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Acts 13:14-41 - Homilies By W. Clarkson

The Christian faith.

The Apostle of the Gentiles goes first to the synagogue of the Jews ( Acts 13:14 ). This partly, perhaps, because he would be most at home there and find a readier audience ( Acts 13:15 ); partly in accordance with the words of the Lord ( Luke 24:47 ). At liberty to speak by the courtesy of his countrymen, Paul preached the discourse which we have in the text concerning the faith of Christ. He shows—

I. ITS BASIS IN HISTORICAL FACT . ( Acts 13:17-22 , Acts 13:31 .) It is a matter of history. That history commences with the call of Abraham and the redemption of Israel from the bondage of Egypt ( Acts 13:17 ); it includes the life in the wilderness ( Acts 13:18 ) and the early years in the land of promise ( Acts 13:19 , Acts 13:20 ); it contains the choice of a monarchy ( Acts 13:21 ) and the elevation of David ( Acts 13:22 ). From beginning to end, the faith of Christ rests on the solid ground of established facts; it does not depend on dreams and visions, nor on logical deductions or intuitions of the human reason; it is built on well-attested facts; "That which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you" ( 1 John 1:1-8 ). Not "cunningly devised fables," but facts of which truthful men were "eye-witnesses" ( 1 Peter 1:16 ), are the material on which Christian doctrine rests.

II. ITS CULMINATION IN A LIVING ONE . ( Acts 13:23-37 .) "God raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus ( Acts 13:28 ); One of supreme rank and majesty, whose shoes the great Baptist was "not worthy to loose" ( Acts 13:25 ); One slain by his own people, but raised from the dead by the favor and the power of God ( Acts 13:27-30 ); One whose immortality is the fulfillment of the Divine word ( Acts 13:32-37 ). In Christianity everything gathers round, centers in, Jesus Christ himself. We are not compelled to subscribe to certain profound propositions, nor to conform to a number of minute requirements either in domestic or social life or devotional habit; we are desired to accept a once-crucified and now risen One—"a Savior, Jesus"—as the almighty Savior, living Lord, Divine Friend, he offers to be to us all.

III. ITS CARDINAL DOCTRINE . ( Acts 13:38 , Acts 13:39 .) "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins;" "By him all that believe are justified," etc. There can be no real religious life without the conscious enjoyment of God's favor; and this cannot be attained until sin has been forgiven. The initial step into the kingdom of God is, therefore, the remission of sins, the justification of the sinner before God. This is the cardinal doctrine of the gospel of Christ; "This [he said] is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" ( Matthew 26:28 ). There may come times when this doctrine will be neglected, but to it mankind will continually return; for it is the sense of sin and the consciousness of condemnation which stand between the soul of man and its heritage in God, and it is the forgiveness of sin and the justification of the sinner which open the gates of the kingdom of peace, of joy, of eternal life.

IV. ITS GLORIOUS COMPREHENSIVENESS . " Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience" ( Acts 13:16 ; "Children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent" ( Acts 13:26 ); "By him all that believe are justified" ( Acts 13:39 ). Already the old and narrowing traditions had been broken; already the strong prejudices had melted away; already the hearts of men had been enlarged, and Gentiles and Jews were invited to believe and to be saved. As missionary work proceeded, and as more light from heaven broke in, the world-embracing thought of God became clearer and fuller to the minds of men.

V. THE URGENCY OF ITS CLAIM . ( Acts 13:40 , Acts 13:41 .) A most sad succession of steps—despise—wonder—perish; but one that has been taken by thousands of the children of men. We cannot oppose ourselves to a "great salvation" without being bruised and broken by our folly ( Matthew 21:44 ). The height of blessedness and dignity to which we rise if we accept a Divine Savior marks the depth of shame and woe to which we fall if we reject him.—C.

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