Summary: Easter 4(C) - Paul proclaims God’s message of salvation which is a message revealing ignorance, disobedience and sin but also a message providing knowledge, forgiveness and life.
PAUL PROCLAIMS GOD’S MESSAGE OF SALVATION
May 7, 2006 - EASTER 4 - Acts 13:15,16a; 26-33
Dear Friends, Fellow-Redeemed:
Today, once again we are going to hear about the apostle Paul. And who can forget Paul, once called Saul? Last week we heard how the Lord changed his life with a miraculous conversion. We are reminded that we have been changed by the very same kind of miraculous conversion. Every believer has been brought back from death and darkness into life and the light of the knowledge of salvation by the power of God in his word and sacraments. We have seen how Saul’s life was changed from a persecutor of the followers of the Way to become the greatest proclaimer of Christ’s message. Paul gave up everything he had known before. He no longer wanted to live in ignorance and no longer wanted to act in ignorance. Instead, Paul now understood and believed the powerful message of the Gospel now given to him was given to him so that he might share it with others. It is the same with us today.
Paul writes in Philippians: "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8). Paul wanted to learn more about Christ. So it is that we find that this text is Paul’s first recorded sermon for us. Paul preached before this, of course; but this was his first recorded sermon as preached in Antioch. Paul proclaims God’s message of salvation. We heard that term in the beginning of our text that he says, "God sent to us this message of salvation."
PAUL PROCLAIMS GOD’S MESSAGE OF SALVATION
I. A message revealing ignorance, disobedience and sin
II. A message providing knowledge, forgiveness and life
I. A MESSAGE REVEALING IGNORANCE, DISOBEDIENCE AND SIN
We first note the similarity as our text begins with the service in the synagogue thousands of years ago and our service today. It says: "After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, ’Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.’" As they had the Law and the Prophets, so they read the message from the first five books of the Bible. The early Christians also had the Psalms, and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. They had Scripture readings and then had the sermon. A little bit different is that they would ask those who had come as visitors to get up and speak to them and for them. Of course, they realized Paul and his friends, Barnabas and his companions, had just come from Jerusalem. What better way to find out about the message of reconciliation and salvation, then to ask those who know. They asked Paul to come up and tell them what he knew about the Savior.
"Standing up, Paul got up, he motioned with his hand and said: ’Brothers, children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.’" Here too, we notice the fact that as he is in the synagogue now, it is no longer just the Jews by themselves, no longer just God’s people who were considered first chosen. Paul addresses both the children of Abraham and God-fearing Gentiles. In the synagogue or congregation there were Jews who believed on the Savior and also Gentiles who believed on the Savior. Paul is going to tell them about this message of salvation. We also want to remember that the early church did not have newspapers or mass communication or telephone and Internet service. They simply relied on the word of mouth brought to them in person.
Paul is going to review for them briefly and quickly what took place in Jerusalem. He says to them: "The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath." The original says they didn’t recognize what God’s word said. They acted in ignorance and disobedience leading to sin. We remember the leaders thought it beneficial that Jesus would be put to death. They acted out of ignorance, even though every Sabbath they gathered in the synagogue. Every Sabbath they read and heard the Law and the Prophets. They failed to believe what God’s word said to them. So their ignorance really became sin. God’s Word was spoken and they rejected it. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers wanted to put Jesus to death, but they wanted to be innocent.
We know what they did. We heard it in the other message from Acts (today’s first lesson, Acts 4:23-33), from Peter. The people handed Jesus over to Pilate. Paul says the same: "Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed." Again, we see that their ignorance goes right over into sin. They found no reason to put Jesus to death. The chief priest sent him back and forth. They found nothing wrong, so they sent him to Pilate – the officer of the government. Pilate says the same thing and tries to wash his hands of the affair. The crowds continually cry out, "Crucify." So they carry out their action of ignorance and disobedience and sin.