The message of Jesus, what he has done and what he has accomplished has been the message of all eternity. From the moment of the fall of man, God forecasted this king that would come. And that message has gone out. And many of you who are reading this have heard the message and have embraced who Jesus Christ is. Others have heard, but do not believe. And some have yet to hear. In Acts 13, Luke has preserved for us Paul’s first recorded sermon and how the apostle Paul presented Jesus to the world. If we are going to be a church on mission, it is up to us to witness and take the gospel message to the ends of the earth so that all may know that through this man, Jesus, they can have their sins forgiven and have eternal life.
Paul: A Witness for Jesus at Antioch in Pisidia
In Acts 13:13-15, we find the setting to which Paul’s first sermon occurs: This is the second leg of Paul 1st missionary journey. They left Paphos and came Perga in Pamphylia. Here John left them and returned to Jerusalem. From Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia and on the Sabbath day, they went to the synagogue and sat down. In Paul’s day, the worship service had elements that would be universal no matter what synagogue you went to. They would quote the Shema – “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” They would have done it in Hebrew; there would have been a reading from the Law and from the prophets. And normally the custom was that someone would give a sermon or an exegesis of part of the text.
Well two visitors were there that day. And one of them, Paul, had been brought up under the tutelage of one of the greatest Jewish teachers of their day – Gamaliel. So they turn to Paul and they ask them, do you have something to say? Do you have an exhortation for the people? And Paul takes the opportunity that’s been presented and uses that platform to be a witness for Jesus. From Paul’s sermon in Acts 13, we can learn how Paul presented Jesus and discover some timeless truths about how we can be a witness of Jesus with the world.
Seize opportunities to witness
When the religious leaders invited Paul to speak, he didn’t say, “I’m new to the faith and still learning. Maybe next time I pass through, I’ll speak.” In verse 16, “Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen.” So, obviously, in a Jewish synagogue, Paul was speaking to the “men of Israel” – the Jews. But then we see the word “and” — “And you who fear God.” So, who were those who fear God? These were Gentile believers who were at the synagogue to learn more about Jesus. Normally the God-fearers would not be addressed. They sat in the back, and were not talked to. Paul addresses them particularly. He seizes the opportunity & he’s going to make the most of it. He wants everyone present to know the message is intended for them.
Creating opportunity to witness
Paul created the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time so that he could be a witness and tell the gospel message. Of course, that started by listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit and where He wanted Paul to go. Then Paul traveled hundreds of miles by foot, then boat, then by foot again across rugged, mountainous terrain and finally arrived at Antioch of Pisidia. Traveling that far took planning, effort, prayer, and sacrifice. It would require money out of Paul’s own pocket and trust in God to provide along the way. It also required a willing heart. And when you combine all this together we find Paul in a position where opportunity was created for Paul to be a witness and proclaim the gospel message to an audience of interested listeners.
Capture the opportunity to witness
There is no one way to witness and share the gospel message that is the “right way.” Sharing the gospel message is as simple as sharing Jesus. You tell them about Jesus — that’s it. Tell the good news. Be a witness to what God has done in your own heart and life. In verse 32, Paul says, “And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers.” What is the promise? We find it in verse 23: “From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus.”
To be a witness we have to tell both the Bad news and the Good news
The gospel message has both bad news and good news. The bad news we can find in Romans 3:23 which tells us that every one of us are sinners and fall short of the glory of God and Romans 6:23 which tells us that the wages of sin is death. The payment (wages) of our sin is eternal death in hell.
But the good news of the gospel message is in John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting lie. We can also see good news in Romans 6:23. After this verse tells us that the wages of our sin is death, we find the word, “but”. We deserve death “but” there is hope because the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The good news is that through this man, Jesus, we have a gift from God. Jesus paid the wages of our sin for us and gives us eternal life.
The Gift of eternal life
Eternal life is a gift from God. We can’t forget that it is a gift. We can’t earn it. And we can’t ever be good enough. There is no penance we can pay that will wipe out our sin debt. There are no prayers that will pray us out of purgatory or hell. Salvation from our sins is a gift. The minute we try to attach something we do to earn it, it ceases to be a gift. All we have to do is reach out by faith and accept God’s free gift.
Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” It is only by our faith in Jesus and who he is — the Son of God — and what He did — He died in our place, paying our sin debt for us then rose again that we can come to Him and ask Him to forgive us and save us from our sin. Faith is the hand by which we reach out and accept God’s free give of salvation.
Faith is the hand by which we reach out and accept God’s free give of salvation. — Julia Bruce, CEO, Wellspring Christian MinistriesTweet
Paul was a Witness by taking a walk through History
Paul’s 1st recorded sermon is very similar to Stephan’s. If Paul would witness to the Jews, he needed to connect all the dots of Israel’s history so they could see God at work to fulfill His promise of a Savior and that He fulfilled that promise through the man, Jesus of Nazareth. He then takes them through the major elements of Israel’s history with great intentionality, recounting their history for them with the destination already in mind – the destination is Jesus.
Beginning with verse 17, Paul starts with God, an all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God. Then at verse 21, Paul recounts Israel’s first two kings, bringing David to the forefront and he reminds them of a promise: “From your seed, from your descendants, I’m going to establish your house; I’m going to establish your throne forever. It’s going to be an eternal position; an eternal person. You may want to build me a house but I’m going to build you a sure house. He uses David – this huge point of agreement – to plant the seed which culminates with Jesus. In verse 23, Paul says, “Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.”
All of history to that point had lead up to this moment of Jesus – the Savior of the world. For Paul to be an effective witness, the people had to understand how God had orchestrated the events of history so that at the right moment and time, Jesus would step down from the glory and splendor of heaven to become the sacrificial payment for our sins and thereby extend the free gift of salvation to all who would believe in Him.
Witnesses of the Gospel Message
Now that Paul has reached his destination of Jesus – he tells about the witnesses who can testify of Jesus; to testify to the authenticity and the reality that Jesus is the Messiah and the Savior. He starts with John the Baptist and then those who put Jesus to death. They killed Jesus precisely because of his Messianic claims!” And in doing so they fulfilled the prophecies told about Him. Their condemnation of Jesus is actually a testimony to the validity of Jesus, because they were fulfilling the prophecies foretold about Jesus. The religious leaders who rejected Jesus actually become Paul’s best witness in his case for Christ – because they fulfilled to a T all that the prophecies predicted would happen.
The cross isn’t the end of the Gospel message
Verses 29- 30 then concludes: “they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead.” Jesus dying on the cross isn’t the end of the gospel message. If Jesus had stayed in the tomb, where is the good news? If he had stayed in the tomb, he would be no different than Mohammad or Buddha. They are both still in their tombs – dead. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He conquered death and rose again. As Christians, we not only have our sins forgiven and have received the gift of eternal life, but we serve a living Savior- not a dead one.
Paul then brings in his next witnesses. In Verse 31, Paul says, “and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.” These are people that are still alive as Paul is giving this address. They are the witnesses that they could go to and talk with in person and hear all about how Jesus walked with them, ate with them, and taught them for 40 days after his resurrection and before he ascended into heaven. Every prophecy, every prediction, every type and shadow – they all find their fulfillment in Jesus. So not only does history CULMINATE in Jesus, the witnesses present CONFIRM Jesus.
God is still orchestrating the events of History
Do you believe there is a divine plan behind all of history? Is God orchestrating all that happens to accomplish his purposes? Does this world really make sense to you? If you’re a believer in Jesus you understand that God is sovereign and that he is orchestrating all the events on the planet up to the coming of Jesus. But God’s sovereignty in the world’s history did not stop at Jesus’ first coming, God is still orchestrating all the events of history which are leading up to Christ’s second coming to this planet where he sets up his eternal rule forever. That is where history is going. And it’s not going there haphazardly, randomly it’s going there under the direction of a Sovereign God.
The fate of many in our world are dependent on us creating and seizing the opportunity to tell them good news of the gospel message. Go capture your opportunity today!
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