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Jesus Fulfills God’s Promises

May 19, 2024

Jesus Fulfills God’s Promises

Passage: Acts 13:13-41
Service Type:


The Story of God

Rodney Gehman – May 19, 2024


Please open your Bibles with me to Acts chapter 13. In what we’ve seen since Acts 1, The church has been exploding all over the known world, just like Jesus said it would. He told the disciples that they would be his witness in Jerusalem (we saw the church get started there), they would be his witnesses in Judea and Samaria (we saw Philip going to Samaria, Peter going to Judea), and, Jesus said, you will be my witnesses all over the world. And that’s where we find Paul and Barnabas in Chapter 13. They are taking the first official missionary trip as the Lord sees to it that the gospel spreads around the known world. 

And even though there has been persecution, imprisonment, even one of the apostles being killed, things have been going so good. Where we left off last week is that the word of God is flourishing, multiplying, and even political leaders are coming to faith in Jesus. 

But that doesn’t mean that hard things aren’t happening. And here in verse 13, it’s very subtle, but there is a very difficult scenario happening. Here’s what [ 002 ] we read: Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John left them and went back to Jerusalem.

In that verse it doesn’t look like all that big of a deal, like, okay the brother had to go back to Jerusalem for a funeral, for a wedding, his parents needed him to help on the farm, I mean there could be all kinds of good reasons he leaves Paul and Barnabas. 

This is one of those situations where the Bible helps you understand the Bible. Meaning, if you keep reading another two chapters, in Acts 15, [ 003 ] you see Barnabas and Paul are cooking up another trip and Barnabas suggests they take John Mark along with us. But Paul insists, absolutely not. No way. If he’s going, I’m not going. Look at Paul’s reason – because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 

John Mark deserted them. John Mark had not gone on with them to the work. He quit the team and left them in the middle of a missions trip. We aren’t given the exact reason why, but Luke writes that John Mark had deserted Barnabas and Paul. 

Maybe you know a little how that feels. Maybe you were playing on a sports team, and one of your teammates just decided to transfer to another school or another team, and you’re like, hey? Maybe you were on a committee or in a club of some sort, and someone decided to stop being a part of it without really giving a reason. We’ll come back to this later, but no doubt, as you might be, Paul and Barnabas were probably a little hurt, frustrated, and even angry, but the mission went on. [ 004 ]  14 They continued their journey from Perga and reached Pisidian Antioch. [ 005-1 ] On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. [ 005-2 ] 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, you can speak.”

In those days, this was pretty commonplace in a synagogue. Similar to what we do here on Sundays, some scripture was read and then there was an explanation of that scripture – something that would encourage the people listening.

Oftentimes, if there was a traveling rabbi present in worship, they would honor him by asking him if he would like that job of explaining the scripture that was read and encouraging the local church. So Paul has come prepared for this. He is well aware that they are probably going to ask him to speak. I don’t know if he knows ahead of time what scripture they will read or not, but he is ready. So, after the scripture reader sits down, Paul accepts the honor, [ 006-1 ] steps up and delivers his first recorded public sermon in this Jewish synagogue, almost 1000 miles from their home church.  

If I were giving his sermon a title, I would call it “Jesus fulfills the Promises of God”, and he divides it up into three sections. Part one is the part of human history that leads to Jesus, Second is the actual work of Jesus, and then third is why it matters – or what Jesus has accomplished. So let's dive into section one: 

[ 007-1 ] 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors, made the people prosper during their stay in the land of Egypt, and led them out of it with a mighty arm. 

Right out of the gate, Paul points out that God chose the forefathers of the Jews (that is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) to be his chosen people. Abraham did not choose to follow God first, and then God said, oh, okay, great, I like your style – I choose you. When I do pre-marriage counseling, I often ask the couple, “why did you choose her? Why did you choose him?” And they said things like, she’s beautiful, she thinks of others, he’s good with kids, he’s a hard worker, etc. Those are typical things men look for in women, women look for in men. God choosing Abraham was not like that at all.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants didn’t do anything to earn or deserve God choosing them – in fact, quite the opposite. They did plenty to discourage God from choosing them. That’s verse 18…he put up with them in the wilderness – that’s not a compliment, by the way – where they grumbled and complained and worshiped other gods. 

I’ve never had a potential bride or groom say, he grumbles all the time, she’s a complainer, they don’t treat me well at all, this relationship is going to be brutal – but that’s the one for me. And yet God chose Abraham’s family tree, and stayed faithful to them for no other reason than that he wanted to. 

But in Paul’s mind, God’s faithful sovereign choice is the foundation for everything that happens from here on out. Watch for his sovereign hand in all of these following verses – look for what God is doing: 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness; [ 007-2 ] 19 and after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, [ 007-3 ] he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 This all took about 450 years. After this, he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.  [ 007-4 ] 22 After removing him, he raised up David as their king and testified about him, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my will.’ 

Does that last verse seem a little strange to anyone else? God raised up David, and then says, “I found him!” That feels like the cart is in front of the horse. Don’t you find the guy first, then raise him up or train him up? 

Think of it like this – You should have received an email this week asking you to choose men in the church that you think would make good elders, good pastors, right? So you’re suggesting names. Then, if they are interested in actually being an elder, we’ll take them through elder training. But at the end of the day, we won’t truly know we’ve found our next elders until a) they are tested in their leadership, b) they’ve shown humility and gentleness and growth, c) their wives (if they are married) have agreed to this call on their lives, and so on. 

Then, at the end of the whole training process, we will announce to you, not that we’ve made elders, but that as a result of the training process, we’ve found the guys we believe God is calling to this work. That was what God did with David. Tested him as a young shepherd. He proved responsible with sheep. Tested his faith by putting him in front of Goliath. David proved to be full of faith by trusting God’s power, not his own. Even when David had an affair and murdered the husband to cover it up, he proved his heart for God by a deep and sorrowful repentance. At the end of the day, after raising him up and preparing him, God had found his king who would carry out his will. 

But of course, as Paul went on in his sermon, David would eventually die, and for that reason could not be the Savior we need.  [ 007-5 ] But, 23 “From [David’s] descendants, as he promised, God brought to Israel the Savior, Jesus, with John the Baptist leading the way in verse 24 and 25.  Jesus would be the man who literally was a man after God’s own heart, sent to earth to carry out his will. 

So that’s the history leading up to Jesus, and you can see God’s hand governing, overseeing, shepherding the whole thing, from Abraham all the way to Jesus. Not a moment is left up to chance; God’s sovereign hand brought everything along to this point – where you see in those verses - he chose, he led, he destroyed, he gave, he gave, he gave, he removes kings and raises kings. And now, Paul says in section 2 of the speech, in Jesus Christ, these promises of God are now reality. It has happened! 

But, he says, the religious leaders in Jerusalem didn’t recognize Jesus. They knew the words of the prophets but completely missed the meaning of them, and for that reason, (v29) they unknowingly carried out everything that had been predicted about Jesus! Jesus was killed, hung on a tree, dead, buried in a tomb. 

That should have been the end of the story, like it was for David. The promise would have to wait for another day. BUT –V 30 – But God raised him from the dead, 31 and he appeared … to those … who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we ourselves (Me and Barnabas) proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. 

Now this is the nail that the whole sermon hangs on. WHAT IS THE GOOD NEWS? It’s that The promise made to our ancestors is now reality! Which begs the question: What is the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the generations leading to Jesus?  [ 008 ] Back in Genesis 12 – God said to Abraham, I’m setting you apart in the world. I’m going to give you a place to live, and ancestors galore, and blessing is going to come to all the nations on earth through you and your family.  

I can almost imagine Paul is almost jumping up and down now, just trying to contain himself, in verse 33  [ 009-1 ] when he says: God has fulfilled this 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. 

Psalm 2 is God’s declaration that He has chosen his people, but he’s also raised up their king, the same way he raised up David! And he will give all the nations of the world to that King Jesus as his inheritance. The promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as the promises made to David have all been leading up to this exact moment. Jesus knew this all too well, and after his resurrection, he spent over a month with his disciples,  [ 009-2 ] pointing out to them how every Psalm pointed to him, every Jewish feast and ritual and law pointed to him, every prophet was really pointing to him. 

But he didn’t just raise Jesus, like he trained him to be a good person – He literally raised Jesus from the dead, and fully alive, still fully human and fully God, brought Jesus back to the realm where God lives, and ascended him to the throne at his right hand,  [ 009-3 ] crowned him with all glory and honor and authority in heaven and on earth, and gave him the name that is above every name, with every. Single. Thing. Subject to his lordship. 

When a person comes to faith in Jesus, we don’t say, so and so has decided to make Jesus the Lord of his life – No, coming to faith in Jesus is when we recognize him for what he already is and confess our rebellion to and against that lordship. 

But Paul is fired up – when God made that promise to Abraham and his descendants about all nations being blessed through him, he was talking about Jesus! Jesus is the blessing! And if you’re still sitting here going, how does Jesus bring blessing to the whole world, Paul is ready for you too.  [ 010 ] 38 Therefore, (because of everything he’s mentioned up to this point) let it be known to you, brothers and sisters, that through this man 

  • God’s Anointed King
  • Foretold by the prophets
  • Rejected by Israel and Killed by Pilate though he was innocent
  • Raised from the dead by God’s power and promise
  • Who appeared to witnesses

Through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you. Part one of God’s promise to Abraham, that his descendants would be a blessing to all the nations on earth, is that through Jesus your sins are forgiven! The slate of all of your moral and spiritual wrongs (lying, stealing, gossip, hatred,  has been wiped clean. That’s an unthinkable blessing available to people of all nations, not just Jews! And here’s part two of the blessing  [ 010-2 ] that is for all nations: Everyone who believes is justified through [Christ Jesus] from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses. 

Justified means, you have not only had your moral and spiritual wrongs taken away by Christ, you have been given as a gift all the moral and spiritual GOOD that Jesus has done!  

The Old Testament covenant sign of circumcision could identify you as a Jew, but it couldn’t forgive your sins or make you righteous. Being born an Israelite made you part of the people God made his promises to, but it couldn’t give forgiveness of sins or make you righteous. Even offering sacrifices at the temple could cover some of your past sins, but it couldn’t forgive them, wipe the slate clean, and treat you as if you’ve only ever done what is right. 

But Jesus does for you what legalism cannot do! He takes away your sin, AND gives you a right standing in the eyes of God - because Jesus’ record of good is applied to you! 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made the one who didn’t know any sin (JESUS) to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God! 

And yet Paul knows that even there in Antioch at the synagogue, just like in our country today, many people will just yawn at this incredible gift and wonder what’s for dinner. So he says in verse  [ 011-1 ] 40 So beware that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you: (and he is quoting the prophet Habakkuk now) [ 011-2 ] 41 Look, you scoffers, marvel and vanish away, because I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you.

If someone would have told you back in August of 2001 that in just a few days, terrorists are going to fly commercial airliners into the WTC and the Pentagon, you would have said, no way. We have the best military, we’re secure, nothing bad will ever happen to us, we are safe here. But (conspiracy theories aside) the unthinkable happened. 

When the Titanic left the harbor in Southampton England in April of 1912 on its way to New York City, no one would have believed you if you’d have said, four days from now, that ship is going to sink. And the unthinkable happened. 

When a New Testament author quotes the OT, he doesn’t just point to that one verse he’s quoting: he has the whole context in mind. So if we take Paul’s quote from the prophet Habakkuk and go back to that context, God was telling disobedient Israel, I’m going to show you judgment of the sort that you would say is unthinkable. In Habakkuk, God was raising up an army that had incredible weaponry, incredible horsepower and man power, they laughed at kings, they laughed at walls and defense systems. And God’s warning thru  Habakkuk was, Look – because you’ve rejected me, there is unthinkable judgment coming your way that you wouldn’t believe if I told you or showed you a picture. You’d say no way. We’re too strong for that to happen. Too guarded. Too watchful. Too safe for that to happen. 

Now here at this synagogue in Antioch, and even for us here in this room, Paul is quoting that same scripture to warn people who are tempted to laugh at this whole Jesus thing who would say Pffft, it’s just a story. You can’t prove it’s true. You’re just taking what someone said and calling it true – you can’t really know. Pfft. A man dying on a cross, the way lots of other people have died, (sic) wipes away my sins and makes me right with God, even though a) I’ve never seen him, met him, talked to him, or anything, b) the church is full of hypocrites, c) Pfff, there are a lot of other stories out there that make a lot more sense, d) Pfft, I think we’ve progressed past this sin and judgment and hell stuff. We know things today we didn’t know 10 years ago, so why would we depend on a book written thousands of years ago? We have Chat GPT 4.0 now. 

But Paul’s warning to those in Antioch is that anyone who rejects Jesus is that one day the unthinkable will happen. You will meet him face to face and everything will be exposed for what is. You will find out that God’s sovereignty hasn’t changed since he said “Let there be light” and that you’ve been seeing the world through a false reality this whole time, and that it’s too late to repent. Judgment is all that’s left in that moment. That’s why Paul warns you to repent and believe today if you haven’t already. 

[ 012 ] Because for those who believe - Immediately, they are justified… washed clean of your sin by the Holy Spirit, and regenerated into a new kind of human being – fully alive in Christ, with Jesus himself standing in for you as your righteousness. 

Puritan preacher John Bunyan wrote about this, saying that when he understood that he didn’t have to try to earn his way to heaven by being good, but that Jesus was his righteousness, that meant “that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, ‘He lacks my righteousness,’ [because my] righteousness was [sitting] right [beside] him. I also saw that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, [my right standing with God isn’t something that goes up and down, high and low] – my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, [who is] ‘the same yesterday and today and forever.’” 


[ 013 ] Paul and Barnabas had a coworker desert them, and what do they do? Stand up with sorrow in their hearts, and preach about God’s sovereign hand over all of human history. So brothers and sisters in Christ – this week, you can take a deep breath and exhale. Because of the cross and the empty tomb, it’s going to be okay. 

The circumstances of life don’t have to ruin you. You can be patient with people, and forgive those who have abandoned you or hurt you (as Paul and Barnabas will eventually do to John Mark) and ask forgiveness of those you have hurt. You can endure persecution. You can take criticism and own your mistakes. You can say no to putting your kids in every single activity that’s available to them. You can say yes to Sabbath rest, and push pause on your to-do list this afternoon and go for a walk, read a book, sit on the front porch with a sweet tea and just enjoy watching the grass grow, thanking God that he is in control and you are not. You can say no to the fear of missing out. Yes to slow days and using up your vacation time. You can say yes to speaking up about your faith and being bold, and no to the lies of the enemy. Why? 

Because if God was faithful 6000 years ago when he called Abraham, faithful 4000 years ago when he raised up David, faithful 2000 years ago when he raised up Jesus from the dead, then you can count on it that he’s faithful today and he’ll be faithful 100 generations from now, keeping every single last promise to never leave us or forsake us, and be with us even to the end of the age, however long that may be. 

And the invitation for you and me today is that you don’t have to wait until the end of the age to know him. 

So let’s spend a minute in prayer together today [ 014 ] 

  1. Praise God that, because he is sovereign, nothing is left to chance in my story. I can trust him for tomorrow, the day after that, and beyond. 
  2. Confess to God that I’ve not believed you are sovereign. I’ve believed that I need to be in control, or else it won’t be done right. I’ve believed that I need to control my life, my family, my work – I’ve believed that I need to be in control of my spiritual life so that you are pleased with me. I’m sorry. 
  3. I want to know you, Jesus! You are my righteousness! I want to know what that means. I want to walk in freedom. I want to live in the power of your Spirit. I want to know what it is to know you. Help me.