July 26: Acts 13
July 26, 2010
When I was working on my first post-graduate theological degree, we were given the assignment of studying the sermons in Acts and discovering the core of the apostolic Gospel. One of the longer sermons in the book of Acts is here in this chapter; in it, we find many of the keynotes of this Gospel that Peter, Paul, and the rest of the apostles preached.
1. Covenant continuity. Paul begins with the Old Testament people of God, and especially the promises that God has made to them. He moved quickly from choosing the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; Acts 13:17) to the Exodus (13:17b), from the promised land and judges (13:18-20) to the kings, Saul and particularly David (13:21-22). From David there comes the promised Davidic King, the Savior Jesus.
This is important because Paul stresses for his hearers that Jesus doesn't simply appear on the scene ex nihilo; rather, there is a fundamental continuity with what God has been doing all along. God has prepared the ground for the Messiah, the Davidic King who would be a king after his own heart, ruling over his people and delivering them from all their and his enemies.
2. Crucifixion. Jesus was attested by John the Baptist as the Messiah (13:24-25), but the leaders of Israel did not recognize Jesus. Instead, they asked Pilate to have Jesus crucified; in this way, the Jewish leaders unwittingly fulfilled what the prophets said (13:26-29). Jesus was killed and buried.
3. Resurrection. But Jesus didn't stay dead; in fact, "God raised him from the dead" (13:30). Jesus was seen by many witnesses as alive and these witnesses now attest that Jesus was raised and proved to be exactly who he said he was: the Son of God and Savior of Sinners. In this, Jesus fulfills the OT Scriptures, especially Psalm 16 (13:31-37).
4. Justification. Based on this good news--that the Messiah promised in the OT has come in Jesus and that his death and resurrection were part of God's great purpose--forgiveness of sins is preached, but more: "by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses" (13:38-39).
This Gospel is not only consistent throughout the book of Acts; it must shape the way we preach the Gospel week-by-week. The question is: does it?