"IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL"
By Rev. James A. Splitt
Sermon April 12, 1998 - Easter Sunday
John 20:1-18 Acts 17:22-32
The story behind the hymn, "It is well with my soul," that titles our
morning's Easter Cantata, is the expression of faith expressed by Horatio
Spafford who penned the words in 1873. He was on a ship in the Atlantic
passing near the spot where his four daughters had perished at sea weeks
Amidst his grief and anguish, his great statement of faith, "It Is Well
With My Soul," speaks of an inner peace, a peace that is beyond
understanding, a peace that is more spiritual than emotional or
intellectual. Spafford's faith was centered on a resurrection spirit!
When others would have been bitter with God, or lashed out at life with the
cry of injustice, Spafford sought his own consolation by turning to Christ
seeking to replace his sorrow with the joy of salvation.
I believe that anyone who lives the Resurrection in their life can command
the words, "It is well with my soul." It is the claim of the spiritually
healthy. It is like an athlete saying, I'm in shape. The Christian who is
spiritually in shape can say, "It is well with my soul."
Turn with me, if you have a Bible handy, to Acts 17:32. Paul has met a new
challenge in his ministry. Prior to this event, Paul has been, Paul's
normal routine is to talk with Jewish scholars and teachers of the
synagogue, proclaiming the resurrection of Christ. All this is his day to
day activity. He has somewhat of a routine, sharing the same message time
and time again to the brethren. But in Acts 17:32, he has a brand new
audience. He has gone to the Areopagus, to speak to the Athenians . . .
and they say:
"Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but
others said, 'We will hear you again about this.'"
Some mocked him, some scoffed ... but the others would want to hear him
again. It says that Paul was in a new place. He was invited to the
intellectual think tank of Athens. It says that this is the place where the
latest ideas where brought forth. These were the word and idea gourmets of
that time, the idea brokers. Paul was invited to address the most notable
thinkers of the day in the Greek. It was a secular audience. They wanted
to hear what he was preaching. They cleared the agenda for Paul to speak.
To be granted such an honor, one has to assume that Paul's reputation was of
some merit. Now imagine how well it might be with your soul, if you were
asked to speak in such a forum. Paul isn't for a moment tongue tied or
awestruck. In fact, we have all the reason to believe that Paul was eager
to preach the Good News here in the Areopagus. You can be sure that it was
well with Paul's soul.
Like a master of rhetoric and a scholar of Greek intellectualism, Paul
addressed the men of Athens. (vs. 22):
"I perceive that you are very religious. For as I passed along and
observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this
inscription, "To an unknown god." (Acts 17:22-23)
Paul proceeds to identify their unknown god:
"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and
earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human
hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all life and
breath and everything. And he made from one every nation to live on all the
face of the earth having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of
their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might
feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each on of us, for In
him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:24-28)
Paul is clever to even quote a Greek poet,
"... some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'
Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like
gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of
man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all
everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the
world in righteousness by the one he appointed, and of this he has given
assurance to all by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:29-31)
"Some of those who heard about the resurrection of the dead they mocked
him, but there were others who wanted to hear more." (v.32) The message of
the resurrection will always be mocked by some, but there will be those who
are willing to hear more. Every verse of the New Testament is written so
that we might believe. By believing we become spiritually well, alive in
Paul had a challenge. Preaching the resurrection has a challenge. The
great English writer, Ruskin when asked to define preaching, he said it is a
time period of 30 minutes in which you have to wake up the dead. Paul
preached and proclaimed the greatest idea ever heard in the Aeropagus. He
hit them between the eyes with a new idea. The god who was unknown is now
known. And this is not a god of the imagination, nor a god that is to be
likened into some form of stone or idol image. But God is the God who
brings life into every being who has called us to repent in order that we
can become spiritual well.
Not only Paul, but every apostle was spiritually fit for their mission. It
was well with their soul! Good back to Acts 4:33 where it emphatically
And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection
of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
The conviction of proclaiming the resurrection, is believable only when we
look like we understand what repentance is all about. You can not
effectively and convincingly speak the words of resurrection if you have no
personal understanding of grace! I want you to know it is well with my
soul! Because I know how forgiven I am. I can not begin to preach the good
news to you, if I had not felt the anguish of my own sinfulness and the
difficulty I have at times when I look into the mirror and recognize my own
shortcomings. I have great intentions, but I am one who is easily side
tracked. It is well with my soul, because the risen Christ has freed me. I
am no longer held in bondage to my sin. And I am back on track, when I
receive God's grace!
Today there are plenty of people who scoff at the Easter message. While
there are many who come to hear this message; there are great deal more who
have deaf ears to this message. There are many who just come on Easter
Sunday, but they come because they want to hear the message again! They
want to hear to Good News! The want to be awakened from their own personal
death-like existence, because it is not well with their soul. They are
hungering and thirsting for righteousness wanting to be filled.
It is time for every Christian community everywhere to become a genuine
Resurrection Center. While it may be well with my soul and with yours, our
mission is to bring wellness to each and every soul with the message of
resurrection, Christ is Alive!
As the early apostles experienced grace, so must we. As Horatio Spafford
experienced grace, so must we. It is the blessed treatment for a soul that
is in brokenness and pain. In the risen Christ, we are healed. Today we
can begin living the healed life. It is because God wanted to redeem us
that he gave us Christ. It is because God cares for us that he raised
Christ to new life.
We have the opportunity to become a genuine Resurrection Center in this
church by grow strong spiritually within. It must be well with our soul if
we are going to bring the Good News into the lives of others.
Paul, in one of his greatest sermons, spoke not to his fellow Christians or
to the Jewish community, but to the most notable intellectuals of the day.
While some of them laughed, others listened and wanted to hear more. Those
who come again and again to hear the good news, eventually come to a point
of repentance, knowing the full measure of God's love for us in the risen
Christ. Here at the empty tomb we find grace, and finding grace, we
experience the resurrection. And , finding the resurrection, we can boldly
say, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL. Amen!