Acts 16:30-31 To the Glory of God 10/20/2014
#1. No One Seeks After God (Isa 53:1, Rom 3:10-11)
#2. This Is the Work of God (John 6:28-29, Rom 3:27-28)
#3. The Law and Grace (Acts 16:31, 13:38-39)
Please open your Bibles to the First Epistle of Peter, chapter 4:11 (2X). You find I Peter in the last 5% of your Bible, after Hebrews and James. While you are looking that up, listen to the words I am reading to you from I Cor 10:31, where God says, through the pen of the Apostle Paul: "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (2X). This must be the overriding reason for everything that we do. It is to be done "to the glory of God". The title of our sermon today is: "To the Glory of God" (2X).
1 Peter 4:11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
God says here, through the pen of the Apostle Peter: "That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ". Let us keep this goal in mind while we listen and labor through the content of this sermon, which is not at all about I Pet 4:11. The focus of this sermon is on:
Please turn about 170 pages to your left to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 16:29 (2X). During the second missionary journey Paul and Silas sailed from Asia into Europe, and arrived in Philippi, which was a city in Macedonia. There the Apostle Paul and his companion Silas were falsely accused of being troublemakers. They were brutally whipped and they were put in prison as if they were dangerous criminals. But then God performed some mighty miracles. At midnight God gave Paul and Silas the grace to sing praises to God, in spite of their pain from the Roman whips. And the other prisoners heard them. Then God caused a great earthquake, so that all the prison doors were opened. After the earthquake the jailor came to the entrance of the prison. When he saw that all the doors were open he drew his sword and wanted to kill himself. Under Roman rule any soldier who let a prisoner escape will himself be killed. But Paul called to him: "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here". Then the jailor realized that this was a miracle from God, and we read now in Acts 16:29,
Acts 16:29-30 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Here is a verse that is held by many churches to be the essence of the Gospel: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved". Today so many people like the jailor ask: "What must I DO to be saved?" And so many churches answer, "This is what you must do: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved". You have to believe! This is what you must DO! But is this teaching really to the glory of God? Is this 100% truth? If anyone is still in an unconverted state, then that person is still dead in trespasses and sins. That person is unable to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, because he or she is still in rebellion against God. When I search the Bible, I find that:
#1. No One Seeks After God (Isa 53:1, Rom 3:10-11). NONE! NO, NOT ONE!
Please turn to the Prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 53 (2X). You find Isaiah about in the middle of your
Bible, right after Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The name Isaiah means "Salvation of Jehovah", which is almost the same as Joshua, which means, "Jehovah is Salvation". The Hebrew name Joshua is the same as the Greek name Jesus, about whom Isaiah wrote so often. Isaiah prophesied during the reign of four kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Tradition has it that Isaiah was martyred during the reign of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah. If that is so, then Isaiah must have preached for at least 55 years, and during those 55 years he did not make one convert.
God, through the Prophet Isaiah, wrote in Isa 53:1,
Isaiah 53:1, Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
Who has believed it? It is a rhetorical question. No one has believed it. In fact, the following verse Isa 53:2 says: "when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him", and Isa 53:3 says "He is despised and rejected of men", and "we hid as it were our faces from him". There was no one and there is no one who has believed this report of the Suffering Servant written here in Isa 52 and 53. Why not? It is because "the human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked". This is what God says in the Bible. This is how we all came into this world, desperately wicked. That is why no one believes what God says they must believe.
Let us now turn back to the NT, to the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 3:11 (2X). You find Romans right after Acts of the Apostles. This verse, Rom 3:11, is a quotation from Psalm 14:2, where we read that God is looking down from heaven, to investigate if there is anyone who understands Him or who seeks after Him. There are NONE. God looked down from heaven for this very purpose, to see whether there were any righteous people. There were NONE. We read in Rom 3:10-11,
Romans 3:10, As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one
Romans 3:11, There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
To understand is used in the sense of being wise unto salvation. The word is often used in the Bible to indicate the state of the heart, inclining the mind to obey and worship God. For example in Matt 13 the Lord Jesus said: "Lest they should understand with their heart and should be converted".
"To seek after God" refers to a mind that searches to know and to do God's will, and a mind to get to know God's character. A righteous man will consider it his highest privilege and honor to know God and to understand His will. On the other hand, a disposition not to seek after God, or to neglect and forget God, is proof of a wicked heart and mind. God says in Rom 3:11,
Romans 3:11, There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
If no one seeks after God, then how can anyone come to a right relationship with God? How can anyone come to faith in Christ? How can anyone believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, like the Philippian Jailor was commanded to do? No one will believe, because no one seeks after God. Is this command to believe really to the glory of God? And how can I know for myself if I am a "believer"?
Please turn about 60 pages to your right to the Epistle to the Galatians, chapter 2:16 (2X). Is there something that I can DO to help God in saving me? Has Christ done all He could, and the only thing that I must DO is to believe on Him? Is this the only command of God that I must obey to become saved? This is very similar to the problem that grew in the Galatian churches. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Galatian churches, but actually God wrote this letter to us. Most churches in our days hold to the doctrine that Christ has done all He could, and the only thing that I must DO is to believe on Him. Almost 2000 years ago certain Jews known as "the Judaizers" went through the Galatian churches and taught them: "Yes, Christ has done all He could, but there is one small thing that you must DO to complete your salvation; you must be circumcised according to the Law of Moses". The ceremony was not so bad. Most American males are circumcised. But the principle of obeying the Law of Moses to accomplish your salvation, that is bad. It is so bad that God says in Gal 5:4, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace". It is a deadly heresy! We read here in Gal 2:16,
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
There are many principles taught in this verse. The one principle that I want to focus on today is this: "For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified". We cannot be justified, or we cannot be saved, through obeying the Law of God. We cannot be saved by works, either by a work that we do, or by a work that another human being does for us. We cannot do anything to assist in getting us saved. Why not? It is because salvation is all by grace. It cannot be earned or deserved.
What is a work? If it is something that I DO, either I do it with my body, or I do it with my mind, just something that I DO, then that is a work. Making a decision is work. There are many highly paid executives who do nothing else than make decisions. Making a decision to believe on Jesus is a work. The Bible says that all our works are tainted by sin. But we cannot offer something to God that is tainted by sin. For example, how sincere were we when we came to believe on Jesus? Were we sincere enough? Of course, we are not sure. In other words, we have nothing to offer to God. That is why we cannot be saved through our works. This is again reiterated by Gal 3:21, where we read:
Galatians 3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
In other words, if there would have been a law which we could obey and thereby obtain salvation, then God would have chosen that plan of salvation, and Christ would not have to come down to earth to die on a cruel cross. But that is not possible. There is no law which we could obey to obtain salvation, and that includes the command: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ". Does this clash with the teaching of Acts 16:31? How can it be that God in two different parts of the Bible teaches different
things? Again we have to ask ourselves: Is this teaching really to the glory of God? Or is it:
Please turn about 6 pages to your right, to the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 2:8 (2X). What a great blessing this letter to the Ephesians is. If you are new to the Bible and you need a brief summary of the Gospel, then begin with the first three chapters of this letter to the Ephesians. There you find all the essentials packed together. We read here in Eph 2:8-9,
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (2X)
If we are saved, we are saved not of works on our part! If salvation is not based on something that WE DO, what is it then? It is based on a work that Christ does for us and in our place, and He gives it to us free of charge. That is called "amazing grace". Grace is a gift leading unto salvation. Grace is a gift that we do not deserve. We cannot earn or deserve this grace unto salvation. There is absolutely nothing that we can DO to earn this gift of salvation. It is absolutely criminal to tell people that Christ has done all He could, and now it is up to us to close the contract by believing on Him. That is not grace. Perhaps you remember the difference between grace and mercy. Grace is receiving something that we do not deserve, and mercy is withholding something that we do deserve. If we have been saved, the mercy of God means that God is withholding from us the penalty of Hell, which we do deserve. Grace is unmerited favor. That is a definition of grace accepted by almost everyone. Now let me ask you, "Can you merit unmerited favor"? Of course not, it is a contradiction in terms.
From Eph 2:8-9 we learn that our salvation is entirely by grace, and it is not of works on our part. Our salvation is entirely Christ's workmanship, and that is also what we read in verse 10,
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
If God has before ordained all this, how long ago did God ordain this? Well, in Eph 1:4 we read that God "has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world". That is how long ago God knew everyone whom He was going to save, and God knew everything that He was going to accomplish, and God knew every action of ours and every sin we were going to commit. But God's actions do not depend on what we do, or what we decide. Remember, mortal man is born in sin and in rebellion against God from the day of his conception. God does not wait for us to carry out His plans for this creation. Is this teaching really to the glory of God? Now we are getting closer to the truth.
#2. This Is the Work of God (John 6:28-29, Rom 3:27-28)
Please turn about 170 pages to your left to the Gospel according to John, chapter 6:28 (2X). John chapter 6 is a wonderful chapter where five different themes are woven together into two historical events. The two sceneries are on both sides of the Sea of Galilee. The Lord Jesus had miraculously multiplied five barley loaves and two fishes before the eyes of 5000 men, plus women and children. Then they wanted to make Jesus their earthly King, but Jesus withdrew Himself from them. The next day the same group of people met Jesus on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Then the Lord Jesus said to them: "Labor not for the food that perishes, but labor for the food that endures unto everlasting life". Then we read:
John 6:28 ¶ Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Do you see that? They asked Jesus almost the same question as the Philippian Jailor asked Paul and Silas. "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" Paraphrased they asked: "Is there anything we can do, to do a work that pleases God?" And the Lord Jesus gave almost the same answer that Paul and Silas gave. He said: "Believe on Him whom He hath sent". Paraphrased, Jesus said: "You must believe on Me whom God has sent". But Jesus added a new piece of information. He said: "This is the work of God, that ye believe". In other words, the Lord Jesus said: "Ye believe, because this is the work of God". If you believe at all, you believe because God has done a work within you, making you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we see that believing is a work, but it is NOT our work. This is the work of God. God gives us the faith!
Please turn about 100 pages to your right, to the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 3:27 (2X). We have been there before, so you can easily find it. Now, many verses throughout the Bible begin to harmonize. We have seen that we cannot be saved by our works, and here in John 6 we have seen that believing is a work. Many times God speaks about salvation by faith, or becoming saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. On the one hand God calls believing a work, and on the other hand God says that it is not a work. Well then, what is it? Let us read here in Rom 3:27,
Rom 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Paraphrased, verses 27-28 say: "We may not boast at all, because we can only boast of our works, which do nothing for our salvation. Only the rule of faith has any merit. Therefore we conclude that if a man is justified by faith, he is justified without the deeds of the law". Justified by faith, means: Justified in the sight of God by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. But this believing is not our work, it is God's work (2X). We must separate our work from God's work, because God's work is no work on our part. Is this teaching really to the glory of God? Let us look now at the word "Ordained".
Please turn about 38 pages to your left, to the Acts of the Apostles again, to Acts 13:45 (2X). The Apostle Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey, and they arrived in the city of Antioch in Pisidia. First they preached to the Jews in the synagogue of that city, and they were invited to preach on the next day to the Gentiles of that city. Now we read in Acts 13:45,
Acts 13:45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves
unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
Acts 13:47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Here are the words that I would like you to remember: "As many as were ordained (appointed) to eternal life believed". Who were those who believed? They were those who received eternal life. Who were those who received eternal life? They were those who were before ordained (appointed) that they should receive this gift. When were they ordained (appointed) to receive this gift? They were appointed to receive this gift before the foundation of the world, according to Eph 1:4. The word "ordained" in verse 48 means "appointed". In the present context this word also means, " predestined or elected from before the foundation of the world ". This means that we have to be elected unto salvation first before we can be saved, and we have to be saved first before we can believe.
When we bring the Gospel to the nations, simultaneously we give them God's command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that God commands all people to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but we must be saved first before we can obey this command to believe. In other words, we must be Born Again before we can obey this command to believe. Again we have to ask: is this teaching really to the glory of God? Absolutely! All the credit goes to God, which means all the glory goes to God, and none to us. Let us summarize what we have found so far.
We have seen from Acts 16:31 that the jailor at Philippi was commanded to "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved". But could the jailor at Philippi really do that? He could not do that if he was "still dead in trespasses and sins". We have seen in Isa 53:1 the question "Who has believed our report?" The answer is that "there is NONE who believes the Word of God". No one believes it because ALL have come into the world in rebellion against God. Therefore, NO ONE will obey God's command to believe. Moreover, we have seen from Gal 2:16 that "By the works of the law shall no flesh be saved". There is nothing we can do to become saved. We cannot become saved through obeying God's command to believe, because in our natural state we are not able to believe. This was confirmed in Eph 2:8-10 that "Our works cannot save us; it is Christ's workmanship that saves us". Salvation is by grace alone, and grace is the unmerited favor of God. We cannot merit unmerited favor. Then we have seen from John 6:29 that our believing really is the work of God. God gives us the faith. Therefore God gives us the ability to believe. It is not something that WE DO, but "it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure". And lastly, we have seen from Acts 13:48 that we have to be saved first before we can believe the Gospel. Therefore, we may not promise people to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and guarantee that God will save them if they believe. They cannot believe if they are not yet saved.
Is this teaching really to the glory of God? Absolutely! All the credit goes to God. Any doctrine that gives part of the credit to man is really robbing God of His glory. It is actually worse than that. Any "Do it yourself salvation" is a works gospel, and is like the false gospel floating around in the Galatian churches. It is a deadly heresy! Let us come back now to Acts 16:31. What exactly does it say? Why did Paul and Silas give this answer to the Philippian Jailor? What is the true meaning of Acts 16:31? And the answer is: We must harmonize this verse with other verses of the Bible, and then we see:
#3. The Law and Grace (Acts 16:31, 13:38-39)
Let us hear Acts 16:31 again. Paul and Silas said to the jailor at Philippi:
Acts 16:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
The first part of this verse is a command: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ". This is the Law of God. It is a command to believe. The second part of this verse is grace: "Thou shalt be saved, and thy house", are promises that are only given to the elect of God. We can only know of our own salvation, but we do not know that of our children. We can only bring the Gospel to our home, but we are not guaranteed that God will also save our household. For example, the Prophet Samuel was saved by grace, but he had two wicked sons. King David certainly was saved by grace, but three of his sons died unsaved: Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah. When Paul and Silas said to the jailor at Philippi: "Thou shalt be saved, and thy house", that can only apply to the household of the jailor at Philippi. If this would apply all the time to everyone who believes, then within a few hundred years the entire known world would have become one community of saints, and there would be no cults and sects. This is contrary to Jesus' teaching that many will be on the broad way to Hell, and few will be on the narrow way to heaven.
There are many passages or verses displaying "The Law and Grace". If your Bible is still open to Acts chapter 13, look here at Acts 13:38-39 (2X),
Acts 13:38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
Acts 13:39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
The promise given in verse 38 is "The forgiveness of sins". This is grace. Verse 39 speaks about the Law of God. "All that believe" is again urging all mankind, or commanding all mankind to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, followed by a repeat of the promise of grace: to be justified of all things means the forgiveness of all sins. And is this not how God has written the whole Bible? We find laws of God all throughout the Bible, and we find wonderful promises of grace also throughout the Bible. Quite often it seems that these promises are given conditionally to those who are obedient to the laws of God. But that leads to Arminian theology every time. The truth is that when God saves an individual, He also changes their heart, so that they have an urgent desire to obey God's laws.
Please turn about 60 pages to your left to the Gospel according to John, chapter 3:16 (2X). We have here one of the best known, and most loved verses of the Bible:
There are many more goodies in John chapter 3. Today we will look at only this verse:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Look here at the second part of this verse. Here is the law of God: "Whosoever believeth in Him". God commands every human being to believe in God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a dreadful consequence of not believing in Him: he or she will perish, which does not mean annihilation, but it means the second death in the Lake of Fire. And where is grace? Ah, there it is: "But have everlasting life". We know that everlasting life means that we have been promoted from children of the Devil to children of God. We also know that this gift of eternal life is reserved only for those who have been elected unto salvation, according to Eph 1:4.
Please turn two pages to your left to another well-known verse, John chapter 1:12 (2X).
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the
sons of God,
even to them that believe on his name:
Where is the law in that verse? It occurs two times: "As many as received Him" and "them that believe on His name". Those that believe on His name are the same group of people who received Him. God commands everyone to believe on the name of Jesus. That does not refer to believing that His name was Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ is God. God does not have a name to distinguish Him from other gods, because there are no other gods. But His name refers to the Word of God. That really is His name, because all the other names of Christ are written in the Word of God. The whole Bible and nothing less than the whole Bible is the name of Christ that we must believe on.
And who are they that believe on this name? Look at the next verse. Here is the grace that is given first to those who are God's elect, and then they will believe on His name.
John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
What does this verse say? They were born of God. Can anyone be born of God by being born in the household of a religious Jew? NO! Can anyone make himself be born of God by choosing to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? NO! Can anyone make himself be born of God by getting baptized in water? NO! There is nothing we can DO to make ourselves "Born of God". God does it all!
And now I can know that I have arrived at 100% truth, and that this doctrine is really to the glory of God. All the credit and the honor goes to God, and none goes to man.
Please turn about 250 pages to your right to the First Epistle of Peter, chapter 3:15 (2X). While you are looking this up, let me read to you what God says in Isa 6:9-10.
Isaiah 6:9 ¶ And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
Isaiah 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Did you hear that? Isaiah received this assignment, but God told him that the nation of Judah was not going to hear what God said. The evidence of this fact was that Isaiah preached for more than 55 years, and made no converts.
That can happen in our church too! When we do not bring the true Gospel there will be no converts. What are we doing with a sermon like this? We all run into people who say: "All you have to DO is believe". Do we have an answer for them? Do we have compassion for them? How can we explain to them that they do not know what grace is? How can we explain to them what a works gospel is, and that a works gospel does not save? You need this outline! Have you ever used our bulletin outlines to bring a point across?
We only use this as an outline if we are pricked in our hearts. But that is the work of God the Holy Spirit. That is not my work. Pray that God will give us many opportunities to witness, and pray that we may see those opportunities and grab them. Let us read what God commands us in I Pet 3:15,
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear:
We must always be ready to give an answer. We must not only be willing to do it, but we also must be able to do it. This is what God requires of us. I know that this readiness to give an answer does not come by itself. We have to work at it. But this is one of those good works that pleases God.
This is a command from God. Obeying this command cannot save us. But if we obey this command it might be a reflection of "the love of God that was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" (Rom 5:5). Do we have such a love for our fellow man that they can see Christ in us? Yes, this is what God requires of us, because we must love our neighbor as ourselves. And if there are no converts in our life, let it not be for lack of witness, but let it be because it is God's plan.
Amen. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.