Yesterday I shared my thoughts on Stephen’s speech in Acts 7.2-54. Today I am doing the same with Paul’s speech in Acts 13.16-41. The connection between the two is both provide a “history of Israel” if you will.
As with Stephen’s speech the audience is Jews in 13.16-41, but this time there seem to be non-Jewish “God-fearers” (οἱ φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν) present as well. Paul is the speaker this time in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. Paul mentions God “choosing” their ancestors (which could be a veiled reference to Abraham’s call), that the people grew, that they were “foreigners” in Egypt, and that God led them to freedom (v. 17). This is a quick summary of what Stephen gave the first half of his speech to addressing. Joshua is not mentioned by name in this speech, but the conquest of Canaan is (v. 19). Unlike Stephen Paul mentions the judges, Samuel, and Israel’s request for a King, which resulted in the selection of Saul (v. 20-21).
For Paul David is the most important figure. In v. 22 he mentions that God chose David and he quotes Psalm 89.20 and 1 Samuel 13.14 to remind his audience that David was special to God. Paul focuses on the Davidic Covenant and then connects it to Jesus in a way similar to how Stephen focused on Abraham, Joseph, and Moses before connecting them to Jesus. Jesus is presented as the fulfillment of the promises to David and to the descendants of Abraham (vv. 23-26).
Like Stephen Paul rebukes his fellow Jews. Stephen went to route of idolatry. Paul says his fellow Jews read the prophets every Sabbath yet they do not see that their prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus (v. 27). Instead, they killed him unjustly (v. 28), but this allowed Scripture to be fulfilled regarding him since he was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead by God himself (vv. 29-30a). Paul claims that there are many witnesses to this event (vv. 30b-31) and this is why Paul and his companions “proclaim to you” that the King foreseen in Psalm 2 has been chosen, and that the “promises of David” (Is. 55.3) has been fulfilled, and the “holy one” of Psalm 16.10 did not see decay (vv. 32-35). As Paul explains (like Peter in Acts 2): David is dead, buried, and decayed so the psalm had to have been about another. God raised Jesus from the dead, so he is the one (vv. 36-37).
As with Stephen so Paul: Israel’s history reaches its climax at the arrival of Jesus. Although Stephen doesn’t go the same route and he doesn’t explain the resurrection (likely Luke knows that Stephen’s audience would have known of the events while Paul’s may have not), the resurrected Christ standing at the right hand of God to welcome Stephen in 7.54-60 has the same effect.
Paul ends with a warning applying the words of Habakkuk 1.5 to his current audience: God is doing something new so don’t be like the scoffers who didn’t believe Habakkuk in his day by failing to believe Paul in the present. The results will be similar (vv. 40-41)!