Following the Pattern of Paul’s Evangelistic Preaching in Our Gospel Proclamation

INTRO: Recall that Luke has been establishing the pattern followed by this missionary team (that was last week’s emphasis, that we should follow their pattern). What we haven’t heard yet is an example of Paul’s evangelistic preaching when they entered a new city or town.
Following the Pattern of Paul’s Evangelistic Preaching in our Gospel Proclamation
Our focus today will be God’s faithfulness to his promises and fulfillment of his promises through the Lord Jesus Christ.
We make it our aim to proclaim God’s faithfulness & fulfillment in Christ Jesus for the good of those who believe.

The Context of Evangelistic Preaching: Time & Place & People (13:13-16)

Acts 13:13–16 ESV
13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” 16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.
God uses people to reach other people. God uses the people he has made his own to tell of his faithfulness and fulfillment through Jesus Christ, so that by that word and the work of his Spirit, he makes new people to belong to him by faith.
This missionary team in our text is now referred to as Paul & Co., “Paul and his companions.” As we discussed last week, this shift is not to elevate Paul but a simple description of who has become the point-man and primary servant leader of the team.
God uses gospel proclamation by his people to reach other people. Barnabas and Paul are just such evangelists (which means to be proclaimers of the good news). We too are evangelists.
Furthermore, all gospel proclamation takes place in some location at a particular time with people who need to hear it. That may be as near as your place of work, or it may be as far as somewhere that there is no Bible translation in the native tongue, or where the government subscribes to a false religion and directly opposes the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But in our gospel proclamation, we take into account the time and place and the particular audience.
We see this development in the verses we just read.
By ship this small band of missionaries travels from Cyprus to a port near Perga in Pamphylia. It is here that John Mark leaves the team and goes back to Jerusalem. (Luke makes no comment here, but we find out later that Paul didn’t approve of this departure instead of Mark continuing in the work with them. Ac 15:38)
From Perga they come to another Antioch, but in the region of Pisidia (thus not to be confused with the launching church of Antioch in Syria).
In the synagogue (note the context of this place) they sit and participate in what was the normal center of synagogue services, the reading of the Law and the Prophets. Then oftentimes someone would teach a lesson, so in this case the leading elders (who would have been responsible for the preparation and organization of the service), invite Paul and Barnabas to speak a “word of encouragement for the people.” (Because hospitality was important in their culture and tradition, new Jewish visitors would have been quickly known, and these elders have undoubtedly heard something about these traveling rabbis.)
So Paul takes them up on this offer, which sets up Paul’s evangelistic preaching in the Pisidian Antioch synagogue to Jews and God-fearers. This is Paul’s audience, the people who are listening: Jews and God-fearers, those who believe in the one true God and are, at least to some degree, submitting to his authority in the Scriptures. - Those who fear God in this case could range from formal proselytes to Judaism, who are following the specifics required, by law: circumcision, observance of sacrifices and feasts, etc. … and range to others who fear (who worship) the God of Israel more generally as the one true God without becoming proselytes.
So we keep in mind that these are the people Paul is talking to here. - To others we must first establish that it is right to fear God on his own terms. And yet, we ultimately use the same process: interpreting Scripture as God has revealed himself to mankind from creation on through his covenant promises with Israel, leading up to the necessity and supremacy of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Again, how might a person become convinced that it is right to fear God? (How did you become convinced? How are you thinking your children will be… or your neighbors, coworkers, family and friends?) By telling them as much as we can, as clearly as we can, of God’s revelation of himself in the Scripture. That’s why we’re obsessed with this book. These pages are from God and hold the key to being in right relationship to him, now and forever.
When we speak to the pagan, the one who doesn’t fear God, we must still bring them to the Jewish Scriptures (the OT) and to the new covenant Scriptures (the NT) because that is where God has revealed himself.
Before we move on, remember to let it sink in: a real place and time, a specific location; and real people, particular people with hopes and dreams and struggles and strife, who need Jesus, even as we ourselves so desperately need Jesus. Whatever the place and whomever the people, we make it our aim to proclaim God’s faithfulness & fulfillment in Christ Jesus for the good of those who will believe.
So that is our next emphasis: Paul’s message, the content of evangelistic preaching.

The Content of Evangelistic Preaching (Part 1): Rehearsing the History of God’s Faithfulness That Leads to Fulfillment in Jesus Christ (13:17-25)

As we progress through this message from Paul to the Jews and God-fearers in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, take note that this is a summary Luke gives, undoubtedly a very accurate summary, but also an efficient one. If I can read the whole sermon in several minutes, there can be no doubt that Paul filled this out substantially more in his actual delivery.
Paul’s proclamation in this passage has three movements, each marked by his direct address of the people to whom he is speaking. (at v. 16, v. 26, and v. 38) There’s a historical review of God’s faithfulness, leading up to his fulfillment in Christ Jesus. Then there’s a more careful explanation of what Jesus accomplished (how it came about, and with particular emphasis on his death and evidence of his resurrection—eyewitnesses and Scriptural testimony, vv. 26-37). Finally, there’s a clear expression of why it matters: in order that those who believe in him may be forgiven and justified by faith, but with a warning that scoffers stand condemned and will perish (vv. 38-41).
In the first of these three movements, Paul proclaims that…
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The Christ has come.
Paul begins his message by presenting a historical review of God’s faithfulness to his promises to Israel.
Acts 13:17–22 ESV
17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
God’s Faithfulness to His Covenant
When Paul says God “chose our fathers,” that would bring to mind the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. In the same breath, he speaks of their people’s “sojourn” in Egypt, when God first greatly increased their number (making them into a great or “exalted” people), and then God led them out with an exalted arm (a reference to God’s own strength).
Then in the wilderness for forty years he “put up with” them, or he “carried” them. (Here they both have a positive connotation of God’s patience and care.) - In example of preaching the gospel, Paul chooses not to emphasize the law here in the historical review, but rather in the application section for this people of the law of God (vv. 38-39).
Paul reminds his listeners that God conquered before them 7 nations that inhabited the region of Canaan in order to fulfill his promise to Abraham and his descendents that this would be their promised land. The seven nations are recorded in Deut 7:1 as being “the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you.” (As a reminder to you NT believers, this promised land of Israel becomes to us a picture of a yet future promised land for all God’s people: the new heavens and the new earth, where we will dwell in perfect peace and rest in the presence of God forever. God is faithful to fulfill his promises.)
All of this took about 450 years, Paul says, which would be around 400 in Egypt and 40 in the wilderness and approximately 10 for the conquest. He now speeds through the period of the judges to get to Samuel, the last judge who was also a priest and a great prophet.
In this portion of the historical review, Paul is setting up the transition where Israel has a king. So when the people asked for a king, God first gave them Saul “the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin,” who reigned over them for forty years. But this audience would know, that king was not the one through whom God’s Anointed One would come.
God removed Saul and raised up David. David, the son of Jesse (of the tribe of Judah) a man after God’s own heart, who would follow God’s will. To this servant-hearted shepherd king God reinforced his promises, and established yet further in a covenant with David that through his line the Messiah would come.
So although Paul skips over some of Israel’s history now, he has gotten to the point where he can show that Jesus is the promised Messiah to come from the seed of Abraham, the seed of Judah, the seed of David.
Acts 13:23–25 ESV
23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Israel leads to…
Jesus Christ the Fulfillment
Paul’s audience readily grasps the significance of the terminology of David’s offspring, for from his seed was promised the Messiah. And it is right to say that the Savior was sent to Israel, as Luke recorded the host of angels announcing to the shepherds near Bethlehem at Christ’s birth:
Luke 2:11 ESV
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
To call him Savior, in both of these texts, is to say that he is rescuer, deliverer. Yet he came to deliver from more than mere political, physical oppression at the hands of Rome (or an other world power). Christ came because we, both Jew and Gentile, need to be completely forgiven and free from sin and its consequences, justified before God so that we are not under his righteous wrath against sin. That is where Paul will go with his application to this audience (Ac 13:38-39).
Before turning wholly to the central event and meaning of Jesus’ ministry as the Savior, Paul describes the ministry of a final key figure in Israel’s history that would set the stage for the Christ being revealed—John the Baptist.
John was the forerunner to the Messiah, making preparation for his coming. Paul highlights two important aspects of John’s ministry: First, John was calling all Israel to repent of their sin and to be baptized as a public display of their sincerity (and as a symbol of being cleansed of that sin and preparing to walk in a new commitment to God).
I believe this reference to all the people of Israel is a reference to how widespread and known John’s ministry was. What he was saying and doing was conspicuous and well-known. So much so that he was asked by the public if he was the Messiah.
And that is Paul’s second emphasis about John. In spite of how influential his prophetic ministry, John humbly and clearly declared that he was not the Christ but that after him was coming the one of their messianic hope and expectation, who was far greater than John. (John’s vivid picture of the Christ’s greatness by comparison is that he, a prophet sent by God, is unworthy even to untie the sandals on his feet.)
This John proclaimed as he was finishing his course, completing the race of the public ministry God had given him (because indeed the Messiah was coming, even in John’s own lifetime). Jesus Christ’s public ministry began while John was still finishing his. So John formed the last prophetic link in Israel’s history leading up to God fulfilling his promises through the coming Messiah.
“God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.” (v. 23) Look also ahead at vv. 32-33 at Paul’s message this day in the synagogue (although we have to save our discussion and application): “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.”
So in that next section, Paul will show more specifically how Jesus fulfilled God’s plan, particularly by his death and resurrection, and that eyewitnesses and even Scripture itself testify to this truth. Finally, Paul will address the implication and application of this reality to his audience on this day: Because God has fulfilled his promise and plan in Jesus Christ, salvation is offered to you for the forgiveness of sins and freedom (justification) from needing to fulfill the law’s righteous requirement. - Proclamation of the gospel must always come down to this: God’s faithfulness, our culpability/responsibility for sin, the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilling God’s promise and our need, we must respond to him.
Concluding Applications:
In order to accomplish his saving purposes in the lives of individuals, God has chosen to use people proclaiming the gospel to other people. How are you participating? - I don’t doubt that if you stop and think, you can recall and reflect on who faithfully proclaimed the Lord Jesus Christ to you (perhaps or probably more than one person).
Rehearsing the Faithfulness of God
Responding to God’s Fulfillment in Jesus Christ
Communion: As we take the Lord’s Table, let’s meditate on the faithfulness of God to maintain his covenant promises with Israel (of which we are the beneficiaries as well), and meditate on the surprising (but perfect) fulfillment of his promises that God has accomplished through Christ Jesus.
Why is Jesus our metaphorical food and drink? Because apart from him we do not have life in God or with God (condemned in our trespasses and sins). But God by his mercy and grace made him, Jesus Christ, who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God—righteous before God (2 Cor. 5:21). And apart from him we would have nothing to offer in his service, and so we still keep coming to abide in our resurrected Lord, to eat and drink of God’s grace to us revealed in his word, of which Christ himself is the fulfillment.
[After] If God has proven himself faithful to fulfill his promises in the Old Covenant, will he not prove faithful to fulfill that which he has promised through a new and better Covenant? Christ is enough to make us right with God (to give us life and make us his children), and Christ is enough to give us strength and courage to be his witnesses, and Christ will bring us safely home to the eternal shores of heaven.
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