Rev. Erik Veerman
The Fulfilled Resurrection Promise
Our scripture text this morning is from Acts 13 and it’s about Easter. If you are joining us for the first time this morning, we’ve been studying the book of Acts for the last few months. Acts comes right after the four books about Jesus life – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Acts is the history of what happens after Jesus is resurrected.
In God’s providence, this is our next passage. So rather than looking at one of the resurrection accounts of Jesus from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, we’ll focus on Acts. Next Easter we’ll come back to one of them.
The reason we’ve been studying Acts is because it’s the history of the early church. And as a church plant, it’s helped us as we’ve sought to establish ourselves as a faithful church.
We’ve learned a few things so far:
• First, God’s call for His church – His word, prayer, worship, and fellowship – those are the things he’s called his church to be about. And each of those should be Gospel centered.
• Second, we’ve learned that the Gospel is the good news of salvation in Jesus – and it’s for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from – Salvation in Christ is an offer for all.
• Third, Jesus, who is now ascended to heaven, works through His Spirit on earth – the Holy Spirit. That work is to establish his church to the ends of the earth.
• Fourth, faithful churches are called to Gospel missions and ministry. Just a couple weeks ago, we saw how the church in Antioch was a model of a faithful church.
There are other things in Acts, such as real persecution and amazing conversions.
I hope that is helpful background.
Well, here we are in Acts 13 … continuing our reading from verse 26 – page 1095
Back in the Old Testament when the Scriptures were found – Ezra had the people stand for the reading of the Word – in Reverence of it. Because it is the Word of the living God. So, I invite you to stand for the reading of the sermon text.
Would you imagine for a moment – living in Asia Minor – which is modern day Turkey. Imagine you lived in the days of Acts and you attended the local Jewish synagogue. You were faithful. Sought to live by God’s law … you worked hard. You went to the weekly sabbath services. Every week, the law and the prophets from the Old Testament were read. But deep down you were unsettled. The Scriptures talked about salvation and a promised one…. But it had been hundreds of years since God spoke to his people – and this promised savior hadn’t come. Had God forgotten his people?
The more you heard the Scriptures… the greater the burden in your soul. What did it all mean? What was it pointing to? …and why hadn’t God fulfilled these promises? Some days… the tears came… as you wrestled through the meaning of it all.
Maybe you don’t have to imagine the burden. Maybe you grew up in a church… but it’s not really your thing anymore. Nonetheless something draws you to attend a church every Easter. Or maybe the burden and pain of the pandemic or the conflict around us all has weighed on your soul. And you are searching for answers.
Now, look down to verse 42. The apostle Paul had just finished speaking. Well after he spoke, “the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath.” Do you sense their excitement and anticipation? Whatever the apostle Paul said to them – they wanted more. All the burdens and questions and uncertainty – were being addressed here in these words.
And whether this is your first time in a church, or whether you come every so often, or whether you’ve been to church hundreds of times – These words are for you. These are words of life… my goal is for you to get as excited about the Scriptures as they were.
Let’s go back 2000 years ago. The apostle Paul and Barnabas (two of the Christin leaders) were taking the message of Christ to these people for the first time. They arrived in Pisidia, in Asia minor – it’s maybe 300 miles southeast of modern day Istanbul.
And on the Jewish sabbath day they entered the local synagogue. As was their custom, the law and the prophets are read – we see that in verse 15. After that, Paul and Barnabas were invited to speak. That was a common practice – Paul would have expected it.
The people probably thought he was going to give some of the usual commentary on the law and prophets. But rather, what Paul said was life transformational.
He absolutely talked about the law and the prophets… but he spoke about their fulfillment. He walked them through how all of the Scriptures, like the prophecies and law, have been fulfilled in Christ. And it was like the light bulbs started turning on. God’s Spirit was opening the eyes of their hearts to see and know the hope for which they had been yearning.
If you look in your bulletin, there’s a short outline at the bottom of the second page. It’s a summary of Paul’s sermon here:
• First, Behold the Resurrection Promise – in the first part, Paul walked them through their history, showing them how the things that happened and spoken were fulfilled in Christ. He focused on the resurrection.
• Second, Believe in the Resurrected Savior – Paul was not telling these things just so they would intellectually agree. No – he called them to believe in this Savior.
• And third, Beware of the Resurrection Warning – Paul didn’t just leave them with a call to believe, no he warned them of unbelief. Part of receiving hope in Christ involves heeding the warning.
And let me say, each of the sermons or speeches we’ve worked through in Acts… each has been so rich and deep in different ways. Each has unveiled the truth of God’s word and the Gospel. Like Peter’s sermon when the Holy Spirit was given. Or Stephen’s sermon right before he was stoned to death. Or Peter’s message to Cornelius and his family.
And here, Paul was so tuned in to those to whom he was speaking. He opened up the Old Testament Scriptures to his Jewish audience… and he brought to life how Christ fulfilled them and their need for Jesus. In a few weeks we’ll see a very different kind of sermon as Paul spoke to the philosophers in Athens.
Behold the Resurrection Promise
Now, you may be tempted to just skip over the first part of Paul’s sermon. Even if you haven’t been to church in a while, you may think. “Oh, I read the Bible stories. I remember about Egypt and I remember the stories about God’s people . And king David? Of course, he’s the one who defeated Goliath. Oh, and the prophets. Yep, that too”
But what Paul was telling them is this: it all was God’s plan. It was all moving toward a grand purpose. It’s all intentional… all connected AND it has all now been fulfilled.
Quickly look at verses 17 to 23 – the subject and actor of almost each sentence is God.
• Verse 17 – The God of this people chose our fathers.
• Later in the same verse… He led them out.
• Verse 18 – he put up with them.
• Verse 19, 20 and 21 – he gave them their land… then he gave them judges… then he gave them Saul. Whom it says he then removed.
• In verses 22 and 23 – He raised up David to be their king… and then then it says… and this is the climax: “Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.”
Do you see what he was saying… all of their history had a purpose. It was all, from the very beginning moving toward a goal.
• Their slavery in Egypt and being saved… it pointed forward to the Savior.
• God establishing king David, it ultimately pointed forward to a greater king. With all the failures and limitations of David – there was a greater King – King Jesus who was perfect and holy.
Kids – Have you ever done one of those connect the dots things? You have a sheet with a bunch of dots on it. And each dot has a number next to it. You start with number 1 and you draw a line to number 2. Then you go to number 3 until you’ve connected all of them. Before you connected the dots… it just looked like a bunch of dots. But when you are done, you can see there’s a picture that formed. I think the coolest ones have color code in each shape. When you are done connecting the dots. You take your crayons and color the shapes as it tells you. And you end up with a really cool picture.
Well, guess what – that’s what the apostle Paul was doing here – he was connecting the Old Testament dots. And the result is a picture of a crown – king Jesus, a cross – Jesus dying on the cross, and an empty tomb – Easter! Jesus being raised from the grave.
You see, Paul was showing them that all of their history was moving toward Jesus. God had numbered each dot.
That takes us up to verse 26. And here, there’s a big change in the subject and verbs.
So first, God chose, God led, God gave, God raised up, God brought.
And we get to verse 26 and following and it changes to “they didn’t recognize him” …then they were the ones condemning him. Then they asked Pilate to execute Jesus. They carried it out. They took him down from the cross. They laid him in the tomb.
Do you see that change in subject? It’s all about how the people rejected and killed Jesus. And there’s a great irony in it all. Look at verse 27 “For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him”
In other words, when the Jews in Jerusalem rejected of Jesus, which led to his death on the cross… their rejection was the very thing that fulfilled the prophecies. Their condemnation of Jesus led to salvation. Paul noted that they even read the Scriptures every sabbath… it contained the very promises and prophecies which foretold Jesus… yet they didn’t recognize him. And they did all these things against him – and the irony is, their actions against him fulfilled the promises.
But, as it says in verse 30… this is the key –– But God raised him from the dead! We’re back to God – through the resurrection God the Father fulfilled in Jesus, all the promises of salvation.
That’s the good news, verse 32. It says, “what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.”
Behold the resurrection promise! You see, the resurrection of Christ is the lynchpin of salvation. Without it, everything falls apart. But the Easter promise has been fulfilled.
In the next few verses, Paul confirmed that everything that had taken place was by the hand of God.
• Paul quoted Psalm 2 “you are my son” Showing that Jesus is God in the flesh.
• and then Psalm 16 “the holy one did not see corruption” Jesus is greater than David. David and Jesus died, but Jesus was resurrected.
• Paul also quoted Isaiah chapter 55 “The sure blessings of David” The resurrection blessings are “sure” they are confirmed and true.
God accomplished everything that he set out to accomplish – and the resurrection sealed the deal. Paul wanted them to see it and know it. To behold the resurrection promise – It has all been fulfilled. And through it… salvation and hope... grace and peace for them.
Believe in the Resurrected Savior
Now, you may be thinking – “wait, wait, wait! ok, I can see how the Old Testament promises were fulfilled. And even that the resurrection confirmed it all… But why? why does this all matter? Why did Jesus have to come? How does his death and resurrection accomplish salvation?”
Well, those are critical questions… and that’s what Paul addresses next. Verses 38 and 39. “through this man [that is, Jesus] 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.”
Everything that God had planned… everything that came to pass as Jesus was crucified and then resurrected… was to free us. The use of the word free here is in a sense of being vindicated. At one time being imprisoned, being enslaved – but being released and acquitted. Sometimes we use the word justified. Some of your Bibles may even have that as an alternate translation.
The law of Moses only enslaves but the forgiveness of Christ frees.
Some of you have heard me give this analogy before – but I think it very helpful. Think of the God’s law like a mirror. One of the purposes of his law is to show us our need for Christ. The law, meaning God’s commands in the Bible – like the 10 commandments - you shall do this, you shall not to that.
Let’s say you’ve been working in your yard all day… and you’re sweaty and dirty. And you go in and you look in the mirror, and you see just how filthy you are. Well, the mirror is like God law, it’s showing that you are dirty.
Now, what if you try and clean your face with the mirror. Well, that’s not going to work – you’re just going to get the mirror dirty and spread the dirt around. So the law can’t clean you – no it reveals your need to be cleaned. But you need soap and water. That’s verse 38 – the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.
Sin meaning our failure to live up to God’s law… that includes the things we do that break God’s commands… and the things we don’t do that God calls us to do. Our sin includes our unbelief, too. We are constantly breaking God’s commands. We’re dirty. And we need to be cleansed. We desperately need God’s forgiveness.
And God offers forgiveness through Christ! Jesus is the perfect holy reflection of God’s law. Perfectly righteous. He can offer forgiveness because of who he is, the Holy God himself, and what he has done
This is the intersection of what Paul has said up to this point. Through Jesus death and resurrection – God has offered us forgiveness. Jesus bore the consequence of sin for us on the cross. He gave us His righteousness. And to overcome the penalty and prove who he is and what he accomplished – God raised him up.
And the wonderful, glorious thing is this: all it takes for you is to seek his forgiveness and believe. That’s the beginning of verse 39. “Everyone who believes is freed.”
Believe in the resurrected savior. Believe that he can and that he has forgiven – Believe by faith in him as your savior. Give your life to him.
You can’t hide from God… you can’t work your way into his good favor… you can’t be good enough… going to church doesn’t save… no, nothing that you do saves. Jesus alone saves.
A few years ago I was participating in a Christianity Explored class – the basics of Christianity. We were looking at what the Scriptures say about salvation.
And I’ll never forget, there was a young mom in the class – she was from Chile where there’s a large roman catholic influence. And as we read through different passages, as we talked about faith and grace… and how our good works can’t save us. Rather, Jesus does through faith in him.
I witnessed God bring her to believe the Gospel. “you mean… salvation is not about doing these things, or going to a priest, or trying not to sin?” …her eyes teared up. “because I can’t do it.”
God in Christ has… he’s done it for us. Forgiven us – freed us. And his call for you is to believe by faith. It was like this great burden had been lifted from her shoulders. What a blessing to see her believe and then watch her grow in her new faith. Believe in the Resurrected Savior.
Beware of the Resurrection Warning
And our third point: Beware of the Resurrection Warning. This Gospel message includes a warning… a warning of unbelief. It wasn’t lost on Paul that many would reject the message. He himself had once hated the Christian message - rejected Christ. He saw it as an attack on the Jewish religion. Before Paul was literally stopped in his tracks, he was persecuting Christians and dragging them to prison for their belief.
Not only that, God’s people in the Old Testament had at many times turned away from Him. The prophets forewarned about the rejection of the Messiah. And Paul warned them. Verse 40 – “beware” that what the prophets have said will not be you. And Paul quoted the prophet Habakkuk – that scoffers would not believe. A scoffer is someone who doesn’t just reject something but someone who mocks it and ridicules it. And the consequence is clear, verse 41. They will “perish.”
Friends, the Gospel message includes God’s hatred toward sin and punishment for it. The Bible is clear about it. But so often today, Christians want to remove God’s wrath from the Gospel message.
Theologian H Richard Niebuhr of the mid- 20th century… He wrote of the impact of not including God’s anger as part of the Gospel. He said, “A God without wrath, brought men without sin, into a kingdom without judgment, through a Christ without a cross.” You see, when we strip away God’s judgment for sin, we take away the very purpose of the cross. And if I could add to Niebuhr’s statement, we also remove the power of the resurrection.
I’m calling this last point Beware of the Resurrection Warning… because the heart of the warning is this: there’s no middle ground. The Scriptures are clear that when Christ returns… everyone will be resurrected, physically resurrected. Those in Christ to eternal glory in his presence and those without Christ to eternal damnation.
But this is where God’s grace in Christ shines. “Everyone who believes,” it says, is freed from that which could not free you. The offer of the Gospel is free… and it brings freedom. It brings reconciliation with God, for those who believe…
As we conclude… The wonder and amazement of Paul’s sermon is how it’s all grounded in reality and history. God entered into his world which he created to redeem it. It’s his work all throughout, his plan.
• He freed his people from slavery in Egypt which points to freedom from sin.
• He raised up David which speaks of an even greater David
• He spoke through the prophets about the promised One, the Messiah
… and it all happened to prepare the way for Christ – who would bring salvation. And speaking of reality and history – in Jesus, God became flesh and blood, he lived, he died, was buried – but God raised him up. This is one of the unique aspects of Christianity – It’s not just some spiritual thing out there detach from life and death and experience – no, to believe in Christ is to believe in a God who exists, who intercedes, who became one of us. Who really died and was really raised. On the one hand, this is what Paul was showing them.
And on the other hand – Paul was revealing to them that everything that happened to Jesus had a purpose. There’s a spiritual purpose to Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. That we are bound by the law – slaves to it because of sin. But through the work of Christ on the cross, God provides forgiveness... freedom and grace to those who believe by faith. And the resurrection is the key to it all – Jesus conquering death – giving new life and eternal hope.
As Paul is unpacking all of this… for his audience, the dots are being connected– everything that they had been reading each sabbath now is seen in the light of Christ. It’s no wonder they begged for Paul and Barnabas to come back at the next Sabbath, and no wonder that many would come to believe.
If you are hearing some of this for the first time today – and God is stirring your soul. And you’ve never put your faith in Christ – the offer to believe is for you. Or if you are not there yet… but what you are hearing from God’s Word is compelling. Either way, as the people in Pisidia yearned to know more… please join us next Sunday and the next Sunday – and hear more of God’s Word and of Jesus… the hope and salvation in him – for God has raised him up and in doing so fulfilled all his promises.