Pisidian Antioch: Paul's Sermon & the Reaction: Part 3, Section 1 of 2

by John Lowe
(Laurens, SC)

PART 3: VERSES 38-41

Scripture (Acts 13:38-41; KJV)

38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.


In this first recorded speech, the great missionary apostle declared the one God, the one purpose of God, the one Savior. He proclaimed justification by faith. The proof that there is such justification is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This proclamation was for Jew and Gentile. Separating himself from each, he included both in his great message, because in Christ he was neither Jew nor Greek. In Christ, he had found the One Who brings the Jew and the Greek into life, and into harmony with the will and purpose of God.


Note: This is still the sermon preached by the Apostle Paul at Antioch of Pisidia.

38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren
“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren,” introduces Paul’s application of God’s great saving work to the needs of the Jews at Antioch. He had declared the good news to them (Acts 13:32), and now all that remained was to make the personal application and “draw the net.” He told them that through faith in Jesus Christ, they could have two blessings that the Law could never provide; the forgiveness of their sins and justification before the throne of God. Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Jesus Christ. It has to do with the believers standing before God. The Jews were taught that God justified the righteous and punished the wicked—“When a man wrongs his neighbor and is required to take an oath and he comes and swears the oath before your altar in this temple, then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, repaying the guilty by bringing down on his own head what he has done. Declare the innocent not guilty and so establish his innocence” (2 Chronicles 2:22, 23). But God justifies the ungodly who will put their faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 4:1-8).

The rest of Paul’s sermon is a series of proofs to confirm the argument that Jesus was chosen by God (Psalm 2:7) and was raised from the dead (Isaiah 53:3).

That through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins
Now he offered God’s greatest act of mercy, the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.1 Through “him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (v. 39). “Through this man” brings to mind Paul’s favorite phrase, “in Christ.” “Forgiveness of sins” was mentioned frequently by the apostles in Acts.

Let all that hear the Gospel of Christ know these two things:
1. That through this man, who died and rose again, is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. Your sins though many and great, may be forgiven, and they may be so without any injury to God’s honor.
2. It is by Christ only that those who believe in Him, and no others, are justified from all things, from all the guilt and stain of sin, from which they could not be justified by the Law of Moses.

39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

And by him all that believe are justified from all things
Paul has been speaking on the subject of the resurrection; but, now he is pinning this whole thing down. He is explaining the significance of the Death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is actually asking them for a decision to believe on the Lord Jesus. The proof that Jesus was the Savior came in the resurrection. Paul affirmed that the resurrection was verified by followers of Jesus from Galilee.

The great concern of convinced sinners is, to be justified, to be acquitted from all their guilt, and accepted as righteous in God’s sight, for if any remains charged to the sinner, he cannot realize his desire. By Jesus Christ we obtain a complete justification; for by Him a complete atonement was made for sin. We are justified, not only by Him as our judge, but by Him as Lord of our Righteousness. Paul could now announce full and free justification “from all things.” It is a legal act that takes place in the mind of God, and by which the sinner is cleared of every charge against him. God can righteously acquit the guilty sinner, because the penalty for his sins has been fully met by the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

“All that believe” is reminiscent of Paul’s constant emphasis on the sole necessity of faith in Christ. Justification was his favorite word for describing the work of Christ. It is a legal term and carries the idea of being acceptable to God. Through faith in Christ, one is “put right with God” and becomes acceptable to Him.

From which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses
The idea is that the Law of Moses could never serve as a basis for acceptability to God; only Christ can do that—by Him, the believer is absolved of all charges of the Law. Both the context here and the sum of Paul’s teaching in Romans and Galatians give the meaning that the Law cannot justify the “worker” from anything, since all his works are stained with sin, since only the believer who establishes vital contact with the Savior who died and rose again is “justified” from all things. The deeper meaning of justification, the positive side of it, is reserved for the Epistles, and is addressed to the justified themselves; but he is concerned here, and throughout the Acts, with the resurrection of Christ, because the first thing to do to bring peace to the Guilty through Christ was to establish His Messiahship, by His resurrection—in the Epistles, His death as a way of reconciliation is fully explained. What the Law could not do for us, in that it was weak, the Gospel of Christ does. Faith in Christ brings a completely righteous status in God’s presence, which the Law could never provide.

Keeping the Law of Moses did not free anyone from their sins—“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Romans 3:28).Up till now, no one has ever been saved by keeping the Law, simply because no one has ever been able to keep it—they can’t; even Paul said he couldn’t do it; it is impossible for mere men to do it. But the atoning death of Jesus completely satisfied the demands of God’s Law, making forgiveness of sins available to all who believe—“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13, 14).Only the forgiveness Christ offers can free people from their sins—“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe . . .” (Romans 3:20, 22).

The Law cannot justify the sinner; it can only condemn him (Romans 3:19, 20). God not only forgives our sins, but He also gives us the very righteousness of Christ and puts it on our account! This was certainly good news delivered by Paul to that searching congregation of Jews and Gentiles, who had no peace in their hearts, even though they were religious.

40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;

Beware therefore, lest that come upon you
The threatenings of God are actually warnings; what we are told will come upon unrepentant sinners, is designed to awaken us to “beware” in case it should come upon us.

Which is spoken of in the prophets
The good news which Paul announced to his audience was the fulfillment of the promises of God to the fathers. In this case, “the prophets” are the Minor Prophets—see Habakkuk 1:5 (below).

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