Sermon #1363 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: “The Servants of the Most High God”
Text: Acts 16:17
Readings: Mark Henson and Gary Baker
Subject: One Distinguishing Characteristic of God’s Servants
Date: Friday Evening – September 3, 1999
20th Annual Sovereign Grace Bible Conference
Grace Baptist Church of Danville - Danville, KY
Tape # Conference Tapes -- 1999
What a privilege we have before us this weekend. It will be our privilege to sit here and hear the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ preached, I trust, in the power of God the Holy Spirit to our hearts, by the servants of the most high God. Oh, may God be pleased to meet with us, speak to us through these faithful men, and pour out his Spirit upon us, for the glory of Christ.
It is so difficult to know how best to open a meeting like this; but I believe the Lord has given me the message for the occasion. The title of my message tonight 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 I am done, 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.
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.
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.”
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 urge 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.
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 the 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 great and glorious 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.
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.
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.
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 to all who will hear them.
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.
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.
· The Pole which Held Up the Brazen Serpent.
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, loved, chosen and redeemed by him, 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.
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.
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.
3. God has plainly declared that our works can never save us or contribute anything to the work of salvation.
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. 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!
II. The Way Of Salvation Is The Lord Jesus Christ Alone. He Is God’s Salvation!
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.
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!
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 this will, I am sure, be addressed (in one way or another) by each of the other men who will preach to us during the conference; 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 his plan and purpose of grace in predestination, securing salvation for us and effectually drawing us to Christ.
B. We see the hand of God the Son in salvation, purchasing us with his own blood and interceding for us by the merits of his blood in heaven.
C. We see the hand of God the Holy Spirit in this great work of salvation and grace, effectually convincing every chosen, redeemed sinner both of his need of Christ and of the efficacy of Christ’s redemptive work.
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.
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.