Do you do a good job in how you respond to preaching and teaching? If you are a Christian, you likely hear preachers and teachers from time to time. Maybe you are a part of a church family, and you attend worship services which include sermons. Maybe you participate in classes or small groups with teachers and lessons. Or you might read books or listen to podcasts that include teaching of some kind. How you do interact with those various kinds of teaching? Do you listen closely? Do you think deeply about what you’ve heard? Do you attempt to make practical application of biblical principles to your life?
In this series of posts about Acts 13, we have seen that the word of God is spreading. There is much teaching and preaching to people who respond in a variety of ways. As their mission trip continues, we read in verse 13 Paul and Barnabas set sail to the mainland (modern day Turkey), eventually arriving at the city of Pisidian Antioch. Verses 14-15 tell us that on the Sabbath Day, the Jewish day of rest and worship, Paul and Barnabas go to the synagogue in town, and the synagogue rulers invite them to speak. Paul preaches a sermon, and it seems to have three parts:
Verses 16-22 are part 1, a recap of the history of Israel, in which Paul establishes Jesus’ Jewish heritage, important for this Jewish audience to hear.
In part 2, verses 23-31, Paul now teaches the story of Jesus, saying Jesus is the Messiah, a claim which Paul suggests is validated by his resurrection.
Paul concludes in verses 32-41, quoting Hebrew scriptures, claiming Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies.
Do you see what Paul has done in this sermon? He has laid out a strong case for Jesus to be the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. The question, though, is what will these Jews think? Paul’s message has not always done well with Jewish audiences.
Look at verses 42-43; the Jews say they want to hear more next week, and some stay and talk further with Paul and Barnabas who urge them to continue in the grace of God, which is a curious piece of advice. Continue in the grace of God? Does this mean they had become followers of Jesus? We’re not sure. But they are inquiring. Their interest is piqued; they want to learn more. Paul encourages them to continue in the grace of God.
Unfortunately, the good reception is short-lived. In verses 44-45 we read that on the next Sabbath almost the whole city shows up to hear them, which makes the Jews jealous (apparently large crowds didn’t show up for the Jews’ gatherings!), so the Jews talk abusively against what Paul was saying.
How will Paul and Barnabas respond? Look at verses 46-47. They start by explaining to the Jews, “We had to speak the word of God to you first,” as they were all part of the Jewish family and heritage.
Paul and Barnabas then make a bold statement against the Jews, as we read in verse 46: “Since you are rejecting the word, and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life… (geesh…really sounds sarcastic, doesn’t it?)…We now turn to the Gentiles.” For biblical support for their decision, they quote Isaiah 49:6 “I have made you a light to the Gentiles”.
You can imagine the Gentiles response to this. Look Verses 48-49. They hear, were glad, honored the word of the Lord, and some believed. The phrase, “they honored the word of the Lord,” might sound odd. We don’t talk like that. What could it mean, to honor the word of the Lord?
“Honor,” here, is the word where we get our English word “doxology.” The Doxology is a song that emphasizes the word, “praise,”:
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all creatures here below, praise him above, ye heavenly host, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
So the Gentiles were praising God for the message of the Gospel, that they, too, are included in the good news of hope. When you give honor to something you are respectful of it, you realize the importance, the weight that it carries. They honored the word of the Lord. They held what was going on in high regard. They were joyful, they were glad and they had an understanding of the importance of what was happening.
Can it be said of you that you honor the word of the Lord?
While the Gentiles are elated to be included in the spread of good news, there are others who are quite unhappy about this. In the next post we’ll find out who that group is and how they respond.