Acts 14:1 When Paul and Barnabas arrived at Iconium, the same thing happened there. They went, as they always did, to the synagogue and preached to the people with such power that a large crowd of both Jews and non-Jews believed. 2 Some of the Jews refused to believe, and they began to poison the minds of the non-Jews to discredit the believers. 3 Yet Paul and Barnabas stayed there for a long time, preaching boldly and fearlessly about the Lord. Many trusted in the Lord, for he backed up his message of grace with miracles, signs, and wonders performed by the apostles. (The Passion Translation)
I’m sure some of you have a memory of things prior to August 6, 1945. I’m not going to crack a bunch of “old” jokes – I am going to set the stage for Jim Class this week.
August 6th was the day the first atomic bomb exploded on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, also in Japan. This essentially ended World War II, but at what cost?
It was Japan that attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941(“a day that will live in infamy.”) which ultimately resulted in the entrance of the USA into WWII. But were the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the only way to end things? (A thought for us all to contemplate.)
I want you to think about something that isn’t usually brought up in discussions about WWII. Think about the meaning and understanding of the word explosion and bomb. Think about how the meaning of those words changed on August 6, 1945. There was a complete shift in the meaning of the word explosion, and how people viewed “bombing.”
Foreign policy completely changed in the world once that type of devastation was witnessed. Many say the cold war began in earnest when people realized the level of destruction mankind had potentially reached. The most powerful countries in the world, from that day forward, became the ones with nuclear capabilities.
The point I want to make is that when the Jewish people heard the word grace applied in the way that Paul used it toward God, it was like a bomb going off.
They had never had a personal relationship with God, and they didn’t understand Him to be approachable. Everything changedwith Jesus.
They no longer had to go through the rabbi or the priest or any other clergy to have contact with God – clergy still played a vital role in the life of a Christian, but God’s people could go directly to Him on their own.
The people of Paul’s day were amazed that God was approachable, that He wanted to have contact with His people, and that there was access to Him. Following the Day of Pentecost and the missional movement of God’s people in the first century church, the word grace began to take on a new meaning.
Have you ever done something that you knew you shouldn’t have done? And worst of all, your mom knew, and you knew the next time you saw her you were going to get it!
So, you avoided her as long as you possibly could. You stayed after school longer than you needed, you took the long way home, and you stopped along the way – throwing rocks and kicking cans – just to avoid the inevitable confrontation that you knew was coming.
You went in the backdoor and snuck into your bedroom, put on your headphones, and cranked some Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, or Black Sabbath – Oh, wait, that’s what I did. (I’m sure those of you reading Jim Class this week went straight to God and asked forgiveness and then went and confessed everything to your parents.)
But that moment came when you couldn’t put it off any longer and you had to meet her face to face – all you had done by avoiding her was increase your anxiety level, which made it all the harder to approach her. But when you finally got up the nerve to even be in the same room, all she did was give you a big hug and tell you she loved you and not to do it again.
It was like a “grace” bomb went off. All the anxiety and stress simply melted away in the loving arms of your mother. And the echo of her loving words, “I love you,” or “I forgive you,” warmed you and help to steel your resolve.
That is exactly what God does when we confess our sins (the woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11). This woman thought that she was going to die. She knew the law, whether she was Jewish or not, she knew the penalty for what she was doing. But Jesus said, I love you, don’t let it happen again.
John 8:11 And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go [k]and sin no more.” (NKJV)
That is grace experienced. That is God giving us a big hug, and telling us he loves us and not to do it again!
Grace is not a license to sin!
Too many times we take the, “Oh, there’s grace for that – I can do whatever I want as long as I’m a Christian” attitude.
I know God is a forgiving God and that he sent Jesus to die in my place, so my sins don’t ruin me. But there is that little matter of repentance (turn around, make a change). He told the woman caught in adultery, go and sin no more.
Using God’s grace as a license to sin can be very revealing. I can show how, at times, Christians may not know who God really is (depending on the situation, we all face this from time to time) and, as a result, don’t fully understand what He has done for them.
If you are a Christian and you don’t know God very well, you need to take the time to get to know Him, through His Word and time spent in prayer and meditation, and in fellowship with other Christians. Then you can get a better understanding of what He has truly done for you, and what grace truly is.
Grace is not a license to sin; it is freedom from sin!
Acts 14: 1 The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. 2 Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. 3 But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. (The New Living Translation)
Arriving at an understanding of what God’s grace is doesn’t happen overnight.
“But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord.” (Acts 14:3, NLT)
Verse three of Acts 14 tells us that the apostles stayed and preached this message for a while. That they were bold in their words concerning the grace of God.
This is likely because of the newness of what they were hearing. I believe that when the message of grace – “God’s unmerited favor” – began to spread it was truly like an explosion.
That explosion, carried by word of mouth and through the scriptures, not the splitting of the atom or the manipulation of hydrogen, brings life and hope in a way that could have only been accomplished through the cross of Jesus Christ!