Paul’s First Recorded Sermon:  Delighting in the Gospel (Part 4)

“Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us:  I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'” [This is a quotation from Isaiah 49.6.]

“Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13.46-48).

The majority of people disdain the Gospel and outright reject it.  Yet there are those who delight in the Gospel and gratefully receive it.  John 7 says that Jesus secretly went up to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem.  The Jews wondered where He was because He had yet to make Himself know.  Many voices could be overheard in the crowd during the festival.  Some thought Jesus to be good and others thought Him to be a deceiver (John 7.12).  It’s still that way today.

Paul and Barnabas will enter a synagogue in Iconium and preach the Gospel in Acts 14.  This will lead to a great multitude of Jews and Greeks believing the Gospel.  But there will be unbelieving Jews stirring up the Gentiles and poisoning their minds against Paul and Barnabas.  That will divide the city.  Part side with the unbelieving Jews and part with the apostles (Acts 14.1-4).  Some despise the Gospel and some delight in it.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household'” (Matthew 10.34-36).

Many Jewish people are rejecting the Gospel when Paul preaches, but many Gentiles are receiving it.  Paul is now turning to those Gentiles, and they shall become the great preoccupation of his earthly ministry.  Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles.

I personally delight in the Gospel.  And if a local church delights in the Gospel, then at least three conditions will follow from the text above.

If a local church delights in the Gospel, the believers there must defend the Gospel through adversity.

Acts 13.44 states that almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.  But the Jews who had despised the Gospel the week before saw the multitudes and were filled with envy.  This led them to contradict, blaspheme, and oppose the things Paul preached (Acts 13.45).  They despised the Gospel, but that wasn’t enough in their minds.  They had to bitterly oppose it as well.  As a matter of fact, Paul said that the Word was first preached to these Jews because that’s what God commanded – to the Jew first.  But they rejected it, and notice the end of Acts 13.46:  They judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life!  Therefore, the offer was extended to the Gentiles.  The Gentiles had the opportunity to delight in that which the Jews despised.

A local church must delight in and defend the Gospel through all kinds of adversity.  If we make the Gospel the main driving force in our churches, most will despise and reject its message in our particular day and age.  But none of these things should move us.

However, if we should get a big crowd of people, be sure that many will be filled with envy and bitterness over it.  If sinners flock to our church, we will almost certainly have bitter saints complain that they are making it uncomfortable.  There will also be people who contradict and blaspheme the preacher, a lot more people than those who already do.

People often despise the Word and work hard to put it away from their minds.  How do we know this is the case?  Look at the actions of people in churches.  Be a fruit inspector.  There is a lack of spiritual fruit, the lack of the fruit of the Spirit.  It is difficult when a person attends a local church but does not value the salvation the blood of Christ purchased for them.  The hard, apathetic, and dull spirit of many in churches today means that the pastor must effectively turn away from those who will not hear the Word, and turn to those who will.  We see this often in our ministries with high turnover.  Any church that preaches hard against sin and for the Savior will face adversity.

As a pastor, how thankful I am for those who delight in the Gospel and are willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me to defend it.  I will minister to everyone God sends to our church as long as they allow me.  My mentor in ministry taught me that by example.  But it’s a deep heart-ache to realize that some despise the Gospel, harden themselves to it, and hang around the church anyway.  They simply warm the pews and cause problems.

But I am thankful for those who delight in and defend the Gospel through adversity.  I know they appreciate my labor in the Lord and that encourages me when facing the adversity caused by despisers.  One of my greatest encouragers is my precious wife.  You’d think I walked on water like Peter if you had only her perspective!  But everyone certainly knows she only sees the best in me.

If a local church delights in the Gospel, the believers there must declare it with authority.

If we tell a lost and dying world that we declare the Gospel because Jesus Christ commanded us to do so, that won’t carry a whole lot of weight with them.  It is certainly true that He did command us so, and that His name carries great authority.  We are to be witnesses to Christ (Acts 1.8)!

It’s the same with Paul in Acts 13.  Paul had no authority from the Jews’ perspective in this text.  So, Paul went to the Old Testament, the Word of God.  Why do you think he did that?  It was because the Old Testament carried a great weight of authority from their perspective.

Paul quoted Isaiah 49.6:  Indeed [God the Father] says [to God the Son], ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”  Amen to that!

The Isaiah passage has the Father speaking to the Son.  He will not only restore the preserved ones of Israel, He will be a light to the Gentiles and salvation to the ends of the earth.  There’s the authority!  It’s found in the Old Testament, namely the Word of God!

I preach the Gospel because it is the offer of eternal life from God Himself to every man, woman, and child.  The Gospel alone saves because it is the Good News of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is a light to the whole world around me.  He is given for salvation to the ends of the earth.  He saves from the wrath of God which abides upon all mankind who are outside of Christ.

All are commanded to believe on Christ’s finished work alone.  We must declare the Gospel which delights the triune God.  We are not ashamed of the Gospel!  We are not ashamed of our God!  We are not ashamed of our bright and glorious hope!  If the self-righteous reject it for their own stinking religion, we will continue to proclaim it.  If the sinners revel in their supposed freedom to do whatever they feel like doing, we will continue to proclaim it.  Jesus still saves!  If any local church truly delights in the Gospel, then that church must declare it with authority!

If a church delights in the Gospel, it must delight in its acceptance.

Notice again the wording of Acts 13:48 (without being distracted by the end of the verse, if possible):  “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”  They were glad!  Why do you think they were glad?  It was because the Gentiles knew that they were condemned in their sin, but now believed that Jesus was the only way out!  Thus they glorified the word of the Lord!

From God’s perspective, they had been appointed to eternal life in Christ before the foundation of the world.  From the human perspective, they simply believed.  I don’t understand how divine sovereignty and human responsibility come together, but I delight in it!

I delight in the fact that the worst of the worst can turn and believe on Christ alone for eternal life!  I hope to see more and more conversions in the future.  I expect that there will always be despisers, but I thank God for ‘delighters’!

The love of God compels us.  The grace of God empowers us.  Let us all come together for the sake of the Gospel and do the work of ministry!  But let us not think that a church which allows sin and legalism to run rampant will ever delight in the acceptance of the Gospel.  Both marginalize the Gospel and breed a despising spirit.  Both the legalist and the licentious believer have bound themselves to sin that they have been freed from.  Both groups minimize the Gospel.  One is holier than thou and the other freer than thou (borrowed from Dr. David Potter).  A church which tolerates legalism and licentiousness is well-nigh useless and powerless because of this.  May God grant that our churches be sin-killing, Gospel preaching churches!  Many will despise that, but some will delight in it!

There are many terrible consequences in despising the Gospel.  Many in churches today call themselves Christians but are not.  They pass judgement daily upon themselves.  They are unworthy of eternal life.  They have no humility only self-righteousness before God.  Perhaps you have utter contempt for the preaching of the Word of God.  Perhaps you stare at the love of God with apathy and bitterness.  Are you willing to continue on in your lackluster state?  Are you willing to live each day under the wrathful eye of God feeling the full weight of the condemnation you deserve?  I would beg of you to come to Christ …come to the Cross …find the blood of our Lord and Savior to be sufficient to cleanse away all your sin!

There are many terrific consequences in delighting in the Gospel.  The great consequence of believing is the change in your quality of life.  It is eternal in its value.  You are freed from legalism and sinful living.  But this delight must give way to the glory of God.  You brought nothing to the table.  Deflect all praise and glory to Him today.  Immerse yourself in His Word and consider it more necessary than physical food!  Be reverent and grateful.  Hear the Word of God by receiving it and doing it.  Open up your mouth wide and let God fill it (see Psalm 81.10).  Let each Sunday bring you into conformity with Christ.  Allow your Savior to transform you and lift you to higher ground through the faithful preaching of your pastor!  Don’t defend yourself; defend the glory of God and delight in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!