Sanctification of the Word
Acts 13:44-52; 10/29/2023; BCBC/IOUC; Rev. Paul Wang
This is the social effect and gospel response brought about by Paul’s first message, and of course it also includes many challenges. There are those who need the gospel, and there are those who reject the gospel. This is where the Word of God sanctifies those who belong to Him. Let’s look at the first point:
The whole city want to hear the word of the Lord
At this time, Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven, so how will His influence be exerted? One is the Holy Spirit, and the other is the words spoken by the apostles. First, the sanctification of time. The gospel strategy of the early church was to preach the gospel to the Jews first. The Sabbath is a time for the Jews to gather together, so it is reasonable for Paul and his party to choose to preach on the Sabbath. The Sabbath originated from God’s creation, and its meaning is to commemorate God’s creation, commemorate the salvation out of Egypt, commemorate the presence of the Lord, the coming of Christ, and the imminent return of Christ. It was only when the Jews rejected the gospel that God gradually evolved the gathering day of the New Testament church from the Sabbath to today’s gathering on Sunday. In fact, God does not care so much about which day it is, but rather whether our hearts care about Him and whether we consecrate one day every week to worship Him and serve Him.
Secondly, the sanctification of space. It stands to reason that if we talk about space, we would think of a synagogue or a church. However, the Bible does mention the whole city gathered together. This shows that God’s focus is not only on the saved people in the church, but His sanctified salvation is even more focused on those who are not yet saved. Just as the Lord Jesus put the ninety-nine sheep into the fold and went to find the one lost in the wilderness. Of course, the whole city is also a challenge. When the Lord was born in Bethlehem, the Bible records that the whole city in Jerusalem was disturbed because King Herod was jealous. Since 2013, Wenzhou, Henan, Anhui and other places have also demolished crosses, destroyed churches and arrested believers because of the jealousy of Xia Baolong and other powerful people.
Finally, the sanctification of the spiritual man. The Bible records that, “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. ” It shows that God’s time has been fulfilled. Christ became flesh, sacrificed his life on the cross, was resurrected and ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit descended, the church set out, and the gospel was widely preached. Even people in this city came to hear God’s word. In fact, this is also a touchstone or watershed to identify a person’s belonging. When people hear God’s word and are attracted and moved, and carry this move through to the end and forever, they are God’s chosen people, people who are sanctified by God because of God’s word. The Word, the Word of God, is like a seed falling into the soil of our lives. Good soil will bear a hundredfold good fruit. If it falls among thorns or on shallow soil, it will not go far on the road of faith. Let’s look at the second point:
The Jews refused the word of the Lord
The Jews, as God’s chosen people, that hinder God’s salvation, is indeed extremely ironic. First, rejecting the word of God because of the human heart’s disfavor. Humanity after Adam was pitiful, lonely, and restless. Everyone is afraid of being ignored by the people around them, or not being understood or supported by anyone. Hamas killed people, set fires, raped, looted, and committed all kinds of evil, and even blamed the Israelis for bombing their own hospitals. The leaders of Hamas even call on Muslims around the world to express their anger, including various terrorist attacks, protest marches, and supporting terrorists. Paul’s first sermon greatly disturbed the Jews. The bible says, “they were filled with jealousy.” In order to win the people’s heart, the antichrists will do anything they can to deceive, brainwash, and close the Internet to prevent the people from knowing the truth. Ultimately, it is because they reject God’s truth!
Secondly, they slander God’s truth because of poor reasoning and poor expression. The apostles of the early church, including the later church fathers and apologists, were all eloquent warriors. For example, Luke, who represents Paul, and Paul himself, judging from the letters they wrote, are very powerful defense letters. In other words, the truth is not afraid of debate, and the more debate it gets, the clearer it becomes. But when the Jews were at a loss for words, they began to “contradict what was spoken by Paul.” To refute something is to go against common sense, ignore the facts, cover up the truth, and spread rumors to cause trouble. In the end, they even embarked on the road of slander based on nothing. Just like the fire in Rome on the night of July 19, AD 64, it was clearly the Roman Emperor Nero who set the fire himself, but he slandered the Christians. Nero was 26 years old at the time. Four years later, Nero, who was only 30 years old, committed suicide and died a tragic death!
Finally, the Word of the Lord is lost by rejecting Christ. Apparently, on this Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas were preaching together. The Bible testifies that they preached with boldness. In today’s climate of religious persecution, do any of us still dare to preach boldly? What should we do if the church is destroyed, the cross is torn down, and the pastor is arrested? Continue to persevere or scatter? If you speak the truth, you may go to jail, and if you preach, you may be sentenced. Pastor Wang Yi and Pastor Cao Sanqiang are still in prison. Their bold preaching is our example. Paul said: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46)” This verse is a turning point in the shift of gospel priorities from Jews to Gentiles. Let’s look at the third point:
The Gentiles rejoiced
Although Paul was preaching in the synagogue at that time, the message he preached spread like wildfire to people throughout the city. First, this is Jehovah’s will. How do you know it is God’s will? This is a question that many people would ask Paul back then, right? It has been the inertia of human thinking for many years that wealth should not flow to outsiders. In the Jewish ideological inertia, Gentiles are nothing more than firewood used in the fire of hell and have no value in life. But now the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say through Isaiah 42:6-7: “ “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” This becomes Paul’s receiving: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth”
Secondly, it is a gospel to the Gentiles. When the Gentiles heard this good news, guess what? The Bible says: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. ” In fact, you and I are all experienced and witnesses of this verse. Logically speaking, we are all “wild branches” and are inherently unworthy of being grafted into the true vine. We should turn around and sympathize with God’s will, adjust the structure and priorities of the church, and continue to make evangelism to the Jews our priority mission. Especially when the Israelites encounter disaster, we should pay the price of our prayers and do our best to support God’s chosen people. This is God’s command!
Lastly, this is the glory of the minister. Luke expresses the glory of the minister in a very special way. The first is the spread of the gospel, because the gospel has spread throughout that area. Second, they were persecuted. The Bible says: “But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. (Acts 13:50)” Third, ministers have the authority to “shake off the dust from their feet” to demonstrate God’s judgment. Fourth, ministers have the grace to be filled with the Holy Spirit, which is better than anything in the world. Whenever someone in the church believes in the Lord, is baptized, attends basic truth classes, children’s Sunday school, youth fellowship, adult Sunday school, discipleship training, prayer meetings, short-term missions, support of missionaries, etc., God’s glory comes to us.
Well, thank the Lord! The Lord Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven, but His word can still do the sanctifying work on earth through the Holy Spirit in the church, in the city, and among His people. Thank God!
Let us pray……
44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.
46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.
50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.
51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.
52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.