PAUL, THE BIBLE GUY, WAS BLUNT as all get out.
I got reminded of that recently, while paraphrasing Acts. I’m planning to add Acts to the Casual English Bible website, which I’ve targeted to Bible newcomers.
See if you don’t agree that Paul sounds kinda blunt when he’s telling Jews in Turkey the story about Jesus rising from the dead.
These are complete strangers to Paul. And he’s telling them a pretty far-out story. So you’d think he would have anticipated some push back and skepticism.
Doesn’t sound like it. Paul doesn’t seem to have much patience with skeptics.
Here’s my unproofed, beta version of what Paul tells the Jews during a synagogue service on the first Sabbath Day after he reached Antioch, a city deep into what is now Turkey.
Time for a testimony
13:16. Paul stood up and stretched out his hand as he addressed the group. “Gentlemen of Israel and any others of you who respect God, please listen to me.
13:17. The God of Israel picked our ancestors for something special. He grew them into a great nation during their long stay in Egypt. Then with his strong arm he picked them up and carried them out of there.
13:18. They spent some 40 years in the badlands for their bad behavior; God patiently put up with them.
13:19. After that, God eliminated seven nations in Canaan. Then he gave that land to Israel, as the inheritance he had promised them.
13:20. This took about 450 years. After that, God gave them heroic leaders to rule them: people called judges. He did this until the time of the prophet Samuel.
13:21. That’s when the people of Israel insisted on a king to rule them. God gave them Saul, the son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. Saul ruled for a generation, 40 years.
13:22. After God removed him from the throne, he chose David as the next king. God thought so much of David that he said, “I see in David, the son of Jesse, a man who’s like me in many ways and who will do whatever I ask.”
13:23. God had promised that one of David’s descendants would become Israel’s savior. That savior is Jesus.
13:24. Just before Jesus came, John the Baptist showed up. He preached that the people of Israel needed to reject their sinful way of livingand get baptized.
13:25. As John approached the end of his ministry, he repeatedly said, ‘Who do you think I am? Well, you’re wrong. I’m not him. Look, there’s someone coming after me. I wouldn’t be worthy to untie his sandals.’
13:26. Listen to me brothers, you children of Abraham along with anyone else who respects God. This message of salvation was intended for us.
13:27. But I’m afraid the people in Jerusalem, along with their leaders, didn’t recognize Jesus as the savior that the prophets wrote about. They missed it even though they read about him in the writings of the prophets every Sabbath. They rejected him—just as the prophets said they would.
13:28. They couldn’t find a reason to execute him because he hadn’t committed any crime. They insisted Pilate execute him anyway.
13:29. When they finished doing to him everything the prophets predicted, they took him down from the cross. Then they laid him in a tomb.
13:30. We’re here today to tell you that God raised him from the dead.
13:31. Many people saw him. Over a stretch of many days, his followers who came down with him from Galilee to Jerusalem are the ones who saw him. They are eyewitnesses, and they’re telling people what they saw.
13:32. We’ve come here to give you this good news. God made a promise to our ancestors.
13:33. Well, people, God has kept his promise by raising Jesus from the dead. God has done what a psalm writer said he would do:
‘You are my son.
Today, I brought you to life.’
13:34. The fact God raised him from the dead shouldn’t come as a surprise. God had promised he wouldn’t leave him rotting in the grave. Here’s what God said about that: ‘I’m going to give you what I promised David; you can count on it.’
13:35. In another psalm God said, ‘I will not let this devoted person rot in some grave.’
13:36. God wasn’t talking about David. That much is clear. When David finished the work God gave him to do for that generation, David died. He was buried with his relatives, and his body decayed in the grave.
13:37. But the one God raised from the dead didn’t stay in the grave long enough to decay.
13:38. Brothers, I want you to know this. The one God raised from the dead has made forgiveness available to you. The burden of guilt you carry is something the law of Moses can’t do anything about.
13:39. But this man frees everyone who believes him.
13:40. Be careful. You don’t want to be people the prophets predicted.
‘Look at this, you haters.
Go ahead and get amazed. Then die.
I’m on the job in your generation.
I’m doing something you’ll never believe,
Even if someone shows you the blueprint and gives you the tour.’”
13:42. As people started leaving the synagogue, locals begged their guests to come back next Sabbath to discuss this more.
13:43. After the synagogue service ended, many people followed Paul and Barnabas as they walked away. These were Jews as well as devoted non-Jews who had converted to the Jewish faith. Paul and Barnabas urged the people to trust God’s kindness.
Goodbye Jews, hello non-Jews
13:44. Nearly the whole city showed up the next week. They wanted to hear what the visitors had to say about the Lord.
13:45. Jews saw the crowd these men attracted—and got downright jealous. So they started badmouthing Paul and arguing against what he said.
13:46. Paul and Barnabas got blunt. They said, “We had to bring God’s message to you Jews first. But now that you’ve trashed it and condemned yourself as unfit for eternal life, we’re going to take God’s message to everyone but you—to non-Jews.
13:47. God commanded us to do that:
‘I have given you a job.
Take spiritual light to people who aren’t Jews.
Take salvation to everywhere people take their feet.’
13:48. When non-Jews in the crowd heard this, they got happy fast. They celebrated, praising the message from the Lord. Everyone headed to eternal life believed the Lord’s message.
In case you missed it
Here’s the link to a video I posted this week. It explains the odd dedication I wrote in my most recent release, A Visual Walk Through Genesis.