Today’s Reading: Hab 1:1–2:5, Acts 17:1–34, Job 25:1–6
Today’s Theme: The Reasonable Gospel
Today’s theme is about the reasonable nature of God’s word and the Gospel in particular. As we see we can reason with, explain, prove and persuade concerning the Gospel. Engaging the heart and mind of man and drawing upon the logical and truthful nature of the message.
The enemy has attempted to paint a picture of Christianity as being unreasonable and illogical, belonging to a spiritual, discontented, private experience driven crutch for the uninformed, but this could not be further from the truth.
God made us reasonable and logical creatures and He has written down and declared through His saints the understandable, reasonable, explainable Good News.
We are called to live by faith and, with the Holy Spirits help, reason with men concerning God’s message, encouraging them to make the truth their own like the faithful Bereans.
So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. (Habakkuk 1:4, ESV)
This is how life feels here in the West at the moment, we are surrounded by and often ruled by wicked men so a type of justice goes forth but it is perverted. True justice can only come from the Lord in our situations today but ultimately at Christ return.
Don’t worship your own strengths
Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” (Habakkuk 1:11, ESV)
This is something men and even prosperous nations need to be weary of, we should not make our strong areas into a god, this is idolatry and folly.
If I only focus on the areas where I do well then I will never develop in the other areas. We need to be able to look at ourselves objectively and as the New Testament tells us ‘we should judge ourselves so that we won’t be judged’.
Lord help us to judge ourselves to the end that we would grow in You and bring glory to Your name and would not fall into the trap of idolising our strongest areas.
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1, ESV)
We as Christians and men in particular need to take our stand as watchmen. We need to position ourselves in a way that we can observe what is going on and pray (the tower).
Jesus tells us we should watch and pray, we must keep our fingers on the pulse of our society and culture so we can pray effectively and relevantly.
This also points to the idea of watching and waiting on the Lord for an answer.
The final picture could be standing at the watch-post to guard the church against heresy and watching for the fulfilment of prophecy.
Start journaling, write it down
And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2, ESV)
This is a great principle and is one of the main reasons that I like to write things down. I find it helps to make things clear in my own mind and for sharing with others.
You should consider writing down the things God puts on your heart as you read your Bible, pray or attend church meetings, it can be a real source of encouragement to look back over these things sometimes years later.
Patiently wait for God in faith
For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3, ESV)
We need to wait on the Lord in faith. If He has promised us something then it will come to pass. This slow release of the promises of God is a good tool to help us grow in Christian character and most essentially to grow in faith.
In this context it was the prophecy of the judgment mentioned in the earlier verses.
Live by faith
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4, ESV)
This is where we get the New Testament maxim from which sparked the protestant reformation of which we are all the beneficiaries.
We should live by faith in God not in religious systems or some works based righteousness because as we read in Job today man has no worthwhile righteousness in himself.
We must live in faith before God because without faith it is impossible to please Him.
Lust, never satisfied
“Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.” (Habakkuk 2:5, ESV)
The arrogant lust of the flesh is never satisfied, it always wants more and cannot be filled up.
The Gospel is reasonable
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, (Acts 17:2, ESV)
Our religion is a thinking religion so we can and should appeal to man’s reason, which has been given to him by God.
The Gospel is real and reasonable, so we can engage in meaningful debate to prove it’s claims, show the validity of it’s message and the logic of it’s conclusions.
The Gospel is logical
explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:3, ESV)
The end goal of Paul’s continued reasoning was this truth. Notice Paul took time to explain, so should we. His explanations were so well presented and delivered that by this he was proving the necessity of the work of Christ and thus the validity of the Gospel message.
We must think of the Gospel in these terms. We can prove it’s validity because truth testifies to itself, we need to realise that the Gospel is rooted in the truth of who God is, the Bible and the human condition.
The Gospel is not existential in any way, instead it is rooted in the solid ground of truth and reality and it is from that place we can proclaim it’s necessity for every person leaving our hearers with only the choice to accept or deny the proven and logical truth.
The Gospel, tearing down walls
And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. (Acts 17:4, ESV)
This is a glorious victory, the strenuous effort of Paul in explaining and proving the Gospel was not wasted. It resulted in the fruit of persuaded believers who were both Jews, Greeks and women.
The three groups of persuaded people speak to the fact that the Gospel was tearing down walls of division and inequality around race and gender.
The Gospel (Bible), check and study it yourself
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11, ESV)
We must learn and study like these noble Jews of Berea, we should not just listen to and read teaching, taking it as fact. We should go to the Bible ourselves and study these things to see if the teaching was in line with the scriptures.
This is why we say we must be Bereans, checking everything against the truth of God’s word. We should examine our own beliefs and any teachings we sit under against the Word of God.
Notice that these men were not skeptics because they received the word with eagerness, so they were hungry for the word and at the same time filled with the joy of the Lord as they sought out clarity and confirmation of the truth they had received.
So we should receive the truth or the taught word eagerly but then let the joy of the Lord in our hearts spur us on to check out the truth for ourselves and make it our own.
Study of the Word leads to faith
Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. (Acts 17:12, ESV)
Notice in Thessalonica only a few believed, whereas in Berea, many believed because they didn’t just listen, they went to the Word themselves too and made the truth their own. This is why it is so important that we put the Bible in the hands of the lost as we share the truth of the Gospel.
We should support the translation and distribution of the Bible around the world, it will increase the capacity and success of world missions.
Reason in the marketplace
So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:17, ESV)
Paul took his reasoning to both the religious and business world.
Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:18, ESV)
Paul was skilled in the philosophical ideas of his day. The Epicureans were empiricist (live life by experiences only) and hedonist (seeking pleasure and tranquillity by the absence of pain) while the Stoics taught that men should live altruistic and austere lives of doing good for the sake of good and with no thought of reward or pleasure.
We should also be aware of the philosophical arguments of our day so we can successfully defend against them and argue against them with the Gospel.
They recognised the speaking of Jesus as resurrected would make Jesus divine.
Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. (Acts 17:21, ESV)
Our Western culture is also built on this, so often we love to debate and research just to hear some new thing or follow some new fad.
Contextualise the truth
For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:23, ESV)
These Greeks had a pantheon of many gods and to be on the safe side even had a memorial to the unknown god in case they missed any.
Paul used this to contextualise and relate the gospel message to them. This is a great strategy when sharing the gospel… take something from the person’s life or beliefs and turn it around to show them the truth.
We need God
nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:25, ESV)
Let’s get this straight, God does not need us! Some new teachings say that He does but He is totally self sufficient and does not need us at all, in fact we live in the grace of His benefits to all mankind… We need Him, not the other way around.
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, (Acts 17:26, ESV)
This destroys the philosophy and argument of racism and the underlying ideas of Darwinian evolution. God made all nations, tribes and language groups from one man.
God has set the boundaries for when and where we live, it is not in our hands but His as the sovereign ruler, so He is the author of every nation and community.
God’s desire for all men
that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (Acts 17:27, ESV)
God’s great purpose in setting our boundaries is that we might seek Him and know Him.
This verse shows us God’s heart and the universal call of the Gospel. God is closer to each of us than we think, we need to pray that God would open the eyes of our loved ones so that they can see God’s grace all around them and realise He has been right there all along loving them, so that they will turn to God their benevolent benefactor and repent believing the good news.
God sustains all life
for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ (Acts 17:28, ESV)
Even though this is a quote from a Greek poet it is still true, God is the sustainer of all life.
We are not little gods
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. (Acts 17:29, ESV)
This does not teach that we are little gods, this is just pointing to the fact made earlier that God created the world, made us all from one blood and sustains us now. We are made in God’s image and thus we are His offspring, descendants or we are here as a result of His providence and grace.
This is actually said in the building of an argument against idolatry so it is ironic to think of this as pointing to men as small gods as is taught in the Word of Faith movement.
The times have changed
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, (Acts 17:30, ESV)
The times of ignorance are over. Since Jesus came times have changed, now the call to all mankind is clear and proclaimed by the church, God wants all men to repent.
Jesus, appointed judge
because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31, ESV)
The reason all should repent is because the God-Man Jesus Christ is also the Judge and God has appointed a day of judgement which all men should fear.
The elect will believe
But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (Acts 17:34, ESV)
The victory of God again, the elect believe even though others were just tickling their ears and mocked the glorious truth of the resurrection.
Jesus the answer to the philosophers questions
How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? (Job 25:4, ESV)
Bildad is right, none of us are righteous before God and what we consider as righteousness is like a filthy rag used for menstrual sanitation.
This has been one of the great philosophical questions of the ages and the answer is found in Jesus because man is not pure or right before the great holiness of God but Jesus lived a perfect life of righteousness for us and then when we are saved He imputes that righteousness to our account.
When we are saved our debt of sin is completely cleared but we are not left with a nil balance. God also adds great riches to our account by crediting the righteousness of Christ to us along with other spiritual riches.
Thank you Father that this great question and problem is answered in the life, death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
The Gospel Coalition on Acts 17