Summary: A key indicator of whether you are one of God’s chosen is whether or not you welcome his word.
Have you ever had to make a speech when you were sick? Well, it looks like that was exactly what Paul did in our study today for his first recorded speech in Pisidian Antioch. His health was ailing, but many of his listeners welcomed the word just the same. It just goes to show that even a sick preacher can deliver a soul-winning message if the listeners will welcome the word!
In Acts 13 we have the first recorded sermon of the Apostle Paul. He is in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, a city in the mountains of Galatia. This first missionary trip has taken them across the island of Cyprus. Cyprus is Barnabas’ home territory. This is also the place Barnabas will return to with John Mark when he and Paul go their separate ways. But on this first missionary journey they leave the island of Cyprus and head to the mainland to Perga, where John Mark leaves them to go home. From Perga they make a long trek up to the mountains of Galatia. Some commentators think Paul may have caught malaria on the island of Cyprus.
Later when Paul writes to the Galatians he says in 4:13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time;
14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.
15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness, that if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.
This is an important passage that tells us that Paul was sick when he got to Pisidian Antioch. He also mentions that the Christians there would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him. This makes it appear that he had some kind of visual problem. Some have guessed that this was Paul’s thorn in the flesh that he mentions in his second letter to the Corinthians. Perhaps he could have used sickness as an excuse to quit. Some commentators think this is why John Mark left them. But Paul didn’t forget John Mark’s choice here and held it over his head later when he and Barnabas discussed the second missionary journey. Paul wasn’t the kind of man to let anything stand in the way of the gospel. He later told a group of Ephesian elders as he was on his way to Jerusalem, (Acts 20: 23), I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.
24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
You’ve got to hand it to Paul; he didn’t let his health or anything else stand in the way of his mission. Paul didn’t let sickness stand in the way of preaching and, as we see, many of his listeners didn’t let his sickness stand in the way of welcoming the word.
Look with me at this sermon preached by Paul in his sickness: verses 16-41.
The most striking thing about the first section is God’s activity on behalf of his people leading up to Jesus. (16-23)
The second section is all about Jesus and how everything that was written about him was fulfilled. (23-41)
The response to this sermon is an invitation to come again the next week to speak further about these things.
They come back and almost the whole town shows up to hear! This creates jealousy among the Jews and they speak against Paul and Barnabas.
Then Paul does something more surprising, he announces that those who reject the message are actually condemning themselves and they turn to the Gentiles.
Notice what verse 48 says: 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.
What are we to do with such a statement in the Bible? They welcomed the word! But what did this indicate about them according to this verse?
Does God’s word mean what God’s word says or not? Does your Bible say that these people were appointed to eternal life? Maybe you have the KJV and yours says that they were ordained to eternal life.
Look with me at Galatians 1:15 and tell me, when did God set Paul apart?
You can chew on this for a while, but let me just say. Whatever God says is true, whether it fits in nicely with our doctrinal understandings or not. We ask people to accept that baptism is for remission of sins when they have been taught all their lives that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. We tell them that baptism is for remission of sins because the Bible says so. And the Bible is right! Now if we are consistent, we have to practice what we preach. If the Bible says here that “all who were appointed for eternal life believed,” then that is the truth.