Book of Acts
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Rejecting Christ is nothing new. But why are so many people today so quick to turn against God? In Acts 7:1-2, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that many people who reject the Gospel are just like the Jewish leaders who did so in the time of the apostles. They believe that just because they perform good deeds, they do not need a Savior or salvation. Or they think that because of their heritage and association with institutionalized religion that they are in good standing with God. There are many people who go to church every Lord’s day, who give their money to the church, give their time to the church, yet are not saved! Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones exposes the dangers of institutionalized religion. These are people who perform religious actions not out of a heart of love, but out of tradition and human means. This is the great threat to the church in all times because these people do not believe that they are in need of salvation and redemption, they are deceived by their own vain actions and traditions. The answer to this is the true and powerful Gospel of Christ. For it alone can save men from their blind slavery to false religion.
What is God's plan for your life? To what extent will we follow God's leading? These are hard questions that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones answers as he studies God's call on Abraham and the covenant He made. It is in Acts 7:1-2 that we see how God demonstrates His ability to act in the world to accomplish His purposes and bring about His will for the world. We see God bringing Abraham out of a pagan land that does not worship or serve Him. And through this He makes a new people, the descendants of Abraham and all who would believe in God. For Christianity is a religion concerning what God has done in time and history, and what He is doing. He actively works to bring about redemption of the whole world through the work of Christ on the cross. He is not like the idle deity of the pagan gods, but He is both able and willing to call and lead his people. He does all this in the world so that sinners may be saved from the judgement they deserve. The world does not know this peace or plan of salvation! For the world seeks to enact nothing more than moral reform. But God is working to bring about redemption of every aspect of reality by his Son, Christ Jesus. So, we should look to God as our great Savior who works all things together according to His sovereign plan.
How do we see God at work today? Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones begins by showing us how throughout the Bible we see God revealing Himself through His actions and words. This begins in the Old Testament with the law and the prophets. God reveals His nature and will to the Jews. But now He has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son! The Messiah was sent into the world to accomplish the Father's will and all that was foretold in the prophets and the book of the law. Jesus Christ came to pay the ransom for sin and provide the only way to be reconciled to God. As Lloyd-Jones describes, this is the outworking of God’s great plan of redemption proclaimed in the Old Testament. Not only does Jesus come to save the lost, but in His work, we see God more fully. This is how we know God, not through philosophical reflection, but through his Son, God incarnate. For without God’s revelation, man would never be able to know Him as He is. But God has come into His creation, He took a human nature upon Himself. He was born of a virgin and lived a sinless life and died a horrific death, but then rose from the grave and is alive today! This is God in human flesh. He is the one who came into the world to save sinners and to reveal Himself to those who are blind.
God will always keep His promises! His great plan of redemption of the whole world through the work of Christ Jesus is enacted through covenants. Listen in this sermon from Acts 7:1-8 as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones shows us how these great redemptive events form the background of the work of Christ. This redemptive work is both for the salvation of individuals and the resonation of the whole world. This was planned before the foundations of the earth to glorify His name. This great and sovereign plan is important because it exalts God and humbles man. It was this sovereign call that brought Abram, a pagan to come and worship the true God and made him righteous. God has planned both the beginning and the end of all things, and he works in history to bring about his plan. Christians should rest in this great truth; God’s plan will be brought to pass. In this outworking of God’s great plan of salvation he chooses to make covenants with men. He made a covenant with Noah after the flood and promised he would not flood the world again. He made a covenant with Abraham and gave him the sign of circumcision. It is Jesus who comes and brings a new covenant, the fulfillment of all God’s promises. It is this great truth that the early church proclaimed. It is salvation in Christ as the fulfillment of God’s great plan.
God’s great plan of salvation is found in Jesus Christ. But as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains, this plan of salvation was foreseen in the Old Testament and in the sacrificial system. One clear foretelling came when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, upon an altar. While in the end God provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son, this looks forward to when God gives His only Son to die upon the cross for the sins of the world. For God tells us that the blood of bulls and goats will not atone for sins. Lloyd-Jones proclaims, it is only the perfect blood of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, that can take away sins and make sinners righteous. This is the whole message of the Old Testament, the need of salvation for all men, and the need for God to supply the means of this salvation. This is why the Old Testament is so central to Christianity, for it is the Old Testament that tells us of the need of salvation and of the futility of human means. It is the overarching narrative of scripture that tells us of the fallenness of man and the great Gospel of Christ that is the only salvation of the world.
Are you ready to truly follow God? What if it costs you everything? Will we then continue to follow Him? Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes the call of God on Abraham that caused him to flee his home country and land. This was a call to abandon all he knew including his nation, religion, and kindred. This was a call to serve God above all over things. The same type of call is upon everyone who follows Christ today! Listen as Lloyd-Jones walks us through Christ's call to flee from this world and pursue Christ and His kingdom. It requires us to serve God alone as the only true Sovereign over our lives. This is a hard message to heed when it is easy to think about the world and its concerns alone. It is easy to see the church as nothing more than a source of moral transformation in a society like any other social institution. But this is all wrong. For the church has been entrusted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and this Gospel calls men to come out of the world. It calls them to reject the thinking philosophy of worldly men. It calls men to serve God as Lord over the whole world. So, we should not hesitate to flee from this world and its vain ways, for we have a new citizenship in heaven.
The Christian life is one of faith and action. This is clearly seen in the life of Abraham as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones proclaims. Perhaps there is no better example of this then the life of Abraham, the father of the all the faithful. The apostle Paul uses him as an example of what it looks like to believe and trust in the promises of God. But James, the brother of Jesus also uses Abraham as the example of what a life of good works looks like. So, in Abraham we see what it looks like to believe in the promises of God, and to have faith in them. But as Lloyd-Jones expounds, Abraham is also an example of putting faith into action. What some may try to use as a contradiction is actually a great complement as a heart of genuine faith will always demonstrate inself in a life of biblical action. Our works flow from a transformed heart as our daily practice moves ever closer to our heavenly position.
Are we following Christ? The Christian life is one of constant movement away from sin and toward holiness. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains in his sermon from Acts 7:1-8, the Christian life is fundamentally God-centered. It requires us to abandon all other things for the sake of the Gospel and Christ. Abraham exemplifies this God-centered life when he leaves kindred and country to go to a foreign land to serve and worship God. In this way Abraham is the great example that we are given in the New Testament, and he is appealed to by the writers of the New Testament to show that service to God is not something that comes with the advent of Christ. But Abraham and all those that believed in the Old Testament were trusting in the promises of Christ. It is by trusting in Christ that they were counted righteous before God. Furthermore, many of them were persecuted and suffered for their faith as martyrs, as did many suffer in the New Testament and even in modern times. This should serve as an encouragement to Christians in all times because we stand in a long line of faithful and Godly believers who were willing to forsake this world and to suffer as Christians for Christ. We should see and rejoice in the God who calls us and loves us, and who has sent His Son to die in our place so that we may live.
Repeatedly the New Testament points back to individuals from the Old Testament to demonstrate a life of saving faith. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones continues the study of Acts 7, it is in Joseph that we see a kind of Christ. Joseph was hated and betrayed by his brothers for no other reason than their jealousy and anger. But in a few years’ time, it was his brothers that came to him seeking help and relief from the famine. In a similar way, Jesus was persecuted, betrayed and ultimately murdered because the Jewish leaders were jealous. But the great irony is that the Jewish leaders murdered their own long-awaited Messiah, the very One who came to save them from their sins! Lloyd-Jones points out that this rejection of God and His will demonstrates the spiritual blindness and rebellion that propel opposition to the Gospel. It is not a clear and rational thought, but blind prejudice that has its source in the sinful hearts of men who will not submit to God’s ways. This must always be in mind when we see unbelief and opposition to the Gospel. For it is not a matter of intelligent and reasonable methods that prompt men to harden their hearts when they hear of Christ and his death and resurrection. But it is sin and unbelief. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that anyone can come to a true knowledge of God.
Is God in charge of every detail? We know He is sovereign over the universe, but what about on a moment by moment level? Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains how from Genesis to Revelation, we see God at work on every level. This is true in the case of Abraham and the patriarchs as described all throughout the Old Testament. God is not abstract and above history, but He is very present in the world. He is actively working to bring about His great plan for the world. And what is His plan? It is nothing less than the salvation of all who believe though the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. For God loves the world and He has acted in his Son to redeem it. Apart from His atoning work, there is no hope of salvation! Human effort cannot erase the guilt of sin or impress the holy God. So, the only hope for the world is not in man's efforts or schemes, but in God who has acted in the world through his Son and the Gospel. It is this Gospel alone that is the power of God to save and redeem. It is by God’s actions that the world will be redeemed, not human ingenuity and creativity. The church of today must proclaim this glorious truth of God and His plan and power to save through Christ Jesus.
About Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.