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Gospel results



Main Scriptures
Series: Acts
Book: Acts
Scripture References

GOSPEL RESULTS (Acts 13:42-52)


The responsibility of an evangelists is to faithfully preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God. If we get obsessed with gaining converts or avoiding a bad response – we are going to change the message into something that tickles people’s ears or stop preaching it altogether.

In this text we will see that people have a mixed response to the gospel, and we will also see what a saving response looks like.

A mixed response to the gospel (42-47)

  • Interest (42)

  • Curiosity (43)

  • Excitement (44)

  • Animosity (45)

A saving response to the gospel (48-52)


Open your Bibles to Act 13 as we continue our study through Acts.

Last week we looked at foundations of the gospel message. What is the content of the gospel: Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins.

It’s a simple message which carries the power of God to transform the direction and eternal destiny of a person’s life. The gospel is not merely information, it’s an invitation, it demands a response. Paul brings his gospel message to a close by calling for a personal response and issuing a warning in vs 40 “Beware.” Beware of scoffing at or ignoring the gospel.

Now we are going to get an inspired illustration of how various people do in fact respond to the gospel and why.

I’ve entitled this message “Gospel results.” It’s important that we understand the content of the gospel, the gospel foundations, but it also important that what results when we preach the gospel, and what results is not always conversion. Gospel preaching is sometimes going to result in the glorious fruit of conversion and sometimes going to result in the rotten fruit of rejection and everything in between.

The responsibility of an evangelists is to faithfully preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God. If we get obsessed with gaining converts or avoiding a bad response – we are going to change the message into something that tickles people’s ears or stop preaching it altogether.

So this morning we will see that people have a mixed response to the gospel, and we will also see what a saving response looks like.



Read Acts 13:42-52



When Paul and Barnabas had finished preaching the gospel, the people begged them to come back again the next Sunday that they might learn more.

The Greek uses the imperfect tense which means repeated action over time. So they repeatedly asked and invited them to come back. It wasn’t just a once-off polite gesture, “Wonderful Sermon, we could have listened to you all day” and then under your breath you say to your wife, “and it felt like we did.” There was real interest and a desire to hear more.

For some, that desire to hear more will quickly turn into a conviction that they’ve heard enough and a desire to silence the message. But for now, on the whole, there was a positive response to the gospel.


curiosity (43)

So the Synagogue meeting is closed and some go home, but many can’t wait until next Saturday, their spiritual appetite has been awakened. They want to hear more and so they presumably follow Paul and Barnabas to another venue where they can hear more.

There seems to be genuine spiritual hunger here and Paul and Barnabas urge them to continue in the grace of God. They see this as an evidence of God’s grace at work, and yet they don’t start baptizing them yet.

In other parts of Acts, those who believe the message are urged to be baptized and are immediately brought into the church. Something in this scenario must have cautioned Paul and Barnabas not to get overly excited too soon.



How often have you seen this? Someone seems to be interested, they are asking questions, agree to come to church and they seem genuinely interested….and yet 2-3 months later they are back to their old life….

An initial positive response to the gospel is not necessarily a saving response. Even genuine interest and curiosity, even an excitement about the gospel doesn’t necessarily indicate saving faith has taken root – perseverance, continuing in the grace of God is a more sure sign.


I’ve called the next inadequate response – excitement. It says that the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. Who told the city? Paul and Barnabas surely didn’t go around distributing gospel tracts and invitations to the next evangelistic meeting.

Those who had heard the message the previous week obviously didn’t stop speaking about it the whole week and everyone they came in contact with heard about God who has provided a way for sinners to be forgiven and justified before Him through the death of Jesus.

We get so used to this message, we forget just how radical it is. There is nothing like salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone – in any other system or form of religion. 

It would appear that it was the Gentile component of the Synagogue, the god-fearers who were the most excited and who went and told all their friends. Now this Jewish synagogue has been overrun with Gentile savages…. All eager to hear about this new way of salvation which is open to all.

Which brings us to the fourth inadequate response – criticism/animosity


Those same Jews who on a level accepted the gospel the week before and allowed Paul and Barnabas to come back to preach – they now begin to refute the message, to contradict it.

·     The Greek word is “anti-lego” to speak against, to say the opposite of what they were saying. Again the imperfect tense is used indicating repeated action over time. A week ago they had been repeatedly begging to hear more – now they were repeatedly contradicting and refuting everything Paul and Barnabas had to say.

·     They not only attacked the message, but they attacked the messenger. The end of vs 45 says they “reviled him.” If you can’t refute the message, then attack the messenger.

·     The Greek word says literally, “they blasphemed” which is a good reminder that their rejection was ultimately against God, their clever arguments and attacks were really just blasphemy.


What you must notice here, is that those who were rejecting the gospel were not doing so on intellectual grounds, because the truth claims of the gospel couldn’t stand up to careful scrutiny.

They were rejecting the gospel on moral grounds. Because they were jealous. It was the sin that they were cherishing in their hearts that lead them to reject the gospel.

That is always the case….Rom.1 teaches that though all men know that God exists and can see His creatie work and power in the things that God has made – yet they suppress the truth because they don’t want to worship or be accountable to God.

At the root of ever person’s rejection of the gospel, is some of other sin they are wanting to hold on to. Put simply – we either love our sin and hate the gospel or hate our sin and love the gospel. Or to put it another way, faith includes repentance, we turn away from our sin and toward God in one movement – with one desire – that we might be freed from our sin to worship and know God.

A Tense Situation

If you put yourself in Paul’s shoes at this point, this is a very difficult situation. Some really seem to be interested in the message and want to hear more. Others have clearly rejected the message and many are somewhere in between these two extremes. You are trying to explain the gospel, but are being refuted and contradicted at every point and now even being personally attacked and reviled.

To make matters even more volatile, it seems that the line between those who were interested and those who were rejecting the message were largely drawn on the basis of ethnicity. The Jews were rejecting, and the the god-fearing Gentiles were receiving the message.  The Jews were jealous, they didn’t like the idea of Jesus being God’s messiah for the Gentiles also. What right did they have to God’s favour, God’s promise or God’s messiah. They were historically Israel’s enemies and the ones who attacked them and exiled them out of the promised land.

In vs 47 Paul quotes from Isaiah 49 to explain their actions.

Read Is 49:1-8

·     These form part of what are called the servants songs of Isaiah.

·     They are a series of songs which celebrate the person and work of the messiah. Isaiah 53 forms part of these songs – “He was bruised for our iniquities and crushed for our sins and upon him was laid the chastisement that brought us peace….”

·     Originally the nation of Israel was chosen to be God’s servant to the nations, but they failed and so God began to speak of another servant who would come, His messiah, who would faithfully fulfil all that Israel had failed to do for God’s glory.

·     They were accepted by the Jews as messianic and here in vs 6 Paul highlights the fact that God’s mission for the messiah was not merely to bring back the lost tribes of Israel, but to be a light to the Gentiles, to all nations.

·     The Jews had no reason to be jealous, it was always God’s intention that through the seed of Abraham to bring his blessing to all nations and tribes.  But the sad things is that the Jews were thrusting their messiah aside and in so doing judging themselves unworthy of eternal life- and the Gentiles were receiving him.


So up to this point we have a whole range of responses to the message – interest, curiosity, excitement, animosity. This is the parable of the sower in action.

Parable of sower

You remember Jesus told this parable in Luk 8 of the sower who sows the seed of God’s Word and the seed falls on different kinds of soils. The soils are representative of the condition of the human heart. Some fell on rocky soil, some on thorny soil, some fell along the path and depending on the condition of the human heart, the seed of God’s Word was either choked out by thorns, or eaten by the birds or withered by the heat of the sun. In 3 of the 4 kinds of soil there was an initial flourishing, an initial sprouting, something that looked like new life, but only one soil bore lasting spiritual fruit.


So the various responses that people have to the Word of God, are not a reflection of the truth of the gospel, or the clarity of the gospel or the power of the gospel, they are a reflection of the condition of the human heart.


Which raises the question – how does a person’s heart come to be in that condition in which the seed of the gospel can take root and grow and flourish? Who prepares the human heart, who tills the soil of the heart – because the evangelists job is merely to sow the seed, to scatter the seed.

In the next section we see what a right response to the gospel looks like and we see who is responsible for such a response.



Here we see the Gentiles rejoicing at the word, glorifying the word and believing the word.

·     Again the Greek uses the imperfect tense showing repeated action over time. They were repeatedly rejoicing over and esteeming the Word of God, holding the Word in highest regard.

·     This is a whole hearted response involving the intellect, the emotions and the will. It might have been short lived, like the excitement we saw earlier in the chapter, but the text indicates that this was genuine and it explains why.


Why did these Gentiles have such a positive response to the gospel message?

·     Was it because they had diligently been seeking God, or because they had a better upbringing, or better intellect? Does the text put their right response down to anything involving human merit or worth?

·     The text says those who had been appointed to eternal life believed.

·     It says literally – they were rejoicing over and esteeming the Word of God and they were believing. Who was believing? The ones who had been appointed unto eternal life.

·     The tense changes to a perfect passive showing completed action in the past. The ones who had been appointed, chosen, designated or ordained unto eternal life.

·     The perfect tense shows that this was something that was done in the past and the results of this election were now being realized.

·     The passive shows that this is not something they did for themselves, they were passive, this election or being ordained unto eternal life was done on their behalf by God in the past.


Here, in an almost matter-of-fact way we are confronted with the doctrine of divine election, or divine choice.

·     At its root, the doctrine of election explains why people have various responses to the Word of God, why some reject the message and other receive it.

·     Note the contrast in this text – those who reject the Word are those who have judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. They don’t reject the message because of God’s divine election. They reject the message because of sin, because they are full of pride and envy and jealousy. People reject the gospel because it doesn’t suite their sinful agenda’s and they reject it freely, by their own will and choice and desire. And they deserve God’s judgment because they have rejected his offer of salvation, his sacrifice for their sin.

·     Those who receive the gospel also receive it gladly and freely, by their own will and desire. They don’t receive the gospel against their will but as an expression of what they truly desire.

·     But how did they come to have such a positive disposition to the Word? How is it that they believe while others disbelieve, that they rejoice and esteem the Word while others contradict and revile it? Does the difference lie in some genetic, or ethnic, or ancestoral privilege? Are they less sinful, or more intelligent? Did they do something to prepare their hearts to be ready for the gospel?

·     If the answer is yes – then ultimately salvation is not a gift from God, but the product of human effort or merit.

But the root cause of the difference lies not in the men or women – but in the eternal purposes of God. Those who believed were those who in eternity past had been chosen by God to be the recipients of eternal life.

This is called the doctrine of “unconditional election.” Divine, sovereign election. That from the mass of sinful depraved humanity who all deserve His wrath and judgment because of their sin – God selects or choses some to be the objects of mercy. God so works in the minds and hearts of those He chooses, so that when they hear the message they will rejoice and glory in it and believe it.


Many find this doctrine offensive, but I can see no other way to understand this text and many others which teach the same thing.

·     Jn 6:44, 65:  Jesus said no-one can come to Him in saving faith unless He has been drawn by the Father.

·     Rom 8:28-30: Those who are foreknown and chosen and called and justified by God- predestined unto glory.

·     Eph 1:3-5,11-12: We were chosen or selected before the foundation of the world in order to be holy in Christ and adopted as God’s son. We were adopted because of God’s choice of us, long before we even existed -before the world was founded and it was love that motivated God to chose us for himself.

·     1 Thess 1:4-5: How did Paul know that God had chosen the Thessalonians? Because when he preached the gospel it came with power and conviction and was received with joy.

·     2 Thess 2:13 He affirms their election again

·     2 Tim 1:8-9: God saved us not because of anything we did, but by grace. When did God purpose to give us his grace in Christ? Before the ages began

·     Titus 1:1-3 Paul labours for the sake of God’s elect that they might be grounded in the truth and attain to the eternal life which God had promised before the ages began.

Why would people be offended by this doctrine which is so clearly taught in just about every letter in the New Testament?

·     Well they say it’s unfair. What right does God have to chose some and not others? But mercy, by definition is unearned, unmerited favour. If God is obligated to show mercy to all, then it’s no longer mercy – its what we have merited or earned or have a right to.

·     They say it undermines human freedom or choice – but that too is an unfounded objection – we see clearly here that those who reject the gospel do so freely and those who believe, do so freely. God so works in the life of His elect that we freely chose to believe.

God’s means

Notice God’s ordained means for saving His elect – the simple preaching of the gospel.

In vs 49 what is it that is spreading and bearing fruit? The Word of God.

These influential men and women in the city are doing everything they can to silence the message, to stop the Word from going out – but this is God’s ordained means for saving His elect and so we can know that until Christ comes, this message will continue to be preached and it will continue to be received with joy and genuine saving faith.


Why I Love Election

I think it’s one of the most glorious doctrines in the Bible

·     because it affirms – that we are all sinners deserving of God’s judgment and wrath. There is absolutely nothing in me or in any other believer that makes us better than the rest of lost humanity. The only reason why I heard and understood and believed the gospel and they didn’t is God’s grace, God’s unearned unmerited salvation – that should put an end to any pride or boasting on my part. As Eph 2 puts it “By grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves it’s the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no-one can boast.”

·     I love this doctrine because it grounds and secures me in God’s love. God’s choice of me was not a random, arbitrary thing – like drawing a certain number out of a hat, but it says God predestined me in love, He foreknew me or determined to set His love upon me.  That’s what Rom8 goes on to celebrate as a result of God’s election – who shall separate me from the love of God in Christ, if God is for me, who can be against me….”

·     In eternity past God chose me to be the object of His love and He has been working out all the details of world history so that His loving purposes toward me could be realized in time and celebrated in eternity – to the praise of His glorious grace.

·     This doctrine tells me that as long as Christ tarries, it’s for the sake of God’s elect that they might come to faith in Christ. So though many will scoff at the message I can have the assurance that some will rejoice and esteem and believe the word of the Lord. I don’t need to worry about being too clever or being too stupid, I just need to faithfully proclaim the message.