The Gospel is Full of Great
It is all about:
- The great salvation that has been prepared for us by
love and according to the great mercy of God
- The gospel is the power of
God and it is a great and mighty power of a great
and mighty God
- His great promises find their
- For the gospel is centred
upon our great
God and Saviour, Jesus-Christ. Jesus is the One who is the great
shepherd of the sheep and our great high priest
- When Jesus’ birth was
foretold it was revealed that he would be great
- The OT prophet Isaiah
centuries before referred to the great and all-changing light he would
bring to a dark world – when the apostle Paul was converted his life was turned
around by a great
light that shone from heaven
- Jesus’ coming into the
world was also a cause of great joy – the wise men knew it when they
saw his star and the shepherds knew it when the angel choir told them the news
of the Saviour’s birth
- He performed miracles doing
signs and wonders that caused great crowds to flock to him again and
- Confronted by a great
storm that frightened his fishermen followers he spoke out and at once there
was a great
- Such was his authority that
he struck great
fear into these men who knew him best and all the while the great
throng of common people heard him gladly
- His presence deeply
affected so many people – the despised tax collector Levi threw a great
feast in his honour; the widow of Nain had her dead son restored to life and
the onlookers realised a great prophet had come amongst them; a
violent uncontrollable demoniac was delivered and the inhabitants of the region
were seized by such a great fear that they begged Jesus to leave
- As he reached the climax of
his earthly ministry the enormity of the task that lay ahead of him the
spiritual battle intensified and his sweat fell like great drops of blood but he
won the victory praying “nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And so
he went to his death a willing substitute who was ready to pay the price that
was needed to redeem his people from their sins.
- But even death couldn’t
restrain him – there was a great earthquake and the tomb was open – and
the women who were the first to learn about his resurrection from the dead were
filled with great
- He will come again – not
this time in humble obscurity but with great power, great glory, on that great
day and there will be a great reward in heaven for his followers
We live in the in-between period. At the beginning of this
period the apostles performed great wonders and miracles in Jesus’ name.
They knew they would have to face great struggles but could do so calmly and
confidently knowing that godliness with contentment is great gain.
His followers preached and proclaimed this gospel becoming
known as the men who turned the world upside down and in the Acts of the
Apostles we read of great numbers responding and committing themselves to Jesus
As we come to our passage in Acts 4+5 we are going to
investigate just a little more the greatness
of this gospel message.
Gospel Changes People
The gospel changes people and it is designed to do so.
Indeed it is impossible to truly believe this gospel of God and remain
unchanged for this gospel is not just a gospel of ideas.
Mere ideas or philosophies of life can be accepted and even
attributed a high degree of mental assent without them impacting the way you
live your life in the slightest. But the gospel is just not like that and the
reason stares us in the face. As Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
Rom.1:16 the gospel “is
the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...”
Our world is in a mess. It has been in a mess from the time
of Adam and Eve. They thought they could get along much better without God and
his rules and regulations and so they declared their spiritual independence. By
the time they realised what they had done it was too late and we’ve been living
with the awful consequences of sin (theirs and ours) ever since.
The gospel is God’s answer to the problem of sin. The
problem that we humans have is not one that will be dealt with by giving
everyone a bit more education what we need is for God to visit us and to change
us at the most fundamental level of our being. It is not primarily our minds
that are the problem but rather it is our heart and our soul. The gospel deals
with us at this level and it is only the gospel that does so.
When God deals with us in the gospel everything changes: new
emotions, new feelings, new orientations and fresh desires flood into our
lives. The believer finds that his new faith in Christ is not like adding some
religious appendage to his otherwise reasonably OK life it is far, far more
radical than that.
The Christian gospel comes to us as God’s free gift offered
to us to be received by faith in Christ. It is under God’s control and not
ultimately our own. We become Christians not by working hard and somehow
meriting a reward, no, we become Christians when we simply exercise faith in
what God has done for us in Christ and we pray asking him to extend his mercy
and grace to us.
In a wide variety of different ways the NT emphasizes the radical
nature of true Christian believing. Consider the language that is employed, for
- being born again or born
- new birth
- new creation
Try as you might you can’t do this to yourself these are
things that happen to us by an agency outside of ourselves. And God is the One
who works powerfully to bring it all about. So don’t think you have to work it
all out by yourself. Don’t imagine that you must fire up your resolve before
you can act. All things are possible with God – nothing is too hard for him –
and certainly not your stony heart!
The invitation is issued. “Believe” it says. Repent and cast
yourself upon God in Jesus Christ and you will find him to be a faithful God
and a perfectly competent Saviour.
This is the route taken by all who would follow Jesus Christ
and it is a route that changes people. It was the route taken by the believers
referred to here in Acts 4 and all of them were changed:
v.32 “Now the full number
of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of
the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”
This was a work that went right to where the problem was
located – it was, in the first instance, an internal work that transformed the
heart and the soul. And once a change had been effected there it wasn’t too
long before outward signs of that inward change began to make themselves
manifest. But it is important you realise that it works in that order and not
the other way round.
Now what do you of this? Do you know anything of this? The
Christian gospel is fundamentally transformative and can’t be regarded as the
equivalent of a few cosmetic changes in outward moral behaviour. Let the sects
peddle such ideas that all will be well if only we adopt a few of their teachings
– what we really need is a new heart and a revived soul and these are gifts
that God gives in the gospel.
Of course when changes occur at this fundamental level of a
person’s life the rest of life begins to change – a new fruit begins to be
produced. In this particular instance the believers were moved out of concern
for one another and were prepared to meet the cost of meeting the needs they
saw. Now the remarkable thing was that this was entirely voluntary. The
fledgling church wasn’t teaching that new believers had to sell their
possessions, to offer exorbitant gifts and tithes. The church didn’t become a
tax raising institution insisting on certain contributions. No, it was not due
to any external pressure at all. These new believers just knew that they had
freely received from the Lord and so wanted to freely give too. With free acts of
generous kindness they set about eliminating need when they encountered it.
It was a lovely way to live but it wasn’t taken up by the
church and made a requirement. Indeed in the very next incident it is very
clearly declared that there were no such obligations to be imposed.
Of course when the gospel is taken up by people who take it
up so seriously we’re not really surprised to read that the apostles were
enabled to preach powerfully about Jesus. A world hungry for hope and reality
was able to hear about Jesus and his resurrection for God enabled the apostles
“with great power”
The apostles focussed on the gospel – they didn’t share
their economic or social policies about how to alleviate poverty; they didn’t
lay out some programme designed to redistribute wealth more equitably – no,
they preached that Jesus had risen from the dead having fully satisfied divine
justice. Salvation was available in him and in him alone!
You see the inhabitants of Jerusalem knew something already
about Jesus, how he had gone about doing good. They knew too that their leaders
hadn’t approved of him but had conspired to have him executed on a Roman
gibbet, as a blaspheming enemy of the state. But what did they know more than
that? What did they know about his resurrection?
Well they knew that his early followers believed and
preached his resurrection and their changed lives seemed to indicate that there
really must be something more to it than they had first thought.
When the gospel has real effect in transforming people’s
lives it is attractive and intriguing and it adds credence to those preaching.
Some folk will always want to know what was responsible. And the Holy Spirit
gave great power to the proclamation of the truth so that they too might come
to a saving knowledge of the truth
It was a blessed time for the church wasn’t it? How lovely
to read that:
v.33 “great grace was upon
Lives had been turned around by this gospel. The lives of
others were being touched too as the gospel bore fruit in individual lives.
This gospel was being blessed by God who poured out his blessings:
and great grace”!
Don’t we long to see that happening again in our own day in
our own church. May the God who enabled it to happen make it happen again!
Has the gospel had a profound influence upon your life? Has
it had a profound influence on mine?
Some of the Christians sold land, some sold houses so that
they might relieve the burdens of others. Barnabas was singled out – he lived
up to his name – what an encouraging person he was to have around!
It won’t necessarily show in exactly the same way as it did
in the example described here but if we aren’t going to sell fields and give
our belongings to help the poor and needy what sort of fruit will the gospel
produce in our lives, for this great gospel must produce fruit. Maybe it will
be time spent talking with lonely people? Phoning those whose who are shut in? Doing
some shopping and adding some extras at your own cost? Offering lifts? There
are many ways that we can be sharing more together and yes, maybe even helping
others out financially when we learn of their needs. But we’ll need to remember
that such behaviour is not designed to try to earn some spiritual brownie
points but is to represent an overflow of love flowing from our own transformed
hearts and souls.
If we were
to leave things there we might be tempted to think that all was well in the
early NT church. Chapter 5 opens with a sorry and sobering account of how the
work of Christ is always opposed.
insisting on the fact that the gospel will and must produce fruit in the life
of the believer but now we find that believers are capable of making some
tragic mistakes too, mistakes that potentially undermine the witness and
testimony of the church.
closed with descriptions of genuine generosity chapter five opens with the same
theme of generosity but now the theme is muddied and polluted by some very
his wife Sapphira had seen how the truly generous believers like Barnabas were
appreciated and they wanted to be held in similar esteem only they wanted it on
the cheap as it were. They were prepared to give – even though they were under
no obligation to do so – but they wanted to be applauded as though they were
giving far more than they actually were.
And so they
schemed together. They’d sell some property and give the church just a part of
the proceeds while pretending they were giving the full amount. No-one would
know and wouldn’t people be impressed!
sinners often choose to forget that our God is an all-seeing God and he would
Peter knew too and Peter challenged Ananias when he came in:
“Why had he allowed Satan to fill his heart so that he was
ready to lie to the Holy Spirit?”
didn’t lie in the giving but in the lying about it. There was hypocrisy in what
was being done and do you see where that hypocrisy was to be found? In the
heart! The very heart that the gospel is to transform.
about to experience the severest expression of divine discipline: he fell down
dead! All those who knew were affected by it and fear came upon them all.
didn’t know what had happened to her husband. When she arrived Peter
immediately challenged her and she too was ready to test the Spirit of God with
her lying hypocrisy. Her outcome was the same as that of her husband. The
effect upon others was the same too – great fear came upon the church and all
those outside the church who heard about what had happened too.
I don’t know
whether Ananias and his wife were genuine believers who made a huge mistake and
reaped the extreme consequences for their behaviour or whether they weren’t real
believers at all. In the event it doesn’t matter for the incident stands as a
special warning to us. Don’t mess with God – it won’t turn out well for you if
rejecting this great gospel
this message by looking at the great blessings of the gospel and how that word
great was so often employed.
Well now for
completeness we need to realise that the Bible tells us the consequences of
rejecting this glorious gospel are also great and that in a very negative sense
brings light into the dark places, it points us and leads us to Jesus, the
Light of the World. To reject him means to go on dwelling in darkness, in great darkness.
offers us a sure foundation upon which to build our lives but to reject Jesus and
his word is to build upon moving unreliable sands that won’t support you when
the troubles really come flooding in. When the storms come battering then the
house built on the sand will fall and its fall will be a great fall.
And the only
opportunity you have to fix your eternal destiny is in this life. When you die
you won’t have any second chance for after death comes the judgment. There is
separation after death – there is a heaven to be enjoyed as a reward by all
those who have believed and received the gospel and the Christ of the gospel.
But there is also a hell to be avoided. And the choice is to be made now in
this life, now while it is yet the day of salvation. Don’t wait any longer –
there is a great chasm fixed and you don’t want to be found on the wrong side
of it for eternity.
is wonderful. It is all about Jesus and what he has done for needy sinners just
like you. Will you have this Jesus?
will you have if you won’t have this gospel and this Jesus?
Heb.2:3 “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
and you’ll hear those dreadful words from Jesus’ own lips:
Mt.7:23 “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
doesn’t need to be that way for any of you. If the gospel was sufficient to
save the apostle Paul who described himself as the chief of sinners, it will be
sufficient to save you.
Let me close
this morning with some encouraging words from our Lord Jesus:
Jn.6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I
will never cast out.”
To God be the glory.