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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:God Raised Him from the Dead
Text:Acts 13:26-43 (View)
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

(Grace OPC)
“God Raised Him from the Dead!”
Acts 13:26-43
A prisoner by the name of Kirk Bloodworth sat on death row for 8 years, 11 months, and 19 days. He was accused of murdering a nine-year-old girl. But then one day the guards came and opened the door to his prison cell. This time he wasn’t released just for chores. Or for lunch. He was released for good. DNA evidence proved that Kirk was innocent.
From Paul’s speech in Antioch, in the verses that we read this morning, we are reminded that Jesus never received that type of pardon. Instead, Jesus was crucified, even though he was innocent. Verse 28: “And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed.” 
Pilate was the governor and had the power, humanly speaking, to release Jesus or crucify him. In John 19:10 Pilate had said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”  Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” From then on, we read how Pilate tried to release him. But the crowds intimidated Pilate, and he handed Jesus over for crucifixion.
One of many powerful visual images which springs out of the pages of Holy Scripture is the mental picture of Pilate washing his hands.  He had questioned Jesus. He had looked for a reason to convict him but found him innocent. Then, to his great discomfort, his wife sent him a message that she dreamed that Jesus was innocent and that she had suffered greatly knowing that an innocent man was being charged with guilt.  
Pilate wanted to release Jesus. He made an offer to the angry crowd that he was sure would please them. He offered to release Jesus instead of Barabbas, a notorious prisoner who was guilty of many crimes including murder. But when he asked the people whom they wanted to be released, whose name had the people shouted? “Barabbas! Barabbas!”  They demanded the release of Barabbas and called for the crucifixion of Jesus.
Against that dark background Pilate came out, and we can picture in our minds how he washed his hands in front of the seething crowd, and said, “I find no basis for a charge against this man. I am innocent of this man’s blood.”  
Jesus was innocent in every way, yet he never received what Kirk Bloodworth received: He never received that pardon. Instead, guilty Barabbas was pardoned. Jesus – the only One who is truly innocent – was condemned to die by crucifixion.
The Innocent Condemned
However, it should not be a surprise that Jesus was condemned as guilty, even though he was innocent. That is exactly what the Old Testament prophets had predicted. The crucifixion was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, including that the body of Jesus would not see decay – “corruption” – just as foretold in Psalm 2 and Psalm 16, and quoted in this passage from Acts 13.
Did you notice how else Paul brings up the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy? In verse 27 he describes how the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that were read every Sabbath. And then in verse 29 we read: “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.”
Not only was the crucifixion prophesied in general terms, but even the minutest details were prophesied.  For instance, it was foretold that Christ would be betrayed by a friend, be proven innocent yet judged as guilty, be numbered among transgressors, and be crucified between two criminals.
It was prophesied that he would be mocked by the spectators, that none of his bones would be broken, and that his side would be pierced. Even the casting of the lot for his garment was prophesied and foretold, as was his burial in a rich man’s tomb. 
Do you see why Paul mentions, not once but twice, that everything spoken about by the prophets was fulfilled? The list could go on, for the Old Testament writers were all inspired to write about the Messiah to come. The crucifixion was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies.
Even though the people, by God’s own set purpose and foreknowledge, put innocent Jesus to death, verse 30 tells us God raised him from the dead, and verse 31 tells us that there were many witnesses.
Why does this passage, as well as other passages, emphasize that the Father raised his Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead? After all, Jesus had power in and of himself as true God to raise himself.  As he said in John 10:17-18, The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
The Father’s Stamp of Approval
The reason why Scripture emphasizes that the Father raised the Son, even though the Son had power to raise himself, is this: Because God the Father raised God the Son from death it verifies that the Father is completely satisfied with all that Jesus did to save his people from their sins.
The resurrection is the “stamp of approval” by God the Father on all the redeeming work of his Son on your behalf and mine. On the cross Jesus paid a debt beyond the ability of any mathematician, of any theologian, of any one of us to comprehend. He paid the full penalty for your sin and mine, and the sins of all who by his grace have saving faith in him alone.
Theologians refer to that as his passive obedience. He could have called more than twelve legions of angels to deliver him, as he said to his disciples. But instead, he did his Father’s will. He laid down his life to propitiate – to cover – the sins of all who have saving faith in him alone.
Seeking his Father’s will, Jesus passively surrendered himself to the Roman army, who in turn would hand him over to be crucified, to shed his blood to cover your sins and mine, if we truly have saving faith in him alone.
The resurrection is the stamp of approval by the Father declaring, “Paid in full.” The debt of sin, so great that none of us can calculate or comprehend it, is paid in full.
That in itself is a wonderful gift beyond description! If you have been in debt and then made the last payment on whatever debt you had – whether a mortgage, a car loan, or other debt, you know the great feeling of being debt free.
But when Jesus rose from the dead, he didn’t just pay the debt of our sin. He didn’t leave your spiritual bank account, or mine, with a zero balance. By his resurrection, God the Father put his stamp of approval on what we call “the active obedience” of Christ. Christ actively obeyed every law that you and I have broken. Christ actively obeyed with his inner thoughts and motives, not just with external brush strokes. He actively obeyed every jot, every tittle, every iota, every minute aspect of the law of God.
And by raising him from the dead, God the Father put his authoritative stamp of approval on that active obedience of Christ which now is your justification and mine as it is credited to the account of everyone who has saving faith in Christ alone.
You see, not only did Christ pay the debt of sin, but he also imputes to us his perfect record of righteous obedience. And because God the Father has put his stamp of approval on the resurrection, we are justified by the resurrection. In the words of Romans 4:25, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
And that is also why the Apostle Paul writes three times over in 1 Corinthians 15 that without the resurrection, you and I could not be saved from our sins:
1 Corinthians 15:14: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
Verse 17 of the same chapter: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
Verse 19: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
When Michelangelo, the well-known artist, visited famous art galleries in European cities, he was surprised by the number of paintings depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. He asked, “Why are art galleries filled with so many pictures of Jesus dying on the cross?  Why do artists dwell on that passing episode, as if that were the last word and the final scene? Jesus’ death on the cross lasted only a few hours, but throughout eternity Jesus is alive, ruling and reigning forever.” He was pointing out that the cross is devoid of power, unless you see the empty tomb beyond.
This passage from Acts 13 fits in with all of Scripture teaching us that the message of salvation hinges on the birth, life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
Also, did you notice in verse 39 how Paul teaches that “by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” And maybe you noticed in the footnotes of your Bible that the Greek word translated “freed” in that verse is the same word that is often translated as “justified.” It means to “declare innocent, to justify.”
The people of Antioch, to whom Paul spoke, must have been surprised by that statement, especially the Jewish leaders who were trying to justify themselves by observance of the law.  The law condemns. The law shows us our sin. And by God’s grace, when a true believer sees their sin, they are driven to Christ in repentance and saving faith. In that way, the law is a “tutor” – a teacher – to lead us Christ as we see our sin and the need for the only Savior. Galatians 3:24 in the old King James Version puts it this way: “…The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
Christ alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is no other way to be saved except through saving faith in Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 describes how “Salvation is found in no one else. There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  Your salvation and mine – the forgiveness of your sins and mine – hinges on the birth, life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ!
I really like that word “everything” in verse 39 – “and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” What can the law of Moses free us from, justify us from?  Absolutely nothing.  By the law we are condemned.
But by faith in our Risen Lord we are justified from “everything” we have done that is sinful. By faith in Christ we are justified from every transgression we have made against the law. Not only actions and words, but thoughts and motives as well. Sins of commission. Sins of omission. The whole slate of our sin is wiped clean and spotless through saving faith in Jesus Christ.
The Response of Saving Faith
How are we to respond to the good news of the resurrection? This is the greatest news the world has ever heard. How are we to respond to the good news of the gospel of our risen Lord? There are many responses, but they fall into two main categories: Many scoff or are apathetic; others believe and seek to learn more about Jesus.
The warning Paul gives in verses 40 and 41 is given to you and to me today as surely as it was given to the people of Antioch back in the first century. “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.’”
He is warning us not to be scoffers. You can grow up in the church, hear the gospel message over and over, yet if you are not careful you can harden your heart against the gospel of salvation that your ears are hearing. Instead of taking the message of salvation to heart, those seeds of doubt can turn people into scoffers who reject and ridicule the very message that could bring salvation from sin.
Someone has pointed out that our individual responses to the resurrection can be likened to the punctuation marks that we see written before us every day. For many people the resurrection is still a large question mark. Can that really be? How can that be that Jesus, after being crucified, could be raised from the dead without any decay or corruption in his truly human body? How could I, or anyone else for that matter, believe such a remarkable account?
To many others the account of the resurrection is a comma. It’s a pause. There’s Easter Sunday which when combined with Good Friday makes for a three-day weekend. For some, with Easter Monday, even a four-day weekend. And then life goes on. The rat race resumes. The Easter break – that comma in the hectic pace of life – will come again next year and maybe then we will spend a week down south, on the beach somewhere, they reason.
To still others, it is a period. The punctuation mark of one little dot ends almost every sentence. A period is a boring punctuation mark. You can grow up in the church, young people – and us older ones too – and say, “I hear this account of the resurrection every year.  It’s the same story.  It gets old. And the pews get harder and harder every year.”
For those who see the resurrection as a period, there may be acknowledgement in their head that Jesus arose, but no blessing in the heart. They may have “historical faith” – they may believe that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, and arose again on the third day but there is no saving faith in the Risen Savior.
There is an eternal difference between merely believing that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, and having true saving faith in him alone for the salvation of your sins. James 2:19 speaks to those who say they have faith in Christ but don’t show it by how they live. He writes: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
The people who see the resurrection as just a period in the punctuation marks of life can go through all the right motions. They can cross their theological “t’s” and dot their theological “i’s” but there is nothing in the heart. No joy of salvation, no blessing from taking the gospel to heart.
But those who believe in the resurrection with a heartfelt, saving faith can exclaim with Thomas of old, “My Lord and my God!”  The resurrection is the exclamation mark of their life! In the resurrection, they see the exaltation of their Lord! They rejoice in his true identity as the eternal Son of God! They rejoice that he is “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth. 
They rejoice that their risen Savior is the “Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come – the Almighty!” 
They rejoice that he has the power to forgive sins, that through saving faith in him we are reconciled to God the Father. That through saving faith in him we need not fear death because he has conquered death in all its forms. 
They know that death – the last enemy to be destroyed – is for the believer the passageway to glory, the passageway to seeing their risen Savior, not through a glass darkly, but face to face.  Consequently, they make it the goal of their entire life to live as an exclamation mark to the praise of God’s glorious grace!
More About Jesus
But how do we guard ourselves against a hardened heart?  How do we get past whatever skepticism that might be rooted in our heart?  How do we get past boredom? Or lukewarmness toward the Lord, his word and his people?  The way to get past those impediments is to learn more about Jesus.
That is what many of the people in Antioch did. In verse 42 we read, “As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath.” They had a hunger and a thirst to know more. They were like deer panting for streams of living water (Psa. 42:1).
But many people across our land and around the world are known as “Chreasters”. They come to church on Christmas and Easter, but the rest of the year the pew where they sit today is empty. If that describes you, don’t be offended, but take note of what you are missing.
In every Bible-believing church there is fellowship with God and with his people. There is the acknowledgment of sin, and the acknowledgment that there are no perfect churches here on earth. But there is also the joy of salvation, compassionate care for brothers and sisters in Christ and many opportunities to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ and the Word of God.
And that is why the elders in every Bible-believing church encourage attendance at Sunday school, Bible studies, evening services, and personal and family devotions throughout the week. They encourage and urge you to learn more about Jesus and to grow in grace because that is the message of the Bible. In verse 43 we read how Paul and Barnabas, as they spoke with the people, “urged them to continue in the grace of God.”
If you don’t grow spiritually, you will become stagnant and fade away from the Lord. He is the vine; we are the branches. When a branch is separated from a vine, what happens? It withers and dies. And if you are not actively feeding on Christ through the study of the Holy Bible, you will wither away and die. In the words of Jesus, in John 15:6, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
There is no way to wash your hands from the knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done by his life, sacrificial death, glorious resurrection, and the certainty of his return. Pilate tried that, but he failed. You cannot just wash your hands of Jesus and think that you are done with him.  
Just as all those Old Testament prophecies about his first coming came true, down to the minutest detail, so will all the prophecies concerning his second coming. How crucial to be feeding upon him and his word, not only on days of religious significance but each and every day!
Kirk Bloodworth was a fortunate man. After being on death row for 8 years, 11 months, and 19 days, he was pardoned. By contrast, our Lord, perfectly innocent, was never pardoned. Yet because he, the only innocent man – truly human, truly divine – was put to death, we are the fortunate ones.  We are pardoned.  For through his death and resurrection the message of the gospel centers on the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.
As verses 38 and 39 put it: “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers (and sisters), that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed – justified – from everything from which you could not be (justified) by the law of Moses.”
May you and I not be scoffers, and by God’s grace and Spirit’s convicting power, may we not be apathetic, not be so busy with our own lives that we don’t take the time to focus on Christ and feed upon him.
Instead, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, may you and I take the gospel message to heart, eagerly learning more about the One who laid down his life for us, and rose again from the dead, as we grow in grace and knowledge of his name.
May we be like the believers in Antioch so long ago, as they begged Paul to come back, Sabbath after Sabbath, Sunday after Sunday, to teach them more, to teach them more about Jesus, and to grow in grace and knowledge of his name. Amen.
sermon outline:
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…  - Acts 13:29-30
                         “God Raised Him from the Dead!”
                                          Acts 13:26-43
I.  From Paul’s message of encouragement (Acts 13:15,16) we are
     reminded that Jesus was crucified, although He was innocent (28):
     1) The crucifixion fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (27, 29)
      2) By raising Jesus from the dead, God the Father put His “stamp of
           approval” on all the redemptive work of His Son, both His active
           and passive obedience
      3) The message of salvation hinges on the birth, life, death and
            resurrection of Jesus Christ (26, 38, 39; 1 Cor. 15:14, 17, 19)
II. Application: There is no way to “wash our hands of Jesus” as Pilate
     tried to do (28; Matt. 27:24). We either join the scoffers in rejecting
     Christ (40, 41), or by God’s grace and sanctifying Spirit, we believe
     and grow in our knowledge, love, and service (42, 43)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2023, Rev. Ted Gray

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