Sermon #1270 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: “The Servants of the Most High God”
Text: Acts 16:17
Reading: Acts 16:1-34
Subject: One Distinguishing Characteristic of God’s Servants
Date: Sunday Morning - January 5, 1997
Tape # T-25
The title of my message today is “The Servants of the Most High God.” Blessed is the man who is enabled by the grace of God to “discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Mal. 3:18). When you leave here today I trust that you will be able to discern between preachers, between them that serve the Lord and them that serve him not. You will find my text in Acts chapter sixteen.
In this sixteenth chapter of Acts, in the verses leading up to our text, the Holy Spirit has recorded several things that deserve our careful attention. They are matters full of instruction for our souls.
1st. He shows us, a very distinct and clear example, that God almighty sends his gospel to some an hides it from others, as he sees fit. We are told that Paul and Silas “assayed to go Bithynia” (v. 7); but the Holy Spirit would not allow them to do so. This is a clear, unmistakable demonstration of God’s sovereign, distinguishing grace. He sends the gospel to some and not to others. He reveals the gospel to chosen sinners and hides it from the wise and prudent.
Matthew 11:25-26 "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (26) Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight."
As it was in that day, so it is in our day. How is it that in some places the gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit “sent down from heaven,” while other places are left barren and desolate? Our Lord explains it this way: "I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city" (Amos 4:7). The fact is, God has mercy on whom he will have mercy.
2nd, We are here taught that God’s time is always the best time. Not only does God send his gospel and his grace to whom he will, he sends it when he will; and the time he chooses to send it is the best time for it to be sent. We like to do things and get things done in our time; but our timing is usually untimely. God’s time is always the best time.
Paul and Silas wanted to go to Bithynia at this time; but apparently this was not the right time. It appears that God’s elect were not there at this time, or at least this was not the appointed time of love for them However, later the Lord did send his gospel and his grace there. Some six years after this, Peter speaks of a gospel church being established there (1 Pet. 1:1). In his own appointed time, the Lord will both seek and find out his sheep. There is a set time to favor Zion, an appointed time of love, and a fixed time for grace to come to chosen, redeemed sinners; and our God is always on time.
Psalms 102:13 "Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come."
Ezekiel 16:8 "Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine."
Habakkuk 2:3 "For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."
The Lord God waits to be gracious at the appointed time; and the Scriptures tell us that we are “blessed in waiting for the Lord.”
Isaiah 30:18-19 "And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. (19) For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee."
Psalms 27:13-14 "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. (14) Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
Lamentations 3:26 "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD."
God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. We will be wise to learn to subject our ways and our thoughts to his and wait on him. Paul and Silas waited “certain days” (v. 12) at Philippi, until the Lord opened the way before them to preach the gospel there.
With regard to your soul’s salvation, I beg you, by way of caution, to wait on the Lord. Do not receive a substitute grace or substitute salvation. Do not allow anyone to talk you into a religious profession without the possession of grace. Only God himself can give you life and faith in Christ. Only God can speak peace to your heart.
As I caution you who are lost to wait upon the Lord, so too I caution you to wait on the Lord when it comes to the salvation of others. We sometimes get in a hurry. We want to pick unripe fruit. In spiritual matters, haste is hazardous! We do the souls of men no good, but only positive harm, when we try to manipulate them into a profession of faith.
Regarding all our trials, all our troubles, all our earthly woes, let us wait on the Lord. God’s time is always the best time. Our wisest, most responsible course of action is always to wait upon the Lord.
Isaiah 40:31 "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
3rd, We learn from the story of Lydia’s conversion that the opening of the heart is God’s work. When the Spirit of God works by the Word of God through the preaching of the gospel, chosen, redeemed sinners are converted by God’s sovereign, irresistible grace. This is what happened to Lydia at Philippi, “whose heart the Lord opened” (v. 14). At the appointed time of love…
· God caused the paths of his servant and the chosen object of his grace to cross at Philippi.
· As Paul opened the Scriptures and showed “the way of salvation,” by he public preaching of he gospel, the Lord wrought his wondrous work of grace in Lydia’s heart.
· Do you see how God sovereignly secures the salvation of his elect by the use of the means he has ordained? He never by-passes the use of his appointed means in accomplishing his work of grace. There is no need for him to do so. He is God!
4th, Our God, in his great wisdom and goodness, sovereignly overrules all evil for the salvation and everlasting good of his elect and the glory of his own great name.
Acts 16:16-17 "And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: (17) The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation."
When Balaam hired himself out to curse Israel, God caused the hireling false prophet to bless his people. When Caiaphas the high priest spoke a word intended to consign the Lord of glory to death, the Holy Spirit caused him to speak a prophetic word that fills believing hearts with joy to this day, though he had no consciousness of what he said. And when this damsel cried out, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation," she knew neither God nor his salvation. Yet, the Lord God sovereignly used the witch’s words for much good.
We have no way of knowing what inspired her to say what she did; but we do know what came to pass as the result. Paul cast the demon out of her. When her masters saw that they had lost money because of God’s mercy toward the young witch, they had Paul and Silas thrown into jail. Why did God permit this? The time of mercy had come for the crusty old jailer at Philippi.
Psalms 76:10 "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."
5th, The text before us teaches us that there is one trait, one characteristic that is common to all the servants of the most high God and distinguishes those who serve God from those who do not serve him.
Acts 16:17 "The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation."
Proposition: Those men who are truly the servants of the most high God are those men “which show unto us the way of salvation.”
Knowing the plague of their own hearts, God’s servants faithfully expose the plague in others. Having tasted for themselves that the Lord is gracious, they proclaim his grace.
1 Timothy 1:15 "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."
Having been taught of God, they know that the Lord Jesus Christ alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They have come to him. They have proved for themselves that he is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him. Being sent forth by God himself, with the unction of the Spirit upon them, all God’s servants “show unto us the way of salvation.
Jeremiah 6:16 "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein."
Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Isaiah 28:12 "This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing."
Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
1 Corinthians 2:2 "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
The servants of the most high God show you the way of salvation; but they can only show you the way. They cannot put you in the way. We preach grace; but we cannot communicate grace. Like Joshua and Caleb, who entered into the land of promise, tasted, the fruits of the land, and brought back a faithful report of the good things they had seen for themselves, God’s servants know whom they have believed and give faithful report of that which they know; but they cannot cause you to enter in. They cannot give you faith. That is God’s prerogative alone. Faithful gospel preachers are like…
· Sign Posts on the Road to the City of Refuge.
· The Star Directing the Wise Men the Bethlehem.
Yet, though the servants of the most high God know full well that they have no power to save anyone, they go forth as they have been commanded, to preach the gospel of Christ to every creature, and do so with the same earnestness and zeal as they would if the whole work depended entirely upon them. We know that…
· God has a people in this world, chosen and redeemed, whom he will call and cause to hear and know the joyful sound of his free grace in Christ.
· He will call them, by the gospel we preach, to life and faith in Christ.
All the servants of the most high God depend entirely upon the sovereign will and power of God alone for the success of their labors. God’s servants know that it is not their ability, their power, or their skill that determines the efficacy of their labors, but God’s grace, God’s will, and God’s power.
2 Corinthians 4:7 "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
Isaiah 55:11 "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 "For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: (16) To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?"
2 Corinthians 3:4-6 "And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: (5) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (6) Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
Let me be understood. If I am God’s servant, I faithfully show you the way of salvation as it is set forth in the Word of God. If I do not faithfully show you the way of salvation, if I entertain your immortal soul with any thing else as merrily you drift along to hell, I am not the servant of God, and I am not the servant of your soul.
I am going to wrap this message up by defining from the Scriptures what is meant by “the way of salvation” and what is meant by “showing unto you the way of salvation.”
I. The Way That Seems Right To You Is Not The Way Of Salvation.
Proverbs 12:26 "The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them."
Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Proverbs 16:25 "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Isaiah 28:15-19 "Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: (16) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (17) Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (18) And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. (19) From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report."
2 Corinthians 13:5 "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"
A. The way of salvation is not by the works of the law, or works of religion, or works of righteousness which you may perform.
1. Your works can never satisfy the law and justice of God.
2. If salvation were by your works, or could be attained by your works, then Christ died in vain.
Galatians 3:21 "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law."
3. God has plainly declared that our works can never save us or contribute anything to the work of salvation.
Romans 11:6 "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Titus 3:5 "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
The very best works that we can perform are sin. Our very righteousnesses are an abomination to God, just filthy rags in his sight. We can no more be saved by doing good than we can by doing evil, because the good we do is evil and deserves eternal damnation!
You can no more be saved by keeping the ten commandments than you can by breaking them, because you best efforts at keeping the law are, at best, breaking the law!
You can no more be saved by baptism, church membership, and observing the ordinances of Divine worship than you can by going to some place of carnal amusement, because our very best attempts at worshipping God are full of irreverence and unbelief!
If you cannot be saved by keeping God’s law, observing God’s ordinances, and doing good works, you certainly cannot be saved by walking to the front of a church, kneeling at an altar, or saying what preachers call the sinner’s prayer!
B. The way of salvation is not the exercise of your imaginary free will, your decision for Jesus, or your letting Jesus into your heart!
You cannot even cure a toothache by your free will! Yet, men think that the salvation of their souls and the work and purpose of God hangs upon man’s will. What nonsense!
Salvation is not by our works or our will, but by God’s work and God’s will!
Psalms 115:1 "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast."
2 Timothy 1:9 "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
Romans 9:16 "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
II. The Way Of Salvation Is The Lord Jesus Christ Alone. He Is God’s Salvation!
John 10:9-11 "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (10) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (11) I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
John 11:25 "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."
John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 20:30-31 "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: (31) But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
1 John 5:10-13 "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. (11) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (12) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (13) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
Christ alone is salvation. The only way salvation can be had by us is by looking to, believing on, trusting the Lord Jesus Christ; and the only way we can or will do that is if he gives us the grace and faith to do so.
A. Christ alone brought in everlasting righteousness by his obedience to God.
B. Christ alone satisfied the justice of God for the sins of his people by the sacrifice of himself.
C. Christ alone procured peace and pardon for sinners by his blood.
D. Christ alone obtained eternal redemption for us, when he entered into heaven with is own blood.
E. It is through Christ alone that both grace and glory are given to sinners who deserve death and hell.
This way of salvation revealed in the gospel and faithfully preached and shown to sinners by the servants of the most high God is the only way of salvation that…
· Is agreeable to and honors all the perfections of God’s holy character and is worthy of our great God.
· Is suitable to the needs of poor, guilty, helpless, depraved, and spiritually dead sinners.
· Is able to give sinners a well grounded assurance before God.
2 Timothy 1:12 "For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."
If something must be done by you, be it ever so small, then there is no hope for real sinners. But here is a salvation that drives despair from my wretched soul. Christ says, “ am thy salvation.”
Moreover, this is a way of salvation in which none have ever perished. Salvation that depends upon the sinner cannot last very long. But that salvation which Christ accomplished, which Christ purchased, which Christ performs, which Christ preserves, and which Christ is lasts forever!
Ecclesiastes 3:14 "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him."
John 10:28 "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
III. This Salvation, Which Is The Lord’s, Is In Its Entirety The Work Of God’s Pure, Free, Sovereign Grace.
I will not spend much time on this now, because I intend to preach on this subject Tuesday evening; but I want you to see that salvation is the work of all three of the Divine Persons in the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
A. We see the hand of God the Father in it, planning it and drawing us to Christ.
Ephesians 1:3-6 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."
John 6:44-45 "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (45) It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
B. We see the hand of God the Son in it, purchasing us with his own blood and interceding for us by the merits of his blood in heaven.
Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
1 Peter 2:24 "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:"
C. We see the hand of God the Holy Spirit in this great work, effectually convincing every chosen, redeemed sinner both of his need of Christ and of the efficacy of Christ’s redemptive work.
John 16:8-11 "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on me; (10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."
From beginning to end God’s salvation is God’s work. It shows forth the glory of his grace in Christ. It displays the unceasing love of his heart toward us and the complete devotion of his infinite Being to us.
Jeremiah 32:41 "Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul."
Application: Who are the servants of the most high God? “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.”
I have once more shown you, to the best of my ability, the way of salvation and life in Christ. Salvation is…
· By Grace Alone.
· Through Faith Alone.
· In Christ Alone.
Now, I pray that God, who alone is able to do so, will be pleased to grant to you his salvation in Christ.
· I call on you to repent, praying that God will grant you repentance.
· I call you to faith in Christ, praying that God will give you faith.
· I call you to come to Christ, praying that the most high God, whose servant I am, will graciously and effectually bring you to Christ by the irresistible grace and power of his Holy Spirit, making you willing in he day of his power.
Scripture Reading For Sunday - January 5, 1997
"Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: (2) Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. (3) Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek. (4) And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. (5) And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. (6) Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, (7) After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. (8) And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. (9) And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. (10) And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. (11) Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; (12) And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. (13) And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. (14) And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. (15) And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. (16) And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: (17) The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. (18) And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (19) And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, (20) And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, (21) And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. (22) And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. (23) And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: (24) Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. (25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. (26) And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. (27) And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. (28) But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. (29) Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, (30) And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (31) And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (32) And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. (33) And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. (34) And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."