- 5 September 2021
- Stuart Robinson
Happy Father’s Day to those who have had fathers, who are fathers, or who know our great creator God as their Heavenly Father!
May we pray?
Lord, please help us discern with greater clarity aspects of your ‘Fatherly’ character
from this Acts 18 passage today.
In Acts 18 we see the overarching purposes of God at work – in the face of adversity and strife – that point to the character of our Heavenly Father.
I put it to you that our loving Heavenly Father is:
Later in our service today, Jane will be giving the Little Sheep Church talk; it’s the ‘Prodigal Son’ or the ‘Lost Son’ (from Luke 19).
And we’ll be reminded that God, like that Father in the story, longs for his wilful (yet precious) son to return.
Patiently, he waits for the lad’s approach, and then runs to him and embraces him, as he comes into view (Luke 19).
So first. God is patient and kind.
We see this in the text of Acts 18 that is before us this morning.
God’s gospel envoy, St. Paul, is on assignment in Corinth – for a period of 18 months (Acts 18:11), and we are told that every Sabbath, he reasoned in the Synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
It’s an expression of God’s forbearance.
It was hard graft – week in, week out, and yet St. Paul persisted.
Well, his friend St. Peter put it beautifully when he stated, “The Lord is…patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’. II Peter 3:9.
Colloquially – God’s heart beats fast for lost people.
They matter to him.
You matter to him.
And then I do love how God’s kindness to the people in Corinth is given further expression when God sends in reinforcements.
Did you notice that?
Paul is working alongside evangelists and teachers, Priscilla, and Aquila in the making of tents.
That was their trade and that is what enabled them to fund their evangelistic and church planting ministry (Acts 18:1-3).
Now, because of God’s love for the people in Corinth, he also deployed a ‘back-up team’ comprising Silas and Timothy so that (and I quote from verse 5), “Paul [could then] devote himself exclusively to preaching; testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah”.
18 months – week in week out; Aquilla, Priscilla, Silas, Timothy, and Paul, pleaded with and winsomely persuaded people that Jesus is the Messiah.
God is patient and kind.
Do you see?
Second. God is just and merciful.
Now here is a tragedy:
God’s kindness and forbearance is met with opposition and abuse (verse 6 and v. 12ff).
It seems that many from a religious background (in Corinth) wanted nothing to do with the salvation in Christ that Paul and his colleagues were proclaiming.
So, in a dramatic, prophetic gesture – Paul shook out his clothes (following Jesus’ directions in Matthew 10:14) as a way of saying, “I remove myself from you and your unbelief”.
He then makes the chilling assertion, “your blood be on your own heads” (18:6).
And right there, is the nub of the gospel:
Christ’s finished work on the cross deals with our sin.
St. Peter said this, “For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous [our Lord Jesus] for the unrighteous [people like us] to bring us to God.” I Peter 3:18.
If we reject this good news, then we remain unforgiven, and therefore wholly accountable for our sin.
Our blood indeed is upon our own heads.
Paul is warning the Corinthians (and us) of God’s judgment for sin.
The religious Corinthians’ unbelief broke his heart and his words, whilst confronting, are an expression of love; Paul is desperately concerned for their eternal welfare.
Do you remember Jesus’ warning in John 3:18?
He said this, “Whoever believes in [me] is not condemned but whoever does not believe, stands condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.
That is the justice of God.
You cannot be saved if you reject the saviour.
But please do carefully note the mercy of God in this text.
And I love this:
It seems that Paul’s stern warning was not without effect.
We read the remarkable account in verse 8 that the synagogue leader – a man named Crispus, and his entire household believed in the Lord, and they were baptised – and the construction of this sentence in the original language indicates that Paul himself did the baptising (v.8).
It was clearly a day of great celebration and testament God’s mercy and love.
And that leads to,
Third. God is generous and powerful.
The generosity and hospitality of God is seen in and through Paul’s next move….to the house right next door to the synagogue (v.7).
Yes, the synagogue in Corinth may have been closed but God, was still opening hearts to the gospel: Gentile hearts…
Titius Justus, a non-Jew, had been drawn to the Jewish faith, now hears Paul preach the gospel and in response invites Paul to conduct his ministry from his home.
And as a result (verse 8), many heard and were baptised!
Yes – God welcomes both Jews and Gentiles into his family.
He is a generous and welcoming Heavenly Father.
Do you see?
He is also infinitely powerful.
One night Paul had a vision from the Lord where his Heavenly Father assured Paul that he was with him, that he need not be afraid, that he was to keep on preaching and teaching, that he (the Lord) would protect Paul because he had appointed people to positions of leadership and authority in the city (vv. 9-10)
And that is exactly what happened (in vv12-17).
Paul faithfully preaches and teaches, he is arrested, he is brought before the civil authorities and the matter is tossed out.
The crowd are so enraged that they turn on one of their own – the new synagogue ruler, Sosthenes…possibly because he didn’t see the case fully prosecuted – and interestingly, miraculously really, it is this Sosthenes who also gave his life to Christ as he is later mentioned in I Corinthians 1:1, as ‘our brother Sosthenes’.
God is generous and powerful.
I started this homily with this question: In times of adversity and difficulty we may well ask, am I placing my trust in that which will sustain me and uphold me?
For me, this text on this Father’s Day is a great reminder that God is trust-worthy, and he will sustain and uphold me for he is indeed
- Patient and kind
- Just and merciful
- Generous and powerful
In the name of Christ.