Acts Lesson 1: 13.26-39
Prayers & Announcements
Handouts: Acts Overview and Chart
Introduction: The chapter opens with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey as they arrive in Antioch of Pisidia in Asia Minor, a part of modern Turkey today. As was customary with him, Paul attended worship services at the local Jewish synagogue, and after the public reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue gave him the opportunity address the gathered people. Paul was quick to take advantage of this opening and introduced his message by pointing to God's work in history, with special emphasis on attention to how he had chosen, prospered, and lead the people of Israel (vv. 16-22). Then he explained to them how the coming of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of all of God's promises to Israel (vv. 23-25).
Read Acts 13:26-29 - Crucified
26 "Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.
v. 26a: "Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God" - Paul addressed his audience first, as "brothers," i.e., people sharing a common heritage with him and who, as "sons of the family of Abraham," were Jews by birth. Paul used this title as a compliment because this Jewish audience highly valued their descent from Abraham but also because the promise of the Messiah had been given specially to him, a fellow Jew. The term "those among you who fear God" referred to Gentiles who had become Jewish proselytes or converts. In Paul's future travels, these "God-fearers" were often the first converts to Christianity.
v. 26b: "to us has been sent the message of salvation" - By "us," Paul means that this message of salvation was sent to the Jewish people first.
Comment: Before he moved to the next part of his message, Paul anticipated and answered two questions that he knew his Jewish audience would be thinking: (1) If Jesus is God's Savior and Messiah, why did the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem reject Him? and (2) When the Jewish leaders rejected and killed Jesus, did they somehow obstruct or defeat God's purpose?
v. 27a: For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize Him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath" - Answering the first question, Paul explained that the reason they didn't recognize Jesus as Messiah was because they did not "hear" (i.e., comprehend) the voice of the prophets who spoke to them every Sabbath as God's Word was read aloud. Ironically, they heard the words and some even memorized great parts of Scripture, but they didn't understand it. As Jesus said to them Himself, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." Jn. 5:39-40. The Jews in Jerusalem and their leaders were expecting a Messiah who, as a political and military figure, would free them of Roman rule and restore Israel to its former standing among nations. Instead, they should have been looking for the One actually described in prophecy who could free them from the greater burden of sin and eternal death.
v. 27b: "fulfilled them by condemning Him" - Answering the second question, Paul shows that the Jews' rejection and killing of Jesus did not in any way defeat God's plan but fulfilled it exactly in accordance with scripture, e.g., Isa. 53:12, states, in part, "...because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors."
v. 28: "And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed" - If you remember our study of Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin in Mt. 26 last July, the religious leaders had no clear evidence against Him, and only convicted Him on a charge of blasphemy when He admitted that He was the Messiah, which was a true statement. Here, Paul explains that the trial was, in fact, a travesty of justice in which no crime deserving a death penalty had been proven--a political maneuver rather than a judicial act.
v. 29a: "And when they had carried out all that was written of him" - Every detail of Jesus' betrayal arrest, mockery of a trial, torture, guards gambling for His clothes, nailing His hands and feet to a cross, hanging Him between two felons, piercing His side, were foretold by OT prophecy (Isa. 50 and 53, Zech. 12, Ps. 22 and 41).
v. 29b: "they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb" - By referring to the cross as a "tree," Paul alludes to Deut. 21:23 where it states that God curses a man hung from a tree, which Paul used to illustrate the idea that Jesus was cursed-i.e., bore all of our sins on the cross-so that we could be forgiven and justified before a holy and righteous God.
Comment: Notice that Paul is proceeding with tact. While he certainly does not excuse the treachery and great evil surrounding the trial and execution of Jesus, he nevertheless delivers this message to his Jewish audience in the form of an explanation rather than an indictment of Jews in general. He wanted them to understand how and why these things had happened, but without alienating them.
Read Acts 13:30-37 - Resurrected
30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you.' 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, "'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.' 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, "'You will not let your Holy One see corruption.' 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.
v. 30: "But God raised him from the dead" - "But God," what a great statement! Man did his best to fight God and even to kill Him, but God was greater than man's sin and rebellion. But God overruled man's wicked and wrongful killing of Jesus by raising Him from the dead.
v. 31: "and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people" - Paul mentions the many witnesses who saw the risen Jesus over a period of many days (which suggests that there may have been more resurrection appearances of the risen Christ than are recorded in the gospels). As with all apostolic witness in Acts, the resurrection of Jesus is central. In making this point, notice that the focus of Paul's preaching here is not on philosophy or theology but on events that actually happened--facts. As theologian James Montgomery Boice put it, "Christianity is not just a philosophy or a set of ethical standards...but a proclamation of facts that concern what God has done."
v. 32: "And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers" - "Good news" referred to the Gospel message, and to any Jew, the greatest message to be heard was that the Messiah had truly come. The "promise" referred to all that had been spoken in the OT concerning the advent, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah as foretold.
v. 33: "this He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you'" (Ps. 2:7b) - Taken with words "my son" and "I have begotten You," means that the resurrection proved that Jesus is truly the one and only Son of God, and the word "today," which can be interpreted this day and every day forward, means that Jesus' reign is everlasting-eternal.
v. 34a: "And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption" - The point Paul is making here is that Jesus wasn't just "resuscitated" from death (as with those he had previously raised like Lazarus) but "risen" so that He would never die again.
v. 34b: "he has spoken in this way, 'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David'" - Paul further underscores the resurrection with a quote from Isa. 55:3. The word "you" in the Greek is expressed as plural, meaning that the message was to all of God's people, and the "holy and sure blessings of David" would make an everlasting covenant with them through the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the promised descendant of David.
v. 35: "Therefore he says also in another psalm, "'You will not let your Holy One see corruption'" - Referring to Ps. 16:10, Paul makes the point that a dead Messiah could never fulfill the promised blessings of David.
v. 36: "For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption" - Paul explains that David's kingdom was not meant to be the ultimate plan but served a specific purpose for its time, anticipating the greater Messiah to come. David, though not sinless, was faithful and fulfilled God's purpose for his life.
v. 37: "but he whom God raised up did not see corruption" - Matching the resurrection with the quote of Ps. 16:20, Paul hammers home the point that, unlike David, only an everlasting and eternal (.e., "did not see corruption") Messiah, Jesus Christ, could fulfill the promise of God.
Synopsis of Paul's message in vv. 30-37: (1) God had given His promise to send a Savior to His chosen people, Israel; (2) He had kept that promise by sending Jesus, a descendant of David, in fulfillment of the prophecies given hundreds of years before; (3) The fact that the Jewish leaders rejected and killed Jesus did not nullify God's plan but fulfilled it in accordance with Scripture; and (4) God then raised Jesus from the dead, also in accordance with OT prophecy (cf. Isa 53). This leads up to Paul's final point.
Read Acts 13:38-39 - Proclaimed
38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed [justified KJV] from everything from which you could not be freed [justified KJV] by the law of Moses.
v. 38: "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you" - Having made the case, Paul now delivers the invitation. He addresses them as "brothers," meaning fellow Jews. The word "known" means that Paul had established two facts: (1) that Jesus is the Messiah of OT prophecy and (2) God confirmed Him through the resurrection. He then proclaims two great promises obtained by faith "through this man"-Jesus: First, the promise of the forgiveness of sin. Paul's audience, the Jews, believed that God's acceptance was obtained through keeping the Law of Moses. But Paul boldly states that right standing with God can never be obtained through the Law; because all have sinned and violate God's holy law.
v. 39: "and by him everyone who believes is freed [justified KJV] from everything from which you could not be freed [justified KJV] by the law of Moses" - The second promise: Faith in Jesus means more than your sins being forgiven; when you believe in Him, you are "justified," which means you are declared "righteous" in the sight of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and stand before God as if you had never sinned-your sins are in effect totally forgotten, blotted out.
APPLICATION - two simple truths:
PRAYER: Father, in closing, we lift up this great nation in this time of national emergency-during this pandemic that has attacked our nation from shore to shore and taken many lives. We, pray, God, that You will use this catastrophic event to turn people back You. We pray that it will bring revival to our land and bring us, as a nation, back into Your fold, so that we may once again call ourselves "one nation Under God."
If there is anyone listening right now who doesn't know Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior, I want you to know that God is offering you an invitation right now. This isn't from me but is God's invitation to you personally, as the Creator and sustainer of the universe. If you are feeling led to accept this invitation, I ask you to contact this church or any church of your choice and learn how you can know the love of Jesus Christ and not only be saved but be reborn spiritually as a new person, with a new life. I pray and ask all these things in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, AMEN.