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Acts #46 (chapter 13:42-52)
The Book of Acts
The Troubling Gospel
Acts 13:42-52
 
Tonight we are in the closing verses of chapter 13 of our study of Acts following Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Beginning in verse 13, we find Paul preaching in the synagogue in a city called Antioch of Pisidia.
 
And to this primarily Jewish audience, Paul has been explaining the Jesus is the Promised Messiah, and that this verified by seeing Him as the culmination of Jewish history, (verses 16-23), the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy (verses 23-37, and God's solution to the sin problem of mankind (verses 38-41).
 
He touches on every major point of concern for a Jew!  They were well aware of their rich heritage as the people of God, they knew the promises and prophecies concerning a future day of glory and peace, and they understood the significance and consequences of sin and how it separated them from God.
 
So Paul shows up for church, gets invited to preach, shares this message centered on Jesus, wrapped it up with a warning and an invitation and today we're going to see the response.   So what happened?
 
The initial response was positive. In fact, at the beginning, everything looked really good. But the subsequent response split, with some being very negative and others being very positive, which is not too surprising.  That's generally the way it is anytime the gospel is preached.
And notice, I said "when the gospel is preached".  If you preach a message that soft pedals the need for forgiveness and the necessity of the blood and no one will be too passionate one way of the other.  But if you preach the gospel, some respond positively, and others negatively.  But generally, speaking, the gospel causes trouble.
 
That happens with families.  A person gets saved and all of a sudden it creates tension.  A wife starts going to church and the husband doesn't like it.  A child gets saved and the parents don't like them going to the church all the time. 
 
So that's what happens here in Antioch.  So first, let's see how it happened.  First, we see
 
1.  The Initial Response
 
verses 42 to 44
 
So at first, it looks like revival has broken out! In fact, if I was the one doing the preaching, I would have been thinking, "Man, this is fantastic. Everyone's going to get saved."  And it would have been easy to draw that conclusion. 
 
After all, the people were
 
- pleased
 
with what they heard. They leave church talking about what a great sermon they'd heard, just like you do every Sunday! They couldn't wait to get back next Sunday!  Begges paul and Barnabas to return.
 
 
The greatest compliment any audience can pay the preacher is to ask him to come back next time and tell them the same stuff all over again.  Did you notice that?  They didn't even ask him to come up with a new sermon.  They asked him to repeat what he'd just said!
 
Obviously, they were pleased.   And they were
 
- persistent
 
Not only did they ask them to return, according to verse 43, some of the Jews and devout proselytes followed them around. 
 
So here we have what appears to be some of the congregation who were possibly saved, and they just want to encourage Paul and Barnabas to continue teaching and learn what they can while they are there.
 
They wanted to know more. They were so interested in the gospel and the things of God.  What a compliment it is when people stick around to talk and ask questions and continue the lesson. I think it safe to say that here we have some folks who are
 
- professing
 
Whether or not they were saved , we don't know, but it appears they are at least interested in the message of grace, they have broken with the teachings of Judaism and are following these messengers of God's grace. 
 
 
So the initial response to the gospel was they were pleased, they were persistent, and they were professing. Then, notice they were 
 
- present
 
verse 44
 
So next Sunday rolls around and everyone comes back, and apparently brings some folks with them! Almost the whole city is there to hear the Word of God.
 
One thing I've noticed through the years, and it's always been a discouragement to me, it that someone can respond to an invitation or perhaps a visit in their home.  They seem excited to follow God and accept Christ, they do all the right things and make a profession of faith, and then you never see them again.  If it happens on a Sunday morning, they don't even come back to church that night! 
 
Some folks only need the church to show off a new baby or get married or have a funeral.  As Adrian Rogers used to say, some only come to the church to hatch, match and dispatch!
 
But not these folks!  They showed up. They not only wanted Paul and Barnabas to return, they returned also!
 
So there are a lot of positives initially. Everything looked good at the beginning and for all intents and purposes, it looked like a revival was about to happen.  But there is another side to the story and
that is
 
2.  The Subsequent Response
 
verse 45
 
If the initial one was positive, the subsequent one was split as the crowd goes is opposite ways with the Jewish reaction being negative and the Gentile's positive.  This amazing crowd gathers at the local synagogue and the Jews are offended.  
 
On the negative side, they were envious "and they spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming." In this amazing reversal, the same group that were pleased, persistent, professing and present, now all of a sudden, are fighting the whole thing.  A couple of different dynamics are at work that cause this reaction.  One of them was
 
- prejudice
 
It was fine to celebrate Jewish history and prophecy and the future and all that, just don't include any Gentiles in the discussion.   Jews did not like Gentiles belonging to0 the same God and receiving the same salvation and blessing of God and Messiah that they had. They couldn't handle that. It was prejudice. It was selfishness. It was personal privilege, Jewish superiority. That was the issue and we see that in the word "envy".
 
And notice, they weren't just affected on the inside by envy, that envy expresses itself in the things they said. 
 
 
 
They
 
- contradicted
 
the things Paul said.  They started this long and loud argument opposing the teaching of Paul.  And it would have been bad enough just to refuse the gospel message, but they don's stop.  The next word is
 
- blaspheming
 
 Blasphemy is the worst sin anyone can commit. It's the sin of speaking evil of God and of His Christ and they did it. This is the same crowd that just a week ago that were amazed at the preaching of Paul as they consider Jesus and what Paul taught regarding Him. 
 
And now, these who were so close wind up forfeiting a right relationship with God and eternity in heaven over a sin as stupid as prejudice.  What a reaction.
 
And notice how Paul and Barnabas respond. Paul and Barnabas weren't afraid of anyone and as the thing gets stirred up, they jump into the mix and what he said was not exactly an attempt to soothe things over.   
 
verse 46
 
We spoke to you first because that was God's plan.  But you didn't want what God offered, so we're taking it to the rest of the world. That may be one of the saddest verses in the Bible, as far as Judaism is concerned.
 
After hundreds of years of waiting for Him and anticipating His coming and hoping and dreaming and waiting, when He shows up, they don't want Him.
 
Not only is it a sad statement, it leads to one of the most fearful things anyone could ever hear.
 
Paul says, "Yu judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life."
 
You consider all the costs and facts and determine you don't need what Jesus offers and you judge yourself unworthy of everlasting life.
 
Do you know that a man who rejects Jesus Christ judges himself? I believe in human responsibility. I believe if a man dies and goes to hell, he goes there just because he himself chose to go there. God is not willing that any should perish. If a man dies without Christ, that's because he wanted to do that. And nobody will ever be able to say to God, "I wanted to go to heaven and you wouldn't let me."
 
No, man goes to hell by choice.  When it comes to hell, dependent on what you do with Jesus, you judge yourselves.  You pronounce your own sentence.
 
So to these Jews who reject Jesus, Paul says,
"We now turn to the Gentiles. By the way, the turning to the Gentiles was not in terms of salvation.  I think we need to make it clear that God's salvation was not for one or the other, but both. 
 
 
It was always God's intention to save anyone, not just Jews.  The turning from the Jews to the Gentiles was in regard to who God would use to share the message of salvation with the world.
 
We know that because of what Paul says here in verse 47, which is a quoted from Isaiah 49:6.
 
verse 47
 
So Who has been set as a light to the Gentiles?  Well, that is a Messianic prophecy.  Jesus is the light of the nations, the light of the world.  in a couple of weeks, we're going to look at what Simeon said when the baby Jesus was brought to the temple to be dedicated.  In part, he says of Jesus, "He was sent to be a light to the nations and bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
 
Messiah wasn't just sent for Israel. He was sent for everyone.  And God will have that message shared.  He intended to use the Jews to do it.  They didn't what their Messiah, therefore they couldn't be messengers of the Messiah.  So He turns to the Gentiles.
 
So that's the negative side. Let's quickly see the positive side.
 
verse 48
 
So what was it the Gentiles heard that made them so happy?  It was that salvation was for them and Messiah was for them. And when they found that out, they not only got happy, they got saved!
 
While the Jews were having a fit, the Gentiles were getting saved.  And by the way, notice those who were saved were those "appointed to eternal life".  That sounds like God chose them, doesn't it?  That's exactly what happened.  Just like God chose you. 
 
You mean God chooses those that will be saved?  That's what the Bible teaches from cover to cover.  What else could it mean?  The word "appointed" is translated elsewhere as "ordained" and it means to  "make out a list" and what Paul is saying is that as many as were put on the list for eternal life believed.
 
So when did God write the list? According to Revelation 13:8 and 17:8, from the foundation of the world.  That's the Biblical doctrine of election. You say, "You mean that everybody who's saved is saved because God ordained them and wrote their name?" Yes.
 
You say, "But you just said in verse 46 that if a man goes to hell, it's his own fault." Right. You say, "Those two don't go together." Exactly. The Bible teaches both. I believe both. I can't figure it out.  It doesn't make sense to me.  That means it's God's problem, not mine.
 
But I know this thing. If a man dies without Christ, it's his own fault and if a man comes to Jesus Christ, it's all God's fault. When you get saved, God gets all the credit. When you are lost, you get all the blame.
 
Now you don't understand that. I don't understand that. I just believe it...both of them in the same passage. As many as were written on the roll believed but everybody who disbelieved was pronouncing sentence on himself.
These two doctrines of God's sovereignty and the free will of man run on parrallel tracks through the pages of God's Word and they never have a conflict.  And as someone has observed, when we enter heaven's gates, we will be greeted with a sign that says "Whosoever will may come" and when we get in and look back, we'll see a sign that says, "Chosen from the foundations of the world."
 
On the one side is human responsibility which declares that if a man dies without Christ, it's his own fault, and divine sovereignty on the other side that emphasizes that when a man comes to Christ, it's only because the Father drew him. And all of that was going on in Antioch when Paul preached Jesus.   What a blessed day it was.
 
One final positive I want us to see.  Do you know what always follows legitimate salvation?
 
verse 49
 
When people get saved, they share. What a tremendous positive response and I want to show you the key. Listen while I read these verses and see if you can hear the common denominator:
 
verse 44, 46, 48, 49
 
Did you hear it?  The Word.  Do you know why Antioch was in such turmoil?  Not because Paul spoke on human relations, poverty programs, social problems and culture. It was because he spoke the Word of the Lord. That was the key to everything.
 
And do you know why evangelism was so prominent?  It is the natural response to the Word of God.
Finally, see
 
3.  The Results
 
verse 50
 
So the Jews stirred up the women and the women persuaded their husbands to do something about the problem down town with these two preachers.  So they persecuted Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. 
 
We don't know the exact nature of the persecution from this text, but in 2 Timothy 3:11, Paul talks about his persecution in Antioch and in 2 Corinthians 11, he says he was beaten with rods and with whips and that's probably what happened there.  And that's sad, but it's not really the saddest part of the story.  That comes in
 
verse 51
 
You know what they did? They shook off the dust of their feet against them.  That was a fantastically important symbolic statement.
 
In Luke 10, when Jesus sent out His disciples to evangelize, He said, If they don't listen to you about Me, then you shake the dust off your feet and leave that town."
 
What He meant was this: No Jew would ever bring Gentile dirt into Israel because the Jews believed that Gentile soil was defiled.  So when a Jew arrived at the border of Israel, he would shake the dust off his feet because they didn't want even Gentile dirt in Israel. They thought it was soiled. 
So Jesus accommodated Himself to that particular notion and when He said, "Shake the dust off your feet," He meant treat those Jews like they were Gentiles. You don't want a thing to do with them.  Treat them as they would treat a pagan."
 
And when Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet in the face of the Jews of Antioch, they were saying in effect, "We consider you heathen."  The greatest insult, the most volatile rebuke that anyone could ever give to a Jew was to assign him a place with pagans.  And through that symbolic gesture, they were saying, "Under the instruction of Jesus, the Messiah, we shake this dust off as a reminder that God now looks at you like a heathen."
 
That was the result. They were lost and doomed because they rejected their Messiah, Jesus Christ.
 
On the positive side,
 
verse 52
 
See the contrast? Paul and Barnabas left town, took off for Iconium, leaving behind two different groups. God saw some as pagans. God filled the others with His Holy Spirit.
 
What a vivid reminder that you either live life separated from God, a heathen without God, without the knowledge of God, or you live your life with God's Holy Spirit inside. There's no middle ground. You either take Jesus or reject Him.
 
Let's pray.
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