Summary: We are appointed to eternal life, and once we’ve responded to God’s call and been saved we are appointed to service.
“For thus the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles that You should bring salvation to the end of the earth’. And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.”
Our text verses follow on the heels of Paul’s first recorded sermon in Acts. In verses 14 through 16 of this chapter we see that Paul and his companions came to Pisidian Antioch and the first Sabbath day after their arrival they went to the synagogue and sat down.
In keeping with the custom of asking visiting rabbis to speak on the scriptures, after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the officials send the invitation to Paul and Barnabas. Paul stands up and addresses the group, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God”
So as will be his method throughout his ministry, everywhere he goes he first brings the gospel to his countrymen, the Jews, and those who are called ‘God fearers’, meaning they are gentiles who have expressed belief in God and been converted into the Jewish faith.
He would later write in his letter to the church in Rome, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever, Amen.”
Although his call was to take the gospel to the Gentiles, this burning desire of his heart for his countrymen compelled Paul to go first to the Jew.
In every place they rejected Paul and his message, often violently, and he would then turn to the gentiles who time and time again received the gospel with gladness.
This pattern which marked the entire ministry of Paul is evident here in Pisidian Antioch, and this is what we will focus on today.
THE WORD PREACHED
Noted preacher and commentator of the past century, G. Campbell Morgan, said,
“The supreme work of the Christian minister is the work of preaching. This is a day in which one of our great perils is that of doing a thousand little things to the neglect of the one thing, which is preaching.” Preaching, Baker, 1974
I haven’t been around long enough, nor am I proficient in the knowledge of church history enough to comment on when we began to stray from that singleness of vision and purpose.
But God’s ministers of the first century did not labor under that weight of error. Preaching was their primary purpose from the day that in their individual heart and life they came to realize they served a risen Lord.
When Paul and Barnabas came to Pisidian Antioch or any other city or hamlet of their world, they did not come there to bring social reform or to involve themselves in local politics or join the local PTA so they might make contacts in the community and rub elbows with the movers and shakers so they might begin a church with the really wealthy and desirable people of the region.
They came there to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they went first to the place where people were gathered to worship, and they preached.
Paul’s initial approach changed with his audience. To the Jews and God-fearers in Pisidian Antioch he opened with a brief history of the Jewish nation, taking them from the exodus to the establishing of a kingdom and David, whose offspring would be the Savior.
In Acts 14 when Paul and his traveling companions arrive in Lystra God uses Paul to heal a man who had been lame and immediately the Gentiles there proclaim Barnabas to be Zeus and Paul Hermes (Messenger of the gods), and Paul is quick to refute those claims by pointing them to a living God who created all things and is Lord and Protector of all.
When He was invited to speak to the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens he used their own religiosity as a spring-board, mentioning the idols and altars that lined the Apian Way, and beginning with what they called ‘the unknown God’, he introduced them to the Maker and Sustainer of all things who will one day Judge the world in righteousness.