GOSPEL FOUNDATIONS (Acts 14:13-42)
God is at work (13:14-25)
Jesus is God’s saviour (13:26-37)
Repent for the forgiveness of sins (13:38-42)
· 10 on Opendoors persecution watch list. One of the 10 most difficult countries for Christians to live in.
· One of the fastest rising. Was 31st in 2012, 15th in 2016. I was last there 5 years ago and can see the difference
· Can worship, live holy lives, love other people – but not allowed to evangelize, to share the gospel with the aim of converting someone else.
· Raises the question – is it possible for the church to be the church and not be evangelistic? To worship Christ but not witness for Christ?
· The resounding answer from the book of Acts is no!
· We’ve been working out way through this book and if you’ve missed this point, then you’ve missed the whole point.
You will be witnesses (Acts 1:8)
· The book of Acts traces the fulfilment of this promise.
· Not a command, a promise. This is the single, irresistible, inevitable effects that the Holy Spirit will have once He is given to the Church – He will thrust God’s people out into worldwide witness to Christ.
· Acts 2 – Spirit comes and immediately they preach and speak in the tongues of the nations, so that people from all nations who were in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost heard the gospel in their own language.
· Acts 4 the persecution begins and Peter and John and threatened and charged to be silent. Acts 4:18-20 – proclaiming Christ is a matter of obedience. No-one has the right or authority to command us not to preach.
· Wave after wave of opposition comes upon the church and yet we get these constant reports scattered throughout the book of Acts – the Word of God continued to go out and bear fruit.
· Acts 8 we have persecution coming upon the whole church and they are scatted into Judea and Samaria. Acts 11:19-21. What did the believers do as they fled persecution for preaching the gospel? They preached the gospel….
· So the gospel came to Antioch by the sovereign hand of God and the faithful witness of ordinary believers and in Acts 13 Antioch becomes the first church to send out church-based foreign missionaries to take the gospel to those who have never heard.
· Global, worldwide, cross cultural missions is launched in Acts 13 and has continued ever since – because missions is not just what the church does – it’s what the church is.
Paul’s first missionary journey
· Paul’s first missionary journey takes them from Antioch in Syria through Cypris, Asia minor and Galatia and then all the way back again.
· Acts 13-14 records this preaching crusade of about 2 years
· In first century context it was a massive undertaking. For 2 years they would face danger and difficulty and persecution wherever they went. Covered over 2500 km. The travel costs alone amounted to over R60k in today’s financial terms
· MAP - video
· We pick up the account this morning in Acts 13:14….
Read Acts 13:14-42
2 strategies for silencing the gospel
· Fear – so that believers don’t proclaim the gospel
· Corruption – so when believers do speak, they don’t proclaim the true gospel accurately.
· In Luke-Acts we see both of these strategies at work, and yet we see God being faithful to preserve the message.
This morning, what we need to take home from this text – is a clear understanding of the core of the gospel message.
What is the gospel message in its essential core? Once we have overcome our fear to open our mouths and speak – what must come out? What is the message we must proclaim?
It’s a simple message and yet Satin has been very effective in corrupting and confusing the church about it.
Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of your sins.
· Jesus is God’s messiah who was sent to earth with one major mission – to die. His death had one major purpose – to pay the penalty for our sin, to satisfy God’s righteous anger at sin so that sinners could be forgiven and reconciled to God. The gospel is not merely information, its an invitation, it requires a response – that we turn from our sin and entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ.
This is the simple message we see proclaimed over and over through the book of Acts. Go look at the gospel message proclaimed by Peter on the day of Pentecost, or Stephen on the day he was martyred on here in Acts 13 and you will find these same elements repeated…Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins.
We probably have an edited summary of what Paul preached, but Luke has been inspired by the Spirit to record the essential elements.
The speech can be divided into 3 parts. In the English text the markers are little obscured by the different word order but each section is marked off by the key phrase “brethren.” Literally “men” – its designed to get their attention (16, 26, 38)
· Brethren, know this
· Brethren know this
· Brethren know this.
1. God has taken the initiative in providing salvation
2. Jesus is God’s way of salvation
3. Repent for the forgiveness of sins
1: God is at work (14-25)
· Paul and Barnabus go to the Synagogue
· Every city and town had a synagogue which formed the religious and civic centre for Jews scattered throughout the Roman empire.
· This was pretty standard order of service – to have readings from the Law and the Prophets and then a sermon. Paul was a Jewish Rabbi with formal training under Gamaliel and well known in Jewish circles, so it would have been natural for him to be asked to preach.
· Vs 16 we see that there were both Jews and proselytes or Gentile converts to Judaism present.
· So Paul’s audience is almost exclusively Jews and converts to Judaism, so its natural for him to start with their own history.
· Later in Acts he will be kicked out of the Synagogue and preach more exclusively to Gentiles and so his starting point will change. We’ll see that the gospel message doesn’t change, but the point of entry does.
Paul gives a brief survey of Israel’s history
· He starts with God’s election or choice of their fathers or forefathers because that’s where the Bible starts. In Gen 12 God appeared to Abraham and promised to make him a great nation and through him and the nation that would come from him, to bring His blessing to all nations (Genesis).
· Vs 17 He talks about how God multiplied them in the land of Egypt so that they went from being a family of 40 related people to a nation of over a million people (Exodus).
· 18: The wilderness wanderings where God taught them who He is and what it means to be His people (Numbers).
· 19: the conquest of Canaan – how God brought them into the promised land (Joshua)
· 20: The Judges until Samuel who appointed Israel’s first king.
· 21: Saul was the kind of king the people wanted, but 22: God chose David, a man after God’s own heart through whom to build His kingdom and fuflill His plans and purposes.
· 23: It is through David that God’s promised messiah or king would come.
· 23 this all happened according to the promise – this was the covenant promise that God had given David in 2 Sam 7. David had wanted to build God a great house to His glory. God says, no, I am the one who will build a great house, or dynasty for you. He makes David this promise that one of His descendants will always sit on the throne ruling over Israel and ultimately over the nations.
He makes the point in vs 23 this greater king, this greater David who was God’s promised king, God’s eternal ruler – is Jesus….
God has been at work in the history of Israel preparing them to understand their need for a saviour and king who is Jesus
God at work
What we must note about this inspired survey of Israel’s history is the emphasis on God. Everything that has happened is God’s doing, this is God’s story, God’s work.
· 17: God chose them and made them great
· 18: God put them in the wilderness
· 19: God destroyed seven nations
· 20: God gave them judges
· 21: God gave them Saul
· 22: God raised up David and made a promise to him.
God, God, God – God is the author and architect of salvation history…This is all about what God has done and is doing – long before we were even born or became aware of him.
That is true in the case of the Jews and the nation of Israel and that is true in the case of anyone who comes to salvation. Every believer has a testimony of how God was at work in our lives to bring us to the point of salvation. Through different circumstances and people and events God was at work and His work ultimately served to focus us on our need for Christ and the salvation that God has provided in Him.
Application: How has God been at work?
That’s a simple question you can ask someone to open up a gospel conversation – “What has God been doing in your life.” If God has been at work drawing them to Christ and preparing them for Christ – then they will have some kind of answer to that question.
That’s pre-evangelism – helping someone see that God real and at work in their lives. In the case of those who have no knowledge of the Bible, its helping them helping them understand the true character of the true God.
Illustration: While in India I spoke to a man who was converted from Hinduism and his conversation rested on one realization – that for years he worshipped these idols who never spoke nor acted. But when he was introduced to the God of the Bible, he was introduced to a God who speaks and acts. That is what prepared him to listen to what the Bible teaches about salvation in Christ and Christ alone.
God’s work is ultimately always going to point us to Christ as God’s mediator, God’s solution for our sin.
Vs 24-25 serves as a transition to the next major point in the sermon – Jesus is God’s saviour. This was in fact what John the Baptists whole ministry was about – He was at one and the same time the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament prophets. His great privilege was to get people’s attention and then point them away from himself to Christ.
This remains our great privilege too. Our lives, our testimony, our witness, gospel presentations must always find their focal point in Christ and Christ alone.
1: God is at work in our life and circumstances
2: Jesus is God’s Saviour (26-37)
26: So begins the next major section with the statement “Brethren.” God has sent us this message of salvation. God has sent us the gospel.
What is this gospel – Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins.
27: Jesus died at the hands of sinful men, at the hands of His own people who neither recognized him as God’s messiah, nor believed the prophets who pointed to Him.
The irony is that in rejecting Jesus as messiah and the prophetic writings which pointed to Him – they actually fulfilled them because these same writings predicted that God’s messiah would be a sacrifice for sin.
According to the Scriptures
Paul’s statement that Jesus died does not stand alone – He died according to the Scriptures. He says it again in vs 29 “When they had done all that was written concerning him, they took him down.” Everything that unfolded on that fateful day was according to God’s plan and purpose, was exactly in fulfilment of all that the Scriptures predicted.
· The gospels are careful to show this connection – how every detail, every action, was not a chance action, but a fulfilment of prophesy.
· And He was buried and God raised him and He appeared for many days to those who are His witnesses.
· 32 and we preach to you the good news which is the fulfilment of the promises which God has made to our forefathers.
Then He goes on to cite some of those Scriptures, particularly the ones that prove Jesus’ resurrection
· Ps 2:7 which is a messianic Psalm speaking about God’s Son, God’s anointed ruler
· Is 55:3 the holy and sure blessings promised to David which could be sure or permanent only because of the resurrection of the promised Son of David.
· Ps 16:10 about God’s annointed not seeing decay. Paul makes the point in vs 36 that David died and decayed, but Jesus was raised as the promised son of David who would always live to rule and fulfil God’s promises.
The background to these O.T citations is the Davidic covenant in 2 Sam 7 where God promised to give David a descendent to sit on His throne and rule over all nations forever. That Davidic covenant could only be realized by a king who came as a descendant of David and established a universal, eternal kingdom. And so the Davidic covenant gave rise to messianic hope that one day God would send such a king…. Paul’s point is Jesus s that king because He has conquered death and so lives to rule forever.
Gospel according to the Scriptures
The take home for us is that the gospel is in accordance with the Scriptures. When we share the gospel with someone, we are not sharing a philosophical system or presenting a way of life or a convincing idelology.
The gospel is rooted in actual historical events which lead up to the death and resurrection of Christ as as revealed in the Scriptures. If someone is going to believe in Jesus Christ, they must believe in what the Scriptures teach about him.
Faith in the Bible leads to faith in Jesus Christ. Apart from the Bible we know very little about who Jesus is and why He died. So when we present the gospel we must be using the Scriptures. We don’t have to always open our bibles and quote the references but we should be showing people the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the bible is the only true Jesus and the one people must accept in order to be saved.
Jews have their own ideas about Jesus, as do Hindu’s, Muslims and Secular historians – but saving faith is centered on the Jesus of the Bible – the Jesus revealed in the Bible is the only real Jesus and therefore the only one who can save.
If God is preparing the soil of someone’s heart for the gospel, then He is at the same time preparing them to accept what the Bible teaches about Jesus.
Logical arguments and clever analogies and convincing evidences have their place – but our primary task is to present the simple facts of the gospel as they are contained in the Scriptures – Jesus died for our sin, was buried and was raised for our salvation.
Faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17).
So – help them see how God has been at work in their lives and then present Jesus as God’s king and God’s solution for sin.
3: Repent (38-41)
Which brings us to the last part of Paul’s address – again marked out by the distinct phrase – Listen brethren….
And now Paul gets very person and very direct – now the gospel is not only proclaimed to us – but to YOU.
The gospel is not merely information its an invitation. We are not done sharing the gospel until we have called a person to make a personal response.
Do you believe?
· Faith in the Bible is not merely intellectual assent to certain historical or theological truths.
· Faith is a wholehearted response, it includes repentance – believing what the Bible says about the ugliness of our sin. Believing that because of our sin we rightly deserve God’s judgement. Believing it so fully that we feel a certain hatred for our sin, a desire to turn from it.
· Faith in the Bible is not merely turning away from our sin. That is what the Old Testament law demanded – obedience. But it demanded what people could never give…
· That is why Paul reminds them in vs 38 through faith in Jesus we are freed from everything that the Law could not free us from.
· The Greek word there is more literally “Justified.”
· Through the law our sin is exposed and we are shown to be guilty as charged. Deserving of punishment.
· Justification is the opposite of legal guilt and condemnation – its innocence. To be justified is not merely to be pardoned of sin but to be declared to be free of it, innocent of any wrongdoing.
· Justification is only found in Jesus Christ because only He completely fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law and only He was able to fully pay the penalty the law demands.
Faith in Jesus is to wholeheartedly entrust yourself to Him – as God’s king and your king. As God’s savour and your saviour. As the only one who can justify you before an all-holy God and free you from the penalty and power of sin.
In preaching the gospel we are calling people to turn from their sin and entrust themselves to Jesus to save them from their sin.
· Reconcilliation with God is the goal
· Jesus is not a means to some better end, to a better life, or health or wealth – that’s another gospel.
· Jesus is the means to restore my relationship with my God – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.
So he ends with the warning in vs 40 – take heed….Don’t ignore this offer to be reconciled with God. Don’t merely listen to this message – respond to it.
· Have your responded?
· Some here this morning come to church, know many of these facts – but you do not know God. This invitation is for you!
· 1 Cor 15:1-4
· This is the gospel, the sacred message which has been entrusted to us and must be passed on without corruption as the only message able to save sinners from eternal hell.
· Christ died…..
This morning, what we need to take home from this text – is a clear understanding of the core of the gospel message.
· Jesus died, Jesus rose – repent for the forgiveness of your sins
Will you be faithful to pass on this message as received – even this week?
If we are not a gospel preaching church, we are not a church. To be a Christian is to be an ambassador for Christ entrusted with the most powerful message in the universe.
We are not called to be clever, or convincing. We are not responsible for what people do with this simple message – but we are responsible to proclaim it and to call people to responds personally.