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Pastor Chris: In Christ Alone

Choosing Jesus Over Worldly Religion

Cross Bible copy

The Apostle Paul's First Sermon


The sermon recorded in ACTS 13 is the first recorded sermon of the Apostle Paul in all the Bible!

Paul taught the totality of Old Testament revelation leads us to this life-changing, eternity-altering New Testament truth: There is FORGIVENESS and FREEDOM through FAITH in Christ!

From Patriarch to Prophets, from David to John the Baptist, Paul proclaimed all Old Testament roads lead to Jesus.

It is through this man Jesus there is forgiveness.

It is through this man Jesus there is freedom.

VERSE 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this manforgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 

  1. Through HIM – through his perfect life, through his substitutionary death, through his victorious resurrection – the penalty of sin has been paid in its entirety. No addition to Jesus is needed.
  1. By HIMEVERYONE who believes is freed from EVERYTHING which the Law of Moses could not free us from. Any addition to Jesus is slavery.

 This message was so powerful that we hear the reaction here in ACTS 13:42… ACTS 13:42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 

What an amazing reaction! I remember when I preached MY FIRST SERMON… people were not begging for more, but begging it would end!

Shouldn’t the reaction to Paul’s sermon be the reaction of every single one of us every time we hear the Good News? Why isn’t it?

Before we travel back in time two thousand years ago, lets pause and go two thousand feet up.

Do you ever ponder the size, the scope, the majesty of the universe? There is NO WAY everything came from nothing.

Do you ever marvel at the beauty of the earth? Not only its phenomenal precision, not only its remarkable function, but its breath-taking, awe-inspiring beauty.

There is no logical way of avoiding everything we see in creation, every single day, every single second, points to a Creator.

The Bible presents this Creator as a Heavenly Father.

He is Heavenly – reigning and ruling over all. He is also a Father – perfectly loving and perfectly just. The Bible says you were created BY Him, For Him. To love him and be loved by Him.

The Bible proclaims… There is no greater joy, no greater knowledge, no greater pleasure, no greater love, than to be loved by our Heavenly Father.

Then why do so many people refuse to believe? Why do so many people reject Him? Why do so many people rage against Him?

In the today’s sermon we will see the reaction to Paul’s sermon and get some insights into the question, “Why do people not believe the best news the world has ever heard?”

In today’s passage, we will see after Paul preaches… Many will rejoice in the Gospel. Many more will reject the Gospel.

It becomes perfectly clear, both then AND now, there is no such thing as a neutral response to the Gospel.

ACTS 13:42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

The immediate reaction seemed very positive. Many of the Jewish people gathered in that synagogue in Antioch begged Paul and Barnabas to come back. As they followed Paul and Barnabas out of the synagogue Paul urged them to continue in the “GRACE of GOD.”

This is not some mere religious salutation.

They had erroneously believed the Old Testament taught salvation through good works.

Paul proclaimed salvation only by grace received through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s all grace. They must believe it and continue in it.

44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

From Sabbath to Sabbath, talk must have spread all over Antioch because verse 44 says THE ENTIRE CITY gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

Wouldn’t be remarkable if God did this in Colts Neck? An entire city, men and women, parents and children, pouring into church to hear about forgiveness and freedom in Jesus Christ!

This reminds me of another time at another city, where throngs of people gathered outside the gate, they waved palm branches, they sang Hosanna the Lord saves, they proclaimed, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The city was Jerusalem. The moment was the triumphant entry of Jesus.

JOHN 12:19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

In just one we week’s time, the world would go from shouting in acclamation “Hosanna” to shouting in rage, “Crucify Him!”

Once again, in a remarkably short amount of time here in Antioch in Acts 13 the crowds will go from wanting to hear more of the Gospel to many of them rejecting the Gospel.

Why is that? What happened? The people were easily deceived by worldly religion.

The religious establishment was once again jealous of Jesus and once again began to infiltrate the crowd and spread lies about Jesus.

Many of us have had a similar experience. When we were saved; when we truly believed and were born again; we ran to our previous religious tradition and expected them to rejoice with us!

Tragically, for many of us, this was not our experience.

Author and theologian RC Sproul explains how after the Lord saved him and the joy of Jesus flooded his soul, he immediately went to the pastor of his old church to share the good news of what had happened. This “pastor” proceeded to completely dismiss RC Sproul’s salvation. This “pastor” then went on to tell him how the resurrection of Jesus was just a myth. RC Sproul said it felt like a dagger in his heart.

Why do many people walk about from the forgiveness and freedom of Jesus Christ? Because the do not know the Word of God they are easily deceived by worldly religion.

Let me be as clear as I can: IRONICALLY and TRAGICALLY one of the primary reasons people reject Jesus is NOT because of RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS but because of RELIGIOUS UNBELIEVERS.

As I once heard a pastor say, there are three kinds of believers in every church: 1.The UN-believers 2. The true believers 3. and the make believers.

It is possible to have an external veneer of religion and simultaneously be spiritually dead on the inside. Jesus described the Pharisees of his day as “white-washed tombs.” Beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, filled with dead man’s bones.

When these RELIGIOUS UNBELIEVERS control religious traditions, and you can be sure its happening all over the world today, they keep people locked up in a system of guilt, of doubt, and of confusion. Tragically, millions of people follow them because they are too distracted by the world to study God’s Word.

Paul experienced this in his day and said it would happen in our day…

1 TIMOTHY 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared… 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

What is Paul’s message to those who were trying to thwart God’s Word and subvert the Gospel’s expansion in Antioch?

VERSE 46 “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.

VERSE 50 The Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 

Paul speaks boldly to the crowds…

Since you are thrusting aside this forgiveness, this freedom,

Since apparently you do not think you need eternal life!

We are going to shake the dust from our feet and go to those who also need to hear this message – the Gentile sinners!

This leads us to the second reason why people reject Jesus.

They wrongly believe they don’t need eternal life.

They wrongly believe they don’t need Him.

As they thrust aside Jesus Christ, they wrongly believe judge themselves unworthy of eternal life. Clearly the issue here is not they feel guilty and unworthy of eternal life, it is precisely the opposite.

Eternal life is not worthy of their time,

Eternal life is not worthy of their attention,

Eternal life is not worthy of their devotion.

How did Elton John describe it in his song Tiny Dancer?

Jesus freaks

Out in the street

Handing tickets out for God

Turning back

She just laughs

The boulevard is not that bad

Paul, a believing Jew himself, then turns from those who should have received Jesus with the most joy to the people we would LEAST expect to receive Jesus with joy – Gentile sinners!

ACTS 13:48 nd 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.49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.

Verse 48 tells us the Gentiles instantly begin rejoicing and glorifying what?... The word of God. The Word of God prophesied the coming of Messiah in the Old Testament. The Word of God proclaims the victory of the Messiah in the New Testament. In other words… He is here! He has arrived! His name is Jesus!

Your wait is over. Your search is over. There is no one that will follow Him. There is no one that will surpass Him. There is no one who can compare to Him!

Repent of your sin, return to the Father, and trust in His Son for salvation!

And when you do… what does the Bible say?

You were appointed by God to believe and receive eternal life. Meaning this then is not just a religious ritual but a divine appointment

The Bible says… We love because he first loved us.

The Bible says... While were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Bible says… Before the foundations of the world, God chose you.

EPHESIANS 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world

At the beginning of this sermon we asked the question, “Do you ever ponder the size, the scope, the majesty of the universe?”

The Bible says that before God created the sun and the stars, before God created the oceans and mountains, before God created the Grand Canyon and Aurora Borealis, before God created every flower, every field, every fountain, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

Do not thrust this aside. Do not consider eternal life unworthy of your immediate attention. Do not merely settle for thin, superficial, worldly religion…

Even if others reject you, God will never reject you. Even if others dismiss you, the joy of Jesus will rise up to overcome the pain. Even if others don’t follow you, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

ACTS 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.