If you want to know what Christianity is really all about, simply read ACTS chapter 13. Paul, the first great global missionary, makes a strikingly clear presentation of the gospel message. For anybody. ◊
If asked, what would you say is the crux of Christianity? What is it all about?
Many would say it’s about loving your fellow man, or loving God, or making the world a better place, or feeding the poor, or doing other good works, or telling others about Jesus.
Certainly, these are all wonderful things. In fact, they are all positive outflows of a Holy Spirit led Christian life.
But they are not the essence of what Christianity is all about.
Well then, what is?
The Master Message
In the mid-to-late AD 40s, from a starting place in Antioch of Syria, Paul and Barnabas are “set apart [by the Holy Spirit]…for the work I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) Paul, formerly Saul the Pharisee and Christian persecutor, is now a powerful force filled with the Holy Spirit and the new leader in the teaching of the Lord’s message.
From historian Luke’s pen, we have the full text of Paul’s guest sermon made in Antioch of Pisidia (West central Turkey today). On the Sabbath, Paul and Barbabas visit a local synagogue. They are prompted to speak: “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.”
This presents the opportunity for Paul to address the crowd with the real Christian message.
He first lays out a foundation of Jewish history from Moses in Egypt to 450 years later when judges and kings led the people of Israel in Canaan.
Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; for about 40 years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; and he overthrew 7 nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years.
“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
Then Paul moves from King David to the Savior Jesus, whom the people did not recognize as the way to salvation. Instead they had Jesus executed, yet he returned to life and was witnessed by many between Galilee to Jerusalem:
“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
“Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
Paul says the Christian good news is that God’s promise to his ancestors was fulfilled by raising up Jesus, who never saw decay:
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’
God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
So it is also stated elsewhere: ‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’
“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
Therefore, salvation for everyone is through belief in Jesus, a justification unattainable through the law of Moses or any other human process. Scoffers beware:
“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. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
“‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’” (Acts 13:16-41)
The People Respond
The crowd begged Paul to return and tell them this message the following Sabbath. Many Jews converted to Christianity on the spot. (Acts 13:43) That next week they returned and almost the whole city gathered together to hear the word of God. (Acts: 13:44)
The Jewish leaders still reviled and rejected this Message. Paul boldly told them:
“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.
The rest of the world has never been the same since.
Do you really understand Christianity?
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 13:48-49, 52
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