April 16, 2022
“Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man (Jesus) forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything...”
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“Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man (Jesus) forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything, which you could not be justified from through the Torah of Moses. So beware that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you: ‘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.’ As they were leaving, the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles begged that these matters be presented to them the following Sabbath. After the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout Gentile proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and persuading them to continue in the grace of God.” Acts 13:38-43
Today’s chapter marks a distinct change in Paul’s ministry. He (along with Barnabas) begins fulfilling his calling as “the Apostle to the Gentiles.” Henceforth, in Scripture, Paul ceases to be referred to as “Saul.”
In Acts 10, we were presented with the first recorded Gentile, who converted to follow Messiah Jesus after His resurrection: the Roman Centurion, Cornelius. Cornelius was described as a “devout man.” This is a description of a Gentile who had not converted to Judaism but was devoutly following the forms of the Jewish religion.
There is an assumption among most “Christians” that Jews were not allowed to associate with Gentiles on any level. While close affiliations and friendships with Gentiles raised suspicions among the Jewish community, Gentiles “seeking God” were welcome in synagogues. The Temple in Jerusalem had a “Court of the Gentiles.”
David H. Stern, in his “Complete Jewish New Testament Commentary,” describes Paul’s method of reaching Gentiles: “Besides Sha’ul’s (Paul’s) conviction that it was right to present the Gospel first to Jews, he knew that it was in the synagogues where he would find the Gentiles most likely to be responsive, since “proselytes of the gate” were already interested in the One true God. One aspect of communicating the gospel consists of determining which people are likely to respond favorably to it.”
Some Christians believe that the Church is only “preaching to the choir.” They would suggest we take a more radical strategy, abandon the traditional congregation, and go deeper into the world with more extreme ministry endeavors. While noble on the outset, I believe this strategy neglects an obvious truth: non-believers attend churches! And they are seeking to believe! In the church where I presently serve, hundreds of people come to faith each year in our various weekly services.
That is a challenge to ANY church seeking to share the gospel of Jesus. They are using Paul’s method, which works in today’s world. He went first to the places where people were already asking the right questions…the places of devout worship.