April 24, 2016

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

First Lesson; Revelation 21:1-5

Gospel Lesson; John 13:31-35

Sermon Text; Acts 13:44-52

The Word of God we will focus on for today is taken from Acts, chapter 13, looking at verses 44 to 52.

And He carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed – on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


The events of our text for today happened during Paul's first missionary journey. When Paul began his first missionary journey, he left Antioch in Syria, traveled to the island of Cyprus, where he stayed for a short time. Then, he went to what is now present day Turkey, arriving in Attalia and Perga. Then, he traveled north to a city known as Antioch, in Pisidia, or Pisidian, Antioch. That is where the events of our text for today take place.

It is right before our text that Paul and Barnabas did something that became his modus operandi. Paul would always go to the Jewish Synagogue on the Sabbath Day. It was there that he would share God's Word with them. On the Saturday before our text, Paul did that. He went to the synagogue. The Word of God was read, and Paul was asked to stand up, and share a few words with the people. And so, he did that. He went all the way back into The Old Testament scriptures, and he reviewed a lot of it for them. He talked about

       -how God's people had been slaves in Egypt for four hundred years,

       -how God had freed them from slavery,

       -and, how they had traveled through the wilderness for forty years. But, God led them to the Promised Land of Canaan, just like He said.

God provided rulers for them, known as judges. When they asked for a king, God gave them a king. Saul was their first king. After Saul, was King David. It is from King David that the Messiah came.

Right before Jesus was born, God provided a forerunner. He was John the Baptist. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.

       -Not only was Jesus born.

       -Not only did Jesus die to pay for our sins.

       -But, God did not let His Holy One see decay. God raised His Son, Jesus from the dead.

Paul concluded his message that day by saying this (this is right before our text). He said,

“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.

Take care that what the prophets had said

does not happen to you.”

So, what was the message Paul was proclaiming? He was proclaiming salvation was through Christ. Prior to this in the synagogue, here is what the Jews would have proclaimed. They would have been talking about The Law of Moses, and that one day the Messiah would come.

Well, now Paul has something new to share with them, because the Messiah has come! Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies of The Old Testament. Jesus Christ is here, and Jesus has fulfilled The Old Testament Law of Moses.

Communication back then didn't happen as quickly as it happens today. When the music icon, Prince, died this past week, everybody heard about it on social media, immediately. But, back in those days, it took a long time for word to get from one part of the country to another part of the country. Here, Paul and Barabbas were bringing this message of salvation through Christ to another part of the world.

So, as we get into our text for today, we see what the result of just one message was, and the result of one week of mission work, as Paul and Barabbas were sharing God's Word with the people.

Our first verse for today says it was basically standing room only in the synagogue, because almost the whole city showed up to hear this message Paul had to share with the people.

So, with that in mind today, I would like to address my message to you, as ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles’.

In doing so, I will be looking at the message Paul proclaimed.

I am going to be looking at something known as 'The Formula of Concord – The Solid Declaration'.

I am going to talk about telephones.

I am going to close today by talking about George Washington, Peter Miller, and Michael Midman.

As Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, in Pisidian, here they were at the synagogue, proclaiming the message of salvation through Christ, to the people. On the second Saturday, which was the Sabbath, here is the message Paul shared with the people. He quoted a passage from the book of Isaiah, chapter 47. In that chapter, he is talking about the servant of the LORD. That passage is a direct reference to Jesus, the Messiah. Here is what it says in Isaiah.

“Is it too small a thing for you to be my servant (speaking of Jesus) to restore the tribes of Jacob, and to bring those of Israel I have kept? I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Well, Jesus is the fulfillment of that portion from Isaiah. Forty days after Jesus was born, and His parents presented Him at the temple in Jerusalem, Simeon knew it. Simeon was told by God he would not die, until he had seen the LORD's Christ. It is Simeon who quotes that passage from Isaiah, talking about how Jesus is that fulfillment.

“My eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared before the sight of all people.

A light for revelation to the Gentiles.”

We sing that after many of our Communion Services, here at Holy Cross. We talk about this light for the Gentiles, which Jesus has fulfilled for us. Just part of that we say,

“You have prepared

before the face of all people,

a light to lighten to the Gentiles,

and the glory of your people, Israel.”

Well, what was the reaction? As Paul shared those two messages, what was the reaction of the people in the synagogue on that Sabbath Day? There were two reactions.

       -The reaction of the Jews was that they were filled with jealousy. They spoke contradicting words against Paul, and they were reviling him. The Greek word there is 'blasphemountes'. That is where we get our English word 'blaspheme'. They were blaspheming Paul, and hurling insults at him, because of the message he was proclaiming.

       -On the other hand, what was the reaction of the Gentiles? The verbs from our text say, “They began rejoicing and they believed the message that Paul had shared.”

Same message, but different reaction.

After Martin Luther died, and after Philip Melanchthon died, some time after the Lutheran Reformation began in 1517, the church fathers knew a new document needed to be written, because there were fragments that were starting to break the church apart. So, they wrote The Formula of Concord, in 1577. The shorter version is known as The Epitome. The longer version is known as The Solid Declaration. In The Solid Declaration, talking about how it is we are saved, talking about election, there is a paragraph that quotes our text for today. It talks about as God's Word is preached, as the message goes forth, what the reaction is to that. I want to read to you that paragraph.

“For inasmuch as our nature has been corrupted by sin, and is worthy of, and subject to God's wrath and condemnation, God owes to us neither the Word, the Spirit, nor grace. When He bestows these gifts out of grace, we often thrust them from us, and make ourselves unworthy of everlasting life. This His righteous well-deserved judgment He displays in some countries, nations, and persons, in order that when we are placed along side of them, and compared with them, (and found to be almost similar to them), we may learn the more diligently to recognize, and praise God's pure, immense, unmerited, grace in the vessels of His mercy.

You see, who is salvation for?

Salvation is for all people.

Scripture is very clear. 1 Timothy 2 says,

“God wants all to be saved,

and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Which gets me to talking about telephones. When I was growing up, we had two telephones in our house. There was a white telephone on the wall in the kitchen. There was a black telephone in the hallway in the basement.

If the phone rang, there was one of two places you could go to answer the phone. You could run to the kitchen to answer the white telephone, or you could run to the basement to answer the black telephone.

If you wanted to make a call, (you would get permission to use the telephone). Then, you would go to one of those two phones, the white one, or the black one. And rotary style, you would dial the number to talk to the person you wanted to visit with.

You couldn't go anywhere, because you were attached to the wall. You couldn't walk around the house. You couldn't walk around the backyard. You couldn't drive in your car. You were where the phone was.

Today is different, isn't it? Many of you who are reading this, have a phone in your pocket, or in your purse. Things are different. We aren't attached to a wall, anymore. We can walk around the backyard. We can drive in our car, hands free. You don't even have to dial the number, anymore. You just hit one button in your contacts, and you are connected with a person.

There has been a change in technology, just as there was a change in the message Paul was proclaiming. Christ was the fulfillment of The Old Testament Messiah. Jesus had fulfilled The Old Testament Law of Moses. And, it is through Christ that we have salvation.

What was a result of the message Paul proclaimed? Some people in the city of Antioch, and Pisidia didn't like that. They forced Paul and Barnabas to leave Antioch, and Pisidia.

And so, Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off of their feet, and went to Iconium, which is a four or five day journey on foot, to go to the next town to share God's Word with the people there.

But, for others who were remaining in the city, whether it was some of the Jews, or many of the Gentiles, as our text for today ends, what was their response? It says, “They were filled with joy and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, because salvation had come to them.” Paul and Barnabas were a light to the Gentiles.

Which gets me today to close on Peter Miller, George Washington, and Michael Midmon.

Back in the days when George Washington was in Valley Forge, he was a general. Many of his men were starving, and sick because of the cold winter.

There was a local pastor by the name of Peter Miller, who had reached out to General Washington. He had shared food with him, and his people. And, he had provided his church to be like the first American Red Cross, providing medical attention to his men.

Well, most of General Washington's men survived the winter. Time went on, and General Washington became president. The day came, when his old friend Peter Miller showed up. Peter Miller was asking George Washington, the president of the United States, if he would pardon a man by the name of Michael Midmon who was accused of being a trader, right up there with Benedict Arnold. He was going to be put to death for treason. Here Peter Miller was pleading with his friend, the president, to please pardon Michael Midmon of his charge of treason.

Well, President Washington was moved by his friend, Peter Miller's words, but he said, “It wouldn't be right for me to grant this pardon, just because Michael Midmon is a friend of yours.”

Peter Miller said, “Friend? Michael Midmon is not my friend. He is my greatest enemy. Michael Midmon, he reviles me. Every time we walk by each other on the street, he spits in my face. He is not my friend. He is my enemy. But, I ask you, pardon him.”

In the annuals of history, that day has become known as the day President Washington cried. He was so moved by what his friend, Peter Miller, was asking, that he granted the pardon, and asked that Peter Miller take that pardon in his own hands, so that Michael Midmon would not be put to death by hanging.

Dear friends in Christ, you and I have been pardoned.

We have been pardoned.

We didn't deserve it. We have sinned against God by thought, by word, and deed. We don't deserve God's grace, or His mercy. And yet, it is our Savior, Jesus, who has gone before the Father on our behalf. God has pardoned you of your sin. God has pardoned me of my sin. Not because of what we have done, but because of what our Savior, Jesus, has done for us.

       -Jesus lived for us.

       -Jesus died for us.

       -Jesus rose for us.

And, Jesus is the fulfillment of The Old Testament prophesy of the Messiah. He is the fulfillment of The Old Testament Law of Moses.

So, what can we take away from our text for today? Well, who is salvation for? It is for all people. It is not only for Jews, but it is also for Gentiles. I think I can say this with confidence. If it is not 100%, it is close to that, because most of us who are here today, if not all, are Gentiles. The light of salvation has come to you, and to me.

Today, my prayer for us is twofold.


Help me to be a light to those people who are around me now.


Help me to be a light of salvation for those who I will be around in the future.