THEME: Paul and Barnabas go to Antioch (Pisidia). There they preach the Gospel (Good News) about Jesus and how He has fulfilled the promises of God made long ago to David. The message reaps a mixed harvest, as some believe, but they are forced to leave the city for other fertile areas.
SCRIPTURE: Acts 13: 13-52.
I. Paul and Barnabas leave Cyprus and make their way through Perga to Pisidian Antioch.
A. Last week, we left Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark at the capital of Cyprus, where the Holy Spirit had moved the proconsul to believe in the Good News about Christ Jesus.
1. Now, from some source, they decide to go to southern Galatia.
a. They were in Barnabas’ home, so they might have started for Paul’s home in what we call Turkey.
b. Or they might have started to Ephesus, only to have the Holy Spirit side track them.
c. But it looks like they were going directly to the cities of southern Galatia.
d. One possibility is that Sergius Paulus had familyconnections in Antioch Pisidian and might have urged them to go there, so that his familyfriends might also be saved.
e. For sure, they were under the supervision and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
B. From Cyprus to Perga was about 115 miles, and from Perga to Antioch in the region of Pisidia was another 100 miles further, plus Antioch was about 3600 above sea level.
C. This was a very stressful trip for the group for a couple of reasons: it seems that Paul became very ill: (Galatians 4: 13-15) “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself . . . if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.”
1. Maybe Paul suffered from an attack of malaria at Perga, a common thing in those damp lowlands. Instead of evangelizing Perga, as you would think they would have, they have to escape to the dry plateau of southern Galatia, gaining over 3,000 feet in elevation, allowing Paul to slowly recover from that dreaded disease.
2. At Perga, they also lost John Mark, who leaves them to return to Jerusalem. Later, this causes a split between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15: 36ff). Eventually, Paul and John Mark are reconciled (2 Timothy 4: 11). The loss of John Mark as a helper may have caused serious hardship on the mission.
II. Paul proclaims the Good News (Gospel) to the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia.
A. Now we come to Paul’s first sermon in Acts. We need to compare it to Peter’s sermon to Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2: 14-41) and to Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7: 1-53). Then we contrast it to Peter’s sermon to Cornelius and his Gentile group (Acts 10: 34-43) and Paul’s sermon to the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17: 22-32).
1. The key underlying idea to note in this sermon is the audience: Paul is speaking primarily to Jews – and the Gentiles in attendance (God-fearers) would have been sufficiently familiar with the Jewish history and Scriptures to be able to follow along and understand.
a. Everyone who preaches in the New Testament always takes their audience into consideration. If they are of a Jewish background, the preacher uses Old Testament prophecies and history to explain who Christ Jesus is. If they are Gentile, the preacher normally starts from a general creation standpoint, not using hardly any Scripture, but using terms and quotations his audience should recognize from secular sources.
b. This is basic to preaching: Consider your audience and start from where they are. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 are great examples.
III. The sermon’s introduction: the Old Testament preparation (vv.16-25).
A. Paul begins with the basis of God’s relationship with Israel: the promises and covenants. In a nutshell, Paul’s message is: God has kept His promises to us by sending Jesus, and if you will believe on Him and repent, you will receive salvation.
1. That message Paul preached was true in 47 AD and is true in 2010 AD. It hasn’t changed one iota! Remember: (Hebrews 13: 8) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
2. Paul gives a short history of Israel, showing how God had cared for them in spite of their rebellions and sins (sound familiar?). He blitzes through the Exodus, conquering of Canaan, and the period of the Judges to get to King David.
3. His emphasis throughout this phase is the grace of God towards Israel (and mankind).
4. Now God made promises and a covenant with David that is worth hearing: (2 Samuel 7: 11-
16) “The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your father, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
B. Having reached David, Paul jumps ahead a thousand years to the promised Savior Jesus, who was descended from David. Paul uses John the Baptist as the introduction to Jesus in his sermon as John was in real life.
IV. The sermon’s focus: the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus (vv. 26-37).
A. Paul tells the story of Jesus – obviously shortened here to concentrate on the two great saving events: His death and His resurrection. Paul demonstrates that both events were the fulfillments of prophesy in Scripture.
1. He makes sure that we understand that Jesus DIED on the cross: He did not just pass out and recover consciousness later.
2. Jesus really died on the cross to pay the penalty for not only our sins, but those of the whole human race over the course of the whole of human time. This is a most crucial point.
3. Paul’s listeners would probably have understood what the judicial punishment for sin was: (Romans 6: 23) “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
4. So Jesus had to go to the cross and be executed to fulfill the requirements of God’s justice. Jesus functioned symbolically as a lamb (without spot or blemish) that was required by God’s Mosaic Law to be slain in the place of the sinner.
5. There is a point here to take careful note of: Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life for all his earthly 33 years. His life had to be perfect to be able to become the Lamb. To just live perfectly for a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, would not have been sufficient. He had to be perfectly sinless for what could be called a whole human life. For the rest of the New Testament, Jesus will be described as a slain Lamb: (Revelation 5: 9) “For you were
slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
B. And so to PROVE (VALIDATE, CONFIRM) that Jesus was who He said He was, the Lord God resurrected Him from the grave. Jesus was placed in the grave for long enough to prove He was dead, but was resurrected because He was the true Son of God, the true Messiah, the true Savior of the world.
1. Paul lays out that this was prophesied by the prophets and the psalmists that He would be raised from the grave.
V. The sermon’s conclusion: the hearer’s choice between life and death (vv. 38-41).
A. Having brought Scripture and historical facts together, and having proved that what God foretold in prophesy had been fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, Paul comes to his appeal to the Antioch audience.
The choice is stark:
1. There is the promise of the forgiveness of sins through the crucified (sacrificed) and resurrected (confirmed) Messiah Jesus. This is indeed Good News!
2. There is the promise of justification: being declared righteous before God at the judgment. This is indeed Good News! (The law of Moses did not justify anyone, regardless of how many millions of sacrifices they brought and offered).
3. Paul issues a solemn warning to those who reject Jesus, reminding his hearers of earlier warnings by the Old Testament prophets.
4. There will be judgment (punishment – hell) for everyone who fails to put their faith in Christ Jesus.
5. There was no middle ground for Paul’s audience – and neither is there for us today.
6. Either Jesus is your Savior, or He is not.
7. Either you live for Him, or you live for Satan, the devil.
8. Either way you go, there are eternal consequences. Note that word, ETERNAL. Most of us cannot really understand what eternity is, but there is such a thing.
9. If you believe in Jesus, you have eternal life in His presence.
10. If you reject Jesus, you have eternal punishment in the VERY REAL HELL originally prepared for Satan and his spirit being followers.
11. Which one will you choose? Who will you follow?
VI. Consequences of Paul’s sermon: a mixed reaction (vv. 42-52).
A. There seems to be a time factor in the audience’s reaction to Paul’s sermon:
1. Some Jews and proselytes and God-fearers believed and were converted.
2. Some Jews and proselytes and God-fearers surrounded the two missionaries, anxious and eager to obtain further information and instruction.
B. But after a week had passed, things have changed, sadly:
1. The whole city comes to hear Paul and Barnabas again.
2. When the Jews see that their private possession (God) and salvation is to be offered to Gentiles on the basis of “faith/belief only,” they are consumed with jealousy or racial hatred for the Gentile believers and for the two preachers who brought the Good News.
C. This racial hatred had begun long ago. The first instance we see of it is in the time of Jonah the prophet, who demonstrates it in conjunction with God accepting the repentance by the citizens of Nineveh by not destroying them as Jonah had proclaimed. This attitude continues to grow and intensify.
1. We note that the Pharisees of Jesus’ time had furthered this prejudice to include not only Gentiles, but also to include any Jew who was “beneath” them socially or economically.
2. Watch Luke’s accounts of Paul’s missionary activity: You will see that anytime Paul offers God’s salvation to the Gentiles as he was commanded to do, many of the Jews react violently.
3. They considered God to be their private possession, kind of like a special “get out of hell free card” or a personal charm like a rabbit’s foot, only more so!!!!
4. This attitude towards other peoples is a repudiation of their original covenant and continual preaching by God’s prophets: (Genesis 12: 3) “. . . And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (God speaking to Abraham).
5. Paul is very concerned about this attitude and understands that God will not allow it. He knows how much it will cost his fellow Israelites (see Romans 11 especially).
D. But the Gentiles are ecstatic about being offered forgiveness and justification and salvation.
1. But the Jews are successful in persecuting Paul and Barnabas so much so that they are forced to leave Antioch.
2. But such persecutions do not stop the Good News – it is unstoppable by the Jews or their agents.
3. Paul and Barnabas just take the Good News to the next town, with good success.
The question is: How will you respond to God’s message?
Most, if not all of you have put your faith in Jesus at some time in the past.
Is it still there? Are you still walking in His way?
Or have you wandered away from Him?
If you have, you can come back: Jesus will welcome you with open arms.
But you have to turn away from the world and turn towards Him.
Today would be the perfect day to do that.
Do not let time pass you by and wind up in eternity in that Hell with Satan and his angels.
Spend eternity in eternal life with Jesus and God the Father.