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Friday, June 20, 2014

God's Gospel Lamp



Isaiah 42:6-7 “I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison."

Introduction:
Often times when we read passages in the New Testament, we can very easily rush over the many Old Testament scriptures that are quoted.  Case in point is Paul's sermon to the Jews at Pisidia in Acts 13:17-43 and then a second statement that he makes a week later in Acts 13:44-52.  Paul's two messages are very powerful and sweeping in their coverage and presentation of the Gospel. Both are anchored to two Old Testament references that give us a clue to interpreting and applying the whole of Acts 13:17-52 to our lives. I'm titling this post: "God's Gospel Lamp" in light of what we read in the two main Old Testament references of Habakkuk 1:5 in Acts 13:41 and Isaiah 42:6 in Acts 13:47. 

How we find God's Gospel lamp being referred to by Paul in his statements in Acts 13.
In Paul's first sermon of Acts 13:17-43, Paul is linking together all of redemptive history to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. As he draws that first sermon to a close, he mentions Habakkuk 1:5 in Acts 13:41 - "Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: 41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish;
For I am accomplishing a work in your days, A work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’” Why would Paul quote this passage? The prophet Habakkuk had ministered some 600 years before Christ in a spiritually dark Southern Kingdom of Judah. Times were so bad that at the opening of his prophecy, Habakkuk cries out to God: "Why?" God's response to Habakkuk's complaints over the wickedness of his nation was that He was going to Divinely send an even more wicked nation, the Babylonians, to discipline His people.  Such news is described by God in the terms we find being quoted by Paul. In other words, how God was going to bring about His redemptive purposes was going to be unexpected. Habakkuk writes in Habakkuk 2:1 "
I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved."  In other words, the prophet was going to await until God showed Him the light of His purposes - which of course He would.  God's Gospel lamp was shining in Habakkuk's day, and Paul's usage of Habakkuk's prophecy in Acts 13:41 indicates that the Gospel Lamp was shining brightly in the place Paul was preaching.

The second text we find is Paul's quotation of Isaiah 42:6 in Acts 13:47 - "For so the Lord has commanded us,
‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’”  Isaiah had written some 150 years prior to Habakkuk. In Isaiah's prophecy of Isaiah 42 we see a prediction made of the "Servant of the Lord", the coming Messiah - whom of course is identified in the New Testament as Jesus Christ. The Servant of the Lord is the light in Isaiah 42:6 and now Paul is saying in Acts 13:47 that Jesus, the "The Light of the World" is in a sense going to shine through Him to bring forth the light of the Gospel.  Again, God's Gospel lamp burned brightly in the prophetic statements of Isaiah and burns brightly is the apostolic statements of Paul. 



Point of Application: You and I as Jesus' disciples are to carry forth God's Gospel lamp.

How we see God's Gospel lamp shining forth in Paul's two sermons
Having focused our attention on the two key Old Testament texts that show God's Gospel lamp, we can now briefly consider three ways in which God's Gospel lamp is shining forth in the two sermons and sections of Acts 13:17-43 and 13:44-52.

1. The Gospel lamp is revealed in the scriptures. Acts 13:17-22, 47
I won't take time to unfurl the grandeur of the many scriptures referred to by Paul.  Lets just say for now Paul traces virtually every era of redemptive history from Abraham in Genesis, through Moses, through the Judges, through the united Kingdoms of Saul and David, to the days of Jesus.  The scriptures unfold for us the Gospel lamp. 

2. The Gospel lamp is Jesus Christ. Acts 13:23-37
As Paul delivers his two sermons, the focal point of both is none other than Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12) and the lamp Who reveals God fully and completely (Hebrews 1:1-2; Revelation 21:23). The lamp that the prophets saw in faint outline through the telescope of prophecy shines brilliantly in the New Testament age. Jesus' virgin birth, incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension occupies the fulcrum upon which history and eternity pivots. Jesus Christ is the Gospel lamp, Who is revealed in the scriptures, and thus...

3. God's Gospel lamp is carried forth by Christians. Acts 13:44-52
As Paul preached the Gospel, the light of the glory of Jesus Christ shined brightly.  The mystery of God's Sovereign elective purposes (so deemed by the Baptist Faith & Message 2000) and man's sure choice of rejecting the Gospel are set side by side in the text.  On the one hand, Sovereign grace alone explains why the crowd believed the Gospel in Acts 13:48 - "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." When Sovereign grace attended the preaching of the Gospel, the Gentiles freely and genuinely believed and were saved. Yet, Paul indicates that those who rejected the Gospel did so of their own accord. The Gospel lamp is God's lamp. All who respond do so because of Sovereign grace working in their hearts.  All who reject do so because of their own decision. As Paul says in Acts 13:46 - "since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life...". 

What the Lord told Paul in Acts 13:47 can be applied to us as disciples of Jesus today.  2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (20)"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 1 Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Would it be that you and I as believers in Christ carry forth God's Gospel lamp, the Lord Jesus Christ, by shining forth His Gospel through the scriptures. 
 

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