Based on: Acts 13:38-49
What is your favorite color combination? Is it purple and gold or is it green and gold? If the mention of those color combinations don’t immediately bring to mind a couple of professional football teams, don’t worry, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Even if you don’t follow a particular sports team, I’m sure that you understand and perhaps have seen how being a fan of one particular team can cause some rivalry between people. It often involves a friendly teasing that says, “You and I are different. You are for that team and I am for this one, and my team is better.”
Allegiance to a particular team can create division, and usually, when we talk about sports, it is just for fun. As we look at Acts 13 today, we, unfortunately, see a division that is not just for fun, but is a very serious division. The division is based on Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Jesus Christ still divides people today. Is he your Savior or not? It is a matter of eternal life and death and you must be on one side or the other. You cannot be in the middle or simply choose not to answer the question.
In Acts chapter 13, we hear about the Apostle Paul and his companions preaching to the Jews in Pisidion Antioch. The people who heard the message were divided. They weren’t divided about Paul. They weren’t divided between Jews or non-Jews. The were divided on Jesus Christ. And they were divided on Jesus Christ because he is the light that has dawned on those living in the land of the shadow of death. He is the light of the world.
That was exactly the point of Paul’s sermon that day. Listen to his message, “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”
Some who heard that message from Paul were moved. They wanted to hear more and they told their friends. The next week many people came to the synagogue to hear Paul preach about this forgiveness in Christ, and some of the Jews were jealous. “Are these people now going to receive God’s favor because of this Jesus who died? Many of these people never followed the law of Moses. Are they now going to slip right on in and receive forgiveness without doing any work? How dare they treat God’s law so lightly.”
Perhaps those Jews thought they had worked hard to keep those rules and regulations. Perhaps they thought they had kept the law well enough to earn salvation, or at least better than the others who were there. Perhaps they thought God’s law was being set aside. In any case they didn’t understand that the purpose of God’s law was to make it painfully clear that they needed a Savior. We too need the Light of the world.
Yet, we shouldn’t look too harshly upon those Jews. We are guilty of the same offense. Do you ever get jealous? If you see someone in church who you know has not lived a very Christian life, does it bother you that they receive the very same assurance of forgiveness that you do, perhaps even stand next to you at the Lord’s Supper? Do you feel good about the things you have done and think God is also pleased by your actions? Perhaps you think you are pretty good, at least compared to some. Those things do not hold on to the forgiveness of Christ, but instead rely on the law.
When you are confronted with the Light of the world, the light exposes who you really are. You must deal with the fact that you have sin that needs to be taken away. Not only must you admit that you have sin, but you must admit that your sin is so horrendous, so hideous, so great, that it took God shedding his blood as the Passover Lamb to wash away your sin.
What will you do? It is true that the good news of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus causes division. When the Light of the world shines, you are either in that light or you are in the darkness. Those who reject the good news of forgiveness, as Paul says, “do not consider [themselves] worthy of eternal life.” They are “scoffers” who will perish, and it will be their own doing.
The only other option is to believe in Jesus as your Savior. This means that God works a miracle in you, that the Holy Spirit creates faith in Jesus who has taken away your sin. This is completely God’s work and for it he receives all glory.
This is great news! Instead of worrying if we have been good enough, we know Jesus was good enough for us. Instead of fear of punishment because we haven’t kept the law, we are relieved because Jesus was punished for us. We have been forgiven for those sideways glances at people because we thought they were not as good as us. We have been forgiven for every time we compare ourselves to God’s law and fail to see the magnitude of our sin. That is the message of Jesus, the message that causes division, the message of forgiveness.
There is an excellent response to this forgiveness. We hear in Acts that when the Gentiles heard about forgiveness “they were glad and honored the word of the Lord.” How do we honor the Word of the Lord? We honor it by wanting to hear more; just as those who heard Paul’s message and believed. Even after the service was over, they followed Paul and Barnabas around, eager to hear more about this forgiveness.
Forgiveness through the Light of the world – it is a wonderful message and yet, a very divisive message. By God’s grace and blessing we are on the side of that division that stands in the light. May we always honor the word of the Lord by continuing to hear that word of forgiveness proclaimed to us.