38 “So, gentlemen, brothers, let it be known to you that through this Jesus forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, also forgiveness from everything from which you could not be justified through the law of Moses. 39 In this Jesus, everyone who believes is justified. 40 So watch out that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you: 41 Look, you scoffers, be amazed and perish! For I am going to do something in your days, something you would never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you.”
42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving, the people kept begging them to speak again on this same subject on the next Sabbath. 43 When the meeting of the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with envy and began to contradict what Paul was saying by slandering him.
46 Then Paul and Barnabas responded fearlessly, “It was necessary that God’s word be spoken to you first. But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, look: We are now turning to the Gentiles! 47 For this is what the Lord has instructed us:
I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth.”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were rejoicing and praising the word of the Lord. All who had been appointed for eternal life believed.
It was Call Day at the seminary in 1989. We were all waiting and wondering where the Lord would send us to serve through the divine call of his Church. Then it happened. “John Hering called to be a missionary in Japan!” That was getting a call to serve in God’s kingdom at “the ends of the earth!” When you hear that phrase, “to the ends of the earth” you are probably thinking about some remote village or secluded island. To us “Antioch of Pisidia” would be the ends of the earth, but no so for the people Paul was speaking to in Galatia in today’s Word of God. Antioch was a Roman colony with enough Jewish residents to support a synagogue (10 families). When Paul and Barnabas were preparing to visit Antioch more than 100 miles away over mountains, it must have seemed like the “ends of the earth” to John Mark. Acts 13:13 says,
“13 Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 But they went on from Perga and arrived at Antioch in Pisidia.”
Why did John turns back? Was it the distance from home? The journey being too tough? The fear of danger? Was he homesick? The Bible doesn’t tell us why he turned back, but it does say Paul and Barnabas continued on. They knew God’s command to
Take the Gospel to the End of the Earth—
and for them it was going to Antioch to
Proclaim forgiveness of sins
When Paul and Barnabas came into Antioch they did what we would expect. They went to worship in the synagogue. There they heard the Scriptures read and were given the invitation to speak.
“15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Gentlemen, brothers, if you have a word of encouragement for the people, say it”
Let’s say it was you there instead of Paul and you were given the invitation to speak. What would you say? Would you start with their history—Abraham, Jacob, King David and the promise of the Messiah? I would. Then would you retell the account of Jesus’ birth, the angels, the miracles of Jesus? I would. Then his death, crucifixion and resurrection as proof of his payment for the penalty of sins for all people of all time? I would. Then how forgiveness of sins and holiness for heaven is ours through faith in Jesus….would you say that? I would. And that’s what Paul said,
“38 “So, gentlemen, brothers, let it be known to you that through this Jesus forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, also forgiveness from everything from which you could not be justified through the law of Moses. 39 In this Jesus, everyone who believes is justified.”
That was pretty easy, wasn’t it? You could easily recall the account of Scriptures just like Paul did and show people how they all point to Jesus. That would be easy if people knew the Bible—especially the Old Testament. But, sadly, today, people don’t know their Bibles very well. Then we would face people as described by Paul,
“40 So watch out that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you: 41 Look, you scoffers, be amazed and perish! For I am going to do something in your days, something you would never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you.”
What has happened to those who scoff at God’s Word? They have replaced it with their own man-made ideas. Some embrace Buddhism (8-fold path to Nirvana), Hinduism (millions of gods and reincarnation), Islam (five pillars) are all examples of religions that teach people to depend on their own works for salvation in place of the true God who made heaven and earth. Or they have become atheists or agnostics who don’t believe there is a god, or could care less and show their carelessness by the shameful ways they ignore God’s will and disobey his law and think this is okay. Latest polls say 37% don’t believe in God and 36% consider religion irrelevant to them (http://www.pewresearch.org). Suddenly the Ends of the Earth have come very close to home! 73% of the people living in America need to hear about Jesus and the forgiveness of all their sins.
Dear Christians friends, this means we have lots of work to do! Paul quotes Isaiah 49
“I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth.”
Isaiah was speaking about Jesus who is the light of the world. Jesus called Paul to reflect that same gospel light in his day, and calls us to reflect that same gospel light of Jesus in our day. We reflect the love of Jesus by
Proclaiming the Forgiveness of Jesus to All!
Let’s go back to Paul and Barnabas being invited to speak in the synagogue. The word “invited” has more of an idea of “being begged.” Listen,
“42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving, the people kept begging them to speak again on this same subject on the next Sabbath. 43 When the meeting of the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of God.”
The Lord was opening up the doors of people’s ears and hearts to hear God’s Word. That same law and gospel is still used today to bring people from atheism and unbelief to faith and salvation. That same Holy Spirit works through the proclamation of Word, baptism and the Lord’s Supper to create and sustains faith.
God’s grace continues to work through you, and together, through our synod to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. How important is this? To make this point I want to share this video with you. Pastor Jon Hein will share how we can personally, and as a church and synod, Carry the Gospel to the End of the Earth!
It was a tough day for John Mark to sail back to Jerusalem while Paul and Barnabas took off for Antioch. But, God even used this event to further his kingdom. On the next journey, Paul and Barnabas disagreed about taking along John Mark. Paul ended up with Silas and Barnabas with John Mark and the kingdom-work was doubled.
It was an exciting day when the Lord called me to proclaim the gospel in Japan. But, there was another day that was just as exciting. It was the day the Lord called me to serve as your pastor. This means we get to have a partnership in the gospel of Jesus. Maybe this means we will join the ranks of 316 Now in order to share Jesus with people to the ends of the earth. Or maybe it means supporting the mission in Vietnam! Or maybe it means that the Lord would continue to richly bless the work we do together to Share the Gospel to the Ends of the Earth….right here in Texas for the sake of God’s kingdom! Amen!