Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and went back to Jerusalem. They continued their journey from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, you can speak.”
Then Paul stood up and motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen! The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors, exalted the people during their stay in the land of Egypt, and led them out of it with a mighty arm. And for about 40 years He put up with them in the wilderness; then after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave their land to them as an inheritance. This all took about 450 years. After this, He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for 40 years. After removing him, He raised up David as their king and testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man loyal to Me, who will carry out all My will.’
“From this man’s descendants, according to the promise, God brought the Savior, Jesus, to Israel. Before He came to public attention, John had previously proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. Then as John was completing his life’s work, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not the One. But look! Someone is coming after me, and I am not worthy to untie the sandals on His feet.’
“Brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and those among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. For the residents of Jerusalem and their rulers, since they did not recognize Him or the voices of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled their words by condemning Him. Though they found no grounds for the death penalty, they asked Pilate to have Him killed. When they had fulfilled all that had been written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and put Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, and He appeared for many days to those who came with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now His witnesses to the people. And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. 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.
Since He raised Him from the dead, never to return to decay, He has spoken in this way, I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David. Therefore He also says in another passage, You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay. For David, after serving his own generation in God’s plan, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed. But the One God raised up did not decay. Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything that you could not be justified from through the law 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 people begged that these matters be presented to them the following Sabbath. After the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and persuading them to continue in the grace of God.
The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the message of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to oppose what Paul was saying by insulting him.
Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: “It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first. But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles! For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
I have made you a light for the Gentiles to bring salvation to the ends l of the earth.”
When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the message of the Lord, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed. So the message of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the prominent women, who worshiped God, and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district. But they shook the dust off their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.[i]
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Then Paul stood up and motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen!”
Recently I heard a thought-provoking quote that speaks volumes about listening: “People don’t listen to what you say. People listen to what they say to themselves about what you say.”
Think about it. When someone is talking to you, what are you thinking? About something similar you did once? About something related that you want to tell them? A question you want to ask? Or perhaps your judgment of their remarks, behavior, or even values?
The bottom line is that much of what’s said is rarely heard completely, but rather filtered, dissected, manipulated, and then absorbed by the listener. So it’s no surprise when we hear statistics about listening and the lack of understanding that takes place.
Here are a few interesting stats compiled by the International Listening Association (www.listen.org):
- Most of us are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful about 75% of the time we should be listening.
- We listen at 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1000-3000 words per minute.
- Immediately after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50% of what they said.[ii]
Is there any wonder why Paul says, “Listen”?
From Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas sailed to the coast of Pamphylia (what’s known as southern Turkey today). John Mark left them, returning to Jerusalem. It’s unclear why he did so, but it was a sore spot for Paul (Acts 15:38).
Paul and Barnabas continued on their journey, traveling the difficult trail that led from the coast to Antioch. The city was located 3,600 feet up in the mountains, on the border of Phrygia and Pisidia.
On the Sabbath, the two visited a Jewish synagogue in Pisidian Antioch where Paul was invited to speak. He preached a lengthy sermon—his first major address in Acts.
Preaching to Jews, Paul’s sermon had a lot in common with Peter’s sermons in Acts 2 and 3. It was mainly constructed around Old Testament texts, outlined in three sections:
- Section 1 (verses 16b-25) – These verses remind us of Stephen’s sermon. They summarize Israel’s history from the Exodus to David. Paul highlighted events that emphasized God’s promises and mercy to His people.
- Section 2 (verses 26-37) – He introduced these Jews to Jesus, the promised Messiah. He told them of the death and resurrection of Jesus and quoted Old Testament texts that pointed to these events.
- Section 3 (verses 38-41) – Finally, he concluded his sermon with an appeal for them to repent and believe in Jesus. He emphasized that salvation is through faith in Jesus, not by works of the law. This became a favorite theme in Paul’s epistles, which he’d write later.
The response to Paul’s sermon was largely favorable, and he was invited to preach again on the next Sabbath. Especially impressed were a number of proselytes (Gentile converts to Judaism). This proved to be Paul’s undoing.
On the next Sabbath, “almost the whole city” had gathered at the synagogue to hear Paul. The proselytes invited their Gentile neighbors.
The members of the synagogue became jealous at this great Gentile response (verse 45). They turned against Paul, but he responded by turning to the Gentiles, pointing out how it was necessary for him first to witness to the Jews.
In accordance with Isaiah’s prophecy, he’d be a “light” to all the peoples of the earth. To this, there was an overwhelming response of faith from the Gentiles, but a violent rejection by the Jews, and Paul was forced to leave the region.
With this incident, Paul established a pattern he continued to follow. Whenever he arrived in a new town, he always began his witness in the synagogue. Only when the synagogue rejected him did he turn to an exclusively Gentile witness.[iii]
As we reflect on Paul’s message today, let’s slow down and listen!
Go back and read the passage again. Put yourself in the audience. Listen for the meta-narrative thread throughout the sermon. Outline it and make it your own so you can share it with others. Stay connected with the message asking God to fill you with joy and the Holy Spirit.
[i] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
[ii] Listening Statistics: thecoachingcompass.com/tag/listening-statistics
[iii] Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. . (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (pp. 648–649). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Can you retell God’s story in a compelling way that leads others to salvation?
- When you read God’s Word, participate in a group study, or worship with your church family, are you engaged and listening to God, the speaker/teacher, or other voices?
- Who are you listening too and what are you listening for in your journey toward the Christ-centered life?