Jesus: The King of Salvation
April 28, 2024

Jesus: The King of Salvation

Passage: Acts 13:13-43

What's the Big Deal about Jesus?

Over the past three weeks, we’ve opened the Bible to the book of Acts. Our goal has been to see how Jesus’s followers spoke about him – who is Jesus? What has he accomplished? And we’ll continue tonight by looking at a speech given by a man named Paul. Earlier in his life, Paul had been trained in the school of Jewish scribes known as the Pharisees. Many Pharisees hated Jesus. Paul himself was personally involved in persecuting and killing Christians. But the resurrected Jesus confronted Paul and recommissioned him. Paul became an ambassador for King Jesus – an apostle. And Paul began to spread the Christian message of salvation throughout the Roman empire.

In Acts, Chapter 13, Paul and his co-worker Barnabas travel to a city named Antioch (which is in modern-day Turkey). And as they visit the Jewish synagogue there, Paul is asked to speak. And Paul uses this opportunity to announce that God has worked out his promises to Israel, to bring a Savior to the world. So if you haven’t already, please open your Bible to Acts, Chapter 13. We’ll be starting at verse 13.

But before I read the text tonight, please pray with me:

[Pray and Read Text]

In verse 42, notice the attitude of the people as they’re going out from the synagogue. They’re begging Paul – please tell us more. We must know about this good news, about this man, Jesus. There’s an earnestness here which is maybe surprising for us. It may even seem strange to us. You mean these people are begging Paul to preach? You mean they actually want to listen to the sermon? Are you telling me that they’re pleading for the good news about Jesus, like a beggar cries out for scraps of bread?

Yes. That’s exactly right.

And as I unpack the text, I want to help you understand in a fresh way – or perhaps in a totally new way – why these people were so overcome by the goodness of this good news concerning Jesus. First, because of the activity of God in history. Second, because of the arrival of the Christ, and third, because of the offer of salvation.

The Activity of God in History

So first, Paul points out the activity of God in history.

Paul retells Israel’s history from the Old Testament, in verses 17 to 23. And he shows how active God has been over the years. God chose our fathers, Paul says. God made the people great during their time in Egypt. God led them out of Egypt with uplifted arm. He put up with them in the wilderness. He destroyed the seven wicked nations in Canaan. He gave them the land as an inheritance. God gave them judges. He gave them a king, King Saul. Then God removed him, and God raised up David as King. And verse 23 – from David’s offspring, God has brought a Savior. Once you see it, you really can’t unsee what Paul is doing here. Over and over again, Paul tells us that God has been active in human history. God hasn’t been silent, stagnant, or distant. Instead, Paul identifies key events in Israel’s history and says, “actually, God’s responsible for that – and that – and that other thing, too.”

So why is this good news? Why would this have been important for the Jews in Antioch to hear? Well, you have to consider, these Jews, and many others, had been subjugated by foreign empires, and scattered across distant cities. Antioch was hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the land God had promised to give them, and it seemed like God’s promises weren’t going anywhere. And on top of that, hundreds of years had passed, without any obvious sign that God was still attentive to them. That’s a long time to wait.

You might be able to resonate a bit with similar feelings of discouragement and doubt. We often have expectations that if God really cared for us – if he really existed, then God would do that thing, and he’d follow this time frame. When you’re praying for a wayward child, or pleading with God to heal you from some sort of ailment, or when you’re involved in a church plant – it can sometimes seem like nothing is happening.

But you need to understand, God often cares for us in ways we don’t expect – just as God waited until Abraham was 100 years old to give him a son – just as God greatly multiplied the people of Israel while they were slaves in Egypt. Notice, in verse 20, Paul notes that God took 450 years to carry out a handful of his objectives. Certainly, sometimes when God works, He acts instantly and forcefully, like a flash of lightning. It’s obviously supernatural. But more often than not, God works in ways that seem very ordinary and slow. Watching God at work is usually like trying to watch a tree grow – almost unnoticeable. Often it seems unimpressive.

Yet, Paul announces that history has been orchestrated by the power and wisdom of God. The events of your life aren’t random byproducts of chance. The captain of your destiny isn’t you. It’s God. God is the Master of the Universe, the one who never needs sleep or vacation days, the one who accomplishes all his purposes. God is the one who supplies strength, who sustains your mind, who stabilizes your heart. God is active.

Paul reminds us from Israel’s history that God has been working – in the pleasant times, in the painful times – the whole time. And God’s work is leading to something profoundly good.

The Arrival of Christ the King

In fact, Paul explains to these people in Antioch – he has good news for them. Because God has fulfilled some key promises by sending the Christ. This is my second point, the arrival of Christ.

See, at that time, the Jews knew they were waiting for a special anointed King, called the Christ – the word Christ coming from the Greek word for anointed one. In 2 Samuel 7, God had promised David, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” These holy and sure blessings were promised to David, and the people of Israel were longing to see these promises fulfilled. When this Christ came, they knew everything would be set right.

And Paul affirms in verse 23: “Of this man’s offspring – from David’s offspring – God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.” And in verses 32-37, Paul argues that this Jesus isn’t just an human imposter, but Jesus is, in truth, correctly identified as the Christ. Paul quotes Psalm 2 in verse 33, because Psalm 2 confirms that God will set up His anointed one to be King – not only over Israel, but over the nations. Paul quotes Isaiah 55 in verse 34, because God has promised to give his people “the holy and sure blessings of David,” which likely refer to the promised blessings of 2 Samuel 7 – that his offspring would have an everlasting kingdom. But Paul points out – the only way the Christ and his people can really receive the blessing of an everlasting kingdom is if the Christ has overcome the problem of death and corruption. So in verse 35, Paul quotes Psalm 16 – in which God’s Word confirms for us that he won’t let his Holy One see corruption. The Holy One, set apart by God to be the promised King of the nations, will be raised from the dead.

You need to understand, it would have been shocking for many Jews to hear that the Christ had been put to death in the first place. But in verses 27 to 29, Paul explains that the death of the Christ was predicted by the Prophets, in passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. He insists that the suffering of Jesus is essential evidence that he is, in fact, the Christ.

Finally, Paul points to the ministry of John the Baptist. It’s unclear how many people in the church of Antioch knew of John’s ministry, but it seems that for at least some of them John’s name was recognized as a godly man – maybe even a prophet. And in verse 25, Paul explains what John said. “I am not he” – I am not the Christ, John is saying – “No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.” The great King of the everlasting kingdom – the Lord of heaven, clothed in human flesh – Jesus, the Christ – has arrived.

Paul is earnest here, “the King has come!

The Offer of Salvation for Sinners

God’s work in human history has reached a critical turning point. His Christ has arrived, and he has an offer for us. An offer of salvation. This is the third and final piece of the good news – the offer of salvation.

Whenever we talk about the word salvation, we want to be careful that we don’t treat it like an abstract idea that gets thrown around in Bible Studies or church services. What does salvation mean? When the Bible says that God has sent us a Savior, what is this Savior saving us from? And what is the safe place or solid ground that God is saving us to?

And I believe it’s relevant for all of us to reflect on these questions. Even if you’ve known Jesus for decades, it’s a beautiful thing to be reminded of all the things you’ve been saved from. As Christians, when it seems like we’re still getting beat up by those old temptations and moral weaknesses, it’s important for us to have a robust, clear understanding of salvation. When we, as Christians, are trying to explain the preciousness of Jesus to others, we’re going to struggle unless we’re daily understanding and enjoying the benefits of our salvation. And of course, there are some here this afternoon who still need to respond to Jesus’s offer here, to be saved.

So first I want you to notice what Paul says we’re saved from. Verse 38: “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers [and sisters], that through this man, forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

When Paul talks about forgiveness of sins, these sins are all the things you’ve done to dishonor God, to ignore him, to rebel against his commands in Scripture – and all the things you’ve done to insult or harm the people around you – you can be forgiven, through this man, Jesus. When you find forgiveness for your sins, it means that you’re saved from the shame of sin. It won’t follow you into eternity as a permanent deformity, or an unerasable criminal record. You won’t have to fear that people in heaven will pick apart your flaws and talk about you behind your back. Because in Christ, you’re set free from the stigma and shame of your sin.

And forgiveness of sins means you are also saved from the guilt of your sin. You’re saved from the death penalty you would otherwise deserve for using your life in an ungodly way, and refusing to live for the One who created you. You’re saved from the fear of death, from the expectation of everlasting judgment, from the torments of Hell and the Lake of Fire.

Forgiveness of sins also means that you’re saved from your enmity with God, which exists because of sin. In Jesus, you’re no longer alone in the world, as a cosmic orphan. You’re no longer his opponent, but His friend. He’s no longer a stranger to you, but your loving Father.

And notice, we aren’t just saved from our sins, and all it’s consequences, but we’re saved to something. We’re saved to take hold of the holy and sure blessings of David. We’re saved to Jesus, to have him as our king, to walk in the ways of his kingdom, to participate in his life, and to continue in His grace.

And the way to enter into this salvation, to take hold of the forgiveness of sins – it comes through this man, Jesus. And Paul makes a point of asserting here that salvation does not come from keeping Old Testament ceremonies or moral rules. The Jews at the time misunderstood the purpose of law of Moses, and the animal sacrifices it commanded. They actually believed that the animal sacrifices were, themselves, supernaturally charged with the ability to remove their sin. But Hebrews 10, verse 3 tells us, “in these sacrifices is a reminder of sins every year. [verse 4] For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” The animal sacrifices commanded by Moses brought the peoples’ guilt to remembrance. The animal sacrifices helped the people to understand the consequence of sin, which is death, and to remember that they needed a substitute set forth by God to carry the penalty for them. But those animals couldn’t bring forgiveness. Only Jesus could. It’s by him, verse 39 tells us, (by Jesus) that “everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed from the law of Moses.”

These Jews in Antioch – it would seem that many of them longed to be free from sin. They wanted to be close to God. But year after year, they were told if you want to be saved, you just have to bring a few more sacrifices; you just have to work a little bit harder. You just have to be a little bit better. And you can just imagine the constant wondering – Have I done it the right way? Am I doing enough?

But Paul here is saying, No, you can’t save yourself! Don’t depend on the law of Moses. Don’t look to your own works, or to yourself. But look to Jesus. Paul tells the Jews they can have salvation by believing in him. Verse 39: by him – by Jesus – everyone who believes is freed. When we trust in our great King – when we believe in Jesus – he saves us, not because of any virtue or strength in us, but because of the virtue and strength that’s in him.

Who's Your King?

So give careful thought to how you respond to this King appointed by God. This news concerning Jesus is the greatest of news in the history of the world. The Jews in Antioch did precisely what they should have done when they begged that the riches and wonders of Jesus would be proclaimed to them the following week. Let’s pray that God will give us this sort of heart, to treasure him, to trust in him – and that Christ would continue to be proclaimed as King here at our church in Mount Pleasant, and throughout every nation of the world. Let’s pray.