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Acts: We Honour God by What We Preach by S.L. BA(HONS)

Introduction

    We honour God by what we preach. Let me clarify, we honour God by what we preach according to the Word of God. The question is...what is it that we should preach? If we preach the wrong thing we not only dishonor God but shame his name, and malign his character. There are numerous religions or religious groups  that preach different versions of the 'good news or gospel.' In some circles  preaching the good news is salvation by works,  or that salvation is found in only a particular church or group, some preach a coming utopia, a kingdom, or a  'type' of Jesus. Many of these groups vigorously preach these things door to door,  on street corners, in halls, churches, pulpits or to friends. The only way to find out what the Bible instructs us to preach is to turn to the scriptures and carefully examine them. The Book of Acts is the first book of the early Christian faith, an historical record, teaching theology, the framework for apologetics and  message we are instructed to proclaim. What is the message? It is called the 'Good News or Gospel,'  the resurrection story.

The Message

   Paul reminds his listeners in Corinth, " NOW I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;  then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 1 Cor 15:1-8"Also according to 1 Pt 3:4 " Our hope is through Christ's resurrection." As we will see in Acts the gospel(resurrection) is equated with key words such as 'salvation' 'burial' and being 'risen' on the third day.

 

Good News / Gospel

     The message of the resurrection is known as the gospel or good news. The Gospel is about repentance and forgiveness of sins. It is Good News because Jesus Christ broke the 'sin barrier.' He took sin upon himself and hung upon a tree shedding his blood  for the sins of the whole world and rising bodily from the grave. The Good News is always framed upon the very person of Jesus Christ because he could forgive our sins (Acts 8:35).  The Good News / Gospel instructs you in the way of salvation! We learn that salvation is found in no one else besides Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10-12). The bad news is that we stand condemned because we personally offended Jehovah by committing sin. Jesus had to die on the tree because of us. The really good news is that salvation is personal. Jesus not only died for Adamic sin but for you and I too!   It is vitally important to note that Jesus bore OUR sins on the tree. "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed 1 Pet 2:24."  What did Jesus bore on his own body? Bore means to "carry." What sins?  OUR sins...our personal sins. Every time we have offended God, perhaps not being honest with Him or our friends or family, our lusts, our coveting....Jesus paid the price for us! This is significant, because it means that we are the reason Christ had to shed his blood. According to this passage where did Jesus in fact carry our sins?    This means that God actually transferred the sins of you and I into the body of Jesus Christ! Jesus himself payed our penalty for our sins. Now this is most certainly Good News!!!
     How are we saved? By grace through faith according to Acts 15:11. The Book of Acts states that by calling on the name of the Lord we will be saved (Acts 2:21). The Gospel is simply this: believe in Christ and his resurrection to be made acceptable  by God. According to Paul this simple message of "we preach Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23)" to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness...!  For example  the soldier who guarded Paul asks " ... Sirs, what must I do to be saved?(Acts 16:30)" They replied " Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. Acts 16:31 " After Philip told the Ethiopian eunuch about the Good News he believed and was baptized (Acts 8:36-38). There were no lengthy classes before he could make a 'decision' he simply heard the message and believed!  A thorough understanding of the scriptures comes after 'the new man' not before. Moreover, in Acts chapter two we find that over 3,000 were added to that number believing the proclamation of the gospel.
     It is important to note that according to Acts 13:47 salvation is to be preached to the gentiles. In other words we are to spread the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who bore our sins on a tree for the forgiveness of sins. Any other gospel of 'good news' is truly no good news at all!

 

Good News of The Kingdom of God

  What is a Kingdom? " It refers to the people and area over which a king rules or reigns. So the Kingdom of God would exist anywhere God is ruling and reigning. "  Where is the Kingdom?  "Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;  nor will they say, "Look, here it is!' or, "There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst. Luke 17:20- 21"  Some have the concept that the Kingdom of God is a physical location where God will rule through his son. But according to Luke 17:20-21 how can a Kingdom be inside someone? "So if the kingdom of God is where God rules and reigns, then to say the kingdom is "within" someone means it refers to God ruling in that person life. If the translation should be "among you" then Jesus is referring to Himself as being the One who rules and reigns ( Gary Zeolla, Darkness to Light).  The Gospel is and always has been about the forgiveness of sins. Prior to Christ' death, forgiveness was found through repentance and faith in the coming Redeemer, which, of course was Christ. So the Gospel of the kingdom would be a referring to someone repenting of theirs sins, and finding forgiveness through faith in Christ's coming sacrifice. As a result, the person would enter the kingdom by now having his heart submitted to God's rule. ( Gary Zeolla, Darkness to Light)." So the question remains, is the Kingdom of God inside of you...does God have rule in your life? How does this occur?

 

Entrance Into The Kingdom

     How does one enter the Kingdom? The Kingdom cannot be obtained by aligning oneself with any religious organization, institution or group. Entrance to the Kingdom comes through Christ alone (Jn 14: 6, Mat 19:28). The clearest statement of all is in John 3:3 "Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. " If you are not born again, there is no entrance into the Kingdom. Remember it is Jesus who says " unless one is born again he CANNOT see the kingdom...(emphasis mine.)" Why must we be "born again?" What does it mean?
Spiritual Death: According to Rom3:23 "all have sinned," we have therefore offended the living and Almighty God. Romans 6:23 states that the penalty for sin is death. Think about... God states in no uncertain terms that we deserve death! What then can we do? In Jn 3:6 " That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." In other words we are helpless. The flesh produces only more things of the 'flesh,'it cannot produce anything spiritual. We are spiritually dead and worse the  flesh is condemned by the law. Moreover, the spiritually dead cannot accept spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14.) We can't even please God (Rom 8:8). Mankind is spiritually dead, separated from God and cannot "see" the Kingdom.  What we need is someone or somebody to do something that we CAN'T do! We must be made spiritually alive.
Spiritual Life: The only way to enter into the Kingdom of God is to be adopted. What does God require of us? "" Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?  Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." John 6:28-29" " In agreement with Jn 6:28-29 we find  that " Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child. 1 Jn 5:1 "   Galatians 4:5-6 speaks of the children of God as being adopted  "...to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.   And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"  Moreover, "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God Rom 8:14."  In order to be "born again" one must have God's Spirit within us, that is "born of the spirit Jn 3:5." The Holy Spirit dwells in all believers (Jn 14:17, Rom 8:11, 1 Cor 3:16, 1 Cor 6:19) making us spiritually alive. If there is no 'spiritual birth' then one CANNOT see the Kingdom of God. Being 'born again' is God's grace working through us by cleansing us from all unrighteousness (sin)( (1 Jn 1:7), declaring us righteous before God through Christ's shed blood (Isa 61:10, Rom 3:23-26, Rom 4:6). We have become new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), escaped the judgement of God (Rom 8:1) and have restored fellowship with him (1 Thes 5:9-10.)

 

Kingdom of God In Acts

     At least three times there are instances where we  read  reference to the Kingdom of God in Acts. The first instance Jesus Christ had been giving instructions to the Apostles for 40 days about the Kingdom of God. What are they? There are a few things he brings to the Apostles attention including the fact that the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated but not fully realized until he comes again (Acts 1:3). 1 God's Kingdom would reign in the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit. He also warned the Apostles that it was not up to them to know the times and dates of the Father had set in his own authority (Acts 1:7).   Christ told the Apostles not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for God's gift which would be the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is an important key to the instructions of the Kingdom. Without the Holy Spirit we could not belong to Christ, nor could we be united with him, nor would we be his children, or part of the body of Christ. Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that is the Holy Spirit taking up residence in our hearts we cannot preach the gospel. This leads us into the next few points on the Kingdom of God.
     In the next instance of the preaching of the Good news of the Kingdom, Philip did not preach the 'kingdom' but instead preached the Good News of it (Acts 8:12). Jesus as noted gives us entrance because of repentance and forgiveness of sins. Without Jesus there is no Good News, no entrance into this the Kingdom  of God. In Acts 14:22 we see that upon entering the Kingdom of God there are many tribulations as Paul, Derbe and Barnabas can attest to that! Paul continued to preach about the Kingdom of God in the synagogues. Again what exactly was he preaching? The scriptures tell us 'the Way (Acts 19:9, 16:17).' Paul was delivering instructions on the way to salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul clearly outlines his ministry that he received from the Lord Jesus 'to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God Acts 20:24.) Following this verse he states " I went about preaching the kingdom.....(Acts 20:25)." The preceding verses make it clear that his preaching message was not a place but the gospel of grace (crucifixion / resurrection) through Jesus Christ. Our clear instructions for delivering the gospel is the person of Jesus Christ.

 

Resurrection

     The Good News is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the Dictionary of  The Bible the resurrection is a restoration of life.2 The Webster's New World Thesaurus denotes the resurrection as a 'rebirth' or a 'return' to life. Jesus was raised in the same human body he died in! In fact Jesus demonstrates this very point in Jn 2:18-21 "The Jews then said to him, "What sign have you to show us for doing this?"  Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."   The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?"  But he spoke of the temple of his body. " Was Jesus talking about rebuilding the actual temple? What was Jesus trying to say? What temple was Jesus really talking about? According to Jn 2:21 he was speaking of the temple of his body! It wasn't Jesus' spirit that died but his body. Where was his spirit? "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
Peter I 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 1 Peter  3:18 KJV" At the time of his resurrection his spirit and body re-united. Note that in Mat 28:6 the angel states "He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay." Jesus left the tomb in the same body he had before! 1 Cor 15:44 speaks of the spiritual body , not as an immaterial body but a supernatural one (spirit dominated body.)3  The Greek word body (soma) when used of a person, always refers to physical body in the New Testament .4 The spiritual body is supernatural because " it is not ruled by the flesh that perishes but by the spirit that endures (1 Cor 15:50-58.)5 Paul is simply contrasting the earthly (perishable body) to the supernatural (imperishable) body.  What is so special about the resurrection?  "The resurrection is the climactic achievement in the saving deeds of God. To recognize the event as a fact is nothing; to accept it as a saving deed is to believe in it and to receive the salvation which is achieved by it."6 One of the first things Christ does upon his resurrection in Acts was to prove convincingly to the disciples that he is in fact alive (Acts 1:3). This is so important that a qualification for being an Apostle was being an eye witness to this glorious event (Acts 1:22). The resurrection is securely tied to salvation, without Christ rising from the grave there is no saving act.   It is also the main theme woven throughout the Book of Acts. If he did not rise from the dead then as Paul explains our faith is in vain. Distrusting in the bodily resurrection also means that we assert that Jesus himself is a liar and the scriptures are untrustworthy!!! If there was no resurrection we have no hope ourselves of being resurrected. The Resurrection is the CENTRAL event and is essential to the Christian faith. Everything rests or fails on this issue. The Apostles preached and taught about the Good News of the resurrection of Christ while many of the religious zealots opposed them. In fact in Peter's first great speech he states "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.  Acts 2:24 "  Death has been conquered! Moreover, Peter states that ".. and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. Acts 3:15 "  Ceaselessly and unwaveringly the Apostles taught the resurrection message and witnessed to Jesus Christ! Why? Christ paid for our sins, he became our substitution for a punishment that we all deserved. This encompasses the Gospel / Good news message! If we don't preach this as the central message of our faith and preach something else, we are under God's curse! (see references to the resurrection Acts 2:24, 2:31-32, 3:15, 4:2, 4:10, 5:30, 5:32, 10:31, 10:39, 13:28-30, 13:32, 13:37, 17:3, 17:18, 24:21, 25:19, 26:8, 26:23 CARM)

 

Enemies of The Resurrection - Enemies of the Name

     As the new followers persisted in proclaiming Christ crucified and resurrection,  there were also enemies trying to suppress and oppose the Good News. In Acts 4:17 we see that in front of the scribes and the elders the followers of Jesus are giving a stern warning not to preach in the 'name'  "But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name." Whose name are they warned not to preach in? We are told in the next verse: " And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Acts 4:18)  In the temple courts Peter and the other apostles were warned not to preach the name of Jesus Christ. While Paul was reasoning in the synogues teaching about the resurrection some of the listeners sneered (Acts 17:32). Some became hardened and disobedient speaking evil of the Way Acts 19:9.  Even Paul admits that he was once hostile to the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:9!) It is first evidenced here in Acts that unbelievers find the name of Jesus offensive and dangerous!

Witness of Whom?

     Not only were the Apostles and early Christians instructed to speak of the resurrection but they were to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.  As early as Acts 1:8 Christ states to the Apostles that they are His witnesses. Further on we read that the Apostles are witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection (Acts 1:22, 2:32, 3:15, 4:20, 5:32, 10:39.) Christ is the CENTRAL  figure of the resurrection. Before the council, Peter and John proclaimed "we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard. Acts 4:20."  In Acts Chapter 5 they boldly claim that they must obey God rather than men and persist in this teaching (see Acts 5:28-32, 14:7). The Apostles endured in proclaiming Christ as we see with Philip. "Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. Acts 8:5" The proclamation of Christ is so important that time and time again in over 20 passages refer to him being the central message. (Also see 9:15, 9:16, 9:20, 9:22, 9:28, 10:36, 13:32, 14:7, 17:3, 17:18, 18:5, 18:25, 19:28, 20:21, 20:24, 22:15, 22:16, 24:24, 25:19, 26:16 CARM)

The Name

     The early Christians new that there was great power in Christ's name! In fact his name is held in high honour (Acts 19:17) and has a name above every other name (Phil 2:9),  it is also glorified (2 Thes 1:12).  Salvation was tied to Jesus Christ. Anyone calling on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21)! Through Jesus name all who believe in Him receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43, Mat 9:2). It was faith in Christ's name that gave power and healing (Acts 3:15,16). New converts were baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 10:48, 19:5, 22:16). They were also to repent in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38). Paul commanded spirits in the name of Jesus (Acts 16:18).  Men risked their lives for the name if Jesus Christ (Acts 15:26). Also, we see that Barnabas spoke boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27-28.)  As well Philip preached the good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ! (Acts 8:12, 8:35). The Apostles persisted in preaching  Jesus Christ boldly!
     The Apostles refused to bow to the wishes of the elders and scribes to hush up the name of Jesus ( Acts 4:2, 4:17-18, 5:28, 5:40). Saul of Tarsus persecuted those preaching the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:9-11) and he had the authority to bind(capture) anyone preaching Christ's name (Acts 9:10). People even questioned whether Paul was an authentic convert while preaching in Christ's name (" Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests Acts 9:21?"). Suffering and persecution can come through preaching Christ's name ( Acts 9:10,  9:16, see Ch 15, Acts 21:13).  In addition, according  to Acts 9:15 Paul would suffer for Christ's name sake. and even die for the name of Jesus (Acts 21:13)  Jesus name is so important that in Acts  9:14 " ...Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; "  Whose name was he to proclaim? Paul was specifically instructed to bear the name of Jesus! We too share this privilege.

Another Gospel

     Time and time again the resurrection of Christ was emphasized by the Apostles and the followers of Jesus. This event was the first thing Peter preached on and it had the power to transform lives. Without this message we are lost.  Paul was so adamant about clearly teaching the Gospel that he reprimanded the Galatians by saying " I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Gal1:6-9." For emphasis Paul states twice that anyone bringing forth another 'gospel' message is eternally condemned! Paul continues , " For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I  neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11-12" He declares that it was God's purpose for him to proclaim his Son among the Gentiles (Gal 1:16).  We cannot honour God if we proclaim a message other than this.

Summary

     It is clear that the main emphasis of the Book of Acts is based on the event of the resurrection and the person of Jesus Christ. It is a message of hope in a world of hopelessness. The Apostles were eye witnesses to this amazing grace and proclaimed it boldly to everyone.  We need not make the message of the Word of God complicated. Like the Ethiopian Eunuch we need only to hear the gospel and respond.  Simply calling on the name of Jesus Christ (trusting in his shed blood) is the only way to enter the Kingdom of God here and now. The resurrection of Christ conquered sin and death. We are to preach this event and witness to the person of Christ. This is what a follower's vocation is. The question is how will you  honour God? Will you believe it? Will you preach it?

1 Life Application Bible, New International Version 1991 p 1942
2 Dictionary of The Bible. John L. McKenzie, S.J. New York, NY, Colloer Books MacMillan Publishing Company,  1965.  p 732
3 Ron Rhodes p190
4 ibid., p190
5 ibid., p190
6 Dictionary of The Bible. John L. McKenzie, S.J. New York, NY, Colloer Books MacMillan Publishing Company,  1965.  p 733

 

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