Love and Suffering

by | Jun 11, 2023 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor David Ball

Scripture: Acts 17:1-8

One of the greatest questions of the Christian life is, “Why does a good God allow his people to suffer?” This question has been used as a weapon against God and His faithful people for centuries and it is a question that even faithful Christians find themselves asking in difficult seasons of life. Acts 17:1-8 reveals how a Holy and Righteous God loves us so much that He willingly entered into suffering for our redemption. Come listen to the hope that we have in the redemption of our suffering and the amazing love of God for us in His Son Jesus Christ.


Well this morning’s uh reading is in a large way a recap of last week’s reading uh it’s just the Fulfillment of what had already been decided uh in our reading from last week in the and since I am probably certain that you don’t even remember uh last week’s sermon at all uh and that’s by the way not a uh that’s not a a jab at you we get into like meetings on Tuesday and uh and something comes up about the sermon from uh last you know from Sunday and I can’t remember I’m on to the next thing I I’ve forgotten I’ve moved on I’m worried about what’s in front of me and I forget what it was even about uh so just a reminder of what happened last week it was the a big controversy had entered into the church over a fundamental question of the most importance and that is how is one to be saved and and what’s required of them for the first time uh the church was experiencing Gentile believers before it had been all Jewish Believers and so they were already part of the Jewish faith they were following the Jewish law they had done all the customs and the duties but now Gentiles are coming to faith in Christ for the first time and what do you do how are they supposed to handle this and they weren’t sure and there was disagreement and so Paul was facing some of these folks from what was called the the Pharisee party that even existed within the Church of Christ at the time this early church and they were coming behind Paul and Barnabas and they’re proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles and telling them no no no you’re not saved just by grace through faith there’s more that’s required of you you actually have to become circumcised and follow the law of Moses and then you can be one of us and you can be part of the church and then you can you can be saved and obviously Paul and Barnabas were enraged and this was a major a major problem and it was a uh it was a problem that was put before these Gentiles a hurdle that they saw from what God was doing should not be placed upon them and so they went to Jerusalem they went to Jerusalem and a council was called of all the the apostles and the elders meaning and you know kind of the Bishops and Priests of the time were called together to to talk about this issue and to make a decision and if you’ll recall the the decision the way it went about coming to a conclusion and a decision was Paul and Barnabas and Peter told them about their experience they told them about what had happened in the field what was happening as these Gentile Believers were receiving Christ they were they were coming to Faith uh and it was a powerful thing they recounted the stories but then Peter testified that this was a work of the holy spirit this wasn’t just a man it wasn’t just of of experience the Holy Spirit was affirming it Peter recalled the time when he went to cornelius’s house right and the Holy Spirit descended uh on that day of Gentile Pentecost there and cornelius’s home uh and they were in the Holy Spirit came before they had even been baptized so the holy spirit is doing something God’s moving not just through experience but he’s manifest in doing something in their midst but then to solidify it all James responded and in his response he affirmed what Peter had said but he also cited from the prophet Amos chapter 9. and he saw in God’s word that this was always God’s plan he was always going to redeem his people but he was also going to open salvation up to the Gentiles and if you remember last week and looking at that Amos 9 quote or the quote that uh the James cited God said I will return to my people I will rebuild them and I will restore them he’s saying this is going to be my work I’m going to do it I’m going to accomplish this and that’s what the gospel is all about it’s God’s work in our lives for our salvation we get that all mixed up we get it all mixed up but the decision was and we’re going to come back to that uh the decision was uh that that James affirmed what Peter had said that that you know Peter said what we’ve learned through all this is that we’re going to be saved by grace we as Jews just as much as uh as they will we’re going to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus alone not by our Jewish Heritage not by all the the following all the customs and all the rules it’s going to be by grace through faith in Jesus’s work for us because it’s what God has done for our Salvation not what we have done to try to earn it and so James affirmed that but he also uh came up with a little bit of a compromise a little bit of a compromise and we read it last week he said we should not trouble this is what James declared in the final you know verdict we should not trouble these Gentiles anymore but we should write to them and ask them to abstain from uh four things uh things polluted by Idols from sexual immorality from what has been strangled and from blood now that seems a little bit odd right like well they were just told that there’s freedom in Christ it’s God’s work uh so what why is James now asking something more of them well this is not a matter of Duty uh this is something that he’s asking them to do in love for their fellow Jewish brothers and sisters who are still struggling to to understand all this they’ve lived all their lives under this old Covenant and yet here there’s this New Covenant of a freedom in Christ and they’re still struggling to come along with that and to understand it fully and so uh and so um James is asking them to hey you don’t have to this isn’t a duty this isn’t this isn’t a matter of Salvation your salvation has been one for you in Christ by grace through faith in him alone but we’re asking you to abstain from these things so that we can maintain Fellowship uh and peace with with one another John Stott in his uh in his commentary on acts said that this isn’t what was presented to them an essential duty but it’s a it’s a concession to the conscience of others that’s not an easy thing to determine is it I know we all want to stand for the truth and we’re not going to make any concessions and we’re going to fight each other over it more often than not that’s the history of the church um you know I mean think about just things we’ve been through not long ago through through the time of covid right I mean I cannot tell you how many churches uh don’t exist today that existed before kovid because of the non-essential things that they fought about you know there are some that thought that we should everyone should have to wear masks there were those who thought they’ll be asked to wear a mask was to betray my uh my faithfulness to freedom and God and all the things that all my rights and I won’t do it well that’s one of those that’s one of those examples here of is it an essential thing is it uh is this something that’s worth a concession to the conscience of others for the sake of unity you know there’s the old uh the old Latin and I say this just because as preachers are supposed to say Latin things and Greek things um I never took Latin so uh so I’ll probably botch it so don’t don’t judge me for it but it’s uh in this serious Unitas indubitus libertas and I’m Omnibus Caritas I think I got it right close enough uh but you know what it what it means is this in in Necessary Things Unity and those things that are doubtful freedom and in all things love and charity and this some people trace this all the way back to Augustine of Hippo the bishop there uh some people say this was more of a during the Reformation uh this this is this came out but in any way it makes sense right but they’re still debate about well what are the necessary things yeah what what are the necessary things that that are important that we do uh that we do need to to to argue about that we do need to stand for because that’s certainly the truth in our church uh we’ve been talking about this and I’ve shared with you I went to Rwanda we uh made a decision that we needed to break from the Archbishop of Canterbury because uh because we believed there was something that was necessary something that was essential that was being uh that was being denied uh and that one thing that was essential is is the nature of sin it’s calling something that is sin nonsense not you know they’re calling it not sin we don’t have that we don’t have that right we don’t have that that option and in fact by affirming that uh by saying in the realm of human sexuality in this case to say that the church should bless it uh we believe that not only is that wrong uh we’re actually hindering other people’s Eternal salvation because we’re not giving them the opportunity uh to to repent and to turn to the Lord because we’re calling something that God has declared sin nonsense so it’s a no longer no longer an issue and so we’re putting souls in Jeopardy in that case and so it is something that is absolutely essential but the most important issue here uh and and the council in Jerusalem is that they decided that nothing more needs to be added or no other burden needs to be placed upon the shoulders of the Gentiles for salvation they are saved by grace through faith that that that’s the gospel that’s the freedom that’s the joy of the gospel and in fact that’s what we hear in our reading this morning that they went and they read the letter the council wrote the letter and they went to uh they went to the Believers the Gentiles and they read this this letter to them and so we’ve told in verse 30 so when they were sent off they went down to Antioch and having gathered the congregations together they delivered the letter there uh so the count the council in Jerusalem sent some Representatives down and they went to support Paul and Barnabas and the ministry they were doing because these uh these members of the the Pharisees party had come down and uh had been confusing them and so they brought Representatives just to make sure that everyone knew this wasn’t just Paul and barnabas’s idea uh this was the council’s decision and so they brought the letter and when they had read it they rejoiced because of its encouragement when they heard that we have freedom in Christ that it’s been hit God’s work in our lives not our own for salvation not our own Works God has returned to us in his son Jesus Christ he has rebuilt us he has restored us and one day we’ll know the fullness of Glory not because of our own work and our own Duty but because of Christ’s finished work and love for us alone and so they rejoiced they rejoiced in it can you remember experiencing that in your own life you know you know whether maybe you when you came to Christ for the first time maybe you were old enough to remember it but to remember the joy that you received that God loves you he loves you he sent his son for your salvation and you received him by faith and there was freedom and love and joy in that

maybe it was you maybe you were raised in the in the church maybe you were raised by parents God willing who who always raised you in the faith but there were still probably that moment where you came to understand Grace and God’s God’s love for you for the first time can you remember

I hope you can but what inevitably happens is somewhere along the line that joy that we experience that salvation by grace through faith alone little by little gets chipped away little by little and at first it starts slowly but then it Gramps up and up to where Duty overtakes freedom and joy that we have in Christ alone it’s subtle but it grows and it grows and the more Duty overtakes Grace in our lives the deader and debtor we become in our own Hearts towards God towards the gospel and towards our passion for serving Christ in this world you know this uh there’s a little bit of a debate about the timing of when the the Jerusalem Council happened uh and when Paul wrote to the church in galatia uh the traditional view is that uh Paul was writing to the church in galatia after uh the Jerusalem Council that had been the the opinion forever there’s some who would say no it looks you know there’s reasons to believe that maybe uh the events in galatia were happening before the Jerusalem Council uh but you know either way you can make an argument for but I tend to take the traditional view on that and hear what happened to the Galatians they had heard the gospel Paul had proclaimed it to him that this uh that you are saved by uh by grace through faith in Christ alone and nothing else is required of you and they were filled with joy and they received it and they were baptized in the name of the father Son and the Holy Spirit but then Paul in writing to them says in chapter one of Galatians verse 6 I’m astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel
see this is even after this Jerusalem the decision there was there were there were still those that wouldn’t relent there were still those who said no salvation from by Grace isn’t enough you’ve got to do something to earn it you’ve got to make yourself worthy of God you’ve got to do the things that are required and the law of Moses or you can’t be part of the club they had come and they were telling them this and this appealed to our own to their own sinful nature within us and so they were now beginning to Desert this gospel of grace they had received and beginning to now think they needed to do more and Paul calls it not only wrong he calls it a different gospel altogether a different gospel but then Paul says not that there is another but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ but even if we are an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached you let him be accursed again this goes back to the prophetic word from Amos God said I will return I will rebuild you I will restore but to return to some idea that it’s Duty that saves us it’s Duty that secures our place with God and his love for us is to deny the gospel of grace all together it’s to deny the God who has come to save us and to say no we can do it ourselves we can return to God we can rebuild ourselves we can restore all things just to the way that they were always meant to be we can do it
that’s to deny the gospel of grace and then in Galatians 3 Paul continued o foolish Galatians who has Bewitched you it was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified let me ask you only this did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by the hearing with faith are you so foolish haven’t begun by the spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh meaning by your own works did you suffer so many things in vain if indeed it was in vain does he who supplies the spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith just as Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness but We All Fall Down inevitably into that trap that duty is what matters most do all the right things be the right people make the right decisions and if you don’t well you may need to doubt your own salvation here now that doesn’t mean that that that works are not important James tells us himself right faith without works is dead but there’s a reason why Martin Luther wanted James taken out of the Bible uh not because it’s not important and it is and I think it should be in the Bible by the way uh but he’s because people read it and get confused and they they take that completely the opposite way but James wasn’t saying then that uh that you could uh he wasn’t saying the opposite either right and so what role does duty play with faith where does it come from how are we to live into this Christian Duty in a way that’s still in the freedom and the love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ well the way it always works is that Duty has to flow from Grace it has to it has to flow from the love that God has for us that it’s a response that we have to God for this Freedom that we’ve been given for this this love that he has that he has given us that is unearned and that flows out of our lives and and doing the things that are in love for God and love for our neighbor that fulfill the whole law but it can’t work the other way around it never goes from Duty to love of God we can’t work our way backwards or else it’s a different gospel altogether it’s us who are the ones who are saving ourselves and not God who is saving us by his work alone in the Fulfillment of Amos 9. so how do we how do we protect ourselves how do we live in that balance of uh of Faith Grace save being saved by grace through faith and and still finding a right context for Duty in our lives that doesn’t become just some sort of judgmental pharisaic legalism answer to this is the gospel I think that we have to first reconcile the fact that the only duty that truly counts in the end is the faithful work of obedience of Our Savior Jesus Christ to receive it to know it in your heart that you’re called the good works of course you are but you’re called out of from a loving God who once what is good and right for you and for the his church and for the world only duty that counts is the faithful Obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ friends we have a chance to respond to this good news this morning by coming to the Lord coming to his table we’re invited by God to come to him not not by our own Duty not because it’s the right thing to do we come because he loves us and has welcomed us to himself to receive him by faith to trust him alone for our salvation that he has done the work that is necessary for us to be with him for all eternity I pray that this is a joy to you today I pray that it will be a joy always and then it will bear the fruit of good works in your life amen

in Jesus name amen



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