In our last study, we saw Paul at the beginning of his missionary journeys. As he crossed the island of Cyprus, he preached the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. He also demonstrated the power of God during his time on Cyprus and the Gentile proconsul of Cyprus became a believer.
Paul and Barnabas sailed from Cyprus to the mainland port city of Perga in Pamphylia. That’s where John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas traveled many miles inland to the city of Antioch in Pisidia and, as was their custom, they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. After the traditional reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue invited Paul and Barnabas to share a “word of exhortation for the people.” (Acts 13:15) Paul stood up and explained the history of God’s salvation to Israel, beginning in Egypt. When Paul reached the point where God raised up David to be King of Israel, he said these words about Jesus.
“From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.’ Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: ‘Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.'” Acts 13:23-41
Jews understood the power of what Paul was claiming about Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Messiah and King of Israel – the Holy One of Israel. Paul also told them that the Law of Moses could not save them. They could experience forgiveness of sins only through the Name of Jesus the Savior.
What you just read from Acts 13 is Paul’s first recorded lengthy sermon. We know from Acts 9:20 that Paul preached that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, but the Holy Spirit did not inspire Luke to record the specific words of Paul’s sermons. We know from Acts 9:29 that Paul spoke boldly in the Name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but Luke does record the bold words of Paul. We know from Acts 11:26 that Paul spent a year teaching at the Church in Antioch, but Luke does not record those lessons for us to read. We know from Acts 13:5 that Paul preached the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews on Cyprus, but Luke does not tell us what Paul’s words were.
That’s the reason Acts 13:16-41 is so important to a student of apologetics. It is the first time the Holy Spirit tells us the specific words Paul preached about Jesus. Some have called Paul’s sermon in Antioch in Pisidia an amazing “history” lesson about God’s dealings with Israel – and it is that – but it is so much more. It presents clearly from the beginning of Paul’s missionary journeys what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to preach. It’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit called Paul to a specific work and that He would give Paul the words to speak.
Paul preached this sermon and ones like it multiple times. Why? Because, as he said, it is the Word of salvation to everyone who believed. Paul proved that over and over again throughout his ministry. Look at what he told the Jews in Antioch in Pisidia – “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Paul was giving to Jesus something the Jews believed only God could do – forgive their sins, justify them, and save them.
Do you know of anytime in Paul’s ministry where that message changed? Was there ever a time in Paul’s ministry where he said forgiveness of sins came through someone or something else – instead of Jesus? Was there ever a time when Paul preached that people could be justified from all things by the Law of Moses – instead of Jesus? Did he?
We’ll see in the next part of our study.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”