Notes of a Gospel Address on Acts 13:26-47
The glad tidings of the grace of God is for all men. It is to the Jew first, but, thank God, it is also to the Gentile. Peter was sent to the Jew, Paul to the Gentile. The man who would not allow the Jew to hear the gospel, but persecuted to the death those who carried it and those who received it, is the very man chosen by God to be a herald of that same gospel to the farthest corners of the earth. It is in the synagogue of the Jews he speaks the words I have been reading in your ears. He says, “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.” He lets all know that the word of God was not now to be limited to Jewish ears. The salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles also. There were evidently some of the Gentiles in that synagogue, men who had in some way, possibly by coming in contact with the devout Jews, received some divine impressions, and feared God. To them as to the Jews he addresses the message. The next Sabbath, at the request of the Gentiles, he goes outside the Jews altogether, and preaches the word to the Gentiles alone, quoting from Jewish scriptures to prove the action to be according to the mind of God: “I have set Thee (the word of God to Christ) to be a light of the Gentiles, that Thou shouldest be for salvation to the ends of the earth.” The word of God had first to be spoken to the Jew. The Lord told His disciples to begin at Jerusalem. But now that the Jews had put it from them, and judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life, the apostles turned to the Gentiles. The Gentile who walked in darkness, worshipped devils, and wallowed in pollution, was now to see the light of God
God had intervened on behalf of His poor creature who was under the authority of darkness, the slave of sin, and powerless to help himself, and the poor Gentile who was afar off, must hear of it. He must hear of the way in which God has intervened, and of the Person in whom He has to this end displayed His power. It is in a glorified Christ this is set forth. He is the Mediator in whom God has drawn near to man and in whom He is to be known as a Saviour God. This Mediator gave Himself a ransom for all, because God would have all men to be saved. God has raised Him from the dead and given Him glory, that men may have a Saviour, in glory.
God has wrought a great work on man’s behalf. The natural thought of man is that God would do nothing for him, but would only judge and condemn him. The gospel is the declaration of the grace of God to man, as witnessed in the fact that there is at the present moment a Saviour at His right hand for the whole world. He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
In no other is there salvation. You cannot find it in the law; it works wrath. If you put yourself under it, it will curse you. It is no respecter of persons. You may be doing your worst, or you may be doing your best, but you are sure to break it in some way or other, and if you do, it will curse you. If God had left man on the ground of works of law, all must have perished forever; there would have been no recovery for him, because man in nature is a rebellious sinner.
But God had made promises of blessing. He had spoken of a Deliverer for man, and those who were in any measure enlightened, expected that Deliverer to arise. But all had failed, and death had closed the history of every soul that man had hoped in. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, all went down into death, and no man could keep his own soul alive. The throne of David was defiled and cast down to the ground, and the idolatrous Gentile ground the people beneath an iron heel. Then God intervened by His Son, and man in his madness murdered that Saviour! What now was to be done? Had God come to the end of His resources? Must man be left to the consequences of his sinful insanity? No! God’s resources are infinite. He raised Christ from the dead, and established salvation in Him in heaven.
But this puts Jew and Gentile upon one platform. To the Seed of David as come in flesh, the Jew had a title not possessed by the Gentile; but to a risen Christ, neither Jew nor Gentile has any title but that which the gospel gives, and the gospel makes no distinctions, but gives the same title to the whole human race. The grace of God that brings salvation to all men has appeared.
This is in the risen Son of God. It is in Him the sure mercies of David are given to the Jew. It is in Him all blessing for all men is established. Righteousness for all is in Him, and salvation and eternal inheritance. In Him righteousness is set forth on behalf of His poor, weak, erring, and wretched creatures.
But it was necessary that this Saviour should first suffer. The prophets had testified of His sufferings. This is predicted of Him in the first mention of Him in scripture. If He was to bruise the devil’s head, the devil would bruise His heel. Death lay upon man on account of sin and the devil, who has the power of death, held man captive. The Son of God invaded that stronghold—broke the power of death, annulled it, and him who has the power of it. His resurrection is the great witness to His victory. He has the keys of hades and death. He is Lord of death’s domain. He is Lord of all—Lord of angels, of men, of living, and of dead. He is the mighty victor, and is crowned with glory and honour.
The sure mercies of David are established in Him beyond the reach of death, and He is there for everyone in this hall, for all in the wide world. All the power of God is vested in Him for the recovery of man.
I want everyone here to see that He is where He is by the mighty power of God acting on man’s behalf, and that He is at the right hand of God for you. I want you to see this that you may believe in the grace and love of God; that you may have confidence in Him; that you may turn to Him and live. He is where He is for Jew and Gentile alike. The world was before the mind of God in the sending of Christ, and also in His death and in His resurrection. In chapter 3 of John’s gospel He is the witness of God’s love to the world and of His desire for the salvation of all; in chapter 4 He is confessed by the Samaritans as the Saviour of the world; in chapter 6 He is the Bread come down from heaven to give life to the world; and in chapter 8 He is the light of the world. The grace of God is unlimited.
“Be it known unto you therefore men and brethren that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” Everyone must hear this. Peter might be very reluctant to go to the Gentiles, but what was he to withstand God? Paul might have preferred to be an apostle to the circumcision, but the Lord says to him, “Depart, for I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles.”
But some one may say, “You do not know me; I am such a failure.” I say it is not a question of what you are, but of what God is. He is favourable to all. He desires the salvation of all, and Christ in whom salvation is, is the witness to it. You must look away from yourself to Christ, and learn in Him the disposition of God to you. But you say, “I cannot take the place of a believer.” I tell you that in what I am saying to you I am taking all you confess into account. I am speaking to you about God’s disposition toward you in Christ. I have not yet come to that which applies to the believer. I hope to come to that presently. Just now I am speaking to you about God. I am speaking to an unbelieving sinner who has little or no divine light, and I say, “Through this man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins.” Your believing will not alter this fact, neither would your rejection of it. This is the message, and in the presence of it I would exhort you to give up your own notions. I would call upon you to repent and turn to God. The sun in the heavens shines for all. You may shut yourself out from its heavenly rays in a dark cellar and die in the darkness and the cold, but you cannot alter that which God has in His goodness and power established. Let me once more then say to you, “Through this man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins.”
I will now come to the believer. By Him all that believe are justified from all things. This is what is true of the believer. Verse 38 is what is true of God, His disposition toward all. Verse 39 is what is true of the believer. He is justified. Christ is his justification. If you are a believer you are justified. This is the word of God, and there is no wisdom in contending against it. God’s forgiveness is preached to all. It is His disposition toward all men, and the believer is forgiven—that is, he is in a forgiven state. He has received the forgiveness.
Now we come to another class of hearers, and I may say I sincerely trust there is not one of their number in this hall. They are despisers. “Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken in the prophets. Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish, for I work a work in your days a work which ye shall in no wise believe though a man declare it unto you.”
“I WORK.” This is the whole point. It is God’s work that is preached. Turn from your own work, be that work in your own estimation good or bad, and believe God’s work. It is, as I have said, seen in a risen Saviour at His right hand. He is exalted to the right hand of God that all may get the good of such a Saviour. He placed the sun in the heavens that it may warm and illuminate and comfort the world; and He has placed Christ in the heavens that your heart might be enlightened by Him and that you might live. May you be led to repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.