Billy Graham has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—over 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. Hundreds of millions more have been heard the message of Christ through television, video, film and web casts.I’ve been inspired by reading Billy Graham’s autobiography, Just As I Am. In 1953 Graham was doing a series of evangelistic meetings in the Dallas Cotton Bowl. In his own words he recalls:
“One night my preaching did not seem to have spiritual depth or power, although a number of people did come forward at the Invitation. After the meeting, John [Bolten, who was a close and trusted friend of Graham’s] and I took a walk together, and he confronted me.
“‘Billy,’ he said, ‘you didn’t speak about the Cross. How can anyone be converted without having at least one single view of the Cross where the Lord died for us? You must preach about the Cross, Billy. You must preach about the blood that was shed for us there. There is no other place in the Bible where there is greater power than when we talk or preach about the Cross.’
“Graham writes, “At first I resisted his rebuke. The Cross and its meaning were more often than not, a part of my sermons. But that night I could not sleep, and before morning came I knew he was right. I made a commitment never to preach again without being sure that the Gospel was as complete and clear as possible, centering on Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead for our salvation.”
That commitment to constantly preaching the cross did two things for Billy Graham: it brought him constant criticism from so-called intellectuals; and it resulted in revival and conversions wherever he went.
During Graham’s life he had to wrestle from time to time with feelings of inadequacy. In addition to the criticism he faced, he sometimes felt insufficient to preach at campuses such as Princeton and other prestigious universities since he did not have an advanced degree and had never been to Seminary.
So, Billy Graham had to be convicted to preach the cross. Today, let’s look at a passage when the Apostle Paul preaches a sermon and let’s break it down because we will see that he preaches the whole Gospel. Paul does not budge on anything. Paul does preach the cross. Paul preaches the death, burial and the resurrection. Paul also challenges the people to an application.
Let’s read Acts 13:13-41 and my theme today is the whole Gospel is critical.
13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.
“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
“‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’
34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,
“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
35 So it is also stated elsewhere:
“‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’
36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
“‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’”
In verses 13-25 Paul begins with the foundation.
Now this is not to say that we always must begin with the Old Testament. But when declaring the Gospel we must be very wary of taking short cuts and not giving someone the whole Gospel.
Now, if you have been following along in my sermons on Acts, then this sounds familiar. Stephen preached a similar sermon in Acts 7. They all preached the whole Gospel.
Verses 17-25 are Old Testament history. Verse 17 we see that God chose. Later we see that God found David in verse 22.
We see an emphasis on God as sovereign.
The foundation for our faith is in the Old Testament. This does not mean that we must read through the Old Testament every day, but do not neglect the Old Testament.
In sharing the Gospel this is simple: God created us to be with Him. Yet, Our sins separated us from God and sins cannot be removed by good works.
In verse 25 Paul brings in John the Baptizer.
They would have known of him. I love how John the Baptist is quoted in verse 25: John recognized that he was not the Messiah, but the Messiah is to come.
John recognized that he was not worthy to unstrap the shoes of the Messiah.
Only slaves could unstrap shoes.
In verses 26-41 we see the emphasis on the death, burial, resurrection and application.
In verse 26 Paul addresses the people again as Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles. He is readdressing them.
Paul now moves in to talk about Jesus.
I mentioned Billy Graham and the cross.
Paul says that Jesus was executed without proper grounds for a sentence. (verse 28)
Paul tells them of the burial and the resurrection. (verses 28-30 and 33-34)
Paul emphasizes forgiveness of sins (verse 38)
Notice that Paul does not leave out sin. (verse 38)
Notice that Paul boldly preached when given opportunity he stood up and spoke.
This gives as an application. 1 Peter 3:15 says to always be ready to give an answer of the hope that is within us.
This is not unlike us sharing the next step: Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again.
Everyone who trusts in Him alone will inherit eternal life.
Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus forever.
Details matter and every detail and observation when sharing the Gospel matters:
A small bottle containing urine sat upon the desk of Sir William Osler. He was then the eminent professor of medicine at Oxford University. Sitting before him was a classroom full of young, wide-eyed medical students listening to his lecture on the importance of observing details. To emphasize his point, he reached down and picked up the bottle. Holding it high, he announced:
This bottle contains a sample for analysis. It’s often possible by tasting it to determine the disease from which the patient suffers.
Suiting action to words, he dipped a finger into the fluid and then into his mouth, as he continued—
Now I am going to pass the bottle around. Each of you please do exactly as I did. Perhaps we can learn the importance of this technique and diagnose the case.
The bottle made its way from row to row as each student gingerly poked his finger in and bravely sampled the contents with a frown. Dr. Osler then retrieved the bottle and startled his students with the words:
Gentlemen, now you will understand what I mean when I speak about details. Had you been observant you would have seen that I put my index finger into the bottle but my middle finger into my mouth!
Observation and in this case, my point is taking notice that it is important to share the whole story of Jesus as Paul did.
So, Billy Graham had to be convicted to preach the cross. Today, we looked at a passage when the Apostle Paul preached a sermon and he preached the whole gospel. Paul did not budge on anything. Paul did preach the cross. Paul preached the death, burial and the resurrection. Paul also challenged the people to an application.
This is what we saw in this passage and I hope we see this in our lives that the whole Gospel is important.