By Mike Dawson
Interim Pastor, Santa Fe Baptist Church, Santa Fe
Coaches often say that games are won or lost in the opening minutes of the second half. Our new unit focuses on the ‘second half’ of the book of Acts, and this first lesson sets the pace for the rest of the book. Jesus had told His followers to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). So the ‘first half’ of Acts, chapters 1-12, tells of witnesses going from Jerusalem to all Judea and to Samaria; now the ‘second half,’ Acts 13-28, shows them making disciples everywhere else.
Verses 1-3 of chapter 13 give a picture of how witnesses go to the ends of the earth. “Now in the church that was at Antioch:” that’s where it all begins — “in the church!” That local church fasted, prayed, followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and commissioned the first missionaries. No longer was the gospel for Jews only; it was now being taken to Gentiles — the rest of the world. Paul and Barnabas were these first international missionaries.
The missions team sailed from Antioch to Cyprus, to Perga, then to another Antioch — of Pisidia — winning people to Christ all along the way. Today’s lesson text, Acts 13:26-39, picks up with Paul proclaiming the gospel in Antioch of Pisidia.
I was in preaching class at seminary when a local New Orleans pastor presented a four-word outline I’ve never forgotten. He said every sermon we deliver (and every lesson we teach) ought to say four things: “Hey!” “You!” “See?” “So …” (Good messages begin with something that grabs people’s attention: “Hey!” Persuasive speakers also pull their hearers into the message: “You!” There will be ‘points’ or divisions in effective messages that listeners can follow: “See?” And no gospel sermon or lesson is complete until the application is made: “So …”) Look how Paul’s message fits that outline perfectly:
“Hey!” Acts 13:16 says, “Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, ‘Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen!’ ” He was in a Jewish synagogue, and after Scriptures were read, Paul was invited to speak. He grabbed their attention, motioning with his hand. Was he pointing at them? Whatever his gesture was, he said, “Hey, listen up!”
“You!” In verses 17-22, Paul involved his Jewish listeners by reminding them of their unique relationship to God as His chosen, blessed people. Then in verses 23-25 he introduced them to Jesus!
“See?” Beginning in verse 26, Paul presented the gospel. His points were clear: First, Jesus was crucified (verses 26-29). Second, Jesus rose from the dead (30-35). And third, there’s never been anyone like Jesus (36-37). That is the gospel!
“So …” Notice verses 38-39, where Paul calls for decision: he tells his listeners that only Jesus — not adherence to their laws and traditions — can forgive and justify them; but they must believe in Him! As chapter 13 ends, the Jews reject the gospel, and our missionaries move on to the Gentiles — to the ends of the earth.