AN EXPOSITION OF ACTS 13:14-39
14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down.
Leaving Perga, the First Missionary Journey of Paul brought his group to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day, they attended the local service, and sat down.
15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
When the opportunity came to speak, as was the custom, Paul took advantage of the opportunity to present the gospel. Paul’s sermon is a worthy model to follow.
An Invitation to Listen
16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
By beckoning with his hand for silence, Paul invited the men of Israel, and all who feared God, to listen to what he had to say. Those who feared the Lord might be a reference to proselytes, or Gentile believers who had not yet been circumcised, but who had renounced idolatry, and wanted to worship with the Jews in their synagogues. Together, they were to give careful attention to the Word of God. They were to be quiet.
It has been noted that people might be able to sing together, and dance together, but they cannot speak together, lest there be the sound of babble. Let all things be done decently and in order. So Paul invited his audience to listen to what he had to say.
Having gained the attention of his audience, Paul began to review briefly the history of the Jews by reminding the people of the principle of election.
The Early Years
17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
The reference to the Fathers of Israel would remind the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “God chose our fathers,” said Paul, “and exalted the people even when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Those who were enslaved might not have felt they were an exalted people, but they were, for the Lord had a great future for Israel. In time, the Lord showed Himself mighty on behalf of Israel by displaying His great power time and again. The Ten Plagues God poured out upon Egypt was only part of the many ways He manifested His power, and His love for Israel, for none of the plagues fell upon the Hebrew population.
The Years of Desert Wandering
18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.
The forty years the Exodus Generation wandered in the desert is quickly passed over for Paul wanted to get to a larger point as quickly as possible.
The Conquest of Canaan
19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
Though Israel was the Divine instrument for displaying the seven tribal nations in the land of Canaan, it was the LORD who had destroyed them. A lesson is learned. Land belongs to those whose boundaries have been established by God. “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” (Deut. 32:8) From a human perspective, land belongs to those who can control it by discovery or conquest. However, the Divine perspective remains.
Having noted the Divine conquest of Canaan, Paul continued to review the history of Israel, covering the period of the Judges, and two kings.
The Judges of Israel
20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
Officially, there were only 15 judges of Israel which ruled until Saul was made king at the age of 30 in the year c. 1025 BC.
The Demand for a King
Saul, the Son of Kish
21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
Israel was established as a theocracy, but the children of Israel wanted a king so they could be like other nations. As a king, Saul proved to be a disappointment in some many ways. He mistreated the people. Some, he enslaved. All, he heavily taxed. And then he led the people into war, which drained the wealth of the nation. Saul had mental issues as well, due to jealousy, and unfounded suspicions. Tragically, he died at the Battle of Gilboa, along with his sons.
David, A Man After God’s Own Heart
22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
In time, God removed Saul, and raised up David to be the king of Israel. Whatever his faults, and they were many, David was a man after God’s own heart.
In matchless grace, God entered into a covenant with David. The Davidic Covenant is one of the most important covenants ever made in the annals of history, for God decreed that through His linage would come a Saviour, Jesus.
The Davidic Covenant
23 Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:
From mentioning David, Paul leaped over the centuries to bring the minds of those who were listening to him to current events, and to John in particular. Everyone was familiar with the life of John the Baptist, and what had happened to him. What Paul wanted to emphasize, in particular, is that John the Baptist deferred honor from himself, to speak of Jesus.
The Message of John the Baptist
24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.
Of whom was John speaking? He was speaking of Jesus. From this point on Paul will speak of the salvation that has been sent to the stock of Abraham, according to promise.
It is a Glorious Message of a Promise Kept
26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
Salvation! What a lovely word that is. It speaks of deliverance from bondage. Not human bondage alone, but spiritual bondage. A person can be saved for time and for eternity. But wait, there is sadness associated with the message.
It is a Message of Agony
27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
Paul says that the people in Jerusalem, and their rulers, did not understand. They did not know Jesus. They did not even know the voice of the prophets, though they read from them every Sabbath day. The people heard the words of Isaiah speaking about the One who was “wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5), but they understood not. And so Jesus was killed.
Desiring the Death of Jesus
28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.
More than one person has observed that the death of Jesus makes no sense. They are right. From a human point of view, the death of Jesus was mindless. Why would people want to kill the embodiment of love, mercy, and peace? Why did the rulers of the Jew hate Jesus so much? Why did the people turn against Him and shout with passion, “Crucify Him!” “Crucify Him!” It made no sense untill we understand the death of Jesus from a Divine perspective.
Jesus had to die, for it was written of Him that the LORD would lay upon Him “the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5)
The Burial of Jesus
29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
The Resurrection of Jesus
30 But God raised him from the dead:
The Evidence for the Resurrection
31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.
Prophesy is Fulfilled
32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
Sins are Forgiven
38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
Justified by Faith Alone
39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.
The doctrine of justification does not mean, “Just as if I have never sinned.” It does mean that I am declared righteous in the sight of the Law. But the basis for this legal declaration is that the righteousness of the Law has been satisfied. Specifically, Jesus became the Substitute for sinners by receiving in His own body the penalty, pain, and punishment for sin. His righteousness is imputed to the account of all who believe in Him. All that believe are justified from sin, past, present, and future. This is something that could never have happened by the Law of Moses because by the works of the Law, no man can be justified. To keep the Law was only to do one’s duty. But no one has ever kept the Law. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Only Christ has kept the Law and His keeping of the Law allowed Him to become the perfect substitute to receive the penalty of the Law for transgressors. Believe in Jesus and be justified in the sight of God. That is the gospel message.