Acts 13

Acts 13:1 there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers

Bruce R. McConkie

"Not one prophet, but many; not one teacher, but many-with those named being examples. There are always prophets and teachers---a great host of them---in the true Church." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:119)

"A prophet is a person who knows by personal revelation from the Holy Ghost that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, 'for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.' (Rev. 19:10; Teachings, pp. 119, 312.) Accordingly, every prophet bears record of Christ. 'To him give all the prophets witness' (Acts 10:43; Jac. 4:4), and if a professing minister of salvation is not a witness for Christ, he is not a prophet.

"Nothing more than the testimony of Jesus (meaning the receipt of personal revelation from the Holy Ghost certifying that Jesus is the Christ) is needed to make a person a prophet; and if this revealed knowledge has not been received, a person is not a prophet, no matter how many other talents or gifts he may have. But when a person has received revelation from the Spirit certifying to the divinity of Christ, he is then in a position to press forward in righteousness and gain other revelations including those which foretell future events. On this basis, should the necessity arise, those who are prophets are in a position where they 'could prophesy of all things.' ("Mosiah 5:3.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 605)

Acts 13:2-3 Separate me Barnabas and Saul

For Latter-day saints, one of the most important doctrinal contributions of the book of Acts is that it demonstrates the organization and practices of the early Christian church. The doctrines of the Restoration must, of necessity, resemble those ancient practices. In the instance of the calling of Barnabas and Saul, we see how missionaries were set apart by the laying on of hands as called by the Holy Ghost. This is significant because it establishes the laying on of hands as the method of authorization for a certain calling rather than the laying on of hands for other reasons, such as the receipt of the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:6), blessing the sick (Acts 28:8), or ordination to the priesthood (Heb 5:1-4).

Paul had seen the Lord on the road to Damascus. Had he not already received his calling? Why then did he need to be set apart as a missionary? LeGrand Richards noted, "We assume that there are many in the world today who would consider themselves fully called and ordained had they seen and heard what Paul saw and heard on the way to Damascus. But not so with Paul, and neither with Joseph Smith! They had to be ordained by one having authority, and so must all men who would authoritatively engage in the ministry." (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, 88.)

Charles W. Penrose

"It is written, 'No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron.' (Heb 5:4) Aaron was called by Moses, who received divine authority by direct communication from God. Aaron, it appears, could talk better than Moses, but Moses was the man called to hold the keys of the ministry. If any man desires to act in the holy ministry he must first be baptized for a remission of his sins and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, otherwise he cannot be a teacher unto others. And even then, although he may have had visions, although he may have seen the Lord and had the glories of heaven opened unto his view, though the curtain that hides the future may have rolled up before him like a scroll, so that he could gaze into the glories of the eternities,-all this would give him no authority whatever to administer in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. He must be called, he must be ordained, he must receive the authority of the holy priesthood." (Journal of Discourses, 21: 88.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"In our day we follow the same pattern. 'Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon,' or other church officer, 'is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.' (D&C 20:60.) Thus, 'it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church,' saith the Lord, 'except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.' (D&C 42:11.) Thereafter the teachings and acts of all such must conform to the dictates of the Spirit; otherwise their words and deeds will not be approved, ratified, and sealed on high." (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 275.)

Acts 13:4 Paul departs on his first missionary journey

Paul had previously been teaching and ministering with Barnabas in Antioch, but this point marks the beginning of what is considered his first missionary journey.

"The real significance of Paul's first missionary journey lies in the fact that it led to the establishment of branches of the church in areas far removed from Jerusalem. Many hear and received the gospel message who could otherwise not have done so. In addition, we have an opportunity to see Paul in his new capacity as a leader and an organizer. He enters a town where there are no members, where most have not so much as heard of Jesus Christ. When he leaves there is a small but thriving branch of the church commissioned to carry on in his absence. We note also Paul's eagerness to preach the gospel to all men, regardless of their station or background. When the Jews reject the word of God, Paul turns to the gentiles." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 263)

Acts 13:5 they had also John to their minister

This John is the John Mark spoken of in Acts 12:12. See also Acts 13:13; 15:37.

Acts 13:6-12 Saul contends with Elymas the sorcerer

Many missionaries have had discussions with those who would teach false doctrine for their own benefit. These discussions are rarely amicable. At times, one might feel like cursing those who are contentious-as Saul cursed Elymas. Yet, how does one know when to say something like, 'Thou child of the devil...thou shalt be blind'? Obviously Saul was acting according to the Spirit for he was 'filled with the Holy Ghost.' Furthermore, the cursing came from God, not because Saul was angry or frustrated, but because it served the purposes of the Lord. The Lord does not curse these anti-Christs or false prophets out of maliciousness, but so that others may believe. Notice verse 12, 'Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.'

From the Book of Mormon, we see the same pattern. Korihor was struck dumb while contending with Alma, but the result was that 'they were all convinced of the wickedness of Korhior; therefore they were all converted again unto the Lord' (Alma 30:58). Similarly, Sherem was smitten by the Lord while contending with Jacob. But the Lord did not smite him for Jacob's benefit but so that the people would not be deceived. After hearing Sherem's confession, 'the multitude...were overcome that they fell to the earth...And it came to pass that peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures, and hearkened no more to the words of this wicked man' (Jacob 7:21-23).

Bruce R. McConkie

"...the Lord's earthly agents are sent forth primarily to bless and not to curse, and no curse should ever be decreed except by direct revelation from the Lord commanding such to be done. The true spirit of the gospel is exemplified in the counsel, 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.' (Matt. 5:44.) 'Bless, and curse not.' (Rom. 12:14.)

"President Joseph F. Smith explained, when speaking of the priesthood: 'It is the same power and priesthood that was committed to the disciples of Christ while he was upon the earth, that whatsoever they should bind on earth should be bound in heaven, and that whatsoever they should loose on earth should be loosed in heaven, and whosoever they blessed should be blessed, and if they cursed, in the spirit of righteousness and meekness before God, God would confirm that curse; but men are not called upon to curse mankind; that is not our mission; it is our mission to preach righteousness to them. It is our business to love and to bless them, and to redeem them from the fall and from the wickedness of the world. This is our mission and our special calling. God will curse and will exercise his judgment in those matters. 'Vengeance is mine,' saith the Lord, and 'I will repay.' (Rom. 12:19.) We are perfectly willing to leave vengeance in the hands of God and let him judge between us and our enemies, and let him reward them according to his own wisdom and mercy.' (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., p. 140.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 176)

Acts 13:9 Saul, (who is also called Paul,)

Up until Acts 13:9, Luke has been referring to the apostle as Saul, a Jewish name. From now on, he will be referred to as Paul, a Latin (or Gentile) name. Luke doesn't give us a reason for the change, but we may assume that the name change marks a transition in the ministry of Paul-from the Jews to the Gentiles (see v. 46-48).

Acts 13:13 John departing from them returned to Jerusalem

Paul did not approve of John Mark's decision to return to Jerusalem. This became a point of contention between Barnabas and Paul as they made plans to go on a later mission. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark again. 'But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other' (Acts 15:38-39).

Acts 13:14 they...went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day

LeGrand Richards

"There is no record that the saints observed the Jewish Sabbath as a day of worship following the resurrection of the Savior. The apostles did, however, meet with the Jews in their synagogues on their Sabbath to teach them the gospel. (See Acts 13:13-44; 17:1-2.)

"The records are quite complete, however, in indicating that the saints often met to worship on the first day of the week (Sunday), the Lord's day, or the day that Jesus arose from the tomb. (Quotes Jn 20:19,26; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1-2)" (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, 335)

Acts 13:16-41 The teaching method of Paul the apostle

On a few privileged occasions, we get to see how Paul the apostle taught the gospel of Christ. We wonder what methods this great missionary used to convey his message. In this instance, we are also privileged to understand the audience and context of his teachings. A few key elements are listed:

  1. Christ centered teaching.
  2. Paul begins on common ground-a subject which he knows his audience understands and believes, i.e. the history of the house of Israel, v. 17-22.
  3. He then begins to teach new doctrine, v. 23-31.
  4. He uses the scriptures to substantiate and support his new doctrine, v. 32-37.
  5. He testifies, v. 38-39.
  6. He warns, v. 40-41.

This pattern should serve as a template by which we can teach in any missionary situation.

Acts 13:16 men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience

Paul is teaching in a Jewish synagogue in a Gentile land. His introduction tells us that he is speaking to a mixed group-some were Jews who had been scattered from Jerusalem, and others were Gentiles who looked to the Jewish God as being the one true God. Paul is calling on the latter with the phrase, 'ye that fear God' (v. 16, 26). Ironically, he has more success with them than with the Jews, see v. 42.

"Ancient Judaism was leaven, permeating the world and stimulating serious thought toward God. Its synagogues preselected faithful Jews but also thoughtful Gentiles who sought Moses' morality and the God who transcends mythology. Ancient sources, including the New Testament, show two types of Gentile affiliation. First, there were full converts, who took the burden of ceremonialism, including circumcision for males...'Proselytes' came from a wider circle of Gentile worshippers not burdened by the law, and Paul included all in the synagogue by addressing 'men of Israel, and you who fear God' (Acts 13:16, NKJB). These uncircumcised 'God-fearers' are also designated by a Greek term broadly meaning 'religious,'...Paul's Jewish preaching is sprinkled with references to these principled people who affiliated with the synagogue." (Anderson, Understanding Paul, p. 13)

Acts 13:19 destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan

The seven nations referred to are the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and the Jebusites (Josh 3:10).

Acts 13:29 they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher

"It was common to the meridian Apostles to testify that Christ had been 'hanged on a tree' (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Galatians 3:13), this in reference to his death on the cross. They did so to dramatize that the Jews claimed Christ to have been rejected and smitten of God. The ancient law held that if a man had been proven guilty of a capital charge and put to death (usually by stoning), as an additional disgrace and lesson to the community his body might be hung upon a tree for all to see. If this was done it was required that the body be taken down and buried by evening so that the land would not be defiled, for the scripture states 'he that is hanged is accursed of God' (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)." (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 2: 223.)

Acts 13:34 the sure mercies of David

Bruce R. McConkie

"Implicit in this historical recitation of what David did to lose his salvation, and in the doctrinal laws which nonetheless guaranteed him a resurrection and a lesser degree of eternal reward, are two great truths: (1) That the Holy One of Israel, the Holy One of God, the Son of David, would die and then be resurrected; and (2) that because he burst the bands of death and became the first-fruits of them that slept, all men also would be resurrected, both the righteous and the wicked, including saints who became sinners, as was the case with David their king.

"These two truths became known as and were called 'the sure mercies of David,' meaning that David in his life and death and resurrection was singled out as the symbol to dramatize before the people that their Holy One would be resurrected and that all men would also come forth from the grave. David knew and understood this and wrote about it. So also did Isaiah, which means the principle was known and taught in ancient Israel; and both Peter and Paul made it the basis of persuasive New Testament sermons, in which they identified the Holy One of Israel as that Jesus whom they preached." (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 272.)

Acts 13:37 he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption

We might wonder how this scripture is true. Bruce R. McConkie taught, "Corruption is...used to signify the decay and change that will take place after death." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163) But if corruption refers to mortality and death, then did not Jesus see corruption? Wasn't his body laid in the tomb, and didn't his Spirit go to the spirit world? How is that different than David, who 'was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption' (v. 36)? The answer may be found in the ancient Jewish tradition as described by James E. Talmage, "It was the popular belief that on the fourth day after death the spirit had finally departed from the vicinity of the corpse, and that thereafter decomposition proceeded unhindered." (Jesus the Christ, note 5., p. 500). According to this tradition, Jesus did not 'see corruption' because his body did not decompose-being resurrected before the fourth day.

Acts 13:39 by him all that believe are justified...from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses

If the Law of Moses was designed as a schoolmaster to bring one to Christ (Gal 3:24), then it never filled the measure of its creation. To the Jews of Paul's time, the Law became greater than the God who gave it. They rejected the Christ and misunderstood the Law, not realizing that the Law of Moses cursed them before God rather than saved them (2 Ne 9:27). The words of Abinadi are reminiscent, 'And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses' (Mosiah 13:28).

Acts 13:41 I work a work in your days

Bruce R. McConkie

"Here Paul exercises the prophetic prerogative of giving an interpreting, substance quotation from the ancient scriptures and of applying it out of context for his own purpose. What Habakkuk actually said, and that with original reference to the Chaldean armies, was: 'Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.' (Hab. 1:5)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2: 127.)

Acts 13:46 seeing ye...judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles

Joseph Smith

"And so it came to pass that as Israel in those days rejected the Gospel of the kingdom which was first offered to them, so God also rejected them; and they have stood rejected to this day; smitten and trodden under foot of the Gentile races, a scoff, a hiss, and a byword in every land that they have inhabited; while the kingdom of God first offered to them was left to other people, to the Gentiles, who for a season, brought forth the fruits thereof." (History of the Church, vol. 1, xxxix)

Acts 13:47 the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles

Quoting Isaiah 49:6, Paul correctly understands that the scripture does not refer exclusively to Christ. He seemed to understand that 'the Gentiles should be converted through [his] preaching' (3 Ne 15:22), and that he was to be a light to the Gentiles. Joseph Smith received a revelation while translating the Bible which also confirms the doctrine that the early leaders of the church were to be a light to the Gentiles. The Lord said to them, 'blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel.' Even as members of the church, we must let our light shine as Paul did, 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven' (Matt 5:16).

L. Tom Perry

"Brigham Young has said, 'The person who enjoys the experience of the knowledge of the Kingdom of God on the earth, and at the same time has the love of God within him, is the happiest of any individuals on the earth...Where is happiness, real happiness? Nowhere but in God. By possessing the spirit of our holy religion, we are happy in the morning, we are happy at noon, we are happy in the evening; for the spirit of love and union is with us, and we rejoice in the spirit because it is of God, and we rejoice in God, for he is the giver of every good thing. Every Latter-day Saint, who has experienced the love of God in his heart, after having received the remission of his sins, through baptism, and the laying on of hands, realizes that he is filled with joy, and happiness, and consolation. He may be in pain, in error, in poverty, or in prison, if necessity demands, still, he is joyful. This is our experience, and each and every Latter-day Saint can bear witness to it...' (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, pp. 235-36.)

"...How the world needs the example of those who will let the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ radiate from their eternal souls! How we need to show that righteous living yields an eternal joy!

"To you who have embraced the gospel of our Lord and Savior, stand as a beacon upon a hill to light the way for those who seek a happier, more fulfilling life." ("Trust in the Lord," Ensign, May 1978, 51)

Acts 13:48 and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed

The Joseph Smith Translation aptly corrects this to say, 'and as many as believed were ordained unto eternal life'-meaning they were baptized.

Acts 13:51 they shook off the dust of their feet against them

To shake off the dust of one's feet (or to cleanse one's feet) is a priesthood ordinance which places a curse upon the individual. The act is binding as a testimony and a condemnation which will be brought against them at the judgment day,

'And in whatsoever house ye enter, and they receive you not, ye shall depart speedily from that house, and shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against them.
And you shall be filled with joy and gladness; and know this, that in the day of judgment you shall be judges of that house, and condemn them;
And it shall be more tolerable for the heathen in the day of judgment, than for that house...' (DC 70:20-22)

The one who performs this ordinance must be prepared to act as a judge of the individual at the judgment day. He must be prepared to condemn the individual for rejecting the gospel message. One who has been cursed in this manner is no longer eligible for further missionary discussions, for their rejection of the gospel has been made final. Therefore, one must be pretty sure that the individual has received an adequate witness. Today, missionaries are counseled against performing this ordinance unless specifically prompted to by the Holy Ghost.

"The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to save and not to condemn, but men are responsible for their rejection of the truth...In order to administer the principle of testimony as commanded above, it is apparent that the person must be living so well that the Spirit will dictate when and if such condemnation be uttered." (Roy W. Doxey, The Doctrine and Covenants Speaks [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964], 2: 250.)