Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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EASTER 6 – May 26, 2019 – Acts 16:9-15 “How Christ’s Kingdom Grows”

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the first lesson just read, from Acts 16.  We begin with prayer.

Dear fellow disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

  • The objective of God sending His Son to be our Savior as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world [Jn. 1:29], is to bring all human beings back into fellowship with Himself. He wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [1 Tim. 2:4]  Christ died for all, and He is the blood atonement for our sins and also for the sins of the whole world.  [1 Jn. 2:2]  So God is now fully reconciled to us and urges all people to be reconciled to Him, through faith in Jesus Christ. [2 Cor. 5:18-21]
  • The Church and the ministry have been charged with this same objective, and knowing what a huge blessing it is to be at peace with God and to have the assurance of eternal life, we surely also want to share it with others. All Christians are favor of the church growing, and are willing to do what they can to promote growth.
  • In the past 30 years or so, the congregations in America have generally been shrinking. This has led to a lot of worry and hand-wringing within the various churches.  It has also led some people within the church to begin innovating, and trying to find ways to lure people back into the church – by means other than the Gospel, and often compromising some of the truths taught in Holy Scripture that are repugnant to people today. 
  • In that we might also be tempted to do such things, and whereas people in these other churches are often condescending toward us, it is important for us to see “HOW CHRIST’S KINGDOM GROWS.” This is revealed in our text.  First,


I.  Christ’s Kingdom Grows By The Preaching Of The Gospel


Text:  “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”


Statement:  Now we might be thrown off a little by the fact that Paul received a vision from God instructing him.  We do not need any such vision, for Jesus instructs us to “make disciples of all nations.” [Mt. 28:19]  Jesus even prescribes how we are to go about this “church growth.”  We are to be baptizing people in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching all things that Christ has taught us in His Word, the Holy Scripture.  The most important of these teachings is the Gospel, the good news that Christ has taken away our sins and the sins of the whole world, providing us with eternal life and salvation!  And we see, in the example of Lydia, that “preaching the gospel” includes baptism.  For as Peter explained in the Book of Acts, baptism provides us with the forgiveness of sins [Acts 2:38].


Application:  This is precisely “HOW CHRIST’S KINGDOM GROWS.”  After all, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” [Rom. 10:17]  So Paul also proclaims:  “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” [Rom. 1:16]  And as we see in our text, all that church growth requires is:


II.  By Willing Servants Of God’s Word


Text:  “So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia. . . .  We sat and spoke to the women who had come together.”


Statement:  Put yourself in Paul’s circumstances, and you will understand what an awkward and uncomfortable thing this must have been.  But these servants of God were willing not only to travel a great distance, but also to seek out an audience and commence with preaching the message of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus. 


Application:  I must say that this is also extremely difficult for us.  It kind of defies social norms and etiquette.  But there is nothing offensive in “giving reason for the hope that is within us,” so long as we do so “with gentleness and respect.” [1 Pet. 3:15]  But we must also do so with integrity, and in full accord with the Word of God, remembering that the church grows:


III.  As God Opens Hearts To The Gospel


Text:  “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God.  The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  And . . . she was baptized, and her household as well.”


Statement:  You see the dynamic of the church growing.  The gospel is preached by servants of God’s Word, God opens hearts and grants faith, then there is baptism and the evangelizing of the household. 


Application:  We must resist the temptation to think that simply because people reject the gospel that we must somehow change tactics and strategy.  Not at all!  Jesus met with much rejection, but remained a faithful preacher of God’s Word.  The prophets often met with rejection – and persecution; but they continued to steadfastly preach the Word of God.  Likewise, the apostles also were not universally accepted.  Many of them died as martyrs.  It is not as bad for us.  We likely will not be killed or even beaten physically for sharing our faith, sharing the gospel of God’s Word!  So let us be bold in sharing the love of Jesus with others. 


Transition:  And we see the effects of the grace and love of God on those who believe.  And it is an important part of the gospel ministry and the growth of God’s kingdom that:


IV.  By God’s People Of Faith Who Provide Support For This Gospel Ministry


Text:  “And after she [Lydia] was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’  And she prevailed upon us.”


Statement:  Not all preach and teach the gospel.  Not all can bear winsome witness.  Not all can contradict and disprove all the objections that sinful people raise against the gospel and the Word of God.  But God’s Word encourages all Christians to be hospitable and supportive of others, and especially to those who are fellow believers and workers in God’s kingdom.


Application:  Our hospitality and generosity and support of the ministry of God’s Word often comes through our offerings, and our service to the congregation and to others.  Each month our board of Deacons is at work providing love and service to those in need.  They do so with our contributions and support.  Likewise, every week we gather – not at the gate to the riverside, but in the fireside room, classrooms in the lower level, and here in the sanctuary – to preach and teach the gospel, the Word of God.  This is how the church grows, both numerically and spiritually.


Conclusion:  So let us not grow complacent or panic when it seems the gospel is not bearing fruit.  And let us take great care and caution that we not succumb to temptations to grow the church in other ways, watering down God’s Word, entertaining, or compromising with worldly ways. 


We do care about others.  We care so much so that we dare not change a single jot or tittle of God’s Word of love.  We do not love others more than God does, and He is the One Who has given us His Word.  Let us remember what Jesus said about this:  “If anyone loves Me he will keep My Word.” [John 14:23] 


May God grant us joy to be a part of His mission of bringing people back to Him, back to His love, by the gospel of His salvation.  Amen.


Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting. Amen.