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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Acts 13:13-43 - An encouraging sermon

We can see from this passage that Paul has become the leader of the team. Whether or not that had something to do with John Mark, the relation of Barnabas, returning home cannot be assumed from this change between the relationships of Paul and Barnabas. Maybe it was a combination of factors. We know that Paul did not want to take Mark with him on the next missionary journey and that caused a separation between Paul and Barnabas.

The departure of Mark did not reduce the determination of Paul and Barnabas to continue with their God-given and Holy Spirit-guided mission. Luke passes over the details of what took place in some locations and now focuses on a sermon that Paul preached in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia. The synagogue rulers wanted to hear a message of encouragement, which is a good description of one function of a sermon.

Paul was ready to speak, which is an indication that he wanted to do so. It was his desire to speak about Jesus whenever an opportunity arose. His sermon began by focussing on how God had promised that a Saviour would come to Israel from the line of David, and that Saviour was Jesus. Moreover God had sent to Israel a preacher (John the Baptist) who called the people to repentance as preparation for the coming of Jesus.

In verse 26, Paul informs them that God has sent the message of salvation to Israel. The Jews in Jerusalem had failed to recognize who Jesus was and had arranged for him to be executed because they did not understand the message of the prophets. Yet despite their wrong response, God still wanted Israel to understand what had happened to the Messiah. Paul therefore explained that the death and resurrection of Jesus were fulfilments of prophecy.

Having given his explanation, Paul then offered to his hearers the forgiveness of their sins through faith in Jesus. He also warned them not to dismiss his message. Perhaps he was seeing two responses in their faces – one response showed interest and the other response showed contempt.

The sermon was followed by discussions with many of the listeners who wanted to know more. Paul and Barnabas realised that perhaps God was commencing a large work of grace there, although the proof would be that the people continued in it. They would find out soon.

It is obvious from Paul’s sermon that he referred to Old Testament passages when speaking to those who knew what the Old Testament said. His listeners accepted the authority of the Old Testament even if some of them would have disputed his explanation. In a sense, the service in the synagogue was very like our church gatherings, which are under the authority of the Bible and where aspects of the gospel of Jesus are explained in a way that demands a response of faith and repentance.

The synagogue rulers wanted a sermon that would encourage the gathering. Clearly some of the Jews and the Gentiles who had become converts to Judaism found the message of deliverance through the arrival of the Messiah very encouraging. No doubt Paul and Barnabas were encouraged as well. And we should be encouraged when we see people responding to gospel messages about Jesus.

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