Though both sermons were to unconverted Jewish audiences, the sermons in Acts 7 and Acts 13 are different. Differences are to be expected since Stephen spoke in Acts 7 and Paul in Acts 13. However, the audiences were the reason for the primary differences.
Stephen's audience lived in Jerusalem. As witnesses, they knew from experience about Jesus' life, teachings, miracles, and impact on Israel. Through participation, the council knew about Jesus' trials and execution. Living in Jerusalem, they knew the reports of Jesus' resurrection.
Paul's audience lived in Antioch of Pisidia, a city in Asia Minor located hundreds of miles from Jerusalem. Since Paul's sermon was given in a synagogue on a Sabbath, that audience was basically Jewish. Some present [Godfearers] were not Jews. Because this audience lived far removed from events in Jerusalem, it is unlikely anyone had a witness' knowledge of Jesus, his teachings, his miracles, his death, or his resurrection.
Stephen spoke to people who witnessed Jesus' life (in part) and death. The council applied Moses' law to national situations. He emphasized evidence from Moses to stress why they should respond to Jesus. Paul spoke to people who were not witnesses of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. He introduced them to Jesus and emphasized why they should know him.
This is the first recorded sermon in Acts to Jews and Godfearers outside of Palestine.
Paul's Review: Briefly, Paul reviewed Jewish history. He gave his brief review by periods: the Egyptian period (verse 17), the wilderness period (verse 18), and the period of conquest (verse 19). All three periods covered about 450 years. He then spoke of the period of the judges that ended with Samuel (verse 20) and the early period of the kings (verses 21, 22).
Paul connected Jesus to the stream of Israelite history in two important ways. He declared Jesus was King David's descendant (verse 23). This connection was extremely important in Jewish understanding [the Messiah was to descend from King David]. He also established the connection between Jesus and John (verse 24, 25). John's work and message was known among Jews in Asia Minor through Apollos' teaching. (See Acts 18:24-19:6.) John stressed that he was not the Messiah, but the Messiah would soon come (verse 25).
Paul's Message: Paul focused their attention on his primary message by addressing the "sons of Abraham" (Jews) and "those of you who fear God" (people who believed in God but were not Jews). His primary message was this: he and his company were sent out to inform people about salvation (verse 26). The Jerusalem residents did the things the prophets predicted they would do (verse 27). While no reason existed to kill Jesus, Jewish leaders asked Pilate to execute him (verse 28). Jesus was buried [a confirmation of actual death] (verse 29), and God resurrected him (verse 30). Many saw the resurrected Jesus, and they became God's messengers of Jesus' resurrection (verse 31). Paul presented the good news that God fulfilled His promise to their forefathers: God resurrected Jesus (verses 32-34). Paul used the same evidence Peter used in the Acts 2 sermon: David prophesied of a Lord who would not decay (verses 36, 37). All should understand forgiveness of sins is available through this resurrected one (verse 38). Through him everyone who believes can be delivered, even from things Moses' law could not deliver (verse 39). They needed to respond to this opportunity with a sense of sober responsibility, or they would receive the prophets' condemnation (verses 40, 41).
Paul's Continuation: Paul requested no immediate response. Again, note the contrast between the audiences in and near Palestine and this audience. These people knew little about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Audiences in or near Palestine either saw or heard from witnesses about Jesus. (See Acts 10:38,39.) Audiences in and near Palestine considered Jesus long before responses were requested. The audience in Antioch of Pisidia needed time to think and consider, and to let faith in Jesus take root.
As Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue, many begged them to return in a week and share more (verse 42). After the synagogue assembly, many Jews and proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas urged them to continue in God's grace (verse 43).
The Response: On the next Sabbath, a huge crowd came to the synagogue to hear God's word (verse 44). The crowds made the Jews who controlled the synagogue jealous (verses 45), and they contradicted Paul and blasphemed. Paul, citing Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, boldly turned from the Jews to teach those who were not Jews.
For the first recorded time, Jewish people were rejected in favor of people who were not Jews. Paul's rejection was not a sudden, unpredictable act. He noted (1) it was necessary that the Jews hear about Jesus first (see Romans 1:16); (2) many Jews in Antioch of Pisidia rejected Paul's news; (3) they judged themselves unworthy of eternal life; (4) because of Jewish rejection, Paul and Barnabas turned to those who were not Jews (verse 46).
The God fearers were overjoyed and believed (verse 48). As a result, God's word spread throughout the entire region (verse 49). However, influential Jews motivated prominent women and men in Antioch of Pisidia to persecute Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas were forced out of the area (verse 50).
The Significance: In Acts' record of events, this marked a major transition. From this point forward, the universal church increasingly was composed of converts who were not Jewish. Jewish and Jewish Christian resentment against Paul steadily grew because he taught people who were not Jews.
Why did the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia react to Paul and the message with hostility?
Why were those Jews determined to preserve their religious situation as it was, unchanged?
In what ways would understanding the resurrected Jesus was the Messiah result in change?
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 2, Lesson 9
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