Evangelical Preaching in the House of Worship

by Joseph Franks

In Acts 13, Paul was in the midst of his first missionary campaign. On one particular day he found himself worshiping in the local synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. As was the Jewish custom, a portion of the Law was first read. Following this, a reading from the Prophets was presented. Then, at the point in the service when a word of exhortation was to be heard, Paul was asked by the synagogue leader to deliver a sermon.

What would Paul say to the unsaved religious moralists filling that house of worship?

What would Paul say to the lost biblicists sitting around and before him?

What would Paul say to his fellow worshipers who had just been reminded of the Law — God’s commandments, God’s justice, man’s responsibility, and man’s condemnation?

The Apostle did from the pulpit that which he did with his pen. He took those convicted, damned, and enslaved by the Law, and he offered them forgiveness and freedom based upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul began with a gracious introduction:

Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.

He then presented the Gospel story: He told of God’s Son who came, lived, died, and rose again according to plan:

The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people …

After that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet …

God gave them Saul … And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will. “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.

Paul then called for the Gospel response. Knowing that only those graciously impacted by the Holy Spirit would confess their need, bow their knee, and kiss the Son, he offered, invited, warned, encouraged, and commanded all his hearers to repent and proclaim their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ:

And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers … 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. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: “ ‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”

Law

Friends, the Bible is full of God’s glorious commands. God’s imperatives are fantastic, and they are everywhere.

From God’s Law we learn how to honor, glorify, and worship our Sovereign Lord. Wishing to know how to pleasure him, we find inspired instruction from his imperatives.

From God’s Law we learn how to be blessed. The wise and prudent individual reads with application in mind. He knows that good consequences usually follow the hearing and doing God’s will.

From God’s Law we learn our duty. God’s precepts are not merely honorable or prudent, they are required. Internal and external obedience is expected of all people.

From God’s Law we learn our just deserts. For those who obey perfectly, rich blessings and glorious consequences abound. Contrarily, for those who disobey or even obey imperfectly, spiritual excommunion, temporal curse, and eternal damnation are promised.

Hence, when anyone — including God-fearing worshipers, found in the house of worship, and reading the Scripture (13:16) — look at their hearts and habits in the light of God’s Law, they find themselves enslaved.

Gospel

However, there is hope; there is Good News. Hear it again:

And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers … 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. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: “ ‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”

God has gone to work on behalf of sinful men. He has performed all that is necessary for men to be reconciled to him.

Based upon his labors, he offers forgiveness to all who repent.

He frees sinful men from the spiritual excommunion, temporal curse, and eternal damnation poured upon them by the Law. He also frees men to obey and worship.

Worship

Let us all hear God’s Good News be glad. Let us be reminded that God purposed salvation, promised salvation, performed salvation, and provides salvation.

Let us who are immoral, irreligious, law-breakers confess our sins, confess Christ as Lord, and receive his forgiveness. Let us be free from the Law and its condemnation which we hate. Then, since we are free, let us learn to love and obey God’s Law.

Let us who are moral, religious, law-breakers confess our sins, confess Christ as Lord, and receive his forgiveness. Yes, we read, sing, learn, memorize, teach, preach, somewhat keep, and somewhat appreciate God’s Law. However, since we cannot perfectly keep it, we are equally damned by it. We too are in bondage to the enslaving consequences of God’s Law. However, we can have the burdensome yoke of the Law removed. We religious folk can receive forgiveness and freedom. Then we can proudly and willingly enjoy the yoke of Jesus Christ. As free sons, we can glorify and enjoy God by learning to love and obey his holy and fantastically beautiful ordinances.

Then, let all of us who have been wonderfully instructed, convicted, converted, justified, and adopted because of the Gospel, tell it to our friends over and over again. Let us be like the Apostle Paul in the pulpit. Let us be like Saint Paul in his letters. Let us smite people with their condition under God’s Law and then soothe them with the work of Christ on their behalf. There is no better news for them to hear. There is no better news for us to hear. There is no better news for us to tell.

Let us evangelize in our homes.

Let us evangelize on the street.

Let us evangelize in our churches. There is a Lord’s Day coming this weekend. Let’s tell the Good News of Jesus Christ — one more time.

 

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