The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
PAUL'S MESSAGE AT ANTIOCH IN PISIDIA
- This was the apostle Paul's first missionary journey. Barnabas went with him, and so did John Mark, Barnabas' nephew (cf. 12:25; 13:2-5).
- They were in Paphos, and Acts 13:13 says, "Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem."
- The Bible does not say why John Mark departed, but it does say his departure created a conflict between Paul and Barnabas (cf. 15:36-41).
- Eventually, John Mark was restored to fellowship with Paul. Years later, Paul wrote, "Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee; he is profitable to me for the ministry" (II Timothy 4:11).
- Furthermore, John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.
- Acts 13:14 says that when Paul and Barnabas left Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. Antioch in Pisidia should not be confused with Antioch in Syria (cf. 13:1). Antioch in Pisidia was north of Antioch in Syria.
- Pisidia was a region in southern Asia Minor, and was part of the Roman province of Galatia.
- There were quite a few Jews in Antioch in Pisidia and so they had established a synagogue (13:14). And it was here in this synagogue that Paul was given an opportunity to speak (13:15, 16).
- This is the first recorded sermon of the apostle Paul, as well as the longest recorded sermon of Paul.
- When we consider Paul's message, we should note that Christ should be preached historically, Biblically, and doctrinally.
- Regarding the historical Christ, the apostle Paul referred in Acts 13:31 to “witnesses” who saw the resurrected Christ. The resurrected Christ “was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:31). Some foolish people question this.
- Regarding the Biblical Christ, Paul identifies the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of David, the Saviour the Jews were waiting for (Acts 13:22, 23; cf. vss. 32-39). Paul quotes Psalm 2:7, Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 55:3, and Habakkuk 1:5.
- Regarding the doctrinal Christ, Paul preached forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ (13:38). Paul preached justification by faith in Christ (13:39). Paul emphasized our Lord’s death and resurrection (13:28-30).
PAUL STARTS WITH GOD (13:17).
- Paul was in the synagogue. He knew his Jewish audience believed that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the true God of heaven. So he began his message with God (13:16, 17).
- Paul stated what all devout Jews believed – that God chose the people of Israel, and that He miraculously delivered them out of Egypt (13:17).
- Paul went on to trace out Israel’s history (13:17-22). You will recall that Stephen did the same thing in his sermon in Acts 7, but Paul’s message is more condensed.
- Some one has rightly said that history is “His story.” Paul traced the providential course of Israel’s history, showing how it moved surely and steadily up to the first coming of Christ.
- By mentioning how for 40 years God “suffered” their manners in the wilderness (13:18), Paul was emphasizing the patience and longsuffering of God.
- Furthermore, God destroyed Israel’s enemies (13:19). God raised up judges – “until Samuel the prophet,” the last judge (13:20).
- It was during the ministry of Samuel that the Israelites “desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Kish” (13:21).
- Paul started with God – the election of God, the providence of God, the goodness of God, the longsuffering of God – leading up to the arrival of the Son of God (13:22, 23).
- All of this demonstrates the love of God – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16).
PAUL PRESENTS THE SON OF GOD (13:21-23).
- It did not take Paul long to get to the heart of his message – Jesus our Saviour (13:23).
- This was the apostolic pattern. Peter preached, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
- The apostles always started with God and then preached that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
- Every sacrifice in the Old Testament pointed to Christ. Every lamb that was slain pointed to Christ. The Passover and great Day of Atonement pointed to Christ.
- All the Old Testament pictures, types and prophecies pointed to Christ.
- Paul preached that John the Baptist prepared Israel for Christ (13:24, 25).
- In presenting the Son of God, the apostle Paul was preaching the good news of the Gospel – “the word of this salvation” (13:26b) and “glad tidings” (13:32).
- The “word of this salvation” and “glad tidings” centers around the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (13:27-37).
- The leaders of the Jews “knew Him not” (13:27). That is why they turned our Lord over to Pontius Pilate to be slain (13:27, 28).
- Sin had blinded their eyes to the truth. Sin blinded the people of Israel to the fact that Jesus was their Saviour and Messiah. And sin is still blinding people and keeping them from getting saved today.
- In II Corinthians 4:3, 4, Paul wrote, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
- Not only did the people of Israel not know who Jesus was, they did not know their own prophetic Scriptures, though they were read every Sabbath day (Acts 13:27; cf. Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).
- Notice also that Paul refers to the cross as “the tree” (13:29). Peter preached in Acts 5:30, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree."
- Peter said in Acts 10:39, "And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree."
- In Galatians 3:13 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:33 – “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”
- The emphasis is on the substitutionary death of Christ. He took the sinner’s place on the cross (“tree”).
- Whenever the apostles preached the substitutionary death of Christ, they immediately followed with the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise (13:32, 33; cf. verse 23).
- Paul pressed it home to their hearts and consciences by saying, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” (13:38).
- Those listening in the synagogue understood that only God can forgive sin. Paul was proclaiming that Jesus is God.
- Paul added that it was only through faith in Christ that sinners could ever be justified. Paul would later expound in great detail this important doctrine, in his epistle to the Romans and his epistle to the Galatians – “justification by faith” (13:39).
- To be justified means to be declared righteous. The law of Moses could not do that (13:39).
PAUL WARNS OF THE JUDGMENT OF GOD (13:40, 41).
- Paul concluded his message with a strong word of warning – “Beware…” (13:40). When we study all the prophets in the Bible, we see that they all included a warning of the judgment of God.
- The prophet Isaiah preached, “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it” (Isa. 13:9).
- Jeremiah preached, “But the LORD is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king: at His wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide His indignation” (Jer. 10:10).
- Ezekiel preached, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezek. 14:6).
- Jonah preached, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).
- Amos preached, “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12).
- Our Lord said John the Baptist was "more than a prophet" (Matt. 11:9). John the Baptist said, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7).
- The greatest hellfire and brimstone preacher in the Bible is the Lord Jesus Christ. He said to the religious leaders of His day, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33).
- In his message in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, the apostle Paul quoted the prophet Habakkuk (Acts 13:41; cf. Hab. 1:5).
- The “work” referred to by Habakkuk was the impending Chaldean invasion of Jerusalem. The message of Habakkuk was God was going to send the wicked Chaldeans to punish Judah. The people of Judah did not believe God would do such a thing (Hab. 1:5-7).
- Paul applied this message to his listeners, and we can apply it today to our generation.
- Paul was saying that with the Gospel comes an added responsibility. Those who hear the Gospel and believe it receive eternal life.
- But those who hear the Gospel and reject it are in grave danger.
- Some Bible students believe Paul applied Habakkuk's prophecy to the impending Roman invasion of Jerusalem. Not long after Paul’s message, Titus and the Roman army came and destroyed Jerusalem.
- There certainly is a parallel there, and our Lord did often warn the Jews of His day that the temple and the city of Jerusalem would soon be destroyed.
- However, Paul, like the prophet Habakkuk, and like the Lord Jesus, looked beyond the destruction of Jerusalem to the eternal punishment of all those who turn their back on God.
- There are many lessons here. A person can read the Bible without understanding it (13:27; cf. 8:30, 31).
- Man's sin (they "condemned" Jesus) may fulfill God's purpose (the cross), but man is still responsible for what he does (13:27; cf. 2:23).