“Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance-all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.' From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.'”
On their first missionary journey Paul, Barnabas and John Mark are now leaving the island of Cyprus and are moving to the mainland. We do not know what caused John Mark to leave the missionary ministry before its completion but it was something that caused Paul not to trust him for a very long time. Perga was in the area of a pirate-ridden coast, but slightly inland, and was more or less a pirate hang-out. It is a coastal region of southern Asia Minor where there were some of the wildest men of that day. It was a place where very few travelers went unless well escorted by an army. Alexander the Great said that in all of his campaigns throughout the world the fiercest people that he encountered and the greatest difficulties he had were in the area of Pamphilia. The reason for this was that the people who lived on the coast were pirates and the people who lived up in the mountains were wild fighting men. If this was the reason for John Mark leaving, he didn’t have enough doctrine at the time to handle the situation.
“John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” John thought too much of his life from human viewpoint and not enough of the divine plan of God. He was guilty of mental attitude sinning. In his case it was perhaps fear. It is impossible to live the Christian life and to carry around in the mind fear, worry and anxiety about anything. These mental attitude sins completely disorient a believer as far as the plan of God is concerned. John Mark’s failure could have destroyed him except for one thing: he used the Rebound Technique and later returns to the Lord’s service accompanying Barnabas. We must remember that John was young and not accustomed to the hardships faced by Paul and Barnabas, his uncle. We all fail as John did at some point in our Christian lives, but how we handle that failure defines our walk with the Lord. John grew up and handled it dignity and integrity. He must have learned a lot of doctrine after he returned to Jerusalem or perhaps he simply started applying what he already knew. (II Timothy 4:11)
“But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.” Antioch of Pisidia is over the mountains. This is not the same Antioch from which they came. Paul and Barnabas went over these mountains in safety without any comment. They went through one of the most dangerous areas of the ancient world. Here we see the Lord’s grace protection.
“After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." It was the custom in the synagogue for anyone to stand and speak if they had something to impart to the congregation after the formal proceedings. The formal proceedings were the reading of Old Testament scriptures. The word for reading here means more than reading, it means to read a passage and to comment on it, to explain what it means. Seeing some strangers in the midst it was customary after the reading for the people to stay in order to meet any of the visitors. The formal part of the service was now concluded and it was customary for one of the leaders to stand up and recognize any of the visitors before they departed.
“Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen.” Paul was speaking to Jews, and since they had been studying a portion of the Old Testament scriptures, probably dealing with the history of Israel, he used this as his background for a Gospel message. He wasn’t raising his hand for silence he was simply following a Jewish custom. He simply went through the normal procedure which a Jew would use when giving a public message. The fact that Paul used Jewish procedure was to get his audience to relax. This was not simply a gesture for silence, but it was a means for establishing rapport. This was Paul’s way of recognizing that in Antioch of Pisidia there were definitely those who were ready to be saved, those who had become positive at the point of God-consciousness and had a desire to know God. All God-consciousness is achieved by human thinking and there is no such thing as a normal member of the human race who cannot reach God-consciousness. Paul was aware that there were men in that area who were ready to be saved.
The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance-all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. Verses 17-23 are the presentation of the Gospel to these Jews. Christ was going to be presented as the God of Israel. Here we see God’s grace to the patriarchs. The God of this people whom they knew as Jehovah was actually Jesus Christ. Paul took something which was familiar to these people and used it as a way of presenting the Gospel of Christ.
Chose our fathers, is aorist middle indicative tense referring to a point of time in which they believed. The middle voice is reflexive which indicates that when they believed in Jehovah as Savior, when anyone believed in Christ in the Old Testament, God had a plan for them as He does for us. The indicative mood is the fact that in the Old Testament there were millions of Jews who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was revealed to them as Jehovah. The word for chose is the doctrine of election, and is simply a way of describing the plan of God for a believer. Our fathers was a reference toAbraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were considered the fathers of the Jewish race. These were believers therefore Israel was founded on salvation not race, and it was obvious that God wanted every Jew in Antioch to believe in Christ. This was the true heritage of Israel. It was not the Mosaic Law. The true heritage of Israel was the four unconditional covenants which are designed for believers only. It was a spiritual heritage not a physical one.
“Made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it” means that God had a purpose for Israel. For 400 years the children of Israel were in bondage. At the end of it some 2-million adults departed in the Exodus. Slavery generally destroys a people, but they are an exception and that was the operation of the grace of God. They had their promises from God. They had their Bible doctrine and it was passed on from generation to generation. God gave them doctrine and promises, and in every generation there were maximum believers (remnant according to grace) who executed their spiritual lives using the Faith-Rest Technique. They claimed doctrine and applied it, they believed the promises of God, and they lived normal lives under abnormal circumstances. They demonstrated the fact that their happiness was based on Bible doctrine in the soul – claiming, applying and living by the Word of God.
“For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance-all of which took about four hundred and fifty years.” God put up with the lack of faith of the Jews for forty years. This is a statement of His marvelous grace. It demonstrates His capacity to love. God’s love was also demonstrated to the next generation. This was Joshua’s generation. The word distributed means He divided their inheritance.
“When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance-all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.” Samuel the prophet was the last of the judges and the first of a new type of minister called a prophet. During this period there was great apostasy when God raised up judges [rulers, dictators, and kings] in order to carry them over this period. In a time of apostasy God had to raise up special men to hold the situation together, the people could not do it because of national reversionism.
“Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.” Up to this point they were a theocracy, the Lord Jesus Christ personally administered their country. I Samuel 8:5-9 describes the details of how they received a king: “so that we can be like other nations, was their request.” Israel was unique, the recipient of God’s love which had been expressed for centuries. Yet the Jews rejected God’s love. When they expressed their desire to be like other nations they indicated their lack of capacity for love, their lack of ability to respond to the love of God, their disorientation to grace and to the plan of God. The plan of God called for Jesus Christ to rule the nation and at this point the Jews made a decision which postponed the reign of Jesus Christ over the nation until we get to the Millennium. Samuel was very upset about this matter because he understood the true issue.
The principle is “be careful what you ask for.” In this case God gave them their desire based on His permissive will but it turned out to be a disaster for the nation.
“After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.'” Verse 22 is the story of Saul and David which is the story of the contrast between a believer with Bible doctrine and a believer minus Bible doctrine. “After He had removed him [Saul]” has to do with the sin unto death. Saul is a perfect illustration of a believer without doctrine, and as a believer without doctrine he failed to understand and utilize the principle of Rebound. At some point Saul got out of fellowship and from then on he was under divine discipline. He failed to understand God’s grace because he was ignorant of doctrine. It was impossible for him to live under the Word of God since he was ignorant of it. (I Chronicles 10:13, 14) God evaluated the life of David; “and said, I have found.” Every time that David studied God’s Word and was a prepared man. He was oriented to the grace of God. With the exception of Moses and the apostle Paul David had a greater understanding of the grace of God than any man who ever lived. He understood that everything depended on who and what God was and that nothing depended on who and what David was. He was oriented to the plan of God.
The exodus period was an illustration of 2-million born again believers in a period of forty years, failing the Lord. They failed to use the faith-rest technique. Then we have the period of the judges, a period of great apostasy except for some believers. Both the period of the exodus and the period of the judges were periods of minus doctrine. The last of the judges was Samuel, and at this point was the beginning of the kings. The first king was Saul and his was a period of minus doctrine, a period of forty years of misery and apostasy. There were a lot of Jews who were believers but a minimum numbers of Jews actually getting with Bible doctrine. From the time that David was a little boy, somewhere he believed in Christ. He made the same decision that King Saul had made, and when he did he became interested in doctrine. We know from the Psalms that he studied the word three times a day: morning, noon and evening. So by the time that David approached the throne he could be described as the opposite of King Saul. In raising David up there was the preparation: the orientation to the plan of God, and the orientation to the grace of God through Bible doctrine. It was David who brought home to the Jewish nation the impact of Bible doctrine and provided for them a marvelous and wonderful period in their history.
“From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.'” This introduces the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the seed of David and Paul used this expression in his writings to show the relationship between the Davidic Covenant and its fulfillment in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Psalm 89:20-37; II Samuel 7:8-16) The coming of the Messiah was proclaimed by John the Baptist. The character of his baptism was repentance (a change of mind). John only baptized those people who had changed their attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ with regard to His messiahship and believed in Him.
Every believer has a course in this life which terminates at the point of death or at the point of resurrection/the Rapture. Completing his course refers to the time spent on earth as a believer and fulfilling God’s purpose for you. Every believer is under the plan of God and every believer therefore has a course. John was a person who was the subject of a great deal of discussion. He was famous in his own day. He had to constantly emphasize the fact that he was not Messiah. So great was his ministry that many thought he was the fulfillment of the messianic passages.
John the Baptist was the “forerunner” of Christ, sent by God to announce the coming of the Messiah to the nation of Israel. John and Jesus were cousins and both were Jewish. This is an important fact to consider in understanding the baptism that John performed, including the baptism of Jesus.
Who was this man John the Baptist? John’s birth was a miracle itself. His mother Elizabeth was very old and unable to have to children, but by the grace of God and for a special purpose, she became pregnant with John by her husband Zacharias, a priest. John, like Jesus, was born into a family of faithful believers. John would have become a priest like his father had not God had another special purpose for his life. Perhaps one of the most privileged men in history, John the Baptist (or baptizer) was given the ministry of announcing to Israel the arrival of the Messiah.
A “forerunner” was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah and John was this man, chosen by God for this important task. His message was simple but direct: “Change your mind and believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sin.” He also prophesied the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 16:18; Acts 1:5, 2:4, 11:15-18)