The Transfer of the Kingdom
“Then Paul and Barnabas answered them [the Jews] boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles’” (v. 46).- Acts 13–14:7
We now begin to study Paul’s First Missionary Journey. After Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch, the Holy Spirit told the elders of that church that these two men were to be commissioned and sent on a preaching tour. About this time, Saul began to be called Paul.
Each place the two men went, they preached first in the synagogue. The Gospel was “to the Jew first, then to the Greek.” In the redemptive plan of God, the church was being born from the womb of Israel. All who might be saved from Israel were harvested first, but the kingdom was being transferred to the whole world. In the new covenant, all men are on equal footing, either sinners outside the kingdom or citizens of it. The years a.d. 30–70, from the ascension of Jesus to the destruction of Jerusalem, record the transition from the old covenant arrangement centered on Israel to the new covenant arrangement centered on the church. By a.d. 70, the command to go to the Jews first had been fulfilled, and the transfer was complete (note Acts 28:25–28).
Paul and Barnabas went first to Cyprus. They preached in the synagogue, and then had an audience with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. Paulus was under the influence of Elymas Bar-Jesus. The fact that this leading Jew was a sorcerer points to the estate of apostate Israel. This man claimed to have the power of Joshua, but he actually had the power of the devil. Paul struck him blind, and the Gentile proconsul converted to Christianity (Acts 13:4–12).
Then they went to Pisidian Antioch. Paul preached a sermon in the synagogue, and the next Saturday the entire town came out to hear him. The apostate Jews were furious to see the true Jews and God-fearing Gentiles welcome Paul, and stirred up trouble, so that Paul and Barnabas left (Acts 13:13–52).
Iconium was next. Paul and Barnabas went first to the synagogue and harvested the true Jews into the church. Gentile God-fearers also transferred into the church. The city became divided, and a plot was hatched to capture and stone the two evangelists, so they moved on (Acts 14:1–7).
Just as the first missionaries took the ministry of the Good News to their own first, in some sense we also have home ministry obligations to the family of God which should take precedence over those outside the covenant community. This weekend consider how this may apply in your church and life.
Passages for Further Study
2 Corinthians 5:1–10
1 Peter 2:5–12