Until the Last Person Has Heard: Acts Series #25
We find in Acts chapter 13, the first recorded full-length sermon of the Apostle Paul. Luke tells us the next Sabbath day came and almost the whole city came together to hear the Word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul contradicting and blaspheming. Look at this statement: “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold and said, it was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you (talking to Jewish people), but seeing you put it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, thus, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:14).
With chapter 13, we now begin the third major division of the book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, the Lord Jesus Christ gave us our marching orders. He said that we are to be witnesses unto Him beginning in Jerusalem. We preached and studied the Founding Emphasis from chapters 2:1-5:32 . Then, Jesus said the Church was to go to Judea and Samaria. We studied the Forward Emphasis in chapters 6:1-12:25. Third, He said to the “uttermost parts of the earth.” The uttermost parts of the earth is Foreign Emphasis and will be covered from chapters 13 to 28.
We have here what has been called the foreign mission section of the book of Acts. It is the section which begins the launching of the message of the Gospel, the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ, what salvation is all about, to the ends of the earth. It is the journey which was started and has resulted in the fact that we heard the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We will notice that this division begins in Antioch. We know that previously Paul was in the city of Antioch. He had been brought there, by Barnabas, to assist him in the teaching of the Word of God to these new converts. When people received Jesus Christ as their Savior and followed the Lord in believer’s baptism, they became a part of a local congregation of people. Then, they are to begin to be systematically taught the Scriptures.
From Antioch we have the launching of the missionary movement. Jerusalem was what we might call the Mother Church. That’s where it all began. We could call Antioch the missionary church. The church of Antioch seems to have been a church that had the world in its heart. They wanted the whole world to hear the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ.
It appears that the Jerusalem church was not as responsive to the Great Commission of our Lord as they should have been. It is altogether possible that the Holy Spirit moved from the city of Jerusalem and the church there to Antioch because the Jerusalem church became a little bit narrow. Maybe their evangelistic fervor waned over time. If that’s true, that means that God moved on. When you study the history of the Christian church, you’ll find that from time to time God moves on. If that’s what happened in the church in Jerusalem, then God moved on to Antioch.
We know from history that the church of Antioch became worldly and lost its evangelistic fervor. God moved on. Ephesus seemed to become the next great center of evangelistic fervor, yet we know the New Testament tells us that the church of Ephesus left its first love. God moved on. Constantinople became a great center of Christian faith and yet formalism froze the fervor of the church. God moved on. Rome became a great center of Christianity. Then, church tradition was placed along Scripture. God moved on. Germany became an awesome center of Christian faith. Yet, skepticism and unbelief invaded believers in Germany. So, God moved on. Then, England became a great center of worldwide evangelism and missions. Yet, we know that deadness gripped the church of England. God moved on. Then, God came into America. America became a great center of evangelism and an incredible center of missionary-sending fervor. However, we are witnessing a nation backsliding from the biblical principles that made it great in the first place. Is it possible that God will move on? When you look at the circumference of Christianity, you see firsthand that God is raising up nations around the world with amazing hearts for the Great Commission.
God is under no obligation to remain in any particular place. God will move according to where people are willing to have a heart big enough to include the world. We have a story the world needs to hear. It all started right here in these opening verses of Acts 13.
We are told about 5 prophets and teachers. The prophets had a ministry to the church universal. The teachers had a ministry to the church local. As they prayed and worshiped the Lord, the Bible says that God set aside two men—Barnabas and Saul. In fact, the Bible says specifically in verse 2 that God called them to be the forerunners of the great world-wide missionary movement. I do believe that God calls people and sets them apart. I believe that God initiates a call, and that God calls individuals to do certain things. I like the way it says it in verse 2. It says that the Holy Spirit said, “separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”
I like the word “separate.” It is a word that literally means “off horizon.” It means to put somebody on a new horizon. Paul used it in Romans 1:1 when he said, “Paul a servant of Jesus Christ called to be an apostle,” separated unto the gospel of God. That means to give somebody a new horizon. God may be calling you to new horizons. God may have something bigger for you than you ever imagined. Most of us are just messing around when God has a huge job He wants us to do. A lot of us are flying paper planes when God wants us to be flying jet planes. A lot of us today are just feeding chickens, when God wants us to soar like eagles. God may want to give you a brand-new horizon. A lot of us are playing in mud puddles when God wants us to go into great oceans of opportunity for Him.
God said, “I want to send these two men to the ends of the earth.” We have in these opening verses the beginning of the foreign missionary movement as we know it and the beginning of what we call the first missionary journey of Paul.
I don’t have time to go into all of it. It started off on the beautiful island of Cyprus. What a lovely island. It is known in secular history as “the happy island.” Barnabas was from Cyprus. In these verses, we are told about Barnabas and Saul going over to the island of Cyprus. Once they arrive in Cyprus, they go all the way across the island of Cyprus. They had a young preacher named John Mark with them. Two remarkable experiences occurred while they were there. The Roman official of the island was a man named Sergius Paulus. We read about him in verse 7. He wanted to hear the Word of God.
Also on this island was a false prophet named Bar-Jesus in verse 6. His name is also Elymas in verse 8. I’ll just summarize it all by saying that the apostle Paul dealt with the false prophet Elymas and he preached the gospel to Sergius Paulus. He got saved! That’s what happened on the island of Cyprus.
As we get to verse 13, we notice that they leave the island of Cyprus and are getting ready to move now to another area. Yet, John Mark leaves them. He returned to Jerusalem. Maybe he got homesick for momma. I don’t know. Maybe he’s a little bit jealous because Barnabas is one of his kinfolks. Paul is becoming the leader now. It starts off Barnabas and Saul, but the next thing you know it’s Saul and Barnabas. We don’t know we left, but John Mark did leave.
In verse 14, we learn they departed and came to Antioch in Pisidia. That’s a different Antioch. In verse 1, Antioch is Syrian Antioch. You read about Syria a great deal in the news today. Now, this Antioch of Pisidia is what we call Turkey.
This particular Antioch was about 100 miles north of the coastland. It’s above the Taurus Mountains. It was malaria infested. There were pirates all along the coast and there were robbers and thieves waiting in the mountains for them. It’s a 100 mile trip. So, they come to this place called Antioch and the first thing they do is what they always did. They went into a Jewish synagogue, if there was one there. The apostle Paul in Romans 1:16 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This is Paul’s pattern.
He goes into the synagogue and they go through a normal synagogue service. Then, they would have prescribed readings already set aside. They would have a reading from the Law. They would have a reading from the Prophets (Acts 13:15).
Next, they would have a message. In those days if they had a visiting preacher come through they would invite him to preach. So, they invited the Apostle Paul to get up and speak. What we have in the rest of these verses of this chapter, down to verse 44, the essence of a sermon that the Apostle Paul preached to people who had never heard about the Lord Jesus Christ. There was one theme—Jesus.
Every time Paul preached, he lifted up Jesus. Jesus is the One we exalt in our services. He had one theme and it was salvation. The divisions of the sermon are kind of easy to follow. For instance, look at verse 16, it says then Paul stood up and beckoning with his hands said, “Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.” That’s the first division. Then, when you drop down to verse 26, you will see something very similar. He says, “men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham and whosoever among you fears God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.” That’s the second division. Next, in verse 38 he says, “be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” Those three divisions tell us what Paul told these people who had never heard. It is a story that the world needs to hear.
In verse 46, Paul said to the people, “ye have judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life.” Yet, he has preached a sermon in the Jewish synagogue which tells them how they can be worthy of salvation.
I. We Have A Promised Salvation
From verse 16 through verse 25, we will find that Paul gives an Old Testament survey. That’s the only Bible they had at this time. He’s involved in writing the New Testament at this very time. But all the Bible Paul had was an Old Testament. In the Old Testament, he is giving them a survey and showing them that God promised salvation. God has been promising through the centuries that salvation would be possible for people. It is all wrapped up in Jesus. It is Jesus who makes the Old Testament understandable. All of the types and pictures point to Jesus.
Paul starts with Egypt in verse 17. How did God promise Jesus in the land of Egypt? When you think about Egypt and the children of Israel there, you think about the exodus, when they came out of Egypt. In the exodus experience of the children of Israel in Egypt, God had a lamb. God told them to take a lamb and kill it and apply the blood of that lamb to the doorposts and when the death angel sees the blood, he’ll pass over your house and you’ll be spared. Their God was promising salvation in a lamb. Of course, you and I know who the lamb points to. Because when Jesus came down to the river Jordan to be baptized of John the Baptist, John said, behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. God is simply saying, “I am going to promise you salvation by a lamb. You are going to be saved by the blood of another.”
The only way you and I can ever be worthy of salvation is not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus did when He shed His blood on Calvary’s cross. It is the blood of Christ that washes away our sins. The precious blood of Jesus Christ is applied to your heart by faith. I don’t understand it. I don’t know how 2000 years ago, the shed blood of Jesus Christ can have power in my life and your life right now. However, I do know as a twelve-year-old boy, when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, somehow that precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was applied to me and God accepted me in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 18 Paul talks about the wilderness. He’s just giving a survey of the Old Testament. What do you remember about the wilderness? One of the big things I remember about the wilderness and the children of Israel is when the snakes bite them. The Bible says those poisonous snakes bit the children of Israel and people were dying. But God said to Moses, “Moses, you take a brass serpent and put it on a pole and when the people look at that serpent on the pole everybody who looks will live.” In the Old Testament, God promised salvation in a look. How in the world did that happen? How could just a look take away that old venom of sin? I’m here to tell you today that if by faith you’ll look to the Lord Jesus Christ it will take away the venom of sin from your life.
The cross of Jesus Christ is a serum for sin. There is salvation in a look. If you will look to Jesus Christ this morning and Him alone, you’ll be made worthy of eternal life.
In verse 19, Paul talks about the land of Canaan. When I think about the land of Canaan, the first thing I think of is Jericho. God had promised to give them that land. Salvation is kind of like a land—the land of plenty. The land of Canaan was a land of milk and honey. All kinds of wonderful beautiful things were available to them in the land. But there had to be a battle. There had to be a Jericho fought and won.
The Bible says that because of Joshua leading the Children of Israel, they won the battle. Because of the battling of another, they got into the land. We get into salvation because somebody else has fought a battle for us on Calvary. His name is Jesus. When Jesus went to the cross of Cavalry, all hell rose up against him. When Jesus Christ went to the cross of Calvary, the devil showed up. But when Jesus Christ went to that cross of Calvary, He stared at the devil all of hell, and sin. And when Jesus died on that cross He won the battle over sin! Are you battling temptation? I’ve got good news for you. There’s someone who can win that battle. You are not worthy to win it. I’m not worthy to win it and we don’t have the power to win it. Yet, Jesus Christ who won the battle over sin, death, and hell on the cross, can win the battle over your temptation.
When we move to verses 21 and 23, Paul talks about the Kingdom. In verse 22, he talks about David the great king of the children of Israel. He says a man after my own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Savior Jesus. Salvation by the birth of another. When Jesus was born, He was born in the city of David, Bethlehem.
I encourage you to not miss this. This OT story is a story that has been promised. God promised it all through the centuries. God wanted you to know that you could be saved, so He has written a whole book, the Old Testament. The truth is that salvation has been promised to you in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. We Have A Provided Salvation
Now, Paul moved specifically to Jesus. He points out that Jesus Christ provided salvation by His death on the cross and by His resurrection from the tomb (verse 28). Even though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. When they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher (verse 29). “Fulfilled all that was written of him” teaches that the whole life of Jesus Christ was written ahead of time. Every morning Jesus got up and dressed Himself in the mirror of Old Testament prophecy.
I wonder if our lives had all been written ahead of time, how would it read? Jesus knew that all had been predicted of Him would come to pass. Jesus knew that He had to go to the cross. In fact, he talked many times that He was going to the cross and His disciples didn’t want to hear it. They had big plans for Jesus. They were going to set Him up as a king. Yet, Jesus said, “Oh, no. I’m going to the cross.” Salvation has been provided because of the death of Jesus on the cross. That’s the gospel.
There is more good news to come. They took Him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb, a sepulcher. Jesus died on the cross. He was buried in a tomb. You’ve heard this all through these years but think about these people in this city who heard it for the first time. They had never heard it before that this Jesus, whom God had promised would be the Savior, was nailed to a cross and then this Jesus was put in a tomb and was buried. Can you imagine what happened when he said God raised him from the dead? (verse 30). Here is the victory of salvation! It is because God raised Him from the dead that you and I can be saved.
Paul continues to talk about Jesus’ resurrection in verse 33 and verse 37. We read, “but he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” Do you know what that means? It means when Jesus died, was buried and three days later, He rose again. Jesus Christ is alive today.
Salvation has been provided for us because we have not a dead Savior, we have a living Savior. Buddha didn’t come back from the dead. Buddha didn’t die on the cross for any body’s sin. Buddha is dead. Confucius didn’t die for anybody’s sin. Confucius is dead. Mohammed didn’t die for anybody’s sin. Mohammed is dead. But Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and praised God. Three days later He arose again from the dead!
III. We Have A Presented Salvation
What will salvation do for you? When the Apostle Paul had completed his first sermon, they dismissed. The next Sabbath, almost the whole town came together. Why did they come back? I think they came back because he got their interest in two very important ways.
Paul says in verse 38, “be it known unto you therefore, mean and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” Oh, my! Salvation means you can be forgiven of your sins. You know people try to do a lot of things with their sins. The big question of life is what are you going to do with your sins. It’s not what you are going to have for lunch. Some people laugh at their sins. The Bible says fools make a mockery of sin. Some people try to ignore their sins. But the Bible says there is a judgment; we have to face our sins. Some people try to stifle their sins. Stuff them down into the subconscious. But when you try to stuff your sins down into the subconscious, they’ll pop out somewhere else. That guilt will get hold of you. What are you going to do with your sins?
That’s what salvation is all about. Salvation is that if you will come to the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to—He will forgive you of your sins. The word, forgive, means to send away. It means He will remove your sins as far away from you as the east is from the west. It will be just as if you have never sinned. That’s what salvation is. It’s forgiveness of your sins.
That’s not all. In verse 39, we read, “And by him (Jesus) all that believe are justified from all things.” Forgiveness means that God removes your sins. Justification means that God restores you to His favor. The truth of the matter is—none of us are worthy of salvation. Do you remember the centurion who sent word to Jesus – “Jesus, don’t come to my house, I’m not worthy that you should come unto my house.” Justification simply means that God will declare you righteous on the basis of His son the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’m saying to you that if you come to the Lord Jesus Christ, God will restore you to His favor and though you do not deserve it and though you are not worthy of it, God will save you and make you His child. He’ll take you to heaven when you die. He’ll give you a reason and a purpose for living right now. Don’t judge yourself unworthy. In verse 46, we read the words, “judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life.” Don’t do that. How do you judge yourself unworthy? By refusing the provision that has been made. By refusing what God has offered for you.
As a Christian, what motivates you? Are you moved by the reality, that after two thousand years, billions have yet to hear the Gospel? What will you do about it? Will you go? Will you help others to go? I am convinced that when Christians are moved to either go or send someone else who has never heard the Gospel, they truly do not understand why they are on the planet. We are not heard to make the world a better place, from which people go to hell. We are here on this earth to make it harder for people to live in this world and not to hear the Gospel. Selah.