“When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them 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 turn now to the Gentiles...’ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
~Acts 13:45-46, 48 (NIV).
The Word of God is and always was an object for all people.
The ‘Word,’ of course, is Jesus, God incarnate who came to earth to live, as we live, an ordinary life—but one prophesied as extraordinary—and to die like we do—but with a cataclysmic difference. Jesus’ death brings reality to the concept of eternal life via his resurrection.
Okay, perhaps we know all that already, and what’s more, we accept it. What now?
For the Jews...
The Jews themselves, in this context, had been ‘passed over,’ a reality hard to bear in anyone’s language, not lest the Jews who—in their own minds—‘owned’ God. When someone arrives on our doorstep, for instance, and they bring glad news but it is not us they wish to speak to, but our next door neighbour who is just visiting us, we feel rather like the fifth wheel. This must have been what it was like for the Jews at Pisidian Antioch.
The Jews are also no doubt very surprised (and annoyed) as to how popular this ‘Jesus show’ is with nearly the whole city there intently listening on.
For the Gentiles...
For the Gentiles—a people perhaps of even lower class than the Jews in this Roman-dominated and favoured landscape of culture—this news of Paul’s’ and Barnabas’ was just the sort of revelation, unto genuine blessing, that would have assuaged their heavy hearts. None of them had ever known God before, and now, suddenly, God is there and made real for them in the preaching of these apostles.
And for what they heard, they’re seen to praise, very appropriately, God, and not the apostles who were simply delivering the message. This is what “honor[ing] the word of the Lord” probably means.
Here is a good quote to ponder:
“It is never merely a person’s own choice that saves them, it is always God’s love and mercy.”
For the early believers, especially in the above context, there was much opposition and persecution; how is it then that most of us nowadays can enjoy fellowship with God under not-so-trying circumstances?
This is to the praise and glory of God as well as to the prayer and petition for those who still endure pain for their faith.
But, essentially for us, we too belong to the ‘appointment’ to eternal life when we heard the gospel message and gave God the glory through the honouring of the Word of the Lord in our belief.
I’m not sure how many of us truly understand—and thank God for—the significance of Jesus’ coming for the Gentile; to break open the seed of God for all who belief by faith.
God’s love and mercy didn’t need to fall our way; but it does!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.