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Acts #45 (chapter 13:38-41)
The Book of Acts
Paul Preaches Jesus, Part 3
Acts 13:38-41
 
Tonight we are continuing our study of the Book of Acts and we'll be in chapter 13 which records the sermon Paul preached in the city of Antioch of Pisidia.
 
Just to dig around a little in the thinking of Paul and how he approaches this opportunity to preach, it is important to realize that Jewish teaching had three primary themes that dominated their theology and really, their life as a people. 
 
First, they taught that God was active in the history of Israel.  They understood they were God's chosen people. He had called them out of bondage, led them through Moses, protected them from Pharaoh, gave them blessings and covenants and promises and a homeland.
 
And they were instructed to teach their children this rich heritage and history.  All the festivals and holy days celebrated and commemorated the fact that they were God's people and He had been with them through thick and thin.
 
Second, they were taught to remember that God wasn't finished with them.  He had future plans from them that would come to completion when Messiah arrived.  And as much as they took pride in their history, their hope was in the future and the coming of the Christ.
 
The third dominant theme in Jewish doctrine dealt with sin and they knew God took sin seriously.  As rich as was their history, it was also filled with the judgment of God for their sin.  They would wander away, God would bring correction and they would return to him.  Temple life and festivals like the day of Atonement were all designed to deal with sin.
 
So those three things were prominent, not only in Jewish teaching, but because their national life was so closely connected to their religious life, they were also prominent in their daily lives.  Therefore, the Jew never forgot his identity, he never forgot his hope and the he never forgot his sin.
 
And I mention that because I want you to notice what Paul does in this sermon.  He speaks to those three great themes of Judaism and brings every one of them into focus through Jesus. 
 
First, as we saw, he presents Jesus as the culmination of history.  That's verses 17-23. Then in verses 23-37 he presents Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the Messiah.  And thirdly, as we'll see tonight in verses 38-41, Jesus is
 
3. The Justifier of Sinners
 
Now, before we read the verses, I want to set the stage a little bit for what he says to them.  Remember, every Jew has  his mind dominated by these three themes of God's history and plan for Israel, God's promise of a Messiah and God's provision for sin.
 
 
Of all those themes, the one the Jew was most in contact with was the concept of sin. Just as it is with us, history is fine to study and think about, the future is kind of a nebulous concept that's hard to get a handle on , and the farther we go without the return of Christ, the easier it is for it to lose it's significance. 
 
But you've got to live in the hear and now and if your honest about your relationship with God, you've got to be honest about the sin problem.   Andin those days, and especially in Jewish life, there was a tremendous amount of attention and emphasis placed on sin.
 
Every week, they met in the synagogue and they read the Bible and what it said about sin. They studied the Law and the Prophets and they concentrated on sin.  They made sacrifices for sin.  They observed the Day of Atonement because of sin.
 
They even sang about it from the Psalms.  They sang from Psalm 38 about the anger of God and being drowned in sin.  They sang about their need for the mercy of God because of their sin.  They were familiar with the 51st Psalm and what David said about his sin. 
 
And in their teaching there was this mixture of being aware of their sin and understanding God's disapproval of sin and they consequences that came with it. And they knew nobody sins and gets by with it. 
 
So to a Jew with all this problem of sin to deal with, what Paul is getting ready to tell them is the best news they could ever hear.
verses38
 
Now remember, he's still talking about Jesus.  "This Man", capital M, is Jesus.  Forgiveness of sin is made available through Jesus.   And not only that,
 
verse 39
 
That was exactly what a Jew needed to hear! What the law could never do, Jesus did!  All the law of Moses did was just cover you up a little bit and cover you up a little bit and push the sin down the road.  But Paul says, "Jesus deals with all sin by justifying the ones who believe."
 
By the way, the word "justified" means declared righteous. You're declared to be right before God, by Him, and Moses could never do that.  Moses just covered it up with a sacrifice.  He was just buying you some time until Jesus got here!
 
We are given a little picture of that old system in
Hebrews 9 where we are told how the priest would get everything ready and one day a year, he would go into the Holy of Holies and offer a sacrifice for himself and the people.
 
So all the sins for the previous year are all gathered up and taken before God, and there, the priest would sprinkle blood and seek forgiveness. 
 
But it was all temporary.  It was just an object lesson.  That's what verse 8 of Hebrews 9 tells us.  It was the Holy Spirit's way of saying, "All of this is just pointing forward to the real Sacrifice Who will one day come."  It was all symbolic. 
 
Therefore, the sacrifices could never change the standing of a Jew before God and they couldn't relieve him of a guilty conscience. 
 
And I will tell you, as a born-again child of God, the two things I value the most are a right standing before God and a clear conscience.  It is a fantastic thing to know that my sin has been dealt with by God's son, Jesus Christ, and that God sees me as pure as the driven snow, and I have no condemnation because I'm in Christ.
 
It's so sad that so many of God's people, forgiven and justified by the blood of Jesus Christ are bound in guilt.  They are no different from an Old Testament Jew!  They are seen in the words of David as he prays, "My sin is ever before me."
 
But as a Christian, the most liberating thing you will ever experience is when you finally come to accept and understand that your sin is forever and always dealt with and God no longer sees you as a sinner.  You are free in Christ!
 
Then, over in Hebrews 10, the thought line continues.
 
Hebrews 10:1-2
 
The law can't make a man perfect or righteous.  That was the Jew's dilemma and if they could have, there would have been no need to keep repeating the process because they one who offered the sacrifice would have been released from the guild of their sin.
 
But it didn't work that way. 
 
verse 4
 
But once Jesus came, it was possible for sin to be forever forgiven and the guilty conscience cleansed.
 
verse 12
 
Why not sit down?  After all, the work was done ad He was finished. 
 
verse 14
 
It's a very simple concept.  The law of Moses couldn't justify. The law of Moses couldn't make a man righteous and every Jew knew that. That's why the Day of Atonement was the most important day of the Jewish calendar.  Nobody ever dared miss the sacrifices of that day.  Their very existence depended on it.  And it had to be repeated every year.
 
Think about it like this:  Suppose you got really sick and the doctor writes you a prescription.  So you go down to the pharmacy and get the medicine and start taking it. 
 
In a day or two or three, you complete the medicine, it does what it's supposed to and you're all well.  In fact,y ou felt as good as you'd ever felt in your life. The sickness is gone and you feel great.
 
Now just suppose someone asks you how you're doing and you tell them all about the medicine and how well it worked.  You see an ad on TV or in a magazine and remember how it worked.  The medicine gets the credit for curing your illness. 
 
 
But let's just suppose the medicine doesn't work.  In fact, not only do you not get better, you get worse.  Now what happens when you are reminded of the medicine? 
 
Now it is a reminder of just how sick you really are and how lousy those pills are in treating what you have.  And you don't care who know it!  Every ad,  every mention of the pills is nothing but a reminder that you are still sick.
 
What I have just described to you is the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.   
Every time a Jew made a sacrifice, it was nothing more than a reminder that the pills don't work. They can't cure anything. 
 
On the other hand, every song we sing about the cross, every verse that points to the sacrifice of Jesus, every time we gather at the Lord's table, it's like looking at that bottle of pills and saying, "That's what cured me!"
 
For the Jew to make a sacrifice was a drag because it was just a reminder of how messed up he was and he knew all the sacrifices he made in the past didn't do one bit of good because he's still messed up and here he is again seeking atonement for the same od things. 
 
But when you and I celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we do it understanding that what He did in the past takes care of the mess in the present and the future.
 
 
And that's what Paul is saying to these Antiochan Jews. What the law could never do, this man named Jesus, who is the culmination of Jewish history and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy is the source of forgiveness and right standing before God. 
 
Then, in classic Pauline fashion, he closes with an invitation and a warning.
 
verse 40
 
The warning is, "If you don't respond to Jesus Christ, something's going to happen to you that was spoken of in the prophets and you better beware."
 
So what was he warning them about?
 
In verse 41, he quotes Habakkuk 1:5.
 
In Habakkuk's day, Israel was a mess and God said, "Habakkuk, you better tell the people that I'm going to do a work that they're not even going to believe even though you tell them," and the work is the work of judgment.  Now just to be precise, the passage warns in particular about the unbelief of Israel. If Israel rejects as continually as they have the message of God, they're going to get it.
 
Study the book of Habakkuk, and you will see that God sent the Chaldeans, sacked Jerusalem, hauled them off to Babylon and wiped out the whole country. 
 
Now Paul makes a New Testament application of that principle and says, "You remember what the prophets said God was going to do to Israel of old?
You better beware lest what God did then happens to you, when God will work a work of judgment."
 
Just a couple of things I want to point out and then we'll be through. 
 
First, he points out that nobody is going to believe judgment is coming. 
 
I guess the hardest thing for people to believe is that God is a God of judgment, especially in our culture.  God has been so good to us and we've known His love so abundantly that the concept of a God Who judges is hard to conceptualize.
 
But the Bible says that God's going to do a work of judgment which nobody's going to believe.  And the ultimate expression of that judgment is hell.
 
There is a hell and it is a hell, to quote Jesus, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth and eternal pain and judgment and punishment. 
 
There's is day of judgment coming. And men don't believe it but that doesn't mean it isn't going to happen. God knew they wouldn't believe it. He said that right here. You won't believe it even though somebody tells you and so the warning closes out Paul's sermon.
 
The second thing is this: 
 
The only way to miss the judgment is through the finished work of Christ. 
 
That's Paul's point.  Verse 39 says, "by Him (Jesus),  everyone who believes is justified."
 
So the invitation is really pretty simple:  Either believe in Jesus or you won't believe what is going to happen to you. For all who believe, all things are forgiven and you're justified.  And if you don't believe it, there is nothing left but God's judgment. 
 
So you either believe in Jesus Christ or you don't believe what's going to happen as a result. 
 
Let's pray.
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