«And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus»
(Acts 13:32, 33).
I WAS THIRTEEN years old when divine mercy, together with the boldness and support of my pastors, led me to preach my first sermon. It was at a prayer meeting at the Lomas de Zamora Adventist Church in Buenos Aires. I still have the handwritten sermon outline on Joshua 1:9. I remember the contrast, because, while on the one hand I was nervous and trembling, on the other I tried to communicate to the church the encouraging words of Joshua: «Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed.»
My sermon ended before the expected time because of a combination of nerves, emotion, and gratitude for the tremendous privilege of being able to invite the church to trust in the promises of the One who said He would always be by our side.
Of the thirty sermons recorded in the book of Acts, eleven correspond to Paul. Acts 13:15 to 52 record the first—and most extensive—of the newly converted apostle’s sermons. If we read it, we notice that it is like a combination of Peter’s and Stephen’s sermons (Acts 2:14-39; 7:2-53), and the only one preached in a synagogue. With remarkable skill, Paul presents a timeline of the history of Israel until David and from the time of David to Jesus, and concludes his message with a fervent invitation and a clear warning.
In his first sermon, Paul presents Jesus, whose coming had been prophesied by Scripture. However, the learned men of the time, far from seeing in Him the fulfillment of prophecy, ended up being instruments to lead Christ to death. Of course, His death and resurrection were also carried out in order to fulfill the prophecy and the promise of salvation. The death and resurrection of Christ are the central theme in Paul’s first sermon, for only in this way are forgiveness and life offered to every sinner who, through faith, receives and accepts the grace of God.
The sermon ends with an invitation and a warning. God always grants us the right to choose, while still showing us the consequences of our choices. Everyone can choose what to feel, what to think, what to say, and what to do. We can choose our actions, but not the consequences. We can choose the seed, but not the fruits. We cannot sow thorns and hope to harvest flowers. Whoever sows an act reaps a habit; and whoever sows habits reaps character.
According to Matthew Henry, the greater the privileges we enjoy, the more intolerable the condemnation we are to incur if we do not receive in faith and correspond with obedience to the grace that such privileges entail.
Let us be grateful for the blessings received, and act accordingly!