April 5, 2022
Grace that is Visible – Acts 11:19-26
Hear last week’s sermon entitled: Grace That Is Visible found in Acts 11:11-26
Read Acts 7:51-53, and 11:19-26
Pastor Eric informed his congregation on April 3, 2022, that the early church experienced extremely heavy and severe persecution. Acts 7 describes a man named Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, who, while being stoned to death, fell to his knees and pleaded with the Lord not to hold this sin against his enemies. He essentially interceded for their forgiveness.
Before he converted to Christianity and became Paul, Saul supported the execution of Christians. As a result of the persecution they faced in Jerusalem, many of the members of the church, with the exception of the apostles, fled to Samaria and Judea. The normal occurrence of household gatherings, breaking of bread, and communal worship in Jerusalem abruptly ceased. As they dispersed, they continued to preach the good news of Jesus and God’s Kingdom wherever they went. Although it was not always the case, the persecution they endured was the driving force behind their determination to carry out God’s will throughout the land. In the event that we are experiencing persecution for our faith, we should examine whether this persecution is helping us fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. The book of Acts illustrates this clearly.
As the gospel was preached throughout the region, more and more people came to faith in Christ. The area experienced a great spiritual awakening! The church in Jerusalem was soon informed of the large number of people who were being converted in Antioch. As a result, they sent Barnabas to assess the situation and ascertain what was happening there.
Read Acts 11:23 and Ephesians 2:4-10
What is grace? Grace is unmerited favour from God. In other words, God’s grace is receiving His favour even though we are unworthy of it. Understanding grace is critical to our growth as Christians. It is the means by which we are saved through faith. It is also a gift to be received, not something that is to be earned, achieved or acquired. The concept of grace is essentially a matter of who God is, not who we are. Grace reflects God’s character rather than our own. The Greek word for grace, charis, is a gift or blessing given by Jesus Christ to mankind.
Someone summarized grace as follows:
Read Romans 3:23
Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense because all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. No one deserves His favour.
Faith comes from grace, not from works or merit, and therefore it cannot be earned. Rather, God accepts us as we are because of Christ’s sacrifice. Such is the grace of God. We are loved by the Lord so passionately that He is unwilling to leave us in our current state. The sanctifying grace of God is available to us; however, we must seek it out. A clear understanding of this point is vital for our salvation. To comprehend this intellectually is one thing, but receiving this gift freely given to us is an entirely different matter. The journey of grace does not only begin at conversion: it’s a way of life.
Read John 1:16 and Hebrews 4:16
Jesus Christ’s crucifixion transformed God’s throne into a throne of grace. It is the place in which we request the Lord’s unmerited favour. We, as Christians are called to experience grace, beginning at conversion and continuing until we are united with our heavenly Father.
1 Corinthians 15:10
Paul stated in the above passage that God’s grace enabled him to become who he was. It is not only in our eternity that God’s grace is manifested; it is also expressed in our activities and in our identity here on earth. We are not only born into grace: we live in grace. As someone once stated,
Grace carried me here and by grace, I will carry on.
According to pastor John Piper,
Grace is not simply leniency when you have sinned, grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin.
Thus, God’s grace not only forgives us; it also saves us, purifies us, and empowers us to avoid sin – to live our lives according to His will.
Saint Augustine once said
For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.
As he continued with his message, Pastor Eric reminded his congregation of the sermon he delivered back in October 2021, titled “Who Has Bewitched You?”, based on Galatians 3. It is in this chapter, that we learn about a group of Christians in Galatia who heard the gospel, believed it, and surrendered their lives to Christ. However, Judaizers soon undermined their conversion, claiming they did not only need salvation but also had to be circumcised. In Paul’s opinion, the people must have been under a spell that caused them to abandon grace and turn to the law for their justification. This teaching carries with it a great deal of danger because when we return to the law, even for a brief time, it annuls the cross. It dilutes the grace of God. When we are under the law, we imply that Christ is merely an option, rather than asserting that He is the only solution to sin. In seeking the law, and hiding grace from others, we negate everything Christ has accomplished for us. It also implies that good works will earn us God’s favour and enable us to enter heaven. It minimizes the significance of the cross and the need for salvation. Christ is not simply an alternative; He is the sole means of redemption.
Read Colossians 4:6
In Antioch, Barnabas witnessed the grace of the Lord. What would he think of your life and activities if he were here today? Could he discern God’s grace in them?
1 – The grace of God is visible when souls come to faith in Christ.
Read Acts 11:21-24
Barnabas witnessed many people turn to God and believe. We can therefore conclude that the turning of people toward Christ is a manifestation of the Lord’s grace.
2 – God’s grace is often visible in our weaknesses.
God’s grace was evident to Barnabas. He witnessed a great harvest of souls turning to Christ in a time of extreme persecution, when the church was dispersed and suffering. A chaotic period had gripped the church.
The last two years have been difficult for many individuals, businesses, and churches. When everything was closing down, we realized that the Kingdom doors remained open. In March 2020, we had high expectations for the future of our church. The rapid growth of our ministry led us to consider holding two services per week. Then lockdowns, restrictions, registrations, and masks abruptly derailed our plans. We had to rethink our options. We were at our weakest point. Pastor Eric reminded us, however, that, in the past two years, there has been an unprecedented number of baptisms. It was also during this period that our connection groups were officially launched. Today, approximately 50 people attend one of these weekly meetings. Within these two years, our congregation grew and we paid off our mortgage. God’s grace enabled us to overcome our difficulties. In a state of uncertainty, it is an ideal time for God to work in our lives because we become dependent upon Him. Rather than depending on our own ideas, plans, creativity, and skills, we learn to rely on God and walk in His grace.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:9
Dwight L. Moody once said,
Moses spent 40 years in the king’s palace thinking that he was somebody; then he lived forty years in the wilderness finding out that without God he was a nobody; finally he spent forty more years discovering how a nobody with God can be a somebody.
3 – God’s grace is visible when His people are extravagant in generosity.
Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Great troubles and great joys are rarely experienced simultaneously. Macedonian churches endured great hardships and were very poor. Nonetheless, they gave generously because of their great joy. Even though they were in need themselves, they recognized a need and wanted to help.
Read Acts 4:32
God’s grace is evident when believers are generous and meet the needs of others. Let us pray that God’s grace overflows into our lives, our families, and our church, so that His grace may be visibly evident in our everyday lives.