The author Luke wants us to learn particular things. Right up front in Luke 1, he wants us to have certainty concerning the things we have been taught.
We reach the stage in our studies in the Book of Acts where the Gospel – the Christian News – is about to go global. Acts 10 – 12, at first glance, appears to be a diversion where Saul, who was to become the apostle Paul was converted dramatically in Ac 9 on the road to Damascus. One might expect the author of Acts to move straight from Saul’s conversion to the start of Acts 13 & the first Missionary Journey.
These 3 chapters (Acts 10 – 12) provide a detailed description of:
· The first Gentile convert
· The first Gentile church
· The second Christian martyr
However, these 3 chapters are not a diversion, but rather sets out the genuine hallmarks of true Christian Mission, at the very point that the Gospel is about to go global. So that we have a barometer, a measure, a Gold standard to hold up against Christian Mission in order to see what Christian Mission really looks like, before the Gospel goes global and to the ends of the earth.
Gospel Mission (Acts 13:1-12)
It is this first Gentile church in the city of Antioch, that the Christian Gospel was first proclaimed to out & out pagans – non-Jews. Dr Luke has deliberately singled out the work in Antioch to show us how the Gospel advances across the Mediterranean & into Rome. It is a “spring board” church!
We find the church grounded by a team of Bible teachers & prophets in this great, global city (Acts 13:1).
But this church is also a visionary church (Acts 13:2).
This is how God operates. This is what Luke wants us to see: ordinary Christians from Jerusalem preached the Gospel in Antioch and God assembles & establishes people in a church. He teaches. As that church is taught, so the church develops a Gospel vision & the Gospel is driven forward. This church sends 2 of its best men on Christian Mission to advance the Gospel in the direction of Rome. All these are directed by God, he establishes the church, he shapes the church & its vision, and he enables it – this sacrificial, selfless act – all the way through.
Gospel Message (Acts 13:13-43)
Paul’s sermon breaks into 2 parts. Part 1 runs from Acts 13:17-25 & Part 2 Acts 17:26-37 & the sermon concludes in Acts 13:38, 39.
It is extraordinarily important to note that the sermon is rooted in fulfillment (Acts 13:23-25, 27, 29, 32-33).
The major point is that God’s promised King would rule over his people, freeing them to enjoy his blessings forever.
Part 2 of the sermon concludes with 3 direct quotes from the second half of the Old Testament – the Psalms & the Prophets. The theme again of each of these quotes is Kingship. And the point is that the Davidic King who was promised to reign, is to reign eternally. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that he is this everlasting King.
The Old Testament provides the interpretative grid for Jesus which is seen in Acts 13. It enables us to make sense of him. So the grid of this sermon is fulfillment & Luke who writes wants us to know for certain and Jesus fits like a piece of puzzle & the final piece makes sense of the whole thing.
The preaching of Paul is centered on Jesus Christ. We have the first sermon of Peter in Acts 2 & it’s all about Jesus & here we have the first recorded sermon of Paul & it’s all about Jesus - God’s universal ruler, your King & mine. We can be sure of it because he has fulfilled the promises of history. God is defined for us in Jesus, the Jesus of history.
Everyone who believes in Jesus is justified from everything from which you could not be justified or freed by the law of Moses. The law of Moses is glorious, but the law of Moses expounds the holiness of God, tells us what’s God like. As you see what’s God like, you begin to realize you just don’t measure up.
Furthermore, God is just & he insists that justice is done, he has to deal rightly with sin. And so the law of Moses traps us & is like a great weight on us – because we know how wonderful God is: he’s pure, just, holy, good, true. He hates all the things that we so often do & think. And we know that he is just and that he must punish sin. But by this man Jesus has died on the cross for sin, & risen from the grave triumphant – we can be justified, forgiven, freed from all the things we cannot be justified, forgiven, freed through the law of Moses - salvation.
The Heart of the Christian Message, the Christian offer, the Christian faith is summarized in Acts 13:38, 39.
Those who scoff at God will certainly perish which is a word of judgment. (Acts 13:40,41).
Gospel Advance (Acts 13: 44 – 14:7)
As the Gospel starts to spread out from Israel & to the ends of the earth, Luke wants us to be certain of the content of Christian preaching but also to see the way in which this Gospel advances.
How the Gospel advances:
- In the context of hostile opposition. The Jews were motivated by jealousy because of the vast crowd & they appear to use 3 methods to oppose Paul & Barnabas:
- Verbal abuse
- Political manipulation
- Physical force
Myth 1 You can’t have Gospel advance without opposition. Jesus didn’t. The early church didn’t. We wouldn’t.
- Through the means of persistent
& vigorous proclamation. You can’t have Gospel advance without verbal
declaration of the Gospel. Myth 2
The idea that the Gospel can advance without somebody speaking it.
- Through the deepest possible persuasion or conviction. Myth 3 that you can have forgiveness of sins yourself without embracing the reality that this forgiveness of sins in Jesus is for everybody. The fulfillment of the Gospel means the Gospel must now be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Those who now come to Christ are part of his work of making Christ known – this light for the world (Acts 13:47).
Gospel Encounters (Acts 14:8 - 20)
Luke wants us to get hold of is that as the Gospel advances, frequently it will do so in the face of pagan superstition.
In the full-fledged form of paganism, the world is made up of what appears to be random, unpredictable events. Men & women, partly out of fear, partly due to ignorance, wanting some sort of order, some sort of meaning, some sort of control for their own benefit seek to manipulate the gods to show favour, who they understand to be very distant & capricious. Therefore, the gods need to be kept happy by making several different sacrifices.
Christians also may secretly have a pagan view of God - capricious, not good, moody - good one minute, bad the next – seeking to similarly manipulate him. Good news of the Christian Gospel liberates us from pagan superstition.
What Paul does is to proclaim to the crowd the application of the Gospel. They already heard the Gospel (Acts 14:6-8). 3 simple points that Paul makes:
- There is a living God: God incarnate & resurrection proof;
- The living God is all powerful Ac 14:15 resurrection demonstrated he’s above & beyond the law of nature he created;
- The all powerful living God is good Ac 14:16 He is good, kind, generous and not far away with you having to please him with your sacrifice to get him in a good mood.
Gospel Product (Acts 14:19 - 28)
The result of Christian preaching is the establishing of Christian church as a community of men & women gathered together, not buildings or institutions. These are centers of light & truth proclaiming Gospel to those around.
The center of Christian churches – the teaching of Jesus Christ.
The word ‘plant’ is never used in relation to church. The seed of God’s Word is planted and the church is built (by teaching, strengthening, visits, re-visits).
Paul & Barnabas taught the believers (giving them the means to instruct one another from the scriptures), they appointed elders (within their own congregations, not from outside), they trusted God (no meddling) (Acts 14:22,23). There was no centralizing manager seeking to control, control, control.
Paul was not interested in getting you to the starting line. Paul had his eye on the finish – strengthened in the faith: secure, mature, solid Christian disciples.