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(Part 2) Following the Pattern of Paul’s Evangelistic Preaching in Our Gospel Proclamation

July 9, 2023 Preacher: Jeff Griffis Series: Acts of the Holy Spirit Through the Apostles

Scripture: Acts 13:26–41

Following the Pattern of Paul’s Evangelistic Preaching in Our Gospel Proclamation (Part 2) – Acts 13:26–41

Review: How many times have you wondered if you are adequately prepared to proclaim the gospel? How many times have you wondered what gospel tract or approach to use in doing so?

Well, in my study of Acts chapter 13, I’ve become convinced that as Luke is establishing the patterns followed by Paul and Barnabas in their missionary endeavors, that we too should follow said pattern. So when Luke provides an example of Paul’s evangelistic preaching in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, I’m looking closely at Paul’s message and methodology to help us pattern our gospel proclamation accordingly.

We started this endeavor last week, noting that as Paul begins his missionary message, he is attentive to his audience (first), and (second) he takes great care to review the history of God’s faithfulness to his promises leading up to fulfillment in Jesus, the Christ. - So that’s a primary point from last week that I want to repeat again before we continue:

Why is it helpful to rehearse the narrative of Scripture in our gospel proclamation? (vv. 17-25)

In our gospel proclamation, it is right and necessary that we should rehearse the narrative of OT Scripture. It provides the necessary context for understanding God and what he is doing. By reviewing the Scriptural narrative of God’s work, we substantiate the existence of God, we establish God’s holy & faithful character, and we reveal God’s promise, in order that our listeners have opportunity to rightly fear God and desire his rescue. - If there is no fear of God before their eyes (Ps 36:1), it will prove quite difficult to convince them of the significance of their sin and desperate need for salvation.

That way when Jesus is presented, there is understanding for the need. Jesus really has no meaning to the listener without this context. But with the background of God’s word, we begin to understand that Jesus came because of the seriousness of our sin, and he came because God is faithful to fulfill his promise.

Ok, now let’s turn to where we’re heading today. - After rehearsing God’s faithfulness to his promise (to and through Israel) by bringing fulfillment in Jesus, Paul gives further explanation and evidence about the central event and purpose of Christ’s ministry, which means an emphasis on his death and resurrection, followed by personal implication for his audience that they must make a choice concerning Jesus.

We explained last week that each transition in Paul’s message is marked by a direct address to his audience. So Paul does this very thing again v. 26. 

Acts 13:26–31 ESV

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. 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.

Though this is a repeated theme from last week, Paul continues to be attentive to who his audience is, so we should be asking…

How might we account for our audience in gospel proclamation? (vv. 16, 26, 38)

Let’s look first at Paul’s example. In v. 26 - “brothers, sons of the family of Abraham” and “those who fear God” - which links the significance of Jesus with the history of God’s faithfulness to his promises to bring this salvation - “to us has been sent the message of this salvation” - People eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. - Paul also connects himself to his audience, a common need for this salvation.

Following Paul’s example of evangelistic preaching in our gospel proclamation, it is right and necessary that we account for our audience. 1. Will there be diff btwn presenting to a group of people vs conversations with individuals? - exs. preaching a text and making app to this group gathered, not to people who live in NYC and aren’t here; also taking some care not to presume there is uniformity in thinking. 2. Asking questions and being good listeners. There is only one message of the gospel, but the better we understand someone, the better our clarity of gospel proclamation for that person.

And here’s another question we can answer from these verses about the pattern Paul establishes that we should follow:

The message of salvation centers on what historical person and events? (vv. 27-37)

I joke with people now, because I’ve heard it happen numerous times (with innocent phrases like “I believed in God”), that it’s a good idea to mention Jesus when you describe your testimony. You can’t accurately witness or give testimony of your salvation without emphasizing the central figure of not only your faith but of God’s only means of salvation—Jesus Christ. Biblical examples indicate that we should be specific about who Jesus is and why he came, and that he died and rose again and why that matters and why I believe in him alone to save and restore me to God.

So we can follow Paul’s pattern here, where in v. 27 “For” - the message of salvation centers around the climactic events that took place concerning Jesus - There is no message of salvation apart from Jesus. And there is no message of salvation without the cross AND the resurrection. It isn’t simply Paul’s audience in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch that must understand God’s purpose and plan for Christ’s suffering and resurrection. Anyone who would be saved must comprehend the identity and work of Jesus Christ, and must then choose, commit, entrust themselves to him alone to be their complete salvation.

Therefore, Paul explains: The people in Jerusalem, and especially “their rulers,” did not recognize Jesus as fulfillment of messianic prophecy. “Read every sabbath” highlights that they should have done so, they should have understood. - The Apostle John said it this way in the introduction to his Gospel: John 1:10-11

John 1:10–11 ESV

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Instead, the Jews in Jerusalem (v. 27) participated in fulfilling the Scriptures by condemning Jesus. - It is possible if not probable that Luke, in his summary, didn’t have space and time to include every scriptural citation that Paul may have used. We’ll see that he highlights three specific ones later. - Here Paul may have had such examples in his mind, of their rejection and betrayal fulfilling the Scriptures, as Isaiah 53:3 and Psalm 118:22.

Isaiah 53:3 ESV

3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Psalm 118:22 ESV

22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

The point Paul is making is that most Jews in Jerusalem missed their Messiah, and that a rejection and execution of Jesus fulfilled Scripture. That sacrificial death of the Christ was according to the definite plan of God. See a similar theme in Peter’s words in his opening sermon in Jerusalem after Pentecost: Acts 2:23

Acts 2:23 ESV

23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

  1. 28 is further explanation of how they did this, Jews and leaders in Jerusalem. There was a trial, and that trial yielded his innocence—no guilt worthy of death. They ended up convicting him, in their own eyes, of blasphemy (for admitting the truth of his identity), and by claiming to Pilate that he was an insurrectionist, guilty of sedition against Rome. But even of this Pilate knew he was innocent. (See Luke 23:1-5)

We know, however, that in the end Pilate relented to their cries for his crucifixion (Luke 23:21-24). But Jesus’ enemies unknowingly fulfilled the prophecies about the Savior. Despite this miscarriage of justice by the Jewish leadership, citizens in Jerusalem, and Pilate, this was according to God’s plan and purpose. This injustice was ultimately so that Christ could fulfill God’s perfect justice on behalf of those whom he would justify through faith.

  1. 29 summarizes the actual execution, concerning which Paul chooses to emphasize for this audience as also being fulfilled according to Scripture about the Messiah—“they carried out all that was written of him”. (The texts in mind here would likely include Isa. 52:13–53:12; Pss. 22; 69; 118.)

So too, the Apostles intentionally refer to Christ’s death on “a tree,” alluding to Deut 21:22-23(a), where it says that a person who dies in such manner is cursed by God. Although it isn’t developed here in Luke’s summary, Paul explains the significance of this in Galatians 3:13.

Galatians 3:13 ESV

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Paul taught the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ: he who knew no sin took upon himself our sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21)—be justified through faith, declared righteous before God (Rom 5:1).

Here, in v. 29 of Ac 13, the emphasis transitions from the cross to the clear fact that they laid him in a tomb because he was dead (and his body was not discarded in the normal dishonorable manner of crucified criminals). Again, laying him in a tomb is confirmation of his factual death, and it also sets up the essential truth of his resurrection, accomplished by God.

[Read v. 30] While it was others who caused Christ’s execution on a cross, it was God himself who vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. (This vindicates not only his innocence, but also vindicates God’s saving purpose through him, and vindicates Christ’s person as Lord of all.)

The fact of the resurrection is absolutely essential to the gospel. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, and our faith is futile, and our hope of eternal life is pointless (1 Cor 15:14, 17,19).  But Paul therefore establishes the fact of the resurrection with eyewitnesses who can and are presently testifying to the truth of his appearances to them. [Read. v. 31]

Josh McDowell rightly argues in his book, More Than a Carpenter, that the only logical explanation for the behavior of the Apostles in what followed in their lives after the historical life of Jesus, is that these men truly believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, because he appeared to them, repeatedly, before ascending to the throne of God. You don’t stake your entire life on a known falsehood. Instead, they staked there lives on the proven resurrection of Jesus and on the Spirit whom he gave them to be his witnesses. - We now have the entire NT cannon to establish this, especially the four Gospels and Acts.

[repeat the question for review/summary]

And we continue in v. 32 with yet another pattern from Paul that we should follow.

Acts 13:32–37 ESV

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.

Here we have Paul’s example to answer this question:

What essential tool has God provided that we must use in gospel proclamation? (vv. 33-35, 41)

God has given his revelation in his word, the Bible. The Scripture itself confirms that what God reveals, what God says, has its intended effect, even as the rains water the earth and produce health and growth and what is needed; it does not merely evaporate and return to God empty (Isaiah 55:10-11). The Holy Spirit further says in Hebrews that God’s word is living and active; it’s like a sword that is sharp on both sides, so that we allow God’s word to speak the truth that God reveals, because it pierces the inner man, teaching a person to judge accurately the thoughts and desires of their heart (Heb 4:12). And in a description of the armor of God for believers to stand against the dangerous falsehood of the devil, we are instructed to arm ourselves with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6:17).

You see, I’m arguing a point to you right now about what God says by using Scripture. The pattern Paul gives us here is to use Scripture; let God himself speak from his word. When Paul proclaims to them good news that what God promised he has fulfilled to us in Jesus (vv. 32-33), he uses scriptural quotation to show that, through Christ’s coming, and through his death and resurrection in particular, God has vindicated his promises.

Here is my effort to give you the simplest summary I can of how Paul seems to be using these three quotations: 1. God brought forth the true messianic Son, as he promised—Jesus, the Christ (Ps 2:7). 2. And this promise he had made to David he reinforced to Israel at the time of their exile, that they would yet receive the holy and sure blessings of David (Is 55:3). 3. This God has now accomplished, and the proof is in the resurrection of Jesus from the grave (Ps 16:10). He is the Son of David and Son of God whose body did not decay because he was resurrected on the third day.

Now, the way the Apostles use the Jewish Scriptures in the NT can seem complex, so it’s only fair that we spend more time on Paul’s quotations and explanation next week. But for today, I feel like it is right and necessary to show how this message hangs together so that we can follow its pattern.

For now, then, I’ll summarize again what I believe Paul is showing with these three quotations: God raised up the true Son, the Messianic king, as he promised. God reinforced his promise and reassured his people (in exile) that they would still indeed receive the “holy and sure blessings of David.” This God has now done and proven by the token of the Holy One’s resurrection from the dead (which could not have applied to David, but does apply to Jesus).

What’s the point for us to take away? God has given us his own revelation, so we must use it. The Bible is not only our primary source of information for evangelism, but this sword of the Spirit is also the primary weapon. We may summarize and we may quote, but the goal is to show what God himself has revealed.

A final question to answer, from Paul’s pattern, is this:

Gospel proclamation isn’t finished until we have done what with our hearers? (vv. 38-41)

Acts 13:38–41 ESV

38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: 41 “ ‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”

Evangelism isn’t done until we have made it personal and invited them to make a decision to accept or reject Christ. - Now, it may be the case, perhaps even often, that we won’t get an immediate overt reaction in the affirmative or to the contrary. That’s ok precisely because we aren’t trying to do the Holy Spirit’s work that only God can do. But by the example we see, our part isn’t done until we’ve expressed to the person or people, as clearly as we can, that a response to Jesus is required by God. 

So Paul argues, which again will have to be a summary for today, that Christ has fulfilled what is necessary to secure our forgiveness, which is atonement for sin. Christ has fulfilled the law perfectly, the law’s righteous requirement (Rom 8:4), so that in him we may be justified (declared righteous), free from needing to fulfill what the law requires, which we are unable to do. The law can’t justify us because we can’t keep it perfectly. Jesus not only kept perfect holiness, he then took our sin upon himself and became an atoning sacrifice on the cross, so that by his resurrection life we can be forgiven and free.

Conclusion:

Let’s review what God has said through Paul and apply it to us: Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s saving promises. Jesus revealed and fulfilled God’s perfect plan by his death and resurrection, which is well-attested by NT witnesses and by OT prophecy. It is Jesus alone who can offer forgiveness of sin and the perfect rightness we need to be in relationship to God. So you must respond in faith to Jesus, or find yourself a scoffer who rejects Jesus and will perish, to learn for all eternity how wrong you were to not accept God’s offer of salvation through Jesus.

Let’s use Paul’s evangelistic framework to help us be better equipped in gospel proclamation:

  1. We should take care to know our audience as best we can, because although the overall message of salvation is the same, the presentation is impacted by what the person knows and doesn’t know, believes and doesn’t believe.
  2. Rehearse the narrative of Scripture to give appropriate context for who God is and who we are and why Jesus came.
  3. Be as specific and complete as we can about the person and work of Christ: his life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection. That includes explaining that what has happened since then is precisely because Jesus is who God says he is.
  4. From beginning to end, the truth of God’s own word is our primary tool in evangelism. - Memorize it, summarize it, and quote it. (Consider having the person you are witnessing to read the words themselves.)
  5. Whether it takes multiple opportunities over time or if we have only one shot, our goal must be to get to put a choice before our hearers, to accept or reject Christ.

Church, we will live and die as Christ’s witnesses still growing in this endeavor. We have to be ok with that. But we shouldn’t be ok if we aren’t doing it, or if we aren’t following the patterns of evangelism we see in Scripture. Finally, we must pray like ultimately none of this depends on us and all of it depends on God, because that’s the truth.

PRAY: Triune God, salvation is from you... and it is for our good but for your glory. We pray for your indwelling Holy Spirit to make us faithful witnesses. And we pray for the salvation of souls that you are drawing to yourself. Thank you for letting us be a part of your ministry in this world. Amen.

 

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