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"The Message of the Promise"
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
August 13, 2008
Theme: In this passage, Luke preserves for us the details of the gospel of salvation—"to the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
This portion of Acts continues the story of Paul's first missionary journey. The last portion ended with the sad departure of John Mark back to Jerusalem—after the challenging events that the team experienced in Cyprus (vv. 4-12).
The value of this passage is great. It not only gives us the content of the message of the gospel that Paul preached to the Jewish people in the places he visited; but also gives us a model for declaring the message of the gospel for our time as well. It also shows us what the responses to the Spirit-empowered preaching of the gospel would be in much of the rest of Acts—and in our own day as well.
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I. THE INVITATION TO SPEAK THE MESSAGE (vv. 14-15).
A. The Arrival to Pisidian Antioch (v. 14). Having arrived at the coastal town of Perga, the team made its way north into Pisidia; and arrived at the city of (Pisidian) Antioch. As was Paul's regular pattern, he and his co-workers first preached the gospel to the Jews in the synagogues. This is in keeping with Paul's emphasis that the message of the gospel was always "to the Jew first" (Romans 1:16).
B. The Welcome into The Synagogue (v. 15). It was customary for a recognized visiting teacher (as Paul was, being a Pharisee) to be allowed to give a word of exhortation to the people; and so, the team of Paul and Barnabas were given the invitation: "Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on." What an invitation! Note here that the presentation of the gospel was not forced, but was invited. When God opens a door, it's easy to enter.
II. THE MESSAGE SPOKEN (vv. 16-41).
A. The Recipients Declared (v. 16). Note here that Paul is the first one to speak. He is increasingly given the prominence in the missionary work. He stood, motioned with his hands, and declared his audience: "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen . . ." It was not only for the Jew, but also for the Gentile.
B. The Foundation Laid (vv. 17-23). Paul was careful to demonstrate that the message of the gospel was not something new or alien to God's work in the past. There was nothing about the gospel that was contrary to the Old Testament promises. Rather, it is the complete fulfillment of those promises. Paul began by outlining the work of God in preserving and protecting that nation through which the promise would be kept; beginning with the choosing of the nation (v. 17), its deliverance from bondage in Egypt (v. 17), its preservation through the wilderness (v. 18), its conquest over the surrounding nations of Canaan (v. 19), its settling into the land (v. 19), its rule by judges until the time of Samuel (v. 20), the rise and setting aside of King Saul (vv. 21-22), and its establishment of King David (vv. 22-23) through whom the promise of the Messiah would be kept. Underlying the Old Testament story was the promise of the Messiah's coming.
C. The Fulfillment Announced (vv. 24-37). Having identified the Messiah as Jesus, Paul then goes on to establish the fulfillment of the promise in those times. He speaks of the ministry of John the Baptist of baptizing for repentance and of announcing the coming of the Christ (vv. 24-25). Paul then—in a bold stroke—announces that this 'word of salvation' was now being announced to those who then heard him (v. 26). He speaks of how the Jewish leaders, who knew the promises of Scripture, fulfilled them by crucifying and burying the Christ (vv. 27-29), whom God had then raised from the dead (vv. 30-31; again, note how central the resurrection is to the gospel). Paul asserts that Jesus' resurrection was something eyewitnesses saw (v. 31); and that the fulfillment of the promise is now being declared as that which is according to the Scriptures (vv. 33- 37; see also Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 55:3; Psalm 16:10). Paul takes great pains to show that the Old Testament promises could not have been applied to David, but must have had application to One who would come from him. Thus, Paul is careful to show that the message of the gospel of Christ is the fulfillment of the promises made to the Jewish forefathers.
D. The Response Called For (vv. 38-41). Now; having presented the gospel, Paul bravely calls for a response. He asserts the significance of this message: that Jesus' death was for the forgiveness of sins; and for the justification of those who believe, who could not be made justified by the law (vv. 38-39). He then issues a warning that the invitation of the gospel not be rejected—lest the warning of the prophets (Hab. 1:5) become true for those who then heard (vv. 40-41).
III. THE RESPONSES TO THE MESSAGE (vv. 42-52).
A. The Jews' Rejection (vv. 42-47). The Gentiles within the synagogue immediately respond with enthusiasm—asking that these things would be expounded further the next Sabbath. Not only this, but many of the Jews and their proselytes responded favorably (vv. 42-43). But on the next sabbath—when the whole city turned out to hear more—the Jewish leaders were filled with envy; and "contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul" (v. 44-45). Paul and Barnabas affirmed that the gospel was first necessary to speak to them; but then they departed and took the rejected message to the Gentiles (v. 46) in fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6 (v. 47).
B. The Gentiles' Reception (vv. 48-49). In contrast to the Jewish rejection of the gospel, the Gentile rejection was wonderful and clearly a work of the Spirit. They rejoiced that the rejected gospel was now being offered to them. They glorified the word of the Lord that the Jewish people had not received. And in a wonderful expression of the sovereignty of God, we're told that "as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (v. 48). What's more, the message continued to spread throughout the region (v. 49).
C. The Messengers' Departure (vv. 50-52). The Jews stirred up the prominent citizens of the city (here called "devout"; but it's understood that they were devoted to Judaism); who raised up severe persecution against the missionaries—driving them out of the region (v. 50). Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet—in obedience to the Lord's command in Matthew 10:14—and moved southeasterly to Iconium (v. 51). But they left having seen the Holy Spirit work greatly; because we're told that "the disciples [i.e., those left in Pisidian Antioch] were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (v. 52).