And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus (Acts 13:32-33 ESV)
Acts 13 continues with more accounts of the gospel advancing into the world, both to Jew and to Gentile. As Paul and his missionary team make their way from Cyprus to what is modern-day Turkey, they are prepared to preach the good news to a truly mixed audience.
They visit, as was their custom, the synagogue. This institution was undoubtedly an important place for learning for the Jews; it was also an important cultural center for Gentiles. A typical Sabbath gathering would find devout, ethnic Jews alongside proselytes (full converts to Judaism), God-fearers (Gentiles who respected the God of Abraham but did not undergo circumcision), and those who expressed interest. The missionary team sat in the back, and then they were given an amazing invitation:
“Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” (v15)
What an opportunity!
Paul then silences the crowd and preaches a powerful gospel sermon deeply rooted in the promises of the Old Testament. He appeals to the Jews by proclaiming that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that the scriptures were prophesying. He appeals to everyone by noting that forgiveness of sins is only found through faith in Christ.
Many of the attendees were so excited that they not only followed the missionaries out of the synagogue to talk more, they invited them back for next week’s Sabbath meeting, and went on and told the whole town! When they came back the following week, the place was packed!
However, some of the Jewish leaders were jealous that so many Gentiles were coming to the faith that they began to plot against the disciples, eventually driving them out of town.
What a difference one week makes.
What a disparity in types of responses to the gospel. Some were zealously embracing it, others were zealously opposing it – there is no indifference in this passage.
With whom can we most identify in this passage? Some may identify with the hardened Jews, who refused to come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and tried to keep others away as well. Such people need their eyes opened to the truth that Jesus indeed fulfilled all the messianic prophecies, and he is the risen Lord! Others may identify with the new converts. Such need to “Continue in grace” as the missionaries told them. And others – perhaps most of us – would identify with the missionaries: mature Christians who confront society with the truth of the gospel. For us, we must be reminded that the gospel will bring both joyful embrace and hardened opposition. Like those early missionaries, however, whatever response we receive, let us gladly continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go.