Audio Worship "Words of Encouragement" Acts 13.14b-43

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1594

July 2, 2023

Acts 13.14b-43       Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus


“Words of Encouragement”


And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” 16So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. 17The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

26“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30But God raised him from the dead, 31and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ 34And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ 36For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: 41“‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’” 42As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.


  • Old Testament Summary


The scene before us would have been a typical practice among the Jews and the disciples as they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. There was characteristically a reading from the Torah and the prophets, and then someone would speak to the reading with a teaching or message of interpretation. Jesus did the same thing in Luke 4 when He read from Isaiah and spoke a word to the reading.

16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

We know how that encouraging word was greeted as they drove Jesus out of town and tried to toss Him off a cliff! But Jesus walked right on through them without incident. Encouraging words are not always welcomed.

Our text for today has a very different outcome, as we see and will get to shortly. Paul was a Pharisee, very well educated in the Old Testament, and recognized as a leader among Jews. When he stands up to offer an encouraging word, he begins by briefly tracing some of the history of Israel starting with the Jews being the chosen of God, delivered out of Egypt, led through the wilderness, and given the Promised Land. He reminds them of the judges and kings who ruled over Israel and concludes the history refresher with King David.

Every Jew in the synagogue would have known this history and probably all would have been nodding their heads in approval of the message thus far. I think Paul makes a particular point to end with David because it was told that from the line of David the Messiah would come. Paul uses the knowledge that he knows his hearers know in order to make a connection to the Messiah and that the Messiah is Jesus Christ.


  • The Promised Messiah


So, in verse 23, Paul makes that connection. The offspring of David has produced a Savior and that Savior is Jesus Christ. John the Baptizer told of preparing the way for the Messiah and also told everyone that he was not the Messiah, but that Jesus was the Messiah, the lamb of God. Paul highlights that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. He recounts the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He speaks to the appearances of Jesus to the disciples. Verse 32, begins the distinctive good news...32And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus. The promised Messiah has come in the person of Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead. This is the encouraging word!

Paul takes the news to another level for the Jewish ears by connecting Jesus with specific Scriptures from Psalm 2.7 – God’s Son, Isaiah 55.3 – the blessing of David, and Psalm 16.10 – the corruption of death will not touch Jesus because God raised Him from the dead. No ashes to ashes or dust to dust to dust for the Messiah. He lives! This is the promised One of God. Paul does what Jesus did for the disciples in Luke 24 taking them through the promises of the Old Testament and showing them how Moses and the prophets and the Psalms all point to Jesus Christ.


  • The Forgiveness of Sins


The result of all this history of Judaism and the result of all the promises made in the Old Testament is the encouraging word of verse 38-39. One of Paul’s favorite words is “therefore”. When we read his letters to the churches he builds arguments for Christ and upon the evidence he says, “therefore” do this or do not do that. Here it is what the Jews should be able to surmise from all the evidence Paul has given… 38Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

If you want a word of encouragement, here it is – forgiveness of sin is through Jesus Christ, the One promised in the Scriptures, and now proclaimed to the Jews. Not only that, but this forgiveness sets one free from the burden of the law. The Jews created a ton of laws to keep and it was truly a burden to watch every step and movement and word and thought in order to never break a commandment. The Law was put in place to reveal sin. The Law as given as a means to keep in step with what God wanted from His people. And what the Jews end up doing with the Law is add more laws to keep the laws to the point that it became impossible to keep the law. It reminds me of the elevators in Israel that had no buttons to push for a particular floor. It was a work to push a button on the Sabbath, therefore in order to do no work requires you to get into the elevator and move up or down stopping at every floor until you reach your destination.

What Jesus has done is set us free by hanging on the cross by His grace and mercy, and has done for us what the Law could not accomplish, that is, to put us in right relationship with God. The law is still important, as Paul writes in his letters, but it is not the means to salvation or the forgiveness of sin. Jesus Christ is the Savior and it is only by believing in Him that we are all set free.



  • Words of Encouragement


The rulers of the synagogue said, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” I wonder if Paul had any hesitation. All we see in the text is Paul standing up and motioning with his hands and then speaking. I wonder if he looked around at his companions for a moment wondering if any of them had anything to say or if he just stood up right away. I suspect the latter. If you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it. Say it! This has been the charge to followers of Jesus ever since Jesus ascended into heaven. Say it! Tell the good news. Speak the encouraging word. One of my favorite texts to that effect is Psalm 107.1-2, Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 2Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” At our youth camps for Young Life the last night of the week was set aside for “say so” and any of the teens who had accepted Christ during the week of camp were invited to say so. Testimony is important, not just for us to proclaim that we believe, but to invite others to believe as well through words of encouragement. Nike might have “just do it”, but the church might want to copyright “just say it”. Paul stood up to say it, to tell the truth of Jesus Christ who is Lord and Savior. His encouraging word was ultimately, Jesus Christ.

I do not watch much news on television, partly because it is not very trustworthy anymore, but also because it seems to be one discouraging word after another. They sometimes try to tack on an encouraging word toward the end of a broadcast, but 20 minutes of discouragement followed by 2 minutes of encouragement does not really balance out well. And the encouragement from feel good humanity stories is not really the encouragement that is needed in the world today. We need more than someone doing a good deed or some other chicken soup for the soul story. We need what Paul gives the Jews in Acts 13, people who will stand up and say it! Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Jesus died and was raised from the dead that we might know the forgiveness of sin.

At the beginning of our reading for today, Paul’s group is asked to offer a word of encouragement. Those words begin as soon as Paul opens his mouth. He speaks of their history, of the promised Messiah, of the forgiveness of sins, and perhaps oddly, to our hearing, a final word of encouragement in a warning. That warning is to beware not believing in the encouraging word just spoken about Jesus Christ. 40Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: 41“‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’” We have people everywhere who scoff at the words of the Bible, who offer only discouraging words, and who will do all they can to cancel our encouraging words. But we are called to say it anyway. Say it to those who are receptive and say it to those who are not. The worldly definition of encouragement is to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope. The only real encouraging word for us is the word of God, the promises of God, the good news about Jesus Christ, and all the wisdom, history, hope, love, mercy, and grace given us in Jesus Christ. We can give no greater encouragement than to spread the word of Christ to people.

I think about this a lot these days as people are discouraged with all that is going on the in world and particularly in our country. It is not all at our doorstep in small town USA, but it seeks to reach out to every corner through some media outlets and some entertainment and some aspects of the government and lately in more and more corporations. Our focus for encouragement is to seek out and rely on the most encouraging word we have, God’s Word. Only here are we encouraged and only here are we able to encourage others.

In the first section of this sermon I spoke of Jesus giving interpretation of Isaiah and they tried to toss Him off a cliff. Paul gets a much better response in the case of Acts 13. They invite him to return on the next Sabbath to tell them more. Now Acts 13 ends with divided reviews as the Jews seek to stop Paul and his friends from saying any more, but the Gentiles are welcoming. This is a common response still today. Some will welcome our willingness to say it, to tell of Jesus, and others will reject us and what we have to say. We would love it if everyone trusted in Christ, but the Bible reveals that some will and others will not. Be encouraged by those who do. Be encouraged simply in the message we have to give. Be encouraged despite the discouragement from the world. Be encouraged by the encouraging words of the cross, the resurrection, and the amazing grace that forgives sin. There is hope and courage in the Words of the Bible and these are the Words that we are called to say, to trust, and to use to encourage every one. Let us walk in the grace of God as Paul and his companions are encouraged to do at the end of Acts 13.43. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.