The sermon today at our Church was given by a young married man, who is a student at seminary and an intern at a Church some 20 minutes away. He started off in the US Marines, and used his suffering during basic training as his opening illustration as he preached on suffering God’s discipline, for our benefit as Christians. It was a good sermon … and afterwards he asked me for constructive criticism. That was challenging because no preacher has arrived. But there were two issues I could highlight, none of which affected the message’s content. Although he communicated very well, and even though he gave us his outline upfront, he did not outline the sermon as he went through it, transitioning from one point to the next. The other matter was applying the message throughout but not applying it at the end. A good message, and he has lots of talent for the future.
Although as a preacher I mess up often, I like to read sermons in the Bible because of content, doctrine and theology, style and although not outlined, easy to follow. From Acts 13:16-41 we have Paul’s first Missionary Preaching (Sermon) recorded for us. Let’s start by reading some of the sermon:
Ac 13:16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said:
“Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, 18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, 19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.”
Please read the whole sermon if you have time.
1) Like Peter, Paul starts his preaching focusing on the God of Israel. Maybe the worshippers were noisy because he calmed them, making gestures with his hands.
(1) Present were both Jews, those born as Israelites and Gentiles who had been converted to Judaism.
(2) Both groups were worshippers of the true God. He captures their attention by drawing attention to the fact that they are not just any worshippers, but worshippers of the true God. This was brilliant. He established their allegiance to this God and made them understand he knew who they worshipped.
This is the confidence any preacher or service leader needs to have. Worshippers need to be escorted into the presence of Almighty God. In a Christian Church, those gathered are gathered to worship the true, living God. There is nothing casual about this. God is holy, majestic and sovereign. Whoever enters His House needs to understand that they are entering into His presence. Failure here will result in sloppy, halfhearted worship. Once Paul affirmed their relationship with the true God, he was easily able to recall the Jewish people’s religious history to them.
Why was this so important? Because he could not speak about Jesus (Messiah) without establishing God’s call and promise to their forefathers and follow the Bloodline to Jesus. As Christians we do it slightly differently. We need to establish in our hearers’ hearts that they are sinners needing a Savior, before explaining who this Savior is and where He comes from. Once Paul made this point he called for them to give him their ears. This also is vital in any Church service. If people don’t listen they don’t hear. Look at these verses:
Ro 10:16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
How does a person accept the Gospel? They need to believe the message. How do they believe the message? They must hear … and what they hear must be the Word of Christ … which is the Gospel Message. Many in our Churches are like those Israelites … they don’t accept the Gospel because they refuse to listen to and hear the Message about Jesus! Let me repeat … for me to listen to a sermon is to listen with a pen and paper. I take notes. It helps me to concentrate … focus to listen and hear to understand.
2) He goes backwards to the forefathers of Israel. By this he means Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God not only called Abraham to come out of paganism and idolatry, but He promised him he would become an uncountable nation, having their own land and live under God’s reign (People, Place and Rule). This promised included that all nations would be blessed through Abraham. He reaffirmed this promise to Isaac and then Jacob. In taking Jacob and his family to Egypt, God started to make Abraham into a great nation. This was to protect the promise which included the Messianic Promise of Genesis 3:15.
Once the nation was uncountable in number, the Pharaoh placed the Israelites into bondage, enslaving them with such hard labor that they cried out to God who came to their rescue, raising up Moses as a type of “messiah”. God used His mighty power, displayed in many different miracles through His servant Moses, bringing the Pharaoh to breaking point where he consented to the Israelites release. Although he changed his mind and followed the Israelites with his defense force to bring them back, God closed the Red Sea on them, drowning the entire military, allowing Israel to escape into the desert.
For an additional 40 years, because of their rebellious nature and hard hearts, God permitted them to wander through the desert before bringing them to the Trans-Jordan Side of Canaan. What should have taken a few weeks lasted 40 years. During this period all those adults who left Egypt died off accept Moses. Nations were overthrown during this process before God brought Israel to their inheritance.
Once in Canaan they were God’s People, in their Place, under His Rule. They were governed by God’s Law (Word) through the Levitical Priesthood. To this point, even though the nation was cleansed of the hard hearted adults, they still sinned, disobeyed and rebelled. They inherited the promise but this promise looked forward to the fulfilment of the Messianic Promise of Genesis 3:15.
In one sense, where you come from is important (your ancestry) and what you have done is important (your history). These two help you track who you are and why you need a Savor. For many of us, our parents were Churched, but were nominal Christians. Some of us came from pagan families and false religions. It is good to remember who we were … lost in sin, following the world, destined to destruction … when God in His grace permitted us to listen to and hear His Gospel, believe, repent and be saved.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You permit Your Gospel to be heard by those who listen. I rejoice in Your love and grace that enabled me to hear and be saved. Amen.