But God removed and replaced

Acts 13:1-3, 9, 22-23, 46, 52 One day as the leaders of the church at Antioch of Syria were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” … Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit … But God removed Saul and replaced him with David … And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior … 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. … And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

My parents believed God was sending them to translate the Scriptures into one of the languages of a remote part of China. As they prepared to leave, China closed its doors, and in time, Mom and Dad went to Guatemala instead. I might have grown up in China instead of Guatemala!

As Dave and I prepared to move to Brazil, our mission asked us to consider Mexico instead. Our kids might have grown up in Mexico instead of Brazil!

We thought we would live out our lives in Brazil, seeing our grandchildren once or twice a year. Instead, because of Karis’s transplants, here we all are in Pittsburgh, where I see Caleb, Talita, and Liliana once or twice a week.

Turning points. This chapter is full of them—you’ll have to read the whole thing for yourself. Barnabas and Saul are sent out. They go. The governor of Cyprus believes in Jesus. Elymas the sorcerer is blinded. Saul’s name changes to Paul. John Mark leaves Paul and Barnabas and returns home (we learn later Paul took this very hard). The news about Jesus’ resurrection (But God raised him from the dead, v. 30) generates conflict in Antioch of Pisidia. Paul and Barnabas respond by turning from the Jews to the Gentiles, who accept the Gospel joyfully.

Shutterstock: Tang Yan Song

Paul preached about a different Saul, one whom a thousand years before God removed from being king. But in his own life, the arrogant Saul who once tried to destroy the church has been replaced by one who dedicates his whole being to build it up. Luke was a careful writer. I don’t think it’s accidental that Paul’s name change appears in the same chapter where he preaches about the replacement of the ancient Saul (representing the old system of law), with David, whose descendant Jesus introduced the age of grace. Continue to rely on the grace of God, Paul and Barnabas told the believers (v. 43).

What turning points have you experienced? How has your life been different because of them? Are you facing a moment of decision right now? Continue to rely on the grace of God.

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