Online Bible Commentary
Everyone Who Believes is Justified
Acts 13:36 "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: 41 "Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.' " (NKJV)
The time is A. D. 45 and Paul’s First Missionary Journey has begun. Paul, Barnabas and their party have come to Antioch in the province of Pisidia in Asia Minor, present day Turkey.
As was their custom, Paul and his party attended the synagogue in Antioch on the Sabbath. After the reading of the scriptures, Paul and his party were given the opportunity to speak. Paul launched into a lengthy message detailing the history of the Jews concluding with the finishing work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This message was the first account of a message from Paul on his missionary journeys and was likely a pattern for all of his future preaching.
Paul’s sermon concludes with this passage. He compares the great Jewish king David to the forever King, Jesus Christ. David served his people well, through “the will of God” (v. 36a). But David eventually died, was buried, and his body decayed (v. 36b). On the other hand, Jesus died and was resurrected by God the Father to live forever, never to decay (v. 37a).
Paul then declares to the Jews “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”, referring to the forever King Jesus (vv. 37b-38). The law of Moses can only condemn man to his sins. It has no power to forgive. The Jewish system of animal sacrifice had no power of forgiveness.
Not only that, only God can justify us, which means to judge us not guilty of our sins. The Greek word used here for “justified” means to declare right. It is a legal term used by a judge to rule that a person is in the right, even though they have sinned. They are in the right because Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sin debt. Through their professed belief in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the then Christian has righteousness imputed upon them by God. “Everyone who believes is justified” (v. 39).
Paul concludes his sermon with a warning to those who would reject Jesus Christ (v. 40a). His warning comes from “the prophets”, specifically Solomon, Isaiah, Habakkuk and others with the same message (v. 40b). The warning is: "Behold, you despisers (Prov. 1:30), Marvel and perish (Isa. 29:14)! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you” (Hab 1:5) (v. 41).
Paul’s sermon was aimed at making believers of the Jews. It was an act of evangelism. If I were to sum up the Book of Acts, The Acts of the Disciples, in one word that word would be evangelism.
All Christians are called to evangelize. Jesus gave us the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). We are to make disciples of all the nations. Each of us can do our part by sharing the Gospel with those whom God puts in our circle of influence. Let us be obedient to this calling.