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.’ ”
Verses 38-41 conclude Paul’s sermon to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. He finished with an appeal to accept the promises of Scripture, a call to embrace Christ as their Savior.
Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;
It was imperative that the synagogue listeners understand that it was through the Man resurrected from the dead that they could receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 26:18). Paul’s appeal was to his Jewish brothers in particular.
and by [in] Him [Jesus Christ} everyone who believes is justified from all things
Only through Jesus can a person be legally justified in God’s eyes. Identity with Christ and His work gives eternal life to the one who believes. The law of Moses could not make this offer. “Justified” is a legal term referring to good standing with God; a justified person is right in God’s eyes. Justification rests on what Christ did, not what the person does or did. Justification is a consequence of what He did on the Cross, His death, resurrection, and ascension in fulfillment of Scripture.
God promised justification to “everyone who believes.” “All things” shows how comprehensive justification is to those who believe. Justification in this context is forensic or legal. People can have a perfect legal standing before God as not imputing sin to the individual but standing before God as perfectly righteous (Ro 3:21-26; 4:5-7).
from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
The law of Moses could not justify a person; it only gave the standard of whether one is right with God. The standard is God’s own righteousness, which is absolute righteousness.
Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:
Again, Paul quoted the Old Testament from Habakkuk 1:5, recorded in the next verse. This quote is a warning. It warned Israel of King Nebuchadnezzar’s threat of invasion, should the nation not repent. In Paul’s meaning, God would bring judgment on those who failed to accept His promises, which the Jews of Pisidian Antioch also fulfilled.
‘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.’ ”
Habakkuk 1:5 supports Paul’s warning of the previous verse. Israelites were in danger of being counted with those who never believed and their impending judgment. Habakkuk’s warning referred to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans because of their obstinance toward God’s promises. Paul’s audience had a warning about the obstinacy of rejecting Christ as their Savior. There is no option for another choice.
People can be freed from their alienation from God by believing Christ paid the price for their sins.
Galatians 3:13 says that Jesus satisfied the demands of the law. He made forgiveness available to everyone because He freed people from the curse of the law. God justifies or declares them right as He is right “apart from the law” (Ro 3:20-22, 28). Christ’s forgiveness is complete without any further penalty to be paid (Co 2:13-14). Belief in His death on the Cross for our sins allows fellowship with an absolutely righteous God. God had to address access into His perfect righteousness before He could provide salvation for those who believe. How do people escape if they reject God’s way of salvation (He 2:1-3)?
Paul’s charge against Jews was that they were ignorant of Scripture. They were ignorant of the prophecies about the coming of Christ. Their unbelief was unnatural for a Jew. It is on the authority of the Word of God that we can know we have forgiveness in Christ. We must always be brought back to Scripture for our authority.