THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
by Greg Williamson © revised 2022
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation*

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Barnabas and Saul Sent Off; On Cyprus (Acts 13:1–3; 4-12) | In Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13–52)

In Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-52)

Paul delivers two sermons (Acts 13:13-52)

 
(13) Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. (14) But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. (15) After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." (16) Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said,

"Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: (17) The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. (18) For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. (19) When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance -- all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. (20) After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. (21) 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. (22) After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.' (23) From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, (24) after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. (25) And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.'

(26) "Brethren, sons of Abraham's family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. (27) For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. (28) And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. (29) When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. (30) But God raised Him from the dead; (31) and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. (32) And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, (33) that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.' (34) As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.' (35) Therefore He also says in another Psalm, 'YOU WILL NOT ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.' (36) For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; (37) but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. (38) Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, (39) and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. (40) Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you:

   (41) 'BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH;
          FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS,
          A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.'"

(42) As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. (43) Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.

(44) The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. (45) But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. (46) Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (47) For so the Lord has commanded us,

          'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES,
          THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'"

(48) When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (49) And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. (50) But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. (51) But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. (52) And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
 

OUTLINE
III. PAUL AND BARNABAS IN PERGA (Acts 13:13): John Mark abandons the team.
IV. PAUL AND BARNABAS IN ANTIOCH OF PISIDIA (Acts 13:14–52): Here Paul delivers two sermons.
  A. First sermon (Acts 13:14–43): It is a message concerning the Jewish Messiah.
    1. The overview of the Messiah (Acts 13:14–37)
      a. Historical preparation for his coming (Acts 13:14–23): Paul shows from the Old Testament how God prepared the nation from which Christ would come.
        (1) The selection of Israel (Acts 13:14–17a)
        (2) The deliverance from Egypt (Acts 13:17b)
        (3) The wilderness experience (Acts 13:18)
        (4) The conquest of Canaan (Acts 13:19)
        (5) The rule of the judges and kings (Acts 13:20–23)
      b. Homiletical preparation for his coming (Acts 13:24–25): John the Baptist served as Jesus' forerunner.
      c. Prophetical preparation for his coming (Acts 13:26–37)
        (1) Psalm 2:6–9 predicts God will honor the Messiah (Acts 13:26–33)
        (2) Isaiah 55:3 predicts God will fulfill in the Messiah the promises given to David (Acts 13:34)
        (3) Psalm 16:10 predicts God will not allow the body of the Messiah to see corruption (Acts 13:35–37)
    2. The offer by this Messiah (Acts 13:38–41)
      a. The repenting sinner is forgiven of sin (Acts 13:37–38a)
      b. The repenting sinner is declared righteous (Acts 13:38b–41)
    3. The obedience to the Messiah (Acts 13:42–43): Many of Paul's audience respond favorably to his message.
  B. Second sermon (Acts 13:44–52)
    1. Unbelieving Jews (Acts 13:44–46, 50–52)
      a. They reject God (Acts 13:44–45, 50–52)
      b. God rejects them (Acts 13:46)
    2. Believing Gentiles (Acts 13:47–49)
      a. The foretelling (Acts 13:47): Paul says Isaiah predicted this (Isa. 49:6).
      b. The fulfilling (Acts 13:48–49): Many Gentiles accept Jesus. [ref]
  • (Acts 13:13-15) From the seaport of Paphos, Paul and his companions head northeast, crossing sea and land until at last they arrive at Pisidian Antioch. There they enter the synagogue and are invited by the synagogue officials to share any word of exhortation -- meaning: "deliberative ... rhetoric meant to urge a change not just in belief but also in behavior" [ref]; "encouragement to believe the Word and to live according to its precepts." [ref]
    ■ Toussaint: "This Antioch was actually in Phrygia but was known as Pisidian Antioch because it was so near Pisidia. Like other cities -- such as Lystra, Troas, Philippi, and Corinth -- Antioch was a Roman colony. Paul visited these cities because they were located at strategic points." [ref]
    ■ Polhill: "As was their custom, Paul and Barnabas went first to the synagogue in the city. The Diaspora synagogue was more than a house of worship. It was the hub of the Jewish community -- house of worship, center of education, judicial center, social gathering place, general 'civic center' for the Jewish community. If one wished to make contact with the Jewish community in a town, the synagogue was the natural place to begin. It was also the natural place to begin if one wished to share the Christian message. Jesus was the expected Jewish Messiah, and it was natural to share him with 'the Jews first.'" [ref]
    ■ Marshall: "The address which Luke records is of considerable length and can be summed up as a historical survey designed to root the coming of Jesus in the kingly succession of Judah and to show that the career of Jesus was in fulfilment of prophecy: it culminates in an appeal to the hearers not to repeat the error of the people of Jerusalem who had rejected Jesus." [ref]
  • (Acts 13:16-22) Paul addresses his synagogue audience -- both Israelites and gentile God-fearers -- reminding them of God's plan and purpose for Israel from the patriarchs (our fathers) all the way to king David.
    ■ Toussaint: "Paul seized the opportunity to present the fulfillments of Old Testament expectations of the Messiah in Jesus. Luke recorded a number of 'sample sermons' of Paul in Acts (cf. Acts 14:15–17; 17:22–31; 20:18–35). This, the first recorded discourse of Paul and the most completely preserved, illustrated how Paul preached to an audience grounded in the Old Testament. The message may be divided into three parts by the three occurrences of direct address (Acts 13:16, 26, 38) and outlined as follows: (1) the anticipation of and preparation for the coming of the Messiah (Acts 13:16–25), (2) the rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 13:26–37), and (3) the application and appeal (Acts 13:38–41)." [ref]
    ■ Swindoll:
         
     
    In the first section of his sermon (Acts 13:16-22), Paul summarized Jewish history, acknowledging at least four points typically highlighted in Jewish confessions of faith:

    • God chose the patriarchs by grace.
    • God liberated the Israelites from Egypt.
    • God gave the land to Israel.
    • God gave the people a king.

    Paul's short history of Israel highlighted three facts, each with an important implication:

    Fact 1: The Lord had been faithful to Israel despite the disobedience of the people.
    Implication: He would continue to be faithful to disobedient Jews.

    Fact 2: God's form of government over Israel had evolved over time, usually in response to Israel's disobedience.
    Implication: His administration of the nation would continue to evolve, and it was about to change again.

    Fact 3: The Lord had replaced a bad king, Saul, with a good king, David.
    Implication: The Lord was again about to present a new leader. [ref]
     
     
     
    ■ As noted by Bruce, the redemptive acts of God recited by Paul "constitute an Old Testament kerygma which is summarized in Paul's address as a prelude to the New Testament kerygma: the events proclaimed in the apostolic preaching are shown to have taken place as the inevitable sequel to God's dealings with his people in ancient days." [ref]
  • (Acts 13:16) Men of Israel, and you who fear God. As Bruce explains, these opening words of Paul's "indicate quite clearly the twofold composition of the audience. There were the 'Israelites' (Jews by birth and possibly, in some cases, by conversion) and there were Gentiles who recognized that the true God was worshiped in the synagogue, and desired to join in his worship. They are the people who are commonly, but not technically, known as God-fearers. In this as in many another synagogue where Paul preached, it was the latter group that proved more ready to accept the good news which he proclaimed." [ref]
PAUL’S EPISTLES, WRITTEN ON HIS JOURNEYS AND DURING HIS IMPRISONMENTS [ref]
Epistle
Number of Epistles
Journeys and imprisonments
GALATIANS
1
After his first missionary journey
1 THESSALONIANS
2 THESSALONIANS
2
On his second missionary journey
1 CORINTHIANS
2 CORINTHIANS
ROMANS
3
On his third missionary journey
EPHESIANS
PHILIPPIANS
COLOSSIANS
PHILEMON
4
During his first imprisonment
1 TIMOTHY
TITUS
2 TIMOTHY
3
Before and during his second imprisonment
  • (Acts 13:23-31) Paul makes the connection to Jesus and the gospel, including Jesus' death and post-resurrection appearances. Swindoll: The crux of Paul's message is
         
     

    the life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus. Addressing his audience as "brethren, sons of Abraham's family" (Acts 13:26), he identified himself as a Jew who shared their concerns as Jews. He said, in effect, "I am one of you, and I have great news concerning the Messiah we have all anticipated." He did, however, separate himself from the religious leaders in Jerusalem, accusing them of ignoring the very Scriptures the synagogue had just read aloud and of killing their Messiah (Acts 13:27-28). He noted that their actions in killing Jesus fulfilled predictions concerning the Messiah (Acts 13:29), further validating Jesus as the Christ. Furthermore, he referenced the eyewitness testimonies of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, obviously including himself (Acts 13:30-31). [ref]

     
TRUTH APPLIED
Repentance & Faith
H. A. Ironside:
     
 
One reason we have so many shallow conversions today, so many church-members who have never really known the grace of God, is because there is so little preaching which drives home to men the need of repentance, of facing their lost condition before God. Jesus Himself said, "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." If men do not realize their sinfulness they will never appreciate the saving grace of God as revealed in Christ; and so the call to repentance should never be divorced from the message of faith -- repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. ...

Some say, I cannot believe the Bible; I cannot believe it is the Word of God. As a rule these are not the people who know the Bible, who read it thoughtfully and carefully. But if you do read it and you cannot believe it, it is because you are living in some sin the Bible condemns and you do not want to repent of it! Sin blinds men's eyes to the truth. Sin blinded the eyes of the people of Israel to the fact that God was manifest in Christ when Jesus was here on earth, and it is sin that keeps people from receiving Him today. Jesus Himself said, If any man will to do His will (that is, if any man desires to do the will of God), he shall know of the doctrine. If you want to know the truth, you may. If you are willing to obey God, willing to judge your sin, willing to repent of it and ask Him to make the truth known, He has pledged Himself to do it; but it is a very solemn fact that it may never grip the consciences of some people, for they are determined to go on in some sin the Word of God condemns. [ref]
 
 
 

HELPFUL RESOURCE
A THEOLOGY OF REPENTANCE
  • (Acts 13:30-31) Bruce: "God reversed the judgment of men: here the constant note of triumph which made the apostolic preaching so joyful a message is struck again. God raised Jesus up from death, and over a period of many days -- forty in all, Luke has said at the beginning of his second volume (Acts 1:3) -- he appeared to his disciples who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They were now personal and public witnesses to his resurrection and messiahship; in Luke's eyes, they are the primary guarantors of the gospel story (cf. Acts 1:21-22)." [ref]
  • (Acts 13:32-37) Paul says that the resurrection of Jesus represents nothing less than God's prior promise which he made to Israel's ancestors. Swindoll: "Paul validated his claim of prophetic fulfillment by quoting several Old Testament passages concerning the Messiah: [Ps. 2:7; cf. Acts 13:33 / Isa. 55:3; cf. Acts 13:34 / Ps. 6:10; cf. Acts 13:35]. Those who expected the Christ to be a political and military leader naturally believed that death invalidated any claim to be the Messiah. Paul argued the contrary. Each messianic prophecy he quoted finds fulfillment in the resurrection of the Messiah." [ref]
  • (Acts 13:38-41) Paul concludes with an appeal. Stott:
         
     
    The choice is stark. On the one hand, there is the promise through Jesus crucified and raised of the forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38). For through him (repeated, because he is the only mediator) everyone who believes is justified, that is, declared righteous before God. Through the law of Moses there is no justification for anybody, since we all break the law and the law condemns law-breakers; through Jesus, however, there is justification for everybody who believes, that is, trusts in him (Acts 13:39). ... [O]ver against the offer of forgiveness, Paul issues a solemn warning to those who reject it. He reminds his hearers of the propherts' denunciations. In particular, he quotes Habakkuk (Hab. 1:5), who predicted the rise of the Babylonians as instruments of divine judgment upon Israel (Acts 13:40-41). [ref]
     
     
     
  • (Acts 13:40-41) Polhill: "[T]he threat seems to be that God would once again have to bring judgment upon his people if they failed to accept the mercy and forgiveness now offered to them in Jesus. If they continued in their rejection, they would be rejected. It is remarkable how quickly Paul's warning came to bear. In the ensuing narrative, Habakkuk's prophecy was once again fulfilled -- among the Jews of Pisidian Antioch, as they rejected the words of salvation. God did something they would never have dreamed of -- he turned to the Gentiles." [ref]
TRUTH APPLIED
Important Themes
David Peterson:
     
 
The gospel outline presented in Acts 13 is clearly focussed on persuading those who know the Scriptures and expect an imminent messianic kingdom to recognise in Jesus the fulfillment of their hope. Christians who seek to engage people in the contemporary world with the gospel will not find it easy to use this approach in exactly the same way -- even with some Jews. Nevertheless, there are important themes here that need to be explained to everyone at some stage in the process of evangelism, to ground the gospel for them historically and theologically.
  • First, there is the idea that the Christian message is no novelty. The ministry of Jesus was the outworking of God's long-standing plan -- first announced to Abraham and progressively made more explicit in the Scriptures -- to save and bless Israel and the nations on exactly the same basis.
  • Second, there is the idea that God has chosen to fulfill his saving plan through the leader he has appointed. Given the reputation of Jesus and his character, it is remarkable that he was put to death by some of the very people he came to help and to rescue. However, the resurrection is God's vindication of Jesus as the one who would bring life from the dead.
  • Third, there is the idea that forgiveness of sins and a new freedom to serve God are made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Nevertheless, this is possible only for those who believe in him and turn to him, since God warns of the judgment coming against those who scoff and reject his saving plan. [ref]
 
  • (Acts 13:42-48) The gospel message being proclaimed by Paul and Barnabas is met with overwhelming enthusiasm such that the following Sabbath nearly the whole city gathers to hear the word of the Lord. The Jews, however, are filled with jealousy and try to make serious trouble for the missionaries, who for their part react by announcing that the word of God originally intended for the Jews will now be offered to the Gentiles. Swindoll:
         
     
    Paul's sermon was a lot for his hearers to take in. He called for the Jews of Pisidian Antioch to break with the religious leaders in Jerusalem and to embrace Jesus as the Messiah. Moreover, he preached that faith in the Messiah would result in the forgiveness of sins. Even so, the response was overwhelmingly positive ...

    Again, Luke uses the designation "the Jews" in a technical sense to denote religious leaders opposed to the gospel Paul had declared. The word translated "jealousy" connects this incident with the "jealousy" of the high priest and the Sanhedrin after the success of Peter's preaching in the temple (Acts 5:17). ...

    When Paul and Barnabas declared they would be "turning to the Gentiles" -- that is, proclaiming the Messiah to non-Jews -- they quoted Isaiah (Acts 13:47; cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6). God always had intended for Israel to be His "light to the nations" so that Gentiles might hear and turn to the Lord. ... [ref]

     
     
     
  • (Acts 13:44-45) Bruce: "Many Jews ... did welcome the gospel as Paul had proclaimed it the previous sabbath, but the majority, and especially their leaders, had no use for a salvation which was open to Gentiles on the same terms as Jews. It was just this, indeed, that aroused their opposition. So they spoke out in an endeavor to refute Paul's arguments, and cast unworthy aspersions on the missionaries." [ref]
  • (Acts 13:46) Bruce: "[W]e are introduced to a pattern of events which was to be reproduced in one place after another to which the gospel was brought, right on to the end of Luke's narrative. The local Jews, almost invariably, gave a corporate refusal to the gospel (though in every place there were some among them who did believe it), and it was accordingly proclaimed to Gentiles, who embraced it in large numbers. It was regularly the Godfearing Gentiles who attended the synagogue that formed the nucleus of Paul's 'churches of the Gentiles.'" [ref]
  • (Acts 13:49-52) So the Lord's message spread throughout that region. Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium. And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (NLT).
    ■ Polhill: "The Antioch mission ended on a mixed note of both opposition and success. On the one hand, the gospel was well received by the Gentiles and spread throughout the whole region. On the other hand, the rejection by the Jews became even stronger and broke out in outright persecution of Paul and Barnabas. ... Not all had been unreceptive, and the story ends on a positive note. There were many Gentile converts in Antioch, and these new disciples rejoiced in their experience in the Holy Spirit and their newfound acceptance in Christ." [ref]
    ■ Barclay:
         
     
    At this time the Jewish religion had a special attraction for women. In nothing was the ancient world more lax than in sexual morality. Family life was rapidly breaking down. The worst sufferers were women. The Jewish religion preached a purity of ethic and cleanness of life. Round the synagogues gathered many women, often of high social position, who found in this teaching just what they longed for. Many of these women became proselytes; still more were God-fearers. The Jews persuaded them to incite their husbands, who were often men in influential positions, to take steps against the Christian preachers. The inevitable result was persecution, Antioch became unsafe for Paul and Barnabas and they had to go. ...

    Thus forced to leave Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas "shook off the dust of their feet" against those who had expelled them -- a gesture which Jesus had commended to his disciples when they left an inhospitable place -- and took the eastward road to Iconium. The gesture did not in this instance imply complete breach of relations with Pisidian Antioch: the missionaries had left a body of believers there, and they paid a return visit to them a few months later (Acts 14:21). [ref]
     
     
     
TRUTH APPLIED
Luke: A Credible Historian
Witherington: "It is clear that Luke is quite concerned about how those of high social standing, such as Theophilus probably was, react to the gospel. Though he often records a favorable response to the gospel of people of considerable social status (cf. below on Acts 17:4), it is to Luke's credit that as historian he also records the negative reaction to the gospel of such people, as he does here. His apologetic tendencies do not lead him totally to ignore or leave out the opposition to the gospel, or the problems within the Christian community (cf. below on Acts 15)." [ref]

TRUTH APPLIED
Expect Persecution
William Larkin: "Though the church's battle is for human hearts and minds and its weapons are spiritual, Christians must be prepared to face governmental attempts to restrict their evangelizing activities. Today, with the militant advance of Islam, the revival of traditional religions tied to resurgent nationalism, and secular humanism's systematic attack on religious faith expressions in public life, Christians have many opportunities to encounter the tactics employed against Paul and Barnabas at Pisidian Antioch." [ref]

TRUTH APPLIED
Emphasizing The Content Of The Gospel In Evangelism
Ajith Fernando:
     
 
In my fresh study of Acts for writing this commentary, one of the features that kept coming up is how important the content of the gospel is to evangelism. This is why Luke emphasizes it so often in Acts, as he does here at considerable length (Acts 13:16-41). Christianity is essentially a religion of revelation, and Christians are the people of a book. Thus the content of the gospel and arguing for its validity are important to Christianity.

We see evidence of this in the way Paul argues for the validity and attractiveness of the gospel in his speech in Pisidian Antioch. This speech is a model of persuasive apologetics. The primacy of the content of the gospel to evangelism is also seen in how Luke describes the response to the gospel: The people "gathered to hear the word of the Lord" (Acts 13:44). Those who accepted this word "honored the word of the Lord" (Acts 13:48). "The word of the Lord spread through the whole region" (Acts 13:49). Clearly the word of the Lord, God's truth revealed to humanity, was a primary aspect of the evangelistic process.

The Gentile converts in Antioch did not view Christianity only as an answer to some earthly personal problems of theirs. If that was their attitude, the expulsion of the missionaries from the city would certainly have taken away their joy. Instead, they viewed Christianity as the truth of God, and they were able to rejoice even after the team left (cf. Acts 13:52). True, when people come to Christ, it may at first be in order to have a need met. But they stay on because they believe that the gospel is the truth. When we realize that this is the heart of the gospel, we have a security that can weather the storms of life. And we can even have joy amidst those storms.

Content-centered evangelism. There are three key factors in today's world that impede making the content of the gospel central to the evangelistic process. (1) The dominant philosophy of our age, pluralism, has given the idea of truth a severe bashing. Pluralism denies the importance of objective truth. In such an environment apologetics is regarded as inappropriate and even presumptuous. The pluralist says that truth is subjective -- some-thing we learn from our experience. There is therefore no absolute truth that comes from objective revelation. Instead of apologetics they propose dia-logue -- by which they mean an exchange of beliefs and experiences that will result in each one enriching the other.

(2) We live in a technological and information era that concentrates so much on action and information that there is little time to think about ideas and truth. Sammy Tippit has said, "Perhaps one of the greatest needs of this generation is for thinking men and women. The advent of the computer has brought artificial intelligence into the world. Many Christians have ceased to be thinkers in an age of computers and television." When people want refreshment, they go to something that will keep them active (like outdoor recreation) or that will numb their senses (like television). Preachers have an abundance of computer programs available that have done a lot of the thinking they would usually have done. While these have a place, nothing can replace meditation and hard thinking about truth. It is from such lingering with truth that effective apologetics and proclamation emerge. We should use the marvels of technology to make us efficient in doing things and gathering information so that we will have more time to think.

(3) Many Christian groups are oriented to experience. While this is not wrong and is, in fact, desirable, it must never dethrone truth. Sometimes experiences like healing or being slain in the Spirit can become so prominent that people do not associate the gospel with intelligent and demonstrable arguments. Many are not willing to work hard at studying the background of the audience and tailoring the message of what Christ has done for our salvation in order to be relevant, as Paul did. People fast and pray in order to receive the power of God -- and that is vital for evangelism. But so is the power of being equipped with God's Word, which requires preparation time. For this power we must both pray and study.

In other words, we must exhibit the power of God's Spirit both in experience and in the world of thought. In this way we will have a balanced gospel that can withstand the dry spells that will surely come, when God's hand seems withdrawn from us. Christians are not immune to such experiences. Those whose faith is founded on the truth will persevere, knowing that nothing can take away the truthfulness of the gospel. They will have the joy that the Christian disciples in Pisidian Antioch had despite the problems they faced (Acts 13:52). But those whose faith is founded on experience will flounder when they encounter times of darkness. One would hope that at these times such people will stumble on the more secure and unchanging realities of Christianity.

It is not wrong, then, to attract people to Christianity by presenting them an attractive program that ministers to their felt needs. But that is not enough. We must get people to understand the glory of the truth of the gospel -- something deeper and more lasting than experience. Then they will have joy in the gospel, a joy that can withstand the mysterious times of darkness in life.

In order to communicate this vision we must know in our own lives the joy of truth. We must take time to feed our minds with the truth and to meditate on it so that it will glow within us. As a result, those to whom we minister will, by observing us, also acquire a respect and appreciation for the truth. They will catch our enthusiasm over it. In the meantime we too will find ourselves refreshed and fed. This will help us remain fresh amidst the debilitating challenges of ministry. John Stott has said, "Scripture comes alive in the congregation only if it has come alive in the preacher first. Only if God has spoken to him through the Word which he preaches will they hear the voice of God through his lips." [ref]
 
 
 

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*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org