God’s Message of Salvation

You may remember when speeches played an important part in elections. They seem to have been replaced by carefully scripted sound bites. The good news of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ spread through special kinds of speeches: sermons. Acts 13:13–52 contains the first sermon of Paul summarized by Luke (though the apostle had done much teaching and preaching before this). It resembles the sermon of Peter in Acts 2 and that of Stephen in Acts 7. Paul has traveled to the mainland of Asia Minor and now preaches in a synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. The message, starting in Acts 13:16, has three parts, each introduced by a vocative, verses 16, 26, 38.

Listen to what God has done. The message is for both Jews and Gentiles. This sermon introduces and encapsulates Paul’s preaching. Although the setting is a synagogue, the congregation includes both proselytes and God-fearers and well as Jews. Appreciate the layers involved: Paul is preaching to a particular congregation, Luke summarizes the message in detail for Theophilus and other initial readers—a catechetical purpose, and the Holy Spirit includes it in Scripture for you. As the good news is rejected by the Old Testament covenant people, the Gentiles receive it with joy. Acts 1:8 is bering fulfilled.

Continue reading “God’s Message of Salvation”

Set Apart for the Holy Spirit

The church of Jesus Christ faces an increasingly consistent neo-pagan culture. What are we to do? Acts 13:1–12 pictures the church in a major city of the pagan world empire. What is she doing as the Holy Spirit prepares to conquer the darkness with the light of the good news of the Lord Jesus? She is worshiping. In that context the Holy Spirit sets aside for himself those who will begin the spread of the good news throughout the world.

Depend on the calling of the Holy Spirit, for he equips, you, the church with gifts. This Spirit fills and equips all believers, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The church at Antioch had been formed by Christian refugees from Jerusalem, who had spoken the good news to those they encountered, evangelizing not only fellow Jews, but Gentiles as well. Barnabas, later joined by Saul, had built up and strengthened the church there. From this great city of the empire, from a church consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, the third step of the Lord’s commission of Acts 1:8 was about to begin to be carried out.

Continue reading “Set Apart for the Holy Spirit”

Earnest Prayer to God in Adversity

What is the most powerful weapon the church has when it faces evil? Acts 12:5 gives you an appropriate response.

Pray! In the face of adversity, pray! What are the really big problems about which you are praying? However big they are, the saints in Jerusalem would probably understand. They had undergone severe persecution starting with Stephen’s martyrdom, followed by persecution by Saul of Tarsus (although by now, he was a believer, and had come from Antioch with a gift for the suffering church in Jerusalem.) Now persecution arose from Herod, who had James the Apostle executed. Herod, seeing that this pleased his subjects, had Peter arrested and placed under heavy guard, so that he could be similarly executed once the Passover feast was over.

Continue reading “Earnest Prayer to God in Adversity”

So What’s Your Name?

You guard your identity, your good name. How is your life different because of the name, Christian? Acts 11:19–30 describes the time the believers were first called “Christians.”

In Christ’s name tell the good news. Be willing to cross barriers with the gospel. Luke takes you back to Acts 8:4 and the scattering caused by Saul’s persecution of the church. What Satan intends for evil, God sovereignly uses for his good purposes. Greeks, Gentiles, began to hear the good news. The powerful Holy Spirit is at work, building the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“[I]n Luke-Acts, similar reference is made to the ‘hand of the Lord’ (e.g., Acts 4:30; 11:21; 13:11). In view in these occurrences, seen in their contexts, is the activity of God, his power either for salvation or in judgment, activity associated specifically with the Spirit.”

Richard B. Gaffin Jr., In the Fullness of Time; An Introduction to the Biblical Theology of Acts and Paul, p. 84

Continue reading “So What’s Your Name?”