Paul’s first sermon
Acts 13:13-43; 10/22/2023; BCBC/IOUC; Rev. Paul Wang
Paul’s first sermon accompanies Paul’s first missionary journey. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that this is Paul’s first sermon in the history of Christian missionary work. Today I will share three aspects: the priority of the gospel, the Old Testament roots of the gospel, and the rules of the gospel. Let’s look at the first point:
First come to the synagogue to preach
Why come to the synagogue to preach? Beginning in verse 13, the biblical ranking list places Paul ahead of Barnabas. At the same time, the short-term mission team left Cyprus and came to Pisidian Antioch, and Mark left the team. First, come to the synagogue. There is no historical basis for the origin of the synagogue. But, logically, the synagogue should have come into being with the captivity. When the New Testament church faced the priority of the gospel mission, it became an inevitable option for the first-generation believers to enter the synagogue to preach the gospel. It was probably Barnabas who preached in the Salamis synagogue in Cyprus, but this was not recorded by Luke. It should not be said that Paul preached better than Barnabas, so it was recorded. Because as long as it is God’s words, it is good no matter who preached. Pisidian Antioch was not Syrian Antioch. Paul and his party came from afar and were invited by the synagogue ruler to give some words of encouragement. From this, Paul began his first sermon in his life.
Second, revisit history. Paul’s preaching uses common ground and familiarity to bring people closer together. The common point is “fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God”. Just like we call each other brothers and sisters today. The point of familiarity is the shared history of God’s chosen people, Israel. Paul is saying, yes, we are all God’s chosen people. How to say this? Paul said, because “God chose our ancestors”! Not only that, God also used Moses to lead our ancestors across the Red Sea, out of Egypt, through the wilderness, into Canaan, and to possess the land! I had not noticed before that from the time the Israelites entered Canaan and took possession of the land, to the time of the prophet Samuel, there were actually four hundred and fifty years. If the Israelites suffered in Egypt for 430 years, then they experienced 450 years of being lost when they returned to Canaan until Samuel.
Finally, it ends with Saul. Why does it stop at Saul? This can be seen from the context of Paul’s sermon. We seem to be able to feel God’s emotions, as if God is saying: Enough is enough. From Jacob entering Egypt to Moses leaving Egypt, and the four hundred and fifty years after entering Canaan, plus the forty years in the wilderness, nearly a thousand years of history. During this thousand years, God did three major things: First, He killed the firstborn of Egypt. Second, he destroyed the seven tribes of Canaan, and third, he deposed Saul. This ability to scan thousands of years of history cannot be achieved by humans, but by the Holy Spirit. God cannot be mocked. What kind of historical existence was the Egyptian Pharaoh? The seven tribes of Canaan are not weak and good people. Even the Philistines who stayed behind have tormented the Israelites for hundreds of years. Let’s look at the second point:
He is the son of David
In fact, God also gave Saul an opportunity of forty years, which was enough to show that God was worthy of Saul and was full of grace for forty years. It was not until David was chosen to replace Saul that God’s everlasting covenant was promulgated again. First, a man after God’s own heart. What is the difference between Saul and David, both kings of the Israelites? In fact, there is only one thing: whether you are devoted to God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Saul had reservations about God in many things, such as offering sacrifices. He wanted to usurp the position of priest, and refused to surrender the sovereignty of his life to God until his death. Instead, David gave his whole heart to the Lord. When he learned that his son was dead, he bathed, changed clothes, and left his sorrow. In a cave in the wilderness of En-Gedi, he faced King Saul who came to pursue him. He only cut off the corners of his clothes and did not harm him. Behind all of this, David expressed his fear of God. May God help us learn to be single-minded and unique about God, that is, to put God first in our lives.
Secondly, connected to the Head, Christ. Because the Israelites were all familiar with the Davidic covenant, Paul simply declared directly: “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.” The prophet Jeremiah called the Messiah the seed of David, which means that starting from David, God put the Messiah in the hearts of the elect. The first thing a person does when he comes to Christ is to confess his sins and repent. In the New Testament era, the most concentrated sin of the Jews was their denial of Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah! Not only did they deny Jesus as Lord, but they crucified Jesus. However, Satan and the high priests of Antichrist, King Herod, and Pilate never imagined that Christ’s death for sinners was God’s plan to save the world!
Finally, the power of resurrection from the dead. To all existence’s surprise, Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead! All existence includes man, heaven and earth, angels and Satan. This is the pinnacle of God’s best creation. When Paul said this, those who were witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection and who were still alive were still alive. He said, “and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.” This is the message of the gospel, the good news, the good news of the passage from death to life. Paul declared to the Pisidian Antiochians: ”We tell you the good news.” If there are any gospel friends here today, friends who are interested in the truth, that is, friends who long for the true way of eternal life, would you like to accept my invitation today: accept the gift of eternal life prepared for you by Jesus Christ? Let’s look at the third point:
Whoever believes in Him will be saved
The Pisidian Antiochians heard Paul’s message and were eager in their hearts. They even asked Paul to continue sharing next week to learn how to believe and how to deal with Jewish laws and a series of other issues. First, Christ has the authority to forgive sins. Everyone is inseparable from sin when they are born, and everyone can realize this. It is not because we have sinned that we are called sinners by God. It is because we are sinners that we sin. Of course, it is necessary to distinguish between crime or sinful nature. Crime is something we are familiar with, the act of sin. Sinfulness is the essence of our lives. Before we say anything or do anything, our lives are filled with sin. You say you didn’t kill anyone, but Jesus will ask you if you hate anyone? You say you are not guilty of adultery, but Jesus will ask you if you have ever had lustful thoughts in your heart. Sadly, we are powerless in the face of sin. But now we hear the good news that Christ has the authority to forgive sins.
Second, the gospel trumps the law. Every Jew is descended from the Mosaic Law to this day. There is nothing wrong with the law itself. Jesus also said that everything in heaven and on earth will pass away, but not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law. The problem is that people are unable to keep the law, according to the law. If a person breaks one law, he has broken all the laws. Paul himself said: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18)” We share the same experience and understanding with Paul, that is, we are powerless before the law. But now, Paul tells us: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Finally, the grace of justification by faith. The gospel ultimately is justification by faith, which is “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)” Of course, I must point out that “believing” in the Bible is not just knowing, but believing in God. If you simply knew that there was a God, you would be no different than Satan. James said: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19)” In fact, faith is very simple. It means unconditionally committing your whole body, heart, and soul to the Lord you trust, forever!
Well, thank the Lord! Paul’s first sermon is a typical example of preaching the gospel to the Jews. If any of us want to follow the biblical gospel priority strategy in evangelizing the Jews, then this sermon can be of help to us.
Let us pray……
13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.
14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.
15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!
17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country;
18 for about forty years he endured their conduct[a] in the wilderness;
19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance.
20 All this took about 450 years. “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.
22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.
24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.
25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.
27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.
28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.
29 When they had carried out all that was written about 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 was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors
33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
“‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’[b]
34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,
“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’[c]
35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’[d]
36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.
37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
41 “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’[e]”
42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath.
43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.