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Three Responses to the Gospel

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Acts 17:10-14

April 26, 2009

Richard E. Powell

Scripture Introduction: Open your Bible to Acts 17:10-14. (READ PASSAGE)

Sermon Introduction: “And, by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated states and parts of states are, and henceforward shall be, free.” President Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863.

When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he set into motion a process that ultimately transformed America. Lincoln’s carefully worded document declared free more than three million slaves in Confederate territory still in rebellion.

More than a symbolic gesture, as some have claimed, Lincoln’s proclamation authorized Union troops entering rebel territory to recognize and protect black freedom, thus turning northern soldiers into an army of liberation. Furthermore, Lincoln’s decree authorized the enlistment of African Americans into the U.S. military, a key step toward granting them equal citizenship rights. Citation:

There were mixed reactions to Lincoln’s Proclamation. Many whites in the South believed Lincoln was trying to incite a slave revolt in which blacks would rise up in violence against their slave owners. On the other side of the equation, many slaves at first did not believe the Emancipation Proclamation was real. They could not fathom freedom. Still other slaves rejoiced when they first heard the news that they were now free!

The great educator and author Booker T. Washington, born into slavery, recalled the day from his childhood when he and his family heard the news and were set free: “Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper--the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.” Citation:

Just as there were different responses to the Emancipation Proclamation, there will also be different responses to our Gospel Proclamation. As Fort Caroline Baptist Church reaches out to our community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message that Christ sets the sinner free when he repents of his sin and trusts Christ to save him, then we can expect three responses. Some people will respond inquisitively, asking can it be true. Others will respond positively, believing the Good News, while still others will respond negatively, even trying to stop us from spreading the Good News. These three responses can be seen in the responses the Apostle Paul encountered when he preached in the city of Berea.

On his second missionary journey Paul traveled to this little, out-of-the-way place. The town of Berea lay about 50 miles southwest of Thessalonica on the eastern slopes of Mt. Vermion in the Olympian Mountain Range. Paul had traveled the 50 miles on foot from Thessalonica to Berea. As was his custom, he went to the Jewish synagogue and began proclaiming the Good News that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Savior. There were three responses to his message. We can expect the same three responses when we proclaim the Gospel. The first response is…

I. The Gospel Will Be Considered When It Is Faithfully Preached (Acts 17:10-11).

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:10-11 (NKJV)

Perhaps you wonder why Paul’s Christian brothers in Thessalonica had to send him and Silas away in the dead of night. It was because the preaching of the Gospel in Thessalonica for three weeks had stirred up a riot. Jealous of Paul’s ability to win converts to Christ, some of the Jews gathered up a mob and sought to take Paul by force. If Paul had stayed in Thessalonica he would have either ended up in jail or he would have been killed by the angry mob. So, to avoid further trouble, the Thessalonian Christians sent Paul and Silas away to Berea by night.

You would think that Paul would have learned his lesson in Thessalonica. You would think that having just escaped with his life that he would have lain low in Berea; that he would have kept his mouth shut. But not Paul! He had a message that burned in his heart. It was a message that had to be shared no matter the cost. He went straight into the synagogue and shared with the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah they had been looking for.

I wish we had more Christians like Paul who would boldly and unashamedly proclaim their faith in Christ. Instead, when it comes to telling other people about Jesus Christ we suddenly get lock-jaw. We are afraid that people might laugh at us or call us fanatics. All the while, souls hang in the balance. All the while, people are still lost in their sins, separated from God, without Christ and without hope in this world.

There is a contrast in the reception Paul received in Thessalonica and Berea.

The Bible says…

A. The Bereans Received the Word Readily (Acts 17:11a).

11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

The Berean Jews are described as being “more fair-minded” than those in Thessalonica. The King James Version translates it as “noble.” The word in the Greek is eugenesteros, and originally meant to be “high-born, to be born of nobility.” But the term had come to describe anyone who was “open-minded, tolerant, and having the qualities that go with good upbringing.” Most of the Jews in Berea were not zealots. They were reasonable people who were open to listening politely to different view-points. Therefore, when Paul came to them preaching a Gospel they had never heard before, they gave him the chance to speak his mind.

In fact, the Bible says they, “received the word with all readiness.” The word “readiness” means “with eagerness; with attention.” Sometimes I tell my kids to take out the trash. They hear what I am saying, but they do not welcome my words. There is not an eagerness to obey. On the other hand, when a young lady sees her boyfriend kneel before her on bended-knee while opening a black velvet box containing a shiny ring, she hears what he has to say with eagerness!

These Bereans were open to hearing the Word of God explained. I pray that you have come to church today with a “readiness of mind.” When you come to the House of God you should give all your attention to what God wants to say to you from His Word. Paul preached and the Bereans were all ears! What about you? Are you all ears to hear what God wants to say to you today? Jesus often said in his sermons, “He that hath an ear, let him hear…” In other words, Jesus said, if you really want to hear from God then listen! How would you feel if you wanted to speak to someone and they would not give you the time of day? How do you think God feels when He wants to talk to your through His Word the Bible and you refuse to listen?

The Bible says the Bereans received the Word readily, but it also says…

B. The Bereans Researched the Word Cautiously (Acts 17:11b).

11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

The Bereans heard Paul gladly, but not uncritically. They did not just take his word for it that Jesus was the Christ. They searched their Scriptures daily to see if the message of Paul lined up with the message of the Bible. Dr. John Phillips wrote in his commentary on the Book of Acts that Paul’s gospel, “could stand the test of any amount of critical examination. The example of the Bereans should be followed by everyone. All teaching, no matter how convincing it sounds, no matter how great the personal charisma of the teacher, ought to be subjected to the test of Scripture” (Exploring Acts, page 342).

Some of you do not believe the things I am saying this morning about Jesus Christ. You do not believe that He is the only begotten Son of God, the Christ, the Savior. You do not even believe that the Bible is the Word of God. In your opinion the Bible is just man’s attempt to explain spiritual things. If you do not believe what I am saying then you owe it to yourself to take the Bible and to study it on your own. If you do not own a Bible then you can have one of the maroon ones under the seats around you. Better yet, I will buy you a Bible. Just let me know that you want it. No strings attached. But you owe it to yourself to see if the things you are hearing this morning are true. You might ask me what I am going to do at the end of my life if this Bible is not true. Well, that day will never come. But let's answer your question. All I can say is, I have had a great life. I have stayed clean and sober, I have stayed true to the wife of my youth, I have raised good kids who are a blessing to me and to society, I have had strength to handle my problems, and I will die at peace. My life has been happy and fulfilling. But suppose you do not believe the Bible and you go out into death and into eternity and discover that the Bible is true, that Jesus is the Savior. What are you going to do then when it is too late and you are spiritually lost without Christ? Dear friend, you owe it to yourself to see if what the Bible is saying is true.

Did you notice that the Bereans searched the Scriptures daily? This was not a trivial pursuit for them. They would not rest until they knew for sure if the Gospel of Jesus Christ was true. You should be willing to face the Word of God daily. If you begin to study the Word it will change your life. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” The reason your life is a mess today is because you have not studied the Bible with the desire to live by God’s instructions. I have discovered if I want to become proficient in any area of life, academically, athletically, or vocationally, then I will have to apply myself to that area some every day. If you want to understand the Bible, then stop treating it like a trivia game to be played once in a while and make it your daily ambition to study the Bible.

Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

The word “searched” in verse eleven means, “to examine thoroughly; to investigate as in a court of law.” The Bereans were not casually handling the Word of God. They were seriously studying it. Just like a good lawyer takes the statements of witness and compares them to the facts of the case, so the Bereans took Paul’s message and compared it the Old Testament Scriptures. That type of study takes diligence and discipline. But you cannot give God a casual nod every once in a while and expect Him to bless you with understanding. God’s Word is like a priceless treasure, like diamonds, or gold. You don’t find jewels just lying on the ground you have to mine for them. Like oil you have to drill for it. I promise you that if you will faithfully attend FCBC that you will hear the Word of God preached and you will learn to understand your Bible better. If you come to a LifeGroup that meets every week you will be amazed at how the Bible comes alive to you.

There were three responses to his message. The first response was…

The Gospel Will Be Considered When It Is Faithfully Preached (17:10-11). The Second response that Paul encountered and we will encounter is…

II. The Gospel Will Be Believed When It Is Faithfully Preached (Acts 17:12).

12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. Acts 17:12 (NKJV)

Listen church, if we will faithfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ then there will be those who by God’s grace will believe the Gospel and be saved! The Apostle Paul said to the believers in Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Let us resolve to not be ashamed of the Gospel message! Let us resolve to share it as often as we can wherever we can, convinced that it is the power of God to save and change lives! We ought to expect that the Gospel will be believed when we faithfully proclaim it! A young minister once complained to Charles Haddon Spurgeon of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, saying that he was disappointed that people were not being saved when he preached. Spurgeon asked, “Young man, you don’t expect people to be saved every time you stand up to preach do you?” To which the young preacher replied, “No.” Spurgeon said, “Well son that is your problem!” Not everyone who hears will believe, but many will. There will certainly be many more who believe if we share the Gospel than if we don’t!

Allow me to mention three things the Word of God can do in bringing people to saving faith in Christ. First…

A. The Word confirms the Savior. 

Paul came to Berea with a simple message. It was the same message he had proclaimed in the city of Thessalonica. It was the message confirming that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior. Look at Acts 17:1-3.

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ." Acts 17:1-3 (NKJV)

Paul preached the Good News of Christ’s crucifixion as the substitute for sinners and the resurrection of Christ from the dead. He proved from the Old Testament Scriptures of the Jews that the Messiah was prophesied to be a suffering servant, dying for His people. He also showed them how God the Father had vindicated the identity of Christ the Son by raising Him from the dead on the third day. Jesus truly is the Christ, the Messiah. This is the Gospel message that we too must proclaim! We must preach Christ and Him crucified!

3 For 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, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NKJV)

Have you come to the place where you truly understand who Jesus is? He is not merely a good man. He is the God-Man, God in flesh who came to live a perfect life and to die in your place. He took the punishment for sin that you deserved. He was hung up for your hang-ups.

The word confirms the Savior, and…

B. The Word convicts of sin.

The Word of God is like a searchlight on your soul revealing the condition of your heart. These Bereans came to see themselves as being spiritually lost and apart from Christ. They realized that neither the works of the Old Testament Law, nor good deeds could make them right with a holy God. And they realized that Christ had died for their sins on that old rugged cross. The Word of God declares the same message to you today. The Bible says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23).

You cannot compare yourself with other people as a way of claiming that you are right with God and don’t need a savior. We are not the standard that you fall short of. Jesus is the standard and when you compare your life and my life to His perfect and lovely life, you will see how much of a sinner you are.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The word confirms the Savior, convicts the sinner, and…

C. The Word converts the sinner.

12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. Acts 17:12 (NKJV)

Praise God, many of the Bereans believed! The word “believed” as it is used in our verse means to place your trust in something or someone. In this case, they believe the message that Paul preached about Jesus and they placed their trust in Jesus to save them, to forgive them of their sins, and to make them right with God.

Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is my prayer that some of you this morning have come to the conviction in your heart that you need Jesus Christ in your life. In just a moment I am going to give you the opportunity to place your trust in Christ. I am praying that many of you will once and for all say, “Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son, I believe you died for my sin, and I believe that you are alive from the dead and that you hear my prayer as I ask you to forgive me of my sins and to take control of my life.”

There were three responses to his message. The first response was…

The Gospel Will Be Considered When It Is Faithfully Preached. The Second response that Paul encountered and we will encounter was…The Gospel Will Be Believed When It Is Faithfully Preached (17:12). There is a third response we can expect when we faithfully preach the Gospel. Mark it down well…

III. The Gospel Will Be Opposed When It Is Faithfully Preached (Acts 17:13-14).

13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. Acts 17:13-14 (NKJV)

It has been said that while the missionaries Paul and Silas were busy sending out the Gospel, Satan was busy stirring up trouble; and he sent some of his own “missionaries” to Berea. How Satan hates the simple preaching of the Word of God! (adapted from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)

A. The Gospel not only delivers, it divides.

Not everyone welcomes the proclamation of the Gospel.

Ø      While some are open to our message, others are opposed to it.

Ø      Some are happy with it; others are hostile towards it.

Ø      Some welcome it; others war against it.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ not only delivers souls, it divides.

On November 29, 1999, The New York Times reported that the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago sent a letter to SBC president Rev. Paige Patterson to reconsider sending thousands of missionaries to Chicago for the summer of 2000 because it could incite violence against Jews, Hindus, and Muslims. The letter stated: "While we are confidant that your volunteers would come with entirely peaceful intentions, a campaign of the nature and scope you envision could contribute to a climate conducive to hate crimes." The letter cited two incidents from 1999 in the Chicago area - a mosque being vandalized and the murder of 6 Orthodox Jews outside their synagogue - which give the religious leaders cause for worry. Herb Hollinger, an SBC spokesman, stated that the goal of the church is to spread the Christian gospel to urban areas, maybe in the form of "...door-to-door knocking, maybe neighborhood block parties." Citation:___________

B. The opponents of the Gospel hindered a man, but not the message.

14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there.

Paul had entered this purely pagan town just a short while ago. Now he has brethren there! These brethren were new Christians he had led to faith in Christ. Out of love and concern for Paul they sent him away. It seemed that the opposition had won, but looks can be deceiving. You see, Paul left behind two of his best disciples, Silas and Timothy and a small church that would continue to grow and evangelize the city! The opponents of the Gospel hindered a man, but they could never hinder the Gospel message! In fact, Paul went on from Berea to the city of Athens where he boldly proclaimed Christ from the epicenter of that strategic city!

Christ has not promised FCBC that we will be unopposed if we proclaim His Gospel. But He has promised that He would build His church and the Gates of Hell, try as they might, will not prevail against us!


Let us resolve to share the Gospel no matter what, leaving the results to God!

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