3. The gospel moves out from Antioch, 13:1-15:41

v] God opens the door for the gospel


Leaving Lystra, Paul and Barnabas evangelise Derbe, making "many disciples", and then return to Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch, organising the administration of the new churches. Moving on, the mission continues in Perga and then Attalia, and then they sail back to Syrian Antioch where they give their report to the congregation. Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas stay in Antioch for some time.


Nurturing new believers, with a view to perseverance, goes hand in hand with the business of evangelism.


i] Context: See 13:1-12.


ii] Structure: God opens the door for the gospel:

Building up the believers, v21-23;

The mission continues, v24;

The return to Antioch, v26-29.


iii] Background:

iThe kingdom of God. For the people of Israel, the term "the kingdom of God" was highly charged, in that it encapsulated the messiah's establishment of the eschatological reign of God over Israel. This reign stands in defiance of all secular powers, which powers will bow in adoration before God's mighty intervention in human affairs. So, Israel of old looked forward to the establishment of God's eternal reign on earth. For a moment it looked like it was realised in Solomon's kingdom, but it was fatally flawed, and increasingly so. The prophets then looked forward to another time, a day of coming glory.

The gospel proclaims that the time is fulfilled, the victory is won, the kingdom come; it proclaims that Christ is risen, and in that rising, the long promised establishment of God's kingdom, of his eternal and universal reign, has come upon us - new heavens and a new earth.

Yet, the disciples soon discovered another reality. If the cross and empty tomb proclaim the victory, a kingdom come, where is the glory in full measure? The glory of heaven receded into the future and was quickly replaced by another reality. As Luke puts it, "It is necessary to pass through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God."

[Kingdom diagram]

When it comes to the kingdom of God, the scriptures present us with two realities, it is inaugurated, as well as realised, not yet and now, as illustrated by the two images below.

In its not yet state we face tribulation as we strive to communicate the gospel to God's broken world. We will see the fruit of conversions, but at the same time, we will experience trouble from within and without. Fortitude, perseverance, is required of a disciple.

In terms of the kingdom now, we stand in the throne-room of the Ancient of Days to witness an exuberant celebration and affirmation of the divine. The Great Day of the Lord is come, the reign of God is realised. The kingdom is now and so at this very moment, we reign with Christ in eternity, Eph.2:6.

There is, of course, debate over whether the kingdom is a time / space reality, or just a descriptor of divine rule. The kingdom as "the righteous reign of God" has more going for it, but as Wanamaker points out, the kingdom is both "domain and dominion." So, the kingdom of God is the dynamic now / not yet reign of God through Christ, the realisation of which brings eternal peace.


iv] Interpretation:

Derbe was a fortified town on the boarder of the province of Galatia, situated on the edge of the Galatian plateau. Luke doesn't tell us much about the mission there, other than maqhteusanteV, "the business of making disciples" (cf., Matt.28:19), was successful, ie., iJkanouV, "many", believed. In 20:4 Luke tells us that Gaius came from Derbe, and it is also worth noting that Timothy came from Lystra. Both these towns are border towns, not much better than military outposts, but still, many respond to the gospel.

Instead of heading straight for Syrian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas retrace their steps to revisit their new mission churches. This extends their journey somewhat, involving passing through the Tarsus mountains and a long sea journey home. The purpose is simple enough, it's all about episthrizonteV, "encouraging, strengthening" the new believers in their faith (the participle is probably final, expressing purpose, so Barratt, ie., "in order to ....."). Their follow-up ministry is all about nurturing the new believers, giving them the wherewithal to persevere in the Christian faith. Given that a believer experiences the kingdom of God in its inaugurated state, tribulations are the order of the day. As Jesus suffered at the hands of the powers of darkness, so believers will suffer (Satan resists the invasion of his kingdom). To this end, Paul and Barnabas set out to encourage fortitude in the Christian life.

There are two elements involved in the encouragement of the believers. First, teaching: Luke gives us a summary statement of the teaching offered, namely, "It's not easy following Jesus", v22b. Presumably, Paul and Barnabas offered an overview of Biblical theology evident in the OT and the teachings of Jesus, explaining the inauguration of the kingdom of God in and through Jesus, and how that impacts on the life of a believer. The second element involved is the practical business of administration by ceirotonhsanteV, "electing, appointing, choosing" elders. The process of election / appointment may align with 6:1-7. As to the function of the elders, it seems likely that we are looking at the role of pastor-teacher, which makes the "electing" more like an ordination. Converted Jews / proselytes would be the likely candidates; those with a sound knowledge of the Scriptures. Given the plural presbuterouV, "elders, leaders, presbyters", a team ministry seems the order of the day.

Paul and Barnabas return to Syrian Antioch, giving a full report to the church which sponsored their mission; they explained how the door of salvation has opened wide for the Gentiles.

Text - 14:21

God opens the door for the gospel, v21-29: i] Building up the believers, v21-23. Two temporal participles identify what Paul and Barnabas achieve in Derbe, euaggelisamenoi, "reporting / communicating important news = preaching the gospel", and maqhteusanteV, "causing people to become followers, making disciples = establishing a strong core of believers" (usually with the sense "being a disciple"; a once only use in Acts).

te "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, but maintaining a strong link with the previous verse.

euaggelisamenoi (euaggelizw) aor. mid. part. "they preached the gospel" - having communicated important news [into that city, and having made disciples many, they returned into lystra and into iconium and into antioch]. As with "having made disciples", the participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "After bringing the good news to that town and gaining many converts", REB.


Building up believers by means of Biblical teaching focused on the inaugurated kingdom of God. Normally we speak of the kingdom "at hand", but here Luke says it is something we "enter"; we place ourselves in the context of, and under the authority of, the divine, cf., Lk.18:24-25, 23:42. Luke perceives this in eschatological terms, ie., the kingdom is not yet, it is inaugurated rather than realised. As such, tribulation is the order of the day. This knowledge serves the business of parakalounteV, "encouraging" (probably not here with the sense "exhorting"), an encouraging for perseverance / fortitude in the Christian life, ie., epoisthrizonteV, "strengthening, supporting, confirming, establishing [the souls of the disciples]"; "putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples", Peterson.

episthrizonteV (episthrizw) aor. part. "strengthening" - strengthening [the souls of the disciples, encouraging them]. As with "encouraging", the participle is adverbial, best treated as final, expressing purpose; "in order to strengthen ..... and encourage ...."

emmeneiV (emmenw) pres. inf. "to remain true to" - to continue in. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what is encouraged.

th/ pistei (iV ewV) dat. "the faith" - the faith. Dative of direct object after the en prefix verb "to continue in, remain in." A call to endurance; "to continue true in their trust in Jesus", TH. The sense is likely not a call to remain true to the Christian faith, but to one's personal faith.

oJti "-" - [and] that. A recitative use of oJti to introduce a dependent statement of direct speech, rather than a causal use. This is indicated by the presence of kai, "and", so Culy.

eiselqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "to enter" - to enter [into the kingdom of god by many tribulations is necessary]. The infinitive serves to form an infinitival phrase which serves as the subject of the indefinite verb "it is necessary." For a complementary classification, see plhrwqhnai, 1:16. The preposition dia, "by", is instrumental, expressing means; "by means of many trials."

tou qeou "of God" - [the kingdom] of god. The genitive is adjectival, either possessive, "God's kingdom", or, if taken as "the righteous reign of God", then it would be verbal, subjective, or possibly even descriptive, idiomatic / source, "from God."


Luke only gives a scant account of the administration of Paul's new mission churches. The verb ceirotonew means "to stretch out" and is used by Luke for the laying on of hands, so the sense "to appoint" is likely here. Paul also uses the word for his appointment of Titus, 2Cor.8:19. Those appointed to lead the local congregation are titled presbuterouV, "elders, presbyters", a term seemingly used for those next to apostles both in authority and function, 15:2, 16:4, 20:17. These men are pareqento, "set before, presented", probably here with the sense "entrusted for safe keeping" = "put them in the hands of the Lord", TH (but see autouV below).

ceirotonhsanteV (ceirotonew) aor. part. "Paul and Barnabas appointed" - [but/and] having appointed [elders]. The participle, along with "having prayed", is best treated as adverbial, temporal; "when they had appointed elders ....., and when they had prayed and fasted, they committed them to the Lord ....", Barclay.

autoiV dat. pro. "for them" - to them. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV, ie., as representatives for Paul and Barnabas.

kat (kata) + acc. "in each [church]" - according to [church]. Here with a distributive sense; "church by church", Cassirer.

meta + gen. "with" - [having prayed] with [fastings]. Possibly adverbial, expressing the manner of their prayer, "prayers intensified by fasting", Peterson, but more likely expressing association / accompaniment, "prayer accompanied with fasting", so Kellum, as NIV.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "to the Lord" - [they entrusted them] to the lord. Dative of indirect object. It is unclear who autouV, "them", is. Given the context, it seems to be the elders who are specifically in mind. This doesn't mean that Paul doesn't pray for all the believers as well. Bock suggests that the subject is "the church as a whole."

eiV o}n pro. "[in] whom" - into who [they had believed]. The verb pisteuw, with the prepositon eiV + acc, and sometimes epi + dat., is often used by Luke instead of pisteuw + dat. to express "believe in something / someone." So, the prepositional phrase serves as the direct object of the pluperfect verb "they had believed." Note that the pluperfect verb is without its augment, ie., missing the initial e.


Barrett notes that the verb diercomai, "to go through", is sometimes used by Luke with the sense "making a preaching tour."

dielqonteV (diercomai) aor. part. "after going through" - [and] having gone through [pisidia, they came into pamphylia]. The participle is usually treated as adverbial, temporal, as NIV; "When they had gone through Pisidia", TNT.


The preaching tour continues in Perga (no mention is made of the missioners evangelising in Perga on their first visit) and then Attalia. The Western text adds that they evangelised in that town as well, which is probably what they did.

lalhsanteV (lalew) aor. part. "when they had preached" - [and] having spoken [the word in perga they went down into attalia]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.


Paul and Barnabas now sail back to the church at Antioch which, under the direction of God's Spirit, had commissioned them for this missionary project, cf., 13:3. The paradedomenoi, "delivering over = commissioning", was "to the grace of God", ie., "to God's good favour", in the sense of "to God's protective care", Peterson D (better than a dative of interest, "for the benefit of the grace = the gospel which comes from God")

kakeiqen (kai ekaiqen) ....... eiV "from ..... to" - and from there ....... into. The kai coordinates, and the adverb of place indicates a starting point from which movement proceed to another point indicated by the preposition eiV, "from there ...... to", Culy.

o{qen adv. "where" - from where. Adverb of place.

paradedomenoi (paradidwmi) perf. part. "[they had] been committed" - [they had] having been delivered over. The perfect participle with the imperfect verb to-be h\san forms a periphrastic pluperfect construction, possibly used to reflect the duration of the mission.

tn/ cariti (iV ewV) dat. "to the grace" - to the grace. Dative of direct object after the para prefix verb "to deliver over to"

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - of god [into the work which they finished]. The genitive is adjectival, best treated as verbal, subjective, "the grace / favour which is exercised by God", rather than idiomatic / source, "the grace which comes from God."


On returning, the missioners report o{sa, "what great things [God has done]", Zerwick, kai oJti, "and that" "Gentiles may believe, and thereby receive all the blessings to which faith leads; that is, the way of faith is open for them, faith may come to them, and by their faith become Christians", Barrett.

paragenomenoi (paraginomai) aor. part. "on arriving there" - [but/and] having come [and the church having assembled]. As with "having assembled", the participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "After arriving at Antioch they called the church together", CEV.

o{sa pro. "all that" - [they were reporting] as much as. Zerwick thinks the pronoun is exclamatory here, "what great things."

met (meta) + gen. "through [them]" - [god did] with [them]. Expressing association / accompaniment, ie., expressing the idea of divine assistance in the mission.

oJti "and how" - [and] that. Introducing a object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the missioners reported. Not only did they report the great things God did, but also the way the gospel opened out to the Gentiles.

pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "[a door] of faith" - [he opened a door] of faith. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, and serves as a good example of idiomatic short-talk, something like "God has opened a door which has provided easy accesses for Gentiles to come to a personal faith in Jesus Christ and so receive all the blessings due his faith / faithfulness", ie., God has provided an effective means for Gentile evangelisation. Barrett notes some of the favoured classifications: objective, "leading to faith"; subjective, "where faith enters"; appositional / epexegetic, "consisting of faith", but adds, "it would however be mistaken to attempt a very precise definition."

toiV eqnesin (oV) dat. "to the Gentiles" - to the gentiles. Dative of interest, advantage; "for the Gentiles."


Luke uses a litotes (a negative construction to express a positive, "not a little time") to stress the interval between Paul's return to the church in Antioch and the arrival of members of the circumcision party from the Jerusalem church.

cronon ouk oligon acc. "a long time" - [but/and they remained] not a little time. The accusative is used here to express extent of time; "They settled down to exercise an extended ministry in the church at Antioch."

sun + dat. "with [the disciples]" - with [the disciples]. Expressing association / accompaniment.


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