38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
41 “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe even if someone told you.” Acts13:38-41
It is interesting how many times we read a passage of Scripture and miss the meaning of the verse. This is the case with these verses in Acts 13:38-41. For years I’ve read these verses as if they were referring to gentiles, but a closer examination of the text reveals a very interesting insight. Paul calls the people he is addressing as “brethren” or “friends.” This is a designation he often uses for his Jewish brethren. So it would seem in these verses Paul is presenting the gospel to Jews.
He writes, “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” He goes on to state, “Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” The Jews were the chosen people, they were the ones given the Law, and were the recipients of the promises of God. And yet, Paul is stating they have missed the whole point of their calling.
What if we were to make this application to our own time. Paul would be saying “you Christians need to know that your sins are forgiven through Christ and everyone who believes is set free from the curse of the Law.” Think about that for a moment. Why would we need to hear such a proclamation? The answer is that many of us who profess to be Christians really don’t believe the Gospel. We give lip service to the idea that we are saved by grace, but when we get right down to it, we believe that we are saved plus our own effort.
After all, we think, “how could God save someone who is not living the best they can?” But this is exactly why we have the gospel. It is because we don’t live up to who we should be or who we could be. We fail, we mess up, we sin, we stumble through life, and are a long way from being close to the people that we were created to be. And yet, God loves all the same.
Let’s go over the text again for a minute. Paul begins by stating, “that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” It is through Jesus that forgiveness of sins is proclaimed. What Paul is stating is that there are no other ways or any other person that can proclaim the forgiveness of sins than Jesus Christ. Moses may have been the great law giver (actually the mediator) but he could not give the forgiveness of sins.
“Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” Jesus not only proclaims forgiveness of sins but tells us what that forgiveness entails. To be a follower of Jesus means we accept that it is Him that sets us free from “every” sin and it is from Jesus that we are justified.
Do we understand the power of these statements by Paul? He presents an amazing and wonderful hope to each and every one of us. The bottom line is we are loved unconditionally by pure love that we know as God. And He accepts us because of Jesus and not because of anything we do or could do. The flip side of that is that He doesn’t reject us because of our failures.
Now, before I get a bunch of emails saying that I’m preaching cheap grace let me say—guilty. Our redemption is cheap; it is offered as a free gift on the basis of faith. Was redemption cheap for God-no, it cost Him His Son! Remember, I am talking about how we become saved, I am not talking about our living as a Christian. Of course we live our lives in harmony with the New Covenant, but never let us confuse our walk with Christ with the basis of our salvation. Paul makes it clear we couldn’t and can’t be justified under the Law of Moses.
These verses are for the church. It is the church that needs to hear, receive, and believe the gospel of justification by faith alone with no additions. We as Christians need to stop believing that there is something we can do to make God “have to save us” or that we can earn merits with Him.
The Bible is about God and His wonderful plan of salvation. It is not a book about how we can prove ourselves worthy. You are loved and when you and I reach out to God by saying I accept that love, forgive me of my sins, we are redeemed. Yes, it is that easy.
Over the last week I have talked to numerous people who have started their journey as Christians but fellow Christians foolishness and sensibilities caused them to stumble. One woman was asked to leave church when she was twelve.
We have to stop this behavior if we ever hope to be the beating heart of Jesus in the life of a stumbling world.