THE STORY OF THE EARLY CHURCH
Verses preaching the "Gospel of Jesus"
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35.1 PAUL ADDRESSES THE JEWS IN THE SYNAGOGUE AT PISIDIAN ANTIOCH IN ASIA MINOR
- This is the only complete sermon of Paul's recorded out of the many hundreds, or even thousands he must have given in his thirty year ministry. After a brief history of Israel, he leads in to the coming of Jesus, who as prophesied, was put to death by the people he came to save. Paul, in an early reference to the doctrine of "justification by faith", asserts that it is only through believing in Jesus that the sins of all God's people can be forgiven. Not by any amount of good works they may do in meeting the old Jewish Law. He finishes by warning his listeners not to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, and to reject the prophets:
Acts 13:16-41 - So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, began: "Men of Israel and all of you who fear God, listen to me. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and prospered the people while they were exiles in the land of Egypt. Then he lifted up his arm and led them out of that land (in the Exodus). Yes, and he bore with them for forty years in the desert. He destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan before he gave them that land as their inheritance for some four hundred and fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then when they begged for a king God gave them Saul (who was anointed by Samuel as the first king of Israel) the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, to be their king for forty years. After he deposed him he raised David to the throne, a man of whom God himself bore testimony in the words,
'I have found David (Psalm 89:20) .... the son of Jesse .... a man after my own heart, who will do all my will.' (a paraphrase of 1 Samuel 13:14)
From the descendants of this man (David), according to his promise, God has brought Jesus to Israel to be their saviour. John (the Baptist) came before him to prepare his way preaching the baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. Indeed, as John reached the end of his time he said these words: 'What do you think I am? I am not he. But know this, someone comes after me whose shoe-lace I am not fit to untie!' (... from Mark 1:7b).
Now the message is urgent and contemporary
"Men and brothers, sons of the (Jewish) race of Abraham, and all among you who fear God, it is to us that this message of salvation has now been sent! For the people of Jerusalem and their rulers refused to recognise him and to understand the voice of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day - even though in condemning him they fulfilled these very prophecies! For though they found no cause for putting him to death, they begged Pilate to have him executed. And when they had completed everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead. For many days he was seen by those who had come up from Galilee to Jerusalem with him, and these men are now his witnesses to the people. And as for us we tell you the good news that the promise made to our forefathers has come true - that, in raising up Jesus, God has fulfilled it for us their children. This is endorsed in the second psalm:
'You are my son, today I have begotten you.' (Psalm 2:7)
And as for the fact of God's raising him from the dead, never to return to corruption, he has spoken in these words:
'I will give you the sure mercies of David.' (Isaiah 55:3)
And then going further he says in another psalm,
'You will not allow your holy one to see corruption.' (Psalm 16:10)
For David, remember, after he had served God's purpose in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his ancestors. He did in fact 'see corruption', but this man (Jesus) whom God raised never saw corruption! It is therefore imperative, men and brothers, that every one of you should realise that forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you through this man. And through faith in him a man is absolved from all those things from which the Law of Moses could never set him free. Take care then that this saying of the prophets should never apply to you:
'Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you.' (Habakkuk 1:5)"
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35.2 PAUL'S FINAL WORDS TO THE JEWS OF PISIDIAN ANTIOCH
- After being rejected by the Jews of Pisidian Antioch, Paul show through scripture that the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be taken to the Gentiles:
Acts 13:46-47 - At this (opposition to Paul's message) Paul and Barnabas did not mince their words but said, "We felt it our duty to speak the message of God to you first, but since you spurn it and evidently do not think yourselves fit for eternal life, watch us now as we turn to the Gentiles! Indeed the Lord has commanded us to do so in the word:
'I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth' (Isaiah 49:6).
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35.3 PAUL & BARNABAS SHOUT ABOUT THE GREATNESS OF GOD TO THE PEOPLE OF LYSTRA
- After healing a man in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas are believed to be gods, and the people prepare to sacrifice oxen to them. They stop the sacrifice by shouting about the real God they have come to talk about to the people:
Acts 14:15b-17 - .... We are here to tell you good news - that you should turn from these meaningless things (such as animal sacrifice) to the living God! He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. In generations gone by he allowed all nations to go on in their own ways - not that he left men without evidence of himself. For he has shown kindnesses to you; he has sent you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, giving you food and happiness to your hearts' content."
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J.B.Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English", 1962 edition, published by HarperCollins, is presented here with the kind permission of Mrs Vera Phillips and the J.B.Phillips estate
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