This chapter marks a turning point in the book of Acts. Peter’s name was mentioned in almost every chapter before this, but now the spotlight pans to Saul. In the first sentence Saul is called a prophet and a teacher. A prophet is someone who speaks what God is saying to them, and a teacher is someone who teaches about God. Saul did both in this very chapter when he spoke to Bar-Jesus and to the whole city of Pisidian Antioch. Saul also receives a new name. After this chapter, Saul is known as Paul.
In the first paragraph it says that the group of believers in Antioch were fasting. To fast is to intentionally abstain from something normally enjoyed. In the bible it is generally assumed that food is what is given up. In the Old Testament, believers would fast when they needed God to come to their rescue or when their country was devastated by disaster or war. In the New Testament, believers would fast to hear from God.
Fasting is not a way to manipulate God into doing what you want. Instead, it is a way to grow closer to God. It may be that, as we give up something our body needs (for a short time) and intentionally focus on prayer, worship, and bible study, our spirit grows and becomes more in tune with God. For more on prayer, check out 2 Chronicles 20:1-13, Isaiah 58 and Matthew 6:16-18.
Next we see Paul and Barnabas head out to share about Jesus in other cities. In the rest of this book we’ll follow Paul on three missionary journeys and a perilous trip to Rome. But for now we’ll stay in Turkey at Pisidian Antioch where Paul is preaching. He mentions that “everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.” He’s talking to Jews about justification, which means to be freed from guilt or blame. When God gave the law through Moses, justification for sin was provided by the blood of animal sacrifices that were meant to cover a person’s sin. This method required a sacrifice every time sin is committed. This also foreshadowed Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which can cleanse a person from their sin. Through acceptance of Jesus death on the cross, God can forgive us of our sin which frees us from guilt and blame.
Later, after preaching in the synagogue, Paul preaches to non-Jews in a public place. He mentions that God commanded them to be a “light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” This is a quote from the Old Testament and was given to the Jews, which means that God has been planning to turn the world upside down for long time. At Verve it is one of our core values to turn the world upside down with God’s love.
- Written for Verve by Mike Zimmerman