“PAUL PREACHES GOOD NEWS”
I want us to begin this morning by hearing from Saul of Tarsus, hereafter and forevermore known as the Apostle Paul. We’ll let him greet us this morning.
1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,
3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,
4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake,
6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ…
“…you who are the called of Jesus Christ?” If you’re a Christian, you are among the called. What does it mean that you are called? Called to what? Called for what? Let’s continue. Paul wants you to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He continues…
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
17 For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Why is this so important to Paul? There are at least three reasons.
First, God has made it clear to Paul that there is a terrible fate in store for this lost and dying world. Judgment is coming!
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Second, God has made it clear to Paul that he is to preach the good news of the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:16
16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compul-sion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.
This is precisely what Paul has been called to do. And this is what Paul will continue to do until the Lord takes him home.
Third, Paul urges us to join him in spreading the good news. This is why the church is here, isn’t it? Jesus told us to…
15b “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
So there it is! The world is lost in sin and will soon be judged. That’s the bad news. But there is salvation to be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s the good news. Paul has the good news. We have the good news. He is compelled to preach it to the world. And so are we. We are to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
As we continue our verse-by-verse study in the Book of Acts, we will be going with Paul and watching as he obeys that command, and takes hold of the Great Commission.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
That command is for all churches everywhere. And it is to be obeyed until Jesus comes to take His church out of this world and the judgment begins. In the meantime, our instructions are clear. We are to…
2 Timothy 4:2
2 …preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Titus 2:1, 15
1 …as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.
15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Biblical preaching and instructing in sound doctrine! But biblical preaching and sound doc-trine have fallen on hard times in the church today. Too much of the church is focused on other things. And while many churches grow strong in numbers, they become weak in the faith (a mile wide and an inch deep). When biblical preaching and sound doctrine are no longer the church’s number one priority, the Bible loses its prominence, its power, and its authority.
Ask yourself this: How is it that the people who claim to love God’s Word, believe it to be inerrant, and the only source of divine truth, fail to open it up and teach it? And we wonder why so many professing Christians never grow out of spiritual infancy? And we wonder why so many professing Christians fail to comprehend even the most elementary biblical truths. Why would they? How could they if they’ve never been immersed in the Scriptures.
The writer of Hebrews addresses the sad reality that though many believers know the basics of salvation, they know little or nothing of the marvelous riches of God.
11b …you have become dull of hearing.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles (the foundational truths) of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
6:1a Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity…
Paul will spend the rest of his life dispensing solid food and pressing the church on to matur-ity. That’s what we’ll see as he and Barnabas leave Cyprus and the first missionary journey continues.
In the first twelve verses of Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas had left Antioch (#7 on the map) and sailed to Barnabas’ home, the island of Cyprus (#9). In Paphos (#10) – the Roman seat of government on Cyprus – they encountered a Jewish false prophet who calling himself “Bar-Jesus,” (Son of Salvation). This Bar-Jesus, whose real name was Elymas, had been having some influence on the Roman proconsul (governor), Sergius Paulus.
When Sergius Paulus heard that Paul and Barnabas had come from Antioch with a word from God, he summoned them in order that he might hear what they had to say. Elymas was smart enough to know that if the governor heard from Paul and Barnabas, he may well lose his influence in Paphos. So Elymas sought to turn Sergius Paulus away from the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him (Elymas),
10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?
11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.
12 Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.
Elymas was silenced and Sergius Paulus came to saving faith in Christ.
We know that Sergius Paulus was an historical figure. Archaeological excavations have confirmed that. And we know that his salvation was genuine because of the extra-biblical historical evidence that testifies to the salvation of his daughter, Sergia Paula, and his grand-son, Gaius Caristanius, who later became a member of the Roman senate.
I cannot help but be reminded of one of the great truths of Scripture –
11 “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
And with that we come to the next part of Acts 13.
*Acts 13:13-41 (Please stand with me in honor of reading God’s Word.)
13 Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John (Mark) left them and returned to Jerusalem.
14 But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sab-bath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.”
16 And Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, he said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:
17 “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it.
18 “And for a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.
19 “And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distrib-uted their land as an inheritance – all of which took about four hundred and fif-ty years.
20 “And after these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.
21 “And then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
22 “And after He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, con-cerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’
23 “From the offspring of this man, according to the promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus,
24 after John (the Baptist) had proclaimed before His (Jesus’) coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
25 “And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the san-dals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
26 “Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the word of this salvation is sent out.
27 “For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him.
28 “And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed.
29 “And when they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb.
30 “But God raised Him from the dead;
31 and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people.
32 “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers,
33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have begot-ten You.’
34 “And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’
35 “Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’
36 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay;
37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.
38 “Therefore let it be known to you brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,
39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
40 “Take heed therefore, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets (OT) may not come upon you: (Paul quotes Habakkuk 1:5)
41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; for I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should de-scribe it to you.’”
In the first two verses of this morning’s text the route taken by Paul and his companions is laid out for us. They sailed approximately two hundred miles northwest from Paphos (#10 on the map), to Perga (the port city in the Roman province of Pamphylia – not numbered on the map).
From there they would have walked another hundred miles to the Antioch in Pisidia (#15).
It is helpful to note that there were no less than sixteen different Antiochs spread throughout the Roman Empire. They were named in honor of the Greek king Antiochus. But only the two cities mentioned here in the Book of Acts are ever referred to in Scripture. The first is the Antioch in Syria, from where Paul and Barnabas initially set sail, and the second is the one in Pisidia, to where they are now going with the good news.
There is one other point of interest in v. 13 that bears mentioning. “John (Mark) left them and returned to Jerusalem.” The reason for Mark’s defection is unclear. He was a young man and he may have been homesick. He may have been fearful of the troubles and perse-cutions that lay ahead of them. He may have resented Paul’s ascendancy over his cousin Barnabas. Or it may have been a combination of many different things. In any case, this isn’t the last we’ll see of Mark. We’ll hear of him again. Barnabas will take him on another missionary journey (Acts 15:39), Paul will tell Timothy that Mark, “…is useful to me for ser-vice (2 Timothy 4:11),” and Mark will pen the gospel that bears his name.
In vv. 14-15 Paul and Barnabas arrived in Pisidian Antioch and went into the synagogue to worship. The service would have begun with the “shema,” the Jewish profession of faith.
4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!
5 “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
6 “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart;
7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
8 “And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
9 “And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates.”
Then they would pray, read from the Scriptures, and teach based on the text that had just been read. It is no accident that our church service is a lot like that.
At the end of the service Paul (a student of the famous teacher Gamaliel) and Barnabas were offered the same courtesy we might extend to a visitor from a prominent seminary. The leaders of the synagogue said, and I paraphrase, “Do you have anything you’d like to say to us?” In v. 16, having been given an opportunity to speak, the Apostle Paul takes the floor. He says, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen…”
What follows is his first sermon. At least it is the first of Paul’s sermons recorded by Luke. In vv. 17-22 he reminds his hearers of the history of Israel. He tells them that God chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph for a reason. He tells them that God made a covenant with the patriarchs, and during their captivity in Egypt God grew them into a great nation.
That nation would be led out of captivity by Moses, and after forty years of wandering in the desert, would be given the land of Canaan. Paul tells them that God gave them judges until the Prophet Samuel. But the people wanted a king. And so God gave them Saul. But Saul failed miserably. So God removed Saul and raised up David.
1 Samuel 13:14 (Samuel speaking to Saul)
14 “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Him-self a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”
Why so much history? Shouldn’t Paul have been preaching the gospel? You might say that Paul’s history lesson was preparing the soil to receive the seeds. Here in Acts 13:17-22 Paul was laying the groundwork for what he intended to say next. The history of the nation of Israel was important. It was going somewhere. It was pointing to something. That some-thing was the coming of God’s Messiah to set men free from their slavery to sin.
Paul will present Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah. But first he must remind them from where they have come so that they can see how God has cared for them and brought them to this point in time – “the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4).”
This technique of reminding people of their history is not uncommon in the NT. Peter did so in his sermon in Acts 2 by quoting Moses and God’s promise to Abraham. And in Acts 7, when Stephen preached before the Sanhedrin, he reminded Israel’s religious leaders of their history from God’s calling of Abraham in Genesis 12 all the way through Jesus’ crucifixion.
Listen, if you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you are. And if you don’t know where you are, you certainly don’t know where you are going. That’s one of the main reasons why so many gospel presentations lack power. If people do not believe they are sinners, if they fail to understand that their entire life history is that of being lost in sin, they won’t have any motivation to be saved from it. “Why does this ship need so many lifeboats? Everyone knows the Titanic is unsinkable!”
Ray Comfort often uses the analogy of a disease and its cure. His point is that people have no interest in a cure for a disease that they do not believe they have. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that lost sinners can be saved from their sins. But the gospel saves no one who refuses to admit they are a lost sinner who needs to be saved from their sin.
So, in Acts 13:17-22, Paul reminds his audience of Jews and Gentile proselytes that the OT is a record of their history and God’s care for them. And in Acts 13:23-37 he will tell them that the OT has also prophesied the coming of their Messiah. Here are just a few of those prophecies. In Genesis 12:2-3 He is the descendant of Abraham. In Numbers 24:17 He is the descendant of Jacob (Israel). In Isaiah 7:14 He is “God with us.” In Isaiah 9:6 He is “Wonderful Counselor (and) Mighty God.” In 2 Samuel 7 He is the descendant of David.
It’s here, with David, that Paul connects Jesus with both the prophecies and the history.
Look at what he says in Acts 13:23 – “From the offspring of this man (David), according to the promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus.” Then in vv. 24-25 Paul speaks of John the Baptist who was prophesied by both Isaiah and Malachi.
3 A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”
Among the very last of the OT prophecies is this…
1 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger (John), and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He (Messiah) is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.
Then, after four hundred years of silence, the NT begins with this…
19 And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No!”
22 They said then to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (back to Acts 13)
Paul ties all of this together as he preaches in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. But in Acts 13:27 he says that those who were looking for their Messiah failed to recognize Him when He came to them. Rather than honor Him, they disowned Him and murdered Him.
For two thousand years the question has been, “How could they not see who He was?” The answer is simple. They were religious, but the eyes of their hearts were blinded by sin. Two thousand years later nothing has changed. If Jesus were to come today the results would be the same. Do you wonder why so many friends and loved ones do not see who Jesus is? They’re just like the Jews of Jesus’ day. The eyes of their hearts are blinded by sin.
14b “‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
15 for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I should
Years later, Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, would say…
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (back to Acts 13)
Look again at v. 30. This is the great truth – the centerpiece – of Paul’s sermon. The resur-rection is the undeniable proof of Jesus’ deity. He is alive! This is the heart of the gospel. God raised Him. And in doing so Jesus, “…was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).”
Here again Paul returns to the prophecies. In Acts 13:35 he quotes David’s great prophecy of the resurrection.
10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol (the grave); neither will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
Then Paul preached the historical fact of it.
36 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay;
37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.
With that, Paul has made his case. The Jews had buried themselves in human effort, so-called good works, piety, religion, and legalism. They thought the Mosaic Law would save them. But they didn’t understand that the Law only served to condemn them.
19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God;
20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets (the OT),
22a even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe… (back to Acts 13)
Paul concludes his sermon by reminding his hearers of one more prophecy. It is a warning. In v. 41 he quotes the Prophet Habakkuk.
41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish;
for I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’”
So the officials of the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch have asked Paul if he had anything to say to them. He certainly did! They have been given truth. But what will they do with it? Next time, in the last part of Acts 13, we’ll see what they will do with it. Somehow I don’t think you’ll be surprised.
Just as it was true in Pisidian Antioch in the first century, it is true in Lake Geneva in the twenty-first century. People can receive the truth of Jesus and be saved, or they can reject the truth of Jesus and be condemned. What will you do?
1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
2 For if the word spoken through angels (The Mosaic Law) proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense,
3a how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
How indeed? Please do not neglect the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
~ Pray ~