Friday, February 26, 2010

Setting the Stage

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

When we started the book of Acts I did a posting on the background of the book. One of the things I mentioned in that background was why Luke wrote the book. One of the ideas is that it was part of Paul’s defense before Caesar. If this is the purpose of the book, then today’s reading (Acts 13) can be viewed as a transition chapter as well as a chapter setting the stage for things to come.

One of the first transitions we see in today’s reading is Saul’s change of name to Paul … “Then Saul who was also called Paul.” A lot of people read a lot into this. They want to say that because of the tremendous change in his life he was given a new name by God. This would be similar to the name change of Abram to Abraham, and even more like Jacob to Israel. While this might be completely right, I think we are making the name change too complicated.

At this point in Saul’s ministry he has been in and near the area of Palestine. He has been working in Hebrew speaking areas with Hebrew speaking people. Thus his Hebrew name was Saul. But Saul and Barnabas are now leaving the area of Palestine to do ministry. They are heading into a Greek dominated area. Could it be as simple as Paul was the Greek equivalent of his name? This tends to be the theory I buy into. And if this is a dissertation before Caesar then later in the book it would do no good to go back to calling him Saul when he is in Jerusalem again.

As we read on we can clearly see that this is a transitional chapter. Before the focus has been on Peter and his ministry with a few insights into Saul’s life. From here on out the focus is on Paul. In this chapter we see Paul and Barnabas begin their evangelism to the city of Pisidian in the synagogue. This would be Paul’s basic operating procedure. With each new town he comes to the first thing he does is seek out some Jews. Often times he would be welcomed to speak in the Synagogue. Why would he start there? Because these people are waiting on the messiah. He knows the messiah and can share that message with them.

But we learn in today’s reading that those in the Pisidian reject his message and throw him and Barnabas out (Barnabas is on of my favorite character in the pages of Acts). So Paul makes his declaration … while he will almost always begin with the Jews of a city, his real mission is to reach Gentiles. That is why from here on out his evangelistic efforts will be with the Greek part of the Roman Empire. He is no longer focusing on the Palestine, but branching out. He is beginning his missionary journeys.

We see his name change, and we also learn his basic approach to missions in today’s reading. Monday we will see him as he begins to reach lost people for Christ.
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