A Message for All Nations - leaders' notes

Read Acts 13:13-52 noting whom Paul addressed in his sermon and how they responded to his message.

This is the first of Paul's missionary journeys. It was his custom to start in the synagogue of every new city he entered (Acts 17:2). There he would not only have encountered Jewish listeners with a rich heritage of understanding the creator and his dealings with his people but also God-fearing Gentiles. These Gentiles had not converted to Judaism but were closely associated with their local synagogue.

13:16-22 - This is Paul's first big sermon, having merely been the companion of Barnabas until this time. He addressed both Jews and Gentiles in the crowd as he summarised God's faithfulness throughout Israel's history. He began not simply with their rescue from Egypt but their time in Egypt where they prospered even though they were enslaved. This is a fulfilment of God's promise to make Abraham into a great nation with many descendants.He then traced their rebellious wilderness wanderings and God's gracious dealings with them which resulted in them displacing the pagan nations in Canaan and fulfilling God's promise to Abraham to give this land to Abraham's descendants. Finally, he described the circumstances around the formation of kingship in Israel and hints at the promises God made to David. All this sets the stage for what Paul was going to tell them about Jesus.

13:23-37 - Jesus is the promised descendant of Abraham and of David. Despite the fact that he was rejected by the religious leaders of Israel his resurrection proves he is the one who fulfils all the Old Testament promises. Paul highlights again in verse 26 that this message of salvation is for both Jews and Gentiles.

13:38-41 - Paul is very deliberate here. Forgiveness of sins is proclaimed through Jesus and it's only through faith in him, not by the law, that we are freed from our sins. The message of salvation is for everyone but it comes with a stern warning - those who reject it will perish.

13:42-50 - There was a mixed response to the truth about Jesus; some rejected it and others accepted it. Those who rejected the truth began to persecute Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave the area. Paul once more emphasised the inclusive nature of the gospel in verse 47; he quoted Isaiah 49 to prove God's message of salvaton is, and always has been, intended for all people everywhere.

13:51-51 - Persecution did not distract Paul and Barnabas from the task they had been given by God, nor did it dampen their spirits. They simply moved on to the next city to preach the gospel there.

The message of the apostles centred around the person and work of Jesus. It showed that Jesus was the promised king, the fulfilment of God's dealings with his people from the beginning. The resurrection of Jesus was the final sign that he is who he claims to be. A mixed response to this message is to be expected, but the Holy Spirit enables those who are persecuted to keep preaching the gospel with joy despite opposition.

Reflect

  • What is it about Paul's speech here that excites you most about God's plan of salvation? How does/could your life reflect this?
  • Think about the different responses you've had when speaking about Jesus. How is the example of Paul and Barnabas an encouragement to you?
  • Give thanks that the resurrection of Jesus proves he is the promised king. Pray the Holy Spirit would make you bold and joyful in sharing the gospel with all people, despite the opposition.