Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 21 2013 - Acts 13:42-14:7 – The light of the world

Paul was invited to come and speak again at the synagogue the following week. However, when the day arrived, practically the whole of the town gathered to hear what Paul had to say. This drove the Jews to jealousy – they had never had a congregation like this for their own preaching. So they opposed Paul and contradicted all that he was saying, speaking abusively against Paul.

Paul declared that since the Jews were now rejecting his message he would turn to the Gentiles, for that is the command God had given him. Paul then cites the command, quoting Isaiah 49:6, "I have made you [singular] a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth."

Isaiah 49:6 is one of the passages about the Servant of the Lord. In this verse, the Lord says of his Servant that it is too small a thing for him to rescue the children of Israel and restore them to their inheritance: God will make his Servant a light to the Gentiles/nations that his salvation may reach the ends of the earth.

Jesus came into the world to take upon himself the calling of Israel and to be the light of the world. He is the Suffering Servant through whom the salvation of God shall reach the ends of the earth. He is the one in whom the promises to Abraham find their fulfilment; in him all nations on earth shall be blessed.

But that salvation shall reach the ends of the earth through the testimony and ministry of Jesus' disciples. Paul understands this well when he takes this verse from Isaiah as a command to himself: as a follower of Jesus Christ he must be a light to the nations; he must take the message of salvation to the ends of the earth. In taking this as God's call upon his own life, Paul is doing no more than following the teaching of Jesus who called his disciples to follow him in being "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14).

Paul’s words provoked a mixed reaction. Many of the Gentiles who had gathered to hear him were glad. Paul had made it clear that the good news about Jesus the Messiah was good news for them. The grace of God knows no bounds; in Jesus, God is embracing people of every race, language and culture and making them members of the one great family of his people. Many Gentiles gladly put their trust in the Saviour. They were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

But this same message stirred up others to oppose Paul more violently. The opposition was from both Jews and Gentiles, men and women – though, interestingly, it seems to have been predominantly from among the ruling class from within the city. Paul and Barnabas were driven from the city and from its immediate region. Their expulsion had the effect of bringing the good news concerning Jesus to other cities and other audiences.

Paul had understood that the calling of Christ is also the calling of his disciples. He is the light of the world and his disciples are called to be a light to all nations, to bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. This is our calling. God's saving plan for the world is put into effect through the testimony of our lives and our words. The salvation of the world awaits our shining testimony.

Lord, fill me with the joy of the Holy Spirit and help me to shine today. And when those who prefer the darkness seek to douse the flame and extinguish the light, keep me shining still.

Peter Misselbrook