12 May 2015Acts 13:13-41
“... we bring you good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus” (vv. 32-33)
Psalm: Psalm 7:1-11
After the dramatic events of yesterday's passage we now read a whole sermon from Paul. We can enter synagogues today as inter faith guests, but Paul and his friends, though Christians (a name coined in another Antioch in Acts 11:26), are also capable Jewish men and invited to address the synagogue. Paul does not introduce himself but begins by appealing to Jewish history with an overview of divine promise and deliverance, sometimes described as 'salvation history'. Perhaps, like Jesus, Paul's comments are inspired by the 'reading of the law and the prophets' (v. 15) which he has just heard. In his sermon he quotes from Psalm 2:7 (verse 33), Isaiah 55:3 (verse 34) and Psalm 16:10 (verse 35). A good knowledge of Scripture is the beginning of an interesting interaction, for Paul and also for us.
The scriptural background and the expectation of a Messiah from the house of King David provides Paul with the link he needs to introduce the story that he really wants to tell, of a promised Saviour (verse 23). Initially he does so by talking about John the Baptist, a respected figure firmly within the Jewish religion. When he begins to say more about Jesus, it is to talk about the last days of his life and the conflict with the religious leaders. For Paul both the sharing of the gospel, and the gospel message itself, are firmly set in a context of conflict. Often, though not here, this puts Paul on a collision course with his hearers. Again, understanding and reading of Scripture are central and key to tensions both then in the synagogue (read on beyond the end of today's passage) and now, when Christians and Jews read Scripture together.
Paul offers a message of fulfilment in today's key verse, "what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us ... by raising Jesus". It is this which leads into the particular Christian reading of the earlier Scriptures, including the understanding that they prophesy the death and resurrection of Jesus. He closes with another hard verse, in God's own words, about not believing (verse 41).
- How does Paul's sermon compare with today's sermons? To what extent has he set a pattern for later preaching?
- In what way do you experience the gospel creating tension and conflict?
- What do promise and fulfilment mean to you?