“From Antioch to Antioch.”

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Sermon 01282018

“From Antioch to Antioch.”

Two Antiochs…


We don’t know why they made this difficult journey; we’re not told. 

We hear for the first time Saul, now Paul, preaching to the people. 

He’s in the synagogue, speaking to Jewish believers.  *It’s what they did in each city. 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  Romans 1:16

It was to the Jews that promises were given and covenants were made.  So it is appropriate that Paul should go there first.  The Jews have the background in their scriptures. 

Paul makes an argument meant to convince the mind - an argument from the scriptures.  From their history. 

He mentions promises made to David were about his descendant. 

He tells them that “forgiveness of sins – (justification) – is proclaimed for you!“

The point he makes is:

            Through Jesus, everyone who believes is justified. 

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. Acts 13:38-39 (ESV)

            The law of Moses could not do this for them. 

                        Only Jesus 

                        Only He lives. 

                        Only He is our High Priest; interceding for us with the Father.

They would be aware that the law could not free them.  They would know that, in reality, they could not keep the law.  Those who said that they were righteous by keeping the law were fooling themselves. 

Paul gets right to the heart of the matter,

Through Jesus, everyone who believes is justified. 

This is a radical thought.  They could do nothing, but just believe in Jesus’ work for them.  It’s pure grace. 

He offers a warning!  *

            “‘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.’”  Acts 13:41 

We will see next that the scoffers did, in fact, arise.  *

When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him… the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.  Acts 13:45, 50-51 

They reject God’s grace for something else. 

I don’t know what ultimately happened to the church and people in Antioch.  We’re not told.  I hope that like Paul, they who rejected the Word out of jealousy or whatever, would come to know the truth and be saved.  But I don’t know. 

Despite this, there was belief, Luke writes…*

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:  “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.  And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.  Acts 13:46-49, 52

So we see the proclamation of the Gospel had an effect, just not on the people to whom it was first proclaimed! 

Last week Pastor Don talked to us about doing God’s work telling others about Jesus.  He noted that Saul/Paul apparently had no success to this point; nothing is recorded about people coming to faith.  Pastor Don told us that God is responsible for results; we are responsible for speaking out. 

It’s like the farmer who does everything to maximize the opportunity for the seed to grow, he waters, fertilizes, pulls the weeds, but he can’t make the plant grow.  We can’t make faith occur.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that. 

But we can do our part.  We can say like Jesus did, “Come and see.” 

Over the years, I’ve invited people to Alpha.  Most have not come.  I did what I could do.  I continue to pray for them, and wait to re-invite.  Many of the people I’ve invited, I believe, don’t feel that they have a need for this Christianity stuff.  They live good lives, they have it together.  They’re good people. 

They are good people.  And sinners too. 

We see that the scoffers in Antioch were motivated by jealousy; today’s scoffers reject Christ because they believe that they don’t need Him.  He is superfluous to their lives. 

Many reject Jesus because He is associated with the mainstream of society, and they are searching for their own reality, their own truth. 

I think that we have better impact today with those in prison, addicted, in trouble, marriage on the rocks, because they are aware of their need for help.  They’ve got issues they can’t handle.  They are like the Gentiles who believed they were without hope, without a way out from their sin. Paul and Barnabas offered them that hope. 

When I first read the scripture readings for today, I read, as I always do, from the NIV.  I use the NIV because I began reading from it long ago and am working to put in into my head.  God’s word is the “Sword of the Spirit”.  How can you use the sword if you don’t have access to it?  To have access to it every day, you have to have it in your head.  That’s what I try and do. 

What I read in the NIV was this:  *

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39 (NIV)

set free from every sin”

This means more, (and meant more when I read it), then merely justification.  (Explain)

Justification and power to be free from sinning…

After reading the Greek… (used ESV)  Accuracy v. NIV.

ἄφεσις – “set free”.  Used 17 times 15 to mean forgiveness, twice to mean release – release for prisoners. 

So while Paul told the people of Antioch about salvation from sin through Christ rather than through the law, equating it to atonement, I also read about God’s power to act against us sinning in the first place.  Being set free from sinning. 

Paul will write to the Galatian church to correct some of their problems. *  He says this: 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   Galatians 5:16-24 (ESV)

Crucifying the flesh with Jesus help.  It comes through the power of Jesus.  Through the Holy Spirit living in the believer. 

One of things that is effective about the Alpha course, is that during the course, people come to meet Jesus.  Many have an experience of the Holy Spirit, and this changes their lives. 

Meeting Jesus

            Paul did

He experienced His power. 

Now, today, where people have no background in things of faith, more than ever they need an experience of the power of Christ. 

The first scripture reading I offered today is that little bit from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. *  Here it is again: 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  Romans 1:16

Initially I emphasized the fact that at first the Gospel was preached to Jews and then to Gentiles.  Now the emphasis is on the “Power of God”, that is that God comes in a mysterious, miraculous, mighty way to change lives, to save, to heal, to make holy.  That’s God work. 

Last week in Alpha we heard from a guy named Darrell Tunningsley. (Story)

“If I’m gonna be bad, I’m gonna be the best kind of bad I can possibly be.” 

(Clip 20:06 – 21;55)

That’s the power of God!

Paul writes to Timothy about the times we are in:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  2 Timothy 3:1-4

Denying the power of God is epidemic in our society.  People see the church as a club like the Elks.  Or they see it as some group of haters passing judgement on others.  If you focused on the laundry list of society’s ills which I just read, you might think that.  After all, aren’t those things described about our society today? 

People don’t see the church as a place where healing takes place, where lives are mended by a powerful and loving God.  Like those I have invited, who never come, they believe that Jesus is superfluous to their lives. 

The truth is, people do have needs that Jesus can and will meet.  Many people are without a sense of meaning in their lives.  They wake up, work, eat, sleep, and to what end?  I talked to a guy at work years ago who got a promotion to our HQ.  I asked him what the point of it all was, the move, uprooting his family, doing a job he disliked.  He thought I was crazy.  What was the point?  To make more money, have more stuff. 

“He who dies with the most toys, wins!” 

Is there meaning in stuff?  In truth, only Jesus gives us meaning.  Real meaning, a real mission, a mission with eternal impact. 

People have a need to belong.  We are alienated in our lives.  Jesus calls us into community, even more, into family.  Around me, right now, are my brothers and sisters.  Across the world a family.  People who care for one another and for others.  It’s a special kind of love which is rooted in Jesus’ love for us. 

These things are something that the world cannot provide.  Cannot replicate.  The power of Christ breaks down barriers between the artificial walls erected by the world.  Race, class, nationality, sex, status, these are things that divide.  Jesus is the one who can, and does unite. 

Last night my wife asked what I was preaching about today.  I told her and she commented that people also don’t accept the call to faith because of fear.  Fear of change.  Fear of leaving the things we believe have value.  Fear of other’s opinions.  Fear of the unknown.  St. John writes that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all fear.”  1John4:18

Like Darrell Tunningsley, who got loved into faith, we are surrounded by people who need the love only Jesus can give. 

In my last job, I would encounter people who had a problem with the law, and I would seek their help.  I would offer them help with their problem, if they helped me.  I used to remark that I didn’t need to “sell” this to them, the offer “sold itself”.  So it is with the offer Jesus has for our community, our world. 

His forgiveness offered free of charge, His power to live a victorious life, an end to fear, and the twin offers of meaning and family, sell themselves to a world hungry for these things.  Jesus’ offer is unparalleled in the world.  You have that offer for people, so, go out and love people into the Kingdom.  Find the Darrell Tunningsley’s in the world.  Be like Paul.