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God Is at Work in Our World - Part 2

The Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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God is at work in our world: 1. Through His revelation (vs. 21-23; 32-37). 2. Through His righteousness (vs. 23-25). 3. Through the good news of His rescue (vs. 26-31). 4. Through our response (vs. 38-41).

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God Is at Work in Our World - Part 2

The Book of Acts - Part 44

Acts 13:21-41

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - June 1, 2014


*In Acts 13, God sent Paul and Barnabas out from Antioch on the first mission trip to spread the good news about Jesus all over the world. Miraculous things happened when they got to Cyprus in vs. 5 and began to preach "the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews." One miracle was that God temporarily blinded an evil sorcerer for opposing the gospel. But the greatest miracle was that Sergius Paulus, the ruler of the whole province was saved!

*Please listen to what happened next in vs. 13-23:

13. Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John (Mark), departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.

14. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.

15. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.''

16. Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:

17. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it.

18. Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness.

19. And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.

20. After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

21. And afterward they asked for a king; so 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 for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.'

23. From this man's seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior Jesus."

*As Paul began to preach in vs. 16-23, he spoke about how God had been at work in the people of Israel. Last week, we saw God at work choosing His people, protecting His people, patiently leading His people, righteously judging all people, and in vs. 22, passionately seeking for His people.

*Tonight, we will finish Paul’s sermon and take a much closer look at the Lord’s saving work. With this background in mind, let's begin by reading Acts 13:21-41.


*King Duncan told about a young man who lost his job. He was getting desperate, so he went to see an old preacher he knew. As he poured out his heart to the preacher, he angrily said, "I've begged and begged God to say something to help me, preacher. Why doesn't God answer?"

*The old preacher was sitting across the room, and he spoke a reply so quietly that the young man couldn’t make it out. The young man stepped closer, and asked, "What did you say?" The preacher then repeated himself, again too low to be heard. And the young man moved closer, until he was leaning on the preacher's chair. "Sorry," he said. "I still didn't hear you." Then the wise, old preacher softly replied, "Sometimes God whispers, so we will move closer to hear Him." (1)

*That time the young man heard, and he understood. God wants to speak to us, but we must draw close and listen. That's why when Paul began this sermon back in vs. 16, he said: "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen."

*Then Paul began to show them how God works in our world. Tonight, we will finish Paul’s sermon, and take a close look at the saving work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

1. First: God is at work in our world through His revelation.

*God is at work the revelation of His promise about our Savior. As Paul said in vs. 21-23:

21. "And afterward they asked for a king; so 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 for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.'

23. "From this man's seed (i.e. from David's seed), ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE, God raised up for Israel a Savior Jesus.

*Albert Barnes points us back to Psalm 89:3-4, where God said this about His promise to King David:

3. "I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David:

4. 'Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.'"

*Then in Psalm 89:35-36, God reinforced His promise by saying:

35. "Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David:

36. His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me." (2)

*Before the beginning of time, God had a plan to save everyone who would put their trust in Him. And because He is Almighty God, the Lord began to make unbreakable promises about how He would carry out His plan.

*Starting in Genesis 3:15, God began to reveal His plan in His Word. But His revelation of salvation could not really be understood until Jesus came, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead. Paul summed up this truth in Romans 16 with these great words of praise for God:

25. Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began

26. but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith

27. to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

*How does God work in our world? Through the revelation of His promise of salvation by His Son Jesus Christ. That's why when Paul preached here in Acts 13, he spent much of his time on the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. For example,

*Down in vs. 32-37, Paul said:

32. And we declare to you glad tidings, (how) that promise which was made to the fathers,

33. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You.'

34. And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: 'I will give you the sure mercies of David.'

35. Therefore He also says in another Psalm: 'You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.'

36. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption;

37. but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.

*God made an unbreakable promise about His coming Messiah, so every prophecy about Jesus either has happened or surely will happen in the future.

*Josh McDowell tells us that over 300 Old Testament references to the Messiah have already been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. And that is mathematically impossible to have been a coincidence.

*Mathematician, Peter Stoner, ran the numbers on fulfilling not all 300, but just 8 of the 300 prophecies Jesus already fulfilled. The odds against those 8 things coming true in any one life are 1 in 10 to the 17th power. Church: I don’t know what you call that number, but it is a one with 17 zeroes behind it! (3)

*It was mathematically impossible for Jesus to fulfill those 300 prophecies, unless He is the Messiah. And thank God, He is! God is still at work right now through the revelation of His promise to send us a Savior.

2. He is also at work through His righteousness.

*God is at work through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And we can appreciate the Lord's righteousness back up in vs. 23-25, where Paul said:

23. "From this man's seed, (i.e. from David's seed) according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior Jesus

24. after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

25. And as John was finishing his course, he said, 'Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.'"

*Now John the Baptist was a very good man. In Matthew 11:11, Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist" That was great praise from the greatest judge of character in the universe. But John the Baptist was talking about Jesus, when Paul quoted John in vs. 25. And John the Baptist said, "Behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose."

*Just like the Baptist, we must appreciate the righteousness of Jesus Christ! Our salvation required His righteousness, His supreme worthiness. Without the Lord's righteousness, we could never have been saved. Jesus never could have died for our sins, if He had sins of His own. But Jesus Christ is righteous! He had no sins of His own. He is worthy. And we are unworthy.

*Most Americans don’t understand this truth today. As Leland Patrick once said: "The American people have a major struggle with this concept of goodness. Public opinion polls reveal this. There is a growing tendency to believe that all so-called 'good' people will go to Heaven when they die, whether or not they received Jesus Christ as their Savior

*In 1992, only 40 percent of people agreed that you didn't need Jesus to go to Heaven. Just 7 years later, that number had shot up 53 percent thinking you don't need Jesus to go to Heaven. (4)

*Today the number is probably much higher. Most people believe that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things, they will earn a place in Heaven. But we know that nothing could be farther from the truth! We are all unworthy. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

*Only Jesus Christ is worthy! And like John the Baptist, we must say, "I am not worthy to take the shoes off His feet." But God is still at work through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

3. God also works the good news of His rescue.

*This good news of God's rescue is summed up for us in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

*God wants to save all people from their sins, so in vs. 26, Paul proclaimed: "Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent." Church: It’s a word of salvation, sent to all who will receive it. And as Paul explains, there are two parts to this saving message.

[1] The first part of the good news is the Lord's sacrifice. Jesus Christ, the only perfect man who ever lived, sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins.

*Paul talked about the Lord's sacrifice in vs. 27-29, where he said:

27. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him.

28. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death.

29. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.

*Even those who condemned Jesus knew that He was innocent. They killed Him anyway, because of their hard-hearted hatred and envy. But remember what Jesus said in John 10:

11. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

15. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

17. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.

18. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.''

*Jesus Christ was a willing sacrifice for our sins. James McCullen saw a picture of the Lord’s sacrifice in the old story of a boarding school for the poor in France. It was a very good school, and most of the boys who entered went on to become good men. One day a boy with a terrible temper stabbed another student in the arm.

*In that school they had two special rules: First, misbehaving boys were tried not by the teachers, but by the other students. The sentence for this crime was three weeks in a dark cell, with only bread and water.

*But there was a second rule: Substitutes were allowed to take the punishments. Any boy could come forward and say he would bear the punishment which an offender had been given. So, when the sentence was pronounced, they asked if any other boy was willing to bear this punishment. And, to the surprise of the whole school, the boy who had been stabbed stepped forward and said, "I will take his punishment for him."

*That was agreed to, but the principal said, "The criminal must take the bread and water to the cell." So, the boy who had been stabbed went into the cell to bear the punishment. And the boy who stabbed him carried bread and water to his cell three times a day. He went through his task six days, but then he broke down. His hard heart was melted by the sacrifice of another. (5)

*And that is what happens to us when we really see what Jesus did for us, especially when we know that Jesus paid a price we could never pay. The good news of the gospel is all about the one-of-a-kind sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for our sins!

[2] But the gospel is also about the good news of the Lord's resurrection.

*And Paul made a rock-solid case for the resurrection in vs. 29-33. There the Apostle said:

29. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.

30. But God raised Him from the dead.

31. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people.

*Part of Paul’s rock-solid case rested on the eye witnesses, and Paul told us more about these witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. There the Apostle said:

3. . . I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

5. and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

6. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

7. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

8. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

*Church: Over 500 people saw Jesus alive after He had risen from the dead! Some people cynically think that they just made up the story about seeing our Risen Savior. That makes sense, because it was such a great miracle, and the world is filled with so many lies. But would any of those first witnesses be willing to die for a story they made up? Of course not. Yet all of those witnesses were willing to die for the truth of the resurrection. And most of them did die for standing by this truth.

*What good is the gospel anyway if Jesus never rose from the dead? As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."

*Jonathan McLeod explained: "If Christ is not risen, why bother to go to church? You would be better off somewhere else. If Christ is not risen, why bother to put money in the offering plate? You’re only giving to a lost cause. If Christ is not risen, why bother to serve Him? You’re only wasting your time. If Christ is not risen, why tell others about Him? You might as well save your breath." (6)

*But Good News! Christ is risen from the dead, so God is able to rescue us forever from sin and death! And God is at work in our world right now through the good news of His rescue.

4. But He is also at work through our response.

*The only proper way to respond to the good news is by faith in our crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ. Paul shows us this essential truth down in vs. 38-39, where he said:

38. "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;

39. and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses."

*We can be justified from every single one of our sins! But only by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. How tragic it is when people refuse to believe! How tragic it is when people reject Jesus Christ!

*Verse 27 is incredibly sad to me. There Paul talked about how so many of the Jews rejected Jesus, and Paul said: "For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him."

*Back in the spring of 2001, Ryan Johnson saw that kind of rejection in a cemetery in Arkansas. Ryan said: "Outside of Prairies Grove, Arkansas, there are two prominent tombstones in a cemetery next to the Highway.

*What is odd about these tombstones is that neither of these people has died yet. Their names are Strickland. There was a picture of the lady and the man. She was in born in 1948. He was born in 1927.

*Underneath their names in big letters on each stone was the word 'ATHEIST.' Underneath 'atheist,' for Mrs. Strickland was this statement: 'I have cared for and loved many animals.' And underneath Mr. Strickland’s 'atheist' it said: 'I am a very busy man, and I don’t have time for this.'" (7)

*Woe will be to them for all eternity, unless they turned to the Lord. So in vs. 40-41, Paul gave this somber warning:

40. "Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:

41. 'Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you.'''

*It doesn’t have to be that way. People can believe. They can receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

*Pastor Mike Thompson compared it to getting on an airplane going to Atlanta. Mike said, "Suppose I have to be in Atlanta in 3 or 4 hours. There is no way I could drive there in time, so I go out to the airport. I see the planes taking off and landing, and I know they will get me to Atlanta. But those planes never will get me to Atlanta, until I have enough faith to get on the plane.

*When it comes to Heaven, there is only one way to get there. Jesus said, 'I am the way the truth and the life.' We must place our faith in His crucifixion and resurrection. We must place our faith in Him. We must receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior." (8)

*And God is at work right now to help more people do it.


*God is always at work in His world. And in this Scripture, we see that He is working:

-Through the revelation of His promise.

-Through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

-Through the good news of His rescue.

-And through our response to Him.

*Think about these things as we go back to God in prayer.

(1) sermon "The Voice of the Lord" by King Duncan - Baptism of the Lord, Trinity Sunday - Psalm 29:1-11 - Source: "Dynamic Preaching," Sunday 3 in January 2004

(2) "Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible" - Acts 2:30

(3) SermonCentral illustration contributed by: David Parks - Source: "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell

(4) SermonCentral sermon "A Good Man" by Leland Patrick - Acts 11:22-24 - Source: From Barna Research Online - adapted from Brian Mavis contribution to Sermon Central

(5) Cross & Crown sermon "A Healing for Sin Sickness" by James McCullen - Isaiah 53:5-6

(6) SermonCentral sermon "What if Jesus Didn’t Rise Again?" by Jonathan McLeod - 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

(7) SermonCentral sermon "Your Face in the Crowd" by Ryan Johnson - Matthew 27:32-56 - April 2001

(8) Testimony from Pastor Mike Thompson

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