When Paul and Barnabas arrived in the ancient city of Antioch in Pisidia, they went to the synagogue. It was here Paul preached the startling message of justification by faith in Christ, not by the Law of Moses. The message can be organized into three parts, each beginning with “brethren” (vv15,26,38).
The Promise of the Savior
In verse 15, when Paul and Barnabas are identified as “brethren” and invited to speak, Paul motions with his hand and stands to preach. He explains how God worked from the exodus to King David’s rule to fulfil His promise that He would bring the Savior, Jesus, to Israel. Paul then speaks of the ministry of John and how he prepared the way for the Christ by preaching the baptism of repentance. He establishes that the Christ had come through David as promised, and that the prophet John had proclaimed His arrival. Paul then explains how the Savior was rejected, crucified and raised again.
The Coming of the Savior
In verse 26 Paul continues, “Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent” (NASB). The leaders in Jerusalem had rejected and crucified the very One that was sent from God. They did so because they did not know Him, and they did not recognize the very voices of the prophets that declared Him in the Scriptures. When they condemned Jesus Christ to die, they were fulfilling the Scriptures. Paul now turns to the heart of the message. Christ died, He was buried, and He rose again! God’s promise was fulfilled. Paul quotes three OT Scriptures (Psa 2:7; Isa 55:3; Psa 16:10) to prove his argument regarding the resurrection of Christ.
Justification by Faith in the Savior
In verses 38-39 Paul concludes, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (KJV). The law could not do what Jesus Christ can do – provide the forgiveness of sins and justification before God. Justification is the act of God where He declares the sinner that believes in Jesus Christ as righteous. It is based on His grace, it is a free gift, it is received by faith, and it stands on the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24; Gal 2:16).
Paul was declaring to the crowd in the synagogue that day that there was indeed good news. He warned them that now that the facts of the gospel had been preached, the response was individual (vv40-41). And you must respond too. What about your sins? What about your standing before God? No amount of good deeds can change a person’s past or remove the stain of sin. Only the death of Christ gave God the basis to be able to justify the believing sinner. Only the blood of Christ satisfies God’s righteous demands and can bring peace with God for the sinner (Rom 5:1,9). As Paul warned in his day, we warn today, “Beware” – to reject the message is to be blind to the truth and perish (13:41).