Jim Shaddix, Message
January 10, 2016
Let me ask you to open your Bible to Acts Chapter 1 and let’s continue to worship the Lord through the teaching of His Word. Acts Chapter 1. If you came in today and don’t have a copy of the Bible, I hope there is someone sitting close to you that will let you look on. We want you to join us as we look to see what God has to say to us.
While you are turning there, I want to tell you I am glad to have my wife, Deborah with me this weekend. I thank you for affording her the opportunity to come periodically. Today is her birthday and we are celebrating that. You know, she has not struggled with turning 30 as much as a lot of women do. And so, you know, we haven’t had to go through all of that. So we are glad to be celebrating her 30th birthday today.
How many of you, as you look at the landscape of 2016 know that you have some big decisions to make this year? Let me just see your hands. Raise your hand if you know I have got some big decisions to make. A lot of us may look at it…we may not see anything on the landscape, but the chances are, we are going to be facing some, aren’t we? And if I asked you, how many of you that raised your hand that are going to be facing big decisions, want to know God’s will in those decisions, it would probably be unanimous, at least for us as a people of faith. We make decisions that we have to make that are a part of life and we want to know what God has to say about those decisions, or at least we should.
This year there is no doubt that there are some in this room that will make some calls on whether to buy a new home or a new car, maybe major purchases. There are probably some in this room that are going to be deciding on whether or not to go to college or graduate school or where to go to college or graduate school and what to major in, what to study when you get there. No doubt in a crowd this size, there are some that will be making major decisions about whether to move, maybe to another city or another state or maybe even overseas to one of these countries that we see upon the video from time to time where the gospel is not heard. Some will be facing decisions like that. Others of you will be making decisions about entering into relationships with someone else, maybe even to be engaged or to be married. And on and on the list goes with the kinds of things that we face.
If you look at it and you think about the examples that I gave and you can’t see yourself having to face any of those things or anything else, let me remind you that as a faith family, this church is on a journey together facing an incredibly important decision about who the next pastor of this congregation is going to be. So whether you see yourself individually making a decision, you are a part of facing a big decision in the life of this congregation.
Well, the truth of the matter is, I think that we make finding God’s will in major decisions in our lives more complicated than it really is. And I think scripture gives us some help in that area. And so over the next several weeks, and let me just tell you, I don’t know yet. I told the group last night. I don’t know if we will finish this next Sunday or if we are going to have to wait a couple of weeks because I am going to be out a couple of weeks after that, whether we are going to have to wait until the Sunday I come back to get it all, but over the next couple of weeks, I want us to think about this together.
I want to ask; I want us to ask God to give us some help. I think He does in His Word in this passage in Acts Chapter 1. And while these messages will kind of have a little bit different feel to them, take on a little bit different flavor than maybe what we have had in recent weeks, I think that our Lord wants to remind us that He doesn’t leave us in the dark about making important decisions and finding His will in those decisions.
So let me read this text for you. Acts Chapter 1. I want to begin reading in Verse 15. “In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.’”
And then Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a little commentary on Judas’ death in Verse 18. “(Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.” Not a very pretty picture, right? “And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)”
Now let me just stop there for a moment and say to those you that have read the gospel accounts of Judas’ death, there is no contradiction here in the way that Judas died. We are not given the reconciliation, but there are any number of ways as the gospel accounts tell us that he hung himself and as Luke tells us here in the book of Acts, this happened to his body. Just one example would be that he hung himself and then the rope broke and he fell down and hit one of these rocks and this happened. But we need not get hung up on the differences in the accounts of these writers.
Now Peter is continuing to talk to the church in Verse 20. “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,” and he quotes here from Psalm 69 Verse 25. “May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it; and,” and he quotes from Psalm 109 Verse 8, “Let another take his office.’” So, Peter says, “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until this day when he was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection.’ And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
So, Jesus is risen from the dead. He has commissioned His disciples to go and proclaim this good news to all people and then He is ascended back to heaven. But part of His commissioning of them was the instructions that are laid out here in the first part of Acts Chapter 1 that we didn’t read, in which He told them, now, I want you to go back to Jerusalem. I want you to wait there until I pour out the Holy Spirit on you, until you are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit and then you will be able to, you will be able to begin this gospel advancement thing in other worldly power.
And we pick up here in Verse 15 in the time when those disciples are doing just that. And it is not just the eleven apostles that are remaining but as we are told here, there is group totaling about 120 believers that are waiting there for the Holy Spirit to be poured out, which is going to happen in Acts Chapter 2. And so the story here takes place in that interim time, in you will, in between the time Jesus ascended back to heaven and the time in which He poured out the Holy Spirit. And this business that they are about is conducted during that time. And what we find when we read this story is the disciples of Christ, the soon to be Church of Christ when the Holy Spirit is poured out, it has an important decision to make. And that decision is, they need to fill Judas’ apostolic office. Jesus had appointed twelve apostles, one of them vacated his office by betraying the Lord Jesus and then committing suicide and so there is only eleven. And they are compelled, and we will talk about why they are compelled in the coming weeks. They are compelled to fill that office. And so they need to find out, they need to find out who is supposed to be the next apostle. And that is the decision they are facing.
And when we come to Acts Chapter 1, I think, I think our Lord, through their pattern, gives us some help in knowing how to make important decision on our own and how to discover His will, hear His voice in doing that. Because what we have here, bottom-line, is an example of some people who made an important decision that they were facing as a congregation, if you will, and the principles will probably be applied to individuals as well. They made an important decision, but they did it, they did it against the backdrop of gospel advancement. And if you hear me say that once in this series of messages, you are going to hear me say it a bunch of times, alright, because this is the thing that I want us to understand. And will say this again even here in just a few moments. They made an important decision, but they did it against the backdrop of gospel advancement. This is taking place in a context in which they are waiting for our Lord to pour out the Holy Spirit so that they could get about the business that He left them on the planet to do.
So this is what we are going to be talking about. We are going to be talking about doing that. We are going to be talking about finding God’s will in important decisions in our lives against the backdrop of gospel advancement. And we can’t separate those two things out. And I want to talk to you a little bit about that this morning.
So, let’s jump into this and really, we are just going to kind of lay the foundation of this today. And then we will come back to it next week and if we don’t finish it next week, we will come back to it the next weekend that I have the opportunity to be with you.
So here is what I want to do. I want us to think first about this whole, you know, this whole decision making thing and the finding God’s will and what that looks like. And so we need to start at this place. And what I am going to do over these next several weeks is, I am basically just going to give you four big picture principles for discovering God’s will, finding God’s will and then we want to see how that grows out of this text.
Now, here is the first one. I think on the screen it is going to say Number Two by it. Alright, that was my fault. I sent them in the wrong order when I sent them this last week. We are going to start with it, but this is really Number One, it says Number Two. Distinguish between God’s will and God’s concealed will. Any time you are facing decisions, you need to stop and make sure you know what you are asking God for. What are you seeking? What are you needing? Because in essence, there really…and this may be an over-simplification, but there are two manifestations of God’s will. And understanding those two manifestations is incredibly important in us making decisions, finding His will in the decisions we have to make. Alright.
So, distinguish between God’s revealed will and God’s concealed will. Now what are we talking about? Well, let’s start with God’s revealed will. Do you know what God’s revealed will is? Well, very simply, it is stuff that is in the Bible. Alright. It is stuff that He has already revealed. He has already put on the table. You come to this text right here and you will see that the disciples, along with other…all of the disciples, these eleven apostles along with these other Christians, Christ followers, they are operating. They are operating off of stuff that they didn’t have to ask God about. Why? Because they already knew it because He had already revealed it to them.
Let me just give you some examples. Number one, they knew there was an apostolic office, right? They were operating on that information. There were eleven apostles. They knew there had been twelve. They were with Jesus when He had appointed, you know, these twelve apostles. They didn’t have to ask. You notice in this passage of Scripture; they didn’t have to ask God whether He wanted them to have an apostolic office. They knew that He did because He had already said so.
Let me carry it a step further. They already knew what the qualifications for that apostolic office were. Did you notice what Peter says in Verse 21. “So one of the men who have accompanied us during allthe time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to the resurrection.” So they had that information. Alright. It was not written down anywhere. It didn’t have to be. They were with Jesus when He spoke it, when He had told them that this is what it was. And by the way, just as a side note, I want you to understand, this is why there are no more apostles today in the official sense of the term. If you ever hear somebody say that, if you ever run across a church that is talking their pastor is an apostle or this person is an apostle, in the same vein as these eleven, you can emphatically reject that. Why? Because there are no more people today that meet those qualifications. They were still in a generationduring this time where there were still some candidates, there were still some people that met those qualifications. They had been there from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and as He went in and out among them, they witnessed the resurrection, they saw Him when He was alive and Peter is saying, it is one of those guys that is qualified to fill the office. God had revealed that. They didn’t have to ask Him about it. Let me you tell you something else they already had information on. They already had information on the fact that it was going to be true in the Messiah’s kingdom that there were going to be some people who abandoned their post. How did they know that? Psalm 69 Verse 25 recorded in Verse 20 right here in Acts Chapter 1. They were reading from the scriptures and they knew that this was going to be a reality. So there is no surprise here. Why? Because, as we might say, their Bible hold told them this.
Not only that, they knew. They didn’t have to ask God about whether or not they were supposed to fill that office, whether or not they were supposed to get somebody else. How did they know that? Psalm 109 Verse 8 recorded there in Verse 20 of Acts Chapter 1. Let another take his office. God had revealed that information and they were operating off of that information.
Now what am I telling you that? Because I know a lot of Christians that spend a lot of time asking God to show them His will about things He has already shown them His will on. You understand, there is all kinds of things we don’t have to ask God about regarding His will. We don’t even need to pray about whether or not we are supposed to witness to our neighbor. I have heard people say that, well, I am really praying this year about whether God wants me to share the gospel with his neighbor. Hey, hello. Yes, He does. He has already said that. You don’t have to pray about whether or not you need to become a greater prayer warrior. We don’t have to pray about whether or not we need to remain faithful to our spouse in a marriage relationship. God has already spoken on that. We don’t have to pray about whether or not God wants us to have an affair with somebody. He has already spoken about that stuff. You don’t have to pray about whether or not we should have sexual relations outside marriage. God has already talked about that stuff. He has revealed so much to us in His Word and we don’t have to wonder about that.
And so any time you are facing a decision, you need to stop and make sure first of all, is this something that is part of God’s revealed will? Has He already talked about this? Has He already spoken about this?
But there is a second kind of His will and this is the one that is really tough for us sometimes and we are just going to call this God’s concealed will. Alright? And I am not suggesting to you that it is concealed because He is hiding it from you, He is trying to play games. I am talking it being concealed just by the infinite number of variables that characterize our lives. It is covered over by any number of things.
So what is God’s concealed will? Well, God’s concealed will is the stuff that is not in the Bible, alright? We have His revealed will, that stuff that is written in black and white and if you are using a red letter edition of the version of the Bible, you know, it may be in red, that stuff is in print in the Bible. He has written it down. But then there is whole bunch of other stuff that is not written in the Bible that we face in daily life that we are trying to figure out.
Now, what was it here in Acts Chapter 1? What was God’s concealed will? Well, they knew there was an apostolic office. They knew the qualifications of the person that was supposed to be an apostle. They knew that what had happened to Judas was going to happen, that leaders in the Messiah’s kingdom were going to abandon their posts, and they knew that they were supposed to fill that office. They knew all of that stuff God had revealed to them.
But what they didn’t know was the name of the person who was supposed to fill the office. Do you see the difference? So as they come into this, they have got a whole bunch of information that they are operating with, God’s revealed will, but the they have got this one thing that they don’t know. It is concealed. It seems to be under the surface and they are seeking the will of God on this. And that is the name of the person that is to fill this office. And that is where the rub comes in, doesn’t it in our lives many times. We operate with a whole lot of information, at least I hope we are under the revealed will of God. We look at this Bible that we hold. We know what God has said in it. But what this Bible doesn’t do is, it doesn’t tell us well, you are to be in this job and not in this job over. You are to marry this person and you are not to marry this person. You are to make this investment and not this investment. You are to live in this city instead of this city. You are to move from this place to another place. The Bible doesn’t give us that information.
Now, I feel like I need to stop right there and just make sure I remind us why that is. Now I don’t know that I can give you all of the reasons why that is, but I can give you a couple of reasons why that is. Number one, just very practically and this is so, so important is just a reminder that the Bible wasn’t intended for every purpose under the sun. You know that, right? God didn’t ever say, I am going to give you this Book and it is going to serve every purpose. And so many people get confused by this because they never process the purpose of the Bible, why the Bible was given. The Bible wasn’t given to answer every question that people are asking. When people think that, they think this is an answer book and so they come to the Bible looking for answers to every question people are asking. But all we have to do is find one question that people are asking that the Bible doesn’t answer to know. It wasn’t intended to answer every question people are asking. How do you bake a cake? It is not in here. How do you fix an engine on a car? It is not in here. Maybe a little bit closer to home, there are people that are interested in where do dinosaurs fit in to this whole deal, you know, of God and the Bible because we have got some pretty good scientific evidence that those critters existed, but where do you find them? Even if you look at some of the vague references in Job and in even in the Law earlier on, we can’t know for sure that those are references to these big animals. This is not a book that was intended to answer every question under the sun.
And neither was it…and listen, this is probably the most common one. Neither was it intended to be a practical manual for daily living. Did you know that? I hear people all the time say, well this is my guidebook for life. You know, this is my manual for how to live my life. And so they end up coming to this book, they end up coming to it trying to make it answer every practical question that arises in their lives with regard to how to raise a family or how to run a business or how to manage your finances. And so we end up going in here and we end up looking for things like that and we don’t find them directly, we end up making passages of Scripture address those types of things and we get in all kinds of a mess.
Let me give you a practical example out of my own life. You know, there isn’t anything that I struggled with early on as a husband and a father as much as I struggled with raising kids that weren’t the same. I don’t know if you have ever wrestled with that or not. But I just thought, okay, you know what? We are going to have kids and we are going to be consistent and we are going to raise them the same and you know, we are going to have the same rules and guidelines. We are going to discipline the same…until we started having kids. And so, you know, our two boys were first, two years apart and that was, you know, the real test because, you know, I had one son that well, just to be honest, you could beat until he was black and blue, metaphorically speaking, don’t call the authorities on me, alright. You could beat him until he was black and blue and he would look at you as if to say, is that all you’ve got? And then we had this other kid that you could just look at sternly and he would melt. Two completely different personalities, different temperaments, plus different age groups, different sets of friends, you have got this infinite number of variables there and man, I was wrestling. How do you be consistent? How do you navigate this? I was calling my Dad. Where is the book? Where is the manual?
But I am going to tell you honestly, something else I was doing. I was searching the pages of this Bible backwards and forwards on help in dealing with parenting children who had different temperaments. And could I just tell you this morning, it is not in here.
Now it doesn’t mean that there is not some information in here about parenting, some good help for us, you know, in family life. But in this specific issue that I was dealing with, I was wrestling with, there is not information here. And there are probably some of you, if you can’t identify with that example, there is something you can think of that you look in here and you need help with and it is just not here.
Now, what does that mean? Does that mean that God didn’t know your journey and He is not concerned about it? Does it mean that is sitting up there in heaven saying, I never thought of that! You know, is that what this looks like? No. It is simply a reminder that God didn’t give us this Book to answer every question under the sun or to be a practical manual of how we deal with everything in life.
By the way, Christian, listen, let me remind you. That is why He did one better. He put His presence inside of you and inside of me. That is why Jesus said, I want you to wait until I pour out the Holy Spirit upon you because He put the life of God back in us, not just to give us a Book to go by in how to raise our families or our businesses or this or that, but to say I am going to put My very presence inside of you.
So why did He give us this Book? He gave us this Book to unfold His plan or redemption. It is not limited to the specifics of each one of our individual lives, but it is the issue, it is the story that we are all involved in, to show us from A to Z how there is a plan in the universe and this has not been a chaotic disorder that we are looking at, but God has been working from the beginning and He will fulfill it into all of eternity to redeem for Himself a people that will be recreated into the image that He created them in. This is the story of God’s plan of redemption. And, He gave us this supernatural truth to be the primary agent that the Holy Spirit uses to bring that about in our lives.
And so what we have on the pages of Scripture here are not primarily a practical manual for daily living, but what we have is a Book that unfolds God’s plan of redemption and becomes the supernatural truth that is necessary not only to convert us but to recreate us into the image of Christ.
And by the way, if you haven’t made the connection, let me just connect those two things. Let me connect why God did give us the Bible with my practical journey of needing to a parent who is able to navigate children with different temperaments. The bottom line is, the more I looked like Jesus was the best chance my two boys had of me raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You understand that, right? God starts at the most important place and that is in us to work in us His good pleasure, recreating us into the image of Christ. And you know what? That puts us in the best position to be good businessmen. Know how to run our companies, to be good parents and grandparents, to manage our finances, to do all kinds of things because the more we look like Jesus, the better position we are to do that. And that is why God gave us the Bible. And He didn’t give us a book that was going to delineate all of the infinite number of situations and circumstances that we are going to deal with in daily life.
And so it is important just to bring that back to this place. And it is important every time we are looking at major decisions. It is important for us to make sure that we distinguish between God’s revealed will and His concealed will. And we know, alright, what information has God already revealed in His Word that speaks to this, that I don’t even need to ask Him about? I don’t even need to pray about. I just need to operate on it.
But then, what are the things in this journey that I am in that are concealed, that are not a part of the purpose of the Bible, they are not written here? Who am I going to marry and am I going to buy this car or am I going to purchase this home? Are we going to move from this city to the other city? Do I enter into this relationship? Those types of things. So distinguish between God’s revealed will and God’s concealed will.
Now, the other thing, and this is just the other part of this morning’s message that I want to give you. I want to give you a second principle and flesh it out a little bit and then we will be done. And this one here, this is going to drive, it is going to be woven all the way through these next several messages.
But here is principle number two. It says Number One on the screen. Make every decision in life in view of God’s plan of redemption. Make every decision in life in view of God’s plan or redemption.
Now I am going to tell you something. I am going to make a confession to you. It is going to sound really weird, okay? Finding God’s will is actually not the primary reason this story is in the Bible. You say, what? You titled the message, Finding God’s Will. You said this is what we are going to be talking about. You are exactly right. But I want you to understand, that is not the primary reason this is in the Bible. Do you know why this story is in the Bible? Because it helps us to understand something about how God sovereignly was advancing His kingdom. That is what is going on here. But what I want us to understand is that every decision that we make in life about who we are going to marry and where we are going to school and what we are going to major in and what we are going to do about our retirement and, you know, all the practical decisions, the concealed will of God stuff, those decisions have to be made in view of God’s larger plan of redemption. If they are not, they become totally skewed. And listen to me, come in here real close. This is where most of us get messed up. We compartmentalize. You know, we look and we say, you know what, my church stuff and all that big plan of redemption and the stuff that is in the Bible, that is in this category and that is all good and well. But I’ve got this real life stuff over here. I have got to figure out, you know, how to fund my kids’ education, my grandkids education. I have got to make a decision about this business or you know, whether to purchase this or to enter into this relationship. I have got all this stuff. And we see these things as separate. And the fact of the matter is, God never intended us to separate these things out. And when we do separate them out and we have got one economy and we are looking at this God stuff, this redemption stuff, this gospel stuff and we have got another economy and we are trying to find God’s concealed will in these things, but we see it as totally separate. We don’t have all of the pieces in place to be able to make these decisions. And they get all messed up because God never intended them to be separate.
Let me say it this way. You know why you are on the planet. At Brainerd, you have talked about this multiple times. You have heard it preached. You have studied it in your Sunday School classes and your Life Groups. And you know that the reason that we are still on the planet is to tell as many people about the good news of Jesus Christ as we possibly can. Otherwise, God would just go ahead and take us to heaven to be with Him forever. That is why He left these disciples on the planet. That is what it says right here in Acts Chapter 1. This is what He says. I am going to go away, but you don’t need to be concerned about the exact time I am coming back. You just need to be about the business of boldly speaking the gospel. We know this. This is why we do mission videos like this and go to hard places because that is why we are here. That is why we take up our offering and give sacrificially so people can get the gospel places we can’t go to and we can send others and we know that is why we are on the planet.
What sense does it make if that is true? What sense does it make that you and I would make any decision in life, ever how practical it is, financial, school wise, relationships. What sense does it make then for us to make those decisions disconnected from this reason, this purpose, this larger agenda for which God has left us on the planet. Here is the deal. Everything about your life, every decision that you make, every one of these choices that you want to find the will of God in, it is in some way related to and is part of the reason that God left you on the planet. And it is incredibly important that we make sure that we approach decisions that way. This passage of Scripture, first and foremost, is in the Bible because it talks to us about God’s sovereign plan of advancing His gospel among the nations. And guess what? That is His first priority and agenda with you and every decision you face in life is related to that.
And so I wanted to title this message and I want us to talk practically. Before this is over, you know, in the next couple of weeks, I am going to give you some very practical help, I think, that grows out of this passage about how to find God’s concealed will. We are going to see that. But, if we look at that without understanding that that is only effectual, it only works when it is considered against the backdrop of God’s larger plan of redemption. It is all cancelled out. It means nothing. And so we have to start at this place here. We understand God’s revealed will and His concealed will and we know we have got these things we have got to find His concealed will about, we must understand that we only approach those things in the context of understanding that they are connected to, they are part of God’s sovereign advancement of the gospel through us as individuals and through our church.
Let me show it to you in this passage of scripture. The word “apostle” means one sent. This whole thing is happening because Jesus had appointed some guys to be apostles. And this passage is about this story is about the continuation of that. And in the context of it, in the context of it, these guys were working out finding God’s concealed will about something in the context of God continuing that work that Jesus had begun.
Just as a reminder, I mean, just turn back over to Mark’s gospel for a second in Mark Chapter 3 and I will just show you one account of how all of this started. There are a number of them in several of the gospels we could find, but Mark Chapter 3 is a great place to look at it. Mark Chapter 3 Verse 13, “Jesus went up on the mountain and He called to Him those whom He desired, and they came to Him.” And Verse 14 says, “And He appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.”
And then in Verses 16-19 they are listed. The twelve guys Jesus listed to do that are listed. There is a roll call of them. These are the guys Jesus chose. So what was He doing? He chose twelve men whom He named apostles for the purpose of being with Him and being firsthand witnesses of His life and His ministry, His teaching, His death and His resurrection so that they could bear witness. He could send them out to bear witness of Him. And that is what this whole apostolic office is about.
Now by the way, don’t panic. Don’t think, oh, well, you already said we don’t have any more of those today. You know, what are people in our generation supposed to do? That is why we have this Book. That is why we have this New Testament. God wrote it down. No, we don’t have any more apostles that were literally there but they wrote their testimony down. They wrote their evidence down. And that is why we have the New Testament here. We are recipients of that.
Now quickly, let me tell you what these apostles were doing with these other Christians here in Acts Chapter 1. They were asking and answering two very important questions that you and I need to make sure we ask and answer when we are making important decisions.
Here is Number One. They were answering the question, what are the immediate ramifications of the gospel? What are the immediate ramifications for the gospel in this decision that we are making? They weren’t just having an election to fill Judas’ office, they were answering that question. We have to fill this office because this has immediate ramifications for the gospel.
Just really quickly let me show it to you. Just look across the page in Acts Chapter 2, the church is born after the Spirit is poured out and the Bible says in Verse 42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” What is the first thing that the New Testament church did when it was born? It started listening to and obeying what the apostles told them. That is why this was important for them to do what they were doing in Acts Chapter 1.
Let me show you a couple more, real quick. Do this quick. In Ephesians Chapter 2 we see a little bit more about why this was so important, what ramifications it had for the immediate advancement of the gospel. Ephesians Chapter 2, Paul is speaking to Gentile believers at Ephesus telling them, you are not second-class citizens. This is not about race. It is not about social status. You are being made part of one family. And by the way, there are great lessons in this for us in our day and time when racial tensions are so thick that ought not to be the case among believers and this is one of the places where Paul says that emphatically. Verse 19 of Ephesians 2. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built (watch this) on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Can you imagine that? He says, you are being made, Christians are being made into a dwelling place for God and you are built upon the foundation of the testimony and the teaching of these apostles. That is why this was so important in Acts Chapter 1. They provided the foundation on which the church of Jesus Christ was being built. And they didn’t want anything missing. So they needed to fill this office.
Look across the page in Ephesians Chapter 4. Paul says in Verse 11 of Ephesians 4, “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” That is why it was so important. They knew. They understood. Watch this. Now they understood that that apostolic office was incredibly important for the immediate advancement of the gospel. And Christian, here is what I want us to walk away from this with regard to that, we need to ask that question and answer it every time we are facing major decisions. We need to ask the question, what are the immediate ramifications for the gospel for this decision, this relationship, this purchase, this investment, this move. We need to be asking, does this put me in a better position to advance the gospel? Does it help me leverage my resources? Does it help me leverage my position better, to be able to advance the gospel? Does this position my family to better serve the Lord in advancing the gospel? Will entering into this relationship, is this a relationship that is going to spur me on to advance the gospel or is it one that is likely to hinder me or to slow me down? You understand that the advancement of the gospel has implications for every decision you make. And God gives us help to make those decisions as we make them against the backdrop of this.
There is a second question, not just what are the immediate ramifications for the gospel, but what are the eternal ramifications for the gospel? I want to show you another reason why the apostles knew it was important for them to fill this office and this is just kind of mind-boggling. If you just hold your place here for a second and go back to Matthew Chapter 19. Thank you for doing a little Bible study here with me this morning. But this is so incredible and so important for us to look at this. Matthew Chapter 19. The disciples had just overheard Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler and so they, you know, were debriefing with Jesus about that, related to rich people and their relationship to the kingdom of God and so they were conversing about that. And so Peter finally makes the statement in Verse 27 of Matthew 19. “See, Lord, we have left everything and followed You,” as if he had to inform Jesus of that. And so he asked the question, “What then will we have?” And listen to this answer in Verse 28. “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Can you imagine? I can see the disciples there. Man, let me tweet that out. I want all my buds to hear this, you know. I am going to be sitting on a throne and judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Now listen, I can’t stand here this morning and tell you all of what that meant, what it means, what it is going to look like. What I can show you over in Revelation Chapter 21 is the glimpse that John got of it with regard to something that heaven is going to look like. Revelation 21, we have a description of heaven, the best description we have. He describes the New Heaven and the New Earth and the new Jerusalem. And then in Revelation 21 in Verse 12 this is what Joh’s describing that he saw. “It had a great, high wall, with twelves gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed – on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.” So you do the math, that is twelve. “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Do you see that? What Jesus had said years before, John now gets a glimpse of in his vision of heaven. And once again, we don’t know all of what that looks like, but what we conclude from that is this, there is some relationship between that apostolic office that Jesus ordained and what is going to happen in eternity and the order of things there and how that is set up. We don’t have all the answers but there is obviously a relationship between the two.
Do you know what that means? It means that here in Acts Chapter 1, they were about some business. They were making a decision on something that had implications for all of eternity. And you know what? If your life is tied to the advancement of the gospel and my life is tied to the advancement of the gospel and every decision we make has implications for that, we have to understand that in some way, form or fashion that has implications for eternity and therefore, we need to be asking the question at every point when we are making decisions, trying to find God’s will, what are the ramifications in all of eternity for this decision that I am about to make. Now sometimes the immediate and the eternal overlap. Sometimes they stand on their own. But we need to be thinking, how does this impact, how does this impact the advancement of the kingdom of God and the glory of Christ for all of eternity because every decision we make is tied to that. We need to make sure that we make every decision against the backdrop of the redemption of God’s plan of salvation for all people.
You have listened so well. I told you that this was going to be a little bit different type of message. We are going to put a period on it there and we will pick up next week and add to this list of principles. But I just want to ask you, I want to ask you this week, read through this passage of scripture. Read through it and see these two things, this plan of redemption, what is going on in filling this apostolic office and the decision, the practical decision that these Christians had to make and we will talk some more about that in the coming weeks.
Before we take some time, just to have a time of public response, let me say a word to those of you that may be here or listening to this who are not Christians, I have been talking to believers in the economy of God and I know you have real decisions to make and you deal with stuff that you have to make calls on. And what I do want you to know and what I want you to hear is, God never intended you to make those decisions disconnected from a relationship with Him. And so this gospel that we have been talking about that needs to permeate everything we do, this gospel is for you. It is the good news of how God came to earth and Jesus Christ lived the life that you couldn’t live, and I couldn’t live. And He died a death that we should have died to pay for our sins. But instead of us paying for them, He paid for them, incurred the wrath of the Holy God on Himself on your behalf and my behalf. And then He rose from the dead to give us back the life of God that we were created to have. And that is the good news for you. It is the only way you can be forgiven of your sins. It is the only way you can be in a relationship with God. And consequently, it is the only way you can have God’s economy at play when you are making major decisions in life. And so we want to invite you today, give your life to Christ, trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.