Acts 13:39 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 13:39, NIV: "Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses."

Acts 13:39, ESV: "and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses."

Acts 13:39, KJV: "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."

Acts 13:39, NASB: "and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses."

Acts 13:39, NLT: "Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God--something the law of Moses could never do."

Acts 13:39, CSB: "Everyone who believes is justified through him from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses."

What does Acts 13:39 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul is speaking in a synagogue near the middle of present-day Asia Minor. His audience consists of expatriate Jews as well as Gentiles who have dedicated themselves to the Jewish religion. The basis of their culture is acknowledgement of the one true God and the following of His laws. Now, Paul is saying that law cannot save them.

Paul's entire message is about God's salvation of Israel, from slavery, hardships, homelessness, and enemies. In each case, God used men who followed Him: Moses, Joshua, the judges, and Kings Saul and David (Acts 13:16–22). The entire book of Deuteronomy speaks about how God's earthly salvation of the Jewish nation is provisional on their adherence to the Mosaic law.

Their understanding of the Savior, or Messiah, God promised fits right into this—the Messiah was to lead them in following the Law and winning independence from their enemies. John the Baptist announced that this Savior had come (Acts 13:23–25). Paul argued that the Savior was Jesus of Nazareth and showed how even His death and resurrection bore witness to His identity (Acts 13:26–37).

Paul is asking these good people to turn their assumptions about Messiah backwards: to believe the Messiah died. Israel is not independent from Rome. The Mosaic law would have been essential to maintain the cultural cohesion of a people that is regularly exiled, up to and including the diaspora that led to a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. Now, Paul wants them to believe that the Messiah rose again, that political independence is still in their future, but right now He offers forgiveness of sins.

What they don't quite understand is that sacrifices never saved apart from faith (Romans 3:27–28). Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob may have periodically performed sacrifices, but they were saved because they had faith in God's promises to them (Hebrews 11:1–22). As Paul speaks, the ark of the covenant has been lost for centuries. The veil was torn decades ago (Matthew 27:51). And in a few more decades, Rome will sack Jerusalem, burn the temple, and exile the Jews. It will not be possible for the Jews to fulfill the law, and it still isn't today. We all—Jew and Gentiles—need the Savior.