Demonstrating God’s Love Together
This ‘other Antioch’ in southern Galatia, a Roman centre 3,600 feet above sea level, where one of the most prominent families was that of Sergius Paulus, from Cyprus. Galatians 4:13 tells us that Paul first came here because of an illness – perhaps Sergius suggested it to Paul, so that he might take the benefit of the clear air, to help with whatever it was that was ailing him.
John’s leaving of the group, a passing comment here (v.13) but was more significant than that and we will come back to it. Paul seems now to take precedence, over Barnabas.
A Story Told...
History...One Thing After Another....(v.17-25)
Paul’s sermon was a history lesson, culminating in the importance of the here and now.
Egypt – Wilderness – Promised Land – Judges – Samuel – Saul – David ... his relationship with God, pointing theway forward...
And then, after the ministry of john the Baptist, Jesus – the climax of salvation. History, like life, has a point to it, a meaning, a purpose, a direction of travel, and it’s focussed on Jesus.
Jesus ... A Truth That Can Be Known...(v.26-37)
The second key point of Paul’s message was to argue for the validity of Jesus’ claims ... especially for the resurrection, to enter into the business of apologetics. He told them the Easter story and said, listen, there are still people around who are eye-witnesses of these events! The facts can be checked out, the significance is clear; ‘God raised him from the dead’ (v.30) ‘He has fulfilled for us ...’ (v.33)
Forgiveness ... An Available Gift (v.38-41)
Although his message to this point was rooted in history and verifiable fact, his conclusion was an appeal to a need felt in the people.
As a result of all that he had said, they could be confident that their need for forgiveness, to be set free, to be justified, can be met.
Christian preaching down the centuries has oscillated between these too. This is the truth, believe it, and, this is what you need, receive it. Paul does both, the true gospel needs both, but, ultimately is does impact on us ... our new beginning (forgiveness), our capacity to become (set free), our being made right (justification).
This is truly powerful and wonderful; Be amazed! .. unbelievable indeed!
A City Stunned...
The following week, the whole city turned up.
It seemed this message had hit a chord, now longer was religion the preserve of a particular ethnic group, instead it was the evidenced based solution to the needs of all people, no wonder they came.
The previously admiring Jewish leaders got scared, this had gotten far bigger than they thought, abuse followed, Paul and Barnabas boldly stood fast, unsurprised, as they knew their message was big indeed, ‘salvation to the ends of the earth’ (v.47) no less.
There’s great contrast here; abuse, persecution and expulsion, gladness honour and belief, but the word spread, the whole region changed, the disciples, even as they shock the dust from their shoes were ‘filled with joy’ and fled...smiling.
An amazing account, a fantastic adventure. In term’s of lessons to be learnt:
-a clarity, simplicity and integrity of message
- an appeal to real truth and also an answer to real need
- an expectation of difficulty, a bittersweet mixture of struggle and success, and yet a strength in the turmoil
- a lasting joy in the knowledge that who we are, what we do is big, it matters.