Acts 5

I’m trying to prepare Sunday’s message earlier in the week, so I have time to digest it, mull over it, and know what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it. I’ve read through all four sermons Piper has on Acts 5. I’ve also listened to the first of three sermons John MacArthur preached on Acts 5. What’s interesting about these sermons is their age. The Piper sermons were preached in 1991. MacArthur’s are even older. Way older….they were preached way back in 1972. The church must have had a nice budget and invested in some quality recording gear, because the audio quality is really good, as if I’m hearing it on the radio today.

What I’ve noticed in these sermons is that both Piper and MacArthur at times do not use the text that much. Piper’s first one does. It’s a more straightforward sermon that follows the text and expounds upon what is happening. But in the other ones, Piper seems to want to talk about a certain issue that the church is facing and mold the sermon around his points. There’s nothing wrong about that; it’s just hard to gain insight that I might need such as historical background, insights into the original Greek, and cross-references. I know his manuscripts are a little different from the message he actually preaches. Reading words on a page is very different from hearing it orated, which is also different from seeing and hearing the preacher in person. For some reason, when I listened to MacArthur’s sermon, nothing stuck out to me that much. As passionate as his preaching was, there was nothing that convicted me that much. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was because I was listening with earphones with no person to look at at the pulpit. Was it because it was so polished that everything seemed to blur together? There were never any parts where MacArthur paused to examine another text; he just quoted and referenced them throughout the sermon.

That worries me, because I want LEM to be convicted and challenged. If I myself am finding it hard to get excited, then how will I get them excited?

I did read something that I thought I’d share. Piper commented on the explosion of Christianity in Latin America, about how even though the theologies that are pushing the movement aren’t the most orthodox or biblical, he still rejoices that the gospel is spreading.

As much as my personality would like it, and as much as the love of truth yearns for it, it will probably not happen: that is, the finishing of the Great Commission and completion of God’s purposes on this planet before his return will probably not happen only through people who think just like I do. It seems as though God is going to use hundreds of different denominations and thousands of different forms and styles of Christianity to finish the Great Commission.

You heard me celebrate last week the phenomenal spread of the Christian movement in Latin America. Well most of that spread has been through the work of churches that are doctrinally Pentecostal and Arminian. Now I think the classic Pentecostal understanding of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a distinct second experience signified by tongues is wrong. And I think that Arminianism, with its failure to reckon with the sovereignty of God in salvation, is wrong. So how do I celebrate this spread of wrong teaching in Latin America?

Well I don’t celebrate the spread of wrong teaching. What I celebrate is that the name of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed and exalted. His deity, his sinless life, his atoning death, his bodily resurrection, his reign in heaven, the reality of the Spirit, salvation by faith, and the triumph of God are being spread with power. And therefore I think God is in it.

In other words, God mercifully uses his erring children. He has no other kind. As J.I. Packer says, God often honors the needle of truth in a haystack of error. All of us see through a glass darkly for now. Perfection is not required of us for God’s favor either in life or in doctrine. Wrong teaching hurts the church. Some wrong teaching can destroy the church. But there is no perfect church. And therefore the only Christian movement in the world is an imperfect one. And if we are going to celebrate at all, we are going to celebrate the work of God in imperfect people with imperfect ideas.

Head and heart. Passion and compassion. Truth and grace. Confrontation and celebration.

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One response to this post.

  1. interesting stuff sam
    i hope your sermon today went well on acts 5. i think piper and macarthur might have molded it to the church sometimes because thats what they need to hear to be convicted and move the church more into a better christ-glorifying church. but youre right, the text = super important especially in your case. still praying for you man. and thanks for sharing what piper said on the 2nd half of this entry.
    as long as christ is preached =]

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