Trust Jesus the Promised Savior
The big idea of Paul’s sermon and our passage comes in Acts 13:23, where Paul says, “Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.” The big idea of the passage is Trust Jesus the promised Savior. But this big idea raises a big question: Who should trust Jesus the promised Savior? The two answers to the question from our passage are: 1. Older brothers under the law. 2. Younger brothers outside the law.
The Acts of the Apostles by David G. Peterson
Before the COVID-19 Pandemic began, Citylight Church was in the middle of a year-long journey, learning together each Sunday from the New Testament book of Acts. If you’re new to Citylight, we typically work our way through books of the Bible together and today I am overjoyed to be resuming our journey through Acts for at least two reasons. First, returning to Acts helps us remember that since the Bible is God’s Word, every part of it is always relevant to every season of life. We don’t have to burden ourselves by always looking for passages from the Bible that are relevant to our lives because every passage is God-breathed and profitable for every season. I’m so looking forward to seeing all the unique ways that Acts speaks as God’s word in our unique time. The second reason I am excited to resume our journey is because Acts is all about the risen Lord Jesus reigning and working from heaven to build his church on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit through ordinary people no matter the obstacles. COVID-19 is an obstacle to the advance of Jesus’ church and Jesus loves to build his church under such conditions. Acts will inform and inspire us to join Him in it. Let’s pray and resume our journey together.
Father, we give you all thanks and praise because as we turn to the Bible, we are turning to the book that you have written, the book that is God-breathed and profitable to teach, encourage, and correct us in any season. Father, we pray now that you will fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we will have ears to hear and hearts to receive your Word. I pray that my words will fall to the floor and yours will go forth into our hearts for Jesus sake and in His name we pray, amen.
Jesus once told a story about a wealthy man who had two sons, two brothers. The younger brother was the wild child who left home to find himself, find freedom, and find life without his father. The older brother was the dutiful son who stayed home to work hard and be responsible, but his heart was full of pride. When Jesus told this story in Luke 15, it was clear that the father represented God the Father, the dutiful older brother represented the Jewish people, who were under the law of Moses, and the younger brother represented the Gentile people who were outside the law. If you think about it, both sons reject God, but in different ways. The older brother rejects God by trying to be so good that he doesn’t need God, and the younger brother rejects God by replacing God with himself.
The reason that I bring up the parable of the two sons is because both older brother religious types and younger brother irreligious types play a significant role in Acts 13. The vast majority of Acts 13:13-52 is a sermon that Luke records the Apostle Paul delivering in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to a group of highly religious, biblically literate older brother types. The big idea of Paul’s sermon and our passage comes in Acts 13:23, where Paul says, “Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.” The big idea of the passage is Trust Jesus the promised Savior. Trust Jesus the Savior. But this big idea raises a big question: Who should trust Jesus the promised Savior? The two answers to the question from our passage are: 1. Older brothers under the law. 2. Younger brothers outside the law. Our passage this morning focuses primarily on the older brothers and then briefly on younger brothers.
OLDER BROTHERS UNDER THE LAW (vv. 13-43)
Our passage begins with Paul and Barnabas in a Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath surrounded by older brother types, on the second leg of their missionary journey to preach the gospel and plant churches where Jesus isn’t yet named or known. The rulers of the synagogue give Paul, the visiting Rabbi, an opportunity to speak to the congregation and Paul boldly seizes the opportunity and preaches a two-point sermon about trusting Jesus the promised Savior and those two points were fulfillment and freedom. The Old Testament isn’t a collection of stories, it’s one unified narrative with one central promise; God will redeem his people through a promised Savior. Let’s listen in as Paul tells the story of the Old Testament with an eye to its fulfillment in Jesus the Savior. Acts 13:16-23: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers (this is a reference to Genesis 12 God choosing Abraham in Genesis 12 to be the father of a multitude of people who will dwell in a promised land and God would bless them so that they would be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth) and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it (this is a reference to the book of Exodus where God rescued his people out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land through Moses). And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years. And after that 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. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. David is the human savior figure in the Old Testament. When Israel was terrified and facing destruction at the hands of the Philistines and their champion Goliath, David fought in their place and rescued them by killing Goliath. Jesus is the promised offspring from David’s line and the Savior greater than David who didn’t just fight but died on the cross to rescue us from an enemy worse than Goliath. Acts 13:29, 32-33 says, “And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.” Jesus isn’t just the Savior greater than David, he’s the suffering servant promised by the prophet Isaiah, who was pierced through for our sins. But unlike David, the grave couldn’t hold the promised Savior. “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the father, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus…” Jesus fulfilled every Old Testament promise of a Savior by dying for our sins and rising on the third day. He’s the fulfillment!
But then Paul becomes personal with the older brothers by making an abrupt shift in his two-point sermon from fulfillment to freedom. Acts 13:38-40: Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: “Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.” Paul urges these religious older brother types to trust in Jesus so that they can be truly free; freed from everything from which they could not be freed by the law of Moses. What can’t God’s law free us from? Paul tells us in Galatians 3:10: For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” The law cannot free us from the curse that we are under for failing to obey the law perfectly. In fact, all who rely on their law-keeping will perish forever under the curse of the law. The purpose of the law is to condemn us so that we’ll run to Jesus who obeyed the law perfectly in our place, died to bear our eternal curse, and rose to free us from the condemnation of not obeying the law perfectly. Paul calls the older brothers to trust in the grace Jesus and when they do, he urges them to continue in the grace of God rather than going back to the law for freedom.
Let’s begin to take the news that Jesus is the promised Savior for older brothers personally. Older brother types like me: Are you ready for true freedom? Are you ready to be free from the curse and exhaustion of living by the law and ready to embrace easy and light yoke of Jesus the Savior? True freedom comes through confessing and continuing. The best way that I know how to illustrate the freedom of confessing and continuing is by thinking of a tree with roots and fruit. Confession is agreeing with God about our sin and it begins with the fruit. Confession begins when we agree with God about the fruit in our lives. For older brother types, this means agreeing with God that the fruit of anger, anxiety, control, and self-righteousness is dangling from the tree of our lives. But true confession that brings freedom then goes down to the root. Root confession says, the reason that my life is marked by the fruit of anger or anxiety is because at root I believe lies about God and myself. Root Confession says, “God, I am angry because I believe I have to be in control because I believe that you’re not great in power or good in your character.” Confession brings you to the root of your rebellion against God and the root of your slavery to the curse of the law; the belief that God isn’t good and that you should go your own way. Confession brings you to Jesus the promised Savior, the only one who can forgive the root rebellion of your heart and save you from the curse of the law. We respond to the grace of God in the gospel and experience freedom through fruit to root confession sin and embracing Jesus the Savior. But remember, Paul and Barnabas urged the older brothers to continue in the grace of God. Continuing in the grace of God is continually going back to the root and turning from the rebellious lies that we believe about God and ourselves and turn again to the grace that is in Christ. Older brothers have to keep going back to the truths that God is love, that God shows his love in that when we were still sinners Christ died for us, and that we are loved because of Jesus’ finished work, not our work. This sort of root continuing in the gospel leads to the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The tree of our lives becomes ever fuller of the good fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and the like. True freedom comes as we confess our great need for the grace of Jesus the Savior to be free from the condemnation of the law and continue in that same grace every day. Will you begin on the path of freedom today by confessing your great need for Christ the Savior and then never stop continuing in his grace? As Jerry Bridges once wrote, “Every day of our Christian experience should be a day of relating to God on the basis of His grace alone. We are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day” -Jerry Bridges.
Older brothers, trust Jesus the promised Savior every day for freedom from everything that the law cannot free you from. Now, younger brothers. Jesus the promised Savior is, secondly, for…
YOUNGER BROTHERS OUTSIDE THE LAW (vv. 44-52)
One week after Paul preached his older brother sermon in the synagogue, Paul and Barnabas are back at the synagogue on the sabbath, but this time the whole city, older and younger brothers alike, are gathered to hear the word of the Lord! The synagogue leaders are furious with jealousy and begin contradicting the gospel and reviling Paul. So, in fulfillment of the Old Testament promise, Paul and Barnabas turn from the religious types and extend the word, the message of Jesus the Savior and Redeemer, to the Gentiles; irreligious younger brothers who aren’t under the law. Acts 13:48, 52 tells us how the Gentiles responded to the good news of Jesus the Savior: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed…And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. They rejoice! Why? Because you actually don’t need to be under the law to know that you need a Savior. Every person is created in the image of God and, therefore, has a conscience. So, even if you live outside the law of Moses, you live by some standard, even if it’s your own and in your heart of hearts you know your guilty of not fully obeying even your own standard. That’s why the irreligious person is just as stuck as the religious person because the irreligious person needs a Savior just as much as the religious person. And there’s good news for the religious and the irreligious person: What God promised in Scripture He fulfilled by raising Jesus from the dead, so that forgiveness of sins and freedom from everything which no law can free you from is proclaimed to everyone, religious or irreligious, under the law or outside the law, older brother or younger, and all who trust in the Savior are free from condemnation.
I don’t care if you’re really religious or really irreligious; if you get that, it’ll make you rejoice. If you don’t yet believe this message, believe it and rejoice. And if you are a Christian but you lack joy today, why is that? Our passage ends with this statement that the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. The natural response to receiving a Savior is joy. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel pain or fear in this crazy season, but it means that alongside the sadness and fear there is a joy that sustains you. Even the worst suffering or inconvenience of this season comes to you from the hands of a loving Father. Even the worst scenario you fear will not separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. You’ve been saved. There is no condemnation for you. You’ve been set free from the curse of the law. If you lack joy today, it can only be because in some measure you’ve lost sight of that. Perhaps you’ve reverted back to the law and begun to base your sense of God’s acceptance of you on your obedience to His commandments. If you spend more of your time thinking about all the things you aren’t doing than you do thinking of all the things Jesus did for you, you will crush your joy. Remember the words of the great Scottish Pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “For every one look you take at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” Seriously, if you lack joy, I encourage you to really take the time to sit down with your Bible and just think about who Jesus is and what He did for you, how He saved you from all those things now law could save you from, how forgiven and free you are in Him, and see if your joy doesn’t get some fresh kindling. I encourage you to get into a Citygroup with Christians who will tell you these things, to listen to preaching that exalts Christ as Savior, and see if your joy doesn’t change. Be amazed that you’re saved because you didn’t do it. Let’s close by looking back at verse 48: “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Nobody appoints themselves to eternal life. If you have eternal life, it’s only because God appointed you to it, and because He did, you believed. God chose you before you chose Him. He loved you before you loved Him, and so He sent you a Savior, Jesus Christ. May you be filled with joy in Him today, and may that joy spread through us to the end of the earth, that all those appointed to eternal life, religious or irreligious, may believe and rejoice in Jesus the Savior.