The Scriptures are Worthy
Sermon Text: Acts 17:1-15
Sermon Theme: The Scriptures are worthy of proclamation, examination, and belief, even if most people reject the real truth of the Scriptures.
The drift and scope of Paul’s preaching and arguing, was to prove that Jesus is the Christ. It was necessary that He must suffer for us, because He could not otherwise purchase our redemption for us; and it was necessary that He must rise again, because He could not otherwise apply the redemption to us. We are to preach concerning Jesus that He is Christ; therefore we may hope to be saved by Him, and are bound to be ruled by Him. The unbelieving Jews were angry, because the apostles preached to the Gentiles, that they might be saved. How strange it is, that men should grudge others the privileges they will not themselves accept! Neither rulers nor people need be troubled at the increase of real Christians, even though turbulent spirits should make religion the pretext for evil designs. Of such let us beware and withdraw from such pretext that we may show a desire to act rightly in society, while we claim our right to worship God according to our consciences.
The Jews in Berea applied seriously to the study of the word preached unto them. They not only heard Paul preach on the Sabbath, but daily searched the Scriptures, and compared what they read with the facts related to them. The doctrine of Christ does not fear inquiry; advocates for his cause desire no more than that people will fully and fairly examine whether things are so or not. Those are truly noble, and likely to be more and more so, who make the Scriptures their rule, and consult them accordingly. May all the hearers of the gospel become like those of Berea, receiving the word with readiness of mind, and searching the Scriptures daily, whether the things preached to them are so.
[From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary]
- Are we willing to upset the world as committed men and women for Jesus Christ and the gospel? The world needs to be upset. The world is not as it was when God created it. Ever since the fall of the human race into sin, people have been in rebellion against the Creator and Lord of the universe. We are born in sin and we continue in sin unless we are upset by the gospel that confronts our sin. Sin has made the world stand on its head. That does not mean God is standing idly by until then. Throughout redemptive history God has sent His messengers to proclaim the light of His truth to the lost, sin-darkened world. Such messengers upset the system and disturb the comfort of sinners, thus incurring their wrath. But only Jesus Christ can turn it right side up from God’s perspective, but upside down from the world’s. For those who would turn the world the right side up must use the Word of God as the lever. It is only through the softening of the human heart by God that man can see truth and the right view of the world.
- Why does the gospel upset people so much? When it is proclaimed rightly, it confronts people with their sin, and it calls them to surrender their lives fully to Jesus as Lord. Unless God softens a sinner’s heart, he doesn’t like to be confronted by his sin or the thought of surrendering to Jesus as Lord. The gospel by its very nature is divisive. As Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). When the gospel is clearly proclaimed, it draws a line in the sand. People cannot be neutral. So here, as everywhere Paul went, he stirred up controversy and divided people. Some believed and followed Paul; others rejected the message and out of jealousy stirred up opposition. For we live in a world that has brazenly cast off God. We have cast Him off as the Creator, insisting that science proves that we all evolved from pond slime through sheer chance billions of years ago. If God is not the Creator, then He does not need to be obeyed (Romans 1:18). If man is the product of millions of years of chance, then he need not fear judgment or eternity ahead, because at death he simply ceases to exist. And so, we can determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. There is no absolute moral truth, binding on everyone, except for the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth! Thus, tolerance becomes the nonbeliever’s chief virtue. For to live without God and the Scriptures is only to have a fairytale wish that you can have true peace and rest; courage and hope.
- Are we fully alive and using our full affections for Jesus Christ to reach the lost? Fully alive people are those who are using all of their human faculties, powers, and talents. They are using them to the fullest. These individuals are fully functioning in their external and internal sources. They are comfortable with/and open to the full experience and expression of all human emotions. Such people are vibrantly alive in mind, heart, and will. There is an instinctive fear in most of us to travel with our engines at full throttle. We prefer, for the sake of safety, to take life in small and dainty doses. Paul was fully alive with interest compounded! We can learn the secrets of a noble life from the lives of Paul and his coworkers and thus elevate our Christian lives. We may not all be gifted to preach the gospel in the same way that Paul was. We’re not all called to serve as missionaries in foreign lands. But we all are called to be fully committed to Jesus Christ. He commanded us all, not just missionaries and pastors, to seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
- What characterizes a person who shakes up the world for the gospel? No one will ever influence the world for Christ who lacks courage; it is courageous people who make a difference as Paul reminded Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7. Courage and boldness were essential to the impact of the early church, and there is no more consistent illustration of that than Paul himself. The prospect of trials and persecution did not deter him from carrying out his ministry as summed up in his attitude: “Behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24). For courage is built on faith (trusting God), from purity (confessing sin), and from hope (thanking God in advance for the victory). Paul echoed these thoughts when he wrote, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). The key to courage is trusting in the sovereign power and care of God and dependence on His strength. In any circumstance of life, Christians can be confident that “the Lord preserves the faithful” (Psalm 31:23). Lack of courage stems ultimately from an inadequate understanding of God.
- Are you being an effective Christian witness using all the approaches that Paul used in communicating the full gospel or being able to answer questions about your faith? Peter commanded believers to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). Paul’s public ministry approach was three-pronged. First, he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” The Greek word translated “reasoned” is the root for our English word dialogue. There was exchange, questions and answers. He dialogued with them “from the Scriptures.” They would together take up the vellum and parchment copies of the popular Greek Septuagint, and Paul would select a passage and submit it for give and take. Further, there was “explaining,” as Acts 17:3 indicates. This word literally means “opening.” Paul opened the Scriptures with clarity and simplicity. We have the greatest message on earth, but sometimes the gospel is hid to those who are perishing simply because of our verbiage. Not so with Paul. The third prong of his method is stated as “giving evidence” or “proving,” which means “to place beside or to set before.” ― “Have you considered the testimony of Hosea? Then there’s the story of Abraham and Isaac …” Paul would take one Scripture and place it alongside another Scripture to support and prove his point. He was proving his case, teaching to lead his hearers to a particular verdict. The message was that Christ (the Messiah) had to suffer.
- Before people can believe in the gospel, they first must understand the content of the gospel. Are you trying for an emotional response to the gospel from a nonbeliever rather then one based on intellectual conviction? To give an incomplete message renders that message and the misguided enthusiasm it products useless. On the other hand, to boldly proclaim error, as the cults do, causes even greater harm. Proclaiming the truth with great boldness, as Paul did, cannot help but change the world. Some Christians believe it is all-important not to offend nonbelievers. Accordingly, they focus their gospel presentations only on what Christ has to offer the sinner to improve his life in time and eternity. To declare to the nonbeliever that his sinful life is an offense to a holy God and call him to mourn and repent is considered poor marketing technique. Such an imbalanced approach to evangelism finds no support in Scripture. The true gospel must offend the nonbeliever by confronting him with his sin and judgment: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed” (Romans 9:33). We err if we lead people to think that receiving Jesus as Savior will give them a life of comfort and ease. It will give them much joy and peace, but only in the context of much tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:6). This is why we must be convinced of the truth about Jesus before we put our trust in Him. A flimsy, emotional decision won’t stand up if persecution hits.
- Could you take your Old Testament and show a person that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead, and demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ? Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures, which in his time was the Old Testament. Paul probably took them to Psalm 22, a description of crucifixion written hundreds of years before that was known as a means of execution. He probably went to Isaiah 53, where the prophet shows Messiah despised and forsaken of men, pierced through for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. The Lord caused our iniquity to fall on Him. He was cut off from the land of the living for the transgression of Isaiah’s people. He rendered Himself as a guilt offering, justifying the many by bearing their iniquities. But His resurrection is implied at the end of that great chapter, where God says, “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Paul probably also took them to Psalm 16:10, where Messiah says, “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” He probably explained how the sacrificial system pictured Messiah’s death. He may have taken them to Abraham’s receiving Isaac back from the brink of death as an illustration of Messiah’s being raised up after He became the sacrificial lamb. So, he argued forcefully from Scripture that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Savior, who had to suffer for our sins and rise from the dead. We can be reasonably sure that the Scriptures used would also include Psalm 2, Psalm 16, Psalm 110, Isaiah 53, and possibly Deuteronomy 21:23.
- How can a Christian know God’s Word well enough to use it effectively? First, the prerequisite for Bible study is confession of sin. Peter states that truth succinctly: “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-2). It is impossible to study the Scriptures profitably with an impure mind. Second, Bible study must be diligent. Paul commanded his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Lazy, haphazard, careless Bible study will not produce a Christian who is “competent in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). Third, believers must be committed to practicing the truths they learn. James charged Christians to “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). The ultimate goal of all Bible study is not increased knowledge but increased holiness and Christ likeness. Finally, an excellent way to learn the truth is to teach it to others (2 Timothy 2:2). For we retain far more of what we study to teach others than of what we learn for our own benefit. Are you eager for the Scriptures and wanting to fully examine them?
- Are you examining the Scriptures as a skeptic, trying to find reasons not to believe or do you have an open attitude; seeking after the truth? When Acts 17:11 says that the Bereans received the message with great eagerness, it does not mean that they were naive and simply believed everything they heard. It means that unlike those in some of the other cities these people were open to the gospel and had not prejudged it just because it was new. Instead, the Bereans, having heard the good news, went to the Scriptures themselves to see if the things Paul was teaching really were in them. Moreover, they did it daily — not just on Sunday mornings for an hour, but daily, because these teachings were matters of life and death. They wanted to spend all their available time studying them. There are preachers who want people to accept what they say just because they say it. They do not want to be challenged. Good preachers want a congregation that hears the Word, receives it eagerly, and then goes to the Scriptures daily to see if what is being taught is really true. Never trust somebody else’s explanation of the Scripture until you have studied it for yourself and allowed the Holy Spirit to confirm the truth of what you hear. All of us should be constantly reading, digging, cross-referencing, comparing — rushing with eagerness to feed on the Word of the Lord!
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