sermon: Grace Abounding Through Suffering

Grace Abounding Through Suffering

Acts 21:27-22:21

Introduction

Within this text and the texts over the next few weeks, we are given the privilege to watch God’s prophetic decree come to pass in the Apostle Paul’s life. God had determined that His beloved Apostle would carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. On three separate missionary journeys Paul would accomplish that very thing. He would literally take the Gospel to people who had never heard of Jesus before.

I remember reading the story of the old missionary who had traveled sharing the Gospel to many lands. One account was of a people who had received God’s Word in their native tongue. He shared his experience as an elderly woman sat reading her Bible and weeping at the same time. She was overwhelmed with God’s love on the one hand and yet her thoughts were also on her loved ones who had died before her and who had never heard the good news. Her question to the missionary, which always remained with him was, why did you not come sooner? To that question he had no answer.

Paul was taking God’s Word to places that had never heard before. Oh, the joy he must have shared with those new believers as they embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Last week, we saw Paul and the others arriving at Jerusalem. We read as Paul and James share of the great work God was doing at Jerusalem and abroad. We listened as James told Paul that there were many believing Jews who are confused because they had heard false accusations that Paul disregarded the Law of Moses and told everyone that it was unimportant. We also remember James’ plan to prove this was not the case…
The Christian Jews were convinced by James’ idea but the non-Christian Jews, the Judaizers, were still as opposed to Paul and his message as ever.
Beloved, there are times to reason with lost people and there are times to simply move on. We cannot spend an eternity trying to convince certain opponents of the cross while there are those people who have yet to hear. This also shows us that so many really are not interested in reason or proof but would rather believe a the lie they’ve invented in their minds or the lie they have grown up with and continue in unbelief.

We must be ready to give an explanation to those who are genuinely interested but for the pure skeptic we must not cast our pearls before swine.

TT- God’s power and grace are seen as Paul is bound and carried away, just like the Holy Spirit said.
Human need met by text

How do you react when a given situation is less than perfect? How do you react when a given situation is difficult? Here we will see how Paul reacts to an extremely difficult ordeal. I pray we will learn from this how we too can endure trials for the glory of our Lord.

Acts 21:27-22:21 (ESV)
27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,
28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.
30 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut.
31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.
32 He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
33 Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done.
34 Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks.
35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd,
36 for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!”
37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek?
38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?”
39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.”
40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

Acts 22
1 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women,
5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me.
7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’
9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’
11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him.
14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth;
15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.
16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance
18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’
19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you.
20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’
21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

1. Paul Knew the Trial Came from God

They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut.
31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.
32 He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
33 Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done.
We live in a day when people are mislead to think that things just happen by random chance. Things never just happen by themselves. I pray since we have been going through the Scriptures verse by verse now for a number of years we have seen countless times when God was bringing events about. Here is another example. See, we have been warned as it were with Paul not to go to Jerusalem and what would happen when he arrived. In detail God told Paul what would take place.

Notice how this is exactly what God has been telling Paul to be ready for when he came to Jerusalem.   This was God’s will for Paul.

So when it happened, Paul was ready at least in the sense that he knew even if things looked like they were out of God’s control, they were not. This is exactly what God had foreordained would take place and it is coming to pass exactly as God intended.

Acts 20:21-24 (ESV)
21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,
23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.
24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Acts 21:10-11 (ESV)
10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”

The Apostle Paul had one advantage over us and that was God had explained to him exactly what was to happen. He knew he would be bound and arrested. So, in the midst of this major struggle he could still be confident that God was completely in control of every event.

I’m reminded of another time in the Gospels when God was working to bring about all events for His glory…

Remember just how God was working to bring about the salvation of His people in the death of His Son? Do you remember from Luke’s Gospel how God was bringing everyone together to accomplish His purposes?

Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Jesus knew His Father was in charge and Paul knew God was in charge. Now both of these examples are non-repeatable and extremely unique. However, the same goes for each and every possible event or situation that we face. God is in complete control. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He is ruler and complete sovereign over His creation.

God always works and acts on behalf of His children for their good and His glory. Since God loves His glory and is always working to that end, and since God loves His children He is always working to that end and most of the time the two go hand in hand. In other words, the acts of God that promote His namesake are also promoting glorification within His children.

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This trial in Paul’s life was going to advance God’s name and cause Paul to love and trust God even more. So, this was perfect love from God to Paul.

2. Paul Took the Opportunity to Honor God

37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek?
38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?”
39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.”
40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

Acts 22
1 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
Here is the reason God wanted Paul in Jerusalem. Paul was His messenger of the Gospel. Rather than going to the barracks to sulk or feel sorry for himself and be silent, he steps up to the plate and begins to share how the same God the Jews were speaking of, called him into ministry. The same God they worshipped called Paul to come to them with this message.
He was using his struggle for God’s glory.
God had Paul there for the purpose of evangelism and he would recount how God called him when he also was formerly a blasphemer.
I also think God had him there for a second purpose. This second purpose is one we too must keep in mind as we endure trials…

3. God Desires to Lavish Us with Grace
We also live in a day when what God does in love for His people is not viewed as loving because we are too conditioned to think that God loves us when He gives us things and doesn’t love us if we don’t receive something. We’re often like the spoiled kid in the cart at WalMart screaming because his dad won’t let him have what he wants. He says he hates his dad because he doesn’t love him because he won’t buy him the new toy.

God gives us real love. Real love wants the best for His children. Real love is often hard for us at first but then in the end yields the wonderful fruit of godliness.

Real love sets us up to be lavished with grace. Real love is not stingy but is extravagant when it comes to giving us what we really need. What do we really need?

Before we look to the answer I want us to see how the Apostle Paul was living out what Peter has commanded us to do in 1 Peter.

Paul, like Jesus was suffering and was being beaten unjustly. He didn’t tell the Jews to not observe the Mosaic Law, he didn’t take gentiles into the temple, he didn’t speak against Jewish customs and traditions. All these accusations were false. The crowds condemned Jesus with false accusations as well. Notice what Peter tells us…

1 Peter 2:19-23 (ESV)
19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Paul, like Jesus, when he was suffering unjustly did not demand his rights but entrusted himself to God. He knew the whole situation was god-ordained and he was willing to endure unjust suffering for the glory of God.

1 Peter 3:13-18 (ESV)
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

Here again we see the comparison made between what Jesus endured unjustly and what we may be called to endure. Jesus’ unjust suffering brought us to salvation.

1 Peter 4:12-14 (ESV)
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

1 Peter 4:19 (ESV)
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
When we suffer for doing good or loving Christ we are following in His footsteps. God’s grace is poured out on us so that we may endure for His namesake.
Additional Application

1. As you suffer for righteousness sake, remember it is coming from God who loves you

2. Take time to review all the previous acts of God in your life especially the miracle of salvation

3. Use it as an opportunity to serve God not as an opportunity to feel sorry for yourself

4. Suffering brings us a unique opportunity to Grow and Glorify God.

 

 

 

BENEDICTION…

What do we really need?

We really need God’s grace…
Real love lavishes grace on His children…

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

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