Paul and Evangelism (Acts 13:16-52): Who is God and Why do we need him?

  1. Introduction 
  2. Previously, I wrote about how God had awakened me at 4:30 am one morning with the verses for two sermons on evangelism. Last time, I wrote of the first passage God gave me, Acts 17:16-34. In that passage, we saw how Paul spoke daily with anyone who would listen, regardless of language, culture, or beliefs. We saw that he shared God’s message because his spirit was moved by peoples’ need for Christ; God had changed him from someone who had ravaged the church before he was called by God to believe to someone who cared about the needs of peoples’ souls. Paul shared the message of God anywhere he could, using whatever methods of communication he could – reasoning from the Word of God, conversing or debating, and teaching or preaching. He presented the same message to different groups of People. The main difference was that when he spoke to a Greek audience, he first laid the foundation of belief by speaking about who God is and what God has done using references from the Greek culture or from the natural world. Paul taught that there was only one God who created and sustained and ruled everything and who would judge mankind and who chose Jesus to be the Christ. But he always spoke about Jesus Christ and the resurrection. Then we saw what the responses were to evangelism by God through Paul – some attacked, some dismissed, some had a desire to know more, others postponed making a decision, and some believed.

     As we will see today, the message Paul presented to the Jews was very similar – with similar results. The key difference was that, while speaking to the Jews, he used Scripture as evidence to show that God is the faithful, trustworthy, and loving ruler of the Jews through reminding them what God has done. Today we will examine the message God presented through Paul to the Jews, their response to it, and the results of presenting the message.

    First let us read the passage, Acts 13:16-52 (Text from the NASB, with my paragraph divisions):

     Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance-all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, ‘What 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.’ “

    “Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. For 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. And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead; and 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. “

    “And we preach to you the good news of  the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today i have begotten You.’ As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.”

    “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.”

    “Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; For I am accomplishing a work in your days, A work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’ “

    As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.

    The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.

    Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.'” When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. 1

    There are four main parts to what God wants taught today: who God is and what He has done, who Christ is and our need for Him, the people’s response, and the results of evangelism. These are all the things that occur in any complete evangelism effort.  The majority of our time today will be spent on who God is and what He has done through the Christ. The reason for that is that the response to, and results of, the message are not our responsibility. Our job, our task, our duty, our call, is to talk about God, what He has done, and what He desires. It is our listeners’ task to respond, and God’s job to appoint people to believe.

  3. Notice that in order to evangelize, we have to teach at least a LITTLE of who God is. If we are going to ask people to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the true son of God and the man whom God resurrected from the dead to prove he is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, there MUST first be an understanding of who God is. If we are going to ask people to believe in someone who is both God and man at the same time and that only through Him can our sins be forgiven, they must first understand that there IS A GOD and that they HAVE sins. They must understand that there is a judgment coming, and that God is powerful enough to raise someone from the dead. They must understand that God is the ruler. They must understand that God loves people enough, and is so much in control, that HE makes it possible for people to breath and eat and live. They must understand that God lays the groundwork so that people will believe – indeed, according to what we will see today, God DECIDES BEFOREHAND who will believe. They must understand that God loves enough to provide a way to be with Him. They must understand why ANYONE would need a savior, and to have that, one must understand that God is a holy, righteous, and just judge. Without this understanding, we do not have true growing, vibrant, healthy, productive disciples. Otherwise, we may have bodies sitting in chairs on Sunday mornings, but we don’t have true disciples. And THIS is our calling, to be witnesses to the world, by teaching them and making disciples.

    Returning to our examination of evangelism through Paul’s example, we see Paul reminding the audience of the History of God’s interaction with mankind through Israel. Through this, he is able to remind the audience about what God has done, and thus who God is.  He also mentions in passing what happens when man does not do what he is expected to – trust God. This can be thought of as the anticipation of what was to come.

    1. Paul begins in verse 16 by calling the attention of the Jews and Gentiles – this message was addressed to both.
    2. The actual message begins in verse 17:The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it.
      1. Wow, the meat in this one sentence! It says so much in so little. This one verse reminds the audience, who knows these stories, of the faithfulness of God through the history of Israel.  
        1. The verse begins, The God of this people Israel … 
          1. Paul is reminding his audience of what Isaiah 44:6 reads,

            Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.’

          2. God exists; there is only one God; and He is the God of Israel.
        2. Lets examine the next part:  chose the fathers of His people   (v 17)
          1. Notice three things in this one fragment of a phrase:
            1.  God CHOSE  – He exercised HIS own WILL. God interacted with mankind.
            2.  God chose the fathers – He chose the LEADERS.
            3.  And in so doing, God created a nation – His people – that is the third part of this phrase. 
          2. Basically Paul is saying that God is the Sovereign Ruler with a will which He exercises to interact with mankind. 
        3. God continues, “grew the people in Egypt” (v17)
          1. This reminded God’s people that God chose the leader, Joseph, who would lead them into Egypt to protect them from a famine (Genesis 37-50). In doing so, God sustained His people, giving them what they needed until they grew from a family to a nation.
        4. God finishes the sentence, “led them out from it.” (v 17)
          1. GOD brought them out of Egypt, using Moses (Exodus 1-14, Numbers 15:41). For those of you who remember this story, God heard the cries of His people, and responded by leading Israel out of slavery in Egypt, using 10 plagues and parting the Red Sea to do it. This shows God caring about His people, showing mercy and compassion and interacting with them in love, faithfulness, and power. If God did that then, can’t He do it now? How many of us live like God cares, is merciful, compassionate, is loving, faithful and powerful? If we don’t live that way, then how can we say we believe it? For us to talk about God in that way, we have to know Him in that way.  And we NEED to let people know who God is and what He’s done – but first we need to know these same things.
      2. In the next verse, we see even more meat. 
        1. put up with them for about 40 years in the wilderness (v 18) 
          1. This refers to the time when the Jews voted on whether to follow the will of God. People have a responsibility to trust God (Deuteronomy 1:32), and when they don’t He has every right to discipline them (Numbers 14:18). God showed His righteousness and justice in that He punished the people who did not trust God. But the FOCUS of this phrase is that God showed patience, mercy and sustenance. He PUT UP with the nation while he was punishing them, while simultaneously giving them everything they needed (Deuteronomy 2:7).
      3. Looking at the next verse,
        1. When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance (v 19)  
          1. God chose Joshua to show His faithfulness and power (book of Joshua). God was faithful by keeping His promise to Abraham (made centuries before) by exercising His power to destroy those who were in the land He had given to the descendents of Abraham.
      4. For the purposes of time, I will speed up a little here. Looking at verses 20-25, we see God choosing leaders and removing them as needed, including God sending the ultimate leader – the Messiah, who had been promised and prophesied about. God makes promises about things that will occur in the future and keeps them. Not only does He have a plan, but He works to ensure His promises are kept. 

    Now, we’ve seen how Paul used the history of how God has worked with the nation of Israel to remind them of Who God is and that they have a responsibility to trust God. In 7 verses, Paul managed to remind them of God’s faithfulness, patience, mercy, sustenance, care, compassion, power, righteousness, justice, and sovereignty by reminding them of the history God has with Israel. 

  4. We’ve seen that God is faithful, patient, merciful, caring, compassionate, sustaining, righteous, just, and sovereign. These are necessary things for people to learn so they can recognize that God can be trusted, but they are also helpful to recognize to know why we should evangelize. If God is all these things to us, we can we do no less than what He asks of us. 

    Now that we’ve seen who God is and what HE has done, including foretelling and sending a savior, Paul moves us into the details concerning salvation and the savior.

    1. He starts out in  verse 26 telling the Jews and all who fear God that the message of salvation was them, BEACAUSE of what they had done to the messiah. Paul directly blamed the Jews.
    2. And then Paul tells the story of what happened to the Messiah on earth. He told what the Jews’ role was in Jesus’ death. We see that they did not recognize Him or pay attention to what they were taught weekly in the temple or synagogue. Indeed, they so fought against the Word of God that they the condemned Him and had Him killed on a cross and laid him in a tomb – thus they fulfilled the very prophecies they ignored.  But GOD raised Jesus from the dead and the proof of it was that Jesus appeared for many days to the people who were now His witnesses. That he did not decay was another sign from God of the proof that Jesus was the promised Christ.
      1. There are five important things to remember here: 
        1. God SAID He would send a savior long before it happened.
        2. God sent the savior
        3. Mankind, specifically the Jews, caused the innocent savior to suffer and die, fulfilling prophecies.
        4. God raised Him from the dead;
        5. There was proof:
          1. He was seen by witnesses for many days after his resurrection;
          2. He did not decay;
    3. The fact that He died for our sins can be seen in verse 38, where we see that forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ is proclaimed to all– Jews and non-Jews alike. Everyone who believes is justified from they could not be justified from through following the Law of Moses
    4. Finally in verse 40, they are warned to not disregard what God has done in providing for forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ. If people disregard what God has done, they will surely die. The death spoken of here is one of eternal death – the result of the ultimate Judgment of God.
    5. Notice that while Paul is using Scriptural evidence, he has no need to quote the books describe the history he is reminding them.  Telling people the book, chapter and verse is very helpful for the people who need to see proof or for added weight, but sometimes it just gets in the way.  These people know the stories.

      As part of the evangelistic message Paul delivered, he reminded his audience of God’s faithfulness, patience, mercy, sustenance, care, compassion, power, righteousness, justice, and sovereignty. Then he delivered the message everyone must hear: God sent His son to suffer and die an unjust death and raised Him from the dead, so that who ever believed would have forgiveness of sins. Now we will look at the response of his audience.

  5. Response
    1. One Sabbath, Jews and God-fearing proselytes wanted to know more
      1. Disciples urged them to continue in the grace of God
    2. Next Sabbath
      1. Nearly the whole city assembled
      2. Jews
        1. saw the crowds
        2. grew jealous
        3. Contradicted the things spoke by Paul
        4. Blasphemed
  6. Results
    1. Result of the Jewish leaders’ actions
      1. Jews
        1. Repudiated the word of God
        2. Judged themselves unworthy of eternal life
    2. Caused the message to then go the gentiles
      1. God commanded the disciples to go to the world
      2. Gentiles
        1. rejoiced
        2. glorified the word of God
        3. as many as had been APPOINTED to eternal life believed
      3. Word of God kept on spreading
        1. Jews turned prominent people against Paul and Barnabus
          1. Paul and Barnabus left
      4. The disciples were filled with joy & Holy Spirit


     1All text quoted is from New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995). 

One Response

  1. Another post on Paul and Evangelism can be found at:

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