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Paul’s Sermon at Pisidia Acts 13:17-44


Paul’s Sermon at Pisidia

Acts 13:17-44

In our last study in Acts 13 we saw that Paul and Barnabas had travelled from Cyprus, where the local pro-consul had come to faith in Christ, to Pisidia.  It was another town called Antioch, but this one was in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey.  There, Paul had visited the local synagogue, and as was the custom, had been invited to give a word of encouragement or exhortation to the congregation, comprised of Jews and God-fearers. Acts 13:15  Let’s find out what he said, and what reaction it provoked!  

1 The Message.  

This is a really significant passage – it’s a sermon preached by the Apostle Paul, and the only full sermon that we have – unless of course you agree with my hypothesis that the Book of Hebrews is actually a sermon, preached by Paul and recorded by a scribe, a transcript, and if you do, then it is a worthwhile exercise to compare this sermon with Hebrews and note the similarities! Or, why not compare it with the preaching of Peter in Acts two, the main points of the sermon are very similar, and may lead us to conclude that preaching in the early church was remarkably focussed and   doctrinally well defined and analogous.  But, if you’re not going to do either of these comparisons, then look at the sermon itself:-

  • Jesus is the consummation of history!  V22 -23 You see, history is not pointless – it is going somewhere.  Last week we discovered that God is in control of everything, this week I want you to take away the truth that God is bringing history about in accordance with his pre-ordained plan.   God is working out his purpose, from the beginning to the end.  Paul reminds the Jews of this.  BUT
  • The Jews did not recognise their Messiah.  V26-27  It’s still the same.  How many people simply don’t recognise the Saviour for who he is?  Jesus is not just a healer, a teacher, the supreme example of self-sacrifice, he is the Saviour, he came into this world to seek and to save those who are lost.
  • Men, in their sinful folly rejected Jesus, and put him to death on the cross.  V28-31    
    • His death. So THEY crucified him.  What would I have done?  I can well imagine that I would have been among that mob crying out for the creator of the universe to be crucified, for it was for me, for my sins that Jesus hung there upon the tree.  He died in my place, he died because I sinned.   Jesus died because of me. 
    • His resurrection. He rose!  It was a common thread among these early preachers, and a truth confidently delivered, for there were WITNESSES!  It would be crazy for the Jews to try to disprove the resurrection, – after all if they could disprove the resurrection, they could stop the new Christian church in its tracks.  But they don’t open their mouths, because the resurrection of Christ is a provable, historical fact.
  • Jesus fulfils all the promises of the Old Testament.  V32-33   This is important for a Jewish audience.  All of the OT is fulfilled in Jesus.  Don’t keep looking for a Messiah, for he has already come.  Jesus himself said so, in John 5:39  Luke 24:25-27  
  • The coming of Christ is good news for those who are labouring under the burden of the law. V38-39 We are condemned under the law of God, and we must stand before a perfectly just judge, who will pass down the appropriate sentence for the broken law – and the wages of sin is death – eternal death.  Yet because Jesus has already paid the debt, we have forgiveness of sins, the forgiveness that we could never attain by our futile attempts to keep the law.  We are not justified by our good works, but by our faith in Christ!  Paul explains to the Romans, 5:1-2  
  • To reject Christ is to reject God, and for those who know the law, that is to come under further condemnation.  V40-41  There is a warning with every gospel message that is ever preached, for sinners sitting under the sound of the gospel will leave as those who are Christ’s or those who have rejected his mercy and grace and turned their backs on him, who will remain in their sin and stand before that judge of all men with no hope of eternity.  

What a sermon!  Let’s try to summarise the message, – In this important evangelistic sermon. Paul preaches the Law, he presents Christ, and him crucified for our sins, and raised from the dead, he extends the gospel offer of forgiveness for all who repent of their sins and trust Christ, and finally issues a stern warning to Christ rejectors.  A model sermon in every respect!

2 The Response.  v42  

There were two responses, as we would expect. There always is, for every time the gospel is preached people will respond in one way or the other.   The person who procrastinates may well be lost.  Proverbs 27:1.  2 Corinthians 6:2   We are always glad when people are interested, but we would encourage you to come to Christ while there is still time.  There is a similar split among those who were in the synagogue that day:-

  • The Enraged. In verse 42, the Jews left the synagogue, but in verse 43, we learn what happened later, after the congregation had broken up.  Some commentators are suggesting that many of the Jews in the synagogue had heard enough and had walked out during the sermon.  The Gospel always provokes a reaction – and sometimes it’s a violent one, as Paul would later find.   
  • The Persuaded.  Now the Gentile proselytes, and the God-fearers and many of the Jews, had a different reaction entirely.  
    • They wanted to hear another sermon!  They wanted Paul to return the following Sabbath, so that they may hear even more about Jesus!  What an encouraging attitude!
    • They were persuaded!  Yet see what Paul and Barnabas did, in response to their request.  They certainly would return the following week, as we shall see – but there and then ‘they persuaded them to continue in the grace of God!’  I’d like to think that right there, after demonstrating their keenness to near more of the good news, that Paul persuaded them not to wait another week, not another day, but to pursue God’s grace there and then!   They WERE persuaded!  

And that is the point. How do WE respond to the gospel? If we have never ever trusted in Jesus, now is the time, now, right here in church, is the time to trust him, and Christians, – when we hear the Gospel preached, do we realise once again what Christ has done at the cross for us, and examine our hearts, so that we may live a humble, repentant life, fully trusting in the Lord?

© Bob McEvoy September 2020

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