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Acts 13:13-52: What to Expect When You're on Mission Print E-mail

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What we expect from a certain event impacts the way that we approach it.  If we expect bad things to happen then we are filled with fear and trepidation, like when we go to the doctor or have to talk with our boss.  If we expect good things, then we are filled with joy and anticipation, like going on vacation or a picnic with friends and family.  At times, our expectations are mixed.  Getting married and having children and starting a new job are all good things, but they all come with responsibility and expectations, which can be tough to face.  Yet, often we simply donít know what to expect.  We just donít know what is going to happen.  Sometimes that can be more difficult than even knowing that something is going to be bad or hard.  The unknown can leave us crippled and unable to act.

All of this leads me to this question: what do you expect to happen when you share the gospel faithfully with others?  I want you to answer that question honestly this morning.  If you speak to your neighbor this week and tell them about Jesus, what do you think will happen?  Do your expectations embolden you to share or leave you hesitant?  Do they give you joy and excitement or fear and trembling?  What do you expect to happen on mission for Christ?  The encouraging news this morning is that the book of Acts does not leave us in the dark when it comes to what we should expect on mission for Christ.  Luke gives us several examples of faithful preaching of the gospel followed by various responses.  To be sure, these situations do not necessarily alleviate all of our fears or struggles.  But they do prepare us.  And if understood correctly, I believe that they encourage our bold witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

Our passage begins with the transition from the island of Cyprus to the area of Galatia, the second leg of Paulís first missionary journey.  Look at verses 13-14a.  They sailed from Paphos to the city of Perga, where John left and went back to Jerusalem, a development Luke will return to later (15:36ff).  All he tells us at this point is that John left.  However, they continue on and make it to the city of Pisidian Antioch, where they go to the synagogue.  Look at verses 14b-16.  At the synagogue, after reading from the Scriptures, the leaders ask them to speak.  Paul takes this opportunity to share the good news with these Jews and God-fearers.  In our time together this morning I want to look briefly at his faithful preaching of the gospel and then look at the various responses that such preaching receives.  We will begin with his preaching.

The faithful preaching of the gospel (v. 16b-41)

Paul begins his message by making a connection with his listeners by recounting some of the history of Israel.  Look at verses 16b-25.  As Peter and Stephen have done before him, Paul simply walks through some of Israelís history.  He emphasizes Godís role in their history.  It is God who chose our fathers and made the people great.  God led them out of Egypt.  He put up with, or carried, them in the wilderness.  He drove out the nations and gave Israel the land of Canaan.  When they asked for a king, God gave them Saul, and when he disobeyed, God removed him, and raised up David in his place. 

Paul begins to transition at this point.  It was from Davidís line that a Messiah was promised and it is from Davidís line that Jesus came.  John the Baptist had prepared the way by calling upon Israel to repent and be baptized and by pointing to one greater than himself, namely Jesus.

Now that Jesus has been brought into the message, Paul gets to the gospel.  Look at verses 26-37.  Jesus was rejected by the rulers in Jerusalem because they did not understand the prophets, even though they read them every week.  Instead of understanding and believing the prophets, they fulfilled them by rejecting the Promised Messiah and handing Him over to the Romans for crucifixion.  So Jesus, the Messiah, was hung on a tree and buried in a tomb.  But the story did not end there, for three days later God raised him from the dead.  God had promised to send salvation through the line of David, and Paul was telling his listeners that God had kept that promise by sending Jesus.  Even though He died, the Father raised Him up, just as the Scriptures foretold in Psalm 2 and Isaiah 55 and Psalm 16.  Paul boldly proclaims the good news that Jesus has come to bring salvation through His death and resurrection in fulfillment of Godís promises.  This is the gospel.  It is the message that has saved us and will save the nations, all who turn from their sins and trust in Him, which is what Paul does next.

The good news demands a response, so Paul concludes by calling the people to repent and believe in Jesus.  Look at verses 38-41.  If anyone turns from their sins and trusts in Jesus, they will be forgiven according to Paul.  The Law revealed our inability to save ourselves, but through Jesus we can be freed from the curse of the Law and empowered to obey the Law of Christ.  Along with the call to repentance and faith, Paul also give a warning: if you reject the message of Christ, like those in Jerusalem did, then you will be rejected and miss out on Godís work.  You cannot be neutral about the gospel.  You cannot just chose to do nothing.  You either accept the good news by turning from your sins and trusting in Christ, or you reject Him and miss out on Godís great plan for salvation.

So then, Paulís approach to sharing the gospel is simple and repeatable.  He makes a connection with his listeners.  He gets to the gospel and shares of Jesusí life and death and resurrection.  And he calls for a response by encouraging repentance and faith and warning against rejection.  As the mission continues today, this is a great example of how to preach the gospel faithfully.

The various responses to the preaching of the gospel (v. 42-52)

What should we expect when we faithfully preach the gospel?  The answer is simple: some will respond positively to the good news while others will respond negatively.  We see examples of both of these responses in the text.

The first response we see is positive: the people longed to hear more.  Look at verses 42-44.  Sometimes when we share the gospel with people they want to hear more about what Jesus did for them and what it means to follow Him.  This may not mean that they are ready to respond with saving faith, but they want to hear more.  The next week many have come to hear the good news of Jesus.  We should see this response as an open door to continue sharing the gospel, just as Paul and Barnabas do here.

The second response is negative: the leaders are filled with jealousy.  Look at verse 45-47.  The leaders are jealous of the interest shown to Paul and Barnabas.  Thus, they begin to attack them by contradicting their teaching.  This would have been discouraging to them for sure, but it was not unexpected.  They knew that not all would follow Christ.  They expected rejection because Jesus promised it.  Just as He was rejected by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, so will His followers be rejected at times.  Instead of drowning in discouragement and calling the mission a failure, Paul and Barnabas just keep on speaking out boldly.  Rejections will come, but it never means that we should stop preaching the gospel, which leads to a third response.

The third response is again positive: those appointed to eternal life believed.  Look at verses 48-49.  The Gentiles were amazed that the good news was for them.  And they believed.  Luke writes: and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.  With this verse, we get a glimpse at Lukeís understanding of Godís sovereignty in salvation.  It is the Lord who appoints people to eternal life.  I am not sure how to read this verse in any other way.  Yet, this does not mean that we are not responsible for our actions.  Paul criticizes the Jews for not believing and judging themselves unworthy of eternal life (v. 46).  Godís sovereignty over salvation and manís responsibility to repent and believer are both taught in this passage.  We may have various understandings of how these two relate, but we cannot be biblical and deny either one.  The positive response of the Gentiles remained under the sovereign reign of God.

The fourth response is negative: the leaders stirred up persecution.  Look at verse 50.  The leaders were not going to go out quietly.  They used their influence in the city to force Paul and Barnabas out of the city.  Again, faithfully preaching the gospel does not mean that the masses will all be pleased.  Paul and Barnabas were forced out of Pisidian Antioch due to this negative response.  They faced persecution for their proclamation of the gospel.

The final response is positive: the mission continues and joy multiplies.  Look at verses 51-52.  Paul and Barnabas will not let a little persecution keep them from preaching the good news.  They just shake off the dust and keep moving forward.  And what about those disciples in Antioch who came to faith?  Luke tells us that they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.  The persecution could not steal their joy either because it came from the Spirit.

According to this passage (and others we see throughout the New Testament), we should expect positive and negative responses to the preaching of the gospel.  How should we respond to these expectations?  If you are here this morning and have not turned from your sins and believed in Christ, then let me encourage you with Paul to do just that.  You cannot save yourself by trying to be good.  But you can be forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  This is the good news, do not thrust it aside as the leaders did on that day.  Repent and believe.  If you are a believer, then these expectations should lead us to preach the gospel faithfully knowing that some will respond negatively and some will respond positively.  We need to expect rejection.  We need to expect suffering and persecution.  Do not be surprised when people respond negatively and do not let their response keep you from sharing.  At the same time, because it is our God who appoints men to eternal life, we should expect positive responses as well.  I believe that men and women will be saved in Sikeston, Missouri through the faithful proclamation of the gospel.  Do you believe that?  Do you believe that God can save your neighbor, your coworker, your family member, through the glorious good news of Jesusí death and resurrection?  Do you believe?  Is that your expectation?  If so, then letís go preach the good news boldly!  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 August 2014 )

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