God’s Word for You
Acts 13:42-43 Third Commandment kept
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, June 22, 2020
When we left off with Acts, Paul was delivering what I think of as his first missionary sermon. This was in Antioch, the Antioch in Asia Minor (not Syria).
42 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people asked them to speak about these things again the next Sabbath. 43 When the meeting of the synagogue dispersed, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who continued to speak to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The first reaction to the teaching of Paul and Barnabas and to Paul’s sermon was encouraging. The congregation wanted to hear them again, and they asked them to return the following week and to continue their teaching. Luke’s description of the end of a service is familiar to every Christian reader when he says, “The meeting… dispersed” (broke up). The people who had been standing or sitting together, singing, praying, making liturgical responses, confessing their faith, and listening to Paul’s preaching, now all departed in their various directions to walk home through Antioch’s narrow streets and lanes. We can visualize various individuals, the single men, the widows, some older men or women walking alone or in pairs, families walking more or less together, and mothers calling out to little boys not to run ahead. A few of the worshipers, as so often happens, wanted to talk with the preacher after the service. Some gave a polite compliment or thank-you, and some had further questions about the subject or a related passage from Moses or the Prophets. There was even a large group (Luke says polloi, “many”) who left with Paul and Barnabas and followed them to the house or hotel where they were staying.
The missionaries kept speaking with this group as they walked along. Since we don’t have a record of the conversation, we can only apply the situation and not the words. But this falls under the positive application of the Third Commandment. This Commandment, of course, is: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Luther explained it this way: “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it” (Small Catechism). For God’s Old Testament believers, this showed God’s special will for his people: to observe Saturday as a holy day of rest and worship (“Sabbath” means “rest”). This is no longer in effect for us today since Christ fulfilled the Old Testament Sabbath by giving us the true rest, the forgiveness of sins: “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all your sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations” (Colossians 2:13-14). Today, according to the same Third Commandment, God wants all people to receive his Word eagerly because it tells about Jesus, who gives God’s true rest. “He who belongs to God hears what God says” (John 8:47).
In this way, some of the people at Antioch became an excellent example of how we should keep this Commandment. But they were not the only people there, nor the only people who heard Paul’s message. As we shall see, it is also possible to hear the Word of God and yet break the Third Commandment, and this would prompt Paul to turn aside to preach to the Gentiles.
Pastor Timothy Smith