The Authority of Scripture and Missions

Text: Matthew 24:9-14

Main Point: We submit to the authority of Scripture because it is the King’s word.

What sets up the conversation in Matthew 24 is the disciples pointing out how the temple and its buildings are marvelous and majestic. “Look! Hasn’t something wonderful and useful and beautiful been done for God and for God’s people?” Jesus’ response is a cup of cold water applied to the face. Every big and beautiful stone will be thrown down. The stone temple will not last.

The disciples ask when will these things happen and what will be the signs of Jesus’ return at the close of the age. The early signs are sobering. There will be many who claim to be Jesus. There will be wars, rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes. Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with all of these signs. This world is a broken place.

The later signs move from general suffering for all to particular persecution of Christians. We pick up here with Matthew 24:9-14. Let’s read the passage together (read Mt 24:9-14).

I need to make what is implicit explicit; what is subtle needs to be made clear. The God who created the universe with his word is the God who is creating his church with his word. Jesus makes it clear in John 8:31 that a person’s response to Jesus’ words divides those who are God’s people from those who are not God’s people. Jesus says, “If you abide in my word then you are truly my disciples.” John echoed his master’s teaching when he wrote, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). To be a Christian is to think and act like Jesus. The way Jesus thinks and acts has been recorded perfectly in God’s Word. Therefore, we are a people who submit ourselves to thinking and acting according to God’s Word. We cherish God’s Word by obeying it. Our glorious King has spoken, let’s seek to line up with his Word.

What is Jesus saying to the church?

Looking at Matthew 24,

1. The King’s word calls us to persevere in godliness

The closer we approach the 2nd coming of Christ the more we will see the latter signs. Verse 9, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” We need strength to persevere because

  • All the nations will hate us (9)

According to 1 Peter 2:9, the church is a royal priesthood and a holy nation. We Christians are a people purchased by God at the price of his precious and holy Son. Transferred by God into the kingdom of Jesus, we now think and live and act like Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that living for Jesus is what gets us hated by Russia, China, and America. The church is a nation hated by all the nations. The church is a nation that will be hunted and killed by all the nations. Jesus is preparing us to be hated; that’s sobering news.

But things get worse because even the church can be a dangerous place. Verse 9 talks about the hatred of the nations toward the church. Verse 10 talks about the hatred of so-called Christians toward the church. Know this

  • Many will hate the truth (10)

Verse 10, “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.”

Many will be shocked and scandalized by what it means to follow Jesus. Most nations are cool with a Jesus who is cool with everybody and everything, but a Jesus who exercises absolute authority over our thinking, spending, working, and sexuality is too much to bear. Expect to see “Christians” reject Jesus’ ethic and ultimately stop following Jesus. This is how it will go down: people who listen to Jesus’ words but do not obey Jesus’ words will betray the people who listen to Jesus’ words and obey Jesus’ words. Seeing, savoring, and obeying Jesus is what defines a Christian. We need the Spirit of Christ if we will endure the hatred of the so-called church.

For us now, we guard the front door with church membership and the back door with church discipline precisely because we want the church to be a safe people with whom you can follow Jesus. Verse 11 calls us to defend the word. Know this

  • Many will preach false gospels and false godliness (11)

Look again at verse 11, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” Expect people to preach and teach another gospel and another ethic. Expect people to twist the Scriptures and make excuses for sin. Jesus is calling us to be ready to defend the truth of his word. Jesus’ words in verses 12-13 causes us to stop and count the cost. Do we want to stick with this Jesus? Is Jesus worthy? Is Jesus worth the pain and sacrifice? Have we seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ such that persecution and hatred and death make sense? Listen,

  • Perseverance is hard and necessary (12-13)

Verse 12, “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Thinking about Christianity, the way you start the race, run the race, and finish the race are all definitive. Repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ is the way we start the race. Repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ is the way we run the race. Repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ is the way we finish the race. To put it plainly, our children and grandchildren who start well in family worship, Sunday School, AWANA, and VBS but do not endure to the end will not be saved. The King’s word calls us to persevere in godliness until the end, but we live in the days when sin is increasing and the love of God and neighbor is decreasing. Churches and Christians are falling away because they reject the Word and follow the world. Don’t you be among them. Don’t let me be among them. Don’t let us be among them. Don’t quit. Keep running. Keep repenting and keep believing. Fight for your brothers and sisters. Endure to the end. There is no other way to be saved.

The King’s word calls us to persevere in holiness and

II. The King’s word calls us to persevere in preaching

Matthew 24:14 is the heart of the authority of Scripture and missions. Check it out, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

In the Greek there is a demonstrative pronoun, “this gospel of the kingdom” which separates this gospel from those other gospels. We are responsible for protecting and advancing the gospel. We don’t get to set the rules or shape the message. We must be faithful to preaching and teaching this gospel of Christ’s righteous life, atoning death, victorious resurrection, and soon return. This means 

  • We have good news for the nations (14)

Alongside the hatred of the nations will be the salvation of the nations as men and women hear the good news of reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Some will hate us but some will hear us. Matthew 28:18-20 makes it clear that we are commanded by Jesus to take the gospel across the street to our neighbors and across the ocean to the nations.

The only way people from every nation can find freedom from guilt is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel that came from Jerusalem to Texas is the same gospel that must go from Texas to those who have not heard. We must proclaim this gospel to the nations. We have a responsibility, obligation, and calling to bring life and light to all people. We pray, give, and go for the salvation of the nations. We pray, give, and go because

  • We have a great reward for the work (14)

What does Jesus promise will happen when the gospel of the kingdom reaches the nations? Then the end will come. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” The reward of our work is the appearing of our treasure. The reward of our sacrifice is seeing Jesus face to face.

Alongside the reward of Jesus is the reward of the end of suffering, hatred, persecution, and pain. The advance of the gospel among the nations brings the reward of their salvation, the end of persecution, and the return of Jesus Christ. The word of God compels us to take the gospel to the nations.

Discuss Matthew 24:9-14

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. According to John 8:31, how does Jesus define a Christian? See also 2 John 9.
  3. There is a direct connection between seeing the worth of Jesus and willingly enduring persecution. How can you focus more on Jesus so that persevering through pain, hatred, and death make sense?
  4. Think of the way we bring in new members as guarding the front door of the church and think of the way we practice church discipline as guarding the church. How does cultivating biblical church membership help us be a safe place to follow Jesus together?
  5. Which of these parts of the Christian life is the most important: how we become Christians, how we live as Christians, or how we die as Christians?
  6. Why is it dangerous to pit ministry to our neighbors against ministry to the nations? Is it okay to overlook your neighbors while serving the nations? Is it okay to overlook the nations while serving your neighbors?
  7. Pray for your neighbors who do not belong to a church. Use the daily prayer guide to pray for gospel-work among the nations.
  8. According to Hebrews 9:28, who will be saved? Do you desire Jesus’ return? How can you encourage this desire in your family and in the church?

The Supremacy of God and Missions

Text: Isaiah 49:1-6

Main Point: The worth of Christ requires the salvation of the nations.

Today we need to slow down and think about the heartbeat of the church. What should be the core of who we are? You may have jumped in your mind to the gospel or to the authority of Scripture, and those things are absolutely essential. But the reason the gospel and the authority of the Bible are absolutely essential is because our Triune God is wonderfully glorious and the treasure of our lives. The gospel is only good news because we get the infinitely glorious God. The Bible wields absolute authority over every inch of our lives because of God’s wonderfully good character. A gospel that gives you trash is worthless, and a wicked poser of a god is not worth listening to. The Triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) is the greatest good.

Hear me, the supremacy of God must be the heartbeat of the church. The infinite, incomparable, and for-us-glory of God must shape our individual lives, our collective life as the church, and in particular today, the supremacy of God must be the fuel for missions. Our focus today is on the supremacy of God and missions.

We look to Isaiah 49:1-6 to see the supremacy of God in missions. So we’re all together on what is happening, you’ll hear two preachers today. I’m going to lay the biblical foundation for the supremacy of God and missions then Josh Yates, missionary in Iraq, will come and give us the application of these truths in his family’s life and also show us how we can join in God’s mission right here in our area and in Iraq.

Read Isaiah 49:1-6

The resounding message of these verses is Jesus is well prepared and Jesus is worthy. Let’s take the first,

I. Jesus is well prepared

To get the full effect of this passage we need to understand

  • Two underlying truths

First, Jesus is the servant. Look at verse 3. Jesus is the servant, Israel, the one in whom God is glorified. Read Isaiah 49-53 this afternoon for more than sufficient proof that the servant of these verses is in fact Jesus, the eternal Son of God.

The second underlying truth in these verses is Jesus has a message for the nations. In 49:1, the servant calls out to the coastlands and the nations. The servant in verse 1 is talking to the same nations and people that the Lord is talking to in verse 6. What I’m saying is Jesus’ message of salvation has always been bigger than the nation of Israel.

Keep these truths in mind: Jesus is the servant of Isaiah 49 and he has a message for the nations. Let’s get into the meat and potatoes. Rejoice with me because

  • Jesus is well prepared to bring the nations to God

Look again at verse 1. The emphasis here is on Jesus’ mission; from conception, the Lord called Jesus to redeem the nations. The eternal Son of God who has always existed with the Father and Spirit took on flesh in Mary’s womb. There has never been any other plan from eternity past or from the virgin’s womb than the salvation of the nations through Jesus.

But he is no military king; Jesus is a preaching and teaching king. Verse 2, Jesus’ mouth is a sharp sword, and he is protected by the Father’s hand. Jesus is a well crafted finely tuned arrow kept near the Father for the Father’s purposes.

Verse 3, the Father announces the truth that Jesus is the servant, the true Israel, and the perfect display of the glory of God. Jesus is the display of the glory of God. Jesus is the perfect obedient Son. Jesus is everything Jacob and the nation of Israel never could be.

All this means Jesus is prepared for his work to bring God’s people back to God. Jesus took on flesh for this work. Jesus is sharp, protected, polished, and near to the Father. Jesus will be faithful to the Father and bring the Father glory by bringing the nations back to God.

Everything points toward success, then comes verse 4, “But I said, ‘I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.’” Listen to Jesus

  • The struggle is real

We hear it said that Jesus was tempted in every way like we are yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15 is true. Jesus was tempted in every way like we are yet was without sin. It is also true that Jesus was tempted with discouragement, frustration, and depression just like we are. The thought came in his mind that his work was a waste and his ministry was for nothing. Jesus was tempted but did not sin- he took his thoughts captive. He believed, “surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense is with the Lord.” In the frustrations of the work, Jesus set his hope on the Father and on the Father’s faithfulness. Jesus is well prepared to save us and help us. So, skip ahead with me

  • We must fight to live from God’s perspective

Listen to Jesus in verse 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.”

Listen, this is weird. The servant is talking to himself about the God who is talking about him. Jesus is talking to himself about the God who is talking about Jesus. When faced with great difficulties, Jesus is rehearsing true things. Though shamed by men, the Son is honored by the Father. Though the Servant’s strength is spent, God will be his strength. Jesus will rise up on wings like eagles. Jesus will run and not grow weary. Jesus will walk and not grow faint (Is 40:31).

Here is the heart of discipleship; it is learning how to live dependent upon this Jesus. Let’s feast on the incomparable Christ.

Celebrate with me

II. Jesus is worthy

  • Jesus is worthy of so much more

Look at verse 6 with me, “the Lord 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.”

Isaiah is saying, “the salvation of your family and your neighbors and your town and your nation is too small a thing.” The worth of Jesus demands the salvation of the nations. When Isaiah spoke, the tribes of Jacob had hated and turned away from God. The remnant of Israel were slaves of a godless nation; they were prisoners of war. Bringing these people back would be a marvelous act of great strength but bringing these back is too small a thing for our great Jesus.

If you are content with Jesus for your family then your Jesus is too small. If you are content with Jesus for our community then your Jesus is too small. The worth of Jesus is revealed in him bringing life and light to every people group all around the world. The worth of Jesus is displayed in the salvation neighbors and nations. We will feel the full extent of the glory of Jesus when in glory we are surrounded by our brothers and sisters from every tribe, tongue, and nation praising the Father with the Son of God.

So, why should you go across the street and tell your neighbors about Jesus? Because Jesus is worthy; his worth fuels our work. Why should you go across the world and invest your life in an unreached people group? Because Jesus is worthy; his worth fuels the mission. Jesus is the salvation that must reach the end of the earth.

The worth of Jesus is the fuel of missions. The worth of Jesus is the why behind every sacrifice we make for our neighbors and the nations. May God show us the incomparable glory of Jesus Christ!

Discuss Isaiah 49:6

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. Looking at the church (how we talk, what we do, and how we spend), what would you say is the heartbeat of the church? What can you do to make the supremacy of God the heartbeat of the church?
  3. Who is the servant of Isaiah 49? Why do you believe that?
  4. In what ways is Jesus well prepared for his mission of bringing the nations back to God? See Isaiah 49:1-3.
  5. What does the struggle of Isaiah 49:4 reveal about life and ministry?
  6. How does the servant, in verse 5, fight for the right perspective in his discouragement?
  7. Take a moment to remember and celebrate the all surpassing greatness of our Triune God. What about God do you feel and see as gloriously good?
  8. Looking at your life and family, in what ways are you demonstrating the incomparable riches of Jesus Christ?
  9. Read 1 John 2:15-17. In what ways are you loving the world and the things of the world?
  10. How can you invest more in reaching your neighbors with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
  11. How can you invest more in reaching the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

How to be filled with the Spirit and Joy

Text: Acts 13:52

Main Point: Jesus fills his disciples with joy and the Holy Spirit

When I read the Bible, I come across phrases that paint a vivid picture of what I want to be as a Christian. Acts 13:52 sums up my desire. Acts 13:52 says, “and the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” The NASB captures the verb picture by adding the word continually, “and the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit;” the disciples were a happy Holy Spirit people. But this is no easy-street everything-is-going-my-way situation. Paul and Barnabas, the missionaries who brought Christ to these disciples, have been persecuted and run out of town. Its the same as saying, “The sheriff’s office arrested and beat the elders of Mambrino Baptist Church and the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” Their joy was deep and abiding.

How can I get some of that kind of joy? Well, since this joy is the product of the Holy Spirit in the disciples, it’s better to ask the question this way, “How can we get the Holy Spirit? How can we get the Holy Spirit so that we can be filled with joy? How can I pray and lead my family so that my children and grandchildren are filled with joy and the Holy Spirit? How can I serve others so that the church and my neighbors are filled with joy and the Holy Spirit?

Let’s pick up a week after the Apostle Paul’s sermon in Acts 13. Let’s read Acts 13:44-52.

Receiving the Holy Spirit and his fruit of joy starts with understanding this truth

I. Jesus gives his disciples the Holy Spirit

Let’s go back to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 because Paul’s sermon is an echo of Peter’s message. Look with me at Acts 2:32-33 (read it). Trace verse 33 with me and see that

  • Acts 2:33 is full of Trinitarian joy

The first thing we see in this verse is that the Father raised up the humiliated Son and exalted the Son to God’s right hand. The Father has reversed the shame and given the Son his proper honor. But notice Jesus is a fountain head not a figurehead. Look at Acts 2:33 and notice that the Father gives the Spirit to the Son. The Father promised that the Son would baptize his people with the Holy Spirit. The Father promised that the Son would be the means by which the people of God receive the Spirit of God. The gift of the Spirit with great joy is the Father’s plan and the Son’s provision; so our joy is no accident. Our joy is the overflow of the joy of the Father, Son and Spirit. They have joy in themselves, they have joy in their work, and they give their joy to us (Jn 15:11). It is the Father’s plan for the Son to give the Spirit to us. We go to Jesus for the Spirit.

I want to get very specific with the next truth

  • The Holy Spirit works joy in us

We have to look no further than the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 to know that the fruit of the Spirit is joy. The Spirit is the one who works joy in the disciples. The Holy Spirit produces happiness during hard seasons and in hard places.

This week, I thought about being filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit along the lines of the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, is it joy that produces the Spirit or is it the Spirit who produces joy? Just as the obvious answer to the egg/chicken question is the chicken comes first so it is equally obvious that the Spirit comes first. If the egg is first, then who will sit on it and hatch it? If the egg comes first and it hatches, then who will feed the helpless chick? The chicken must come first because the chicken produces, cares for, and brings the egg to maturity. It is infinitely more glorious to understand that the Spirit comes with but certainly before joy.

Now why do I say this? I say this because if you are like me you fall into the trap of looking for joy without looking for the Holy Spirit. But looking for joy without looking for the Spirit is like looking to fill your belly without eating. True and lasting joy is Trinitarian; we need the Spirit of God poured out on us by Jesus Christ. Let’s talk about how to get the Spirit and joy.

II. How to get down-wind of the Holy Spirit

I use the picture of getting down-wind of the Holy Spirit because Jesus makes it clear we don’t control the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:8). Controlling and manipulating the Spirit is like trying to control and manipulate the wind. The windmill farms are in west Texas because that’s where the wind blows. We don’t bring the wind to the windmills; we bring the windmills to the wind. Let’s identify those places where we can set our minds and be in a good position to catch the joy of the Holy Spirit. Turn back to Acts 13 with me. If we want to catch the joy of the Holy Spirit then we must

  • Make much of the promised resurrection of Jesus (32-33)

Remember, the end of Paul’s sermon was the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. What then was the content of that sermon? The majority of their attention was focused on the resurrected Jesus. Now, why focus on the promised resurrection? Shouldn’t they be focused on the Holy Spirit? What is it about the resurrected Jesus that leads to the Spirit? Remember Acts 2:33, it is the resurrected and exalted Jesus who pours out the Holy Spirit. The resurrected Jesus is the giver of the Spirit.

Here’s the big picture: it is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that secure for us the Spirit, forgiveness, and justification. Just as Jesus came and obeyed in our place so also Jesus came and was punished in our place. Listen and rejoice, Jesus secures the Spirit for us by dying for us, removing our sin, so we can receive the Spirit. Jesus justifies us, making us righteous, so we can receive the Spirit. Jesus’ work makes us fit for the Holy Spirit of God. Apart from Jesus taking our sin and giving us his righteousness, we would only be fit for the unholy spirits. If you want the joy of the Spirit, then you must go to the giver. The giver of the Spirit is the resurrected Jesus. For joy, we must make much of the resurrected Jesus because Jesus makes us fit.

You’ve already heard it, let’s make it clear, in order to receive the Spirit we must

  • Make much of forgiveness through Jesus (38)

Look with me at Acts 13:38, hear the apostle Paul say, “Let it be known to you, therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you”. The joy of the Spirit is tied directly to the removal of guilt. Our guilt is removed through faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus; Jesus came to take our sin upon himself. The paradox is the more you ignore your sin the more you decrease your joy. Here are robbers of joy, “Oh that’s not so bad, oh that’s not a big deal, oh it will work out in the end.” Repentance, forgiveness, and joy are inseparable; this is why Jesus says in John 7:47, “I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little loves little.”

Joy increases as we grow in our awareness of sin and the full forgiveness that is ours in Jesus. So do not, I repeat do not stop at awareness of sin. We must make much of the resurrected Jesus who forgives us of all our sins.

But how does the forgiveness of sins relate to the Spirit? I’m glad you asked. It is the Spirit, John 16:8, who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Spirit’s work is to expose our sin and drive us to Christ for forgiveness.  

Is it not one of the most wonderful experiences to know that our dark and disgusting sins are forgiven in Jesus? The Spirit works this joy in us. Do you want joy? Deal with your sin according to Christ and

  • Make much of justification through Jesus (39)

The New International Version gets to the heart of verse 39 with this translation, “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”

The law of Moses, offering the sacrifices, cannot produce an enduring righteousness before God. The sheer repetition of the sacrifices year after year prove the sacrifices are finally ineffective. The best the sacrifices can secure is the pronouncement, “You can go for now.” But the righteousness available to all who believe in Jesus is an enduring righteousness. Where the law cannot take you, the gospel will take you. The good news is that you are given an unshakeable position of sonship and acceptance through Christ. Since Jesus gives us his righteousness, the Father must reject his own Son in order to reject us.

Let’s rejoice in our security and let’s put sin to death by the power of the Spirit. Our position is one of holiness and it is the Spirit who leads us deeper into the joy of obedience born out of our justification. Make much of justification through Jesus and

  • Make much of understanding the word (44)

Look now at Acts 13:44, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” They tasted the joy possible through the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ and they wanted more. Tell us more of this life. Tell us more of this forgiveness. Tell us more of this justification. Tell us more about Jesus. The word was working joy in them so they wanted more of the word.

This word and joy are identical to 1 Thessalonians 1:6, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” There is a direct connection between joy and obedience in difficulty. The logic here is that joy decrease with disobedience and joy increases with obedience because it is the joyful Spirit who leads us to obey. So, we think about the word so that we can know how to obey so that we can taste the fruit of joyful obedience.

The hard reality here is that going along with our desires is the easiest thing to do, the quickest way to immediate pleasure, and the surest way to cut off enduring joy. Pornography is the easiest thing to do, the quickest way to immediate pleasure, and the surest way to cut off enduring joy. But the Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we can walk a better path and find a better joy. The word shows us the way, the way is often difficult, and the way leads to joy. When tempted, we pray for the Spirit’s help and the Spirit’s joy so that we can obey. The Spirit-filled word directs us.

Now for our final position that places us downwind of the Spirit

  • Make much of believing in Jesus (48)

Look at Acts 13:48. When the Gentiles heard that salvation is for them, “they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” While this verse is a bold affirmation of the sovereignty of God over who believes, let’s not miss the reality that joy is the product of believing in Jesus.

Believing in Jesus is another way of saying make much of the resurrected Jesus. Jesus said the Spirit’s job is to take what belongs to Jesus and make it known to us (John 16:14). The Spirit’s job is not to draw attention to himself but to draw attention to Jesus. The Spirit’s job is to expose our sin as what separates us from life and joy in God. The Spirit’s job is to lead us to understand the work of Jesus on the cross as the means of our forgiveness and joy. The Spirit’s job is to declare the position of the righteous Christ as loved and accepted by the Father so that we will enjoy the Father’s love and acceptance. The Spirit’s job is to take the word of God and lead us away from sin and to the Son of God.

Do you want to be filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit? Make much of the resurrected Jesus, make much of forgiveness through Jesus, make much of justification through Jesus, make much of God’s word, and make much of believing in Jesus. Let us ask God for the good gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask God for the good gift of joy.

Discuss Acts 13:52

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. Why is it good that the gift of the Spirit is the product of Trinitarian joy?
  3. Why is it necessary to look for joy by looking for the Holy Spirit? What comes first, joy or the Holy Spirit?
  4. What is it about the resurrected Jesus that leads to the Holy Spirit?
  5. What are the implications of the truth that apart from Jesus’ atonement and righteousness we are fit only for unholy spirits?
  6. What is it about guilt that makes us unhappy? What is it about the removal of guilt through faith in Jesus that makes us happy?
  7. Why is it that the offering of sacrifices cannot produce an enduring righteousness before God?
  8. What is the connection between the word, obedience in difficulty seasons, and the Holy Spirit?
  9. In simple terms that a child could understand, explain why believing in Jesus leads to joy.

The History of the Promise; Acts 13:13-25

Main Point: Knowing our history helps us trust God.

We all have a story. When we bring our history and submit it to God’s story, we learn to trust God. Part of growing as Christian is learning to interpret our story within the overarching story of God. We must move from trying to make God fit into our little lives to living our little lives in light of God’s great work of redemption. God’s plan is so much bigger and better than our wants.

In Acts 13:13-41, Paul and Barnabas explain God’s story by focusing on God’s providence and promise. These missionaries want the people to know God’s story, know their place in God’s story, and find salvation according to the promise. This preacher wants you to know God’s story, know your place in God’s story, and find salvation according to the promise. Let’s go after Jesus!

Acts 13:13-41

Looking at the Jewish people, we need to remember that

I. The synagogue was center (14-15)

The synagogue was a big deal to a Jewish community because the synagogue was the place for God’s people to assemble every Sabbath day. The primary purpose of the synagogue was to provide space for God’s people to gather on the Sabbath to pray, hear God’s Word read, and hear a sermon explaining what was read. Every Sabbath, the people of God rehearsed God’s faithfulness, prayed for His guidance, and longed for his redemptive work to be done.

The very word, “synagogue” means assembly. The Jewish people would assemble each week to pray and hear God’s Word. It appears that most synagogues started out in homes (see “Synagogue” in The Dictionary of the Later New Testament, pages 1141-1146).

In addition to its primary purpose of providing space for the Sabbath gathering, depending on the resources of the community, the synagogue could also function as a school, a type of courthouse, and a civic center. Philo was a Jewish man living in Alexandria, Egypt, from 40BC-20AD and he describes synagogues as “schools of prudence, courage, temperance, justice, piety, holiness and every virtue.” Philo also “assumes that a reverent, communal reading of the Torah with exposition on the Sabbath is their principal purpose” (DLNT, 1141). This reality means

  • The synagogue was an important piece of the church’s missionary strategy

Look at verse 14, and we’ll see this repeated throughout the Book of Acts, “they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down” (14:1; 17:1; 18:4; 19:8). The synagogue was the place Jewish people gathered to pray and hear the Word of God. There would be no better place to start sharing the good news that God’s promised One has come. Verse 15, “After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.’” Maybe Paul, a Pharisee from Jerusalem, looked the part. Possibly, Paul and Barnabas arrived before the Sabbath and connected with the Jewish community. However it happened, the rulers of the synagogue recognized Paul and Barnabas as educated Jewish men and so gave them the opportunity to speak.

And Paul took the opportunity. He stood up, got everyone’s attention and started his sermon. Here’s a short summary of the message. We need to 

II. Understand and rest in God’s providence (16-22)

Paul’s endgame is to announce the good news that the promised son of David has come. The Father has been steering all things toward Jesus. Jesus, the Savior, was crucified and raised for the forgiveness of sins. All those weighed down by guilt can come to Jesus and be freed. That’s where we are going; we are going to the glory and power of the resurrected Savior. The way we get there is by tracing the work of God. The Jews know their history, but they haven’t connected the providence of God and the promise of God to the resurrected Jesus. Let’s go along with Paul and review the history of the people of God. First,

  • God chose the patriarchs

Middle of verse 16, “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers.”

Notice the subject and the verb; God chose. This is a reference to the covenant with Abraham passed on to Isaac, and Israel. God will be your God and make the offspring of Abraham like the sand of the sea and the stars of the sky. There will be land, offspring, and blessing for the people of Israel. God does the choosing. We move from the Patriarchs to Egypt

  • God increased the people during slavery

Verse 17, “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt.”  

Notice the subject and the verb; God made. God caused his people, while slaves, to grow in both number and power. It rattles my idol of ease to know that God planned to send his people into slavery for 400 years in order to make them great. This is no defense of slavery; it is a biblical understanding of God’s purposes in our suffering and trails. We are to count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds knowing that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2). Remember your history; our people faced trials and God increased their number and their strength.

I don’t know what the election results will be, or when we will have them. I do know God is in control and God is not limited to working with only free people. History is full of examples of God working through a persecuted and even enslaved people; so set your hope in God. And we learn to set our hope in God by knowing our history and how others have trusted God. We move from Egypt to the Exodus

  • God led the people out

The end of verse 17, “and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.”

Notice the subject and the verb; God led. It was not the strength of the slave that won the victory. It was God’s strong arm that brought down Pharaoh and led out his people. Do you see there is not even a reference to Moses here? Moses was an instrument in the Redeemer’s hand. Moses did not do it; God led the people out of Egypt and

  • God put up with the people

Verse 18, “And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness.” One Greek letter, adding it or taking it away, is the difference between God bore them, in the sense of carried them along, and God put up with them, in the sense of endured their constant sinning. I think Deuteronomy 1:31 is definitive, “in the wilderness…the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.”

Notice the subject and the verb; God carried. God carried you in times of complaining and in times of sin. God carried you the way a father carries his son. A faithful father will provide for and tend to the needs of his son. A faithful father will endure the immaturity, weakness, and sinfulness of his son while leading him to maturity, strength, and holiness. God carried his people through the wilderness and

  • God conquered the land for the people

Verse 19, “And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance.”

Notice the subject and the verbs; God destroyed and God gave. There is much here we could discuss about war and conquest and death. If you want to dig deeper here, please let me know. For now, we must remember Deuteronomy 9:5, God says, “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

God brings salvation through judgment. God judged the sins of these people. God kept his promises to those people. The Father who carries is the judge who punishes. God conquered the land for the people and

  • God gave the people judges and prophets

Verse 20, “All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.”

Notice the subject and the verb; God gave. Judges like Jephthah, Samson, and Deborah were raised up by God to rescue his oppressed people. God has always loved, disciplined, and purified his people. Samuel was the pivotal character who God used to transition the people from judges to a king. After the judges,

  • God gave and removed Saul

Verse 21, “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.”

Notice the subject and the verb; God gave. In an act of judgment, for rejecting God their king, the people are given a nearly worthless king named Saul. Be warned, God gave them just what they wanted and what they wanted ruined them. After 40 years of Saul,

  • God raised up David

Verse 22, “And when he had removed Saul, he raised up David, to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’”

Notice the subject and the verb; God raised up David to be their king. Just as Paul and Barnabas’s disagreement gives us encouragement in our disagreements, so also David’s sin and God’s final word gives us encouragement in our struggle against sin. David was an adulterer, a murderer, and a liar and God gloriously forgave all his sin. This statement about David has more to say about God’s grace than it says about David. Because of God’s grace, David was a man after God’s heart who did all of God’s will. You and I, stained with so much sin, can be washed, sanctified, and justified through faith in Jesus Christ. You are not done because of your sin; you have a future because of God’s grace. God’s grace in Christ is bigger than the sin in you. Depend on grace.

Looking at verses 16-22, what is Paul doing in this sermon? Paul is rehearsing the history of the Jews so that they will remember God’s providence (God did all these things) and so that they will trust God’s promise of forgiveness through the better Son of David. Here we must

III. Rejoice, Jesus is the promised King (23-25)

Remember, Paul is not telling a bedtime story to calm the kids down. Paul is rehearsing God’s faithfulness so that the people will trust Christ the promised King. The goal of this sermon is the people being filled with joy and the promised Holy Spirit because of Jesus (13:52). So, know this

  • God has given us the promised Savior

Look at verse 23, “Of [David’s] offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.”

Let’s tie this history together. Jesus is the offspring or seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16). Jesus is the son of God, the better Israel, who went down into Egypt and was called out by God (Mt 2:15). As a boy, Jesus increased; he grew and became strong, filled with wisdom (Lk 2:40). As a man, Jesus wandered in the wilderness and was tempted, but unlike the people, he did not sin (Lk 4:1-13). Like the people, Jesus went through the Jordan River; he was baptized and given the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus did not enter the land to conquer the Romans; Jesus entered his ministry to conquer the devil, sin, and death. Jesus is the better judge, the better prophet, and the better king.

And yes, there are explicit promises like 2 Samuel 7:12-13, “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” And Psalm 89:29, “I will establish his offspring for ever and his throne as the days of heaven.” Ezekiel 34:23, “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them.” You can also go to Isaiah 9-11; Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:14-22. God’s promise is to raise up a Son of David, a Savior, Jesus.

Every step of God’s providence points his people away from themselves and away from their heroes to Christ who is the fulfillment of every promise. Jesus is better! These men and women in a synagogue far from Jerusalem need to know that Jesus is nothing new. Jesus is the One promised for thousands of years, even the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Jesus is the promised Savior.

I think it is good and right to consider Jesus our Savior. We need to pause here because I fear we often do not go far enough with the glorious truth of Jesus, our Savior. We are like madmen who got all cleaned up and dressed up but never go to the party. When it comes to Jesus, do not pull up short, but press in to life and joy.

Think about these different questions: What did Jesus save us from and what did Jesus save us for? Jesus saved us from our sin, God’s wrath, and an eternal hell. Jesus saved us for life with God both now and for eternity. Jesus saved us from our sin, God’s wrath, and eternal hell precisely and deliberately so that we can know and delight in and rest in the care of the Father right now. Jesus saved you so that you can know God and have joy and have life. Stopping at “Jesus saved us from our sin” is painfully insufficient. The promised Savior has come to deliver all of God’s promises and bring us to God.

Yes, wonderfully yes, we trust Jesus to deliver us from the judgment and hell we deserve because of our rebellion. But Yes, wonderfully more-so yes, we trust Jesus to save us from sin so that we can right now do life under the loving care of God. Jesus brings us into God’s story.

So, if your salvation story ends with being saved from hell, friend you are missing out. You got all cleaned up and dressed up but never went to the party. Life with God right now is the party. Church, let us be known for trusting Jesus for life with God. Jesus is our Savior precisely so that we can have life with God.

And then there’s John the Baptist and our final question

  • Who do you think you are?

Verse 24, “Before Jesus’ coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.”

John was getting God’s people ready for God’s promised King. John was getting the people ready for life with the Son of God through the forgiveness of sins.

Verse 25, “And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.”

John had a pretty important job; he was kind-of a big deal. John was sent by God to get the people of God ready for the promised Son of God. But look at how John viewed himself. In John’s day, a Hebrew slave was not to stoop to the shameful level of untying the master’s shoes. Untying the master’s sandals was below even a Hebrew slave. A Gentile slave would be called upon to do such a demeaning job. John, who was so important and such a big deal understood that Jesus was infinitely more important and more majestic and more glorious than John. John was not even qualified to perform the lowliest of slave’s tasks for this wonderful King. How majestic is His name!

Now consider, how important do you think the president of the United States is to you and your neighbors compared to Jesus? Our next president is so small and insignificant that he is not worthy to untie the sandals of Jesus’ feet. Our nation needs Jesus.

How important do you think the elders are to this church compared to Jesus? Our elders are so small and insignificant that we are not worthy to untie the sandals of Jesus’ feet. Our church needs Jesus.

How important do you think you are to your family compared to Jesus? You are so small and significant compared to King Jesus that you are not worthy to untie the sandals from Jesus’ feet.

Nothing but Jesus can deliver salvation from sin, wrath, and hell. Nothing but Jesus can bring life and joy to our nation, our church, and our families. When Paul preached in that synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, the people had been waiting for almost two-thousand years for the promised One. Now, as I preach to this church in Mambrino we have had the blessing of our Savior for almost two thousand years.

Are you enjoying the promised blessing of life with God through Jesus? Has he set you free from sin and guilt? Has he given you his righteousness, joy, and life? Are you trusting Jesus for forgiveness and are you trusting Jesus for life and joy? Are you asking for the Holy Spirit to fill and guide each day? That’s what we want for you today. Today, where you are and whoever you are, if you will repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus Christ then he will forgive you and give you life.