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26 November 2023 // Acts 13

On Mission
Daniel Arguijo
Acts  13

APPLICATION: Read Acts 13 & watch/listen to Acts 13 sermon.

The Role of the Church
• Teach the word vs 1
• Devotion to the Lord vs 2
• Hear and Obey God’s word vs 3

The Role of the Sent
• Having a purpose vs 5
• Resist opposition vs7-11
• Take advantage over every opportunity vs 15-25
• Preach Jesus vs 32-41
• Share with Everyone vs 42-47

The Role of God
• Salvation vs 48-49
• Judgement vs 50-51

  1. What did the message teach me about God/Jesus/Holy Spirit?
  2. What did the message teach me about the human condition?
  3. Is there anything I need to confess, repent, or be grateful for, because of this passage?
  4. How do I need help in believing and applying this scripture to my life?
  5. How can I encourage others with this passage?

The Day the Disciples Carried Stones
Elizabeth Elliott, herself a missionary of the highest stature, tells a story, a fable, about the day Jesus asked the disciples to carry stones. In the morning, he told them to find a stone which they would carry all day. We can imagine them selecting the lightest and smallest they could find.

As the story unfolds, that night Jesus and the disciples made camp. At mealtime the disciples asked what to do with the stones. Jesus told them, “I’m glad you asked. I will now turn those stones to bread, and that will be your evening meal.” As the disciples ate the few bites they had carried throughout the day, they pledged never to be caught in such a dilemma again.

Sure enough, the next day Jesus asked them in the morning to pick up stones and carry them all day. What a day! Lugging heavy boulders from place to place with the happy anticipation of a full meal that night.

When they made camp, the disciples asked the same question, but this time the Lord’s answer was different. “The stones? Just place them over there in a pile. We don’t need them anymore.” When the protestations and complaining had died down, Jesus had only one questions for the disciple band: “For whom did you carry your stone today?”

Certainly, I have taken some liberties in retelling the story, but the basic idea remains the same. Effective missionaries, pastors, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, and disciples of all kinds do what they do for the glory of Christ, not for their own benefit. In this chapter, Paul and Barnabas led home to travel for Jesus’ sake. They entered into confrontation with a wild- eyed sorcerer for Jesus’ sake. They proclaimed the gospel to hesitant Jews for Jesus’ sake. They endured persecution at Pisidian Antioch for Jesus’ sake. The result was not pain and complaining, but rather rejoicing—even at the difficulty.

We may very well ask ourselves the same question about difficulties in our lives: “For whom did you carry your stone today?” Only when we see Christ at the center of everything we do; only when our motives center on how best to please him; only when we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us as he did Paul and Barnabas will we really be able to say in genuine honesty, “I carried my stone for Jesus.”1

A. Fasting (v. 2)
Voluntary abstinence from food was not necessarily a practice of the early church, but we do see it from time to time (Matt. 6:16; Acts 14:23). The believers at Antioch apparently felt it necessary to seek God’s will in this important matter so strenuously that they fasted to concentrate on prayer. We should not think of fasting as demonstrating greater spiritual sincerity and certainly not as a way to impress the Lord. Like these Christians, those who practice fasting today should do so voluntarily with the purpose of focusing more fully on some phase of the Lord’s work.

B. Four Hundred Fifty Years (v. 20)
Commentators ponder where these 450 years fit in. Some argue for the Egyptian sojourn, the conquest, and the distribution of the land. Others connect the phrase to the rest of verse 20 and include the period of judges as well. This seems to be in conflict with 1 Kings 6:1. According to Marshall, “It seems best to take it off the sojourn in Egypt (400 years), the wilderness wanderings (40 years verse 18), and the occupation of the land (10 years)” (Marshall, 223). At any rate, in round numbers Luke is clearly within range no matter how one calculates the precise statistics.

C. Appointed (v. 48)
Though some commentators move rapidly over this phrase, Luke clearly intends us to grasp its full significance. I suggested earlier that salvation includes both human faith and divine appointment. I retain that view here with further detail. Paul tells us Christ chose us before God formed the world (Eph. 1:4). In Romans 8:29–30, he reinforces the idea dramatically: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Other verses demonstrate the same truth:

John 6:44—“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
Matthew 11:28—“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
John 3:16—“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
1 Timothy 2:1, 3, 4—“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.... This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
2 Peter 3:9—“The Lord ... is not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Barnhouse calls the theme of sovereignty in the Bible “a Wagnerian leitmotif.” He says:

God is sovereign, in absolute control of all things. If this were not so, man would have abolished Him long ago. Nothing in all the universe can happen without either God’s direction or permission. In Acts 2:23, we saw the plain teaching that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was under the direct supervision of God Almighty. This event was planned from all eternity. Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Yes, it was man who sentenced Him to die. It was man who drove in the nails. But it was God who ordered it. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief (Isa. 53:10). Here we see the wonderful way in which there is harmony of the divine decree and human free agency (Barnhouse, 122–123).

Whenever the Bible presents seemingly irreconcilable information (such as the option of choosing salvation over against the idea that God has already chosen us), the best course is not to gravitate to one extreme or the other but to try to understand the two as autonomies. An antinomy is simply an apparent contradiction between two equally valid principles, and that is exactly what we have here. The truths seem mutually exclusive, yet Bible-believing Christians should hold them simultaneously even though that defies human reason, believing that, if we understood everything as God does, there would be no contradiction.

Many have stumbled on this point, arguing that God would not give us biblical truth which runs counter to intellectual processes he created. Where did we get the idea that we must think like God? What else might Isaiah have meant when he wrote “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9)?

As a seminary student, I desperately struggled with this. I watched classmates come down on both sides. Some declared an absolute determinism, while others indicated their preference for free will. Our theology professor, Dr. Alva J. McLain, offered us a very helpful illustration one day to demonstrate that interpretation of this difficult dilemma depends on perspective.

He described a gate into the garden of salvation. Over the outside portal one reads the words whosoever will may come. Responding to this gracious invitation, we walk through, assuming the choice has been made voluntarily. Nothing outside the garden hinted we must go in nor that anyone had preordained our entrance. From this perspective it appears to be exclusively our own choice—free will.

As we begin to make our way through the flowers and shrubs, we glance back, hoping to get one more glance of that beautiful invitation. What shock to discover that the words on the inside portal are different: Chosen in him from the foundation of the world. Now we realize both are true. From our perspective, we have chosen Christ; we have believed the gospel and trusted him for salvation. From God’s perspective, however, he has made possible everything that led up to that salvation choice. There is an old hymn which puts this doctrine so well.
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of Thee.2

  1. Is God calling people from your church to become missionaries? How is the church encouraging people to listen to and respond to God’s call? How is the church responding to those who answer the call?
  2. What resources and people is Satan using to attack the work of your church? How are you recognizing and combating these attacks?
  3. Is your church proclaiming the good news to people who have never heard it? If not, why not? Are people responding to the gospel in your church?


1 Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 221–222.
2 Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 222–226.