NTB-5-ACTS-7 - The Gospel to the World (part 4)
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“Acts: Lesson 7”
Introduction by narrator accompanied by a cappella singing:
THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. Spreading the soul-saving message of Jesus. And now,
The apostle Paul said, “Men and brethren I have lived in all good
conscience before God until this day,” Acts 23:1.
We welcome you to our study of the book of Acts. We hope you'll get
your Bible and stay tuned as we study this wonderful text together.
In this text, Acts chapter 23 through 25, the apostle Paul is now going
to be giving a defense of the gospel and of Jesus Christ before the Jews
and before the leaders of that day. As he begins this great sermon, this
great message in Acts 23, Paul looks intently the Bible says at the Council
and he says “Men and brethren I have lived in all good conscience before
God until this day.” We think about Paul's words here and there is a very
valuable point to be learned. It's this: Paul identifies and addresses the fact
that conscience is not a safe guide in religion.
You know we often the statement is ‘let your conscience be your
guide.’ But friend, that's not what the Bible teaches. The Bible doesn't teach
that if it feels right, or if we think it's right, or if that's the way we've been
trained, and we respond that way that that necessarily means it's right. The
Bible teaches that our conscience must not be over or more important than
the word of God.
In fact, what is the conscience? Well conscience is just an echo of
knowledge that a person provides for himself. A conscience can be either
good or bad depending upon how that person's conscience is trained.
Now, let me illustrate. Paul again said “I've lived in all good
conscience before God,” and notice this, “until this day.” What does that
mean? Notice this Paul said, ‘right up to this moment in time, I've done
everything right that I felt was right based on conscience.’ Paul does that
mean that in Acts chapter 7 when you were holding the coats of those who
stoned Stephen you thought that was right? Yeah. Acts chapter 8 when you
were wreaking havoc on the church, did your conscience tell you that was
right? You bet! In Acts chapter 9 when you were headed with official letters
from the synagogue to drag Christians to prison, did you feel did your
conscience tell you that was right? Absolutely!
What do we learn from that then? Paul realized conscience was not a
safe guide. Just because one thinks it's right or feels it's right or has been
trained that something is right-does not necessarily mean that is right.
How can we know what's right and what's wrong? Listen to the words of
Jesus in John 8:32. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will
make you free.” My friend it is truth that is far more important and far more
consequential than one's conscience. Should our conscience be trained by
the truth? Absolutely. But just because I feel something is right, or I think
something's right-doesn't necessarily make that right. When the Bible says
it's right, then we can know for sure that's the way God wants us to live.
As we think about practical application, here are some areas of
application to this text.
First let's realize that our conscience cannot be our guide as it comes
to worship. There are a lot of people who, no doubt may have a warm fuzzy
feeling for God, no doubt want to maybe worship God in a heartfelt way-but
does that coincide with the teaching of the Scriptures? Their conscience
says to worship God, doing one thing, but is that according to what the
Bible says? Too many times we let our emotions run before truth when it
comes to worship.
Let me illustrate. Jesus said in John 4:24 “God is a spirit and those
who worship Him,” listen now “must worship in spirit and in truth.” There is
no doubt that our worship needs to be heartfelt, needs to be full of emotion,
and thanksgiving, and praise to God. But what is that which leads our
emotion down the right path to worship? Spirit and truth. We have the spirit.
We have man's emotion, desire, doing things a heartfelt way, but it must be
guided and governed by the truth. Again we ask the question that Pilate
asked, what is truth?” John 18:36. Of course Jesus addresses that clearly
in John 17:17. When Jesus prayed to the Father “Sanctify them by your
truth. Your word is truth.” All of God's commandments are righteous, Psalm
119:172. The Holy Spirit has guided men into all truth today in the pages of
the Bible, John 16:13. And Peter said, “We now have everything for life and
godliness,” 2 Peter 1:3.
As we think about the conscience, as it relates to worship, let's
realize our conscience must be guided by the truth. Somebody says ‘well
this feels good, or I think this is right in worship.’ Friend that won't cut it.
Paul said “I've lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” Did
that mean because Paul felt or thought it was right that the holding the
coats of those who stoned Stephen, the wreaking havoc on the church, and
the dragging men and women to prison was actually right? Well no; it was
dead wrong. Just because Paul felt it was right, didn't make it right.
A second area in which we also need to not let our conscience be our
guide is when we're making certain judgments on things. Friend, there's no
doubt Christians have to judge between right and wrong. John 7:24 Jesus
said or commanded even, “Judge with a righteous judgment.” Well how do
you make righteous judgment? Just judging off of conscience alone may
not necessarily be a righteous judgment. A righteous judgment is when it's
right because God has said it's right.
Now I know sometimes people will say the Bible says ‘do not judge.’
They'll quote Matthew chapter 7 and talk about that. But friend, the kind of
judging going on there was hypocritical judging. They went halfway around
the world to make a proselyte made him twice as much the son of hell as
themselves. Jesus commanded us to judge with righteous judgment, John
7:24, not on feeling alone, not on conscience alone, but based on the truth
of God's word. God's the final judge. He's already given us His will. God's
already made the decision on what's right and what's wrong, what's morally
acceptable, and what's not. Therefore, let's not say ‘well I think or I feel or
this seems.’ Rather, let's that the Bible be the answer. God has given to us
all things for life and godliness, 2 Peter 1:3. We must study to show
ourselves approved unto God, 2 Timothy 2:15. The Scripture is indeed our
guide. We're not to add to nor take away. But when we stand behind the
word of God, and we say something because the Bible says. We say the
Bible says this is morally right or morally wrong, then friend we're not
stating our opinion or our feeling, what our conscience necessarily thinks-
we're stating what the Bible says is right or wrong.
Then there's a third area that we need to be careful in letting our
conscience be our guide, and that is in areas of salvation. I hear a lot of
people say, ‘well how do you know you're saved?’ They say, ‘I feel it .I just
feel that I'm saved. This is the way we've always done it, and I know that's
got to be right. This is the way my mom and dad did it, and I know that's
what.’ Wait a minute now! We can't let our conscience be our guide in
matters of salvation! We've got to again trust what the word of God says.
There a host of people teaching a multiplicity of plans of salvation who all
think and feel that they're right. Does that mean they’re all right?
Only those who follow the Bible are going to be saved. And thus we
can't let our conscience be our guide as it relates to salvation.
Now let me give you a couple of illustrations. Some will say ‘Well I
know I'm saved. I feel I'm saved, because I said the sinners’ prayer. I know
that's what I needed to do.’
Friend, where's the sinners prayer at in the Bible? You can search
the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 and you won't find the
sinner’s prayer as many are saying it today. ‘Well I feel that's right.’ Feeling
alone is not a safe guide when it comes to salvation. Some will say ‘Well as
a baby, I was sprinkled. I know I feel that's what God wanted me to do.’
Well how do you know you were? Somebody had to tell you. You don't
remember it. Can you find that in the Scripture?
We don't find babies being sprinkled and saved in the Scripture. God
gives us a clear plan of salvation. Only when I've done what first century
Christians did can I know I'm saved.
Let me illustrate. They heard the word of God. Acts 2:36 Peter
proclaims “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly God's made
this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” They heard that
message that message was based on the truth of Scripture. They made a
commitment to believe that. They said in verse 37 “Men and brethren what
shall we do?” They were cut to the heart, ready to change their lives, and
make a commitment. Peter said in Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized
every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your
sins.” Jesus said in Mark 16:16 “He that believes and is baptized will be
saved.” Someone says ‘Well I believed in Jesus, and I feel that's right.’
Let's base our salvation on something more substantial and solid
than that- the word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the
word of God,” Romans 10:17. “Without faith it's impossible to please God,”
Hebrews 11:6. If I base my faith and my salvation off what the Bible says,
friend that's not near as subjective as what one's conscience feels or thinks
or suspects is right.
And so there is a place for conscience, no doubt, if it's trained by the
word of God. But let's not let conscience get out in the front. Conscience is
not the leader. Truth's the leader. Our conscience follows in line behind that
and that's really the biblical way in which we ought to think about this type
As we then further look at Paul's message in Acts chapter 23, we
now learn another are very powerful lesson- and that is as Paul is speaking
about this some negative thing, some persecutions, going to happen. Paul
realizes that we've got to leave vengeance to God and let God deal with
the wrongs. Look in Acts 23:2-3. The Bible says “And the high priest
Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.”
Well how did Paul respond? Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you,
you whitewashed wall for you sit to judge me according to the law and do
you command me to be struck contrary to the law.”
Here Paul faces some pretty severe persecution. High priest reaches
out and lays one on Paul smacks him good. You know hits him. How does
Paul respond to that? Did Paul get up and get angry and fight back? Paul
said ‘God's going to take care of you. You're nothing more than a
whitewashed wall beautiful ornate on the outside, but Jesus would say
inwardly you're full of dead men's bones.’
Now the practical lesson is this in life there may be things that
happened to me and you negatively. There may be persecution. 2 Timothy
3:12, there may be difficulties that arise from standing up for truth- whether
it be not being socially accepted, losing friends, having bodily harm done,
whatever it may be. There may be things that happen to me and you. But
let's remember Romans 12:19. God says “Vengeance is mine. I will repay,”
says the Lord. My part, my responsibility, is not to rise up and take matters
into my own hands and wreak vengeance right back on people. Well the
Bible says we're to do good unto all men. The Bible says that we're to do
good and to heap coals of fire upon their head in the book of Proverbs and
the book of 1 Peter. As a Christian I want to follow in God's teaching, and
let God be the one to issue vengeance. I just want to live according to the
way God wants me to live in this life.
Now another unique thing's going to happen in Acts chapter 23 and
that is we learn a powerful lesson about not making promises that you can't
keep. Look in Acts chapter 23 beginning in verse number 12. The Bible
says “And when it was day some of the Jews banded together and bound
themselves under an oath saying they would neither eat nor drink till they
had killed Paul. Now there were more than 40 who had formed this
conspiracy. They came to the chief priests and elders and said ‘We have
bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have
killed Paul.’ Now you therefore together with the Council suggest to the
commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow as though you were
going to make further inquiry inquiries concerning him, but we are ready to
kill him before he comes near.” Now Paul's life's in jeopardy. These people
have a plot and a conspiracy. ‘Hey you tell him you're going to come down
and question him along the way. We're going to ambush and kill Paul.
We're not eating or drinking till we do.’ Well Paul's cousin, Paul's nephew
rather, found out this was going to happen. He went and told the
commander. They didn't allow that to happen. What about all these people
who made that oath: ‘We promise until this happens we're neither going to
eat or drink’? Well I kind of doubt they kept an oath, because they wouldn't
have lived if they had.
But you know what? We need to really be serious about making
promises that we can't keep- and friend, especially, especially making the
promises that we do to God. When I made a commitment to become a
Christian, I made a commitment to walk in newness of life, Romans 6:4. I
made a commitment to follow the example of Jesus, 1 Peter 2:21. I made a
commitment to try to reach the lost with the gospel. Every day I need to live
up to that commitment and that promise that I made to God. These people
here are left with egg on their face. They can't fulfill that promise. They've
done it in front of everybody, now they're them the shame and the mockery
of the people.
Friend let's make sure that we live up to the promises and the things
that God wants us to do in this life.
You know there is another important principle we learn from the same
context though, as we mentioned a young man in Paul's family actually
saves the day here, I want you to watch what happens in Acts 23:16-18.
The Bible says “So when Paul's sister's son, his nephew, heard of their
ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called
one of the centurions to him and said, ‘Take this young man to the
commander for he has something to tell him.’ So we took him, brought him
to the commander and said, ‘Paul, the prisoner called me to him and asked
me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you.’” He
goes on to tell what's going to happen. They defeat this plot and this
ambush and as a result this young lad, this nephew of Paul's, actually
saves the day.
What practical lessons do we learn from this? Look at what good this
young man did for the kingdom of God and the cause of Christ. Let's
realize that young people can do good things in the Lord's church. Timothy
was a young man. Paul said be an example to the believers. Titus was a
young evangelist, and he did great good in preaching the gospel. This man
did well. And throughout time and centuries, we've seen that young people
are important to God. And just because, Paul said ‘Let no one despise your
youth,’ 1 Timothy 4:12, we need to realize that age doesn't keep us from
being powerful important in the kingdom of God if we're willing to follow the
teachings of our God.
Then we move in Acts chapter 24 as Paul continues his journey that
will ultimately lead to Caesar and to Rome itself. He is now going to be
brought before a very powerful, and in many ways, immoral leader and that
is the governor, Felix. Felix wants to hear Paul. He has some inkling of an
idea about Christ and Christianity, and he wants to, he's curious to know
more about that. Paul really puts him on the spot with three points in a
major sermon he preaches.
Look in Acts 24:25. The Scripture records “Paul before Felix saying
now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to
come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now. When I have a
more convenient season or time, I will call upon you.’” Why did Felix get
afraid when he heard that? Listen to what he reason about again.
Righteousness which Felix by all accounts of history was not a righteous
but rather immoral. He should've been righteous. He knew he should've
been, but he was a rather immoral man involved in debauchery, and
immorality and carousing and revelry. Righteousness, self-control the
people of that day, especially political leaders, were not known for their
self-control as is sometimes the case today. Then this last point: judgment
to come. We've got to live right. Paul says ‘You've got to control your
actions and say no to yourself. You've got a do all that in view of the
judgment.’ How did Felix respond? He was afraid. He what he was brought
to terror and shudders came upon him. He said “Go away for now. When
I've got a more convenient time, I'll call upon.”
You know this is one of the sad statements of the Bible. I don't know
if that time ever came for Felix. I know he was trying get around having to
face some very difficult things.
But I wonder how many people have said the same thing, if not
publicly to themselves? The gospel is preached. They know that to be truth.
It pricks their heart. They date. They hear the invitation given, and they
know they need respond. And they respond by saying ‘When I've got a
more convenient time. I'm going to do it tomorrow. I'll do it when I get my
life right. I'll do it when I get X, Y, and Z fixed.’
Friend the Bible word is not tomorrow or more convenient time. The
Bible word is now. Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation.
Listen very carefully; you will never have a more convenient time to
obey the gospel than right now. Here's why: this is all we're promised.
“What is your life? It's but a vapor here for a little while then it vanishes
away,” James 4:14. If I say ‘I'll do it when I get a more convenient, when
everything's in line, when I can work it out better,’- What if that day never
comes? We know this: ‘It's appointed to man once to die and then the
judgment.’ Felix should've responded in fear by obeying the gospel and
changing his life. But he didn't.
What about you? What about me? Is that convenient time upon us
now? And what are we going to do with that? We can say ‘I'll do it
tomorrow.’ We don't know if tomorrow is going to come. We need to obey
now, what we know now, so that we can make sure that we're right with
Then turning our attention to Acts chapter 25, Paul is still going to be
having to face some of these leaders. He's eventually going to go before
Agrippa and others of the day, ultimately to Caesar, and all the way to
Rome itself. Before he does that, he's going to be told there's going to be
persecution coming. Paul doesn't fear that, because he doesn't object to
dying. ‘If I've got to die for the Lord,’ Paul says ‘so be it.’ Watch Acts
chapter 25, and I want you to notice what the Scripture says in verse
number 11. Paul says this “For I'm an offender or if I have committed
anything, if I'm an offender or I've committed anything deserving of death, I
do not object to dying, but if there is nothing in these things which the men
accuse me a no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”
Paul says ‘You know they've prophesied bad things are going to
happen.’ It looks like Paul that you're going to be bound and put in prison.
You might even die. Paul says ‘Wait a minute if I've done something worthy
of dying, I don't object to dying.’
Paul wasn't afraid to give up his life, even if it meant going all the way
to Caesar himself. Paul did not value his life more than he did his service to
God. Listen to what Paul said in Philippians 1:19-21. Paul said “For to me
to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Why Paul not object to dying? Here's why: Paul had already died.
“I've been crucified with Christ. He said no longer is it I who live Christ lives
in me the life which I now live in the flesh. I live by faith in the Son of God
who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Now follow-up that idea with the words of Acts 25:12 listen to this,
Paul says “then Festus,” or the Bible says then “Festus when he had
conferred with the Council answered you've appealed to Caesar to Caesar
you shall go.” This is one of the monumental points in Paul's evangelistic
journeys. I want you to think about this, Paul has made his appeal as a
Roman citizen which was every citizen's right to appeal to the highest judge
of that day Caesar himself. I want you to think about this. God made it a
mission. He plainly stated Paul was going to take the gospel to the
Gentiles. Now think about this. Rome is going to pay Paul to take the
gospel to Rome and to Caesar itself. Now you think about the providence
of that. Paul is going to take the gospel to Rome. We read about that in the
book of Romans. He's going to take the gospel no doubt to Caesar as well.
Who's going to foot the bill? The Roman government is! Can't you see the
Providence and the power of God in all of that? I appeal to Caesar. Paul
had already made his case before God and changed his life. He wasn't
afraid to go before Caesar himself even as a servant of Jesus Christ.
Now friend as you think about Acts 23, Acts 24, and Acts 25 there is
an overriding theme that we must be committed to the teaching and the
power of the gospel-over conscience, over what governmental leaders may
say, and over even when our life is put on the line.
Today we ask you: Have you obeyed the gospel of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ?
There is no more convenient time than right now. Don't put off till
tomorrow what you know you need to do today.
Have you heard the message about Christ? “Faith comes by hearing,
hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10:17. Do you believe that to be true
according to the teaching of the Bible? Jesus said “Unless you believe that
I'm He, you'll surely die in your sins,” John 8:24. Are you willing to change
your life and really repent? Luke 13:3 Jesus said “Unless you repent, you
will all likewise perish.” Would you confess the beautiful name of Jesus
before men? Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33 “If you won't confess me
before men, neither will I confess you before the Father who is in heaven.”
Would you do what the Lord said in John 3:5? “Unless a man is born
of water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Would you be
baptized for the remission of your sins and make a commitment to walk in
newness of life and live faithful to Jesus Christ every day?
Our hope in our prayer for you is that you will do just that.
Study Questions for: “Acts: Lesson 7”
1. According to John 8:32, what will make you free?
2. How should we worship according to John 4:24?
3. According to John 17:17, what is truth?
4. According to Psalm 119:172, what is righteous?
5. According to John 16:13, what guided men into all truth? Through what?
6. According to 2 Peter 1:3, what do we have?
7. What did Jesus command us to judge in John 7:24?
8. According to 2 Timothy 2:15, what should we do to show ourselves
9. What did Peter proclaim in Acts2:36?
10. What was their reaction in Acts 2:37?