Sermon: Apostolic Narration and The Sovereignty of God (Acts 13:13-52)

Apostolic Narration and The Sovereignty of God

Acts 13:13-52

Introduction

The doctrine of divine election is not a very popular subject.  In fact, in most circles it is hated and ridiculed.  Why do most people dislike it and many make fun of it?  There is not truth of Scripture that exposes man’s utter helplessness in salvation.  There is no truth that highlights God’s sovereignty more than election.  We are going to look at a passage today that highlights the fact that at every point along the way God is working, choosing, sending, setting up, and controlling human destiny.  Beloved rejoice in this wonderful truth…Salvation is of the Lord.

Notice with me all that Paul narrates, how that he explains that at every step of redemptive history, God was working…16 times in 15 verses he says…God did it.  Then notice what Luke through the Holy Spirit narrates…

TT- God is the first cause of every event in human history from beginning to end.
Human need met by text

One great need we have is to see God in every event.  Brothers and sisters, we spend most of our lives blind to the work of God.  Our lives fit squarely within the providence of God and the hand of God brings about every single event in our lives.  Even the smallest most insignificant event is working according to God divine decree.  Our great need is to see God in all things, from the universe to the lent in your pocket.  God does it all…

Acts 13:13-52 (ESV)
13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem,
14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.”
16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:
17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.
18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness.
19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance.
20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.
21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.
24 Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation.
27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.
28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed.
29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.
30 But God raised him from the dead,
31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.
32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,
33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’
34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’
35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,
37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.
38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,
39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
41 “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”
42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath.
43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
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.

1.  God Chose the Patriarchs

17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.
18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness.
19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance.
20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.
21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
Paul, much like Steven, gives us a brief sketch of the history of Israel as a people.  Notice all that God did for them…

God chose the Patriarchs…Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers.  The doctrine of God’s sovereign election is all over the pages of Scripture.  One cannot read the Bible without discovering the truth that it is God who choses man not man choosing God.  From among all the pagans in the land God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him.

God made Israel great… and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt.

God led His people out of Egypt… with uplifted arm he led them out of it.
God was patient
18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness.

God destroyed the pagan nations where they went…19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan

God gave them the promised land, he gave them their land as an inheritance.
Despite Israel’s disobedience, God still cared for them.

God gave them judges20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.
God gave them a king
21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
God took away their king
22 And when he had removed him

God gave them King David he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Do you see who is sovereign and who is the One taking the initiative?  Paul’s point is that God has done everything for Israel over the centuries; He has even given Israel her Messiah in Jesus Christ.

2. God Sent Jesus to Israel

God gave them Jesus…23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.
All the OT looked forward to the coming Messiah, Jesus.  Then in His great love for Israel, God raised up the greatest prophet, John the Baptist to preach that the Messiah was coming.  Then after a period of time, Jesus stepped onto the pages of history.  God sent His only begotten Son to free Israel of her sin.

26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation.
What’s Paul referring to?  Jesus is the salvation sent by God.

Paul continues his sermon by explaining that the Jews in Jerusalem had Pilate murder Jesus by hanging Him on the cross.

He explains in this sermon that the former Jews did not understand the Prophets of the OT that they heard preached on every Sabbath.

27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.
28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed.
Notice what else God did…

30 But God raised him from the dead,
31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.
32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus
What the former Jews didn’t understand, even though they heard the passages read to them all their lives was that Jesus is the promise of God proclaimed by all the prophets in the OT.

There were guards placed by the Jews and the Romans at the tomb of Jesus.  He still came forth.  The resurrection was an historical event that Paul could point back to as proof to what he was saying.  More than 150 witnesses at one time saw Jesus after they had killed Him.  Paul would say that the evidence is irrefutable.  The Jews missed the message of the OT and when they saw the risen Lord they still rejected Him even the evidence was everywhere and rock solid.

Paul continues to quote OT passages proving that all along God was referring to Jesus.

Remember, they are in the synagogue so Paul pulls out the big guns so to speak.  How do break the news to someone that what they’ve been doing all their life is wrong?

In the synagogue there was a phrase that they had learned from childhood…

Psalm 2 was put to memory by the weekly worshippers.  So, Paul seeks to explain the real meaning of the very familiar words that they all knew by heart.

33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’
34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’
35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,
37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.
38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,
39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
His point is, everything God promised to David did not find its fulfillment in David but in David’s Son.  Jesus the descendant of David was the One David actually wrote about.  Jesus, would not see corruption, Jesus was the only begotten Son, Jesus was the blessing of David.

Then he gives them a warning…

40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
41 “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

One who hears the truth of salvation found only in Jesus Christ and scoffs at the message, scoffs at God.  They will be utterly shocked when judgment falls like a sledgehammer.

Then Paul ends his sermon.

He shows all God did for His chosen Israel…He showed how they misunderstood the OT prophets…He also explained that Jesus is salvation sent to Israel…He proved it from the Prophets they had all read all their lives…then he warns them not to deride God’s wonderful gift found only in Jesus.

So, the point Paul is making is that God was the First-Mover at every step in Israel’s history.  From electing the Patriarchs and then every step after that God did it.  Israel was not worthy, they rarely obeyed, and yet God treated them with love because He had chosen them for Himself.  Paul’s point is that the God who elected the Patriarchs (which Israel regarded so highly) He also sent them Jesus the Messiah.  It’s only through Jesus can they or anyone else be saved.

What’s the result of all this preaching?

3.  Jews Hear the Gospel and Reject it

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.

Paul had narrated Hebrew history to show them that God is sovereign over every event.  Now, he turns to the current events.  Right now, they are rejecting Jesus Christ, the One whom God sent to them.

The Apostle John wrote about this in the first lines of his Gospel account…

John 1:11-13 (ESV)
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Paul writes about this in Romans…

Romans 11:17-21 (ESV)
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,
18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.

Because these Jews rejected the message of the Gospel, they proved their status before God.  They rejected it because that was who they were.  They were simple manifesting a cold sinful heart.  They desired status more than salvation.  When the whole city turned out to hear about Jesus, that’s all they could take, jealousy reigned and their sinful hearts exposed.

4.  Gentiles Hear the Gospel and Rejoice in it

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.

Paul senses that it is time to move to the Gentiles.  The natural branches would now be broken off and wild branches grafted into the vine.  The Jews have forfeited their position and now Gentiles who receive Jesus Christ are graft into the vine.

Isaiah 49:6 (ESV)
6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The words of Isaiah the prophet written some 7 centuries before Paul are now being fulfilled as Paul, with apostolic authority declares that God has commanded him to move now to the Gentiles officially.
Luke narrates and shows us there is a contrast between these two groups.  Jews reject the Gospel and the Gentiles receive the Gospel.  The Jews by rejecting prove themselves as the non-elect and the Gentiles receiving the Gospel prove themselves to be the chosen of God.
Here’s the point and here’s why Luke narrates the conversion of these Gentiles.  Paul narrates Hebrew history proving that at every step God was at work….God did this and God did that.  In the next section, God is not mentioned as doing anything but that the Jews, filled with jealousy reject the Gospel.  They loved their status and sin more than they loved Christ, so they did what came natural, rejecting Jesus.  But now, notice what God again has done…He has chosen and appointed some for eternal life…

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.

Every single Gentile in that crowd whom God had selected for eternal life believed.  In God’s great mercy He chose to save some of those sinful Gentiles.  Every one of them heard the Gospel and didn’t reject it as offensive but rejoiced, giving God the glory.

Why did Luke narrate these saving events?  Why did the Holy Spirit want us to understand that everyone appointed to eternal life believed?  As Paul explained Hebrew history and at every step proved God did it, so too, Luke wants to show us that at this point in redemptive history, God did it as well…God chose the Patriarchs and God chose the Gentiles.  Salvation is of the Lord.

The Holy Spirit could have left this out.  He could have had Luke write a million other things.  God wants us to know where salvation comes from.  These Gentiles were not smarter, more ethical, nor were they of better character than the Jews.  The only difference between the two was God’s saving electing grace.
So, we must be careful as believers who rejoice in the Gospel.  As Paul writes in Romans,

18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.

God desires that His people understand that at every step of the way, He was working.  God not only worked in Hebrew history, and not only worked in your salvation, but He also is at work in every other event in our lives.  We must apply ourselves to see God in all of life.  He is responsible for the powerfully big things in your life and He is just as responsible for the small minute things.  Rejoice in your salvation, giving God the glory…and rejoice in the small things, giving God the glory.

1 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)
What do you have that you did not receive?

Through this knowledge we are humbled

We are given assurance of salvation

We have a greater capacity to love God and show our gratitude

We must now live in fear and reverence before God

TT- God is the first cause of every event in human history from beginning to end.

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