Read: Acts 13:13-52
Paul takes center stage now. It’s exciting to see how God has transformed his life in a relatively short period of time, but don’t miss the fact that time was invested. Yes, Paul’s transformation is remarkable, but it took some years of dirty sandals, face-to-face conversations, actual hands-on ministry to completely shape his complete understanding of the gospel message we will hear him preach from this point forward. We can’t skip this step!
One of the phrases I’m working hard to erase from my vocabulary is “spending time” on _______. I’m not spending time, you’re not spending time, you are investing time. Check yourself when you say, “I spent yesterday doing…” We need to be incredibly wise stewards of the one resource we all have in common: time.
Off the soapbox, Dave, write the blog!
The events in Antioch of Pisidia are nothing short of amazing. To begin with we see a group gathered in a synagogue on the Sabbath as expected. They read from the scrolls from Moses and the Prophets, then hand the mic to Paul with an open invitation to preach:
if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak. Acts 13:15
In verses 17 through 26 Paul summarizes what we call the Old Testament in a mere sixty seconds, highlighting key events that shaped and led John the Baptist to preach repentance and set the stage for Jesus. Those in attendance are now eager to hear what Paul has to say because he demonstrated intimate concern for their background, the difficult road that they had traversed, and the history that shaped who they are as a people.
Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. Acts 13:26
Notice Paul includes the “God-fearing Gentiles” in his sermon. Apparently, this was a multicultural gathering, something that could not have been common at that time. Paul is inclusive in a day and age that was not. Sound familiar?
Paul brought it right back to them, somewhat indirect, but the arrow is pointed directly at their hearts:
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. Acts 13:27
Right here, in the synagogue, we just read from the Law and the Prophets, but they didn’t recognize that which they were waiting for all these years. They had developed the habit of coming to the synagogue and listening without hearing, seeing with blind eyes.
Nominal Christians. I came across this term quite some time ago while taking a class on Perspectives. It really didn’t profoundly impact me as it should have. This is our wake up call, a time to move from wearing a title of Christian to being Christ-like.
Paul continues to cite psalms and the prophets as he draws the conclusion that we all know so well.
Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39
His words are kind, yet powerful. Direct, yet considerate. We have now heard the gospel, it is time to respond. Paul does not leave them without a warning. Unafraid he gives them one last nudge to respond to the gospel. The result: people are stirred to action. They want to hear more, learn what they’ve missed.
The weekly gathering comes to a close with much anticipation about the following week. People went home, back to work, their lives were changed, but they didn’t sell everything to follow Paul. My belief is this would have been less effective. I think they went home and told their friends, their neighbors, their relatives about what they had learned. They evangelized without knowing they were evangelists.
Here’s an amazing statement, don’t miss this:
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. Acts 13:44
The WHOLE CITY gathered! Seriously! This IS possible even today. With our fingers on keyboards, smartphones, tablets, digital media provides a vehicle that can, in fact, reach an entire city at one time. Crazy!
The religious right begins to make accusations, as expected. Their ivory towers are threatened and they respond as they have been responding since John the Baptist preached repentance.
It’s interesting, even humorous, that the Jewish leaders incite the women (and the men) to stir up persecution.
But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. Acts 13:50
In an age where women were considered property, they attempted to use them to discredit the gospel message. The disciples shook the dust off of their sandals in their direction and moved on to continue their mission.
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52
This is such an amazing story, a time of great enthusiasm. There are stories like this being told this month, this year, in this decade. I absolutely believe that when the gospel is preached with this power, lives will be changed.
It takes all kinds of people to fulfill the mission: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers — each performing their role with excellence. I pray we will pray for discernment and understanding of how we each play a part in this incredible journey.