Today’s reading is the first time that a sermon by Saul, who after this Chapter of Acts is called Paul, is given so much press. Before this chapter, Saul’s activities and whereabouts are generally reported but this is Paul’s “coming out”. From this point forward, the Book of Acts features Paul prominently.
Paul and Barnabas were specifically selected by the Holy Spirit to take this trip, the beginning of Paul’s itinerant mission work which would take Paul to many places and eventually to Rome where he is killed. The text in this chapter states several times that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. So it appears that the time, place and even words spoken by Paul come from and through the Holy Spirit.
The sermon is eloquent yet simple. Paul makes clear that his words and, indeed, all that is offered through Christ are for both Jews and Gentiles. He walks through how God has shown Israel His love. He explains how Jesus is the Messiah that God promised to Israel, and how, through Jesus’ death on the cross, God has fulfilled his promise of everlasting life made available to everyone.
Using Old Testament references, which were well known to the listeners in the synagogue, Paul warns his audience not to be part of the naysayers who will ultimately be punished but to accept Jesus and be forgiven of all sin.
Paul’s sermon is just as relevant and powerful today as it was that day in Antioch. I invite you to read Paul’s words when you have a few quiet minutes. Let these verses sink in and fill you with the same overpowering peace that those original converts must have felt. Imagine seeing Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, delivering what must have been the speech of his life, although it was the first of many. The message is simple, yet awesome – Jesus died for our sins to give us everlasting life. Believe in Him and be free.