Posted: 12 Jan 2011 11:00 PM PST
IT IS ALWAYS WORTH ASKING WHY the summary of a particular sermon is included in Acts. Sometimes the answer is immediately obvious, at least in part. For example, Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, reported in Acts 2: whatever its distinctive features, it is above all the first post-resurrection Christian evangelistic sermon, the first Christian sermon after the descent of the Holy Spirit. The sermon Paul preaches in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13–52) has many interesting features that help explain why Luke records it:
(1) It is preached in a synagogue, and thus to people whom Paul views as biblically literate—Jews, proselytes, God-fearers. He does not have to explain basic categories the way he does to the Athenians, who are biblically illiterate (Acts 17).
(2) Preaching to the biblically literate, Paul begins with a selective recitation of Israel's history—obviously a standard approach in some Christian preaching, for Stephen does the same thing (Acts 7).
(3) More importantly, this selective history is directed toward establishing one central point: God had promised the coming of a king in the Davidic line. That provides Paul with the base from which he springs forward to Christian witness: the Messiah, that Davidic king, has arrived, and his name is Jesus.
(4) With this line of thought, and to this biblically-literate crowd, Paul devotes part of his sermon to exposition of particular texts in order to demonstrate his major points.
(5) Paul makes it clear that the purpose and focus of Christ's coming is the forgiveness of sins. He compares and contrasts the nature and scope of this forgiveness with what the Law of Moses provided. Paul is interested in the salvation-historical developments that have taken place with the coming of the Messiah (Acts 13:39). Further, the salvation Paul announces assigns a central role to justification.
(6) The following verses (Acts 13:42–52) explain how Paul's popularity incites jealousy, which generates various results—including Paul's move away from the synagogue to the broader Gentile population. This is a concrete demonstration of something that characterizes Paul's evangelistic ministry in every new place he visits: he begins with Jews and all those gathered in the synagogue—a matter of theological conviction for him; but he eventually turns, or is forced to turn, to the biblically illiterate pagans—a matter of calling for him, for he knows he is called to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:8).
(7) As on other occasions, Paul's preaching causes both a riot and a revival.
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