Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39)
The apostle Paul never lost a chance to speak of the gospel of Christ to willing audiences and he found his chance in the city of Antioch of Pisidia in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Gentiles were among those gathered in the synagogue listening intently to things they had never heard before. On the following Sabbath, almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. The message of Paul and Barnabas was simple: they preached Jesus Christ. While it excited many of the Gentiles who would obey the gospel, the Jews were filled with envy creating persecution against the ministers of God. Paul and Barnabas were expelled from the region but they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. What stirred up the minds of the Jews to be so opposed to Paul? He preached the message of a risen Savior and the true Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth. Two elements of Paul’s preaching in Antioch declare the preaching of Jesus Christ. First, there is a need to preach how a man can receive the forgiveness of his sins. Second, all men must see that justification cannot come from any authority but the new covenant of God. Forgiveness of sins is the eternal question for all men as all men have sinned and fall from the grace of God. The envious Jews of Antioch needed the message of forgiveness just as the Gentiles who filled their synagogues. Because of the moral destruction of man’s wisdom, there is no answer to the plight of man’s failure apart from Jesus Christ. The first and basic need of a man is to know that he is a sinner. This shows the relationship between man and God and that because of the rebellion of man’s heart, sin has dominion leading to eternal death. Sin has destroyed the world as the insidious deceitfulness of Satan to fill the hearts of men to hate God. Without the cleansing of sin through Jesus Christ there is no hope, no promise, and no eternal life. Preaching Jesus is to preach the message of condemnation because of sin and the saving power of the blood of Christ in the forgiveness of sins. When religious leaders refuse to preach the failure of man they cannot preach the message of forgiveness. Jesus died to wash away the sins of the world and He is the only way that redemption can be found.
Jesus is the only way to the Father bringing justification of man to be in communion with God again. What was lost in the garden can only be regained in the blood of Jesus as a man is justified in the sight of the Lord in his obedience. The reason the Jews of Antioch were so obstinate against Paul and Barnabas was that they believed they could be justified under the Law of Moses. God had given the law to Israel but He had promised a new covenant. This new covenant came through His Son Jesus Christ as the gospel of salvation nailing the Law of Moses to the cross. No man could be justified by keeping the Law of Moses including the Ten Commandments. Jesus is the only truth and only in Christ is a man made right in God’s sight – something the Law of Moses could never do. The philosophies of men have tried to bring peace to the world and failed on every point. Justification can only come through the Son of God. Paul preached a message of justification in Christ alone and this did not make him acceptable in the minds of many of his day. The Jews hated him because he challenged the Law of Moses as the authority and the Romans persecuted the church who opposed emperor worship and the acceptance of a polytheistic religion. There is only one means of justification and that is Jesus Christ. This is the message that should be preached for those who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Preaching in the modern world has not changed from the days of Paul in Antioch of Pisidia. If a man is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ he must declare that salvation is in Christ alone and there is only one authority for truth. When modern religion denies that man is a sinner he fails to preach Jesus. Teaching salvation through any other means than the new covenant of God fails to preach Jesus. All men must first recognize that sin is the problem and without the grace of God there can be no answer. Preaching Jesus is to show man his need for the love of God. Proclaiming the story of Jesus begins with the Garden of Eden where sin changed the world and the nature of man. There is a need for redemption because man has failed. When the heart realizes the state of sin then there can be salvation in the forgiveness of Jesus. No other means can wash away sin. Being a good person will not justify a man or serving the Law of Moses. Salvation by grace alone or believing that God will accept the heart that believes in faith only will not bring about the forgiveness of sins. These are doctrines of men that do not come from the preaching of Christ. Sins are washed away in one place and that is the waters of baptism as the blood of Jesus cleanses the heart. Then, and only then, is a man justified in the sight of God. Keeping the Law of Moses or parts of the law will not justify the heart. Living under the laws of another religion will not save a man. Following the wisdom of men denies the saving grace of God. Preaching Jesus Christ proclaims salvation in Christ alone through the washing of water where the Father removes the stain of sins and justifies the heart. Failing to preach this message is failing to preach Jesus.