June 9, 2008
You might never know the impact you are having on the kingdom of God through your efforts to share the gospel with others.
Follow the link below and listen to audio clip and hear an amazing story about the impact which God can bring about through one faithful man willing to share the gospel with others.
You can find it here http://www.reformationtheology.com/2008/06/sowing_seeds_for_christ.php
June 3, 2008
We live in an age of information overload. Everywhere we go… we are bombarded by messages which vie for our attention. “Eat at Joes!” “Shop at Quickie-Mart!” “Vote for ______ (you fill in the blank.)” Everywhere we go we are bombarded by messages which vie for our attention. There is no way that we can remember them all, so we have to make choices.
How do we choose what we will remember? How do we choose what we will focus on? Often we choose subjectively. For example, if baseball is your game, then you will probably know who played this week. You’ll know won and who lost. Why? Because this is important to you.
If you are person who is interested in the weather, then you could probably tell me the 5-day forecast. Why? Because this is important to you.
I could go on, but you get the idea. We tend to focus on that which is most important to us.
So tell me… what is the most important message in all the world? What must we always remember? What must we focus on above all else? We don’t have to guess… God tells us in no uncertain terms in I Corinthians 15:1-8:
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV) – 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Notice that Paul is speaking to Christians here, since he calls them “brothers.” They were followers of Jesus and Paul knew this because Paul knew them and he knew them well. Paul had spent 18 months among the Corinthians functioning as their pastor (Acts 18:11.) During this time, Paul had preached among them… they had received his message… and they had become Christians.
But notice that there seems to be a problem here. They seem to be a little forgetful. He is writing to remind them… literally “to make known to them” (γνωρίζω) something he had already preached to them.
If we are honest, most of us tend to forget that which we hear proclaimed on Sunday morning. Often the message we hear goes in one ear and out the other. We think about it for a moment… we say to ourselves, “Yeah… that makes sense…” then within a day or so… if we are lucky… we have forgotten everything that was said.
In Corinth, it seems that this tendency to forget had caused a lot of problems. They had forgotten… or at least displaced… what was most important in the Christian life. And this wreaked havoc among these Christians. In this letter alone, we learn that they were:
- Confused about the death of Christ ( I Cor 1:18-31)
- Divisive (I Cor 1:10-17.)
- They were tolerating horrible sin in their midst (I Cor 5.)
- They couldn’t get along and were suing each other (I Cor 6.)
- They failed to understand God’s plan for marriage (I Cor 7.)
- They were flirting with idolatry and immorality (I Cor 8-10.)
- They were selfish… thinking only of themselves and their own wants and needs (I Cor 9-11.)
- They had perverted the Lord’s Supper through their selfishness (I Cor 11.)
- They were abusing spiritual gifts (I Cor 12-14)
- Their worship services were a mess… they were anything but worship… (I Cor 14.)
Despite all this, Paul still calls them “brethren.” They are fellow Christians, but they have just forgotten that which is most important. So here we see Paul reminding them of what is of first importance.
What is he reminding them of? The gospel.
The Greek word translated “gospel” is εὐαγγέλιον (pronounced euaggelion.) It is made up of two word: εὖ, meaning “good” and ἄγγελος, meaning “messenger.” Literally, the term refers to a “good message” or “good news.”
What is this good news that Paul is reminding them of?
Skip forward if you will to verse 3 and Paul details it for us in 4 distinct points:
1) Christ died for our sins accordance with the Scriptures.
To understand what Paul is saying here, we must first have to understand what sin is. That may sound obvious to many of us, but please humor me for a moment, because most of us have a somewhat skewed view of what sin is. We live in the midst of a culture which has pretty much jettisoned the idea of sin. We are constantly taught to feel good about ourselves… to think of ourselves as relatively good. “I’m okay… you’re okay.” But that isn’t what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that each and every person is a sinner. That is true of me… and it is true of you.
What is sin?
Pure and simple… sin is failing to live up to God’s standard.
We sin in many different ways. We sin through the things we do wrong. But sin is more than just the bad things we do; it is also the good things we don’t do.
We are sinners. Every one of us. The Bible doesn’t teach that “I’m okay, you’re okay.” No! The Bible teaches us that “I am not okay and you aren’t either.”
We are all sinners and that means we are all in trouble, because God is a holy and just God. He is holy, meaning He is separated from all that is sinful and worldly. He is morally pure and hates sin. He is also just, meaning that He always does what is right. This means that He must punish sin. What is this punishment? Death (Rom 6:23.) Physical death… and spiritual death… being separated from God for all eternity in hell.
The message which Paul is reminding us of here is “good news.” It is good news that despite our sin, God has made a way for our sin to be forgiven through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Chris is the only begotten Son of God… very God of very God… who took on human flesh and walked among so that He could die for our sins. He suffered the punishment we deserve for our sin, so that our sin could be forgiven forever.
Notice that Paul says this wasn’t an accident. It was all part of God’s plan, because it was “in accordance with the Scriptures.”
There are a lot of people out there today who are trying to say that Jesus’ death was the result of a mistake on His part. This is the position taken by the Jesus Seminar and other liberal theologians. We saw this proclaimed in a popular way just a couple of years ago in the book “The DaVinci Code” by Dan Brown, which claimed that Jesus was nothing more than a radical, counter-cultural rabbi… who died for his social and political agenda.
Hogwash! The death of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was the will of God and we know this because it was foretold in Scripture. 700 years before the death of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned these words…
Isaiah 53:5-6 (ESV) – 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus Christ suffered the death we deserve for our sin. He died in our place so that we would not have to suffer the wrath of God for our sin.
That in and of itself is good news… but that is just the beginning…
2) Christ was buried.
This is Paul’s way of affirming that Jesus was truly dead. He didn’t just pass out and come to later and heal from His wounds. He was dead… and everyone knew it. And no one expected Him to come back.
3) But Christ was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
His resurrection was predicted by Jesus Himself on numerous occasions prior to His death… not to mention the fact that in passages like Psalm 16:10 it was foretold 1,000 years ahead of time.
This is important, because, if Jesus died and stayed dead, what good would this news be for us? If God didn’t raise His only begotten Son from the dead, who perfectly fulfilled God’s plan of salvation for sinners like us, then how could we ever expect God to raise us from the dead and grant us eternal life? How would we know that God was satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus?
We know this because God vindicated His only begotten Son by powerfully raising Him from the dead… victorious over sin and death and hell forever and ever.
People today will often say, “Sure… you say Jesus rose from the dead. But do you have any proof?” Paul says, “Yes! We do!”
4) Christ appeared to many witnesses.
Peter… the apostles… James… Paul… not to mention 500 other Christians… many of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this letter.
Paul’s point is that this good news is no fairy tale. It is real. And there were witnesses… hundreds of witnesses who could verify this message.
This is the gospel! This is good news! This is the best news ever proclaimed on this earth! Nothing else in all of human history even comes close. There is no better news than the fact that we can have our sins forgiven and be granted eternal life with God through Jesus Christ. This message alone is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16.)
Paul is reminding the Corinthians of this. Had they completely forgotten this? No… a Christian can never fully forget this message and still be a Christian.
But we can allow this message to lose its prominence in our lives. It can fade from center stage and be relegated to the edges of our life.
Let me share with you an illustration which I heard given by Joshua Harris which describes how easily it is for us to “forget” the importance of the gospel. Have you ever gone out and bought some artwork to decorate the walls of your home? Whatever your taste in art, you go out and buy a painting. And it is beautiful. And you love to look at it. You are so proud of it. So what do you do with it? You stick it front and center on your mantle. Right smack dab in the focal point of your living room. And there it hangs for all the world to admire.
But time passes. And your affection for the painting fades. It isn’t that you don’t like it anymore; you just get tired of looking at it.
So you go out and buy a new painting and the old one gets moved to the hallway. People still see it there once in a while… but it no longer has a place of prominence in your home.
More time passes and you eventually move it even farther from the center of your house. You hang it back to your bedroom… where no one ever sees it but you and your spouse. Then eventually, it ends up in the basement, wrapped in paper so it won’t get ruined, but rarely to seen again.
If we aren’t careful, this can happen to the gospel in our lives. It isn’t that we have completely forgotten it. It isn’t that we don’t like it anymore, but, as time passes, we are all in danger of allowing other things to take center stage in our hearts and minds and lives.
Paul tells us here that the gospel is “of first importance.” It must occupy first place. It must set center-stage on the mantle of our hearts.
Think about this for a moment. Only one thing can occupy first place in our lives. Only one thing can sit on the mantle at a time.
What occupies first place in your life?
For many of us it is our families… our jobs… our bank accounts… our hobbies. These things aren’t necessarily sinful in and of themselves, but even though they may be important, they are not to be first place in our lives.
What occupies first place in your life?
What do you think about more than anything else?
Paul tells us here that the gospel of Jesus Christ… the good news that God has loved us and sent His Son to save us from our sin… this is to be of first importance to us. This message should occupy first place in our thinking… first place in our conversation… first place in our affections. If we are Christians… then the gospel should be more important to us than anything else.
And in verse 1, Paul describes three things that we will do with the gospel if it is of first importance to us.
First… the gospel is to be preached.
Paul preached it to the Corinthians when he first came to this city. In fact, I Corinthians 2:2 tell us that Paul “determined to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Paul was committed to preaching the gospel to those who had never trusted in Jesus Christ so that they might be saved.
But Paul was also committed to preaching the gospel to Christians. After all, that is what he is doing here. He is reminding them of the good news of Jesus Christ, because we all have that tendency to bump the gospel out of first place in our lives.
This is something that we should expect of preachers. They should preach the gospel to us. We should expect the gospel to be of first importance to them. Why? Because we all need to hear it… over and over and over again. Like the old hymn writer said, we should plead with our preachers to “Tell me the story of Jesus. Write on my heart every word. Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard” (Fanny Crosby, “Tell Me The Story of Jesus.”)
But this isn’t something we should only expect of preachers. The Greek word translated “preach” here is εὐαγγελίζω (pronounced euaggelizo) and it is not the typical word for preaching. It doesn’t mean to get up in front of people and stand behind a pulpit and speak to a seated, quiet audience. It simply means “to announce good news” and over and over again in Scripture it is used to describe Christians sharing the message of the gospel with others (i.e. Acts 11:20.)
Is this something we do?
Do we talk about the gospel with those we come into contact with in life?
We tend to talk about the things which matter most to us.
Have you ever met that guy who does nothing but talk sports? Why? Because sports is important to him, therefore his favorite team’s stats are his favorite subject.
Have you ever met that parent or grandparent who just won’t stop talking about their child? Why do they do that? Because that child is important to them, therefore they talk about the child constantly.
If the gospel is of first importance to us… then we will talk about it with others won’t we?
The second thing we see here is that the gospel is something to be received.
The Greek term here (παραλαμβάνω (pronounced paralambano)) literally means “to take from” or “to take to oneself.”
Over and over again in his writings, the Apostle Paul speaks of “my” gospel. His gospel was no different than the other apostles. All Christians trust in the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But Paul had taken the gospel to himself. He owned it. It was his gospel.
The fact that Jesus lived and died and rose again for us doesn’t automatically save us. This is free gift which is offered to us, but we must receive this gift. And we receive this gift through repentance and faith.
Repentance is recognizing our sin and turning away from it to God for salvation.
Faith is putting all of our hope in Jesus Christ to save us for eternity.
Have you repented of your sin? Are you trusting in Jesus Christ alone to save you from God’s wrath in the day of judgment? Then this is “your” good news. God has saved you by the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The third thing we see is that we are to stand upon the gospel.
The idea here is to “stand firmly” upon the gospel and not be moved.
We can have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through Jesus Christ, if we turn from our sins and trust in Jesus and remain steadfast in trusting in Him. This begins the process of God transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. This is what Paul means here when he says that by the gospel we are “being saved.” Notice the present tense of this verb. They are “being saved”… right now and continuously.
Salvation is an all-encompassing term in the Bible. It is true that there is a sense in which we are saved once-for-all when we come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is called “justification.” When we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus Christ, then our sins are forgiven… once for all… and we are granted eternal life with God in heaven. And nothing can take that away from us.
But that is just the beginning of the Christian life. What follows is the process of God molding us into the men and women that He would have us to be. We call this “sanctification.” Sanctification is the process by which God works in us… shaping us, changing us, and conforming us to the image of Jesus.
Paul tells us here that the gospel not only saves us at the beginning of our Christian life, but it is the means by which God continually conforms us to the image of Jesus Christ.
Let me give you a couple examples of this:
1) If you proclaim the gospel to yourself often…if you are constantly receiving it to yourself… making it your own… and standing firm upon it… than the gospel will affect the way you worship God. You will be constantly reminded of the great and gracious God who saved you and that will lead you into praise and worship.
2) The gospel reminds us that we are sinners… deserving of death and hell… and it is only by the gift of God that we can be saved. What better way to put to death our self-righteousness and pride then to preach the gospel to ourselves and take it to heart and stand firmly upon it.
The gospel is the means by which God “saves” us… both once-for-all… and every day during the Christian life. But notice that there is a condition attached to this.
This is only true “if you hold fast to the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
What does it mean to “believe in vain”?
This is referring to an empty belief. This comes in many styles and flavors, but most often it is when people believe with their heads, but not with their hearts. It is giving intellectual assent to the gospel, but never committing oneself to Jesus. We see this when people believe that Jesus was a real person… that He lived and died… maybe even that He was the Son of God. They may believe the facts, but they don’t receive the message to themselves. They aren’t trusting in the message.
Those who are “being saved” hold fast to the gospel. They cling to Jesus like a life preserver in the midst of a stormy sea… knowing that nothing but Him can save them.
There are a lot of messages which are scrambling for first place in our lives and many of them are not bad or wrong. Some of them are important. But there can only be one thing that is of first importance in our lives and it must be the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Are you a Christian? Have you repented of your sin? Are you trusting in Jesus Christ alone to save you? If not, then I urge you to call upon God today. Admit your sin and plead with God for forgiveness. Trust in Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose again to save you for all eternity.
If you are a Christian, then I urge you to take this seriously. Strive to make the gospel of first importance in your life. Never grow weary of the gospel. Never grow weary of the message by which are saved and by which you are saved for all eternity.
Preach it to yourself every day.
Preach it to others every day.
Meditate on it.
Hold fast to it… for it is the most important message in all the world.
May 27, 2008
In my earlier post entitled “3 Responses to the Gospel”, we dealt with Acts 13:48…
Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
Note carefully that being appointed to eternal life precedes belief.
If God is responsible for our faith, then what role does human responsibility play in our salvation?
If this is a question which gnaws on your mind… or if you simply want to learn more about the amazing salvation which God has graciously given to us… then I would whole-heartedly recommend that you take the time to listen to the 2-part message by C.J. Mahaney entitled “The Mystery of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.” You can download these messages for free here http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=A1251-00-51
Sola Gratia (“Grace Alone.”)
May 26, 2008
The following is a sermon preached Sunday morning at Maranatha Baptist Church on May 25, 2008.
Acts 13:42-52 (ESV) – 42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
What we have recorded for us here in the book of Acts is the results of Paul’s preaching in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch.
As was typical for Paul, he began his ministry in Pisidian Antioch by preaching in the synagogue before an audience of Jews and Gentile God-fearers. “God-fearers” were Gentiles who believed in the God of Israel, but had not fully converted to Judaism. They were permitted to attend the synagogue, but were not allowed to participate in the worship of God. They were allowed simply to observe, because they were outsiders to the people of God.
After the typical prayers and Scripture readings, Paul was asked by the rulers of the synagogue if he had a word of exhortation for the people (Acts 13:15.) Of course, Paul never turned down an opportunity to preach. So he stood up before the people and delivered a sermon to them (Acts 13:16-41), after which the synagogue service let out.
As they left the synagogue, people began begging Paul and Barnabas to speak to them about “these things” again next Sabbath.
What are “these things”? This is a reference to the sermon Paul had just preached. Let me sum it up for you…
Paul began by recounting the history of the Israel. Really, he was recounting the work of God on behalf of Israel and, by doing so, he described the character of God.
1) God is sovereign over all things… including the call of His people to Himself. God chose the patriarchs… Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… and called them to Himself (Acts 13:17.)
2) God is just. He judged the inhabitants of the land of Canaan for their wickedness (Acts 13:19.) He will not let sin go unpunished.
3) Yet at the same time, God is patient. He put up with the Israelites in the wilderness (Acts 13:18.) Despite their complaining and sin… God was longsuffering with them.
4) God leads His people…providing protection and guidance for those who are His (Acts 13:20-22.)
5) He is a God of salvation… a God who delivers His people with a mighty, uplifted arm (Acts 13:17.)
6) He is a God who makes promises… He made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and David (Acts 13:23.)
And Paul makes it very clear that all these promises are fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 13:23-39.)
1) He is the Son of God.
2) The promised Messiah… the Savior and King which God had promised long beforehand to the patriarchs and David.
3) He lived a righteous life on our behalf, fulfilling all righteousness, so that His people could be declared righteous in the sight of God and enter into eternal life with Him.
4) He died for our sins upon the cross. He was cursed by God and punished for our sake so that we might be forgiven.
5) He was buried in a tomb…
6) But God raised Him from the dead on the third day, clearly demonstrating for all the world to see that Jesus is His only begotten Son… the Messiah… and Savior of sinful men and women.
This was the heart of the message Paul preached and he called all of his hearers to respond to the message by trusting in Jesus Christ, because through Him, God offers the forgiveness of sins and justification (i.e. being declared righteous) (Acts 13:38-39.).
Paul warned his hearers to take these things very seriously…
Acts 13:40-41 (ESV) – 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: 41 “ ‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”
He warns them not to scoff. Don’t be astounded. Don’t be amazed by this. Don’t think this is too good to be true. Don’t cast this message aside. Because if you do… you will perish…and face eternal judgment.
This is an amazing message… the most amazing message ever preached… and the most important message ever preached. It is a message which demands a response.
This is the same gospel message we preach today. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the only living and true God. He is the eternal God… the unchanging God… and His message of salvation is the same today as in the days of Paul.
We are all sinful. That is true of every one of us without exception. All have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23.)
And God’s justice demands a punishment. He is patient with us, but He cannot allow sin to go unpunished (Ex 34:6-7.) And that punishment is death and hell for eternity (Rom 6:23.) .
God in His justice must punish sin, but God in His grace has made a way for sinful men and women to be delivered from the judgment to come. There must be a punishment for sin, so God provided a substitute for us… Jesus Christ… who lived and died and rose again in our place so that we might have eternal life through Him.
This is the only message of salvation. There is no other. And this the message which Paul proclaimed. And it is the message which we proclaim today.
This is a powerful message (Rom 1:16)… and it is a message which produces a response.
Here in Acts 13:42-52, we see three common responses produced by the proclamation of the gospel
First of all, notice that some took him seriously and wanted to hear more…“As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42.)
This message was astounding and some begged to hear more the next week.
But also notice that some of them were impatient. They weren’t willing to wait until the next week. They followed Paul and Barnabas, who told them to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:43.)
It is interesting that they were told “to continue” (προσμένω (pronounced prosmeno.)) In order to “continue” in the grace of God, a person must first enter into the experience of the grace of God. This implies that some of these people who followed them had already become Christians. They were believing in Jesus Christ and Paul and Barnabas urge them to hold fast to their Savior. No wonder they wanted to hear more. We’ll see more about them in a minute. But they weren’t the only ones who wanted to hear more.
Notice that the next week… “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:44.) Most scholars agree that there is a little bit of hyperbole here. Pisidian Antioch was a very large city. It is highly unlikely that every person in the city showed up the next week. Many of the people in the city would have been completely uninterested in hearing about a message preached in a Jewish synagogue, since most of the city was not interested whatsoever in the God of the Jews. But there is no question that a large crowd turned out to hear what Paul and Barnabas had to say.
Now really think about this for a moment… how did these people know to come to the synagogue on this particular Sabbath? It is doubtful that Paul and Barnabas… merely two men… could have gathered this large a crowd by themselves. They didn’t have email or television advertising. How did all these people know to show up in this place on the Sabbath to hear more about the gospel?
This turn out must have been the work of those who had been converted and those who wanted to hear more of this message. They must have talked with others throughout the week about these two men and the message they came preaching the week before. They must have invited others to come and hear the message of the gospel.
And people came…a whole lot of people came. It was much like a 1st century Billy Graham crusade. Christians went out and invited everyone they knew to come and hear the proclamation of the gospel. And many came, because they wanted to hear more about the gospel.
This is the first response we see here to the preaching of the gospel… some people wanted to hear more. But that wasn’t true of everyone, because some rejected the message of the gospel.
When Paul began speaking to this massive crowd, the Jews began contradicting everything he said. They argued with him and attempted to refute his message by speaking against him.
But this wasn’t all. They were also “reviling Him.” The word translated “revile” is the Greek word βλασφημέω (pronounced blasphemeo) and it typically means “to blaspheme.” Now the ESV renders it that they were “reviling him”, meaning Paul, but the pronoun “him” doesn’t occur in the Greek. The NASB gets it right here, they were simply “blaspheming.” Now this could mean that they were blaspheming Paul, but it seems more likely that they were blaspheming God.
There is an important point to be made here. To reject the gospel is blasphemy. Jesus Christ is the Son of God… the Messiah… who suffered and died for our sins and rose again the third day according to the Scripture. He is the greatest expression of the glory of God in human history (Heb 1:3.) To reject the gospel is to reject Jesus Christ… to deny that He is Who God says He is. And that is blasphemy…
They were doing exactly what Paul warned them against in verse 41, they were scoffing at the gospel.
Why? Notice that it wasn’t for theological reasons. It wasn’t because of their study of Scripture. It was because they were jealous. And not just a little jealous… they were filled with the jealousy.
Why were they jealous?
We aren’t told for sure, but it is not hard to guess. Paul and Barnabas were getting all their attention. People were listening to them and believing the message that they were preaching. This weakened their role in the lives of Jews and Gentile God-fearers.
The same thing happened in Jerusalem back in Acts 5. As the apostles were preaching this same message in Jerusalem, multitudes of men and women were being saved. And the religious leaders in Jerusalem didn’t like it, because they were jealous of the popularity of the apostles (Acts 5:17.) And they did all they could to stop the preaching of the gospel.
How did Paul and Barnabas respond to this rising opposition?)
They didn’t cower. They didn’t shut up. They spoke out all the more boldly and this is what they said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you…”
What does Paul mean by this? We find the answer in the next verse. Notice the word “for” (γὰρ.) This tells us that what follows is the ground of this statement.
Why was it necessary that the Word of God be spoken first to the Jews? Because “the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’.”
Notice that the Lord has commanded “us.” Who is the “us”? Not just Paul and Barnabas, but the Jews. This is made clear by the passage from which Paul is quoting.
Paul is quoting here from the Second Servant Song in Isaiah 49:5-6…
Isaiah 49:5-6 (ESV) – 5 And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
This is speaking of the Servant of the Lord, who is identified in Luke 2:32 as Jesus. Notice what He will do. He will reconcile the Jewish people to God. But that isn’t all. In fact, that is “too light a thing” for Him to do. It isn’t big enough. His ministry will be much bigger than this. He will not only bring salvation to the Jews, but He will also be a light to the nations, meaning the Gentiles. He will bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
As I said, Luke 2:32 makes it clear that this is referring to Jesus in His role as the Servant of the Lord, but if we go back just 2 verses to Isaiah 49:3, then we see that the Servant of the Lord is identified as Israel.
So what is the point of all this? Jesus came to reconcile sinful Jewish men and women to God through His life, death and resurrection. But that isn’t all. That would be too small a thing for Him to do. He would also reconcile the Gentiles to God and He would do so through reconciled Jews (see F.F. Bruce, NICNT, 265-267.)
Paul and Barnabas went first to those who were to fulfill this role… the Jews… but…they thrust the gospel aside and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life.
Notice very carefully what Paul says here. They are responsible for rejecting the gospel. They thrust it aside and, by doing so, they are passing judgment on themselves. They are making a decision which declares them to be unworthy of eternal life.
Scripture is clear that this is our natural state. Apart from the work of God, every human being will reject Jesus Christ and the message of the gospel. That is because we are thoroughly and completely contaminated by sin…
Romans 3:10-11 (ESV) – 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
No one seeks for God. No one. Even though God’s attributes and power are clearly seen in creation, we willfully choose to suppress the knowledge of God and worship things in creation rather than God, our Creator (Rom 1:20-23.)
This describes all human beings in our natural state. We are innately sinful and idolatrous and we willfully choose not to seek after God. And in doing so, we judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life with God.
This is what we see going on here… the natural rejection of the gospel by sinful men and women.
Since the Jews rejected this message and the ministry which was rightfully theirs, Paul and Barnabas, taking on the ministry of the Servant of the Lord, they turn to the Gentiles. They turn to those who are receptive to the gospel. They become a light to the nations, proclaiming to them the gospel, so that they might be saved.
This leads to the third response to the gospel here in the text… some receive the gospel and are saved. “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord…” (Acts 13:48.)
We should remember that the Gentiles were excluded from the people of God and the worship of God. Even those who were God-fearers were not really part of the people of God. They were outsiders… strangers and aliens to the promise of God (Eph 2:11-12.) But now they are welcome to come to God through Jesus Christ and enjoy the full privileges of being His people.
No wonder they rejoiced and gloried in the gospel.
We are told here that they “believed.” Whereas many of the Jews rejected the gospel, scoffing at the Messiah and blaspheming God, these Gentiles believed.
Doesn’t this contradict what I just said about human beings being innately sinful and not seeking after God?
What makes the difference between these believing Gentiles and the unbelieving Jews?
These Gentiles who believed were “appointed to eternal life.” The word translated “appointed” is τάσσω (pronounced tassō) and it means to be “ordained” or to be “destined” for something. It is a perfect passive participle in the Greek, which means that it was something which happened in the past but has continuing results (perfect tense.) Also, it is something which was done to them (passive verb.) In other words, they didn’t appoint themselves. In other words, sometime in the past, they were appointed or destined by someone to eternal life.
Who appointed them to believe and receive eternal life? God did…
Compare this to Ephesians 1:3-6…
Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV) – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
It is only because God in His sovereignty chooses some for salvation that anyone is saved. He chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world and, at the right time, through the hearing of the gospel, He causes His people to be born again (I Pet 1:23, James 1:18), granting us repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith (Eph 2:8), so that we can be saved.
This sovereign choice of God makes all the difference in the world…and all the difference in eternity. It determines who will accept the message of the gospel and be saved.
Some people will say this is unfair. After all, if God appoints some to believe and be saved and not others, than isn’t He playing favorites?
That is God’s prerogative if He so desires. He is the Potter and we are the clay and He can do as He sees fit with His people (Rom 9:19-23.)
But this question is ultimately missing the point. This question seems to picture God standing at the gates of heaven and pushing away those who are seeking to enter into His presence. That is not the case at all. There is none righteous, no not one. There is none who understand. There is none who seek after God (Rom 3:10-11.) We are all naturally running away from God as fast as we can. Naturally, we all choose to reject the gospel and be damned to hell forever. If left to ourselves, we would all judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life. But God graciously reaches out and seizes hold of some, drawing them to Himself and granting us eternal salvation (Jn 6:44.) If God didn’t do this… then no one would be saved…
God isn’t unfair. God is gracious.
If God treated us fairly, then all would be damned to hell. But God is gracious and saves some… those whom He has appointed to salvation according to His own sovereign will.
This is cause for rejoicing and those who are converted will rejoice and glory in the gospel… not just to themselves… but before the watching eyes of the world.
That is what we see going on here… “The Word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region” (Acts 13:49.)
Who was doing the spreading of the gospel? Those who believed and were saved.
A great thing is happening here. The gospel is going forth boldly and powerfully. But it seems like this only served to throw more fuel on the fire of the Jew’s jealousy, for they stirred up the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city against Paul and Barnabas. These were important Gentiles in the city. Most commentators believe that the women described here were Gentile God-fearers and the men were their husbands. These men were leaders in this region. They are powerful men and they began to persecute Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of the area.
As a result, Paul and Barnabas traveled down the road to Iconium to continue their ministry there. But as they leave, they shook the dust off their feet. This was a symbolic way of saying this city was unclean and bound for destruction. In fact, it is a way of saying that this city is so unclean that they didn’t even want the dust from the city’s streets to cling to their shoes.
We don’t know if these new Christians in Pisidia Antioch were persecuted after Paul and Barnabas left. But their teachers were thrust away from them. Yet God did not leave them as orphans. They were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit dwelt within them, filling them with joy even in the midst of persecution.
What do we learn from this passage?
There are three common responses when the gospel is preached:
1) Some will reject the message…
2) Some will want to hear more…
3) And some will be saved…
God is the One who determines how people respond to the gospel. Only those who are appointed by God to believe in Jesus Christ and receive eternal life will be saved.
This leads us to an important question. If God has already in eternity past appointed those who will be saved, then why do we share the gospel?
The simple answer is because God has commanded us to (Matt 28:18-20.) But we also preach the gospel, because God works through means to call sinners to salvation. He works through the proclamation of the gospel to call those who are His to Himself.
This is a privilege which God has given to His people, that we might take part in the saving work of Jesus Christ through proclaiming the gospel. Bringing salvation to the nations is His ministry… He is the Servant of the Lord… but through our relationship with Him, we are the means by which He brings light to the very ends of the earth.
Are you a Christian?
Then be a light to the world. Preach the gospel.
It won’t be easy. You will be persecuted. You probably won’t get run out of town… you might… but probably not… but you will likely be mocked and scorned.
Don’t let that stop you. Speak out boldly about Jesus… no matter what occurs…
If you are not a Christian then I would warn you… don’t scoff at the gospel…
To reject the gospel is to blaspheme God… And there is no salvation for those who those who reject Jesus Christ.
May 19, 2008
The following is a sermon preached at Maranatha Baptist Church in the morning service on May 18, 2008:
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Liberal theologians will tell us that the gospel is doing good works. It is giving a cup of cold water to a little one in need.
Is this the gospel? No. This is an outworking of the gospel in the life of the believer, but it is not in and of itself the gospel.
Liberation theology… which is popular in certain developing countries and among certain minority groups in our culture… teaches that the gospel is a message of liberation from oppression. Jesus came to liberate the downcast and oppressed. In many ways, Jesus is seen as a political Savior for those who are mistreated and abused.
Again, this is an outworking of the gospel. God is no respecter of persons. All men and women are equal in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:28), but this is not the gospel.
I often hear people today say that the gospel is the change which Jesus has brought about in their life. They “surrendered all” to Him and He fixed their life. He healed their family… removed their addictions… gave them happiness and success.
Again, this is a result of the gospel in the life of the Christian, but it is not the gospel itself.
What is the gospel?
The gospel is the objective action of God within human history to bring salvation to sinful men and women through the work of Jesus Christ… who lived that we might be righteous before God… who died to forgive our sins… and who rose again that we might have victory over sin and death.
The gospel is literally “good news.” It is an announcement that God has done something to save sinful people like us. The gospel is the good news of what God has done… outside of us… for us.
The apostle Paul makes this point very clearly in his sermon at Pisidian Antioch, found in Acts 13:13-41, where he preaches the gospel… which he calls “this message of salvation”… to a group of unbelievers. (I would recommend reading this passage of Scripture before continuing. I will be referring specifically to the text as translated by the English Standard Version.)
This sermon takes place during Paul and Barnabas’ 1st missionary journey. They have finished a successful preaching tour across Cyprus, which resulted in the conversion of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus (see Acts 13:1-13.) Now they have sailed the city of Perga on the mainland of Asia Minor, before traveling north to the city of Pisidian Antioch, in the region of Phrygia / Galatia.
It was at this time that John Mark left Barnabas and Saul and returned to Jerusalem. Luke (the author of Acts) does not provide us with many details, but it is clear that Paul considered Mark leaving as an act of desertion (Acts 15:38.) We will deal with this in greater detail when we come to Acts 15:36-41.
In the city of Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas followed their typical model of ministry and began by going to the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue. A typical 1st century synagogue service would include a reciting of the Shema and the Sh’moneh esrei (“The Eighteen Benedictions”… formal Jewish prayers which recounted the history of Israel and petitioned God to fulfill His promise to send the Messiah), a reading from the Law (i.e. the Pentateuch) and a reading from the Prophets, followed by a word of exhortation (much like a modern sermon) from any qualified male in attendance (New Bible Dictionary, “Synagogue.”)
After the reading of the Law and Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue asked if Paul or Barnabas had a word of exhortation for the people.
Paul’s sermon can be divided into three basic points:
1) Recounting the history of Israel and the promises of God – Acts 13:16-25
2) Explained how these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus – Acts 13:26-37
3) Call to respond to this message of salvation – Acts 13:38-41
Paul begins by walking through the history of Israel, but he is doing more than giving them a history lesson. H is using the history of Israel as a means of showing them the work of God in human history on behalf of His people…
1) God chose the fathers (meaning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.)
God, in His sovereign grace, had chosen the patriarchs and called them to Himself and made explicit promises to them.
A good summary of these promises is found in Genesis 22:17-18…
Genesis 22:17-18 (ESV) – 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
In this passage, God is promising Abraham that He will give him many descendants and they will be victorious over their enemies. Also, through Abraham’s offspring would come a blessing to all the nations of the earth.
The history of Israel is a description of how God has fulfilled these promises…
2) God made Israel a great nation while they were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
He caused them to multiply greatly and blessed them immensely, even though they were strangers and aliens in the land of Egypt. The Egyptians, however, grew jealous and oppressed the Israelites.
3) God led them out of bondage with an uplifted arm.
This is a reference to the Exodus, when God demonstrated His power and absolute superiority over the false gods of the Egyptians through bring plague after plague upon the Egyptians, even striking down their firstborn and destroying their army at the Red Sea.
God delivered Israel with a mighty display of His power, yet the people rebelled against Him.
4) Paul says that God had to “put up” with them in the wilderness.
They complained about their circumstances. They failed to trust in the God who had delivered them. They fell into immorality and idolatry. Yet God was longsuffering with them. Finally, He disciplined this first generation. They all died in the wilderness, but He fulfilled His promises to the patriarchs by bringing the next generation into the land of promise.
5) God destroyed seven nations and gave the Israelites the land of Canaan as an inheritance.
Scripture tells us that God destroyed the nations in Canaan because of their wickedness (Deut 9:4-5.)
God destroyed the Canaanites and gave their land to the Israelites as an inheritance. This is a display of God’s grace. They did not earn the land… no one earns their inheritance… it was given to them freely by the God in order to fulfill His promises.
6) After God delivered them into the land of promise, He gave them leaders to guide them and deliver them.
God gave them judges and kings, culminating in David, a man after God’s own heart, a man who would do the will of God.
This doesn’t mean that David was perfect, but He was a man who knew God and sought to honor Him.
God made additional promises to David, just as He had the patriarchs before Him. These promises are recorded for us in II Samuel 7…
2 Samuel 7:8-14a (ESV) – 8 Now, therefore, thus you (i.e. the prophet Nathan) shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son…”
Notice the repetition of the word “I” in this passage. Who is doing the work? God is. God made promises that He would act on behalf of David and His people. He promised a place of safety and peace for His people and He promised that David’s descendant would build a house for God’s name.
In part this was fulfilled through Solomon when he built the temple in Jerusalem. But that temple did not endure forever. The implication of this promise is that the kingdom established by this descendant and the house He built for God would remain forever. Therefore, it cannot be ultimately fulfilled in Solomon. This is a reference to Jesus Christ, the descendant of David, who would build an eternal house for God… an eternal temple made up of living stones… of Christians… founded upon the proclamation of the apostles and prophets… with Jesus Christ Himself as the Chief Cornerstone (Eph 2:19-22, I Pet 2:4-5.)
God promised David, just like He had promised the patriarchs, that He would take action on His behalf, and Paul announces to all those present that these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus.
7) “Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as He promised” (Acts 13:23.)
Paul is pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of all these promises and he is not alone in seeing things this way. John the Baptist, whom, for the most part, the Israelites believed was indeed a prophet of God (Lk 20:1-8) agreed with Paul’s assessment. He called the people of Israel to repent and turn to God because the Messiah was coming… a Messiah so great and exalted, that John… even though he was God’s anointed prophet… would not be worthy to even untie his shoe laces.
Notice the emphasis on God in this text. This is critical. God is the subject of at least 11 verbs in this paragraph. God is the One who is doing things. God is the One who making promises and fulfilling promises.
In this brief summary of the history of Israel, Paul has quite systematically described for us the character and work of God:
1) God is sovereign in whom He chooses as His people…
2) God is gracious and merciful in blessing those who have nothing to give Him in return…
3) God is patient in putting up with us in our sin…
4) He is just in wiping out those who reject Him (i.e. the Canaanites, the 1st generation of Israelites in the wilderness and Saul)…
5) He is present and active in leading and guiding His people…
6) God is a God who is powerful in providing salvation for His people…
Paul describes God as a God who makes promises and fulfills them.
Notice that all of these works of God and all these promises converge in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is the good news that God has taken action in human history and all this action finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. All of human history points to Him… either forward to Him in terms of promise… or back to Him in terms of what He has done.
In the first part of his sermon, Paul has pointed out the promises which God made in the past, but now he begins pointing back to the completed work of Jesus Christ.
“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation” (Acts 13:26.)
What is “the message of this salvation”? It is the gospel and Paul says that the gospel is “to us.”
Notice that this message of salvation is not just to Jews. It is to “sons of the family of Abraham” (i.e. ethnic Jews) and to “those among you who fear God” (i.e. Gentile God-fearers.) This message of salvation is for Jew and Gentile alike. God is no Respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35.)
What is this message of salvation? Paul explains it in 4 parts…
1) Jesus died…
The people of Jerusalem and the Jewish religious leaders didn’t recognize their Messiah when He came to them. Despite the fact that they heard the Old Testament read every week in the synagogue, they didn’t recognize God’s chosen Savior when He came. They rejected Him and even though they could find nothing wrong in Him, they hated Him and persuaded Pilate to put to Him death.
Paul is very specific. They hung Him on a tree. This is very significant, because every devout Jew knew what that meant. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says that any man hung on a tree is a criminal who is cursed by God.
Jesus had done no wrong. He had never sinned. He always did what was right in the sight of the Father. Yet in His death… He was cursed by God.
Paul is explicitly clear here that this was not an accident. This was not a failure on Jesus’ part. This was all part of God’s plan. It was all according to God’s definite plan and foreknowledge that Jesus be put to death upon the cross (Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28.) Paul emphasizes this by stating that the people of Jerusalem and the religious leaders “fulfilled them”… meaning that they fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures.
The death of Jesus was part of God’s plan. It was pre-figured in the Old Testament sacrificial system… for example, in the Passover, where a spotless lamb would die in the place of sinful men and women.
It was explicitly foretold 700 years in advance in passages like Isaiah 53…
Isaiah 53:4-11 (ESV) – 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
They killed Him, then in Paul’s second point…
2) He was buried in a tomb.
Those who deny the resurrection will sometimes claim that Jesus did not die on the cross, but that He merely passed out, was taken down from the cross and healed naturally from His wounds (i.e. the “Swoon Theory.”)
But Paul makes it clear that this was not the case. He didn’t just pass out on the cross. He died and was buried in a tomb, just as had been prophesied by Isaiah (Is 53:9.) He was dead and no one expected Him to come back.
3) But God raised Him from the dead…
In verse 33… Paul says that this is proof that Jesus is the Son of God. He quotes from Psalm 2 and applies this to Jesus, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.”
This is not a reference to the birth of Jesus or the incarnation. This speaks of the unique relationship which Jesus has with the Father. He alone is the only begotten Son of God and the resurrection proves this.
This is elaborated further in verses 35-37 when Paul says that because Jesus is God’s Holy One… the only begotten Son of God… and God would not let Him see corruption. He contrasts Jesus with David. David was anointed by God, but he was not God’s “Holy One.” He died and decomposed in the grave. But not Jesus. He never saw decay, because God raised Him from the dead.
Paul makes it clear that this is not a cleverly devised myth or fairy tale, because…
4) Jesus was seen by His followers after the resurrection…
In I Corinthians 15… Paul gives a long list of those who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord Jesus…
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV) – 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
There were hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. This was a confirmed fact. God raised Jesus from the dead.
This is the gospel. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. This is “the message of this salvation.”
God has fulfilled His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David in Jesus… whom He raised from the dead. As a result of this, verse 34 tells us that God “will give you (plural) the holy and sure blessings of David.”
Paul is quoting from Isaiah 55:3, where God promises to apply the everlasting covenant which He made with David “to you” (plural), meaning to all His people.
What is the eternal covenant or blessings which He promised to David?
We saw this earlier in the promise made to David in II Samuel 7. God will give His people a place of peace and security in His kingdom under the rule of His King… the Messiah.
This promise is said to be “holy”, meaning it is for God’s purposes and for God’s glory. It is also said to be “sure.” It is steadfast… absolutely trustworthy… because God has raised Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is proof that God will indeed fulfill His promises of salvation to His people forevermore.
This is good news… but Paul insists that is not enough to simply know this information. One must respond to this message of salvation.
Acts 13:38-41 (ESV) – 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: 41 “ ‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”
Paul promises two things here to those who respond to this good news…
First… in Jesus there is forgiveness of sins…
Scripture is abundantly clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23.) This is true of all human beings. No matter who we are, we are all sinners. None of us love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Matt 22:37.) None of us consistently love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves (Matt 22:39.) We have all slandered others. We have told lies. We have had lustful thoughts. We are all sinners.
God is a holy and just God, therefore He must punish sin. And the consequence for sin is death (Rom 6:23.) This refers not only to physical death, but also to spiritual death, which is being separated from God for all eternity and suffering forever in torment for our sin.
This is what we all deserve. But God has provided a means of forgiveness for us in Jesus Christ.
Jesus died for a purpose. He died for our sins. He bore the punishment we deserve when He was cursed by God on the cross. Through faith in Him, the slate is wiped clean and our sins are pardoned in full. They are gone forever.
But this is just the beginning of the blessings which are ours in Christ Jesus. Through Him we are “freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
I really don’t like this translation and the NASB isn’t any better. But the NKJV translates this verse more literally… “…by Him everyone who believes is justified (δικαιόω, pronounced dikaioo) from all things from which you could not be justified (δικαιόω, pronounced dikaioo) by the law of Moses.” (ἀπὸ πάντων ὧν οὐκ ἠδυνήθητε ἐν νόμῳ Μωϋσέως δικαιωθῆναι, ἐν τούτῳ πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων δικαιοῦται).
In Jesus, God offers us more than just the forgiveness of sins, He offers us justification. To be justified means to be declared righteous by God. You see, to enter into God’s presence, it is not enough that we are forgiven for sin. Being forgiven means we don’t deserve judgment, but it does not mean that we deserve the blessing of entering into God’s presence. The only way to enter into His presence is to be right and just in every way.
This requires perfection. Not just the lack of sin, but the perfect accomplishment of all that is right in God’s sight. No one has this in and of ourselves. Only Jesus is perfectly righteous. Jesus died to save us from our sin, but He also lived a sinless and perfect life so that He could freely give His righteousness to us.
Paul emphasizes here that the Law of Moses can’t save anyone. No one can keep the Law… no one can be “good enough”… the Law was given to show us our need of a Savior (Rom 3:20.)
But God has done what we could never do. That is Paul’s whole point in this entire sermon. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary to save us from our sin.
All that is demanded of us is faith. Forgiveness and justification and all the other gifts and blessings that are ours in Christ are received through believing in Jesus (verse 39.)
Believing in Jesus means that, first of all, we must know the gospel message. We must know who Jesus is and what He has done.
But knowing the facts is not enough to save us. We must actively trust in Him. We must accept the fact that we are sinners and that nothing we do can get us to God. We must admit that we are sinners and turn from our sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save us.
Notice that Paul is again very explicit that God is no respecter of persons. “Everyone who believes” in Jesus is forgiven and justified. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, there is forgiveness and justification to be found in Jesus.
No one can be good enough to get to God on their own.
Paul’s hearers couldn’t. They could go to the synagogue on the Sabbath and do their best to keep the Mosaic Law and they would still fall short.
We are no different. No one can forgive themselves. No one can make themselves righteous in the sight of God. We must trust in God who has fulfilled His promise in Jesus Christ to provide a Savior… or we will perish in judgment forever.
This is nothing to take lightly. This is of the utmost importance. In verse 41, Paul warns them not to scoff at this. He warns them not to be amazed and think this is too good to be true. Those who scoff at the gospel will perish. They will face the judgment of God forever and ever for their sin. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ will be saved.
Not everyone took him seriously this day. There were many who scoffed at the message. But some believed and were saved. Their sins were forgiven, they were declared righteous in the sight of God and they received the holy and sure blessings of David.
How about you?
What is your response to the gospel?
Do you scoff at the gospel message?
You should realize that, when you scoff at the gospel, you are really scoffing at God and His Son, Jesus Christ. And there is no salvation for those who scoff at the God of salvation.
Do you know what the gospel is?
The gospel is the objective action of God within human history to bring salvation to sinful men and women through the work of Jesus Christ… who lived that we might be righteous before God… who died to forgive our sins… and who rose again that we might have victory over sin and death.
The gospel is more than a philosophy of religion.
The gospel is more than a way of life.
The gospel is more than the change which God has produced in us.
No… the gospel is the good news that God in Christ Jesus has done something to save us from our sin.
Suggestions for Application:
1) Know the gospel. Recognize that all events in human history either point forward in promise to Jesus or look back to the work which He has done to save sinners.
2) Believe the gospel. The gospel is more than just facts. It is a message which demands a response. Don’t take it lightly. Don’t scoff at it. Repent of your sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you from the judgment to come.
3) Preach the gospel. Follow Paul’s example and proclaim the good news of what Jesus has done wherever God might send you. Announce this good news to the world and may many be saved!
May 17, 2008
It is popular today to argue that there cannot be only one way to God. However, Scripture says otherwise. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6.)
There is a great post by Justin Taylor on this topic over at the New Attitude website (you can find it here http://newattitude.org/articles/one_more_way_to_god_than_i_deserve .) Be sure to watch the 7-minute video clip of R.C. Sproul discussing this topic at the end…
Solus Christus (“Christ alone”)!!!
May 15, 2008
Yesterday in commenting on the first question of the Heidlelberg Catechism, we looked at how we are bought with a price. We are not our own. We are slaves of Jesus Christ… bought and paid for by His precious blood.
Pulpit Magazine posted an excerpt today from John MacArthur’s book “The Gospel According to Jesus” which fleshes out this idea more fully. Here is the first paragraph…
“Understood correctly, the gospel is an invitation to slavery. When we call people to faith in Christ, we need to stress that fact in the same way Jesus did. On the one hand, the gospel is a proclamation of freedom to sin’s captives and liberty to people who are broken by the bondage of sin’s power over them. On the other hand, it is a summons to a whole different kind of slavery: “Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). As the apostle Peter wrote, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (1 Peter 2:16).“
You can read the rest of the post here http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/05/15/slavery-and-true-liberty/#more-1296
Yesterday I reflected on the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism… today I will reflect on Question # 2 (along with support from Questions # 3-5)…
Question: What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
Answer: First, how great my sins and misery are;  second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery;  third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance. 
 Rom_3:9-10; 1Jo_1:10.
 Joh_17:3; Act_4:12; Act_10:43.
 Mat_5:16; Rom_6:13; Eph_5:8-10; 1Pe_2:9-10.
There are three things necessary to fully appreciate the comfort which we have in Jesus Christ.
1) We must understand how great our sins are.
We are so prone to think of ourselves as basically good. But this is not the biblical evaluation of humanity. We are sinful…
Genesis 6:5 (ESV) – 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) – 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Romans 3:9-11 (ESV) – 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
Not only do we commit wicked acts… we also fail to commit righteous acts. We fail to do that which God has commanded of us. Jesus summarized God’s expectations for all mankind in Matthew 22:37-40 (see Question # 4 of the catechism):
Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV) – 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Until we know and remember how far we fall short of the glory of God… we cannot fully appreciate the comfort which is ours in Christ Jesus. In fact, until we know this, we will never even begin to seek our comfort in Christ Jesus, because we will see no need of a Savior.
From where do we learn the extent of our sins? (This is Question # 3 of the catechism.) We learn of our sinfulness from the Law of God.
Romans 3:20 (ESV) – 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
If we meditate on the Law of God and prayerfully examine ourselves in the light of it, then it won’t be long until we see the depravity of our own hearts and lives.
We cannot be “saved” until we realize our danger. We cannot be “found” until we are “lost.”
2) We must know how we are delivered from our sins.
We cannot save ourselves. There is nothing good in us (Rom 7:18.) Salvation from sin and its consequences is a gracious gift of God (Eph 2:8-9) and this salvation comes through one Source alone… through Jesus Christ. There is only one Mediator between God and man and that is Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all His people (I Tim 2:5-6.) Deliverance from our sinful state and the consequences of sin is to be found in Jesus Christ alone.
Acts 4:12 (ESV) – 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
John 14:6 (ESV) – 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
If only we would remind ourselves of this more often. We are so prone to think far too highly of ourselves. Our salvation is wholly the work of Jesus Christ.
3) We are live lives expressing our gratitude to God for this great salvation which He has provided for us.
The knowledge of our true, natural state and the salvation which God has provided for us should do more than simply stimulate our thinking. It should stimulate our hearts to love and good deeds. It should affect us deeply and eternally.
1 Peter 2:9-12 (ESV) – 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
God has saved us for the glory of His grace (Eph 1:6, 12, 14.) Our lives should reflect the work which God has done in us and we should shine brightly as God’s workmanship so that the world may glorify Him (Eph 2:10, Matt 5:16, Eph 5:8-10.)
This is the purpose behind our salvation… the glory of God! In order to fully appreciate the comfort which is ours in Christ Jesus, we must be striving to fulfill the purpose behind our salvation… that God Himself might be honored and praised for the work which He has done in us.
“…To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5b-6 (ESV))
May 13, 2008
Speaking of false teachers… John Hendryx has posted an excellent article on the distortion of the gospel which is prevalent in the emerging church movement. It is worth reading. You can find it here http://www.reformationtheology.com/2008/05/the_emergent_church_and_the_go.php
May 12, 2008
I hear a lot of people today saying that Christians should set aside our distinctive doctrinal beliefs and simply “follow Jesus together.”
My response is usually, “How can we follow Jesus together if we don’t agree on the path He is walking?”
Doctrine matters. True, some doctrines matter more than others. For example, we may be able to disagree to some extent over whether Jesus will come back to this earth before, during or after the tribulation, but we must agree that He is coming back (I Thess 4:13-18)!!! We may disagree over the continuation of a supernatural prophetic gift today, but we must agree that Scripture is the only rule of faith and practice (II Tim 3:16-17)!!!
Most importantly, we must agree on the gospel. The gospel alone is of “first importance” (I Cor 15:1-4.) The gospel is the power of God for salvation and no one is saved apart from the biblical good news of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf through His righteous life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection!
Doctrine matters! We should all be striving to grow on a daily basis in our knowledge of the truth proclaimed by God in Scripture.
For a helpful article on why doctrine matters, read what Dr. John MacArthur has to say here http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/05/09/why-doctrine-matters/