Note from Jesus
The verses you read today are from Paul’s sermon in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. As a rabbi trained by the respected Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; Acts 22:3), Paul would have been readily invited to speak after the readings from what you call the Old Testament — “passages from the Law and the Prophets.” Paul’s message to these devoted Jewish followers of “I AM” — the English translation for the covenant name for Us (Father, Son, and Spirit) given to the Hebrew people through Moses (Exodus 3:14-15) — was very similar to the sermon Peter preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-41).
Paul’s sermon stressed something very important that Peter’s sermon also included, but did not emphasize in quite the same way. Notice these words from the preaching of My servant, Paul:
So you must realize, my brothers, that through this resurrected man forgiveness of sins is assured to you. Through Jesus, everyone who believes is set free from all sins — sins which the law of Moses could not release you from.
This message was the essence of Paul’s ministry, especially to Jews — to emphasize that I came as the fulfillment of God’s promises in “the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 5:17). Through my sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, I brought liberation from sin, liberation that no other sacrifice or act of obedience could bring! When I called Paul on the road to Damascus, this truth was one of the things I called him to preach to both Jews and non-Jews. When I appeared to him on the road, Paul asked Who it was that was appearing to him. As Paul explained later in his defense before King Agrippa, I replied:
I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. Get up now, and stand upright on your feet. I have appeared to you for a reason. I am appointing you to serve Me. You are to tell My story and how you have now seen Me, and you are to continue to tell the story in the future. I will rescue you from your Jewish opponents and from the outsiders — for it is to the outsiders I am sending you. It will be your mission to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God. This is so that they may receive forgiveness of all their sins and have a place among those who are set apart for a holy purpose through having faith in Me.
The cities where Paul preached on the trip you are reading about in Acts made up a region that was often called Galatia. He would soon need to write the letter of Galatians to remind those folks not to compromise on the good news he had shared with them. Listen to his strong words:
Frankly I am stunned. I cannot believe that you have abandoned God so quickly — even after He called you through the grace of the Anointed One — and have fallen for a different gospel. Actually there is only one true gospel of the Anointed, and you — because of divisive prodding by others — are accepting a distorted version which is not the gospel at all!
No matter the source of the false gospel, even if it is preached by us or a heavenly messenger, ignore it. May those who add to or subtract from the gospel of Jesus be eternally cursed! Listen again: if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than what you have accepted, may he find himself cursed!
Apart from Me, there is no gospel, no true good news that liberates from law, sin, and death. I AM the One Whom Paul passionately preached as Messiah, Savior, Son of God, and Lord!
Verses to Live
I hope you realize as you read the verses below, and in a few days when we go through the letter to the Galatians, that My gospel is different from any other religion. It is based on grace — the freedom and forgiveness that come from trusting and sharing in My death, burial, and resurrection. This grace sets you free from the law, sin, and death (Romans 6:1-23). It is a revolutionary message. It is not another religious message about trying to be good enough to get into heaven. It is a radical message that calls you to abandon your futile attempts to save yourself. It invites you to accept My sacrifice and My grace. It calls you to live for Me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength out of appreciation for the salvation you have received. It calls you to love your neighbors as yourself because you want them to share in this grace.
Paul and his entourage boarded a ship and set sail from Paphos. They traveled north to Perga in Pamphylia. John Mark, however, abandoned the mission and returned to Jerusalem.
Paul and Barnabas continued from Perga to Pisidian Antioch; and on the Sabbath, they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the regular reading of the Hebrew Scriptures — including passages from the Law and the Prophets — the synagogue leaders sent a message to them: “Brothers, if you would like to give us some exhortation, please do so.” Paul rose to his feet, offered a gesture of greeting, and began his message.
Israelites and other God-fearing people, please hear me. The God of the Israelites chose our ancestors and helped them become a large population while they were living in Egypt many years ago. He displayed His great power by leading them out of that powerful nation. For about 40 years, He endured their constant complaining in the wilderness. He opened up some land for them in Canaan by destroying the seven nations living there, and that land became their inheritance for about 450 years. They had tribal leaders through the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them one — Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin — who reigned for 40 years. After God moved Saul aside, He made David king in his place. God had this to say about David: “I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after My own heart. He’s the kind of king who will rule in ways that please Me.” God has selected one of David’s descendants as the long-promised Liberator of Israel. I am speaking of Jesus.
Before Jesus arrived on the scene, His cousin John was hard at work, proclaiming to all the people of Israel a ceremonial washing through baptism and pointing to a new direction in thought and life. John’s ministry climaxed when he said, “Who do you assume me to be? I am not the One you’re looking for. No, but One is coming after me, One Whose sandal thong I am unworthy to untie.” My brothers, fellow descendants of our common father Abraham, and others here who fear God, we are the ones to whom God has sent this message of salvation.
But you know the people of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize Jesus. They didn’t understand the words of the prophets that are read in the synagogues on Sabbath after Sabbath. As a result, they fulfilled the ancient prophecies by condemning Jesus. Even though they could find no offense punishable by death, still they asked Pilate to execute Jesus. When they carried out everything that had been foretold by the prophets, they took His body down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But that was not the end: God raised Him from the dead, and over a period of many days, He appeared to those who had been His companions from the beginning of their journey in Galilee until its end in Jerusalem. They are now witnesses to everyone. We are here to bring you the good news of God’s promise to our ancestors, which He has now fulfilled for our children by raising Jesus. Consider the promises fulfilled in Jesus. The psalmist says, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.”
Elsewhere God promises that Jesus will rise and never return to death and corruption again: “I will make You the holy and faithful promises I made to David.” Similarly, another psalm says, “You will not abandon Me to experience death and the grave or leave Me to rot alone.” We all know David died and was reduced to dust after he served God’s purpose in his generation; these words obviously apply not to David but to the One God raised from death before suffering decay. So you must realize, my brothers, that through this resurrected man forgiveness of sins is assured to you. Through Jesus, everyone who believes is set free from all sins — sins which the law of Moses could not release you from. In light of all this, be careful that you do not fulfill these words of the prophet Habakkuk:
Look, you scoffers!
Be shocked to death.
For in your days I am doing a work,
a work you will never believe, even if someone tells you plainly!
Paul and Barnabas prepared to leave the synagogue, but the people wanted to hear more and urged them to return the following Sabbath. As the people dispersed after the meeting, many Jews and converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas. Privately Paul and Barnabas continued teaching them and urged them to remain steadfast in the grace of God.
Response in Prayer
O Father God, thank You for the gift of grace that was purchased at such a high price by Your Son and my Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah, and my Lord. I trust in His sacrifice and resurrection, and I want to share that grace with others. Please empower me to do this through Your Holy Spirit that Jesus has given me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.