Paul’s First Missionary Journey Continues
We Tell You The Good News
By Timothy Lopez
Key Verse 13:26
“Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.”
As we’ve been traveling along with Paul on his first missionary journey. I’d like for us to review where Paul has been so far up to where we are currently in this passage. In verse 4, the Holy Spirit sends Paul and Barnabas from Antioch on their way to Seleucia. In verse 5 they sailed to Cyprus. Then starting from Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God all throughout this island until they came to Paphos, where they met the sorcerer Elymas, and where Sergius Paulus, an attendant of the proconsul received the gospel. Today’s passage starts with verse 13, which informs us that they sailed North to Perga in Pamphilia, and from there they travel further North to Antioch in Pisidia. So we’ve went to Antioch, Syria, to Antioch Pisidia.
Let’s read verse 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.” Wouldn’t it be interesting if we had this same practice in our church? What if after reading scripture, we looked for the new comers in the audience and extended a friendly invite to come up here and give the Sunday message. For this to work correctly, we should probably have a sign that says “Guests, please sit in front!” When they ask, “Why do you want us all in the front?” We’d reply, “Oh don’t worry, you’ll find out shortly.” But in reality, it was customary for the leaders of the synagogue, to reverently conduct the reading of the Law and the Prophets, after of which they would personally ask the any visiting Brothers for a word of exhortation. They wanted to hear an earnest word of encouragement, an appeal, perhaps a word of comfort. So, Paul didn’t visit synagogues expecting to disrupt the service to share the gospel. He probably anticipated that he would be offered a chance to speak.
So, in these next set of verses we have what looks to be Paul’s first recorded sermon, here in Pisidian Antioch. And what a sermon it is. When you look at it, he speaks about the history of Israel. But he speaks of it in way that makes it is mostly about God. Count how many times Paul mentions God doing something. Verse 17, God chose, and he made prosper, he led, verse 18, He endured and cared for, verse 19 He overthrew. There’s nothing here about Israel’s deeds, nor of Moses’, nor the deeds of the devil. It’s a message full of “God deeds” all the way down to verse 23, where He finally brings to Israel their deliverer, the promised Savior Jesus. This message that Paul is proclaiming is not just history but it’s his story— God’s story. In fact all of history is God’s story. It is a spiritually healthy thing when you can look back on your life and vividly see just a bunch of “God’s deeds” in your own life— when our story, is really God’s story— when we can see our battles as God’s battles— when we can see our victories as God’s victories. And ultimately see God’s deliverance over our whole life. Therefore, this message that Paul is proclaiming, this message of exhortation, is a message of deliverance. Paul came to them with a message proclaiming freedom. It’s about God the deliverer. So I hope you came today to encounter God the deliverer, because this message is for you.
Look at verses 20–22. Here we see that Israel was led by judges, up until the time of the prophet Samuel. That was when they asked God for a king. Yes God does honor their request but it most certainly wasn’t a good request. Do you remember why Israel asked Samuel for a king? God was there King. He was their Father and deliverer. What happened? They said in 1st Samuel Chapter 8 that they wanted a king so that they can be like the other nations. Now why in the world would they want to do that. Out of all that God had done for them they were still jealous, looking at what the other nations had. Whatever God gives us, even if it seems lousy to our untrained spiritual eyes, we should be content and say thank you. We should rejoice in the gifts and promises of God. What is the gift or promise that you are rejoicing in today? Out of all the things He’s done, there should be at least one of his blessings that fills your heart. Sometimes, from a distance, we Christians may not look as if we have anything. Some may not have materials and wealth. Some may not have health. Some may not have a good reputation. But truly, it is far better to have God and have nothing, than to have what we want and can’t see Him moving in our lives anymore. Sometimes the simple life, is God’s great wisdom for us. Sometimes it’s good for us to take a time of retreat, without all the distractions, to reflect and listen to the voice of God for a while. It is usually when we can no longer see the deeds of His grace— that’s usually when we say I need a little bit more. I want what the world has to offer.
In asking for a king, Israel had forgotten all the things that Paul spoke of in his sermon. Again, their eyes were looking to the things the other nations had. They looked around and saw that the other nations were organized. They had armies, wealth, nobles and governors. Their people had welfare and social security. They just looked like they were ready for anything. But God did not want them to look like the other nations. Of course a lot of those things aren’t necessarily bad in themselves. But God did not want them looking at those other nations with a jealous eye. In fact, God did not choose them to look like the other nations. He chose them to be set apart for himself. God didn’t use his mighty power to deliver them out of Egypt so that they can just be another nation. They were to be utterly different from the world in every way. They were to be so different that that other nations were to look at them and wonder about this God whom they love and worship. Israel was supposed to be a light to the other nations. In comparison between them and the other nations, the difference was supposed to be like night and day. They were to show the others what a nation under God looks like. When the nations looked at them they were to see a loving God who takes care of his people like a Father, who disciplines them, and protects them, and most of all a God who saves them as they honor and worship Him. They were to be set apart so that they might lead the rest of the world back to God— who is the Lord of all the Earth. But instead Israel said, “No!, we want to be like all the other nations.”
May God forgive us and daily purify us from such unholy desires. For many times we also tell God, “No! I want to lead my own life, so I can be like the people at work, like my friends at school, like the people on the TV.” But they are supposed to look at us, and see someone completely different than them. They are to see someone set apart, called from out of this world. Sometimes church people justify their motives, saying things like “we compromise this or that for the sake of evangelism, so that we can reach more people. I need to be this way to reach them.” But after we’ve compromised our faith, terrible things happen to us. Many times we no longer have a conscience nor the heavenly authority to rescue even one soul from Satan’s grasp anymore. Sometimes we think we need a little more security. We make almost every excuse under the Sun to not trust God. We say we love God. We say we believe in Him. But we want a little more than what He’s already given us. May the Lord revive in us the desire to be different than the world. May God make us to be the salt and light of the world once again.
Going back to verses 20-22. We’re reminded that God removed Saul. Why did He do this? We can say that it was because he took it upon himself to offer the sacred offering of God, which was supposed to be offered by the Prophet Samuel. We could also say he had defied God’s orders for the nation and for worship. He had also pushed aside Samuel’s role as God’s prophet, his mouth piece to the nation. We could give a ton of reasons as to why he did this. But what I want us to realize here is the fact that God actually removed him. God put Saul there, and then God took him down. Not just this king, but the Bible teaches us that God is in authority over the all kings of the earth. Daniel 2:21 says: “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises them up.” Daniel 4:32 also says: “…the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Therefore, God himself took down Saul, and found himself another king. He found another, one named David, a man after God’s own heart. And no one in all of Israel could see this coming. Not even Samuel knew it. God goes out and finds a little shepherd boy, who plays his harp, writes his poems, plays with his sling shot— and God says “This is the new king of Israel”. No one in all Israel would have chosen him. Part of the reason God did it was because He is God and He can choose anyone he wishes.
But let’s see what else he tells us about why God choose David. Let’s read verse 22 together. “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.’” It wasn’t David’s music ability, and it wasn’t David’s charm and good looks! It wasn’t his ability to fight and win wars. When we read about his life, there’s no doubt that he had many talents. But the one supreme reason he was chosen was that he obeyed God in love. We can’t do one without the other. We can’t be after God’s own heart and then live in disobedience. They are one in the same. But keep in mind that when you look at David, he still had many sins made many mistakes. We might think, “But how can a sinful man, be a man after God’s own heart.” But the truth is that despite his sinfulness— the sinfulness that we all have— he really loved God which ultimately led him to obey. And this was his greatness. When God called out his sin, he was quick to repent. When God disciplined him, he was quick to humble himself and to say: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalm 51:1-3) David had the faith that God forgives the sins of those who repent and trust the mercy of God. More than that, he accepted God’s discipline however it came. He was desperate for God to help him be cleansed from within. For he trusted God’s love enough to let God cleanse his sin. Why? Because he truly wanted to see God glorified, even if it meant himself being humbled. David had many qualities. But the one quality that qualified him was his obedient faith. God was so pleased with him that He promised that from this man, He would send forth the Savior of the world.
Let’s read verse 23. “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.” Out of all of Jesse’s sons, it was David who was chosen. Even with his faults, David’s life had the fragrance of Christ. For we know that the Christ, was also a man after the heart of God, one who obeyed God perfectly. God desires this for our lives as well. It’s not enough that we should just be saved, and stop there only waiting to go to heaven. But we should strive to be more and more like his Son. We shouldn’t be content until we grow in the image of the Christ as the Lord wants us to. Our destiny and end is to be like Him in every way. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Rom 8:29) Although the image of Christ is beyond description, there is that one image that God desired most in David and passed down to Christ— that is obedience. Our Lord Jesus obeyed fully the will of God for his life. Even to the point of a deserted, lonely, death on the cross. All because Christ was after God’s own heart. The heart of God wanted to deliver us. God single-handedly brought about his promise in sending us his one and only Son. Jesus didn’t come on his own. It was God who brought him to us in fulfillment to his own promise. Since God first made this promise, he worked all throughout the ages, making preparations so that everything would be ready to bring the Savior to the World.
Read verses 24 & 25. “Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 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.’” We remember Jesus’ words about John the Baptist when he said of him: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” (Mat 11:11) John was a powerful man. When Msn. Moses preached about truth and authority, if there was any one of us who came the closest to being completely truthful and possessing great authority it was John. Yet he used his power and authority to point to Christ. God gave him all that, and he used it to ready God’s people for the Lamb of God. He was truly great. Yet even John says, “But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (verse 25) What did he mean? He meant that Jesus is the greatest gift that this world had ever and would ever see. He is the Savior of the world. But still in this case, we know that God provided John the Baptist as a witness to Christ. A man who came in the spirit of Elijah, to call a nation to repentance; such was the man John. In other words, God spared no expense in declaring to his people the arrival of their Savior. He spared nothing to announce the fulfillment of his ages-old promise. He provided a witness of enormous qualifications as if to say: “Your Savior is here, listen to him, follow him.” God sent a witness to show us the way to repentance and to faith. Now, every human being will have a chance to believe.
Read verse 26. “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.” When God spared no expense to send a Savior to his people, how did they respond to this marvelous grace? Look at verses 26–31. Paul recounts for us the story of Jesus’ rejection, capture, trial, condemnation, crucifixion, and final resurrection. It was so unreasonable what they did to the promised Savior. They had no grounds for condemning Jesus. Yet Jesus never resisted, never objected, didn’t argue nor fight back. Rather he surrendered. Why? Because he understood his Father’s heart. It was his Father’s will that he submit to death for the sins of the world. The death of Jesus looked like a terrible tragedy and worst kind of injustice done to an innocent man. But Paul didn’t see it this way. In his sermon Paul recognized the hand of God. He said that it was God’s will and prophesy being fulfilled. God had intended this to happed for a reason. Therefore, it was no tragedy, but a great victory for God and for God’s purpose and for God’s people. And for that reason, this story becomes the story we love to sing about: “I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love”
Look at verse 32-33. “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors, he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.” Why is this good news? What’s so good about it? It’s good news because in it we find all the elements that defeat the darkness of this world. It’s good news because we see that our God is a faithful God. He fulfills every promise he makes. God promised to send a Savior and he did. It’s always good news to know that when we accept a promise of God in our hearts, God is faithful and we know he will fulfill it. It’s good news because the message of Jesus’ death brought with it God’s forgiveness of sin as well as a deliverance from sin. It’s also good news because the message of Jesus’ resurrection brought with it a message of a new life for those who are delivered from sin. That’s the good news! Deliverance! We were chained to our sin and our guilt, and an empty way of life. Apostle Peter tells us the same things. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Jesus is the good news who came to us to grant us repentance and faith which leads to a new life and a new hope. There is no better news than that. Whatever we are chained to we can find deliverance from through Christ. And may we like David be men and women after God’s own heart, men and women of obedience and faith, to be set apart different from the world, a people who can be an inspiration for the world to know our Loving God.