Acts 13:13-38 by Robert Dean
Paul is giving the gospel to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in the local synagogue. Paul addresses them within the framework of their familiar as he anchors his message deeply within scripture, stressing their understanding of forgiveness of sin and justification. If it were only that easy to approach an unbeliever today, one who had such a deep knowledge of scripture. This is highly unlikely. Our approach must confront the realities of their position. The optimal starting point is for us to be profoundly familiar with the Word and to have a developed relationship with our audience. Paul will show us how to deal with a variety of circumstances so that we will have a pattern from which to launch our own approach and the assurance that rugged roadblocks aren’t necessarily terminal.

The Gospel: Forgiveness of Sins
Justification. Acts 13:13-38
January 29, 2013

Acts 13:32 ÒAnd we preach to you the good news [some translate Òglad tidingsÓ] ÉÓ The English uses six words to express one verb in the Greek, euangelizo [e)uaggelizw] which means to proclaim, to preach or to give good news. ÒÉ of the promise made to the fathers.Ó He anchors the gospel deeply into the Old Testament. His whole presentation here is built on the fact that his Jewish audience understands the Old Testament. 

The background to this is understanding the Abrahamic covenant. When Paul starts off he starts where they have a common frame of reference, and that is the Torah. From the first century until the eighteenth century Jews had a recognition of the authority of the Old Testament as the Word of God. Acts 13:17 ÒThe God of this people Israel chose our fathers ÉÓ So we are talking immediately about the election of Abraham—not elect for salvation, he is elect to the specific purpose that God is going to bless the human race through Abraham, that the Jewish people would be the custodians of GodÕs revelation, and it would be through the Jewish people that God would give a savior who would be the savior of the world and provide forgiveness for sins. The Abrahamic covenant is covered in a number of passages. The core passages are Genesis 12 where Abraham and his seed, i.e. all of his descendants, all of the Jewish people, were promises a specific piece of real estate, that through his seed all nations would be blessed, and they would be a world-wide blessing. Those three previsions of the Abrahamic covenant were further expanded in what has become known as the land covenant in Deuteronomy 30 where God promised specific real estate between the Sinai and the Euphrates. Then there is the Davidic covenant which promised that there would be an eternal descendant sitting on an eternal throne of DavidÕs. Then the new covenant was to replace the old covenant, the Mosaic covenant which was seen as temporary, and this is a covenant that would not only provide external blessing but internal blessing for the Jewish people, giving them a new heart.

The Davidic covenant become the focal point in the next section. Acts 13:17 NASB ÒThe God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great ÉÓ ThatÕs it for Genesis. Then we skip over to Egypt. ÒÉ during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it [Exodus]. [18] ÒFor a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. [Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy]. [19] ÒWhen He had destroyed seven nations ÉÓ When he talks about the seven nations here he is quoting Deuteronomy 7:1 when Moses stated: ÒWhen the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess [based on the word for ÒinheritanceÓ] it ÉÓ Inheritance doesnÕt mean somebody dies and you get something, it has its core meaning of a possession. Those possessions may be transferred at death but when you own something that is your inheritance that you can pass on to subsequent generations. ÒÉ and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you.Ó These comprised the Canaanites who were not a precursor to the Palestinians. They are not an ethnic heritage to the Palestinians. The modern Palestinians are basically an ethnic mongrel race; primarily Arab but they have many other strains.

In the 19th century, basically the Ottoman empire had left the area known as Palestine. And until Arafat in about 1964-65 co-opted that term, it always referred to Jews. He started applying it to the Arab population and not the Jewish population in Israel. During the 19th century all of the area known as Palestine at that time was basically emptied of many people. It had become very much a barren wasteland. There were a lot of people living there but the ground was parched, there wasnÕt a lot of agriculture going on, a lot of Bedouins drifted through the area, but there was little of long-term profitability. There were some Jewish families who could trace their ancestors all the way back to the second temple period and who had continued to live in the land during that time. But as the Jews began to immigrate into that area in the 19th century and began to carve out for themselves farms, began to irrigate and develop the land, all of a sudden there was the need for workers in the area. The Ottomans rounded up ethnic groups from other parts of the empire who were brought in as migrant labor. Now the Jews basically have a problem with the migrant labor force they brought in in the 19th century. It is an immigration issue.

ÒÉ in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance—{all of which took} about four hundred and fifty years. [20] After these things He gave {them} judges until Samuel the prophet.Ó The four hundred and fifty years covers the period from Abraham through the conquest.

No he is zeroing in; he has David in the crosshairs. Acts 13:21 NASB ÒThen they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. [22] After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ÔI HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.ÕÓ He is jumping forward to the Davidic covenant. The key passages are 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 89 which is a meditation and expansion on 2 Samuel 7, and 1 Chronicles 17:11-14. God promises David that his house, his lineage, would produce an eternal house, an eternal kingdom and an eternal throne. This is the essence. Only someone who is eternal can fulfill that promise, so even though this depicted as going through the lineage of Solomon it focuses on the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 22 is a reference to 1 Samuel 13:14 where Saul is condemned because of his disobedience and told that his kingdom would not continue, that the Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart.

What is the difference between Saul and David. We hear some people say that Saul wasnÕt really a believer. But there are too many things that happened in relation to Saul. He is given a new heart in 1 Samuel 9, and later on when the witch at Endor is surprised because this one time in her career as a necromancer she calls up someone from the grave and they actually showed up. God allowed Samuel to come back and announce a judgment of Saul. What happens in that interchange Samuel says to Saul: 1 Samuel 28:19 Ò É tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.Ó Where was Samuel? Samuel was in Paradise. This is another confirmation that Saul was a believer. But he didnÕt have a heart for God. A heart for God doesnÕt mean youÕre always perfectly obedient to God but it is somebody who has made a decision in their life and thinking that they are going to put the Word of God first and foremost in their life and their relationship with God. That doesnÕt mean theyÕre not going to blow it. Look how many times David blew it. That is what this is talking about. The Lord wanted someone who was as fully committed to Him as the king of His people. 

Acts 13:23 NASB ÒFrom the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus.Ó Notice how he jumps from the time of David, 1000 BC, all the way up to the time of Christ. The name ÒJesus,Ó iesous [I)hsouj] in the Greek, Yeshua in the Hebrew, is from the same Hebrew root as Joshua, meaning to save or deliver. What did Gabriel say to Joseph? Ò ... you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.Ó That is critical because that helps us to understand the focal point of the gospel: it is to save people from their sins.

Acts 13:24 NASB Òafter John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.Ó We have studied many times how this idea of repentance isnÕt feeling sorry for your sins, it is not a sort of emotional mindset; it simply means to change your orientation, to turn from disobedience to obedience. In this case it is turning to accept and changing your mind about Jesus as the Messiah. And here it is not that baptism saved, but baptism was an external sign that you had changed your mind about the message of John. 

Acts 13:25 NASB ÒAnd while John was completing his course, he kept saying, ÔWhat do you suppose that I am? I am not {He.} But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.Õ [26] Brethren, sons of AbrahamÕs family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent.Ó Now he is addressing the men. In the synagogues of that day the men sat on one side and the women on the other. The bema or what we would call the pulpit was on the menÕs side. Sometimes if there was a balcony they sat up above as well, but they were screened so that everything was addressed to the men. Why would that be? Most of us have been brainwashed by our feminist culture into thinking that that minimized the women. It didnÕt minimize the women; it maximized the family. That is what the purpose was: recognizing that the man was the head of the home. It was the man who was responsible for the spiritual health of the family. It got perverted and distorted, which is a result of the Genesis 3:7 issue that there would be this authority conflict between men and women; but that was its focus.

We look at society, at church, at the whole culture as a collection of individuals, whereas biblically they looked at families, collections of families. That was part of the mindset that influenced things in the colonial period in America. This is why when they first had the Constitution and voting was for men not for people who didnÕt own property—only for male property owners—because if you didnÕt own property you didnÕt have a vested interest in the financial condition of the state. Now today we see what happens. Most people donÕt have a vested interest in the financial condition of the nation and so they elect leaders whatever they want. That kind of mentality destroys the character of the individual. We are made to be responsible, and God created human beings to go out and to conquer and to subdue and control the earth; not so sit back irresponsibly as couch potatoes and just feed off of the hard work of others. As people do that the more dependent they become and it destroys their character, their virtue, their integrity, their sense of responsibility. Our founding fathers understood many of these principles. They were extremely wise and they set it up so that they viewed families as the core unit in society. This is why men voted. Men were the head of the family; they viewed the normative pattern as family, not as individuals and singles. 

ÒÉ to us the message of this salvation has been sent.Ó Paul is now shifting gears. He has given his introduction and now he says this message is for you, and he is going to set them up for the main presentation of the gospel.

Acts 13:27 NASB ÒFor those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled {these} by condemning {Him.}Ó In other words, like most Jews they read the Torah, they didnÕt understand, and they had basically already rejected God in their thinking. At the foundation of their thinking they were going through the motions, but when God shows up in fulfillment of all these prophecies they rejected it. It happened in Jerusalem; it happened with the leaders, but there were still tens of thousands of Jews in Israel who responded to the Messiah; but not the majority and not the leadership. 

Acts 13:28 NASB ÒAnd though they found no ground for {putting Him to} death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. [29] ÒWhen they had carried out all that was written concerning Him ÉÓ Here is the point. What were the things that were written concerning the Messiah? ÒÉ they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. [30] But God raised Him from the dead.Ó He is not simply going to make that claim, he is going to show that there are numerous witnesses to that. [31] Òand for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people.Ó Paul could be asked: Who are these witnesses? And Paul could run through a list because we know that there were maybe between 500 and 1000 eyewitnesses to the resurrection many of whom might have been known by Jews in the synagogue. So he is saying this at a time that is only within about 16 or 17 years removed from the resurrection and those people in the Jewish community at Antioch would have known people back in Jerusalem to get confirmation on that. 

Acts 13:32 ÒAnd we preach [declare] to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, [33] that God has fulfilled this {promise} to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ÔYOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.ÕÓ See how Paul has such a great knowledge of the Old Testament that he is able to weave these verses in in order to support his claim that Jesus has fulfilled these promises, the claims made back in verse 29. As he moves through this he is going to get to the point where he talks about the gospel. [38} NASB  ÒTherefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.Ó Paul doesnÕt even mention eternal life here, he preaches the forgiveness of sins, and then in v. 39 he says, Òand through Him everyone who believes is freed [justified] from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.Ó Jesus is the only source of justification.

So what is the gospel according to Paul? The gospel according to Paul is forgiveness of sins and justification. We get eternal life but the gospel message isnÕt Òyou need to believe in Jesus for eternal life.Ó The gospel message focuses on ÒBelieve in the Lord Jesus Christ.Ó You can have forgiveness of sins because Jesus Christ died so you could be justified, declared righteous. The problem is sin; the problem isnÕt a lack of eternal life. Can someone be saved when they are given a gospel that just focuses on eternal life? Yes, because all of these different things focus on different facets of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. He reconciled; He justified; He redeemed; He gives eternal life. All of these are different facets, and it doesnÕt matter whether you are presenting the gospel as justification or reconciliation or forgiveness of sins or eternal life, they all reflect the same core message: you have the problem that you canÕt solve, Jesus solved it at the cross, and the only way to make that apply to you is by trusting in Christ and what He did on the cross. So it is not one or the other. This is a problem that has plagued the free grace community and has caused a huge split.

All of these passage sin the Old Testament lead up to the understanding that Christ died to forgive sins. And that means to cancel sin so that it is no longer the issue.