Hi, Guys! Sorry, I’ve been MIA for a week. We’ve had a lot of things going on at my house and I haven’t been able to write much. This week I’m volunteering at a music camp at my church. Since I’m going to be busy doing that this week, I got a bunch of my friends to write guest posts for me. Check back every day this week to meet someone new and read a new post. The theme this week is favorite quotes/Bible verses.
Today’s post is written by my friend Cassandra Hamm, she wrote about Acts 13:46-48. Enjoy!
To the Ends of the Earth
Written by: Cassandra Hamm
“And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ 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.”––Acts 13:46-48 ESV
God’s plan has always been to reconcile people to Himself. That is the story of the Bible––a story of love when He created humanity, His people; a story of pain when sin separated Him from His people; a story of redemption when He restored the connection between Him and His people.
Along the way, He set aside a people group for Himself––the Israelites, later known as Jews––but His plan was always to reconcile the entire world. Unfortunately, when He did, many Jewish people did not react very well. This is illustrated in chapter 13 in the Book of Acts.
During one Sabbath, two members of the early church named Paul and Barnabas spoke in the Jewish synagogue. Now, I don’t know what you know about Judaism, but the Jews were waiting for the Savior who would be their deliverer––presumably, this deliverer would set them free from the rule of the Romans. But, when the promised Messiah came, since He wasn’t interested in political deliverance, most Jews didn’t recognize Him. In fact, they sentenced Him to the most excruciatingly long and painful death they knew––crucifixion. Yes, I’m talking about Jesus.
As Paul and Barnabas told the Jewish crowd, “through this Man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). The Law has a bad reputation in modern Christianity, but in reality, it was a gift of God. See, God is holy and righteous and perfect. Though He longed to dwell among His people, the Israelites (now called Jews), He could not be in the presence of sin. Therefore, the blood of animals was repeatedly used to cover up the sins of the Israelites. This way, God could dwell among His imperfect creation without destroying them.
Unfortunately, no one could keep all the regulations in the Law because no one is perfect––except Jesus. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, He was the perfect sacrifice. Unlike animal blood, Jesus’ blood doesn’t simply cover sin; it obliterates impurity and restores right standing with God. This is the essence of Christianity, and the Jews loved it.
In fact, they “begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath,” and after the message, “many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:41-43). It was an incredible response to the gospel. Jewish people were accepting that Jesus was the promised Messiah. This was the reason Paul and Barnabas had come to Pisidia. They must have been encouraged at the overwhelming response.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t stop there. On the next Sabbath, almost everyone in the city came to listen to Paul and Barnabas speak (Acts 13:44). That means that not only did the Jews hear the gospel message, but the Gentiles also heard the gospel message. This was a big problem for the Jews. See, the Jews didn’t like the Gentiles because the Gentiles were “unclean.” The Gentiles didn’t live by God’s Law and certainly weren’t God’s chosen people, so they were viewed as untouchables.
Therefore, “when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him” (Acts 13:45). The Jews hated the thought that the Gentiles, the sinners, could receive God’s mercy and grace too. So, they rejected the idea of Jesus because it meant that they weren’t the only recipients of God’s love. They missed the opportunity for eternal life due to their jealousy.
Seeing what was happening, Paul and Barnabas made a shocking statement: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you [the Jews]. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). The Jews missed it. They were God’s chosen people, the ones He had delivered and desired; throughout history He had been calling their hearts to seek after Him. But when He offered them a way to be with Him forever, they rejected Him. They were still waiting to be set free from the bondage of the Romans, so they missed Jesus––who, as Isaiah 53 says, “had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”
But, the Gentiles, because they had been cut off from God, knew that they needed Him. They eagerly accepted the prospect of grace and mercy. Their empty hearts longed for fulfillment. Their broken lives needed restoration. This is why God had “commanded [Paul and Barnabas], saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:47). God loved the entire world, not just the Jewish people, so He offered eternal life to everyone.
The story goes on to say that “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” (Acts 13:48). The Gentiles embraced the call of Jesus with open arms and appreciated the fact that they were now God’s children. Now the whole world was able to commune with God instead of just one people group. Because of this, “the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region” (Acts 13:49).
Unfortunately, the Jews, still burning with jealousy, “incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district” (Acts 13:50). They rejected the God they proclaimed to love, not recognizing that He was Jesus.
Because of the Jews, Paul and Barnabas had to face persecution and probably fled for their lives. Astonishingly, though, despite their persecution, Paul and Barnabas “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52). My reaction to circumstances like these would probably not be joy. I would be angry, frustrated, and hurt; I would wallow in self-pity. Paul and Barnabas, though, did not let their circumstances shake them. No, they clung to the Holy Spirit, our guide and helper. I pray that when severe persecution comes, I will be so aware of the Holy Spirit that I will react not with anger and self-pity but with joy and trust.
Honestly, I don’t know what happened with those Jews who had originally responded to Paul and Barnabas’ message. I don’t know if they thought Christianity sounded promising but backed down when they realized what it would cost them. I don’t know if some stayed true to Jesus. But what those Jews did not understand is that God’s love extends to everyone, including the “unlovable.”
That day in Pisidia brimmed with joy and mourning. The Gentiles discovered a hope and a reason to live. The Jews, blinded by jealousy and complacency, rejected the God they claimed to love. Yet, Jesus still calls, saying, “Through the brokenness of My body and the spilling of My blood, forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. I have come to set you free” (paraphrase of Acts 13:38-39).
I don’t know about you, but I want to proclaim this perfect love to the ends of the earth.
Cassandra loves learning that can apply to her novels, namely psychology. She wants to travel to dozens of countries and learn dozens of languages and read thousands of books, but she doesn’t have the time or money for all that since she is a college student. She hopes that her life will always glorify the name of God.