Paul’s first missionary journey quickly changed the focus of his attention. Initially, Paul followed the course of Jesus’ apostles and taught in Jewish synagogues about the fulfilled promise of a Savior for God’s chosen people (Acts 13:23), but then he turned to the Gentiles and faced a great deal of persecution from the Jews. Paul’s straightforward message was good news to the Gentiles because they understood they were being included in God’s plan of salvation. After hearing his teaching in Antioch in Pisidia, the Gentiles wanted Paul to preach to them the next week also and Luke reported, “the next sabbath came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:44).
Paul and Barnabas’ objective in turning to the Gentiles was to fulfill God’s great commission to take Jesus’ gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:19). Their succinct explanation of the situation showed that Paul and Barnabas were only interested in doing God’s will. Speaking to the Jews in Antioch in Pisidia, Luke reported, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:46-47). Paul and Barnabas placed the blame on the Jews for their rejection of God’s free gift of salvation. The Greek word translated unworthy, axios has to do with deserving God’s blessing (G514). Although the Jews were destined for salvation, their rejection of Jesus caused them to lose the preferential treatment they previously had through the Old Covenant. According to the prophet Jeremiah, Israel will be restored at some point in the future and will serve God as they were originally intended to (Jeremiah 30:9).
Unlike Peter’s experience with the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:17-48), Paul and Barnabas’ impact on the Gentiles in Antioch in Pisidia appeared to be the result of the moving of the Holy Spirit rather than an answer to prayer. Luke said of Paul’s message of salvation, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). The expression “ordained to eternal life” indicates that “eternal life involves both human faith and divine appointment” (note on Acts 10:48). The Greek word translated ordained, tasso means “to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot)” (G5021). Tasso is associated with positions of military and civil authority over others and is used in Luke 7:8 to describe the assignment of soldiers to a particular location and activity. The centurion stated, “For I also am a man set (tasso) under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Luke 7:8). Therefore, it seems likely that God’s divine appointment of certain individuals to salvation has something to do with spiritual warfare and the orderly government of his kingdom.