Monday, October 23, 2017

Does God Really Need Me to Be a Witness?

Part 6 of The Gospel Gone Viral

Text: Acts 13:26-51

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48). 

Not Needed? 

Acts 13:48 says, “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Jesus told the apostles, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8). But if God has already “appointed to eternal life” those who will believe, do we really need to be witnesses?

The Gospel Is for Everyone! 

In Acts 10, God reveals to Peter that the gospel is not just for the Jews; it’s for the Gentiles too. The gospel is for everyone!

In Acts 9, when Saul is converted, God says, “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles” (9:15). In Acts 13, that’s what Saul does. After the Jews in one particular city reject the gospel, Saul announces, “We are turning to the Gentiles” (13:46).

Saul quotes Isaiah 49:6: “I have made you [1] a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (13:47). It was God’s plan to bring salvation to the Gentiles. “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (13:48).

Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

In 13:48 we see two biblical doctrines that appear to be incompatible: divine sovereignty (“appointed”) and human responsibility (“believed”). Some people might read this verse and conclude, “If God appoints people to eternal life, I don’t really need to bother to be a witness. They’ll end up believing somehow in the end.” The apostles believed in divine sovereignty, but that belief didn’t lead them to conclude that it wasn’t necessary for them to be witnesses. They risked their lives to spread the gospel “to the ends of the earth.” If we think that 13:48 gives us a reason not to be a witness, then we are disregarding what the book of Acts is all about!

When it comes to being a witness (i.e., sharing the gospel), we must avoid two extreme views. First, we must not think, “I have to do nothing.” This view puts all the emphasis on divine sovereignty and waters down human responsibility. Second, we must not think, “I have to do everything.” This view puts all the emphasis on human responsibility and waters down divine sovereignty.

Appointed to Be Witnesses 

In 13:49 we read that “the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” The people who were spreading the gospel were the Gentiles who believed. “Converts are meant to be evangelists.” [2] God doesn’t need us to be witnesses, but he has appointed us to be witnesses. 

Don’t think, “I wonder if God has appointed that person to eternal life.” Instead, think, “God has promised that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:12). Who is in your life that needs to be saved? Pray for that person, and look for opportunities to share the gospel.

Application: we have been called to be witnesses to our children. Actively pursue their salvation.

[1] “You” is the servant of Lord. “A careful reading of the four servant songs has…led many scholars to argue that the servant refers to an individual who fulfills in himself all that Israel was meant to be” (H. M. Wolf, “Servant of the Lord,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 726. This individual is Jesus.
[2] I. H. Marshall, Acts: An Introduction and Commentary, 245.

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