Today is the third part of a message I taught from the book of Acts on the biblical-theological nature of Paul’s sermon in Antioch of Pisidia. There is much to be gleaned from Paul’s method of preaching and much to be believed from the content of his message.
From Isaiah 55:3, Paul says that Jesus has received all the blessings of David. In context, Isaiah 55 is the blessed result of the suffering servant’s substitutionary atonement in Isaiah 53. Through sacrifice, payment for sin has been accomplished; the servant has made blessing again possible for those estranged by sin. Moreover, the servant now lifted up in glory has received the blessings of God for his perfect work and he shares these things with all those who trust in his work.
Finally, from Psalm 16, Paul describes the way in which Jesus’ resurrection points towards an eschatological resurrection for all those who are found in him (cf. 2 Tim. 2:11-12). Unlike David who died and was buried, Jesus never saw corruption; rather in his death, he defeated death because the grave could have no mastery over him. In the end, Jesus was himself vindicated and raised from the dead as the first-fruits of a great harvest to come, where all those who are united to him in baptism (cf. Rom. 6:4-7), will also be reunited to him in his life and resurrection.
Thus Paul, using three key OT texts shows how Jesus fulfilled all the OT promises of kingship, covenant, and resurrection. Turning from explanation to exhortation, Paul concludes his message by calling his hearers to believe in the Christ, to place faith in him and “be freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (13:40). He offers them a gospel of grace–justification by faith, not by works! Simultaneously, he quotes Habakkuk 1:5 and warns them not to reject the offer of God. Whereas in the original context of Habbakuk, YHWH was bringing judgment on the people of Israel because of their sin, now he is offering hope, life, and salvation because the judgment was inflicted on the royal son thus extinguishing once and for all the wrath of God for those who are in the Son. God is still at work, but the righteousness of God is not in the punishment of sin (yet), it is in the offer of free grace purchased at the cost of Jesus blood. In other words, no judgment remains for those in Christ.
For Paul’s audience, this message produced great excitement. The hearers longed to hear more. So much so, that the next week the whole city came out to hear this message (13:44). They came out not to just hear a great preacher, but to hear a great message of salvation. And the result was that many believed. In fact, in accordance with the sovereign will of God, “all those appointed for eternal life believed” (13:48). So great was the effect of this gospel that “the word of the Lord [spread] throughout the whole region” (13:49). The powerful gospel message begun in the Old Testament, manifested in the life of Jesus Christ, and preached by the apostle Paul in Antioch had incredible life-saving results. The same is true today. The gospel of Jesus still saves those who have ears to hear. Will you believe?
To tell the rest of the story, not all those who heard believed. Sadly, as quickly as the crowd formed to hear Paul, a band of high standing women and leading men forced the apostle out of the city (13:50). Their ears were not open to hear, their lives were not appointed unto eternal life, and the message of Christ seemed like foolishness to them. Instead of humbly receiving the message of Jesus Christ, they cursed Paul and heaped upon themselves the judgment of God.
Nevertheless, Paul’s message stands! It brought salvation to those who first heard his preaching and it still brings deliverance to those who read Luke’s account. It remains available to all those who are willing to believe the testimony that Jesus Christ came and fulfilled all the OT promises; he came to die a criminals death on a Roman cross even though he himself never sinned; more miraculously, he rose again from the grave on the third day according to the Scriptures and he has ascended to the right hand of the father where he awaits the culmination of his kingdom. And what does he do in the meantime? He intercedes on behalf of those who trust in his name, and he sends out emissaries who will carry the good news to all the nations. Such is the biblical-theological message of the gospel. The choice, by God’s grace, is now yours: Will you hear his voice? Will you believe his good news? Will you go tell the nations? Tell them what?
From the beginning of creation, to the end of the age and beyond, Jesus Reigns! Go in his peace!