Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I have made You a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.'”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers.Acts 13:46-48
The first of these tricky verses is expressed in a powerful way. In short, “you rejected it” and “judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life” are in parallel or in apposition. They are not two different actions but rather one. By rejecting the word of God you received, you judge yourself and exclude yourself from eternal life. This is a very strong verse with eternal consequences. This notion of rejecting the message of the Good News of the Gospel is one of the sub-themes of Acts. Notice how the expansion of the believers is always set against the increasing opposition. Luke has a similar theme in his Gospel. This increasing opposition is set against or opposed to the preaching of the Good News. Despite the escalating violence of the opposition that was stirred up, Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. Again I can’t help but compare the incident I am writing about with what is happening around me in Jakarta and further afield in America. As the violence escalates it calls for brave souls to oppose it. Paul and Barnabas were two such people. All around them they were surrounded by a huge crowd and that crowd was being whipped up by provocateurs. Despite that Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly. The word [parresiazomai] has the sense “to speak freely”, “to speak out boldly”, “to be totally free to say what they felt” in the light of intense opposition. They didn’t mince words, they were not alarmed by what they faced. The Gospel is at stake here so they were outspoken to the point of laying their lives on the line for the sake of Truth. They were not terrified by what was happening around them. Rather they told the crowd, “you have rejected this message and so you have judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, so we will now offer this Good News to Non-Jews. Can you imagine how inflammatory that statement would have been to a crowd of angry Jews.
The word “rejected” is the word [apotheisthe] from the root word [apotheo]. Yes it means to reject or to repudiate something. In other words to refuse to have anything to do with, to refuse to accept, to reject as untrue or unjust, to reject as having no authority over me. The force of this verb has the sense of a violent rejection or thrusting away from oneself. That is the degree to which these Jews rejected it. They reacted violently and totally and utterly rejected that this message had anything to do with them. So Paul and Barnabas conclude that they have judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. By the force of their rejection they have declared themselves unworthy. The rejection is not just a rational weighing up of the sides of the argument and coming to a conclusion that they don’t agree with what is being said. Their rejection is so violently opposed to what they have heard that they refuse to listen to it any further and so they sealed their fate. My mind turns immediately to where John describes this for us.
God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.John 3:17-20
Our acceptance or rejection of the Gospel, the Good News of the Coming Kingdom of God, is the line drawn not in the sand, by in the rock of eternity by God. The reaction you have to Gospel is the measuring stick by which you are either accepted or rejected by Christ ultimately. Hence you yourself are the one who judges you. You determine yourself as being unworthy by the reaction you have to the Only One who can save you. By rejecting Him you refuse the life belt. It is the strength of the darkness in you which sets you on your collision course with the embodiment of Truth – Christ, who said “I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.” Jesus didn’t just speak truths, He was and He is The Truth. To reject the Truth is to leave yourself without defence.
There is more to this verse hidden in the words Paul and Barnabas spoke. In rejecting this Gospel you place yourself on the side of untruth and disqualify yourself from eternal life. The question now has to be, as some of you asked, what is meant by eternal life? It has nothing to do with the length of time you will live. For some people to have live this current life in real time that goes on and on would be hell. I am sure for some in America at the moment to have to live in the midst of what is happening around you would be unimaginable. To live in the midst of Aleppo or Beirut would be abhorrent. To have been trapped in the Australian fires earlier this year or be living in some parts of California now with fires blazing all around, you would feel like you are in hell. Yes friends that’s the kind of world we live in. I can’t even begin to imagine the injustices currently raging in America. The mind boggles.
That is not what eternal life means. It is not more of the same. [Zoe] is not the unending quality of the life you now have. Rather it is the quality of the Life of the Age to Come. What does that mean? It is life as God meant it to be. When God gave life to man and breathed into him Life, it was Life as God intended it. Perfect, ideal – the life where sin and degradation, injustice and hate had not yet entered. What every Jew was waiting for was the restoration of the Life of the Kingdom of God. The Life of the Age to Come is the consummation of Life as God intended it in the beginning being established on the earth again. That is Eternal Life.
The reality and the consequences of living with fallen man on this earth; irrespective of where you are – America, the Land of the Free or New Zealand, God’s Own. No, sorry folks you won’t find Zoe on this earth before Jesus comes back. It is like waking up to a nightmare. Like the America women announcer who after Trump’s election, said something like “Good morning America, you may feel you have woken from a nightmare, but this is your new reality.” This is all because life on earth is not LIFE as God intended. Paul in Romans describes mankind and all creation and groaning waiting for the Life of the Age to Come. That is what we all want. But by our rejection of the Good News of God’s solution we disqualify ourselves from Eternal Life. Imagine waking up to reality after your death and having the realisation that all they told you about Jesus was true but you have rejected it.
That is what Paul and Barnabas were talking about in this one sentence.
Welcome to the day America, it may seem like a nightmare but this is your current reality.Anon
Imagine waking up outside after a night of terror in Kaikoura (Nov 14th 2016) only to find the Chinese have commandeered all of the helicopters to fly them out to safety.Ian Vail
Even worse, imagine waking up to the reality of a Christ-less Eternity.Ian Vail
Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.Joshua 24:15
This side of eternity is the time to decide.Ian Vail
You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.Daniel Patrick Moynihan