Main Point: The word forms the church
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).
The sacred writings are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15).
All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).
Ajith Fernando writes, “This is the heart of Christian faith: an attitude that makes people continue to go to the Scriptures in order to learn more and to grow. Just as salvation is through faith, so is growth in the Christian life. When we study the Bible, it is not some meritorious act through which we can claim to have grown spiritually. Bible study that pleases God is an expression of faith. It is an attitude that says, ‘I am needy. You alone can satisfy my need. You have spoken a message and is recorded in the Bible. I will go to that book as a hungry baby seeks her mother for milk” (469, 1 Pet 2:2).
God is glorified and Jesus receives the reward for his sacrifice when the word is preached and believed. Let’s turn our attention now to the preaching of God’s word and may we stir up in one another a desire to obey God’s word. Read Acts 17:10-16.
I. The word of God is proclaimed (10, 13)
If you were given the task of evangelizing, discipling, and planting churches in Hood and Somervell counties how would you do it? What would be your priority in each city? This missionary team in Acts 17 had a clear strategy: proclaim the word of God.
- Paul proclaimed the word of God in Berea
The team set to work to make the word of God known wherever they went. They were constantly and consistently preaching and explaining the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Look again at Acts 17:13. What did Paul get in trouble for? “When the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds.”
Remember what we saw last week in Acts 17:2 and 3. Give reasons for repentance and faith. Explain and prove the necessity of the Messiah’s death and resurrection. Proclaim that Jesus is that Messiah who died and now lives. We are a people of the word, reading it and sharing it with others.
Have you embraced Jesus’ command to make disciples and plant churches? Are you talking with your neighbors and coworkers about Jesus in general and his resurrection in particular? Am I talking with my neighbors about Jesus in general and his resurrection in particular? Jesus’ command to go make disciples must include a faithful proclamation and defense of the word of God.
Is your neighbor into violence? Start with an invitation to read the book of Judges together. Is your coworker into poetry? Pick some Psalms to discuss. Is your neighbor into suspense? Read 1st and 2nd Kings. The word of God is wonderful, and it all moves toward Jesus. Get to know your neighbor and make an appropriate invitation to read and consider the word of God. Set a time to get together for dinner or coffee and talk about what you are reading.
We see in these three missionaries a faithful example worthy of imitation. We must fill our conversations with the resurrection of Jesus. In these verses we also see other faithful brothers worthy of imitation. Alongside proclaiming the gospel, we need to work so that others can proclaim the gospel.
Not everyone of us should be a church planter. Look again at verse 14, “Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.”
Who were these faithful brothers who covered these one hundred miles down and then back from Berea to Athens? They were men committed to the necessity of planting churches through proclaiming the word of God. And they were men who put their lives at risk to help a missionary on the run from persistent persecution. They were men who likely helped pay the way.
Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” In the church there were former thieves and women of high standing all united in Jesus and working together for the cause of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and making disciples.
Are we together? Are we supporting gospel advance? Are we proclaiming the word of God in our community? In order to see people saved and churches planted, we must proclaim the word of God. It is for the believers to proclaim the word and it is for unbelievers to receive the word
II. The word of God is received (11)
What did the Jews in Berea do with the word of God? Verse 11, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
It has been a while, so it bears repeating again here. Jews are not saved because they are Jews. A Jew is saved because he/she repents and believes in Jesus. Salvation is by faith and not by family. Dig into Ephesians 2. God’s people are no longer a biological group descended from Abraham. God’s people, his household, is a spiritual body made up of Jews and Gentiles who are united by faith to Jesus, Jesus is the true offspring of Abraham. The believing church, not the unbelieving Jews, are the people of God. Will there be a future conversion of many Jews? I believe so; before Jesus returns there will be a massive engrafting of Jews into the new covenant. They will return to God through repentance and faith in Jesus. The apostle Paul understood this; it is necessary for both Jew and Gentile to be born again through faith in Jesus the resurrected Messiah.
So, let’s ask three questions. What does it look like to be noble? What does it look like to eagerly receive the word? And what does it look like to examine the Scriptures? First,
- What does it look like to be noble?
Get this, the noble are not necessarily the wealthy. I am wrong, but when I think of nobility I often think of the Lords and Ladies of Europe. Doing a quick and dangerous internet search, it appears that during the Middle Ages after a soldier accomplished some great feat, let’s call it a noble feat, he would be rewarded with a large piece of land. Rewarded for his nobility, he now begins to acquire more wealth. Fast forward through the centuries and nobility became attached to land and wealth and not to noble deeds.
This European idea of nobility is not what is celebrated in Acts 17:11. Instead, to be noble is to eagerly receive the word of God and examine the Scriptures to see if the things proclaimed are true. To be noble is to be neither naïve nor cynical. To be noble is to commit to the pursuit of what is true. To be noble is to work hard, because let’s be honest, the easiest intellectual positions are being naïve or being cynical. It takes no effort to believe everything or believe nothing. It takes great effort to test everything and hold fast to what is true.
Regardless of your family tree you can be nobility but not if you are lazy. The noble feat you must complete is receive the word of God, examine the word of God, and believe the word of God. So,
- What does it look like to eagerly receive the word?
Look again at verses 10 and 11. Who are these people who eagerly receive the word and where are they? They are Jews in a synagogue. Every Sabbath they gathered together to pray and hear God’s word. So, when Paul came preaching the word of God, they eagerly received it. Remember Paul is reasoning with them from the Scriptures. These unconverted not-yet-born-again Jews have an appreciation for the word of God, so they listened and tried to understand what was being proclaimed from God’s word.
This eagerness to receive the word is giving your attention to preaching because the word of God is being preached. The opposite of eagerly receiving the word is seen in people who will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Tim 4:3). One group wants the word of God, and the other group wants to be entertained.
Parents, look at your children who want to be baptized. Is there an eagerness to hear the word of God? Is there a desire to read and understand the word? A soldier who cares nothing for the letters from his girlfriend should not marry her when he returns home. In the same sense, a person who cares nothing for the word of God should not be baptized. But let’s be careful and not confuse an eagerness to hear the word of God with salvation. This eagerness leads to belief. But before belief, let’s consider our next question
- What does it look like to examine the Scriptures?
These noble Jews who eagerly received the preached word committed themselves to studying the word of God daily to test what was being preached. Here is a people engaged with the message and committed to testing the message. It plays out like this, just because I claim I am preaching the bible does not mean I am preaching the bible. Just because I want to preach the bible does not mean I am preaching the bible. I must faithfully reason from and explain the bible. I must prove what I am preaching is bound up with the bible. It is not enough for me to say it; I must show you from the word why it is so. Preach the word! Preach Christ!
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” This commitment is why I am careful not to tell a lot of stories about me or about other people for that matter. My calling is to preach Christ and prove what I am preaching by showing you the word of God. It’s then your job to listen to what I am preaching and check it against the word. I am not infallible, but the word of God is infallible. I will err but the word of God cannot err.
As we listen, there is a fine line between being suspicious and being discerning. The suspicious listener always expects a trap, while the discerning listener is always looking for the truth. The noble among us are those who are always looking for the truth.
And let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about evangelism and church planting. It is the word of God that forms the church. It is the word of God preached, examined, and believed that forms the church. Buildings and programs can be helpful trellises on which the vine of spiritual life grows. But buildings and programs must never replace the clear and consistent preaching of the word of God to people eager to receive it, test it, and believe it.
III. The word of God is believed (12)
Here, at the point of belief, is conversion. So,
- What is the difference between receiving, examining, and believing the word of God?
The simple answer is the difference between receiving, examining, and believing the word of God is conversion. Like in Berea, receiving and examining can be done by unbelievers. Believing the word is what makes a believer. Last week we used the word persuaded.
You could give me a cup of water. I could receive the cup eagerly, I could then study it’s claims and best uses, but not until I drink do I believe.
You could give me bread. I could receive the bread eagerly, I could study its golden crust and delight in its aroma, but not until I eat it do I believe.
So, how do you know if you are believing the word of God? One way to judge is if the Holy Spirit would call you noble. Are you like these noble Bereans? Do you eagerly receive the word? Do you examine the Scriptures to see if the word of God proclaimed matches the word of God written?
Listen, I’m not saying only those who are giddy about a 4am Bible study are saved. What I am saying is if there is no hunger for the word of God why do you think you will ever be filled? If there is no thirst for the word of God, why do think you will be satisfied?
Jesus cries out to us, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David” (Isaiah 55:1-3; John 6:35; 7:37-39).
Search the Scriptures and see if these things are so. Did Jesus say these things? Is he capable of delivering these promises? Answer these questions from the word and follow the glorious answers to eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Salvation demonstrates itself in the pursuit of Jesus for life. Salvation demonstrates itself in the pursuit of Jesus for safety and satisfaction. Salvation demonstrates itself in returning to Christ after the foolishness of spending your money on that which is not bread and laboring for that which does not satisfy. The prodigal demonstrates his sonship through his returning to the Father.
What I mean is do not consider yourself a lost soul beyond repair because you have wandered from the fold and your appetite for Christ has grown dull. Instead, consider that you are a lost sheep and believe he is the Good Shepherd who seeks and saves that which is lost. Search the Scriptures and see if it is so. Believing demonstrates itself in returning. Would you return to him? Would you repent of the sins of shallowness and laboring for what cannot satisfy? You have gone the wrong way. Now it is time to return to the shepherd and overseer of your soul. He died and rose again for you. He will take you in.
What then is the difference between receiving, examining, and believing the word of God? Believers depend on Jesus, believers hunger and thirst for Jesus, and believers return to Jesus. Those who merely receive and examine are those who love truth for the sake of truth, but they do not rejoice over Jesus crucified, raised, and coming again. Those who merely receive and examine are those who rejoice over logic and beauty, but they do not fast yearning for the bridegroom’s return. We are thankful for all those in Berea who believed. There were men and women who believed. There were Jews and Gentiles who believed. There were high standing women as well as men who believed.
The gospel was preached. The word of God was proclaimed. The people eagerly received the word, they tested the word, and some believed the word. As we seek to make disciples and plant churches, we must commit ourselves to the clear and consistent preaching of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. To the glory of God, a church is formed in Berea. Now, don’t you wish that Paul, Silas, and Timothy could enjoy heaven on earth? Don’t you wish that for a time there would be nothing difficult and only conversions and deep fellowship? Well, snap out of it.
IV. The word of God is opposed (13)
Read along with me in verse 13, “But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds.” Here is the truth of the matter, examine the Scripture to see if it is so,
- You are going to be hated
The Jesus who troubles the world is the Jesus who is hated by the world. Jesus says, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). Why did these Jews hate Paul? It is because Paul preached the resurrection of Jesus as the only means by which Jew and Gentile can receive the life of God. Stop preaching Christ crucified and the Jews will love you. Stop preaching Jesus as Lord and the Gentiles will love you. Preach the necessity of repentance and faith and you will be hated.
Here now is our question: Is Jesus worth it? This is a very pointed question. Is Jesus worthy of the worship of your neighbors? Do you love your neighbors such that you would die to give them the life you have found in Jesus? Do you see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? A Jesus worthy of half-hearted worship only on Sundays is a Jesus who will be snuffed out in a generation by persecution. But a Jesus who is the life and light of men, a Jesus who is eternal life, a Jesus who is true bread and true drink is a Jesus worth believing in and preaching to all our neighbors and all the nations. Search the Scriptures and see if these things are so.
How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If Jesus has been raised from the dead, then follow him. But if he has not been raised form the dead then let’s eat and drink for life is meaningless and tomorrow we die (1 Kings 18:21; 1 Corinthians 15:32).
God has promised us in his word that all who believe in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Jesus will keep us, feed us, and give us abundant life. Will you receive that word eagerly, examine it to see if it is so, and will you believe it? Let us be a people who stand on every promise of his word. Let us be a church built by the word of God.