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May 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 15, 2016 – Acts 13:13-52

Going Somewhere?

Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people say it.”
Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen . . . .” 
Acts 13:13-16

Intro: Every couple of weeks I meet with a friend at Heritage Park overlooking the Marina

Embedded in the concrete is a large compass
– my friend tells me that he used to work with troubled teens
• he one time brought them to that same park and instructed them:
◦ “Go stand on the point that indicates where you’re from and tell us about that”
◦ afterward he said, “Now stand on a point that indicates where you hope to go and tell us something about that”

To know a person, we have to know where they’ve come from and where they’re going
– our instant assessments of people say little about who they really are
• “He’s a used car salesman” or “She’s a single mom”
• some of us realize that our history is blurred and our destiny lies in an unknown future
◦ so who am I?
– today we’ll get to look into our history and our destiny

13-16, Paul is breaking new ground

Luke’s footnotes regarding John-Mark seem like trivial details (12:12, 25; 13:5)
– but they “foreshadow” a coming storm
• foreshadow is a literary device in which a detail is given special attention
◦ later it returns as an important plot detail or piece of the puzzle
• the equivalent of foreshadowing in movies is the flash forward
◦ in this instance, the camera provides a close-up on an object, statement or character’s expression

The Antioch mentioned here is not same city where they began journey (in Syria)
the Sabbath and the synagogue – were consistently stage one of Paul’s strategy
• sacred time and sacred space belonged to God
◦ for Paul, this became his beachhead in each new area he entered — it was a place to start
the reading of the Law and the Prophets were staples of the synagogue service
(the church took the synagoge as the model for its services)
◦ the emphasis on scripture provided Paul a foundation for his message
◦ he had spent a lot of time discovering Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures
– somehow it was obvious Paul had training in Judaism — cultural clues, perhaps unfamiliar to us
• when he speaks, it is obvious that he is a Jewish teacher addressing a Jewish audience
◦ he addresses them as Men of Israel, brothers and refers to the fathers of their race and religion
• Paul made a point to establish a common ground with them
◦ they had a shared ancestry, shared scripture, shared history and a shared hope

17-23, Paul’s brief overview of Old Testament history

Paul tracks their history from Egypt to David, jumps over the other kings, the exile, and the return
– in verse 23 he makes a quick transition fro David to Jesus
• Israel’s history is recounted in almost every section of the Bible (Law, Psalms, prophets, etc.)
• usually, a pattern emerges that is meant to make a point
◦ the consistent mercy of God is contrasted to the consistent sinfulness of Israel

You [God] have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly (Nehmiah’s prayer in Neh. 9:33)
You are doing just what your fathers did (Stephen in Acts 7:51)

– but in this case, Paul’s history does not reveal a pattern, but goes in a straight line
• it is history on a trajectory – history going somewhere
◦ God working toward a goal – “redemptive history”
◦ there is a beginning, a middle and an end, which points to Israel’s destiny
• and that is a fullness, a completeness to their covenant relationship with God
◦ Paul’s message is that their history had arrived at its destination

24-37, Paul then gave an overview of recent history

From John the Baptist to the present as the message of Jesus was going everywhere

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 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 . . . (vv. 26-27, 32-33)

38-39, So what does this mean for Paul’s audience?

Through Jesus they have:
– forgiveness of sins – failures of history do not disqualify them
– rather than “freed” in verse 29 should read “justified” – made righteous (right)
• placed in right relationship with God
• then, with God’s Spirit and grace, we work out right relationships with others

This is heart of Paul’s message in Romans and Galatians
– no one is able to achieve this through keeping the Law
• in Romans 3:20, Paul explains that the Law exposes sin
◦ but the Law cannot do anything to help us stop sinning or do what is right
◦ the assumption is that we do this ourselves, through will-power and self-discipline
• the Law says, “This is where you are”
◦ and the question must ask is not, “How did we get here?”
◦ but “What do we do about this?”
– God’s answer is Jesus his Son, through whom we receive a new spirit and a fresh start

40-41, Paul concluded his talk with a grim warning

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.” 
(Acts 13:40-41)

He is saying, in effect, “Your train has pulled into the station, but you can miss it”
– he knew the message could be rejected
• but that would be to reject their destiny and betray themselves

42-43, Conversation continued after the service

Those who followed Paul out of the synagogue wanted the same words spoken the following week
– perhaps so they could invite family, friends and neighbors to hear it
– Paul’s encouragement to them was to continue in the grace in the grace of God
• it was taking them somewhere – he told them to keep going

44-52, The following Sabbath, the audience was divided

– I’m sure that as a minority in a Gentile world, the Jews felt they had to hang on to what belonged to them
• the Torah, the temple, and monotheism–their One God
◦ this is how they had been able to maintain their identity as a people
• besides having a past and a future, having boundaries is is essential to knowing who you are
◦ boundaries define who we are and who we are not
– were they even aware that it was jealousy that motivated them to oppose Paul?

The community was divided and two groups were formed
– one group was reactive, the other was responsive

William Barclay, “. . . that which is meant for good news and which was designed as good news is in fact bad news for another kind of people.”

• reacting is automatic and results from past experience
• responding is thoughtful and leaves a person free to choose to move into the future
– verse 46, It was necessary Paul says, that the word of God be spoken to you first
• because the Jews were God’s covenant people
• to turn from the message was to turn from their destiny

Paul was driven out of town – but a new lively church had been birthed and it remained there

Conc: Jim recently reminded me of the Dick Van Dyke show and how it opened

Dick Van Dyke came through the door of his home and tripped over an ottoman
– every time!
• sometimes we wonder, “Why do I keep making the same mistake?”
• maybe it is because you don’t know your destiny
◦ so when something looks good or right or possible, you jump at it, only to stumble again over same ottoman
– we have a destiny – can you see it? Do you know it?

For some of us it may be a maturity factor
– we need more spiritual growth or development to acquire this new perspective

When I was preparing this message, my three year old grandson came into my room and climbed into my lap. While I was explaining to him how important it was for me to be able to have a few hours undisturbed so that I could read and study, he pointed to a small, white cardboard box sitting on a stack of books and asked “What’s that?” The box had contained an adapter for an appliance we had just received. I had intentionally hung on to the box for him. So I took it and wrote on the top, “Calum’s Treasure Chest — Keep Out!” I also drew a padlock on the front and handing the box to him, suggested that he go find one of his treasures to put in the box. That kept him busy for a couple of minutes. When he returned I told him, “Now leave the room and grandpa will hide the treasure and you can look for it.” Then I drew a small map with a broken line looping around the floor plan of my room from the doorway to the treasure. When he came back, I handed him the drawing and told him it was a map to the treasure. He asked, “Where’s the X?” I showed him and then handed him the map and he immediately ran out of the room. Awhile later he returned with the wrinkled map that he was trying to fold. Giving it to me he asked if I would roll it for him. He was now obviously more interested in the map than the treasure. I began to explain the map to him.
“Calum, what’s this?” (pointing to my bed). “A square,” he answered.
“Well, okay. What are these two things?”
“No, they’re pillows.”
“Oh,” nodding his head.
“So what is this?”
“A square with pillows on it.”
Disappointed in his inability to appreciate good art, I rolled up the map and gave it to him. I realized that Calum was not nearly tall enough to appreciate an aerial view of my room. Nor was his brain developed enough to abstract the above perspective from his horizontal point of view. Not many minutes later he returned with his sister, Adrianna. He still clutched his map, only now it was bound by one of his sister’s scrunchies. Adrianna, who is five years old, was interested in the map as well. I showed her the doorway to my room and the broken line that led to the treasure. Instantly she gave me a knowing smile, turned and ran straight to the hidden treasure chest buried under a couple of pillows.

• that was the difference that two years of maturing can make
• God’s destiny for his church has been set
◦ it becomes clearer the longer we follow Jesus and learn from him
– our treasure is to discover ourselves in Christ, and through him become whole
• in Jesus, we are united with God
◦ and that is when a heavenly joy and the divine Spirit begins to flow through us

And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (v. 52)

One of Jesus’ last words to his disciples was, I have prepared a place for you
It would be equally true if he had also said, And now I am preparing you for that place

One Comment

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  1. Eliot / May 23 2016

    This psychology helps us think about the theology concerning RE…..”place”……MENT of Israel. Believers in the EVIDENCE of Past Natural Creation by the WORD OF GOD ……”out of darkness into light”…… should trust language to believe in the SUBSTANCE of Future Spiritual Creation. Positional Darkness is heard in the terms of Israel’s Old Covenant because words are its limitation. The Light of the New Covenant is that A PERSON replaces those words with an extension of Himself.

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