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One way or another, we have all experienced what it is to miss a good opportunity. We passed the date and we still have not renewed the tag of our vehicles. We miss the special date of a product. The box office is sold out or there is no space in the theater. We forgot the date of an enrollment or the last seat available on a plane just before us was filled.
If we are aware of what we have lost, we can feel pain and frustration. But if we are not aware of the opportunity we had before us and that he left, we will remain indifferent as if nothing had happened.
Something similar happens with the Word of God and the announcement of the salvation that it contains.
I would like us to consider the case of the Apostle Paul during his first missionary journey. The Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles preached the gospel mainly in Jerusalem and its environs. Christ had not been preached in the part of the known world. But the Lord raised up a man who was his instrument for the gospel to reach people who had never heard the gospel of salvation.
Jesus appeared to Paul, who had been a persecutor of the early Christians and made him his principal instrument of evangelization.
Acts of the Apostles 26: 16-18 (NASB) – 16 "But get up and stand up; for I have appeared to you in order to designate you as minister and witness, not only of the things you have seen, but also of those in which I will appear to you; 17 Freeing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 so that you may open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from Satan's dominion to God, so that they may receive, faith in me, the forgiveness of sins and inheritance among those who have been sanctified. "
Fulfilling this task, he visits several cities in Asia Minor, what we know today as Turkey, preaching the Gospel. The strategy he used was to go to the synagogues and make contact first with the Jews of those places.
Thus he came to Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14), where in the synagogue they asked him if he had any words of exhortation, that he should speak to the people. As you can imagine, Pablo was not going to waste such an opportunity.
In a few moments we will review what Paul told them. For now, what I want is to call your attention to Acts 13:46.
Acts of the Apostles 13:46 (NASB) – 46 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke with courage and said: It was necessary that the word of God should be preached to you first; But since you reject it and do not judge yourself worthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.
Another edition of the same LBLA translates "you judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life."
We stand before people who were having the opportunity to obtain the greatest they could ever achieve: eternal life in Christ Jesus. It is very possible that these people did not have another opportunity like that.
Paul mentioned them:
First, the need for the preaching of the Word. It is not an option. They were Jews. In a sense they already had the Word of the OT. But they needed to hear of its fulfillment in the person of Jesus.
Second, he also told them how they were rejecting the gospel message. They were responsible for the consequences of that rejection. That is why he tells them that it was as if they were considering themselves unworthy to enter into eternal life.
Third, he announced that he would no longer speak to them, but would go to non-Jews, to Gentiles.
Faced with a great opportunity for salvation
Antioquia de Pisidia was a city of importance in the region. By the name we can see that it is of Greek origin in honor of Antiochus I, son of one of the descendants of Alexander the Great. But despite this origin, apparently not many Greeks wanted to settle there.
The Romans wanted to take advantage of that cultural vacuum and establish a Roman colony there, thus placing a command center for the area; that is why there was even a temple in honor of Augustus Caesar. There is talk that they planted an elite of about 3,000 Romans with veterans from northern Italy.
By the time Pablo arrives there is an amalgam of Phrygian, Latin and Greek traditions. Although there was a Jewish community, as we can read in the context of the passage, it was not that there was a dominant presence either.
We can imagine Paul arriving in an area where people were dominated by a great diversity of pagan beliefs. There Paul and Barnabas came to share the gospel, and looking for a point of contact, they went to the synagogue of the Jews of that city. It is here that we read of Paul's longest discourse recorded by Luke in the book of Acts; that does not mean it was the longest he preached, but obviously Lucas considered it important to include so much information about it.
Pablo and Bernabé were able to congregate there during two consecutive Saturdays. When they did it a second time, says the v. 44 that almost all the city gathered there to hear the word of the Lord; which implies that even non-Jews came to listen to them.
Let's see a brief account of what the Apostle Paul was teaching them.
13: 16-22 ➔ A retelling of the history of the people of Israel to David.
13: 23-25 ➔ Jesus is the promised Messiah of the offspring of David. John the Baptist prepared the way for him.
13:26 ➔ "Men, brethren, sons of the seed of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, the word of this salvation is sent to you."
13: 27-29 ➔ Death of Jesus at the hands of the authorities, according to the Scriptures.
13: 30-37 ➔ Resurrection of Jesus; demonstration with the Scriptures. "God raised him from the dead" (v. 30).
13: 38-41 ➔ Preach forgiveness of sins and justification through faith in Jesus. "Through Him the forgiveness of sins is announced to you" (encontrarse 38). Do you know why the forgiveness of sins is announced? Because we are sinners. Other religions do not announce this, because they deal with other things. They leave the main problem of all humanity untouched, which is the problem we have with God – the problem we are in because of our sins. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ announces the great solution to the main problem of men. We are sinners and we deserve for that, from God, separation from Him and condemnation. In the case of the Jews, they tried to save the situation through obedience to the law of Moses. Therefore Paul says in v. 39 that by that law no one can be justified before God, but only by believing in Jesus, whom they rejected.
Paul teaches that the promised Messiah had already come, and that he had been rejected by the Jewish river. The gospel is the fulfillment of the promises that God had given to Israel, but they did not see it that way, but as a threat.
Acts of the Apostles 13.42-52 (NASB) – 42 When Paul and Barnabas left, the people begged them to talk about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 And when the meeting of the synagogue was over, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, urged them to persevere in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath almost all the city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowd, they were filled with jealousy, and blaspheming, they contradicted what Paul said. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke with courage and said: It was necessary that the word of God should be preached to you first; But since you reject it and do not judge yourself worthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For thus 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. 48 When the Gentiles heard it, they rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord; and they believed how many were ordained to eternal life. 49 And the word of the Lord spread throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews instigated the pious and distinguished women, and the most prominent men of the city, and provoked a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 Then they shook the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were continually filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
Paul explains to them the priority that the gospel be preached in the first place to the Jews. "It was necessary that the word of God be first preached to you" (v. 46).
We are facing what in theology has been called "the free offer of the gospel." We know that not everyone who hears the gospel of salvation is saved. However, in his immense goodness, God uses the means of the free and indiscriminate proclamation of the gospel to save sinners.
Isaiah 55: 1-3 (NASB) – 1 All thirsty ones, come to the waters; and those who do not have money, come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why do you spend money on what is not bread, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen to me attentively, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in abundance. 3 Incline your ear and come to me, listen and your soul will live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David.
Our job is to announce the message of salvation. It is not our responsibility to find out who will respond to the message or identify the chosen ones of God and then tell them about the gospel.
Here Paul is giving us an example of this. That is nothing other than the same example that Jesus left us.
Matthew 11: 28-29 (NASB) – 28 Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
It is the same invitation that we find in the last verses of the Bible …
Revelation 22:17 (NASB) – 17 And the Spirit and the wife say: Come. And he who hears, say: Come. And the one who is thirsty, come; and he who desires, let him take free of the water of life.
The Jews to whom Paul and Barnabas spoke in Antioch of Pisidia were facing a great opportunity for salvation. It was the first time they heard an explanation of the gospel, and for many it was possibly the last.
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