Sermon: Old is Passing Away the New Has Come Acts 18:18-19:10

Old is Passing Away the New Has Come

Acts 18:18-19:10

Introduction

As we have travelled through the Book of Acts together, we have seen some amazing things.  We’ve seen God work in bringing many into the church.  We saw how at the preaching of Peter thousands repent and were baptized.  We saw some of the first Gentiles added to the church as well.  We saw Cornelius and the Ethiopian Eunuch come to faith in Jesus Christ.  We were there, as it were, when the hardened persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus met Jesus and he too became a follower.  We’ve watched Paul as he grew in his faith and how he became a great missionary himself, the great persecutor of the church turned into the great missionary of the church.

We’ve also witnessed how Judaism is giving way to Christianity.  When Paul and the others speak in the synagogues, they are working hard to convince the Jews that the long awaited Messiah is, in fact, Jesus Himself.  Remember Paul’s strategy as he reasoned, proved, and preached Jesus as the Messiah.

I want to also say that the Book of Acts is a transitional book.  As the Old Covenant gives way to the New Covenant, there are things, which happen only in the Book of Acts.

We must be careful when formulation doctrine from Acts.  It can be dangerous to make blanket statements about certain things just from Acts because it is that book of transition.

One quick example is how the Holy Spirit functions.  In Acts we see the Holy Spirit being (1) Poured out on large groups at the same time, (2) Enabling various signs and wonders from speaking in tongues to Apostolic healings, to visions and ecstatic speech, (3) we see the Holy Spirit act to set prisoners free to prevent Paul and his team to go to certain places.

In all examples of the amazing work of the Spirit of God we see this transition principle.  He works certain ways in Acts that we do not see on a large scale today.  God can still do everything He did in the Book of Acts if He chose to but today we are on the other side of the New Covenant.  In other words we are not in the transition time but living in the New Covenant…it is here.

The text for today is divided up into three sections, each describing in different ways, the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.  As I read through, see if you can spot them.

TT- The Old Covenant has passed away and the New Covenant is here
Human need met by text

We have the need to see the New Covenant that God made and has given His people through Jesus Christ as so far superior to the Old Covenant that it is sin to ever live by OC Laws and practices.  God our Father has brought us out of the darkness and into the light and to ever think that returning to some form of the Law is better is to make the cross of Christ as insignificant.

We must praise God for the work of Christ and remember that as He sat down with his disciple and they broke bread together He declared the NC which is made with His very blood given freely to His people.

Acts 18:18-28 (ESV)
18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.
19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined.
21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.
22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch.
23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.
25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.
26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,
28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Acts 19:1-10 (ESV)
1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.
2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”
4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
7 There were about twelve men in all.
8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

1. Transition from the Synagogue to the Church

18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.
19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined.
21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.
22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch.
23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Luke makes a bit of a transition here in this text.  Paul had always before went to the Synagogues to preach that Jesus is the Messiah and that there is salvation in none other.  He reasoned and proved from their Holy Scriptures that all along God was promising a coming King and Jesus is that King.

Now there is a transition.  He went out of the Synagogue in Corinth declaring that because of their rejection of Christ, their blood would be on their own head and he shook the dust out of his garment declaring judgment on these Jews.  He then went out and immediately began preaching and teaching in the house next door to the synagogue.  Here too, Luke highlights this shift in focus from Synagogue to Church.  He still goes to various synagogues but if a church is established that’s where Paul spends his time.  He is strengthening the brothers from church to church not synagogue to synagogue.

Paul understands that in God’s plan of redemption, the church is born through the death and resurrection of Christ and it is the followers of Christ who are God’s people.  Paul sees the New Covenant being established and the Old Covenant passing away.
The passing away of the Old Covenant was difficult in many ways for those who had lived their entire lives seeking to be obedient to the Law’s demands.  Being separate and a sanctified people was one part.  Now, the very Gentiles that the Hebrews were to be separate from are coming into the church and God is doing it.  Peter has such a difficult time with this idea.

Same with Paul, he too had some struggles.  He would call himself the Hebrew of Hebrews.  He called himself blameless when it came to the Law.  At some point along the way, In keeping with his zeal for holiness, Paul had made a Nazarite Vow… At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.
What was a Nazarite Vow?
Numbers 6…
This is a vow, which one would make to the Lord.  The vow would be that he would separate himself to God.  Signs or conditions of the vow would be that the person making it would not cut his hair, and as a picture of separating himself to God, he would separate himself from wine and strong drink, even the unfermented juice of grapes, he shall not have any contact with dead bodies, dead people or animals.  To end the vow, the person would come to the entrance of the temple and have his head shaved.

This was one part of Judaism Paul was still hanging on to.  He had made a vow to God and he intended to keep it.  However, Paul was also in the process of letting go of the Old Covenant.  Once he realized that what he had vowed to God in keeping with holiness and righteousness Christ has fulfilled for him.

Jesus while never actually taking a Nazarite Vow did fulfill all that this vow was meant to keep.
1. Abstaining from the fruit of the vine represents commitment to a sacrificial life. Jesus left his glorious pleasures in heaven to live a life of suffering on this earth. He was willing to do this in order for you to enjoy the glorious blessings of heaven. Are you willing to suffer for a little while looking forward to the glories that await us? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” And again I Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The greatest pleasures of this earthly existence can not even be an inkling of the glories of heavenly existence with God.

2. Letting God determine when a Nazirite could cut his hair represents our surrendering control of our lives to God. When bad things happen in your lives, do you still trust God that he will use even sufferings and temptations to shape your character; that he will “work all things for your good”? Are you still able to pray, “Your will be done”? Are you still able to rest in God’s mercy, like Jesus in his hour of temptation, “not my will, but yours, be done”? Are you still able to trustfully declare that “nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord”? Are you still able to claim that “not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1)?

3. Staying away from dead bodies represents our commitment to separate from sin and its deadly effects on our lives. Paul urges you in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” John adds to Paul’s exhortation in what we read earlier – that the love of the pleasures of this world is enmity against God, so you are not to love worldly things. The Nazirite life is a life of separation; so is your life as a believer in Christ. The Nazirite life is a life of distinction; so is your life as a believer in Christ a life that does not look like the life of unbelievers around you.[1]

Sign of the transition…Paul cut his hair

Because Jesus has fulfilled all the righteousness Paul needed to be accepted by God, he ended his vow based on the work of Christ.

2. Transition from the Law to Christ

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.
25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.
26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,
28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

 

Apollos was a very good preacher and he knew the Scriptures very well.  As with all the Synagogue teachers and preachers, he preached adherence to the Law and strict Judaistic traditions.  Once he was taught the truth that all the Scripture is Christ-focused he began to preach that the Messiah is Jesus and he did it from the Scriptures.

One clear indication that there is a shift from OC to NC is that the preachers and teachers do not teach and preach the Mosaic Law any longer but preach Christ from the Old Testament.

We have seen this transition over and over again.  First, in Luke 24, Jesus opened their eyes and explains that He is the fulfillment of everything Moses and the Prophets wrote.  We saw that Jesus declared that He is the fulfillment of all King David wrote in the Psalms.  We saw how Paul and Peter both declared from the OT that Jesus is the Christ.

I want to push your thinking a little bit here by making a statement that hopefully will get your attention.  The Old Testament belongs to Christians not Jews.  The OT is Christian Scripture because it teaches Christ.  All who deny that Jesus is the Messiah have grossly misunderstood the OT’s teaching.

Sign of the transition…Preaching Judaism from the Scriptures to preaching Christ from the Scriptures
3.  Transition from OT Baptism to NT Baptism

1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.
2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”
4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
7 There were about twelve men in all.
8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Up to this point these disciples needed to go a step further.  They had been baptized with the baptism of John, which was, in a sense, an OC baptism.  John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, which was the sign that those baptized had and were repenting of sin.  This baptism coupled with John’s preaching of repentance was the way in which he made straight the path for Jesus.  When the people were convicted of sin and repented, this was the preliminary work of the Holy Spirit while they were waiting on Jesus.

Now, Jesus has come and it’s time to move forward with the real baptism.  The baptism in the name of Jesus is a true baptism.

5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
7 There were about twelve men in all.
As I mentioned, in the Book of Acts we see some things that only have taken place during this transition time.  As a sign that the New Covenant mode of baptism is in Jesus’ name, God does an amazing work.  This is the forth time we read about an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  We remember Pentecost, The Samaritan, The Gentiles at Caesarea, and now here, the Disciples at Ephesus.  We also see that just as with the Day of Pentecost, these Disciples are given the ability as a sign to speak in tongues and prophecy through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This should not concern us or shake our faith.  Because we have not experienced something like this does not make us any less Christian than these disciples are.  The sign of tongues is a marker that the transition time is occurring.  It was the visible and audible proof that the transition from OC to NC was taking place.

Sign of the transition…being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

Additional Application

4. What the New Covenant means to us…

1- Superior Sacrifice…

Jesus Christ has finished the work God gave Him.  His one-time sacrifice is sufficient to bring all of God’s people home.
Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
2- Superior Mediator…
Hebrews 9:15 (ESV)
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
3- Superior Pardon…
Hebrews 8:12 (ESV)
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Psalm 51:1 (ESV)
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
My prayer is that we greatly rejoice that the covenant blessings fall to us just as surly as they fall to our sinless Savior Jesus Christ.  He has guaranteed that our sins are forgiven for all eternity.

I pray in this we greatly rejoice.

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.twoagespilgrims.com/doctrine/in-the-wilderness-the-gospel-according-to-the-nazirite/

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