01 March 2009

"The Building Word of His Grace"

Week 22 (Acts 20) from "The Roots of Our Faith" series on the book of Acts.

On his third missionary journey, Paul spent three years in the region of Ephesus constantly admonishing the Ephesians with tears. In this passage (Acts 20:17-38), Paul recounts his time in Ephesus to the Ephesian elders and passes the torch to them to continue in his example.  As he does, we see that Paul spoke consistently of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21) because he believed that "the word of his grace" was able to save and build believers (Romans 1:16).

His single-mindedness explains why the New Testament is, first, a document describing the multiple facets of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-3) and not a manual for making life work.  Gospel truths light up the dark places of our soul (2 Cor. 4:4,6) and build us up for our inheritance (Acts 20:32).  Therefore, a deepening understanding of Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2) should be the central focus of spiritual life.  This message attempts to examine the multi-faceted beauty of the Gospel on display in Paul's epistles.  

1 comment:

  1. I thought this exchange might be a helpful addition to the message (the first part is an email I received from a close friend and the second is my response)
    Hi Mitch,

    Your last two teachings have, as always, been inspiring and thought provoking. I think the book of Acts study has been great for our community.

    I'll keep this short and leave it to you to judge whether or not it's something we should discuss together further. Your second-to-last teaching contained an idea that I think I kinda sorta disagreed with, which is fairly unusual. Last week's, however, contained a (related) glaring omission in light of what I believe God has been teaching me in past years. I feel that I would be practically disobedient to God if I didn't at least mention it to you. These ideas seem especially pointed in light our mission as a great commission body of believers.

    In a nutshell: you asked the question, "What was Paul's message? What did Paul preach? What is the gospel?

    You answered that question with, "repentence toward God and faith in Jesus Christ." Of course we all agree that is the way to salvation. My contention, (perhaps not surprisingly,) has to do with the "gospel of the kingdom of God", which clearly seems to be an inseperable part of Paul's message, and which I believe contemporary evangelicalism has lost sight of. It is unfortunate that we skipped ch 19, which contains the passage "And (Paul) entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God"(v8).

    Even so, in last week's ch 20, after he says he testified of "repentence toward God and faith in Jesus", he says he preached the kingdom to them (v25). Then in v27 he says that he "did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God." This may be a questionable assertion, but I think if our message does not include the gospel of the kingdom, then according to Paul, we are not declaring the whole counsel of God.

    In addition, we know that, in the gospels, Jesus preached the "gospel of the kingdom"; the gospel of salvation was understood/preached later, at Pentecost. We know that in Acts ch 1, Luke chooses to tell us that Jesus spent the 40 days before His ascension "speaking to them of the kingdom of God." Finally, Luke is explicit in the LAST chapter of Acts that Paul preaches BOTH the kingdom of God, and about Jesus (v23). Following that, the closing verse of the book of Acts tells us clearly what Paul's message was (v31). So we have the account of the Acts of the apostles book-ended with references to the gospel of the kingdom of God. It almost seems as if God is trying to get a point across.

    So, it feels "sub-culturally" wrong to say this, but, according to the whole of scripture, our message should not be "Jesus only."
    I don't necessarily disagree with you. I erred last week in not giving more time to elaborate on the Gospel as Paul preached it. I'm still learning a lot about preaching;)

    What I see Paul speaking about again and again is a Gospel of God's gracious and sovereign intervention in our lives to raise our dead hearts to life and to a real appreciation of His glory (Col. 1:13, 2 Cor 4:4-6). Indeed the Gospel is about a Kingdom, but the Kingdom is about a King. The "Gospel" is a multi-faceted message that includes sin, holiness, atonement, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, sanctification and eternal fellowship with God. A growing understanding of those facets is able to build us up and, within them are the "kingdom" ideas of Christ's kingship, our citizenship and the eternal fellowship of God's family.

    [I then copied the contents of the post above as a further description]

    I wholeheartedly believe that the Gospel of the Kingdom was a part of "the Gospel" Paul preached (as he summarized in Ephesians 1) - what you heard is more of an issue of poorly planned preaching than disagreement.