William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

The Preaching Of Paul (Acts 13:16-41)

13:16-41 Then Paul stood up and made a gesture with his hand and said, "You Israelites, and you who are God-fearers, listen to this. The God of this people Israel chose out our fathers and he exalted the people when they lived as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with a lofty arm he brought them forth from it. For forty years he bore with their ways in the wilderness. He destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan and gave them possession of their land, for about four hundred and fifty years. After that he gave them judges up to the time of Samuel the prophet. Thereafter they asked for a king. And God gave them Saul, the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin for forty years. God removed him and raised up David as king for them. In testimony to him he said, 'I found in David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will do all things that I wish.' It was from the seed of this man, according to his promise, that God brought Jesus, a Saviour for Israel, after John had previously preached, before his coming, a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. When John was fulfilling his course, he said, 'What do you suppose me to be? No. I am not he. But, look you, there is coming after me one the shoe of whose feet I am not fit to unloose.' Brethren, you who are sons of the race of Abraham, you God-fearers among us, it was for us that the word of this salvation was sent out. Those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize this man and they fulfilled the words of the prophets which are read every Sabbath when they condemned him in judgment. Though they found in him no charge which merited the death penalty, they asked Pilate that he should be put to death. When they had completed all that had been written about him they took him down from the tree and put him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead and he was seen for many days by those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now witnesses of him to the people; and we bring you the good news of that promise, that was made to the fathers; we tell you that God has fulfilled this to our children by raising up Jesus, even as it stands written in the second psalm, 'Thou art My son; this day have I begotten thee.' And when he raised him from the dead no longer to return to destruction he spoke thus, 'I will give to you the holy things of David which are faithful,' because he says in another passage, 'Thou wilt not allow thy holy one to see corruption.' For David in his own generation served the will of God and fell asleep, and he was added to his fathers and he did see corruption. But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let this be known to you, brethren, that through this man the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to us. And from all the things from which you could not be acquitted by the Law of Moses, everyone who believes in this man is acquitted. So then, take heed lest there come upon you that which was spoken in the prophets--'See, you despisers, and wonder, and be wiped out from sight, because I work a work in your days, a work in which you will not believe, even if someone tell it to you.'"

This is an extremely important passage because it is the only full-length report of a sermon by Paul that we possess. When carefully compared with the sermon of Peter in Acts 2:1-47 the main elements in it are seen to be precisely the same.

(i) Paul insists that the coming of Jesus is the consummation of history. He outlines the national history of the Jews to show that it culminates in Christ. The Stoics believed that history simply kept on repeating itself. A modern cynical verdict is that history is the record of the sins, the mistakes and the follies of men. But the Christian view of history is optimistic. It is certain that always history is going somewhere according to the purpose of God.

(ii) Paul states the fact that men did not recognize God's consummation when it came in Jesus Christ. Browning said, "We needs must love the highest when we see it." But a man, by taking his own way and refusing God's way, can in the end afflict himself with a blindness which is unable to see. The misuse of freewill ends not in liberty but in ruin.

(iii) Although men, in their blind folly, rejected and crucified Jesus, God could not be defeated and the resurrection is the proof of the undefeatable purpose and power of God. It is told that once on a night of gale, a child said in awe to his father, "God must have lost grip of his winds tonight." The resurrection is the proof that God never loses grip.

(iv) Paul goes on to use a purely Jewish argument. The resurrection is the fulfilment of prophecy because promises were made to David which were obviously not fulfilled in him but which are fulfilled in Christ. Once again, whatever we make of this argument from prophecy, the fact remains that history is neither circular nor aimless; it looks to that which in the purpose of God must come.

(v) The coming of Christ is to one kind of people good news. Hitherto they had tried to live life according to the Law but no man could ever fulfil that Law completely and therefore any thinking man was always conscious of failure and guilt. But in Jesus Christ men find that forgiving power which sets them free from the condemnation that should have been theirs and therefore restores real friendship with God.

(vi) But what is meant for good news is in fact bad news for another kind of people. It simply makes worse the condemnation of those who have seen it and have disobeyed its summons to belief in Jesus Christ. There is excuse for the man who has never had a chance; but there is none for the man who has seen the splendour of the offer of God and has rejected it.

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible