The record of Paul’s first missionary journey demonstrated the significance of Syrian Antioch as a missionary-sending church. From that assembly, Paul and Barnabas were called to evangelize Gentiles, enduring much opposition from the Jewish leadership in south Galatia. Paul’s use of the Old Testament in his sermons in Antioch of Pisidia and the Galatian city of Lystra provided a framework for understanding God’s redemptive work in Jesus.
(1) In Acts 13:22, Paul cited 1 Sam 13:14 and Ps 89:20 to describe God’s choice of David as king of Israel. In 1 Samuel 13, Samuel recorded Saul’s failure when the Philistines attacked Israel. Because Saul did not wait on the Lord, the Lord rejected him as king. Samuel told Saul, “The LORD has found a man loyal to Him, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not done what the LORD commanded” (1 Sam 13:14). That man was David, to whom the Lord directed Samuel in 1 Sam 16:1-13. In Psalm 89, the psalmist reflected on God’s greatness and His covenant with David. Unlike Saul, David was a man loyal to the Lord (Ps 89:20). While 1-2 Samuel and many Psalms articulated David’s greatness, Paul’s concern with David in Acts 13:22-23 was David’s descendant Jesus, the Savior God brought to Israel.
(2) In Acts 13:33-35, Paul argued that God’s word concerning David in Ps 2:7; Isa 55:3; and Ps 16:10 were fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. In Psalm 2, the psalmist reflected on God’s sovereignty in establishing Israel’s king as God’s Son. Because God appointed His son as the ruler of Israel, the nations opposing His people stood no chance even if they conspired together. Paul proposed that Ps 2:7, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father,” was fulfilled in Jesus’ resurrection. By conquering death, Jesus demonstrated His deity (Acts 13:33). In Isa 55:1-5, Isaiah urged Israel to come to the Lord and listen to the One who made an everlasting covenant with David. Paul saw in Isaiah’s reference to God’s everlasting covenant with David a point of contact with Jesus’ everlasting life. Since David’s descendant Jesus was raised to everlasting life, Jesus fulfilled God’s covenant promise to David (Acts 13:34). Paul concluded his string of Old Testament references to Jesus’ resurrection by noting Ps 16:10, “You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay” (Acts 13:35). In Psalm 16, the psalmist expressed his confidence in God despite opposition. Because of God’s covenant with him, the psalmist was sure that God would not allow him to see decay in Sheol. At Pentecost, Peter used Ps 16:8-11 to explain Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:25-28, 31) as well.
(3) In Acts 13:41, Paul cited Hab 1:5 to explain God’s unexpected work in Christ. Paul argued that though justification by faith in Christ differed from current Jewish expectations of how God would save, Habakkuk’s prophecy provided a precedent for God doing the unexpected. Just as God had mysteriously chosen the Chaldeans as His instrument of discipline upon Israel, likewise He had chosen to justify both Jews and Gentiles through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul quoted God’s message to Israel in the days of Habakkuk, “Look, you scoffers, marvel and vanish away, because I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe” (Acts 13:41) as a warning to the Jews of his day. The only hope of forgiveness was found in Jesus.
(4) In Acts 13:47, Paul and Barnabas quoted Isa 49:6 to express their ministry strategy in turning from the Jews to the Gentiles. In Isa 49:1-13, Isaiah prophesied of the Lord’s servant who would save not only the chosen ones of Jacob but also serve as a light to the Gentiles even to the end of the earth. When Simeon held baby Jesus in the temple, he said that he beheld God’s salvation and light to the Gentiles (Luke 2:30-32). When the Jews in Pisidian Antioch stirred up opposition against Paul and Barnabas, the missionary duo cited Isa 49:6 to articulate that since they had preached to the Jews, and the Jews had rejected the message of salvation, they would turn to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas said, “This is what the Lord commanded us: ‘I have appointed you as a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:47). When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord, Simeon noted that in seeing Jesus, he had seen God’s light to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas understood their ministry to the Gentiles likewise to be God’s light of salvation for humanity outside of ethnic Israel.
(5) In Acts 14:15, Paul quoted Exod 20:11 and Ps 146:6 to argue that the people of Lystra should worship God, not idols or the apostles themselves. The fifth commandment for Israel was to observe the Sabbath, remembering that in six days God made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that it contained (Exod 20:11). The psalmist echoed Moses’ portrait of God and noted that God raises up the oppressed (Ps 146:6-8). In Lystra, the Lord healed a lame man when Paul told him to stand up and walk (Acts 14:10). The crowds thought Paul and Barnabas were gods and initiated a regiment of worship and sacrifice in their honor. Paul proclaimed that he and Barnabas were human beings like them, created by the God who made the heavens and the earth, and all that they contained (Acts 14:15).