All who were destined for eternal life believed.
— Acts 13:48
“Acts” is short for activity or action, and in the book of Acts no one engages in more activity and takes more action to share the gospel than the apostle Paul. Beyond the book of Acts are the Pauline epistles, 13 in number, which underline the fact that the greatest evangelist in biblical history is also the greatest theologian.
Sharing the gospel with others requires deliberate activity and decisive action. Thinking about God and how he saves people with the gospel requires theological reflection, best conducted with a clear mind and a commitment to the inspiration of Scripture. This Bible passage takes us to both places, where supreme human effort is required to spread the gospel, and the sovereign grace of God is required to bring people in.
People are saved by great human effort. The travels and labors of the missionaries in Acts 13 were so hard that one of them quit his job and went home. Leaving home and hearth to share the gospel with others in other places is hard work and requires determined human effort. This is true whether your missionary journey is a lifetime (like Paul’s), a companion’s ride (like Mark’s), or an hour-long visit with a friend or neighbor to tell them about Jesus and invite them to the church.
What if Paul had quit too? What if Barnabas and the other companions had decided that the Pisidians weren’t worth sharing the Gospel? What if our church and our sister churches stop making every effort to tell the lost and churchless people of Hot Springs about the saving grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ? People are saved by great human effort, the hard work of Christians telling others about Jesus Christ.
People are saved by important human decisions. Once you have the courage to share the gospel with another person, the ball of salvation is placed in that person’s court. God has called us to serve, not to steal, not to argue, not to pressure, just to preach the word and spread the Gospel. Those we serve must decide on their return.
God in his sovereignty granted his creatures the freedom to make their own decisions. The truth is, however, that mankind freely and willfully rejects Jesus Christ, Christianity, and the Christian church. On the other hand, praise the Lord, there are always a few, a few, the remnant, who when served with a gospel summons believe and trust, repent and follow , and become more than just decisions, they become disciples.
People will be saved as long as Christians choose to share Jesus Christ with others, and as long as others choose to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Human effort and personal choices matter to God, but not as much as God matters to us.
People are saved by the grace of God. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:23; Romans 10:13). But, the Lord called upon must be the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ alone. When they call on the Lord, they must call on faith, and faith alone. And, said faith must be in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, alone!
Theologically, there is something that precedes the practical human decision to have faith and trust in Christ. It is the grace of God. Grace is first in the order of salvation. And grace is God alone to give.
God chooses to save people before they choose to be saved (John 15:16; Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4). God’s decree to save saved people on earth was done before anything else on earth was done (Revelation 13:8, 17:8). And when all the dust settles from all the activities and actions undertaken to preach the Gospel to all, and the decisions have been made to accept the Gospel by some, the bottom line according to God’s grace is: ” All who were named believed in eternal life.”
Because of this, some people think there is no point in praying, preaching, and sharing the gospel, because God is going to save their chosen ones anyway. But God doesn’t save people anyway. God saves people in his own way. His way is for His people to make every effort to share the gospel. His way is for you to make a free and voluntary decision to obey God and the gospel. And if you are saved, it is because of the sovereign grace of God, who has made a divine appointment with you.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]