“Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen’ ” (Acts 13:16).
The church dedicated Paul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey. They stopped first in Cypress, where the first Roman official was converted. Then, they went on to Antioch of Pisidia. They attended the synagogue on Sabbath and they listened to the liturgical service, which included the recitation of the Shemá (see Deuteronomy 6:4), long prayers, the reading of a portion of the law (a passage taken from Genesis to Deuteronomy), a reading from the prophets, and the sermon.
It was the leaders’ custom to invite a rabbi to deliver the sermon. So, upon learning that Paul had a rabbinical education, they invited him to speak. He gave a long sermon, Paul’s first speech recorded in the book of Acts. He addressed the audience with a courteous greeting. The gesture he made with his hand was used normally by speakers to call everyone’s attention, request silence, demonstrate affection and show the seriousness of the subject to be spoken on. He probably waved his right hand, making a sign like someone trying to calm a crowd.
After his greeting, his first words were: “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen” (Acts 13:16), thus referring to both active Jews and the Gentiles who were present. With this introduction, he showed from the very beginning that his message was both for Jews and the Gentiles who feared God. He emphasized God’s pact with Israel, knowing that the Jews felt proud to be God’s chosen people. He based his speech on passages of the Old Testament, summarizing the history of Israel from their exodus until David. He emphasized God’s promises to His people and presented Jesus as the promised Messiah, a descendant of David. God had a plan for their history, and Jesus was the final goal of that plan.
In his call at the end of his sermon, he used an expression similar to the beginning: “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent” (verse 26). He invited them to believe and accept Jesus. Their response was so favorable that they invited him to return the next Sabbath. On that second occasion, nearly the entire city had gathered to listen to him. Most of them were converted Gentiles, who were the most impressed, and whom Paul correctly called Those who fear God.
When you reverence God, your heart becomes sensitive to His voice, and is more willing to obey Him.