Online Worship for Epiphany Four, Sunday January 29, 2023
Sermon for Epiphany Four – 2/1/15 – January 29, 2023
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, [Isaiah 49:6]
“ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
In the Name of Jesus,
The Light in this dark world,
The Desire of All Nations,
The Righteous King of Peace,
The Light of the Gentiles,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
Leftovers and ‘Hand me downs’!
When I was a boy we were taught to eat everything on our plates (whether we wanted to or not). If there was anything leftover, it wasn’t thrown away we put it in the fridge and ate it later. There was nothing wrong with leftovers, they were kept and eaten.
When I was a boy we often received ‘hand me downs.’ I was the oldest, so when I grew out of clothing that was still in good shape; it was moved from my dresser to that of my younger brothers. There was nothing wrong with ‘hand me downs’, they were accepted and worn.
When I was a boy the idea of ‘second hand’ wasn’t frowned upon and it wasn’t fashionable…it was just reality. We didn’t have a lot of money and we needed clothing. If something was given to us we wore it.
I’m not so sure that people think the same way in our country today. For a few people it is fashionable to shop second hand stores; but for many others the attitude is: new or nothing.
What exactly does this have to do with us this morning?
Well, most of us are not of direct Jewish heritage. We are descended from other nations; we are according to the Bible, Gentile Christians. In fact, when we consider the Word of God before us this morning we may conclude that we have been given a ‘second hand salvation’; because it was first offered to the people of Israel and when they rejected it…it was offered to us.
We have been given a second hand salvation!
This truth should not tarnish God’s blessing. Instead, these words serve as a warning to us that if we reject the Gospel or take it for granted thinking that we deserve these spiritual blessings…they may be taken away from us and given to others. Moreover, these words also serve to encourage us for though we are not worthy of salvation God has given it to us. The promises given to us in the Scriptures are the same as those first given by prophecy and promise to others.
Therefore, may God the Holy Spirit bless us and lead us to rejoice in our secondhand salvation…through these words. We enter into our study with the words of Jesus as our prayer: “Sanctify us by Your Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth.” Amen.
Would it surprise you to know that the worship service in the 1st Century wasn’t much different from our worship service this morning? When the Apostle Paul came to Antioch in the region called Pisidia in the province of Galatia (Modern Turkey), he went into the synagogue of the Jews. In the first part of the 13th Chapter of Acts, we are given a thumbnail sketch of their worship service…and it may sound familiar.
Synagogue worship involved singing and prayer. It also included two readings and what we would call a sermon. After a reading from the Law (one of the first five books of the OT in our Bible); they heard a second reading from the Prophets (the same Prophets in our Bibles). After this second reading, the leader of the synagogue (call him the pastor) asked Paul and Barnabas if they had any words of encouragement to speak (Acts 13:15) call it a sermon.
In fact, the Evangelist Luke records a summary of the Apostle Paul’s Sermon in this 13th Chapter of Acts. The Apostle Paul directed his words (Acts 13:16) to both the Jews present and also to those Gentiles who had become worshippers of the LORD, Jehovah.
It is a bit like a ‘second hand sermon’ but let me summarize his words:
* The Apostle Paul reminded those worshippers that God had chosen the people of Israel to be His People and enlarged their numbers in Egypt. The LORD God led them out of Egypt and put up with them for 40 years in the wilderness. He gave them the Promised Land, and Judges and Kings – Saul and David. It was a historical lesson that they all knew…but then…
* The Apostle Paul then revealed what they didn’t know…that God had sent a Savior from among David’s relatives, a man named Jesus (13:23). God sent His Savior…but instead of receiving Him, the people of Jerusalem and their rulers rejected Him and had Him executed by the Governor, Pontius Pilate.
* BUT…God raised his Savior from the dead as promised in the Prophets and the Psalms. Then the Apostle Paul came to the main point of his sermon, what this all meant (Acts 13:38-39, ESV):
38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Does that sound like a familiar message? It should because it’s the same message we proclaim today. Every sermon proclaimed from this pulpit should concern both sin and grace.
* Law -- We should be told each and every Sunday that we stand condemned by the Law of God and are bound for Eternal Death because of our sins. We should hear how we cannot free ourselves from our sin, our guilt or the righteous punishment prescribed by God’s Law.
* Gospel – We should also be told that we have forgiveness in Christ. We should hear how the forgiveness of sins obtained by Christ’s death and resurrection is also offered and given to us by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel message.
Where both Law and Gospel are proclaimed there sinners find comfort and forgiveness. Where Law and Gospel are proclaimed there the Kingdom of God comes with power and strangers and foreigners become citizens of the Kingdom.
Don’t be deceived…mega churches may arise around charismatic preachers with feel good messages like that proclaimed by Joel Osteen…they crumble from within just as quickly because they don’t proclaim sin and grace, law and gospel. We may not see a weekly influx of visitors, but we still proclaim the same message as Paul did in Antioch.
When Paul proclaimed the Gospel in Pisidian Antioch the Holy Spirit worked a great harvest of souls. The book of Acts reports (Acts 13:42-44, ESV):
42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
This is every Christian’s dream…to speak of Christ and to be begged to come back and say it again! Notice that they didn’t ask if they had anything else; they didn’t ask if they could say something different or new. They asked them to repeat the same the next Sabbath.
May God grant us grace so that the Gospel of Christ never seems old to us…but always new and fresh! God help us, lest we tire of the message and begin to look for something different. Furthermore, may the Spirit open our hearts and loosen our tongues so that we look for every opportunity to say it again, to point people to Christ…especially when the message is rejected like it was by some in Antioch (Acts 13:45, ESV):
45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy
and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.
Why did some of the Jews reject the message? Why openly contradict the message and even slander Paul? The Holy Spirit – who knows the hearts of men – here reveals that it was jealousy or envy.
Were they simply jealous of the success granted by the Holy Spirit? Were they envious because almost the whole city had gathered to hear the Word of God? Were they jealous because they believed that the message of salvation through the Christ was meant only for the Jews? Were they ‘jealous’ for God’s Word, thinking Paul was speaking falsely?
It could have been anyone of these or a little of all of them. Whatever prompted their jealousy, the result was the same…they rejected the message of forgiveness in Christ and publicly opposed it…to which Paul and Barnabas responded in the words before you:
46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
God had offered them – through Paul – forgiveness of sins in Christ. He had done so because the LORD God desires that every human being be saved through faith in Jesus, receiving His imputed righteousness and salvation. When they rejected the message, they brought judgment upon their own heads! They had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life.
This is the sad lot of all those who reject Christ – not because God doesn’t want them – but because they reject Him. As it is written (John 3:17-18, ESV):
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
“So, Pastor…we haven’t rejected the message!
What are we to learn from this?”
There is surely here a warning for us about taking the Gospel for granted…thinking that we have deserved or in some way earned God’s favor and the spiritual blessings given us. God didn’t choose us because we were good people, but needy sinners. God sent his son to die for us…not merely to fill in the gaps in our holiness – but to make it possible for us to be delivered from sin, death and Satan. Do we think of ourselves as worthy or deserving of God’s grace?
Do we take for granted God’s forgiveness, to the point where we think we can willfully sin…and always get forgiveness tomorrow?
There is also a warning here for us…if we no longer hear the Law of God that condemns we will also then despise the Gospel.
When the Jews in Antioch rejected the Gospel…it was taken from them and given to the Gentiles. If we reject the Gospel or take it for granted…it can be taken from us and given to others.
We may also find here encouragement…for it has been offered to us. This is God’s good and gracious will.
God intended to send His Savior for all of humankind, Jew and Gentile alike. The LORD communicated His promises through the Jews but those promises concerned both Jew and Gentile. Where the people of Israel rejected Jesus the Christ, the good news of salvation was offered to others…be they Samaritan, Macedonian or Roman.
Paul and Barnabas were only doing what the LORD God Himself foretold:
47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, [Isaiah 49:6] “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
We may be encouraged…because though we are not worthy of salvation in Christ, God has offered it to us. We may think of it as a second hand salvation because it was first offered to others…but from eternity its blessings were intended for us…our names were also on God’s gift tag.
The fact that the salvation given us was once offered to others and rejected doesn’t make it any less precious. In Christ we have the forgiveness of sins and are reconciled with God. In Christ…death has no power over us…we have eternal life.
Now let’s not forget that God’s blessings in Christ are not only intended for us…but for every other human being…regardless of their relationship to us or ethnic background. God’s blessings in Christ can be handed down from generation to generation, from people to people because the Holy Spirit still works through Word and Sacrament to make those blessings the possession of one human being after another.
Christ is the Light of both Jew and Gentile…His is the only name under heaven given among men by which we may be saved...a priceless second hand salvation. Amen.