Sermon

God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

God’s Word is Final (Acts 17:1-15)

Introduction:

  • Every October, we celebrate the reformation month. One of the pillar doctrines of the reformation is the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura basically tells us that in case of dispute or controversy about doctrine and the practice of our faith, the sole and final authority is the Scripture alone.
  • Many religions and denominations who believe in Christ do not subscribe to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Some of them consider traditions and Scriptures as the authority. Some have their own holy books produced by their own leaders or prophets, while others rely on reason and experience.
  • Although reformed Christians believe that the Scripture is the sole and final authority when it comes to doctrine, they sometimes fail to apply this principle when it comes to submitting their lives to the Scripture.
  • This afternoon we will talk about the word of God as our final authority by looking at Acts 17:1-15. We will have 2 sermon points: 1. The Biased Jews of Thessalonica; and 2. The Noble Jews of Boerea.

Sermon Point 1: The Biased Jews of Thessalonica

1Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

  • When Paul came to Thessalonica, he preached to the synagogue of the Jews in that place. His audience are Jews and Greeks who converted to Judaism. They all have the Old Testament Scripture as a common authority for their faith, so Paul preached Christ to them by referring to the Scriptures.
  • Application: When we share Christ to others, let us not focus too much on our testimonies or the story of our conversion, although these might help. Like Paul, we must appeal to the authority of Scripture. Let us use the word of God to share the Incarnate Word to others. If there is anything that will prove that Jesus is our Savior and the Son of God, it is the Scripture.

5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.

  • The Jews of Thessalonica rejected the message of Paul not because he failed demonstrate that what he is saying about Christ is in accordance with the Scripture. They rejected the message because they are jealous. When they decided to reject the gospel, they did not consider the authority of the Scripture which confirmed it. They put their own personal biases above the authority of the Scripture.
  • Relate: We may not be like the Jews who caused a city uproar just because they are jealous of a preacher. But sometimes we are just like them because unknowingly, we reject or take for granted the preaching just because we have our own personal biases against the preacher. Sometimes we choose not to listen to the preacher because:
    • He is young
    • He is not a seminary graduate
    • We don’t like his preaching style
    • He does not have a perfect grammar
    • He does not pronounce words perfectly
  • Application: Although it is the obligation of the preacher to constantly improve his preaching, at the end of the day, his authority to preach comes not from his charisma or eloquence but from the word of God. As long the preacher faithfully preaches the authoritative word of God, we are bound to give it our full attention and humble ourselves and submit ourselves to it.
  • Aside from our personal biases, there are other things that people substitute to the Scripture as their final authority when it comes to faith and practice. In the issue of final authority, there are 3 major views:
    • Traditionalist View – the final authority is man’s traditions. We find this view being practiced by the Roman Catholic church today and the pharisees in the time of Jesus. Read Mark 7:6-13.

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

  • Liberal View – this view elevates human reasoning and experience above the word of God. The ones who hold on to this view are the liberal and progressive Christians today and the Sadducees in the time of Jesus. What they do is to subordinate the Scripture or the interpretation of Scriptural accounts to common human reasoning and experience, and in effect, they remove all the supernatural un the Bible and turn everything into moral stories. An example is the account of the feeding of the five thousand which they interpreted as a story of sharing once goods and possessions with one another.
  • Evangelical View – this view states that the final and sole authority when it comes to faith and practice is the Scripture alone. This is the view the reformed Christians hold.
  • The problem with traditions – what is tradition? Traditions are teachings and practices that are handed down by the church from one generation or another through oral and written means.
    • Analogy – a Roman catholic theologian described tradition as a sweater given by the mother to her eldest child. Once the eldest child grows old, the sweater is handed down to the next child and then so on and so forth.
    • The problem – the reason why we should not consider tradition as our final authority in faith and practice is because we cannot determine its inspiration, origin and authenticity.
      • Most (not all) traditions are untraceable. Unlike the Scripture which we know is inspired because it was written by men who spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, we don’t know if the source of traditions are agents of revelation like prophets and apostles, who were authenticated by God through signs and wonders. In other words, anyone can invent a tradition. If we cannot determine the origin of a tradition, we cannot determine its inspiration as well.
        • But isn’t it true that some books of the Bible have unknown authors? Yes, but these books were still included in the Canons because the church, as guided by the Holy Spirit, accepted these books and recognized them as part of the Canons and because these books do not contradict the teachings of the other books of the Scripture. On the other hand, not all traditions are generally accepted by the Church and some of them even contradicts the teaching of the Scripture.
      • Assuming that traditions are also inspired, we still cannot trust it as a final authority because it is not as well preserved as the Scripture. Some of these traditions are passed on to later generations by practice and word of mouth.
        • Analogy – pass the message game.
    • Application – we should not consider tradition as a final authority. But we should not totally disregard them as well. Traditions, although not authoritative, can be used as an aid to understand the Scripture. We don’t have to completely reject traditions; we just have to put them in their proper place.
  • The problem with reason and experience the problem with reason and experience is that they are subjective. If we are going to make reason and experience our final authority, the next question that will arise is whose reason and experience we will follow?
    • Some Christians make a false dichotomy by placing reason against Scripture, as if the latter is devoid of reason. We have to remember that the Scripture has its own reasoning, in fact, God’s reasoning is much advance than human reasoning.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

  • What the progressives and liberals really want is to elevate their reasoning above God’s reasoning.
  • We cannot trust human reasoning because the Bible said that our minds are depraved and our reasoning are tainted with sin.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. – Romans 1:28

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5

  • Only the Scripture should be our final authority because it is inspired, it is perfect, it is unchanging and its origin is divine and not human.

And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all  acting against the  decrees  of Caesar,  saying that  there  is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

  • The text does not say that Jason is already a believer by this time. At best, he may be a sympathizer of the Christians.
  • The phrase “men who turned the world upside down” is not a positive thing like what other preachers are saying nowadays. This is actually a form of accusation against the apostles and the Christians, that they initiated rebellion in the different parts of the Roman empire, causing chaos in those places.
  • The city authorities to which Jason and the brothers were brought to is call the politarch. This is the body of leaders in Thessalonica that is composed of members who are none-Roman citizens.
  • Although the teachings of Jesus and the apostles clearly states that the kingdom of Jesus is a heavenly and not an earthly kingdom, the title of Jesus as a king is still being used by the Jews to accuse Jesus and his disciples of rebellion against the Roman empire.
  • The decrees of Ceasar that is mentioned here may pertain to a decree of Ceasar prohibiting religious predictions about the coming of a messiah or a future king which may rival the power of the Roman Empire.
  • They only released Jason and the brothers (believers) when the authorities obtained security from them in a form of money. This is not to rob them of their property but a bond or form of assurance that Jason will not let Paul and Silas come back to Thessalonica.

Second Sermon Point: The Noble Jews of Boerea

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

  • Paul and Silas escaped to Berea and when they arrived there, Paul did the same thing in their Jewish synagogue: they preached Christ to them using the Scripture.
  • Unlike the jealous Jews of Thessalonica, the Jews of Berea examined the message of Paul in light of the authoritative word of God. Because of this, many of them including Greek men and women, believed in Christ.
  • Bereans were called more noble than the Thessalonians because they did not allow their personal biases to influence them in examining the message of Paul. Instead, they went to the Scripture as the final authority when it comes to their faith and found that what Paul is saying about Christ is true. In other words, even though the Bereans lived in the first century, we can say that they already subscribed to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
  • Application: When it comes to the issue of how a person can be saved, there is only one go to which us none other than the authoritative word of God. Lately, there are a lot of noise about the answer of Joyce Prings on the question of Will Dasovich about whether all unbelievers will go to hell. A lot of people, including atheists who are not supposed to be affected by the statement, were triggered because, it’s either they do not know what the Bible says about salvation or they know it but they reject the Bible as the authority when it comes to the issue of salvation.
  • But what does the Bible say about salvation? The Bible clearly says that we are saved by faith alone! Its is by faith alone that the finished work of Christ is applied to us by the Holy Spirit. Its not by works, or faith plus works but faith alone.
  • Let us not follow traditions and practices men wherein they think that if they join a church, or do not eat blood or pork, or attend worship service every Saturday, they will be saved. These are all man-made traditions that are a result of lack or faulty understanding of the Bible.
  • Let us also not follow our own reasoning that if we will just do more good works and not be criminals, we will be able to attain salvation. It is not man who decides how a man will be saved but God alone. There is a way that seems right to man but, in the end, it leads to destruction.
  • The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We cannot attain salvation because our good works are like filthy rags in the sight of a perfectly holy and righteous God. We cannot attain salvation for ourselves but the Son of God already did it for us by living a perfect life to purchase a righteousness for us and by the dying on the cross to pay for our sins. No matter what our opinions are, there is only one way to salvation and that is only by faith alone in Christ alone.
  • It is good to be like the Bereans who considers the Scripture as the final authority in deciding what to believe. However, we should not only apply Sola Scriptura on doctrines, but more importantly, on how we live our lives. We cannot really say that our final authority is the Scripture unless we let the Scripture govern how we live our lives.
  • For example, when we don’t observe the Lord’s Day or only attend half day because it has been the family practice to go somewhere in the afternoon to relax or have family bonding, we do not make the Scripture the final authority over our lives but our own family traditions.
  • Men, when you allow your wives to lead the family because by experience you think they are more capable leaders than you, even if the Bible already said that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, you don’t make the Scripture the final authority over your family but your own reasoning and experience.
  • When churches justify having women as ministers because they think that women are more qualified in terms of commitment, leadership and ability to speak in the pulpit, even though it is clear in the Scripture that women are not allowed to speak in the church in a minister capacity, they don’t make the Scripture the final authority over the church but their own reasoning and experience.
  • Even if we consider the Bible as the sole and final authority when it comes to the doctrines that we believe and subscribe to, if we don’t let our lives be governed by it because we are trusting more in our own practices, experience and habits, we are giving a lip service to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

Conclusion:

  • So ZCRC Imus, let us not trust in human traditions and our own reasoning and experience on what we should believe and how we should live. There is only one final authority that will govern our lives and that is the Scripture alone, so let humble ourselves and submit ourselves to it.
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