The Last Instructions of Jesus (Tenth Resurrection Appearance) and His Ascension

Ultimile Instructiuni ale Domnului Isus

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

After Jesus’ resurrection, he was on earth for 40 days (Acts 1:3), then He led His followers out to Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, and „lifting up His hands, He blessed them. While He blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).
John 21:1-23 relates the story of the last appearance of Jesus after His     resurrection.  Then Matthew’s center of these instructions is the future mission to spread the good news through baptism and teaching (Matthew 28:18-20). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus teaches them to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins  (Matthew 24:47). In the fourth Gospel, Jesus breathes on the disciples the Holy Spirit, thereby empowering them to continue his mission, including the forgiveness of sins (John 20:22-23).

TENTH  RESURRECTION  APPEARANCE

From the upper room to the Mount of Olives. Mark 16:19, 20  Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:4-11.

A. Jesus blesses them and promises the baptism of the Spirit.

B. He orders them to witness for Him:

  1. In Jerusalem
  2. In Judea
  3. In Samaria
  4. unto the uppermost parts of the earth.

C. He is received up into glory to the right hand of the Father.

D. This is the Old Testament Prophecy fulfillment number 38, that He would ascend. (Compare Psalm 24:7-10 with Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51). Did the resurrected Christ appear before any unsaved individuals? On the strength of Matthew 23:37-39 it would seem He did not.

„O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

These words conclude  the Bible’s account of the greatest  life that was ever lived. It should, however be said that His glory story is not limited to the four Gospel accounts. In fact, each of the sixty-six Biblical books presents a glimpse of this marvelous and mighty Messiah. Note the following „scriptural summary of the Savior”:

Christ in every book (of the Bible)

Christ is the theme of the entire revelation of God. He is promised in Genesis, revealed in the Law, prefigured in its history, praised in poetry, proclaimed in its prophecy, provided in its Gospels, proved in its Acts, preeminent in its Epistles and prevailing in Revelation.

(thanks to Gabi Bogdan for above video, illustrating Christ in every book, through song)

He is seen in every book of the Bible. Take a journey through the Halls of Holy Writ and and in every one of them you will see Christ. Starting with Genesis He is the seed of the woman; in Exodus the Lamb for sinners slain; in Leviticus, our High Priest; in Numbers, the Star of Jacob and the Brazen Serpent; in Deuteronomy,  the Prophet like unto Moses and the Great Rock; in Joshua, the Captain of the Lord’s Hosts; in Judges the Messenger of Jehovah; in Ruth our Kinsman-Redeemer and the Faithful Bridegroom; in 1 Samuel He is seen as the Great Judge; in 2 Samuel as the Princely King; in 1st Kings as David’s Choice; in  2 Kings as the Holiest of All; in 1 Chronicles as King by Birth; in 2 Chronicles as King by Judgement.

In Ezra He is seen as Lord of heaven and earth; in Nehemiah as builder; in Esther our Mordecai; in Job our Daysman and our Risen,  returning Redeemer; in Psalms the Son of God and the Good Shepherd; in Proverbs our Wisdom; in Ecclesiastes as the One above the sun; in Song of Solomon the great Church lover; the one Altogether Lovely and the Chiefest among ten thousand. (VIA)

The ascent into heaven

Only Mark (longer version) and Luke include an account of the ascension. For the other evangelists, Jesus’ return to the Father is taken for granted (implied). Luke wants both to round up (finish) his Gospel and to provide a link with his second volume, The Acts of the Apostles. Favorite themes, first appearing in his infancy narratives, are all fitted into these final two verses–journey, Jerusalem, rejoicing, prayers of praise(Luke 24:52-53). Jesus is portrayed as lifting His hands in blessing over the small group of disciples; in Acts 1:6-11, He will commission them to extend this blessing to the entire world and thus throughout the ages. (VIA)

Reclame

The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh at http://www.bible.org. Our text deals with the first three of our Lord’s four post-resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John. The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene, and the next three are to the disciples. Jesus will appear to Mary Magdalene (20:10-18), then to the disciples, minus Thomas (20:19-23), then to the disciples, with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples, including Thomas, who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1ff.). There are some very important lessons to be learned here, so let us listen and learn, looking to the Spirit of God to interpret, apply, and implement these truths in our lives.

General Observations

It would serve us well to begin with several observations concerning our text and its relationship to the other Gospels.

We do not really know a great deal about the time between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. When you stop to think about it, a significant portion of each of the Gospels is taken up with the events of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem. And yet, the 40 days following our Lord’s resurrection gets very little attention in comparison. The material we do have about this period is not meant to satisfy our curiosity about all that happened during this time, but is recorded to prove one important fact: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Of the details we do find regarding our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection, a number of them are recorded only in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Until now I did not realize how much of my understanding of our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is based upon New Testament books other than the Gospels. Some of the most important details come from Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:

1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for “what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him away from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

I am not sure why I had concluded that my understanding of the post-resurrection period was dependent solely upon the Gospels. It was probably due, in part, to my assumption that if one Gospel didn’t mention something I knew about this time period, it was because it was recorded in one of the other three Gospels. But this is not necessarily true. If it were not for Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15, we would not know nearly as much about the Lord’s ministry during the 40 days following His resurrection. From Acts 1:3 we learn that during this time, Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom of God which was yet to come. While our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit can be found in Luke’s Gospel (24:49), we probably remember this command from Acts 1:4-5. Apart from 1 Corinthians 15:5, we would not know that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. It is from Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), as well as from Luke (24:34), that we know Jesus made a private appearance to Peter. We would certainly not expect the replacement for Judas to be Saul, to whom our Lord made another (albeit, a later) post-resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8). A good part of what little we know of this period in our Lord’s life and ministry comes from outside the Gospels.

Some of the details about events which occurred in this time period may appear to be contradictory. For example, in Mark we read that after the women saw and heard the angel at the tomb, “they went out and ran away from the tomb. They were in a state of trembling and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8, emphasis mine). In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Then they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest ” (Luke 24:8-9, emphasis mine). I believe the solution to this apparent contradiction is found in Matthew’s account: “So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, ‘Greetings!’ They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there’” (Matthew 28:8-10, emphasis mine).

By putting all these details in sequence, we get a pretty good idea of what happened from the time the women left the tomb till they spoke with all the disciples and others. The women saw and heard the angel, who instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and would meet them in Galilee. The women rush off toward the city, but they are in a virtual state of shock. They tell no one they encounter on their way what they have just seen and heard (this conforms with what Mark tells us). Then, as they are still on their way to the city, Jesus Himself appears to them. This is the first time they have actually seen Him. He tells the women to go and tell the others, and indeed they do. Thus, all statements (those of Mark, of Luke, and of Matthew) harmonize when viewed in terms of the entire event. I believe we must assume this to be the case in every instance where an apparent contradiction appears. The details that differ are not an occasion for wringing our hands, they are the opportunity for a fuller grasp of what happened. Let us keep that in mind as we approach our text.

We find that some of the Gospel accounts are particularly brief at this point. This is especially true of Matthew and Mark’s accounts. Matthew writes of one appearance of Jesus to the women (28:9-10) and of one appearance of Jesus to His disciples (28:16-20). Mark’s account is terse as well, depending to some degree upon where you think his account really ends. Mark does briefly mention the appearance of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus (16:12-13; compare Luke 24:13-35). He also tells of the appearance of our Lord to the eleven disciples (Mark 16:13-18). Mark does not include an account of Jesus appearing to any of the women, but only of the angel speaking to them (16:1-8). Luke and John have the most lengthy accounts of the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. Luke does not describe an appearance of Jesus to the women; he chooses instead to emphasize the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). He then writes of our Lord’s subsequent appearance to the disciples (24:36-39) and then of His ascension (24:50-53). John focuses on four of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances: first to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18), then to the disciples minus Thomas (20:19-25), then the disciples with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples as they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-25).

Finally, each Gospel has something unique to add to the story. Matthew informs us that the tomb was secured by a Roman seal and guards, provided at the request of the Jewish religious leaders who recalled Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead in three days, and who were afraid His disciples would steal His body. Matthew then follows up with an account of how the guards and the religious leaders fabricated a cover story to explain the missing body of our Lord. Mark’s account is indeed unique, causing much discussion as to where his Gospel should end. Luke provides us with a detailed account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus. John’s account is almost entirely unique. He alone describes the investigation of the tomb by both Peter and John (Luke 24:12 tells us only that Peter went to see the tomb), of the appearance of Jesus to Mary, of three appearances of Jesus to His disciples—more than any other Gospel. His focus on Thomas’ reluctance to believe in our Lord’s resurrection is unique. The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is also unique, including our Lord’s three-fold question and exhortation to Peter. With this background information in mind, let us take a closer look at the first three post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, as described in John 20.

Jesus’ First Appearance: Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)

10 So the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb and wept. While she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.

It was Mary Magdalene who first arrived at the empty tomb in the early hours of the first day of the week. When she saw the stone had been removed, she seems to have jumped to a hasty conclusion—someone had taken the body. We do not know to whom the “they” (“They have taken the Lord from the tomb …”—verse 2) refers, and I doubt that Mary did either. I believe it is safe to say that it never occurred to her that any of the disciples took the body. She seems to have assumed it was either the Jews, or the Roman soldiers, or someone like “the gardener” (see 20:15). It never occurred to Mary that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She did not hope to see her risen Lord; she simply wished to locate His body and give it a proper burial.

A year or so ago a young woman’s body was stolen from its grave at Restland Cemetery, just a mile or so down the road from our church. It was a terrible thing to do, and the family was most eager to get the body back and see to it that it was buried properly, once for all. Someone had added insult to injury. Not only had this family lost a loved one, they suffered the agony of not knowing what had become of her body. Mary must have felt the same way this young woman’s family felt. She had devoted herself and her livelihood to following Jesus and supporting Him, along with some other women. She had watched helplessly as Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. She looked on as His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Now, she believed that the body of her Lord had been taken. It was almost too much to bear.

When Peter and John left the tomb, Mary remained behind. At first she stood outside the tomb, weeping. She stooped sufficiently to be able to see inside the tomb, apparently for the first time. Two angels were inside, clothed in white. An angel was sitting at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. From Mary’s response to these angels, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Mary did not recognize these angels as angels. But then why should she? It is true that in Matthew’s account the one angel who sat on the stone had an appearance that was like lightening (28:3), and this fellow was so awesome the guards were terrified (28:4). But John does not tell us that these two angels were as awesome in appearance as the first angel was. And this should come as no surprise. Often in the Bible, angels simply look like men, so that their appearance alone would not reveal their true identity (see Genesis 18 and 19; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 13:2). It would seem that the two angels made no effort to identify themselves as angels, nor even to inform Mary that Jesus was not there. Perhaps it was because our Lord was going to do this personally.

The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The inference is that her tears were not really called for. They were tears of love, and of sorrow, but they were also ill-founded. In Mary’s mind, this was the darkest moment of her life, and yet her tears were based upon false assumptions: that Jesus was dead; that His body had been stolen; that she would not be able to find His body. If Mary had known the real reason why the tomb was empty, she would not have been crying.

Some have suggested that the angels gave a look of recognition when they saw Jesus behind Mary, outside the tomb. We do not know why, but for some reason Mary turned around to gaze at the risen Lord. She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him, in much the same way that I had seen Sally Rackets in the parking lot this past week, but did not recognize her. Mary’s vision may have been obscured by her tears, and Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as He did before His resurrection. He most certainly looked different from the way she saw Him last, from the horrible sight she could not erase from her mind—a badly beaten, bloody figure, who could hardly be recognized for all the abuse His body had taken: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:15, NIV).

Jesus asks Mary the same question the angels had asked her moments earlier: “Woman, why are you weeping?”, but He adds a further question, “Who are you looking for?”. Jesus knew why she was weeping. He knew that the empty tomb caused her great grief. He knew that she was seeking His body. His words indicate to Mary that He knows something about her dilemma. Mary’s grief still blinds her to the truth, but she nevertheless seems to discern that this “gardener” holds the key to her quest for the Lord’s body. She pleads with Him to convey any information He may have to her: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him” (verse 15).193

Jesus answered with but one word—“Mary.” For Mary, seeing was not believing, but hearing was. Would you not love to have heard this one word just the way Mary did? That one word was spoken in the voice she knew so well. It was also spoken in the manner she knew so well. What love, what compassion, what healing was conveyed by this one word—“Mary.” I cannot help but recall the words of our Lord, spoken earlier:

1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow himbecause they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5, emphasis mine).

Immediately Mary recognized that it was her Lord, and called Him “Rabboni” (or teacher). We know from our Lord’s words that Mary has already locked Him in her grasp. It is as though she intended to keep holding on to Him, so that He would never leave her again. And it is because of this that Jesus responds, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17, NAB). I must differ with the NET Bible translation here (“Do not touch me, …”) for two reasons. First, it is not that Jesus could not be touched. In but a few verses we will read, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe’” (John 20:27). Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct Thomas to do so? In Matthew 28:9, Jesus allowed the women to take hold of His feet and worship Him. Second, the tense of the imperative is present, and this grammatical construction often conveys the thought of ceasing to do something.194 Jesus is not trying to prevent Mary from touching Him; He is trying to make it clear to her that He is going to leave this world to return to His Father. She should not suppose that by clinging to Him she can prevent His departure.

John does not include the command which Jesus gave to Mary, though it is clear that He instructed her as to what she was to tell the disciples (20:18). She who was the first to go out to the tomb was the first to see the risen Lord, and apparently the first to be privileged to share the good news of His resurrection with others.

Before we go on to the next appearance of our Lord, I would like to make a comment or two. I would like you to note that our Lord’s first appearance is not to one of the eleven disciples, but to Mary Magdalene. She will never be one of the apostles. She will never write a Gospel. She will never become a great preacher or leader. Nevertheless, our Lord chose to manifest Himself to her first. Why do you think this was? I would call your attention to three important factors. First, she had a great love for her Master, as He did for her. Second, she seemed to be the one with the greatest measure of grief. I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the context of this sermon, Jesus did not promise blessings to those who were the greatest, or the most powerful, but to those in the greatest need, with the greatest desire for spiritual things. There is a third reason: Mary was there first. Jesus revealed Himself first to the one who was there first. Mary came to the tomb early, because of her great love, and her great grief, and Jesus revealed Himself to her, first.

I would also like to point out an important lesson which this text teaches us: When we come to see things as they really are, we will find that many of our tears were unnecessary. To put it in different words, Many of our tears are ill-founded. Both the angels and our Lord questioned Mary as to why she was weeping. The reason she gave was that her Lord’s body had been taken, and she did not know where to find it. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was not dead; He had been resurrected. And beyond this, His body was not missing at all, and no one had taken it. Jesus did not need to be found by Mary; Jesus found Mary.

We know that in heaven there will be no more tears: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4). Why will there be no more tears in heaven? The first answer is because there will no longer be those things which cause us to cry—no more suffering, no more sin, no more injustice, no more death. But the second reason is that we shall then see all of our sorrows in an entirely different light. We shall see them in the context of the perfect work God was achieving through the things which caused us to weep.

When you and I get to heaven, we will see things in a very different light, and when we do, we will discover that many of our tears of sorrow were as groundless as Mary’s tears were. I am not saying that Christians should not cry. What I am saying is that a good deal of our sorrow is the result of our inadequate knowledge of what God is doing in and through our adversities. When Christians get to heaven, they will see the entire picture, and thus they will find that everything that has ever happened to them is for their good and His glory. No wonder there will be no tears in heaven! Our comfort and joy may not come as quickly as Mary’s did, but it will be just as great, just as real, and it is just as certain.

Jesus’ Second Appearance: The Disciples, Minus Thomas (John 20:19-23)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed195 on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

John very kindly does not tell us what Mark and Luke record in their accounts—that when the disciples were told that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe it without seeing Him:

9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11; see also verses 12-13).

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).

It was on the first day of the week—the same day that Mary saw Jesus—and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews, and rightly so. They were disciples of Jesus, and He had just been crucified for sedition. And now, the story was circulating that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15). Remember that the tomb was sealed by Rome, and guarded by Roman soldiers. The disciples may have felt in greater danger here than on any previous occasion. They must have been deeply troubled by the reports they had heard that Jesus was alive. What were they to think of all this? What were they to do? They did not know.

And so the disciples met together behind locked doors. We are told that one disciple was missing—Thomas. We are not told why he was absent. There is no particular blame cast on him for his absence. In some miraculous way, Jesus enters the room, even though the door is locked. We do not know what the disciples saw, but John certainly leaves us with the impression that our Lord’s entrance was unusual—one more proof of His resurrection. Our Lord twice repeated the words, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). This certainly reminds us of what Jesus had said earlier to these men:

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:24-29, emphasis mine).

It would appear that this was our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection. If this is so, it may be the same appearance that Luke describes, providing us with additional details:

30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread. 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see that I have.” 40 Then when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:30-43, emphasis mine).

Jesus would have appeared to Mary and the other women by now, and they have already announced to the disciples that Jesus was alive. But the disciples refused to believe. Then, the two men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus arrived to tell the disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord. Once again, the disciples refused to believe:

12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:12-14, emphasis mine).

John spares us from yet another account of the unbelief of the disciples, and of Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief. While their unbelief deserved rebuke, John moves on to tell us how Jesus convinced His disciples of His resurrection. He shows them His nail-scarred hands and His spear-pierced side. There was no mistaking the fact that His wounds, now healed, were incurred at His crucifixion. It was Jesus, and there was no denying it, incredible as that may be.

The disciples had a job to do, and they were being left behind so that they could accomplish it. This task is summed up in the “Great Commission”:

18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

To accomplish this task, the disciples are in need of divine enablement. This was promised by our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16):

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. … 25 I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:15-17, 25-26).

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me; 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16 In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me” (John 16:7-16).

I had never noticed before that in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus does not ask the Father to send the Spirit, which He has promised in chapters 14-16. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in this prayer! How can this be? I believe that while our Lord prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse, He did not intend to send the Spirit until after His ascension. In other words, the Holy Spirit would not come until Pentecost. Some suggest that in our text Jesus is temporarily bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, until Pentecost comes. I don’t agree.

In the first place, John does not report anything out of the ordinary happening as a result of our Lord’s actions. The disciples are not transformed, as they will be at Pentecost. The gospel is not preached. In fact, the next thing to happen in John’s Gospel is that some of the disciples go fishing. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit was immediately bestowed upon the disciples at this moment, as a result of what Jesus says and does. I believe Jesus is symbolically bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, although it will not actually take place until Pentecost. Jesus will have ascended to the Father then, and so this gesture indicates to the disciples that when the Spirit comes at Pentecost, it will be as a result of what Jesus had promised earlier, and symbolically indicates here.

I wish to be very clear here, both as to what I am saying, and as to what I am not saying. I am saying that our Lord is here symbolically bestowing His Holy Spirit on the church. This symbolic act will literally be fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus wants it to be clear that it is He who is sending His Spirit to indwell and to empower His church. I am not saying that the Spirit is given at the moment Jesus breathes upon His disciples. I am not saying that this is a temporary bestowal of the Spirit, until the permanent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Specifically, I believe that what Jesus is symbolically bestowing is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples as those who will act as His apostles. Earlier, Jesus outlined some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Spirit would call Jesus’ teaching to their minds. He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. But here, none of these ministries seems to be in view. Here, the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles so that they can either proclaim the forgiveness of sins, or the retention of sins. I do not think this text justifies some priestly hierarchy, who hears confessions and grants absolution from one’s sins. Instead, I believe Jesus is giving the apostles the authority to declare men and women to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I believe we see an example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:1-18, emphasis mine).

It takes a monumental work of God to convince the Jews that God has purposed from eternity past to save Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-23). Our Lord had promised to send the Spirit, which He did at Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit directed Peter to go to the house of a Gentile and to proclaim the gospel to those gathered in his house. The Spirit then came upon all those who had come to faith, thus indicating that the gospel (the forgiveness of sins) was not just for Jews alone, but for all who believe, Jew or Gentile. It is difficult for Gentile believers today to grasp how hard it was for Jews to accept the salvation of the Gentiles. Even the apostles found this difficult. As the Spirit came upon the apostles, this truth was embraced, proclaimed, and defended by them. By means of the Spirit’s guidance and illumination, the truth that the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles was declared by the apostles, and particularly by Paul:

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed in the body by hands—12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, in his flesh, 15 when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to mankind in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the divine secret’s plan—a secret that has been hidden for ages in the God who has created all things (Ephesians 3:1-9).

Jesus’ Third Appearance: The Disciples, Including Thomas (John 20:24-31)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples seem to have been convinced of our Lord’s resurrection, except for Thomas who was not there. He did not see the resurrected Lord, nor did he behold the Savior’s wounded hands and side. And so it was that when Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe. He insisted that in order for him to believe, he would have to see Jesus with his own eyes. He would have to personally inspect the Lord’s nail-pierced hands and His pierced side. Only then would he believe. Before we become too harsh with Thomas, let me remind you that the other disciples did not believe until they saw, either. Thomas is really demanding to see the same things that convinced the others. He is not asking for anything more than what the others saw.

Eight days passed. Apparently Jesus did not appear to any of His disciples during this period of time. The disciples were all together once again, including Thomas. The doors were locked, but in spite of this Jesus arrived and stood in their midst.196 Jesus repeats the greeting He gave at His earlier appearance, “Peace be with you” (verse 26; see also verses 19, 21). Immediately, Jesus turns His attention to Thomas. He summons Thomas to come and to put his finger where the nails had pierced His hands, and to feel His side where the spear had pierced it. He challenged Thomas to forsake his unbelief and to believe.

We do not know whether Thomas actually pressed his fingers into our Lord’s nail-pierced hands or not. Since John does not tell us that Thomas actually felt the wounds of our Lord, it may well be that after seeing Jesus alive he no longer required this proof. It may have taken this sight to convince Thomas, but once convinced, Thomas got it right. He does not merely profess a belief that Jesus has risen from the dead. Thomas professes to believe in what the resurrection proved—that Jesus was God, and that He was Lord (verse 28). Thomas now has it right.

Bible translations handle our Lord’s response differently. Some render the first words of verse 29 as a question, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?” (as does the NET Bible). Others render it as a statement: “Because you have seen me, you have believed” (NIV, KJV, NKJV). The difference is not important. The contrast Jesus seeks to emphasize is between those who must see in order to believe, and those who will believe without seeing. Peter seems to take up this same thought in his first epistle:

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

It is not too hard to see what John is leading up to. John is writing this Gospel for those who have never seen the risen Lord. He has selected just a few of the many miraculous signs Jesus performed to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be, who John proclaims Him to be.

The Bottom Line: Believing Jesus Is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31)

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If there is one thing I despise, it is deceptive advertising. I hate those phone calls that come from unidentified (“out of the area”) sources, which begin with the assurance that the caller is not “selling” anything. John could not be more open and direct about the purpose of this book. I believe John has two conclusions. The first is found in chapter 20. It is aimed at those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. The second is aimed at those who have believed, and it is found in chapter 21.

In our text, John informs his unbelieving readers about the “bottom line” of all that he has written. John has one goal for the unbeliever: He wants to demonstrate as clearly and as forcefully as he can that Jesus not only claimed to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God, but that by many miraculous signs He proved it! The last and greatest of these signs was His resurrection from the dead:

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:38-42).

While the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was prophesied in the Old Testament, and by our Lord Himself, John makes it very clear that the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. Only after the most forceful and compelling evidence would the disciples believe Jesus really was alive. And having become convinced of this great truth, the disciples never ceased to proclaim it. The resurrection of Jesus is the final and compelling proof that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world:

1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 that he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with respect to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-4).

Believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the only way God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. By believing in Him, you will be saved:

9 Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has a right standing and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:11-13).

In many ways, the Gospel of John is not a simple book. But its message to the unsaved is incredibly simple, and John sums it up in these last verses of chapter 20. If you have never come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, then John has written this book to you, and for you, to give you all the evidence you need to believe in Him. Have you believed? This is the most important decision you will ever make. It determines your eternal destiny.


193 Some have criticized Mary for being so nave as to assume she will be able to carry away the body of our Lord. They are missing the point. She is not thinking in terms of logistics here. She is simply saying that if this “gardener” will tell her where to find the body, she will see to it that it is returned to its proper place. Of course she will get help to accomplish this. For now, she just wants to know where His body has been placed.

194 A. T. Robertson comments, “Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet … and worship … as we read in Mt 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.” Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 6 vols. Vol. V, p. 312.

195 I am reminded that the breath of God is the source of life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6; Ezekiel 37:9), even as it is also the means of divine judgment (2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; Psalm 18:15). The breath of God is sometimes a symbol for His Spirit (Job 33:4). In a symbolic way, our Lord is breathing life into His church.

Both the NET Bible and the NIV smooth out the translation here. The NIV reads: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 14:26). Both the old and the new King James Versions and the NAS leave the translation a bit rough, in order to convey the unusual word order: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (NAS). “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (NKJ). The original text seems to be emphasizing the fact that Jesus entered the room, in spite of the fact that the doors were shut and locked. (On seeing and believing, http://www.bible.org)

Wayne Grudem – Does ‘political’ involvement distract from the gospel?

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

photo credit

photo credit waynegrudem.com

Wayne says there are 5 wrong views of Christian influence on politics, and one right view. Here are 4 videos from the lecture delivered in KingsGate, Petersborough, United Kingdom. VIDEO by christianorguk Photo on left via www.boomerinthepew.com

In the first video, he explores the first ‘wrong’ view; – Government should compel religion.

Part 1

It is a great privilege for me to speak to you and to be here in this nation(United Kingdom), my second most favored nation on the face of the earth, after, of course, my own nation. This is the nation that through its heritage has given me  the English Bible, through the courageous work of Wycliffe and Tyndale, and the translators of the authorized or King James Version. This is the nation that gave to me the rich heritage of English common law, and the rich heritage of rule of law, with the idea that even those in governmental authority  must be subject to the laws of a nation. This is the nation that also gave me the pilgrim fathers that founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony  in 1620 and wrote the Mayflower Compact, with its rich biblical concepts of government by the consent of the governed. This is the nation from which Erasmus in 1615, in Cambridge, just a few miles form here, published the first Greek New Testament, and that became the basis for a more full understanding of the New Testament that led to much of the accurate teaching that came out in the reformation, so that the truths of the justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, could be proclaimed in Germany, and in the rest of Europe and here in England and in the United Kingdom as well. This is the nation that gave to the rest of the world and to me, the rich theology found in the Puritan writers and in the Westminster confession of faith. And this is the nation that a few years ago, gave me a phD. And I’m thankful for that; and a nation where our oldest son was born in 1974. This is the nation in which, also, a number of courageous leaders in the church, stood firm, even giving their lives, even willing to be burned at the stake for the sake of preserving the truth of the Gospel. Again, that we are justified by faith alone, in Christ alone.

A day earlier, just a few days ago, we went through the Cabinet War Rooms in London, and I was reminded once again that this is the nation that stood firm against the demonic tyranny of Adolf Hitler, and would not yield. And gave 449,000 lives of its precious citizens to preserve freedom in Europe and for the rest of the world. There have been heroic times, again and again, in the history of Britain. And, again and again, Britain answered God’s call. And heroes stood up and stood firm, and brought good to this nation and to the rest of this world.

I wonder, if in these days, we are once again seeing a time in chick God is calling His british sons and daughters to rise up and stand against evil, to stand against threats that would silence the church and would silence the Gospel, to stand against threats that would destroy marriages, and threats that would destroy our children’s sexuality. To stand against the horrific murder of tens or hundreds of thousands of unborn children. For, a nation that yields to the tyrannies of laws that promote immorality, can be destroyed as surely as a nation that is overrun by military conquerors.

How then should Christians seek to influence laws and government? A number of mistakes have been made in the past. And so, before I explain what I think is the right solution to the question: How should Christians influence government- I want to explain, what I think to be 5 wrong views of Christian influence on politics. Transcript from the first 4 1/2 minutes, with 8 minutes remaining to cover the topic:

Wrong view #1 – Government should compel religion

Part 2

Wrong view # 2 – Exclude religion from government

Wrong view # 3 – All government is demonic

Part 3

Wrong view # 4 – Do evangelism, not politics

Part 4

Wrong view # 5 – Do politics, not evangelism

The 5th wrong view is: Do politics, not evangelism. This view says, „If we just pass good laws, we’ll have a great nation, we’ll have a great society. All we need is good laws.” What that forgets is: You need changed hearts. You need hearts changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You need  transformed people and transformed lives.

I don’t know anybody saying that today, but there was a movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries, both in Britain and in the US, there was a movement called the Social Gospel movement that said, „Well, let’s just put all our effort as Christians into transforming society.” And they neglected to mention, „You must repent of your sins and trust in Jesus as your Lord as your personal Savior. Well, that view is certainly wrong, and certainly contrary to Scripture, as well. So, where does that leave us? 5 wrong views:

  1. The government should compel religion – That’s wrong.
  2. The government should exclude religion – That’s wrong.
  3. All government is evil and demonic – That’s wrong.
  4. Do evangelism, not politics – That’s wrong.
  5. Do politics, not evangelism – That’s wrong.

Is there any right view?

I think so. I’m going to suggest:

  • point # 6 – The right view – Significant Christian Influence.

Significant Christian Influence on government. That’s not compulsion, but it’s also not excluding religion. It’s trying to bring influence. And now, I’m going to give you more verses that support this idea that there should be significant influence of God’s people, both in Old and New Testament on civil government. I mentioned Daniel 4:27, Daniel bearing witness about moral standards to King Nebuchadnezzar. Here’s another one Jeremiah 29:7. Jeremiah is speaking to the Jewish people who were in exile  in a secular pagan nation. They were in exile in Babylon. And Jeremiah 29:7 says „Seek the welfare of the city where I’ve sent you into exile.” Seek the welfare , seek the well being, seek the good of this pagan nation Babylon where I’ve sent you into exile. „and pray to the Lord on its behalf, where in its welfare, you will find your welfare.” Nehemiah 1:11, Nehemiah says, „Now, I was cup bearer to the King. Nehemiah.” As being cup bearer of high office, he had access to King Artaxerxes, King of Persia, himself the most powerful man on the earth, at that point in history. And look at Esther. Margaret, my wife, was saying to me, just the other day when we were driving the car. She was reading how Esther had immense influence on King Ahashuerus, influence on government, as a believer in the true and living God.

And then, if you sometime look through the Old testament prophets, just page through the section headings on the chapters, you will see in a number of sections, that these are prophecies not just to Israel. They’re prophecies to the unbelieving nations around Israel. Prophecy to Babylon, prophecy to Egypt, prophecy to Syria, prophecy to Moab, prophecy to Edom. I’ll give you some examples and you can look at them later. Isaiah chapters 13-23 – to foreign nations. Jeremiah 46-51 – prophecies to foreign nations. Ezekiel 25-32 – to other nations. Amos 1-2. Obadiah prophesied to Edom. Jonah was sent to Niniveh. Nahum was sent to Niniveh, to prophesy to Niniveh. Habakuk and Zephaniah 2. And then, we go from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we see John the Baptist rebuking Herod for all the evil things that he had done. And we see Paul reasoning with Felix, the Roman governor. And then we see, in the New Testament, Romans 13 , that teaches us in some detail, about the responsibility of civil government. We see 1 Peter 2:13-14 that teaches us about civil government. The Bible gives us a lot of teaching, and it gives u steaching about the action of the good and evil kings in the Old Testament. And, we have some of the prophets speaking about what kings should do and shouldn’t do.

So, there’s a lot of material in the Bible that can speak on the responsibility of government. But, a caution: Significant Christian Influence must never spill over into abolishing freedom of religion. Now, Christians, you would say, probably don’t have a huge influence  in government or in politics right now. Perhaps, some. But, what if God sends revival and 30% of the members of parliament, 40%, 50%, what if 70% of the members of parliament (this lecture took place in England) or 70% of a local city council are born again Christians? You know what the temptation will be? The temptation will be to abuse that power and to seek to compel religion. The temptation will be: Let’s prohibit the publishing of these atheist books that attack Christianity, or something like that. And then we begin to deny essential freedoms and make the mistake of trying to compel religions. If we have immense influence in government, we must always protect freedom of religion, and protect the freedom of jewish synagogues and moslem mosques and hindu temples to be built and publications to be published and people to speak in the public square, just as we want freedom for Christians, so we must protect freedom for others.

Essential freedoms:

  1. Freedom of religion must be protected
  2. Freedom of speech must be protected
  3. Freedom of the press must be protected
  4. Freedom of assembly must be protected, so that people can get together according to different views.

So we protect that. But, I still think we should seek for significant Christian influence on government. I’ll tell you, if we don’t seek for Christian influence on government, if Christians withdraw from the public square, and say, „You know, I’m just gonna be silent on the major  moral and ethical issues that we face as a nation, then you know what will happen? It will leave a moral vacuum. And who is going to rush into that vacuum? It won’t be long until the ultimate adversaries of the Gospel, Satan and his demons rush in to influence every decision, in a way contrary to biblical standards. And if that happens, then, it will be very difficult times, indeed. For, governments around the world will increasingly use their tremendous power to silence the church.

Governments will, in effect, say something like this, to Christians and to churches: Keep your homophobic, misogynist, oppressive, fear inducing, intolerant, militarist, hate mongering Christianity out of our lives and out of our schools, and off of our university campuses, and off of our radio and TV stations, and out of any part of government, and out of our quiet residential areas, where you’re never again going to get any permission to build anymore churches; and keep your hate mongering Christian religion locked up in the privacy of your own home. I read that sentence, too, which I wrote, I read that sentence to a graduate school classroom and a student raised his hand and said, „Surely, that’s alarmist. Peoplea rent going to speak that way to Christians.” As soon as he said that, someone else in the class, who was working for an organization like the Christian Institute, but in the United States, she raised her hand and she said, „That sounds exactly like the emails that I get now, on a regular basis.”

So, if Christians abandon the public square, I think a disastrously negative impact will come form other kinds of moral standards that will suppress the church. Is there a responsibility of pastors to teach on these issues and I know you come from many different churches, and so I just wanna say a word to pastors. My first answer is: I think, yes, you have some responsibility to preach on these issues, just as I think pastors have a responsibility to speak about slavery from the pulpit, in the United States, while slavery still existed as a moral evil. I don’t know, and I cannot decide  which issues you should preach on. Only you, in the counsel of your Elders, or the governing board of your church, you must pray and seek God’s wisdom, for when to speak and on what issues. But, I think you have a responsibility, at least to speak on some.

And I want to tell you, in my own life, there is a passage in Acts, that has encouraged me not to shrink back from speaking on unpopular subjects. It’s Acts 20:26- 27 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Paul stood blameless before God because, he said, he didn’t shrink back from declaring unpopular things. He didn’t shrink back to declare the whole counsel of God. When I teach theology courses, I come to the unit on hell- that’s not easy to teach on. I come to the unit on Jesus being the only way to salvation- that’s not easy to teach on. Because it’s unpopular in today’s culture. But I have a responsibility before God to teach even on unpopular subjects, because I have to teach the whole counsel of God faithfully. And that’s what I would say to any of you as pastors: You have a responsibility before God to teach on the whole counsel of God. Now, someone might say, „But, if I preach on some of these unpopular subjects, it will drive people away and it will hinder evangelism. My answer to that is, „The greatest evangelist in the history of the church, the apostle Paul, was the one who said, ‘I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God’.” He taught on even unpopular things. And he trusted God to bring the results an during the advancement of God’s kingdom, and to bring the fruit that He would give.

I could only say one other thing. If you think God is calling you to greater influence on politics, I don’t ever want you to try and make your church  into an arm of a political party, because that transforms the church into something that shouldn’t be. But, parachurch organizations, like The Christian Institute (UK), and there are others, parachurch organizations can take much more explicit and repeated focus on political issues, because God calls them to that special task. And so, perhaps, God would call you to work in a parachurch organization as well. It can do a lot more than a church, on its own can do. 

So, in conclusion,
are these days, once again, days which God is calling heroes
to arise and take a stand,
lest darkness take a stand and overshadow the earth.
Might God be calling you to pray, to volunteer some time,
to perhaps contribute some money to a candidate,
or to some other means of helping the political process?
Perhaps, God is calling some of you to serve in political office, on a city council, or perhaps to even serve in parliament.
These are troubled times, but they might also become heroic times,
even for some of you here, tonight.

VIDEOS by christianorguk

Craig Blomberg – How Historians Can Know Jesus of Nazareth

Question: Outside the New Testament, what documentary evidence do historians have for the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth? And what does this evidence tell us?

Craig Blomberg:

We have all kinds of evidence written by other Christians in the earliest decades of the second century, after the New Testament was complete. But, usually, somebody asking that kind of question is asking, ‘What kind of nonChristian evidence do we have, concerned that perhaps Christians were biased, and therefore, wanting to make sure that we can prove that Jesus existed, was something like what Jesus claimed He was from other ancient Jewish, Greek, Roman sources. There are about a dozen such references to Jesus. By far, the fullest one comes from a late first century Jewish historian named Josephus. But, we find early second century writers in the Roman world like Tacitus and Plutonius. We find references in the Encyclopedic size collection of Jewish traditions known as the Talmud, and elsewhere.

And, from them, we can corroborate that Jesus was a Jewish teacher, who lived in the first third of the first century, who had a ministry that intersected with that of a man named John, who baptized people, and hence got the name ‘John the Baptizer’, that He was born out of wedlock, that He had disciples, five of whom are named, who are particularly close followers. He regularly got in trouble with certain Jewish authorities of His time for radical views about the law. And that He finally was crucified. We know that from Tacitus. In the second century, under the governorship of Pontius Pilate, which narrows the time frame to from the mid 20’s to the mid 30’s of the first century. And that despite that ignominious death, his followers believed that they saw Him raised from the dead and believed that He was the Messiah, the Jewish liberator, beginning very quickly even to worship Him, as if He were a God, to use the language of Pliny, in the early second century. So, even without touching a Christian source, there’s quite a bit we can know about Jesus.

click to read book

click to read full essay (pdf)

Question: Now, some people would question the reliability of the Gospels, which for sure give a much fuller account of the life and ministry of Jesus. How would you respond to the suggestions that the writers of the Gospels embellished the account of Jesus’s life, turning a simple Jewish prophet into a kind of Gentile God? How would you respond to that concern? 

We have remarkably ancient testimony, remarkably close in time to the life of Jesus. Probably, the earliest written Gospel was Mark, most likely written in the ’60’s of the first century, with Jesus having died in about A.D. 30. A 30 year period may seem like a long span of time to us, but, in the ancient world, which was an oral culture, when people memorized and passed on faithfully, for generations, the beliefs and traditions and narratives of their families, tribes, nations, with high degrees of care and accuracy; one generation is a very short period of time. There were still plenty of eyewitnesses living in Israel who could remember the historical Jesus, what He was really like, many of whom had not become His followers.

The entire Christian claim could have been very easily debunked early on, if there had been widespread embellishment and misrepresentation of who Jesus was.

Question: Dr. Blomberg, in his book, the DaVinci Code, Dan Brown has called attention to the importance of the so called gnostic Gospels in early Christianity. Would you tell us something about these gnostic Gospels, and do you think they shed significant light on the historic Jesus of Nazareth?

I suppose, the first thing that needs to be said  for people who have never actually seen one of these documents is that they are not Gospels, in the sense of being narratives of a significant percentage of Jesus’s ministry, the way Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are. The vast majority of the so called Gnostic Gospels are supposed secret revelation, after Jesus’ resurrection to one or more disciples by Jesus and they tend to discourse on things utterly unlike the Jesus of the New Testament Gospels, reflecting on the origins of the Universe, the angelic hierarchies, why the world was created, how sin came to be, an abstract theological reflection, very different from what we read in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is one gnostic Gospel, the Gospel of Thomas, which also is not a consecutive narrative. It’s just 114 sayings, linked together and attributed to Jesus, that does have significant overlap with the Jesus of the New Testament. Maybe as many as a third of the sayings attributed to Jesus in this account remind readers of something that they would read in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. But then, another large collection, maybe up to half of the sayings are quite different. There’s philosophical speculation that gnosticism was so known for. And then, tantalizingly, the remainder could be taken in orthodox Christian direction, could be taken into a gnostic direction. They’re short and cryptic enough that it’s hard to know for sure. But, does Thomas, or any of these other Gospels give us solid historical information that would change our understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was? No, not at all.

Question: Do you find that many neighbors, friends that you interact with have had a skewed perspective on the early church because of books like Dan Brown’s? And, what would you wanna say to them specifically?

Yes, a surprising number of people, whether they picked it up from Brown, or from somebody else of his ilk, or by word of mouth, that garbled Brown, who garbled the ancient church. I would want to say is that what competed with orthodox Christianity in the early years was very different, was later than the New Testament documents  and was pretty easily dismissed. It did not become some lingering controversy that the so called lost gospels were not, for the most part, suppressed, as some claim. They simply fell out of use because they weren’t of value to the vast majority of early Christians. My friend Darrell Bock, who teaches at Dallas Seminary, likes to say, „It’s true that sometimes winners rewrite history. But, it’s also true that sometimes winners deserve to win.” And, all evidence points to the fact that apostolic orthodox Christianity was the dominant Christian tradition that had carefully preserved the life of Christ and its significance, and that’s what deserved to be passed on and be preserved.

Question: As we close, can you tell us in a nutshell, why we should believe in the historicity of Jesus, and what that means for us today?

We should believe in the historicity of Jesus because even if we’re skeptical of all Christian testimony, there is enough non-Christian testimony to corroborate His existence and the main contours of His life. But then, we shouldn’t be so skeptical about all Christian testimony, because much of it represented the testimony of people who were not born into Christian families, but who are adult converts convinced by the evidence, convinced by the transmission of the stories and accounts of Jesus, that He was so significant, they should become believers and followers in Him. You can’t just write all of that evidence off because somebody was convinced by it. And that significance continues to this day. In all the world religions, in all the traditions of the philosophers and teachers, nowhere else has someone made the claim  in actions and in labels that He applied to Himself and in explicit teachings, that He was somehow so close to God, that those out of his culture and religion, who believed in God, at times accused Him of blasphemy, executed Him, and yet, was reported to have been seen again bodily, by more than 500 of His followers, who then began an unbroken tradition of following Him, and at a very early date, even worshipping Him as that God. There’s no other religion or worldview that has that package of events. You have to come to grips with who Jesus of Nazareth was. And if you look at the evidence, it might just transform your life, for the good.

VIDEO by ChristonCampusCCI

Dr. Craig Blomberg discusses the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. (See his full essay at http://www.christoncampuscci.org/.) Dr. Blomberg responds to claims that the so-called „Gnostic gospels” are more reliable than the four Gospels of the Bible, showing that the historical evidence clearly suggests otherwise.

Dr. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, has also written a full essay on this topic, which lays out in a clear, organized fashion the evidence that supports the historicity of Jesus. That essay and several other free essays on relevant topics for college and university students are available online for free at http://www.christoncampuscci.org/.

This video and the corresponding essay are provided as a ministry of Christ on Campus Initiative, a nonprofit organization generously supported by the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding (a ministry of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL), the Gospel Coalition, and the MAC Foundation (Fort Collins, CO).

Liar, Lunatic or Lord – Did God Really Say…?

SEE FULL VIDEO + TRANSCRIPT HERE – 

Cover of "Fundamentalism and the Word of ...

Cover of Fundamentalism and the Word of God

John Piper:

God made me see it. I believe, I couldn’t believe the Bible is untrue if I tried, because I’m just taken by Him. That’s my biggest reason (for believing the Bible).

You can’t persuade anybody with that, so up above those layers are the layers of experience, of encounter withe the text. And, I think that at one level, the Bible, as C. S. Lewis said: „You believe in it as you believe in the sun not only because you see it, but you see everything else by it.” I asked my professor in Germany one time, „Why do you believe the Bible?” And he said, „Because it makes sense out of the world for me”. And I think that is right. You don’t take every sentence and relate it to every part of the world. You just… year after year, after year, you live in the book and you deal with the world and it brings coherence to evil, and good, and to sorrow, and to loss.

There is one other level I would mention. liar, lunatic, Lord argument in the Gospels works for me. And Paul, liar, lunatic, or faithful apostle. Because I think I know Paul better than I know anybody in the Bible. Luke wrote most quantitatively, but he’s writing narrative. The apostle Paul you know, if you read his 13 letters hundreds of time, you know this man. Either he’s stupid, I mean insane, or liar, or a very wise, deep, credible, thoughtful person. So, when I put Paul up against any liberal scholar in any German university that I ever met, they don’t even come close. So, I have frankly never been tested very much by the devil, or whoever, to say, „This wise liberal offering his arguments…” and I read Paul and I say, „I don’t think so!” This man (Paul) is extraordinary, he’s smart, he’s rational, he’s been in the 3rd, 7th heaven evidently, and he’s careful about what he’s saying”. So, that whole argument: Liar, lunatic, Lord, works for me with Jesus and it works powerfully for Paul.

And, once you’ve got Paul speaking, self authenticating, irresistible, worldview shaping truth, then, as you move out from Jesus and Paul, the others just start to shine with confirming evidences

Why are you married? After 43 years, how do you endure losses? I mean, really, where does your strength come from? „You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. Free from pornography, and free from divorce, free from depressions that just undo you. How do you find your way into marriage over and over, and out of depression, and away from the internet. How does that happen? It happens by the power of this incredible book.

2 recommended books on Scripture:

  1. Scripture in Truth by D.A.Carson and Nichols
  2. Fundamentalism and the word of God by J. I. Packer

Al Mohler:

The problem is with how few of our confessional statements are clear on this. So, one of our evangelical liabilities is that too much has been assumed under our article (statements) of Scripture, without specifying language, with inerrancy being one of those necessary attributes of Scripture to be affirmed.

You do find people today, some lamentably, who are trying to claim that you can still use the word, while basically eviscerating it, emptying it of meaning, so you have historical denials. In particular, you have that a text- and the Chicago Statement is very clear. Our affirmations of denials are actually patterned after the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy, which was itself patterned after previous statements in which there were not only affirmations, but clear denials. So, when you look to that statement, you’ll see the assertion of what that statement means, and you have clear denials. One of the affirmations is Scripture has different forms of literature. But, the denial is that you can legitimately dehistoricize an historical text. So, in other words, everything Scripture reveals, including a historical claim is true. Well, you find some people saying, „Well, you can affirm the truthfulness of the text, without the historicity of the events. You can’t do that. You have people who are now using genre criticism, various forms to say: This is a type of literature, the lamentable argument is, this is the type of text to which the issue of inerrancy doesn’t apply. In other words, „I don’t like it”. But, what they mean is (that the text) it’s not making a truth claim. That’s ridiculous, but you find these kinds of nuances going on.

You also find very clear points of friction. So, for ex.: Do we have to believe in the historicity of the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis? That puts us over and against a dominant intellectual system, that establishes what is called credibility in the secular academy. Those evangelicals that feel intellectually accountable to that are trying to say, „There has to be some other way then of dealing with Genesis 1-11. And that’s where you have, now, the ultimate friction point which is coming for instance with the historical Adam, and an historical fall. And now, you’re finding people who are trying to say, „Okay, There is no historical claim in Genesis 1-3, but I still believe in an historical Adam, because I’m just gonna pull him out of the air and plop him down. I still believe in a historical Adam, I’m not gonna root it in the historical text, but, I need him because Paul believed in him.

And then you have people who are on websites today, someone like Peter Enns, who used to teach at an institution which required inerrancy, who no longer teaches there, who says, „Clearly, Paul did believe in inerrancy, but Paul was wrong.” So now, not only do you have the denial of inerrancy and the historicity of Genesis 1-3, but, you have Paul now in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 being said (about): Well, now inerrancy for him means he was speaking truthfully, as inspired by God, but limited to the worldview that was accessible and available to him at the time. That is not what Jesus believed about Scripture.

VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

Matt Chandler – The Gospel in 2 minutes

Matt Chandler breaks down the Gospel for us in a new and refreshing way. VIDEO by Radicals4J Photo credit thegospelcoalition.org

The Gospel is

… that there is this infinite, almighty, all-knowing, all-powerfull Creator God who created all things for His glory.

… and you and I have belittled that, belittled His name, belittled His glory.

Everyone of us have at one time or another, actually currently believe that our way is better is better than God’s.

We fail to acknowledge, giving glory for the gifts He’s given us. We question His rule and His authority, while at the same time doing that with the brain He gave us and holds together… and the lungs and the air that He gave us to breathe with.

This is the great blasphemy of the universe.

So, we’ve all belittled God, and God being JUST, RIGHT, and HOLY, is NOT going to allow the belittlement of His name. God then, not being able to spare wrath, sends CHRIST in the flesh and crushes Him. And in so doing, pours out His wrath against the children of God, onto the SON, killing Him. Then GOD raises Him from the dead, and that same power that raised God from the dead is now at WORK in those who BELIEVE.

THIS IS THE GOSPEL:

That you and I have right standing before God, not by our efforts, not by our works, not by our skill, not by whether or not we do this or don’t do that. We are justified before God by the cross of Christ alone.

Your lust? You’re not gonna be able to fix it. Your bitterness? You’re not gonna be able to fix it. Your rage, anger, those deviances that have been following you around? You don’t possess the power of life & death. You can’t resurrect anything! Christ can. That’s the good news. So, we don’t celebrate us… that’s why we continually celebrate Him…

…we boast in the cross, and the cross alone!

 

Paul Washer – Worthless Prayer Meetings

Paul Washer heartcry.com

Paul Washer:

Have you submitted your mind to Christ. You say, „But, what does that mean brother Paul?” Well, go to Scripture. I like this better than using a concordance. Start in Genesis and read through the entire Bible and every passage in Scripture that deals with the mind, pull it out and create a systematic theology with regard to how your mind can be submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Your eyes, what does the Bible say about your eyes? And your ears, and your tongue, and your hands and your feet, and your body and the way you clothe it.

What does the Bible say about relationships you are in? What are you commanded to do by Scripture? You see, my dear friend, without a vision the people perish. And that should not be used by pastors who want to go into a building program. That’s not what that text is talking about. Where there is no vision of God’s law, the people run unrestrained.

I want to talk to you, young person. You’ve learned doctrines of sovereign grace, you read the Puritans. Congratulations. Have you gone through Scripture to discover what God says about relationships, and sought to understand it and submit your life to it in obedience? I know I sound like a 1960’s fundamentalist preacher. Let me ask you a question. Have you gone into the Scriptures to find the principles laid out for clothing and etiquette? And have you decided that you would submit your life to those directives? You see, we talk about being biblical in our worship. Have you gone through Scripture to learn what God desires out of worship? „Well, you know, we love worship this way,” „I don’t care how you like worship, cause that’s not the point. What has God said?” You see, in this idea, we can romance this thing to death, we can spiritualize it to death.

Someone can say, „Oh, I’ve given my life to themission field.” That does not mean, at the same time, that you have given your heart to God. Cause you can go to the mission field and be godless, and carnal and trite. You’d be better off joining National Geographic, than you would a mission agency. Are you seeking, in simplicity, to examine your life? I’m not talking about finding legalistc inferences and forcing them upon yourself. I’m talking about the great principles of Scripture, dealing in every aspect of your personal life, applying them to you and seeking to obey them.

Let me ask you a question: If you go to the mission field, without taking what I said as a serious endeavor, isn’t there the possibility that the only thing you’re going to do there , after you have crossed land and sea is make a convert like yourself that’s nothing more than a twofold son of hell? I mean, after all, my greatest fear, one of my greatest fears is that Fidel Castro is going to die, and that the wall around Cuba is going to fall. That’s one of my greatest fears. Do you wanna know why? Cause every form of American churchianity  that exists is going to make its way over there. I remember speaking to Conrad, the first time we went over there, and he said, „The first thing we always like to tell people who come over to teach: You’re not bringing God with you”. He was here long before you bought your ticket.

There isn’t a lot of American Christianity, folks, that needs to be exported. Unless, like Ravenhill says, we put it on some kind of a raft and send it off to a lone island, and after it’s going away from the dock, we all sing the doxology. If we’re going to endeavor to work in missions, then we must be motivated by a God that we know. A Gospel that we know. And we must be a people who have endeavored, with great force, to examine their lives in the light of Scripture, and conform their lives to what Scripture says.

How much of what you have, even the way you sit in the chair is formed by those around you and not by Scripture? Something to think about. Let’s pray. Father, I pray that, Lord, you know, that you would use this to begin some on a journey, of knowing you, seeking to know of that which brings delight , seeking to transform, conform their lives to it. Father, help us, who have begun the journey long ago, we cannot grow weary, but to seek to know you more, to seek to understand your will, to love what you love, and hate what you hate. To be a simple people, an obedient people, a people motivated by the Gospel, and drawn to the Gospel. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

VIDEO by EZEKIEL3622

Darrell Bock Panel – Raising Children in a Sex-Saturated Society (Dallas Seminary)

girls-at-computer

Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Gary Barnes, Dr. Chip Dickens and Debbie Wade discuss sexuality and the family, focusing on advice to Christian parents raising children in a sex-saturated culture.
http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/rais…

00:28 Dr. Barnes, Dr. Dickens and Debbie Wade introduce themselves

04:44 The church and a biblical view of sexuality
http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/rais…

13:13 Tips for raising Christian children in a sex-saturated culture
http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/rais…

23:45 Advice to single parents raising children while dealing with dysfunction

32:05 Tips for raising teenagers in a sex-saturated culture
http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/rais…

VIDEO by dallasseminary Published on Aug 5, 2013

5 Gospel for Asia Women Missionaries beaten while while sharing the love of Christ in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh

And what is our excuse for not sharing the Gospel? May God protect His missionaries and all those whose feet bring the good news of the Gospel to unbelievers- ROMANS 10:15 „how are they to hear vwithout someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, w“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

via Mission News Network Photo via http://www.christiantoday.com/

In the late morning, Bansari, Jaladhi, Kuyil, Sunita, and Viveka visited a marketplace about four miles from the GFA administrative office where they serve.

While the women were offering literature to shopkeepers and bystanders, a young man asked Jaladhi what they were doing. When Jaladhi said they were sharing about Christ’s love, the young man slapped her in the face.

As Sunita, Viveka, and Bansari rushed to Jaladhi, the man attacked them also, hitting their necks, faces, ears, and heads. Meanwhile, Kuyil, who stood in another part of the marketplace, escaped five men who had surrounded her.

Passersby watched the situation but did nothing to stop the attack.

Due to blows, the missionaries suffered from pain and swelling. They immediately reported the incident to their leaders after returning to the office. They say they rejoice that God’s name will be honored through their suffering.

“We rejoice in the Lord, though beaten up,” Bansari said. “May the Lord change their hearts.”

How viewing porn mocks the Gospel

by Tim Challies on Churchleaders.com photo via www.dailymail.co.uk

Pornography is ubiquitous today; addiction to pornography, especially among men, is equally widespread. Young men are often introduced to pornography long before they are able to understand what it is and what it means.

Many a young man’s first awakening to sex and sexuality is by exposure to pornographic sex and nudity. This is sadly, increasingly, the case with women as well.

Some Christians can take a kind of refuge in the fact that so many others share in the struggle. „We are all in this together” can minimize the weight of it. Yet the ubiquity of porn and porn addiction does nothing to lessen the horror of it.

Desecration and Titillation.

There is an inescapable consequence to the fact that human beings bear the image of God: There is nothing God values more than human beings.

Bearing God’s image is an extraordinary privilege and brings with it extraordinary worth.

Jesus asked, „What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?” If you were to accumulate the wealth of Bill Gates and add to it the wealth of Solomon, you would barely be scratching the surface of the value of a soul, of a person. Wealth will fade. It will rust and decay and be lost. People are eternal. When all of that wealth is gone, the soul will live on.

God says there is nothing in all creation that he values more than human beings. And if this is true, there can be nothing more abhorrent to God than the desecration of human beings.

There is nothing that displays greater spite toward God than destroying what he considers most significant. As man rejects being made in God’s image, there necessarily follows a culture of death and desecration.

When you look at pornography, you are watching the violation of what God considers more valuable than anything else he has created.

It is a violation of all that person is, for sex is not only skin deep, but soul deep. You are not only watching it, but enjoying it, and not only enjoying it, but being titillated by it. God says, „I value her above all else because she is made in my image, in my likeness.” You watch her being humiliated and violated and desecrated, and all the while fantasize about doing the same.

God says, „Of all I created, there is nothing with more worth and dignity,” and you delight in her desecration and indignity.

God says, „I hate it when her body and soul are stained,” and you say, „It turns me on.”

I have an important question I want to ask you. But first I want you to consider another consequence of pornography.

Porn and the Portrait.

There is nothing in all of creation with more value than human beings. There is no message more central than the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Long before the cross, God decided that he would embed within humanity a picture, a portrait of the gospel: marriage. The great mystery of marriage, a mystery that could be revealed only after the cross, is that marriage has always been and will always be about the gospel. The relationship of a husband and wife is to be a constant pointer to the relationship of Christ and his church.

Sex is inextricably bound to marriage. The only right expression of sex is within marriage, for only then can the sexual relationship point us to the intimate love of Christ for his people.

Sex outside of marriage tells lies about Christ, it tells lies about the church, and makes a complete mockery of the gospel. To tamper with sex is to tamper with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When you look at pornography, you are participating in this mocking of the gospel.

You are watching the violation of the gospel, you are enjoying the violation of the gospel, you are being aroused by it. God says, „I have given you this great picture of Christ and the church,” and you watch that portrait be defaced and violated and mocked, and you enjoy it all the while.

God says, „The purity of the sexual relationship points you to the purity of the love the Savior has for you.” And you say, „Right now I need a different kind of salvation from a different savior. A more satisfying kind, and one Christ did not supply at the cross. I need salvation only this god can provide.”

The Question.

Pornography desecrates the one thing in all of creation that God values above all; pornography makes a mockery of that great portrait God has given us of Christ’s faithful, compassionate love. And you who claim to love this God and who profess faith in this Savior, enjoy it, dedicate yourself to it, are titillated by it.

God wants you to know that there is forgiveness, that the same gospel you have mocked offers you forgiveness even for so grave a sin.

But I think God wants you to consider something else. He wants you to consider a warning:

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. … Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him (1 John 3:6,8-10).

Here is what I want to ask you: Do you love pornography enough to go to hell for it?

How can you tell if your child has become a Christian?

Photo credit www.readingkingdom.com

Brian Croft, over at the Gospel Coalition has a good article here- http://thegospelcoalition.org/ giving us 5 evidences that can ‘help us discern the legitimacy of child or teenager’s profession of faith’.  They are:

1. Growing affection and need for Jesus and the gospel.

2. Heightened understanding of the truths of Scripture.

3. Increased kindness and selflessness toward siblings.

4. Greater awareness of and distaste for sin.

5. Noticeable desire to obey parents.

Croft also advises that ‘it’s generally wise to look for these evidences in an age-appropriate manner,’ with teenagers having the ability to articulate the Gospel better than the younger kids. And he discourages parents ‘from affirming a child’s conversion without some kind of tangible evidence apart from a verbal profession. On the flip side, though, I’d caution parents and pastors from falling into the trap of demanding more from a child than can be reasonably expected and observed.’

You can read the entire article here – http://thegospelcoalition.org/

China’s underground church is thriving

Via gazette.com Photo via www.telegraph.co.uk

SHANGHAI

In a trendy coffee shop in this city’s glittering financial district, five people cram into a tiny, dimly lit back room with two tables. By day, these five are white-collar workers, eagerly climbing the corporate ladder as China’s economy booms. By night, once a week, they’re huddled over their Bibles.

„I was disappointed and struggling,” said Elvis Ma, a 29-year-old working in the financial industry. „Before I knew God, I felt trapped.”

Ma and the others opt to worship in what’s widely known as the „underground church,” a place for Chinese Christians to practice in smaller settings and without fear of government influence on what’s being preached.

It comes with a different fear, though: Being an unregistered Christian is illegal.

The underground church, also known as the family church or the home church, has been around for generations. It began as a way for Christians to worship, as practicing Christianity was frowned on in China for most of its communist history under Mao Zedong.

Believers gathered in small groups in homes, hotels and other discreet areas to practice in secrecy, for fear of government retaliation. This tradition of worshipping in humble places continues today.

„Our party is to believe in God. The government doesn’t encourage us to believe in God publicly,” Ma said. „But the government cannot stop it.”

Simply practicing isn’t illegal, but being unregistered is, according to experts. In the past year, more than 1,000 unregistered Protestant Christians were detained and sentenced, according to China Aid, a nonprofit human-rights organization based in the U.S. Some Protestant leaders were placed under house arrest for leading worship in unregistered churches.

A U.S. commission reported that the Chinese government’s efforts to suppress the growth of the underground church remain „systematic and intense.”

The official church is a part of the China Christian Council or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a concept that preaches self-government, self-support and self-propagation. Most services feature a mixture of Roman Catholic and Protestant components as well as nondenominational elements.

Dong Lee, a 29-year-old newlywed who has been practicing Christianity for about four years, said she’d tried attending several types of official church services but couldn’t agree with the traces of Catholicism in some. She now attends a small underground church, and she said she felt she was surrounded by a family who understood her, who’d support her.

On Sunday afternoons, Dong attends a Protestant church that’s in a different home in Shanghai each week. Hymns are sung and a 90-minute sermon follows that’s usually delivered by the host of that week’s service.

The underground church, though its services often don’t exceed 30 congregants, has a robust presence. Experts estimate that Shanghai is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of such churches. There might be as many as 67 million Protestants in China, many of whom attend the underground church. These estimations place China in the top 10 nations in the world in the number of Christians, and the number keeps growing.

Albert Wu said he attended an underground church because it provided opportunities for small-group discussion.

„The Bible changed the way we look at the world. This fellowship gives you support in everyday life,” Wu said. „I feel warm from the heart.”

Complaints about the official church vary: It’s large, it’s unfocused because it’s virtually nondenominational and it’s connected to the government.

Jing Jianmei, a 34-year-old pastor at a large official church in Shanghai called Hongde Tang, said she understood these complaints but didn’t think they were well-founded.

„The family church has history. Some worry that they risk the relationship with the government that the official church has,” Jing said. „But I think it’s about tradition. If people became Christian at Three-Self, they will attend Three-Self.”

Wearing a red puffy vest, sneakers and a large metal cross on a necklace, Jing emerged on a Thursday from her small apartment inside the church discussing upcoming Bible studies with two colleagues. She said that her church, which sees more than 2,000 people on Sundays, did have opportunities for small-group interaction.

While many underground churchgoers think the official church practices a watered-down version of Christianity, Jing said she has a strong connection with God.

Jing now leads a large church and hopes that through preaching, others might know the same God she does. She hopes and prays that people give the Three-Self church a chance.

„The most important thing about the church is Jesus is our Christ, not emphasizing the Three-Self principles,” she said.

Dr. Darrell Bock – Culture Shock: How to live faithfully overseas

darrell bock

VIDEO Published on Jul 15, 2013 by dallasseminary

Dr. Darrell Bock and Dr. Scott Cunningham discuss cultural engagement on a global scale, focusing on the Christian’s challenge of faithfully living as a social minority in overseas contexts.

00:11 Faithfully serving Christ and society as a social minority overseas
11:22 The challenge of cultural engagement in the workplace
15:39 How courses help students integrate the Christian worldview and their careers
18:20 Cultural engagement lessons learned overseas
22:25 Examples of engagement in cultures which hold mixed values
32:33 Awareness, intentionality, and integration in overseas contexts
34:57 How cultural context impacts reading of Scripture

Christian Leadership Training Around the World

Dr. Darrell Bock and Dr. Scott Cunningham discuss cultural engagement on a global scale, including Christian leadership training in non-Western cultures and the Christian’s challenge of faithfully living as a social minority in overseas contexts.

Matt Chandler – Stability amid difficulty

Matt and Lauren Chandler discuss what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown, and how they prioritize their time. With Mark Mellinger. (VIA theGospelCoaltion.org):

ChandlerOn Thanksgiving morning 2009, Matt Chandler got out of bed, poured his coffee, fed his daughter, and collapsed. Doctors would discover a malignant brain tumor, launching a scary season of suffering for him and his wife, Lauren. The couple recently sat down with Mark Mellinger to discuss what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown, and how they prioritize their time.

„God has grown in my heart a gratitude I’d never really experienced before,” Lauren shares. Rather than producing resentment, suffering has deepened her gratefulness for each day with Matt. Most of all, though, it’s made her thankful the Lord would „love me enough to understand suffering personally—and that he lovingly appointed me to go through a season where I didn’t have anything but him.”

That initial period of agonizing uncertainty and intensive treatment, Matt recalls, shifted his grasp of God’s sovereign goodness from the intellect to experience. „Now with a great deal of confidence,” he says, „I can talk about ‘the peace that passes all understanding.'”

In terms of their marriage, the cancer battle has forcefully „dialed us in to the here and now,” Matt explains. „It’s strengthened what I thought was strong already.” It’s also provided a unique platform, he says, for Lauren to serve with countercultural, gospel-reflecting love. „There’s nothing sexy about going through cancer treatments,” he admits. „The way Lauren has cared for me during the worst times demonstrates a love of the will rarely esteemed in our culture today.”

Given the preciousness of time, Mellinger also asks the Chandlers how they seek to manage their busy schedules. More specifically, how does Matt decide to what to say yesand to what to say no?

Matt and Lauren Chandler on Stability amid Difficulty from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Other videos of Matt Chandler:

Matt Chandler – The Explicit Gospel – Free ebook Download at Christianaudio (June only)

Thanks to Denise A. for pointing this out to me-

Here is the link – http://christianaudio.com/free#June2013. You do need to set up a userID and password with Christianaudio, if you do not already have a free acount with them in order to receive the free download.

Stream „The Story of Matt Chandler” for free, here:

Matt Chandler preaching – The Explicit Gospel

The Crossway simulcast from May in Orlando, Florida, compliments of Lifeway.

Explicit Gospel Simulcast – Orlando, FL from Crossway on Vimeo.

Did Marx get his idea for socialism from the Gospels?

Does Acts 2-5 command socialism?

Having been born and raised in a communist country, with first hand knowledge of the impact of socialism, I found this article very interesting and on target. It is an article posted on the Gospel Coalition website, in which Art Lindsley discusses the claim made on a Washington Post blog, by writer Gregory Paul that ‘Marx likely got the general idea for socialism from the Gospels’.

„A truly strange thing has happened to American Christianity,” Gregory Paul writes for The Washington Post’s „On Faith” blog. He claims that Christians who defend the free market are in a profound contradiction because Acts 2-5 is „outright socialism of the type described millennia later by Marx—who likely got the general idea from the Gospels.”

Acts 4:32-35, referring to the early congregation, says,

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Though these passages may sound like socialism to the average reader, such a superficial reading may miss what a closer examination of the text reveals. There are three major reasons why Acts 2-5 does not teach socialism. 

Lindsley quotes Craig Blomberg from his study  Neither Poverty nor Riches, in which Blomberg comments on  Acts 4:34b-35 and states:

The periodic selling of property confirms our interpretation of Acts 2:44 above. This was not a one-time divesture of all one’s possessions. The theme „according to need,” reappears, too. Interestingly, what does not appear in this paragraph is any statement of complete equality among believers.

Lindsley also points out that –

John Stott affirms Blomberg’s conclusions on property in the early church, also underscoring Luke’s use of the imperfect tense:

Neither Jesus nor his apostles forbade private property to all Christians. . . It is important to note that even in Jerusalem the sharing of property and possessions was voluntary . . . It is also noteworthy that the tense of both verbs in verse 45 is imperfect, which indicates that the selling and giving were occasional, in response to particular needs, not once and for all.

Finally, Lindsley gives 2 reasons why, even if  all believers sold all their possessions and redistributed them among the community, this still would not prove socialism is biblical.

  1. The act in Acts was totally voluntary — Socialism implies coercion by the state…
  2. The narrative was not a universal command. — To prove Acts 2-5 commands socialism, you would have to show that this historical precedent is a mandatory prescription for all later Christians.

Click here to read the entire article at the Gospel Coalition website.

From Resurrection to Pentecost – Acts chapter 1

Dr. George O. Wood:

  • The book of Acts is the acts of God in human history and in the Church.
  • The apostles who are dealt with are Peter, in the first twelve chapters, and Paul, in the last sixteen chapters. There‘s an interfacing of those two apostles in chapter 15
  • The whole book is the Acts of the Holy Spirit

We want to note some things about Acts as we begin. That is, its placement.

I. First of all, in the canon of Scripture.

It is in a very strategic spot. Have you ever considered what it would be like to not have the Book of Acts at all in the New Testament? It would be very confusing, to say the least, to conclude the Gospel of John, which talks about Jesus asking Peter if he loves Him, and once done with John and with the Gospels, then all of a sudden we open to the next page, which is, ―Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, to the church at Rome.‖ If we had nothing between John and the letter to the Romans, we might legitimately ask, ―Who is this person called Paul?‖ and ―How did the gospel get to Rome?‖ and ―Who are these people who are not Jewish?‖ For the Book of Acts chronicles the thirty years, from the ascension of Jesus until about 63 A.D., with the imprisonment of the apostle Paul in Rome. The whole movement of the Book of Acts gives us an understanding of what happened in the growth of the Church in that time. How we have the ministry of a person like Paul, and how the Church not only has expanded geographically but has got from Jerusalem far away to Rome. But also how it has expanded culturally. Moving from an all-Jewish base to a largely Gentile-base. And without this important historical work, the fifth book of the New Testament, the Book of Acts, we would be in the dark about these things. The Book of Acts, therefore, covers the span of approximately thirty years of time.

Who in the Early Church, in that birth date of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, could have envisioned what the next thirty years would hold for the Church? But it held a powerful time of expansion. Who is the author of this book? You will never find him named, of course. As you read through the Gospels, you will never find any of the Gospel authors named. It‘s striking that Matthew does not name himself, Mark does not name himself, Luke does not name himself, and John does not name himself when they write their Gospels. Nor does Luke again name himself when he writes his second volume. I think that is so significant, because if I were writing a Gospel or a history of the Early Church—and remember that this Book of Acts was the only history of the Church written for three centuries, the next history after it was one written by Eusebius, third century A.D.—if I were writing a book of such powerful persuasion, I would probably want my name attached to it. If, for nothing else, the royalties. Then secondly, the recognition.

Why are the Gospel writers then silent? Why is Luke silent about giving his name? I think there are probably two reasons and they are important for instructing us in some matters in the Church world today. One reason is that the story which they tell is not their personal story, it is not their biography, and it is not their property, therefore. It is the story that belongs to the whole Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not fitting that they superimpose their name or their degree or their talent over what belongs to the Lord and to His people. So, fittingly, they represent it, not as their singular story, but as that which belongs to all of God‘s people.

Then I think another reason why they do not name themselves is that there is that infusion of humility which the Lord had inbred in them, that there was to be an honoring of the Lord God and a receding of the claim of the human personality for recognition and the like. So they quietly fade into the background so that they might tell his-story, which is the right hyphenation of history, isn‘t it? History should be, from the Christian perspective, ―His-story.‖ God‘s story of activity in our lives and on the planet earth.

We look at the placement of this book in the canon, the authorship behind it, the dating of the book, just briefly. If we relied on internal evidence we‘d be brought to the conclusion that it was written shortly after the events described in chapter 28 come to an end. Why would the Book of Acts end with an imprisonment if that wasn‘t all the history that had happened up to that time? If Luke had been writing in 70 or 80 or 90 A.D., it would be very strange that he would end his history with an imprisonment that happened around 63 A.D., unless he intended to write a third volume. So it‘s probable that he writes somewhat contemporaneously to the events that end the book.

And that‘s an important point to note. One of the debates in biblical scholarship has to do with the dating of the Gospels and the Book of Acts. Those who tend to operate from a liberal persuasion always select late dates, because they want a late date like 70 or 80 or 90 to say that what we have in the New Testament is the gathering of myth and it took time for the Church to collect its stories and all the biblical writers were really editors. They were not real writers. Furthermore, Luke, for example, like the other Gospel writers, does not give us an account of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. If Luke wrote Luke-Acts prior to 70 A.D., then what is written about the Olivet Discourse, on the Lord‘s lips, was really prophecy. But if Luke–Acts and the other Gospels were written after 70 A.D., then their statements about the destruction of Jerusalem and the words of Jesus may be subject to a claim that they put words in Jesus‘ mouth. So it is always interesting to look at the internal evidence itself for what the books are saying about the time of their authorship. It implicitly, seemingly in this book, would lead to the conclusion that it was written somewhat contemporaneously with the events that the book ends with.

One other thing, by way of introduction, should be noted and that is the title of the book. We call it ―The Acts of the Apostles.‖ And that, of course, does not occur in the original text. It is the title given by an editor, an early editor, to sort of differentiate it from all the other books. That‘s a good title. The Acts. There are some people in the body of Christ, some evangelicals, who suggest to us that we cannot derive any doctrinal position if it is formulated in the Book of Acts, because doctrinal positions can only be formulated from clear expository or didactic teaching such as in the Gospels or in letters, doctrinal letters, which we see in the Epistles; therefore, that you cannot make doctrine out of experience that is recorded in Acts.

I want to focus, therefore, on the word ―Acts‖ for just a moment. In that, we learn Christian truth by not only hearing it taught. We learn Christian truth by seeing it demonstrated. Truths is just as valid in its demonstration or its modeling as it is when it is being taught Point A, Point B, Point C and Point D. I have learned more truths about the Christian life personally, and I think you may have too, by watching other people live the Christian life; than maybe I have learned through simply reading a treatise on the Christian life.

I learn more, for example, about humility by watching humble people than by reading the latest book on humility. So don‘t let anyone say to you ―The Book of Acts is an interesting book. But it doesn‘t lead us to any doctrinal formulation.‖ As we get into this book, we will see that the acts of God in human history and in the Church in themselves become patterns from which we derive doctrinal perspectives and understandings of experiences that are valid and necessary for the believer today.

―The Acts of the Apostles‖: That‘s a misnomer, because there aren‘t many apostles that Acts really deals with. We‘re not told anything about what Thomas did, about what Matthew did. We‘re really only told one or two things about what John did. And what did Judas the son of James do? Or Bartholomew or Andrew? Their stories are not told in the Book of Acts. So, in reality, it isn‘t the Acts of the Apostles. The apostles who are dealt with are Peter, in the first twelve chapters, and Paul, in the last sixteen chapters. There‘s an interfacing of those two apostles in chapter 15. It really focuses on two of the apostles. In a certain respect, as someone has suggested, it really isn‘t the Acts of the Apostles anyway. The whole book is the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Maybe that title should be where the stress belongs. That same Holy Spirit is alive in the Church today. Even though the Apostles are gone from us, the Holy Spirit is at work.

Let‘s look at some of the verses.
Verse 1, ―In my former book, Theophilus…‖ That, of course, is Luke‘s reference back to volume one, to the Gospel of Luke itself, which had been dedicated to this person named Theophilus. You can say that so quickly that you might slur it and get ―the awfulest‖ out of that, but it is Theophilus. Theo, the Greek word for ―God‖ and philus coming from ―friend of God‖ or ―lover of God.‖ Some have postulated that this was Luke‘s patron, the one who was the benefactor that provided the financial support necessary for the author to have the two years of research time that he needed in order to write his manuscript. That‘s sheer conjuncture. No one knows for sure.

Others have suggested that Theophilus is a person who is very interested in the Christian faith. He has a Greek name, suggesting that he is non-Jewish and Luke is writing to persuade him, inform him accurately of all these things.
Others have suggested that Theophilus simply is a representative man for all who will be a friend of God whom this book is addressed to.

source of photo – http://visualunit.me/

When you look at the fact that both Luke and Acts are addressed to the same person, you realize that what you‘ve got here is one book in two volumes. Therefore, Luke himself, by sheer weight of words, becomes the one who writes more New Testament Scripture than any other writer. Word for word, Luke outproduces Paul. Take all the words of Paul and add them together and stack them against all the words of Luke, and Luke writes more Scripture than does anyone else in the New Testament.

Luke is not writing by what we might call ―dictation inspiration.‖ That is, he is not sitting at his desk and saying, ―Ok, Lord, what comes next? Would You repeat the last sentence? I didn‘t get that.‖ He says, in the first volume, in the first four verses, that his method of writing was to consult written sources and to interview eyewitnesses, himself not being an eyewitness. And, on the basis of research, he had inquired as to the accuracy of what was reported to him so that he might set it down in an orderly way. So what the Lord is saying about inspiration, through the writing of Luke, is that the process of the making of Scripture is not some hocus-pocus kind of a thing, where there is a voice that materializes in a room and begins mechanically dictating to a writer. But that the Lord, in breathing the Scripture into being, works through the unique individual and human aspects of the writer and, what the Holy Spirit does in promoting or causing that person to write, is to guarantee the accuracy and authenticity and power of what the author is recording. So the Scripture is, in Luke‘s case, both the product of his human inquiry, superimposed over the direct activity of the Holy Spirit causing him to want to write, causing him to select the right things, to report, and causing those things to be reported accurately and also causing them to be written in such a way that they bring spiritual life to people.

How many of you have ever read dull history? Real history that absolutely rocked you to sleep. I would make a case that inspiration not only carries its Scripture definition of being out-breathed by God, but inspiration, by its very necessity must also be inspiring so that what is written here wakes us up, jabs us, gets us spiritually alive. Part of the inspiration that Luke is writing with has that character to it.

So he‘s picking up where he had left off in Luke 24, as he opens. He said, ―In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach till the day He was taken up to heaven‖ (Acts 1:1). Does it strike you that in the phrase ―all that Jesus began to do and teach‖ Luke summarizes his Gospel, volume one—which begins earlier than the other Gospels historically with the annunciation of the angel to Mary and genealogically it goes all the way back to Adam? Matthew only goes to Abraham. Luke tried to push back our border of knowledge about Jesus to as early as he could. He takes us from that annunciation all the way through the ascension in Luke 24. At the beginning of Acts, he summarizes all that epoch of time, saying this is all that Jesus began to do and teach. The inference of that phrase ―Jesus began to do and teach,‖ in relationship to the Gospel, is a statement that Luke is making that Jesus is not through teaching or doing. That‘s the great thing he‘s saying to the Church right off the bat. ―If you think Jesus is history, if you think Jesus is past tense, you‘ve got another thing to consider. Because this same Jesus who has ascended now into heaven is continuing to do and to teach.‖

I immediately am drawn to that aspect. In fact, it‘s the same kind of theme that Mark begins his Gospel with, where he says in an unfinished sentence of verse 1 of chapter 1, ―The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.‖ Inferring that everything he writes is only the initiation, the beginning of what Jesus is doing. Whenever we breathe deeply in the New Testament Spirit, we‘re breathing in the air of a risen living Christ, who is among His people. Not a dead historical figure whose work is over, but a living spiritual reality whose work is just getting started.

I like that. ―Until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His suffering, His passion, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days.‖ Jesus‘ public ministry is sandwiched between two epochs of forty days. The first epoch of forty days, He is totally alone and He is in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan. The last forty days after the resurrection, He is again alone, but with His disciples. He is not with the crowds. He is not appearing to unbelievers. He is ratifying His work to those who have trusted in Him.

What do you think Jesus would be doing in those forty days? I would have liked to have known a lot of things in those forty days, had I had a chance to ask Jesus some questions. I would have liked to have known what the nature of the Trinity is like. I would like for that to be clearly explained to me. If any of you could clearly explain it to everyone‘s satisfaction in the world, then you need to write a book.

And I would like to know the relationship between predestination and free-will. I would have asked Jesus that in those forty days, because I‘m getting asked questions like that by my college aged son and his roommate and that has engrossed them ever since their days at Newport Christian High School, the proper relationship between those two things.

I‘d also have liked some kind of description of angelic order and the rankings of the seraphs, cherubims, and angels. What it‘s like to be a common angel. The order and, if you get a chance for promotion and those kinds of things. It would be interesting to know.

I would like to know a little bit about what happens to the spirit when the body dies. I know we go to be with the Lord even while we‘re putting the body in the ground. But how can I have an existence yet waiting for my body to be resurrected? I know that all of that is going to happen, but I‘d like to understand that a little bit better.

I would also like the Lord, maybe, to have shown us some slides of what heaven is like. Surely, He had the capacity to make slides! You don‘t think the laws of photography were unknown to the Lord, do you? He is the Creator of all things. He could have brought down maybe a few pictures, He could have left some of those behind—they could have financed His Church for a long time, by the way. Jesus had all kinds of fundraising methods that He neglected to employ to make sure His Church stayed well and healthy.

But I‘d like to have known that. I would like to know some esoteric secrets—hidden things. The reason I bring this up is that there has always been in Christianity something called Gnosticism. I referred to that a couple weeks ago when I preached on the ―kingdom now theology.‖ Gnosticism was a church heresy beginning at the end of the first century, extending all the way through the early centuries, that is based upon a Greek word: gnosis—knowledge. The gnostics came along and said, ―Here we have the external word, but if you come into our group, we‘re going to give you a hidden interpretation of Scripture. We‘re going to take you into dreams and revelations. You get in our group and you‘re no longer going have the milk for babes. You‘re going to get into the real meat and you‘re going to understand orders and rankings of angels.‖ They had all kinds of marvelous mysteries they were expounding. There is always that subtle danger in the body of Christ that we might want to leave the plain things of Scripture and get into things that are not plain readings of Scripture and get into esoteric ―truth‖ or Gnostic ―truth.‖ We‘re trying to know and identify with and live in mysteries that aren‘t any of our business to know and they can‘t be known because they‘ve never been objectively revealed in the Bible.

It‘s interesting that Jesus, in those forty days, did not take those forty days as a platform for giving the disciples new teaching which they had not been given during the three years of His earthly ministry. What He‘s doing in those forty days is restating the basic premise of His early ministry, His three-year ministry. That basic premise had to do with the kingdom of God. If you look at what Jesus is teaching in the Gospels, the focus of what He is saying is always on the kingdom of God. The parables deal, in massive quantities, especially in the Gospel of Matthew, with the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, basically defined by Jesus as both now and it is then. It is now in the heart. It is not seen. It is not political. It is not external. It must be received and grow secretly as seed in the soil and it has different levels of growth and responsiveness. But the kingdom then, when the Lord returns, will be one which is political and external and for all. But for right now, the kingdom is within you. And He was reinforcing that message of the kingdom and those days and illustrating why, as the king, He needed to lay down His life in Jerusalem and die for His people.

So He reinforces and reinterprets what He has done in those three years of His ministry, speaking about the kingdom of God. In addition to a doctrinal theme—the kingdom of God—Jesus is also talking about a person. ―Don‘t leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.‖ Jesus here was saying to the disciples, ―In addition to knowing what I‘ve taught you, I‘m going to give you a gift.‖ The gift is also referred to here as a baptism. A baptism or immersion with the Holy Spirit.

Immediately, we get into a doctrinal question. Were the disciples at this point saved? Had they made a statement of saving faith in Jesus? And if they were saved, did they not already have the Holy Spirit? The answer to those questions is, ―Yes, the Gospel witness makes it clear that they had passed from death into life, beginning with the confession at Caesarea Philippi, when Peter said, ̳You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.‘ That is the basis upon which the Christian faith rests.‖

Following the resurrection of Jesus Christ in John 20:22, Jesus breathed into them and said, ―Receive the Spirit.‖ In that act of breathing, Jesus recreated the drama of the Garden of Eden, when He took the lifeless form of mortal man and breathed into him air, life. Jesus now, after the resurrection, says, ―I‘m the new Adam, the second Adam and I have a new life order. Not just biological life, like I gave to Adam, but I now have resurrection life to breathe into you.‖ So He breathed into them and they received the Spirit. The air, the wind, the reviving power of God in the personality of the Spirit.

We draw the conclusion from this that anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and His power and His resurrection from the dead is a receiver of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit indwells every born-again Christian. I say this as a Pentecostal preacher who teaches that there is a subsequent experience with the Holy Spirit beyond conversion—a baptism in the Spirit beyond conversion. Jesus, here in Acts 1:5, is not talking about the conversion experience. They‘ve already had that in John 20, when He‘s breathed upon them and ratified to them the benefits of resurrection life. But He‘s saying now, ―There is yet a subsequent experience in which you, My disciples, who have believed in Me, are going to get saturated with the Spirit.‖ We‘ll look at this more as we come to those passages in the Book of Acts.

Jesus was very concerned that His disciples not try to go out and do things in their own power. If a group of us had been present on that occasion, when Jesus ascended into heaven, we might legitimately say, ―Now that He‘s gone, what are we going to do?‖ We might have a planning committee. And I would suggest we develop a statement of mission. Then we develop a statement of objectives. Then we develop our strategies. Then we prioritize the strategies ad infinitum.‖ We go at this from a method system. We do good process management and get to the conclusion that we have to go to the entire world, so guys, we‘ve got to figure all this out.

I‘m not against appropriate planning and the like, but I am deeply committed to the fact that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world to do a lot of leapfrogging. There are times when I‘m connecting point A, point B, point C and D in my logical and methodical manner, and it‘s the Holy Spirit‘s intention to absolutely leapfrog over BCDEF to get all the way from A to G in one fell swoop. He‘s going for it. There are times we simply have to realize that the Holy Spirit is what He says He is. He is air or wind and He can come in with a great gust and suddenly lift us further than we ever dreamed. We must not always think of spiritual growth as something which is like biological growth—steady and progressive. Spiritual growth is that. We add line to line and precept to precept. But there are also occasions when, seemingly spiritually, we just go from here and all of a sudden we have a powerful encounter with God and we‘re all the way over here. Thirty minutes maybe have gone by, but we‘ve had a tremendous transformation.

Jesus says to His Church, ―You need this Holy Spirit because the mission I‘m giving to you is too big for you to do with your own thinking, no matter how bright you are. You‘ve got to rely on a power that is stronger than your own.‖ The Church has to rely upon the person of God to do the work of God. If it doesn‘t, it‘s stagnant in the water.

So you‘ll receive the Holy Spirit, a promise not just made to them, but I believe a promise we‘ll see as we go through Acts, made to all of us. Don‘t leave Jerusalem. Don‘t get busy doing things until you‘ve got this power and this baptism. So everything‘s wrapped up. Forty days go by. He‘s talked to them about His program, the kingdom of God, and the person, the Holy Spirit. They just have one loose end when it‘s all done. The loose end is this: Jesus, where is the kingdom? They‘re still hung up on this. ―We believe You‘re the king, the Messiah. It‘s going to now be in our hearts. But when are You going to give this kingdom to Israel?‖ They lived in a culture which had differing perspectives of when the kingdom was going to come.

  • Essenes – It‘s interesting that the culture of their day was exactly like the culture of our day. If you look at camps in Christianity today, there‘s no difference in those camps and the camps in Judaism at this time in the writing of the Book of Acts. There were those who were called the Essenes. There were those who, in relation to the kingdom of God, said, ―The world is so messed up, we can‘t do anything about it. We‘re not even going to try. We‘re going to go out into the desert, found our own community, get our own act together and get holy and cleaned up. If we get holy enough and purified enough someday, the teacher of righteousness may come, and if He comes, He‘ll come to us. And to ―you know where‖ with the rest of the world.‖ That group is represented in the Church today by those who quote the verse ―Come out from among them and be ye separate.‖

―Touch not the unclean thing.‖ They‘re in a sense saying, ―We want to live in our own closed quarters. Don‘t make us have contact with anybody. We‘re the holy club. When Jesus comes back to earth, He‘s going to come to our church and our pastor and our denomination, us three and no more, praise God. The kingdom of God is washed up with the world. It‘s all headed for the wastebasket, but we‘re the righteous ones, the Essenes. The kingdom isn‘t coming to those people out there. It‘s waiting for us.‖

  • Zealots – Then there were the zealots who said, ―None of this. God Himself delays the kingdom to see if we‘re serious about it. So let‘s get involved. We‘ve got to show good faith in the Lord. So let‘s get involved in politics and let‘s show the Messiah that we mean business. Let‘s kick out Rome. Let‘s take over the government. Let‘s dominate society. Let‘s have the kingdom here and now. And to do this, if we need to, let‘s use force.‖ They were called the zealots. They said, ―The kingdom can‘t come until the Lord sees we‘re serious about bringing the kingdom. Then, when we get everything ready for Him, we can roll out the red carpet and say, ―Even so, come.‖
  • Sadducees – Then there were the Sadducees, what we would call the liberal wing of the church, who said, ―All this stuff about a kingdom! It ain‘t never gonna come, folks! This is the best of all possible worlds. And everybody‘s got to have a religious system, because people need religion. So since they need religion, let‘s provide the institutions, let‘s make a good living off of religion, but let‘s not take things too seriously, let‘s forget this stuff about miracles and angels and revealed truth and stuff like this. Let‘s just say whatever goes, goes. Let‘s keep the system going and keep the pious few gullible and help use the revenues to found the great enterprises we‘re involved in.‖ Then there were the Pharisees, with whom Jesus mostly identified, who said, ―We must do the best we can in the midst of this wicked, perverse generation. Lets live, not separated from society but let‘s maintain an inner code that‘s different.‖ They extended that to, ―Let‘s also maintain an outer code of dress that separates us.‖

But they were all, in one way or another, looking for the kingdom. So the disciples coming out of that matrix said, ―Lord, what about the kingdom? When is Your kingdom going to come? Are You going to restore Israel now?‖ Jesus didn‘t say to them, ―Don‘t you know yet that the millennium is never going to happen, all of those promises with Israel are all over. They‘re all in the past. I‘ve aggregated them and there‘s a whole new covenant in effect. Jerusalem will never become the world capital and the temple will never be rebuilt and the antichrist is never going to come and the Messiah will never sit on the throne of Jerusalem—all that stuff is relegated to the past. Don‘t you know that yet? I‘m going to have to stay with you guys forty more days and get your theology straightened out!‖

He doesn‘t answer them that way. He just says to them, ―It‘s not for you to know the chronos or the kairos—the times or the seasons.‖ Those are two Greek words—synonyms. Chronos is the word from which we get ―chronology,‖ some of what you‘re doing when you look at your watch. You‘re watching ―chronology‖—time—go by. It‘s not for you to know the length of time or the kairos—the season of time—the appropriate time, the right time, the quality of time. It‘s not for you to know quantity of time or quality of time. But it‘s instead for you to do something else. It‘s time for you to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.

  1. Power. I hear, at various times, preachers point out that the basic word underlying ―power‖ here is the word dunamis, from which we derive the word ―dynamite.‖ The only problem with dynamite is that it blows people up. I‘m not sure that what Jesus is promising here is a TNT experience. What He is promising is that He is going to do, in regard to our potential, two things. All of us have potential which we have not tapped. It‘s just native potential, native ability. Power involves the capacity to reach your potential. That‘s one dimension to it.
  2. The second dimension is this: that there is potential in you that you don‘t see, that only God Himself sees. And the power of the Holy Spirit is to cause you to walk in that second level of potential that is even beyond the potential you have as a native human being. I think that‘s fabulous! God‘s not all done making me yet. There are times when I get so frustrated with what I‘m doing, and my lack of ability and my inadequacy, that I need a good shot in the arm like this that says, ―God has not given up on producing potential in my life that is there, both in the natural man and the spiritual man, that is beyond the capacity that I can see personally.‖ He wants to give us that dunamis of the Holy Spirit so that we might be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

You look at the task of the Early Church. I‘ve made this comparison before, but if you took the then known number of people in the world, you‘d get the magnitude of the task that they faced. There were approximately four million people in Palestine at the time. In Jerusalem and Judea, about four million. About the amount of people that are in Israel today. One hundred and twenty people for the four million. Or one believer for every thirty-three thousand people. Since there are roughly a hundred and ten thousand people in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, that would amount up to about four believers to reach those two towns. There were approximately two hundred and fifty million people in the then Roman world, which means there was one believer for every 1.2 million people. If I were looking at those odds as a statistician, wow!

One of the evidences for Christianity is that the Church is here after twenty centuries. And that the Church of Jesus Christ penetrated the world. And that it grew from a small little group of a hundred and twenty and had a powerful effect. In fact, within thirty years, it was so powerful that it could not be numbered. After a while, even the Book of Acts gave up counting. In fact, after the Day of Pentecost, the Church could never again fit in a single room. You know that we will never again be in a single room until we‘re in that great banquet hall in the kingdom to come. At one time, the Church from all centuries and ethnic groups and backgrounds is going to gather and, all at one time, bring in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. That‘s the next time we‘ll all be in one room. Acts 1 and 2 is the last time the Church was in a single room. It‘s going to explode beyond that. It‘s going to have a ministry.

Let no one look at the size of a challenge and say it can‘t be done. One of the real tendencies we have as Christians, and I think this is especially true for us in Orange County, is that we‘re all seeking close personal relationships, because we live in such an impersonal world and we‘re separated from our extended families, many of us. We often say of the church, ―I sure hope the church doesn‘t grow much because I don‘t like big churches.‖ I know what people mean when they say that. It‘s a pain to be lost in a crowd and not know anybody. But yet, if the church is going to be true to its mission of extending the gospel to every single human being, growth is part and parcel with what God has to do. It means we‘ve got to get ourselves in a growth modality or a growth pattern or growth mentality where, instead of wanting things to stay small so we can be comfortable, we want the kingdom to expand so we can have more responsibility. Do you want to be more comfortable or do you want more responsibility? That will, to a great degree, determine how mature you are as a believer. Immature believers want to be comfortable. They don‘t want to have to do anything. In a comfortable church, you know everybody‘s name. In a growing church, you‘ll never know everybody‘s name—there‘s too much going on. In a comfortable church, everybody has a job and there are plenty of people who don‘t have to do anything. In a church that‘s growing, there‘s always going to be a need for more and more workers to be involved, because we‘re in a responsibility mode of our spiritual life and behavior. Be my witnesses. ―After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes. And a cloud hid him from their sight‖ (Acts 1:9). That‘s better than any blast-off at Cape Canaveral. I‘d like to have seen it.

Here is something that absolutely defies all the laws of physics. Without engines, the Lord blasts off. Then you have to ask the question, where did He go? How did He survive in the ionosphere when He got up to thirty thousand feet? What was going on? Did He have to fly through the planets? How far did He go? Is the dwelling place of God somewhere out there in the universe? The edge of the universe is supposed to be ten billion light years out there. Which means that if you travel 186,282 miles per second for ten billion years, you‘re going to get there. But even when you get there, there may be more out there and you still haven‘t stepped out of time and space. So when it says, ―Jesus ascended into heaven,‖ heaven must not simply be the blue sky. Heaven must be outside the created order and it doesn‘t take ten billion light years to get there. Just like it doesn‘t take ten billion light years for our prayers to reach God. But stepping outside of time and space in a dimension no telescope has yet probed, Jesus goes from earth to heaven! If you‘re not into the miraculous, Christianity is not for you. There‘s just too much happening here. One of the things we know about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the change that was produced in the disciples‘ life is that they were eyewitnesses to all this. They were eyewitnesses to the Resurrection. They were eyewitnesses to the living Christ who presented Himself with infallible proofs. And they were eyewitnesses to His ascension. A common person without that experience would not have believed any of that stuff. But they were credible people who saw it and bore witness to it.

One other note about the ascension I would like to point out. It‘s from observation of having been in the Holy Land a number of times. The Mount of Olives is one of my very favorite places. It was obviously one of Jesus‘ favorite places. He loved to pray at the base of the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. He taught on the Mount of Olives one of His great discourses, the Olivet Discourse, directly facing the Temple Mount. He walked over the Mount of Olives to Bethany, day in and day out, the last week. And He ascended from the Mount of Olives.

Even in Jesus‘ day, the Mount of Olives, like today, is a burial ground. In Judaism, if you want to be buried, it‘s the spot. My first choice would be to be buried on the Mount of Olives. I don‘t know how you‘d get me in there—Muslims on one side and the Jewish people on the other side. I don‘t think there‘s a Christian cemetery there. But there are graves on the Mount of Olives that go back for millenniums. Not just centuries—millenniums! On that spot, the Mount of Olives, which is littered with burial stones—the whole mountainside is covered with burial stones; in that place of death, Jesus becomes the one human being that, instead of going down into the Mount of Olives, goes up from the Mount of Olives.

The point was not lost on the contemporaries of Jesus‘ days, that here is a person who didn‘t go into the ground but He went up from the ground and He took the symbolic spot of all of Judaism for burial to take place, to make it a place of triumph and ascension. It was a masterstroke and plan. Whoever says the Lord doesn‘t plan things out…He‘s a strategist. He‘s going to take the symbols of death and turn them into symbols of life.

And Zachariah says, ―He‘s going to come back to the Mount of Olives.‖ I‘ll be in heaven and won‘t watch TV then. But I‘d like to see the news reports of all the open graves on the Mount of Olives.

―They looked intently up in the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. [Notice they didn‘t have wings or anything like that. They were just wearing white clothes.] ̳Men of Galilee. Why do you stand here looking into the sky? The same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you‘ve seen him go into heaven‘‖ (Acts 1:10-11). There are some saying, in our day—like there were Gnostics in the apostles‘ day saying—that Jesus is not going to have a literal return to earth. His coming is going to be a coming in the transformed lives of His children. It will be a hidden coming. Here‘s the rebuttal to that point of view, saying that the coming of Jesus will be as visible and as evidently physical as His ascension into heaven.

Jesus enters into heaven and the Church then does some things that we read about in verses 12– 26, that give us the character of the Early Church. I want to spend just a few moments here talking about this pre-Pentecostal, powerful Church. That when a church begins to move in these qualities (there are four qualities that are noted here from in verses 12–26) or when an individual Christian begins to move in these qualities, they open themselves up to a tremendous work of the Holy Spirit.

I. The first quality is obedience.

That is always the mark of mature discipleship and of a vital church. What the disciples did after Jesus ascended was—instead of immediately dispersing and beginning to carry the good news— remember that Jesus said, ―Go back to Jerusalem and wait.‖ So even though they didn‘t understand it and even though they had to be bursting with joy to be able to tell that story to other people, they obeyed and went back.

II. The second thing that they did was meet together in unity.

There was the Twelve who are named. They were joined constantly in prayer along with the women. It‘s not just a male group. The last mention we have of Mary in the Bible was of her in a prayer meeting, and she wasn‘t leading the prayer meeting, either, she wasn‘t being prayed to. That should be noted. She was part of the prayer meeting. And Jesus‘ brothers, who previously in the Gospels are mentioned as being alienated from Him and not believing Him—they‘re there. In fact, the number all together is about one hundred and twenty. Acts 2:1 tells us they were all together in one place. There was tremendous unity. They stayed in that place together for ten days.

I‘d like to put before you the idea that unity takes time. One of the problems we have in the contemporary church is we don‘t have time. I find, in the church, that people only take time, that about 70 or 80 percent of the Church of Jesus Christ today takes time to be together with the Body one hour a week in a structured worship setting, and that is it. I am going to make a flat out statement: As long as the church continues in that pattern, it will never ever have revival. It is absolutely impossible to have revival when you only give one hour a week to being together with God‘s people. It‘ll never happen. It‘ll not happen in a billion centuries. It takes a significant amount of being together, and not just being together socially but being together spiritually, praying together, singing together, hearing God‘s Word together, testifying together. It takes that being together to provide a matrix of that warmth and relationship which becomes the fertile soil in which to place a new believer, a converted believer. Instead of putting a new believer into a community of strangers, the church has to be a living web of deep interpersonal human relationships that have been graced by the Spirit of God.

I will share with you as pastor that I do not know how to change the trend the church is in. We are in a humongously busy culture. Everybody is going every single direction they can go. We‘ve got mobility. We‘ve got financial mobility. We‘ve got homes on wheels. We‘ve got income that often allows people to be able to take time to pursue personal pursuits. There‘s nothing wrong with any of these things by themselves. Except, ultimately, they produce a devastating effect on the church, because people do not have time to be the church.

What would happen if as a pastor I asked everybody in the congregation next year, from July 1 to July 10, to plan their ten vacation days and not doing anything off on your own, but go to get a place and go off together and spend ten days singing, praying, eating, fellowshipping and waiting upon God and hearing God‘s Word. We‘re going to take ten solid days as a church. Once you come, you can‘t leave. You have to be there and the whole church has to go. Not a single person can be left out. If we did that for ten days, you could write the history of this church in block letters a mile high, because it would absolutely explode. You can‘t have that kind of a group experience in the presence of the Holy Spirit and not have something significant happen to alter people‘s relationships with God and with one another forever. As long as the church is fooling around with one structured hour a week, it may gain a little bit of ground, but it‘s not going to dynamically penetrate society. I wish that weren‘t true, but I‘m afraid it is. I‘m frustrated as a pastor with the state of the church in that area.

Unity is essential and it takes time. These guys, they weren‘t independently rich. To my understanding, Peter and the boys were middle-class fishermen. They didn‘t have people just independently supporting them. But these people took time to be together. They were at the beginning of a whole new thing God was doing on the earth and it took time. They forged unity. The Holy Spirit forged unity among them. That‘s critical.

III. Another thing which they did that’s so important is that they got into the Word.

They obeyed the Lord. They had unity. And they got into the Word. We know that they got into the Word because of what they did. Peter, as this meeting is progressing, has been troubled because he‘s been reading Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, two psalms Peter understands to talk about the enemy of the Lord. The innocent one described in those two psalms has an enemy. Jesus is the innocent one and He had an enemy—Judas. Those two psalms eloquently speak of the fate of Judas. They contain phrases (those two psalms do) like ―May his place be deserted and let there be no one to dwell in it.‖ And ―May another take his place of leadership.‖ Peter‘s reading along in those psalms and he says, ―Somebody‘s got to be appointed to his position.‖ There‘s a Scripture that says, ―Let another take his place.‖

So they select a person to replace the fallen Judas. I don‘t want to get into the whole thing of the mystery of Judas. I simply want to note that it was as a result of studying the Scripture that the Early Church made the decision to replace him. Some said the Early Church, right at the beginning, before Pentecost, made a mistake, they didn‘t have the Holy Spirit yet and they do something prematurely. God had saved that twelfth place for the apostle Paul. The Early Church got presumptuous and jumped in.

I say humbug! Because here‘s the Church‘s very first decision after the Lord had ascended into heaven and they were going straight to the Scripture for guidance. If you can‘t get guidance from the Scripture, then what can you trust? I refuse to believe, I can‘t see it even as logical, to believe that in the very first decision the Church reaches after Christ has already risen is blundering into mistakes. I just can‘t buy that. They read the Scripture. They absorbed the Scripture and wanted to be guided by it. This is in real contradistinction with people today who would have said, ―No, let‘s not go to Scripture. Let‘s pray and get a revelation. Who‘s got a revelation? Who‘s got the gift of prophecy as to who‘s supposed to replace Judas?‖

No, it wasn‘t that at all. It was, ―Get in the Word and see if it has any direction.‖ Then they did some very common things. They said, ―There‘s got to be some qualifications for replacement. You had to be with Jesus from the baptism of John until now.‖ That was their qualification to be an apostle. It says there were only two that fit the bill. The two were Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias. So what did they do? They prayed and then they cast lots, or drew straws, and the lot fell to Matthias. Is that spiritual? The twelfth apostle is selected by flipping a coin! That‘s what it was, flipping a coin. Again, they were being scriptural. Proverbs 16:33 says, ―The lot is cast into the lap but the decision is from the Lord.‖ The decision is wholly from the Lord. You flip the coin but God determines which side it‘s going to land on. What had they done? They said, ―We‘ve used all the intelligence we knew how to make criteria for leadership. We had two choices. In the natural, we didn‘t know which choice to make, so we simply left the decision to God. And since Proverbs 16:33 gives us persimmon to cast lots, we cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias.‖ They were trying to be true to Scripture.

One parenthetical thing that doesn‘t relate to any of the three points, but just a sideline that to me is kind of interesting: in verse 13, the last of the eleven apostles that is named is Judas, son of James. In Luke 6, which contains another listing of the apostles, Luke also lists him as Judas, son of James. But Matthew and Mark, in listing the apostles, never refer to this man as Judas, son of James. He‘s known by another name— Thaddaeus. Luke is always the historian of accuracy; he always goes back for the precise. What evidently happened in the Early Church was, as time went along, this Judas number two, called Judas son of James, not Judas Iscariot, got tired of people saying to him, ―You sure have a lousy name.‖ Or, ―Are you related to Judas Iscariot?‖ So he said, ―I‘m tired of that name. From now on, just call me Thaddaeus.‖ So he got a different name. That‘s why the listing of names is different.

You‘ll notice, also, that in Matthew‘s Gospel, Judas went out and hanged himself. Luke tells us that Judas bought a field where he fell headlong, his body burst and of all his intestines spilled out. Those two accounts, Matthew and Acts, are not contradictory, for indeed, in the course of a hanging, there could have been the kind of fall that is described in Luke with his intestines breaking and spilling out.

By the way, the field of blood in Jerusalem is at the western end of the Valley of Hinnom, the Valley of Hell. That is suggestive of the fact that, when we get out of God‘s will, we wind up in hell, the trash dump of Jerusalem.

The Early Church was committed to obedience. It was definitely committed to unity. It was committed to the Word.

IV. Then the fourth quality of a growing dynamic Christian or a growing dynamic church is that it was committed to prayer.

They prayed constantly (verse 14). They all joined constantly in prayer. Verse 24 says, ―Then they prayed.‖ There was a specific prayer. I mentioned this about a year and a half ago, before we began our quarterly prayer meetings in the church. I had had a conversation with the person who had been a spiritual confidant of Billy Graham and a great help for Billy in the prayer ministry. He said, ―If you go into an average church and look at their literature or program, you‘ll find that the church almost never gathers together for prayer. It has everything else on the agenda but prayer.‖ He said, ―God has called me to a ministry to make the main things out of the plain things in Scripture. Prayer is the main thing and it‘s the plain thing.‖

The Christian life and the church cannot be built simply by the implementation of good programs, no matter how well conceived and executed the programs are, some of the programs ought to be executed. It‘s prayer that is the life of the Church. Depending and submission on the Lord for His will and His leadership, being open to a fresh sweep of the Spirit. The Church, at the close of Acts 1, has no idea of the explosion that is in store for it. It is on the edge of a great miracle and doesn‘t even know it at that moment.

I would suggest to you that, anytime in your life or any time the church corporately does the same kind of things that are done in chapter 1, that church or that person is again on the edge of a tremendous explosion and powerful moving of the Lord. But somewhere along the line, there has got to be an unreserved commitment to obey the Lord. There has to be a willingness to commit the time to be together in unity, not just union, but unity. Union is when you tie two cats‘ tails together. You have union but you don‘t have unity. The church of Jesus Christ is often like that. We‘ve got people all together in union and our names are on the membership roll or on the contribution record, but there are differences and sharp feelings and animosity and hidden agendas and turfs to protect and all those kinds of things, which speak of union, but not unity. Somehow, the church has got to get past that, with double and triple doses of forgiveness and reconciliation, and say, ―In Christ we will be united.‖ We‘ll ask the Spirit to unite us, to help us take the time to be united past unity, into a real absorption with God‘s Word and achieve that all in prayer. There‘s no telling what God will do when that combination is fulfilled. (HT)

E.H. Askwith on the Historical Value of the Fourth Gospel (Public Domain Ebook)

Photo via www.honesttogod.net

Here’s your chance to read a free (online pdf form) commentary book on the historicity of the Johannine Gospel (Gospel of John) and its relation to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). This book was written at the turn of the century.

Click here to access book in pdf format – http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk Go to bottom of page and click on Complete book as one file [5.6MB]  316 pages

London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910. pp.316.
This book is now in the Public Domain

From the Introduction:

click to read book

click photo to read book

The writer of these pages sets himself the task of showing on internal grounds that the Fourth Gospel is a historical and not merely, as some present-day critics affirm, a theological document. In speaking, however, of the Gospel as historical we do not mean that the aim of the writer of it was primarily a historical one. His interest may well have been theological, as indeed he expressly states it to have been (xx. 31). But our contention will here be that the writer did not invent his story to teach theological truth. We believe that the things which the Evangelist records as having happened are real events, that they did take place. In saying this we are setting ourselves in opposition to much of the criticism of our day, which denies to this Gospel serious historical value, regarding it as irreconcilable with the Synoptic tradition of the life of Jesus Christ.

For the opposition to the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel is based chiefly on internal grounds. Its external credentials might be accepted by adverse critics were it not for what they consider to be overwhelming objections against its apostolic authorship on the ground of in- ternal evidence. But, as it is, the external evidence is explained away because it is thought that the story of the life of Jesus in this Gospel cannot be brought into agreement with wnat is acknowledged to be the earlier story in point of time, that, namely, which we have in the pages of the Synoptists. Critics opposed to the Johannine authorship of the Gospel contend that having happened are real events, that they did take place. In saying this we are setting ourselves in opposition to much of the criticism of our day, which denies to this Gospel serious historical value, regarding it as irreconcilable with the Synoptic tradition of the life of Jesus Christ.

For the opposition to the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel is based chiefly on internal grounds. Its external credentials might be accepted by adverse critics were it not for what they consider to be overwhelming objections against its apostolic authorship on the ground of internal evidence. But, as it is, the external evidence is explained away because it is thought that the story of the life of Jesus in this Gospel cannot be brought into agreement with what is acknowledged to be the earlier story in point of time, that, namely, which we have in the pages of the Synoptists. Critics opposed to the Johannine authorship of the Gospel contend that both stories of the life of Jesus-that of the Synoptists and that of the Fourth Gospel-cannot be alike historical. A choice, then, has to be made between the two, and preference is shown for the Synoptic story. For it is argued that the Fourth Gospel is obviously a theological document, and its writer’s interests are theologically deter- mined, so that its genesis is explicable on theological grounds. While, then, the Fourth Gospel may be an interesting psychological study its contents are not history and are not to be so interpreted.

It is because the opposition to the historical character of the Fourth Gospel is based principally on its contents, and because the external credentials of the apostolic authorship of the book are explained away, not for the reason that they are trivial, but because they cannot outweigh the internal evidence, that we shall in these pages confine our attention to this internal evidence, and discuss the historical probability of the events which this Gospel records. (Pages 1-6)

1 Introductory
2 The Ministry of the Baptist
3 The Betrayal
4 The Trial of Jesus
5 The Crucifxion
6 The Resurrection (I)
7 The Resurrection (II)
8 The Cleansing of the Temple, The Feeding of the Five T|housand, and the Walking on the Sea
9 The Triumphal Entry, and the Last Supper
10 The Probability of a Ministry in Jerusalem
11 The Ministry of Jesus According to the Fourth Evangelist
12 Objections to the Historicity of the Fourth Gospel Considered

Here is Barnes & Noble author’s page for E. H. Askwith with several free downloads if you own Barnes & Nobles’ Nook Reader – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/e.-h.-askwith

Also, http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk is a fantastic website that collects Christian journals and articles from older periodicals and journals on Biblical topics. It’s worth subscribing to their updates, and browsing through their impressive collections.

Click here to read the entire book – The Historical Value of the Fourth Gospel

Previous Older Entries