The Death of Herod

Thursday: Why the Gospel Spreads

Acts 12:19-25 In this week’s study we see that the Gospel cannot be stopped, even by wicked rulers.
Why the Gospel Spreads

We concluded yesterday’s study by asking, “Why is it that the Gospel continues to spread when so many other messages flounder and become relics of the past?” Let’s answer that question with four reasons. 

1. The Word of God is “useful.” Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The key word is “useful,” because it teaches that one reason the Word of God continues to spread is that it accomplishes what needs to be accomplished. 

Many messages we hear and to which we give a great deal of attention are not useful. They are actually useless, if the truth be told. Most of what we hear on television is useless. The stories are useless; they accomplish nothing except perhaps to fill up an idle hour that would be better spent reading a good book, getting some exercise, helping a neighbor, or playing with one’s children. It is like this with most of this world’s messages, however urgently they are thrust upon us. 

The Word of God is not useless. It is useful. We need to be taught, and it teaches us about God, ourselves, and the way of salvation. We need to be rebuked, and it rebukes us about our sin and unrighteousness. We need to be corrected, and it corrects us, showing us the way we should go, the way of blessing. We need to be trained in righteousness, and it trains us through daily application of its teaching. I suppose someone could say of Herod that he did many useful things. He was a great builder, for example. But compared with the Gospel, which brings spiritual life out of spiritual death, what Herod did was of relatively little value. 

2. The Word of God is “penetrating.” Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This means that the Word of God gets through to us where no merely human words do. We set up barriers against God and cover ourselves with suits of secular armor to protect us against the truth of what we are, who God is, and what the future holds apart from Jesus Christ. But the Word of God strikes through that armor to show that we are sinners in need of salvation. Moreover, when the Word of God penetrates our defenses, it does so not to destroy or kill us, as a sword would do, but as a surgeon’s scalpel to heal us and restore us to life. 

3. The Word of God is “life-giving.” Isaiah 55:10-11 says,  

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 

The rain and snow that come down from the sky water the earth so it can begin to produce fruit conducive to life, and that is the way the Word of God operates. It not only saves people from sin. It makes them fruitful so that they can contribute to the world and be a fount of spiritual blessing in it. 

4. The Word of God is “eternal.” Matthew 24:35 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” We look about us and conclude that all things are temporary. People are born and die. Even the dreaded Herod died. Even the earth on which we stand will be destroyed. Nothing lasts. But there is one thing that will not pass away, namely, the Word of God. Nothing can stop it. 

A person who has understood that knows that although there is some value to the visible, material things we work for and achieve in this life—things we can touch and handle—these things, important as they seem, will still pass away. They are not lasting. The only things that last are those that are invisible. And these come about only as God works through His Word to transform the hearts of men and women. That is why Christians are so anxious to teach the Word of God, and why they are anxious to have men and women believe it. It is only then, when they do believe it and are born again, that something of lasting value occurs in their lives. 

This is also why Christians have been willing to die for their spiritual convictions. People say, “Nothing can be more precious than life.” But that is not true. Physical life is precious. We go to great lengths to preserve and enhance it. But it is not the most precious thing of all. Spiritual life is more valuable. 

Therefore, Christians have been willing to give up their physical lives for the sake of what they know lies beyond. They want to link their lives to the Gospel, because they know that whoever builds on the foundation of Christ’s teaching will never be destroyed. They know that when the floods of life come they will be found secure upon that rock. Is it any wonder that a faith like that endures, increases and spreads throughout the world?

Study Questions
  1. Name the key word in 2 Tim. 3:16-17. Why is it key?
  2. What is the most precious thing of all? Why?

Application: Reflect on how you spend time in the evenings. What do you do? Could the time be better spent?

Reflection: Think about your daily time of prayer and Bible study. Can you see where this time has borne fruit?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Christ before Herod.”  (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

For Further Study: Studying the book of Acts is a great encouragement, for we can see how the Gospel spreads no matter the opposition that tries to suppress it. And we know that this same Gospel continues to spread in our own time, as the Lord works in the hearts and minds of sinners through His Word.  Order your paperback copy of James Boice’s Acts, and receive 25% off the regular price.

Tagged under
More Resources from James Montgomery Boice

Subscribe to the Think & Act Biblically Devotional

Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals

About the Alliance

The Alliance is a coalition of believers who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today’s Church.

Canadian Donors

Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
PO Box 24087, RPO Josephine
North Bay, ON, P1B 0C7