Pristine Grace

Acts 13 and How to Preach the Gospel
by James Johnson

     One day, as I was walking by a group of "Christians" that were in my neighborhood, one man in the group came up to me and yelled, “Jesus loves you” and shook my hand. This group was on their way to some sort of prayer meeting at a nearby house and embolden by their numbers they felt it was necessary to confront random strangers with their pseudo-evangelism statements and techniques. Given that I know the neighbor they were going to is of the Charismatic persuasion and commonly uses trickery and manipulation to convince people into following Jesus I wasn’t too surprised by their actions. They are very hard at work spreading their false gospel of works and becoming very bold in how many souls they have personally led to Christ. It amazes me how ignorant of the bible and the true gospel these “Christians” truly are.

     Acts 13 is a perfect example of true gospel preaching. In verses 16-41 Paul clearly lays out the Gospel in all its glory.

Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.' "Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death,

they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, "'You are my Son, today I have begotten you.' And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, "'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.' Therefore he says also in another psalm, "'You will not let your Holy One see corruption.' For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:23-39)

     Notice that Paul and Barnabas don’t claim that Jesus died for everyone or make a universal offer of the gospel. No, all they state is the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection and prove through quoting scripture that Jesus is God. They only say things like, “we bring you good news” and “forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” and “everyone who believes”, not making claims that Jesus loves them or telling everyone to accept Christ as their personal savior. Paul and Barnabas don’t offer salvation to anyone. Salvation is already accomplished to those in the crowd who are elect. Salvation is done, finished in totality at the cross for those who are elect. The elect are just waiting to hear the gospel message. Salvation is not something people can reach out and take. Christ’s blood is already applied on the elect’s behalf. Justification is from eternity.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14)

     Notice how Christ’s blood secured an eternal redemption. So from eternity all the elect’s sins have been justified. Even those elect who don’t know they are elect yet. Acts 13 is a great example of how to preach a clear and simple gospel. Why don’t we ever see it done nowadays? Later as unbelievers begin to revile Paul, He and Barnabas give the perfect example on what our reaction should be to those who don’t believe the gospel message.

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:46-52)

     What this passage gives us is a proper view of the results of gospel preaching. To those that believe the gospel message, rejoice and be glad, but to those who don’t believe, shake the dust from your feet against them and move on to preach elsewhere. Paul and Barnabas don’t plead with everyone and try to convince them to make a decision for Christ. They don’t try to manipulate the people into accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. No, they simply present the message and leave the saving into God’s sovereign hands. The reason this should be our reaction is simple. God, from eternity has already chosen everyone who will ever be saved. The elect will respond to the Gospel message when it is presented. Maybe not the first time but at some point in time they will respond and believe the gospel message. If someone rejects the gospel of grace, shake off the dust of your feet and share the message elsewhere. Pleading and begging for people to accept Christ is in effect preaching a false gospel. One of my favorite quote is by John Calvin where he says,

“The gospel is to be preached indiscriminately to the elect and to the reprobate: but the elect alone come to Christ, because they have been taught of God.” - John Calvin

     Calvin was right on when he wrote this. My view is to preach the gospel to everyone but don’t worry about who believes or not. That’s not my problem or my job. I’m simply a messenger not a savior.