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Skilled Unbelievers (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
The Truth Network Radio
December 21, 2023 6:00 am

Skilled Unbelievers (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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December 21, 2023 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the book of the Acts


This work in these two cities was not so much outward as it was inward. The people were moved not by signs and wonders, but by truth. And that is the dominant way today that we reach the people with the gospel. You'll find more people that will say, I preached to them and they received it. Then you will find someone say, well, I did a miracle and they received Christ.

It's not the dominant way any longer. Faith by reason from scripture. This is Cross-Reference Radio with our pastor and teacher Rick Gaston. Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville. Pastor Rick is currently teaching through the book of Acts.

Please stay with us after today's message to hear more information about Cross-Reference Radio, specifically how you can get a free copy of this teaching. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in the book of Acts chapter 17 as he begins a brand new message called Skilled Unbelievers. We continue in the book of Acts as we study the first Christians, their lives, and the ministry that was involved along with their lives.

We'll take verses 10 through 21 in our exposition, but we'll read verses 16 through 21, beginning at verse 16 through 21, Acts chapter 17. Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore, he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him, and some said, what does this babbler want to say? Others said he seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Aeropagus saying, may we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak?

You are bringing some strange things to our ears, therefore we want to know what these things mean for all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. Well, he had been chased out of Thessalonica in verse 10, we'll pick that up in a moment, but this morning's message is entitled Skilled Unbelievers. Last week we considered skilled believers and it just worked out that way. A man is born an unbeliever. All humans are born unbelievers until born again and unless born again. But until that time, if they remain in an unbelieving state, as time goes by, they become more skilled at being an unbeliever and these are things we face.

This is what Paul was facing. Psalm 51, behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me. We are born with a nature that is subject to disobeying God. Romans 7 18, for I know that in me that is in my flesh, and the flesh is that part of us in this context, that part of us that is against God. It's natural. It's the sinful part.

He continues reading the whole thing in context. For I know that in me that is in my flesh, nothing good dwells. For to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. And so a person can be skilled in meaningless practices in life if that's what they give themselves to. You reap what you sow and if you sow to the flesh you reap what the flesh has to offer you. And this is of course one reason why we Christians try to spend so much time in the scripture and obeying the Lord and becoming better at serving Christ if we can.

Christ's likeness is what we are after. If we look at verse 21 again, just to again be reminded that these unbelievers were skilled at being unbelievers. There in verse 17, for all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. Well, this is important to me as a Christian because I want to know how Paul dealt with these things.

That's why these lessons are here. These men had been without truth about the true God. They had plenty of things about the fictitious gods that were made up and it didn't serve them well. It did nothing for them.

They would have been just the way they were had they not had these foreign or fake gods. To be good at life without Christ is to fail at life and when Peter said to Jesus, where else can we go? You have the words of life. You have them.

No one else has got them. That was true when Peter spoke it and it's true forever. Unfortunately, many Christians don't really believe that. They believe that if you need if you need to how to go through life, you got to go somewhere else other than the word of God and the people of God and that is unfortunate.

Do believers or man put this way, do unbelievers believe that they are automatically ready to face God? Well, they're all all mixed up. They're entangled in the sin that they're born with.

What are they going to do about that? Well, that's where we come in, of course. That's why we study the word of God. To be built up in Christ, to be more Christ-like, to face our own sin and to keep it in check as best we can and to be used by God to preach the truth to those lost souls around us and that's what we find Paul doing. So we look now at verse 10 of Acts chapter 17. Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When he arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews and so he's chased out of Thessalonica as he was chased out of Philippi before that. He will also be chased out of Berea. He will leave Athens and get to Corinth but that comes later and so here's another escape from another satanic attempt to harm him.

Satan is instigating unbelievers and they have become a violent threat. Looking back at chapter 9 of the book of Acts, then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket. That records his escape from Damascus. My point is that Paul spent his life preaching and avoiding death or beatings in Christ.

This wasn't the first time he had to escape. We hear nothing of the miracles and outward signs in the city he just left, Thessalonica. We hear of the Holy Spirit at work there.

That's going to be the case here at Berea also where he has just arrived. The power of the Holy Spirit moved in the hearts of the people at Thessalonica and in Berea through the preaching of the words. The word of Christ, the word of the Bible. When Paul writes a letter to the Thessalonians, he says, for our gospel did not come to you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. His effective ministry, that efficacious ministry in Thessalonica and Berea was a product of him preaching the word but also his testimony, his lifestyle, how he carried himself, how he himself attempted at the very least to practice what he preached. The miracle of assurance and it is a miracle to know that God has got me. That the grace of God is freely given and it is not given so that I can doubt it but that I can embrace it and that allows God to use me more.

This work in these two cities was not so much outward as it was inward. The people were moved not by signs and wonders but by truth and that is the dominant way today that we reach the people with the gospel. You'll find more people that will say I preached to them and they received it and you will find someone say well I did a miracle and they received Christ.

This is not the dominant way any longer. Faith by reason from scripture and again, 1 Thessalonians and this background, this background is very much part of the story because when we don't have the background we say well we wish we had a little bit more information. Well we've got some here from Thessalonica even though again we're in Berea now but that city that he just left, he's going to write them, these letters we have. He says for from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth. I wish that would be said about me. Because of you the word of God has sounded forth. You didn't bury your lamp. You didn't put it under a bushel but you let your light shine before men that your father would be glorified and we don't have to do this in ostentatious way.

Very cool-headed and calm about the whole thing, poised. He says not only in Macedonia and Achaia but also in every place where your faith toward God has gone out so that we do not need to say anything. The testimony of these newborn Christians in Thessalonica was spreading to people. What do Christians, what do people say after you've left the room? Yeesh.

Man I thought they'd never leave. Talk about loveless or twisted up or self-centered or something else instead of, boy that was just really great what the person was saying or what they do. You say well this puts a lot of pressure on me so that's what life is. Life is all sorts of pressures. If you focus on the pressures you won't get it done but if you focus on the Lord you will overcome. He says when they arrive they went into the synagogue of the Jews it says here in verse 10. I traveled about 45-50 miles about a three-day walk from Thessalonica to Berea and he goes to the synagogue as was his style as was an effective style of his ministry. Can't do that today.

Not easily. He writes to the Romans years later for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes to the Jew first and to the Gentile. And here we see it in action as the proper course of ministry in those days to first go to the Jews and we discussed that in previous sessions. And if I am repeating verses from other sessions I do not apologize. Those verses just don't grow old. There's always something I'm not ashamed of the gospel. It's the power of God. It is the power of God to overcome lies out of hell and there's nothing else that can do it. There's nothing else that you'll ever find that can overcome the lies that are straight out of hell against the character, the person, the truths, the commandments of God. You have to come to the Bible and there is this is where Paul was trying to bring them verse 11.

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Well this is a kingpin verse and you would think and I'll stand and read moments before that this verse would have been one of part of it because it's such an outstanding verse. But that's not the whole story and there's more to other things and the meaning to this verse is on the surface. You can read this and you know just what it means. You don't really need someone to explain it to you.

It comes right out but I'm going to explain it anyway. Now when it says these were more fair-minded or noble in the old King James, these were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica. He's talking about the Thessalonian Jews or attendees of the synagogue in Thessalonica. He's not talking about the Jews in Thessalonica who did believe the preaching and that distinction is important because it's not saying there's a competition you know these are better Jews over here than there. He's just saying the synagogue in Thessalonica gave him great opposition and chased him out of the city though there were Jewish believers as a result of his preaching. He gets to Berea and these Jews who became believers they became believers because they searched the scriptures and that is critical for whether you're Jewish or not.

It's for everyone. These Jews heard what Paul had to say about the Messiah from their Old Testament what we call the Old Testament who's their covenant and they went and checked it. They considered the scripture the final authority on what God was doing and matters of life and as genuine believers they searched the scriptures and this should be the case with genuine believers to this day. This should be the case with anybody who hears the gospel well let me see that in the Bible what the Bible has to say about it. They would look up Paul's Old Testament teachings his prophecies and his types now I mentioned types last session the Old Testament types in the Bible are events or persons or facts that correspond with a New Testament person event or fact and to give you two example Isaac being offered up by his father Abraham is a type of the father offering up his son Jesus Christ on the cross for us the heart of the father to part with the son on behalf of the Godhead and humanity as it expands the type expands the type only captures a part of it and then the truth begins to expand so Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah. Well Lot had to be extracted from Sodom and Gomorrah before the judgment came and this is a type of the rapture of the church which precedes immediately precedes the great tribulation period the believers have to be extracted before the judgment comes and so these are types and they're all over the Old Testament and Paul would have taken types from that Old Testament and said this is speaking of the Messiah because look at his life look what happened here it is in the Old Testament he would not only do types of course prophecies and just direct teachings also the types make it interesting they cause the imagination to work in its proper form not creating imaginary things but to have the imagination begin to think it through very effective to this day verse 12 therefore many of them believed and also not a few of the Greeks prominent women as well as men so he's very effective in the church at Berea amongst the Jews and the Gentile converts to Judaism because when they heard him preach they went and checked it out well isn't that one reason why we bring our Bibles to church so that we can get our head in it too we're not just being preached down to we're all part of this experience of God's Word what did they believe well the same thing he preached in the other synagogues the same thing he preached to the women in Philippi by the river the same thing he preached in Thessalonica the same thing he's preaching here because he doesn't have to come up with new things he has to give them fresh experiences in the existing things it is a mistake to always crave something new that's having your ears tickled oh and that's one of the problems that he's going to face here amongst these the intelligentsia in Athens but he's not there yet so both experienced the Jews and Thessalonica who did not believe the Jews and Berea who did they they both experienced the same teachings like the story of the outlaws on the cross they both experienced the same things made this they had the same observations but they came up with drastically different conclusions it's your call chrysalis man you can either listen and examine it the reason and believe or you can reject it it is up to you but if you're going to reject it may it not be because you are intellectually dishonest which I think you have to be I think you have to lie to yourself to reject the gospel message I think because it forces you to face who you really are the gospel message comes out and say you're messed up before God you are a sinner you break his commandments and there's no escape that's it unless you submit to Christ all our righteousness filthy rags you know if I say if I say you're dirty so that's a bit harsh well that's what the Bible teaches Bible doesn't have any kindness towards sin it doesn't wink at it it confronts it it's very difficult for some human beings to have that happen to them who likes criticism raise your hand I love well I don't mean the giving I mean who likes being criticized for anything years ago I thought I was a an inspector and construction industry and I would inspect all welds welding you know and those welders in that particular union were very proud of their work they took a lot of pride in it and if you joked about who did this oh man you better get ready because they did not fool around and you know when I use these stories I forget that why I was even bringing them up I'm just enjoying it I'm seeing the faces and the experiences is real again but the criticism you know they didn't want that criticism they worked too hard for you to come up and say this is a fail so I learned not to joke with them about their welds holding me off the edge of a 40-story building was part of the incentive that they did not anyway these Bereans leave us an example and not only believers they leave the Christianity example if you're going to be guarded against heresy coming from a pulpit or a radio program or wherever else you go if you're gonna be guarded against that so you're gonna have to search the scriptures you have no choice if you if you want to be protected do diligence investigate and then act on your findings pull the trigger on your choice do something with it verse 13 but when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the Word of God was preached by Paul at Berea they came there also and stirred up the crowds well before I comment on verse 13 I have to go back and add verse 12 as a kingpin verse you could take a whole morning session and preach on it but I just wanted to give the overview of the importance of searching the scriptures to see if things are true or not because the scripture is where is the foundation of our truth now coming back to verse 13 the spirit of Antichrist hard at work sending out his workers again some 40 miles three days journey from Thessalonica to Berea just at the word that hey Paul left here and he's doing the same thing in Berea that he did here he's making converts well Satan wasn't gonna take that lying down the devil hates all human beings the devil hated Hitler and Stalin and all the rest of the evil people he hates them too he just finds them useful to him he hates the good and the bad alike and the world doesn't know this and they won't stumble into it it's up to us to engage them to tell them and we'll come to that when we get to some of the differences and it doesn't take much between street evangelism and face-to-face person-to-person Christianity with that coming attraction you can see which side I lean on well again they they hated Paul preaching they hated the success of it and they did all of this without even caring to look in their Bibles to see if he was right or not and that's why Luke put verse 12 in the search to scriptures to verify it and this this is a repeated story to this day even in Christian circles verse 14 then immediately the brethren sent Paul away to go to the sea but both Silas and Timothy remained there so they're gonna sail them away to Athens Jesus said in Matthew 10 when they persecute you in this city flee to another city there's a time to run and not just be you know a pin cushion or a punching bag for the devil I'm sure Paul was saying oh I'll stay and trust the Lord and others were saying listen Paul we you do you'll be more effective for the kingdom if you can speak to people and and not just die or just spend all of your time recovering from your beatings if you want to be effective in the gospel you we gotta protect you now Titus and Luke where are they because they were part of Paul's entourage earlier well they're still back in Philippi the church there that fledgling church needed leadership and it the story reads highly likely that's where they are and Paul will and Titus will rejoin later and Paul was in the habit of dispatching men at some point we may cover that how many men he would send here and send there there's still other and a able men that will be drawn to him and we don't hear a peep about them huh go back there they just seem to just be off and running with the exception of Apollo's who's an eloquent eloquent speaker of the truth he's gonna push back a little bit and it's very subtle and so is Paul's satire when Paul says oh he'll come when it's convenient we'll get to that later not this morning but here is Silas and Timothy as Paul left Titus and Luke and Philippi he leaves Silas and Timothy and Berea and when he gets about 300 miles to Athens when he gets there he's gonna send for these men he can't do without them is but he is careful to leave leadership because he understands if there is no shepherd the flock will be devoured and in the sense of the heresies will come in the false teachings will come in and one of the proofs of this is John's letters dealing with Gnosticism that had invaded Christianity and now it's gone we got other problems but anyway verse 15 so those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed they departed and so there you go these guys that conducted Paul they were trustworthy and able men also protecting him physically they arrive in Athens together and when he gets to Athens he's going to send back to Berea for Silas and Timothy to come with him with all speed you've been listening to Cross Reference Radio the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville Virginia as we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast today's teaching is available free of charge at our website simply visit that's we'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick you can subscribe at or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-21 06:27:44 / 2023-12-21 06:36:44 / 9

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