he is doing. He sort of takes this in a way and uses it to keep doing what God is calling him to do. (The debate of a conversion or a calling) The article writes on the fact that Paul seems to “shake the dust off their heals” and just keep on going. This can be used throughout our times as Christians because rejection is something that can not be avoided today. Since our times may be changing most people don’t want to waste their time with the word of God, we must shake this off, and continue preaching the word of God.

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  7. This rejection is not saying that Jews cannot be ministered to from that point on, but by pointing out the turning to the Gentiles, we see that Paul has given the Gospel to the Jews, but many of them reject it. By turning to the Gentiles, they are more likely to get an audience who will listen to them and earnestly want to hear what they have to say. As pointed out, the elders were people who were supposed to reject and contradict false teaching. The issue here is that Paul was teaching a new message, one that appeared to be heresy to those who did not believe. They felt that they had to reject the message because they did not believe that Christ was the Messiah.
    People did still want to hear what Paul and Barnabas were teaching however. When they first started preaching in Antioch in the Synagogue, people were receptive to their message, inviting them to come back the following Sabbath. On the next Sabbath, many more people showed up (verse 44 says that the entirety of the city was there). The Jews that saw the crowds that were listening were filled with jealousy and started to discredit Paul. Because they were able to speak to the Jews and give them the Gospel first, they were now able to go out and speak to the Gentiles.

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  8. Paul traveled to many cities sharing and preaching about Jesus. Throughout his time preaching, Paul faced a lot of confrontation. A lot of his confrontations were with Jews from the towns that he preached in. The article points towards this conflict resulting from the Jews being jealous of Paul and how they do not want a new message to be spread about the way to salvation. The Jews want and believe the gentiles need to offer sacrifices for the sins. However, Paul is teaching about how Jesus already paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The Jews did not agree and were unhappy about this, which is why they were appear to be jealous and it is where their jealousy is coming from. The Jews’ jealously led them to spread lies about Paul in order to remove him and Barnabas from their towns so that they would stop sharing the gospel within their town. While not all of the Jews reacted in the same way to Paul and Barnabas, Paul still felt like it was time to change the focus of their ministry from Jews to Gentiles (Jipp, 113). While Paul is not completely ignoring Jews, he has just switched the focus from primarily preaching to Jews to preaching to Gentiles. This change in focus is important because it is the first time in a ministry that the Gentiles are the main focus of a ministry.

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  9. The extent of this “rejection of the Jews” is described as a rejection of Christ and disobedience to the plan of God’s will and desire. Paul’s mission is to draw people closer to Christ and the grace, salvation, and redemption that is offered. Paul’s target is outreaching to Jews because they understood scripture and heard the story of Christ. However, those of the law sought to radiate and disengage the value of being a believer of Christ with punishments that showed what “false teaching” would result in. While later within Acts Paul focuses on the Gentiles who also deserve to know God and God opens the invitation to all nations to become one nation under God. The rejection of the Jews is the final rejection that God makes with the Jews as God directs faith beyond one nation to all nations.

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  10. It is worthy to note that initially these Jews were looking forward to Paul and Barnabas coming back next sabbath (v. 42-43). The next week they have almost the entire city come to hear them preach the word of the Lord, yet when these Jews saw the crowds they became jealous and slandered Paul and Barnabas (v. 44-45). What is the difference here? Why become jealous due to something that was going on the previous week with the exception that there was a vast crowd. There were Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism amidst the crowds, however, Pisidian Antioch was predominantly Gentile, which Polhill says indicates that, “that the Jews were considerably eclipsed by the large numbers of Gentiles who came to hear Paul’s witness. Evidently the “God-fearing Gentiles” who had heard Paul’s sermon the previous Sabbath had understood that the salvation he proclaimed in Christ included them. (Polhill, Acts p.308).

    Therefore, what makes the Jewish crowd jealous is that the Gentiles are included and these Jews have grown up thinking they were the epicenter of the nations, their minds thought as though they were superior and it was all about them. It is biblical that they be targeted first for Jesus said to go to Jerusalem, Samaria, all of Judea and to the ends of the world (Acts 1:8). It is a progressive outbreak but starting with the Jews. Israel was to be the light to the nations so it did not make sense for the Gentiles to get ahead of them (Isa. 42:6, 49:6; 52:10, 60:3 etc.).

    This rejection of the Jews does not mean Paul is finished with the Jews, however, that he is now innocent of proclaiming the full Gospel to them and free of their blood on his hands (Acts 20:27). They rejected the message because it was hard for them to accept the Gentiles were included in the plan of God outside of Judaic conversion.

    We know Paul has not turned away from all Jews because in the very beginning of the next chapter he is preaching in the synagogue (Acts 14:1). I would say Paul favors the Jews. In reading Romans 9-11 we get the idea that Paul would die in order that all of Israel would be saved (9:1-5). When Israel rejects the message, Paul does not waste his time any further and the Gentiles become the new centralized focus. You would not think this of Paul since he is called to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Acts 22:17-21, Rom. 15:15-16). However, Paul wraps this thought up by saying,

    “Again and again he experienced the rejection of the Jews and turned to the Gentiles of that town. But he never gave up on his fellow Jews. It was very much the problem he wrestled with in Rom 9–11. In spite of the overwhelming rejection of the gospel by his own people, Paul could not bring himself to believe that the rejection was final and that God had deserted them. His great successes in witness were indeed among the Gentiles, but he never abandoned his witness to Jews ” (Polhill, Acts. p. 308).

    That being said, Paul is fulfilling Isaiah 49:6 throughout his ministry. He deeply cares for Israel but even the Lord has said, “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me … Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.” (Acts 22:18, 21). I believe this is a similar attitude taught to Paul by the Lord to depart and shake the dust from their feet due to their rejection of the message. In this way, they are free from any charge against them concerning not neglecting them of the message.

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