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Forgiven & Free

Paul and Barnabas offer these two blessings to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ: Through Jesus, you can be forgiven! By Jesus, everyone who believes can be set free! And by preaching new this good, they turn the city upside down.

Paul takes full advantage of the opportunity he is given to address the synagogue, and gives a powerful sermonic history of rule in Israel from God Himself to the fathers to the exodus to the judges to the kings, zeroing in on David as a king after God’s own heart, who ruled on earth like God ruled in heaven. The point of the history is to give Paul’s hearers both a sense of the kind of person God wants ruling His people: a provider, a blesser, a mercy-shower, a savior, and also a sense of progression – the history they know is unfinished, leading somewhere, to someone.

Paul then proclaims the identity and arrival of the promised Savior-King: David’s descendent Jesus. He reminds the synagogue that the message of salvation was sent to Israel, to God’s people, but the Jews in Jerusalem failed to recognize this, and ended up killing Jesus. But God overcame their folly by raising Jesus from the dead – His chosen ruler is alive again!

Paul announces that he and Barnabas have come as witnesses, doing for Jesus after His death and resurrection what John the Baptist had done beforehand. He goes on to quote several passages from the Old Testament that are fulfilled by and thus confirm the story he has just told. One of the proofs that Jesus is the Savior-King that God was preparing for His people is found in the fact that the promises given to David weren’t fulfilled in David, but came true for Jesus instead. David died and saw corruption, but when Jesus died, He was raised before His body could decay.

In verses 38-39, Paul gives the good news of what this means for them: now that Jesus has been enthroned as king of both earth and heaven, He offers his people unimaginable gifts, even heavenly gifts: through Jesus, forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him you are set free. What a great summary of the gospel: forgiven and free!

This powerful message upends everything for the Jews – their hopes for a Savior have been fulfilled, and their lives need to change accordingly. There is a great risk that this change will be resisted. These Jews in Antioch might not recognize their Messiah either, and foolishly cling to David and Moses instead, and so Paul concludes with the warning that Habakkuk sounded: if you scoff in disbelief, you will be astounded and perish.

In response, the people begged and pleaded that Paul and Barnabas would tell them more on the following Sabbath. They followed them around and hounded them even after the service had broken up demanding to hear more about this good news.

This passage gives us a wonderful pattern of sharing the gospel for those who know a lot about God or the Bible, but who don’t have Jesus as their king: 1) remind them of what they already know about God, 2) help them find their place in the story, and 3) point them to the forgiveness and freedom found in Christ.

We also see the appropriate response to the gospel. We should be begging to hear more of the good news that says that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, nothing that you have ever done will be counted against you by God. God is not angry at you. He is not out to get you. He loves you, and covers you with mercy in Jesus Christ. By believing in Jesus, you have been justified before God, that is, you have been set free.

We need to hear this every week, because it is unbelievable. As soon as you wake up tomorrow, you will barely believe that news this good can be true. But it is true: God has raised up a Savior, Jesus Christ, and all who believe in Him are forgiven and free. Believe the unbelievable, and continue in the grace of God!

Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 by CJ Bowen