Passion Week – Good Friday 1/2 – The hurt of Peter’s denial of Christ + ‘Just as I am’, by Brian Doerkson

Photo from  www.eons.com

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

How many times did the rooster crow when Peter denied Jesus?


Matthew 26:34 (also Luke 22:34, John 13:38)

„I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, „this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

Mark 14:30

„I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, „today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”


Mark 14:66-72

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

„You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. „I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, „This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, „Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, „I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: „Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

From www.rationalchristianity.net

Jesus’ Great Confession; Peter’s Great Denial
Matthew 26:57-68

57 Now the ones who had arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, in whose house the experts in the law and the elders had gathered. 58 But Peter was following him from a distance, all the way to the high priest’s courtyard. After going in, he sat with the guards to see the outcome. 59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find anything, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” 62 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” 63 But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy! 66 What is your verdict?” They answered, “He is guilty and deserves death.” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ! Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:57-68)

Two events are being described simultaneously by Matthew in this paragraph and the next, so as to set them in contrast to each other. The first is our Lord’s interrogation by Caiaphas, the high priest, and the Sanhedrin. The second is Peter’s “interrogation” by those around him. At the very moments Peter is denying His Lord, our Lord Jesus is affirming His identity as the Messiah – His “great confession.”

It is the middle of the night, and Jesus has been sent from Annas to stand before Caiaphas. The whole Sanhedrin is present (see also Mark 14:55), including the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Matthew 26:57-59). This is far from a legal gathering. In our terms, Jesus is not getting “due process of the law” here. These “judges” are far from neutral. They seek any testimony that will justify their resolve to kill Jesus (verse 59), but they can’t do it.

These are horrible and shameful moments in Israel’s history, but at times the account comes close to being amusing. Here is this pompous group of Israel’s “cream of the crop.” It is something like the convening of the Supreme Court in our day. These are the top religious and legal experts, and they are determined to execute Jesus. They resolved that they would not arrest or kill Jesus until “after the feast” (Matthew 26:5), but Jesus forced their hand when He informed Judas and the disciples that He would be betrayed by one of them (Matthew 26:21). Jesus even let Judas know that he was the one who would betray Him (Matthew 26:25). Judas no longer had the luxury of time. He had to act now to earn his fee, whether the Jewish leaders liked it or not.

The religious leaders were in a real bind. They seem compelled to include the Romans (Pilate, Herod, and the Roman soldiers). They were forced to crucify Jesus, a very public death. And they must complete this matter before Passover, lest they be defiled, and thus would have been prevented from participating in Passover (seeJohn 18:28; 19:14; Mark 15:42-43). A few hours earlier, it would have appeared that they had almost two weeks to prepare for the execution of Jesus. They have not had any time to acquire and “coach” witnesses, and this was very obvious. Imagine these fellows attempting to give an air of sobriety and propriety, while things are in total chaos. Their witnesses disagree so badly that even with their disposition to accept any charge, it is evident this testimony won’t suffice. A parade of witnesses pass by, and all fail to meet minimum requirements. No two witnesses agree, and when two finally agree, the charges were not viable. It was, at best, a corruption of what Jesus had said (“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” – John 2:19). Even if their words were true, it isn’t a crime to say that you are able to do such a thing; it would be a crime if you attempted it. This case would have been thrown out of any court in our land.

You can imagine how frustrated these fellows must have been. Their case was stalling, and there seemed to be nothing they could do about it. The high priest sought to induce Jesus to violate His Fifth Amendment rights (in today’s terms) by giving testimony against Himself. “What did Jesus have to say to this charge?” Jesus had nothing to say. He need not have spoken. The charges were not worthy of comment or of defense. It was not His duty to provide them with evidence; it was their duty to produce evidence of a crime.

Then the high priest had an inspiration. He would charge Jesus under oath to answer this question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” (Matthew 26:63). This was a question Jesus was not legally obliged to answer. And yet Jesus chose to answer. I used to think that this was because the high priest put Him under oath. I now look at it differently. This was a question Jesus must answer. To refuse to answer would imply that He was not the Messiah, the Son of God. If He were the Messiah, the Son of God, then why would He not answer to this effect? This was the crux of the coming of our Lord – to reveal Himself as the Messiah, and as the Son of God.

Our Lord’s answer was far from tentative. Not only did He identify Himself as the Messiah, the Son of God, He also referred to Himself as the Son of Man:

Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:67).

This is an incredibly powerful statement. Jesus affirms His identity. He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. He is also the Son of Man, which means that He will return to the earth in power, to deal with His enemies and to establish justice.

These words, if believed, should have struck terror into the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders. Instead, they were taken as blasphemy, a capital offense by Jewish law (see Leviticus 24:10-16Numbers 15:30). No one in that group paused to reflect on the implications of Jesus’ claim. No one gave serious thought as to whether this claim might be true. In their minds, this was all they needed to condemn Jesus to death. And so the high priest musters all the righteous indignation he can produce, and calls for the death of Jesus:

Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy!” (Matthew 26:65)

His colleagues heartily agreed, and they pronounced sentence on our Lord.

What follows is particularly significant. Once the guilty verdict is pronounced, there is a disproportionate outpouring of wrath and contempt on our Lord. They spit in His face – they spit in God’s face! They strike Him with their fists, pouring out their wrath on God incarnate. They slap Him, and challenge Him to prophesy who hit Him (26:67-68). Here is the highest court in the land, and look at its conduct. Here is God, in the hands of angry sinners.

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A slave girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it in front of them all: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 71 When he went out to the gateway, another slave girl saw him and said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” 72 He denied it again with an oath, “I do not know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there came up to Peter and said, “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” 74 At that he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75).

Meanwhile, Peter is sitting in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, warming himself by the fire. A mere slave girl314 identifies him as one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter denies it. Initially, Peter does not pointedly deny knowing Jesus; he simply responds that he doesn’t know what she is talking about. Apparently this is sufficient to silence this first slave girl. But then another slave girl confronts Peter. She does not just question Peter; she speaks to those standing around: “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene” (Matthew 26:71). From Peter’s point of view, this is much more threatening. He denies his association with Jesus, underscoring his denial with an oath. Finally, a third person – one standing nearby – came up to Peter, and this time with an even more persuasive accusation: “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” (verse 73). Peter more pointedly denied even knowing Jesus, let alone associating with Him. This time he felt it necessary to punctuate his denial with cursing.

At that moment, a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered Jesus’ words indicating that he would deny Him. Peter went outside and wept bitterly. Strangely, this is the last time Matthew refers to Peter by name in this Gospel. While Matthew does provide an account of the final outcome for Judas (Matthew 27:3-10), he does not do so for Peter. Is this because he knows that such an account will take a great deal more time and information? Is this because he knows that a subsequent history of the church (including Peter) will be written? For whatever reason, Matthew does not feel compelled to give us the “rest of the story” regarding Peter.

Conclusion

If our text demonstrates anything, it is that all mankind, without exception, is desperately sinful and, apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus, hopelessly lost:

“There is no one righteous, not even one,

11 there is no one who understands,

there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away,

together they have become worthless;

there is no one who shows kindness,

not even one” (Romans 3:10b-12).

Whether at his finest, or at his worst, every human being is a sinner, desperately wicked in heart and often in deed. There is no way that we can ever earn our own righteousness, that we can attain God’s favor by our efforts. We need salvation from some source outside of ourselves. We need Jesus, for He alone can save.

Our text dramatically demonstrates the sinfulness of man and the perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our text, no one comes out looking good, no one except Jesus, that is. Everything Jesus predicted happened just as He said it would. Under more stress and pressure than we will ever know, Jesus never failed. His words and His deeds are amazing to us. Though men (like Peter, or Judas, or the religious leaders) failed, Jesus did not. Though His closest friends forsook Him, He will not forsake His own – those who have trusted in Him for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Jesus Never Fails; He is always faithful, even when we fail:

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end (John 13:1).

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).

In mankind’s darkest hour, the perfections of our Lord shine ever so bright. He alone is worthy of our trust, and of our worship, obedience, and service. Do not let the horrors of these events in our Lord’s last hours distract your attention from Jesus. He deserves center stage. His perfections deserve our praise.

We should probably say a word about Peter’s denials. Let us not fail to read this text, describing Peter’s worst moments, without bearing in mind “the rest of the story.” We may have seen the last of Peter (by name) in Matthew, but we find a very different Peter in the Book of Acts. With the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we find a transformed Peter. We find a man who now boldly proclaims the gospel, in spite of the opposition and the risks:

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man—by what means this man was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” 13 When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus. 14 And because they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say against this (Acts 4:8-14).

As a result of the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, Peter not only boldly identifies with His Lord, He instructs us to do so as well:

13 For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? 14 But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. 15 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. 16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:13-17).

The events of our text underscore for us the trustworthiness and authority of the Scriptures. Just as at the birth of our Lord, so also here we find that Matthew repeatedly points out to us that the Scriptures are being fulfilled at every point of this procession to the cross. God’s Word is true. It never fails. Even when men try their hardest to resist God and to rebel against His purposes, they end up unwittingly fulfilling His purposes and promises. We can trust His Word.

Let me end with one more observation and application. Our text describes the darkest hour in all of human history, and yet we gather every Sunday to remember the death of Jesus. More than that, we come every Sunday to celebrate His death. This is due to the fact that His suffering and His death is the only means by which sinful men may be saved, and have eternal life. It is also due to the fact that the resurrection of Jesus enables us to view these events in a whole new way. At the cross, Jesus took the curse (death) and made it the cure (His atoning work on our behalf). God used the most cruel and wicked actions of men to accomplish His eternal plan of salvation.

Surely this is an example of the truth that is proclaimed in Romans 8:

28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

God was able to make the horrid events of our Lord’s rejection and crucifixion into a salvation so blessed that it will take all eternity to fathom it. If our Lord can transform this kind of apparent tragedy into a triumphant work of redemption, then is it not reasonable for us to believe that God will cause every event in our lives to work out for His glory, and for our good?

Reclame

Leonard Ravenhill – Why, O why, do we settle for minimum spirituality?

What Do I Still Lack?
By Leonard Ravenhill

leonard ravenhillWhat percentage of responsibility for my spiritual maturity is the Lord’s, and how much of it is mine? To say that I alone am responsible for my soul’s development is conceit. To say that all the responsibility is the Lord’s is impudence.

I find it humbling, inspiring, and challenging to recognize that the greatest saints who ever lived did not have a bigger Bible than I have. They just knew it better. Indeed, they had far less of the divine Revelation. Today we have the complete message of God to man. He has nothing more to say to us. As the old hymn says, „What more can He say than to you He hath said?” God has no „P.S.” to add to the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

For years the Holy Scriptures were wrapped up in tongues that only the scholars could read. „There was no open vision in those days” (I Sam. 3.1). Then, blessed day, the whole counsel of God was released in our mother tongue. With this unveiling came the glad news of the priesthood of believers – Hallelujah!

Do you wonder that Bishop Walsham How bursts into song about the Holy Word:

„It is a golden casket,
where gems of Truth are stored.
It is the Heaven-drawn picture
of Christ, the Living Word.”

      Trees are fascinating to most of us. I like to see the burdened fruit trees showing off their labor. The English like their mighty oaks and the Americans their redwood trees. At the moment, in the area where I write, the peach trees are richly endowed with fruit; but, it does not grow already canned. No! God gave us the fruit; we do the canning. Trees do not grow furniture, even in this scientific age. We have the trees. From them we make the chairs, etc. So it is with the spiritual life. Here is a stunning truth from Second Peter, Chapter one, verse three: „His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain TO LIFE AND GODLINESS.” Paul backs up Peter in this area when he says, „How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom.8:32). And to top these precious words, here comes Paul again with a staggering statement: „The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; HEIRS OF GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST.” Stop there? NO, add the remainder:„…if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:16-17) (Photo credit www.sciencedaily.com)

With all this limitless resource to inherit in this life, why then, O why, do we settle for minimum spirituality? These scriptures just quoted shatter all our excuses for carnal Christianity and explode all our feeble bumper-sticker excuses on bumper-sticker evangelism: „Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” (Some backslider must have written that one.)

Sinning is not permitted to believers. „Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” (I John 3:9) Not that it is impossible to sin; but it is, by the blood of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, possible not to sin. John again shouts the triumphant note, „Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

God, then, has made it possible for you and me to have victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil!

Here are the Master’s commandments to His own. These are not options but imperatives. With His enabling and our striving, we can explore what Lowrey called „the possibilities of Grace.” We can leave the playpen in the Spiritual Nursery and „go on unto perfection.” (Heb. 6:1) Here are His commands:

– „Little Children, keep yourselves from idols (I John 5:21)
– „Building up yourselves on your most holy faith…” (Jude 20; Rom. 10:17)
– „Keep yourselves in the love of God ..” (by obedience to His Word) (Jude 21)
– „Put on the whole armor of God…” (equipment for beating Satan) (Eph. 6-11)
– The Scnpture is very clear here: „Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4 :7)

      Christian maturity is not a weekend operation. On the other hand, remember there is no finality to the Christian life this side of eternity. While we are in the flesh, we „press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

      We hear continually about „Weight Watchers.” O that we watched our spiritual growth as carefully!

      I believe in instant purity: „The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” (I John 1:7) I do not believe in instant maturity. Faith in the finished work of Christ is one thing. To add to your faith, as Peter says in 2 Peter 1:5-7, is something else. As a tree must be pruned regularly to bring it to maturity, so we need pruning. It is easy to sing, „And pour contempt on all my pride.” If I do that at all, I will do it conveniently protecting myself from any „bleeding.” It is when the Lord does it – or worse still when He uses some other human being (less spiritual than I am) to do the pruning – then can I kiss the rod? This is a process in spiritual growth. Can I take it cheerfully when I am slighted, when my name is cast out as an evil thing (though I am totally innocent)? Can I joyfully help to promote another to a position that I would like and which I am more capable of handling?

      I heard a preacher asking another if folks came to the altar at his last meeting. He replied, „Yes, but most of them are altar tramps.” It’s easier to go to the altar than to get on the cross. There is no magic in a trip to the altar. You will not grow an inch by walking a few yards to the altar, unless there is a total repentance and a holy vow to God that you will not fall into the same hole again.

Heroes of the Faith Hebrews 11That holy band of „Heroes of Faith” in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews staggers me. They had no Bibles, no millions of cassettes as we have, no Bible seminars, no daily radio Bible teaching, and (fortunate souls) no Gospel T.V. preachers whining about lack of funds. (When did the Lord run out of supplies?) Yet what things these folks in Hebrews 11 accomplished: subdued whole kingdoms – (O that some person rich in faith could subdue the worldwide kingdom of the drug trade)– wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. What miracles, what men, what faith! (Photo credit bereabaptistchurchbookstore.com)

      These „pattern” folks of our faith did not get to the heights in one leap:

„They climbed the steep ascent to Heaven
Through peril, toil, and pain.
O God, may grace to us be given,
to follow in their train.”

      Asked why he was used of the Lord so greatly in China, Hudson Taylor replied, „God had looked long for a man weak enough, and He found me.” He takes the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. Spiritual wisdom does not come with years; neither does maturity. The key to both is obedience. Whatsoever He saith unto YOU, do it.

An insatiable thirst for God will produce an unquenchable love for holiness (as He is Holy), resulting in a passion for the lost.

Remember, friend, you are just as spiritual as you want to be.

Copyright (C)1994 by Leonard Ravenhill, Lindale, Texas – http://www.ravenhill.org/

Leonard RavenhillIn Romanian – De ce intirzie trezirea de Leonard Ravenhill (Top carte – essential reading)

Paul Washer – A Warning not to Stray from the Gospel

1 Timothy 4:1 – Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons

washer

Now, let’s look at the first phrase: Now, the Spirit exlicitly says,” this is very unusual language. We don’t find this in any other place in the New Testament. A great emphasis is being given, which means ‘this is very, very important’, which means: „You should listen!” I mean, you should listen to all the words of God, and all the words of Christ, but once in a while, reading through the New Testament, we hear Jesus say, „Verily, verily…”, „truly, truly…I say unto you”. It doesn’t mean that it’s more true. It means that He’s putting emphasis on this. Listen, if you’re going to listen, this is what you need to listen to.  This is the way Paul is dealing with this, but the Spirit explicitly says that something’s gonna happen in the latter times.

Now we need to define latter times cause there’s a lot of confusion about that. Some people look back to the year 1948 and the reestablishment of Israel as the latter times. Other people of a charismatic persuasion look back to certain revivals to say the latter days have now begun. Well, all of that is wrong. According to the Scriptures, the latter days, the latter times began 2000 years ago. This is very clear, from Peter quoting Joel in Acts 2:17, when the Spirit of God is poured out and Peter said, „“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. The latter days began with the first coming of the Messiah, His death, resurrection, and ascension. These are the days of the Messiah, these are the latter days, which I don’t have time to get into, but it’s also time of trouble.

It was always believed that when the Messiah came there would be a time of trouble, a time of transition, a time of already and not yet, which is what we can see today in a macrocosm. We can see God’s kingdom advancing in the world, but, it hasn’t fully advanced. And, we can also see it in a microcosm, we can see it in you. There’s a time of trouble, in that Messiah has come into your heart. He has made great changes, but it is still a time of trouble in your own soul. You’re still not completely sanctified. It’s what we call in theology, ‘the already, but not yet’. The kingdom has come, the kingdom is coming, the kingdom has not yet come in its fullness.

So we’ve been in the latter days. Paul is going to describe something that is going to be a battle within the entire age of the church. It’s something that he had to write about here, when he was writing to Timothy. It’s something that you and I need to hear 2000 years later.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith. Now, this is very important. You say, „Well yeah, we live in that time.” Now, we live in a time, in the West, where there are not many believers, but people who are out and out saying they are atheists, they are agnostics, they are some other religion, but they are not Christian. This is talking about something that is going to go on within the context of what is known as the public or open church. It’s saying that within Christianity itself there are going to be people who will fall away.  (From the first 5 minutes with 44 min, remaining)

VIDEO by GoodTreeMinistries.com

Matt Chandler – Marveling at the Majesty of God

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 7.01.48 PMBeing in 2013 is such a gift from God is we have all this history to look back on and to marvel that God has just consistently has done exactly what He said He would do. In Genesis 12, we know our Bibles, the world is fallen, it is broken. I mean, the very fabric of what God created now torn asunder. Death, disease, the world has grown dark, and in the middle of it God calls a man named Abram. And in Genesis chapter 12:1 we read: „Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So now, we’ve got this faint whisper of a promise, that all that has gone wrong will be made right. That God is calling Abram from Kush. The first Jew is an Iraqi, let that mingle around in your head a bit. God calls Abram and says: Through you, I am going to create a people and through that people I’m going to bless all people on earth. So that, from the very beginning, the promise is that what God is up to is global. It is making right what has gone wrong and then at the testing of Abraham, in Genesis 22, he puts his son Isaac on the altar, and then we read in Genesis 22:15-18:

 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possessthe gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” So there we have it, once again God’s plan, through Abraham, in the founding of the covenant community of faith is that the nations would be glad, the nations would be blessed, and that all that went wrong would be set right in this plan of God’s.

And throughout the Old Testament we see this repeatedly, God’s heart for the nations, on Mt. Sinai when the Lord told Moses, this is in Exodus 19:5-6  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me akingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 

So what’s gonna be the role of Israel when it comes to the rest of the world? We will serve as priests, we will be the ones that herald the good news of what God is going to do, of what God is going to accomplish at the crossing of the Jordan river- Joshua 4:24 God crosses Israel into the promised land. And He did this that all the peoples of the world might know. At the founding of the Temple, in 1 Kings 8:43 we read „so that all the peoples of the earth might know your name”. Just a cursory reading of the Psalms would have the Psalmist repeatedly saying „the nations, and the great glorious day of the Lord, perpetually painting this picture of the nations gathering around God to make much of God.”

And again, even in the prophets, we see this confirmed yet again, one of my favorites, in Isaiah 45:44 „Turn to me and besaved, you ends of the earth„. And then, we have the incarnation: God in the flesh dwells among us, and He does not deviate off of His plan to redeem and rescue from the nations. In John chapter 10:15-16 „Just as the Father knows Me, and  I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep, I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice„.  So there will be one flock and one shepherd. So, Jesus does not deviate off this Old Testament  declaration that the nations will be glad, that the nations will worship our God, that there is, when it’s all said and done, one group of people that God is drawing unto Himself- sons of God, adopted sons of God. So, you have sons of Adam and sons of Christ, and so Christ is not deviating off of this declaration.

In fact, even in Matthew 28:18-20, if you go up to verse 16, you find some hope for you, if you tend to struggle and wrestle with doubts, because the Bible says upon that mountain they worshipped Him, but some doubted. I’ve always marveled at that. You have the resurrection with Christ ascending into glory , and there are those even on the hill, at that time saying, „I don’t know, just not quite sure”. But what we read, starting in verse 18 is „And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Now „All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  You can just stop right there, because whatever comes next is happening. So now, at this point, it doesn’t matter what is coming next. It doesn’t matter what He says, what the command is, what He’s gonna order for us to do, it’s happening. Why? Because „All authority”. Where? Everywhere. Has been given to whom? „Me,” Christ says and then the command, „19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Remember what the disciples do, they gather in the upper room, they’re praying and waiting for the helper to come? And in Acts chapter 2, the Helper comes and now we’ve got ourselves a completely different ballgame than what we watched with the disciples when they were following Christ. In fact, if you’re really paying attention, the only one who really kind of nails who Jesus is in the Gospels is the demons. Everyone else kind of gets it wrong.

What’s the word on the street? Who do people say that I am? Well, some say that you’re John the Baptist, others say that you’re Elijah. But who do you say that I am. Only Peter gets it right. And the demons cry out „I know who you are, the Holy One of God. You have come to destroy us before the appointed time.” I mean, no dualism in the New Testament when it comes to kingdoms and conflict. No arguments with Christ. No demons say „Make me”. Just ferocious, God besot powerful declaration. When the Holy Spirit falls at Pentecost, Peter stands up and gives the most unseeker friendly sermon in the history of Christianity. And thousands are added to our numbers that day. And we see the Gospel begin to grow, but at this point it’s predominantly, if not entirely a Jewish faith, and then we get Acts chapter 10 & 11, Cornelius of the Italian cohort, a man who has rejected Roman paganism, believes there is one God, not quite sure who that one God is. He’s praying, giving alms, taking care of the poor and he is visited by an angel with very detailed instructions. Simon the tanner in Jaffa, another Simon Peter staying at his house saying, „Go get ‘em and bring him to you”. Simultaneously, around that same time Peter is up on the roof: „Kill, eat,” Peter’s not gonna be fooled again, „Not gonna get me this time. I would never touch that stuff”. „Wrong answer again, Peter”. Can it be unclean if I made it? Kill and eat.

And so, about that time there’s a knock at the door and the soldiers from the Italian cohort grab Peter and bring him to Cornelius where they have, what I believe to be, one of the most awkward exchanges that you find in the Scriptures, where Peter then shows up at Cornelius’s house  and then reminds Cornelius that a Jew shouldn’t even be in this house because he is a Gentile. Cornelius  unpacks why he sent for Peter, „Look, I was praying, angels showed up…” Then Peter says, „This can only be about one thing”. In that moment, Peter shares the Gospel with Cornelius’s household and they believe, they’re filled with the Holy Spirit, they speak in tongues, they’re baptized. In fact, Peter’s got a little inner turmoil here. „What should we do?” They baptize Cornelius  and his household and Peter runs back to report . And the church does what it usually does. It gathers together to vote whether God’s allowed to save the Gentiles. So they get together and they talk about, „Can God do what He just did?” Peter testifies, „All I did was share the Gospel, this one’s not on me”. And then, really, from that moment on, starting in Acts 15 you begin to watch the promise. And here’s what I’m saying, 2013 is such a sweet year to be  in because starting in Acts 15, you have Paul and Barnabas separate and go in different directions and it just takes off.

Acts 15 is the Council at Jerusalem, 42 A.D. Mark goes to Egypt and  49 A.D. Paul heads to Turkey. In 51 A.D. Paul heads to Greece, in 52 A.D. the apostle Thomas heads to India. In 54 A.D. Paul heads on his third missionary journey. In 174 A.D., the first Christians are reported in Austria. In 280, the first rural churches emerge in Northern Italy. Now this is significant because Christianity in the first century was predominantly an urban religion. It wasn’t out in the rural areas, and so it wasn’t really until 280 A.D. that we began to see rural churches emerging. Stark says that by 350 A.D., 31.7 million people, roughly 53% of the Roman empire confessed Christ as Lord. So there’s a lot of debate as to who made Christianity? Did Constantine make Christianity or did Christianity make Constantine? In 432 A.D. Patrick heads to Ireland. In 596 A.D. Gregory the Great sends Augustine and a team of missionaries to what is now England to reintroduce the Gospel. The missionaries resettle in Canterbury, and within a year baptize 10,000. In 635 A.D., the first Christian missionaries arrive in China. 740 A.D., Irish monks reach Iceland. In 900 A.D. missionaries reach Norway. By 1200 A.D. the Bible is now available in 22 different languages and in 1498 the first Christians are reported in Kenya. In 1554  there are 1500 converts to Christianity  in what is now known as Thailand. In 1630 an attempt is made  in the El Paso, Texas area  to establish a mission among the Mason Indians. In 1743 David Brainerd starts missions to the North American Indians. In 1845 the Southern Baptist Convention Missionary Organization is founded. In 1853 a group of at least 17 people immigrated to America, accompanied by a group of Danish Baptists, arriving in New York, and later settling in Chicago. On March 5th, 1853 F.O.Nielsen planted the first American Baptist Church in Minneapolis, which was the first church to be planted in the territory of Minnesota, before it became a state in 1858 on this side of the Mississippi River. In 1871, 22 Swedish Christians, who branched off from the First American Baptist Church in Minneapolis  planted the first Swedish Baptist Church known today as Bethlehem Baptist Church. The reason for this new church plant was to take the Gospel to a rapidly growing number of Swedish immigrants in Minneapolis. (Chandler goes through the succession of churches that leads up to Bethlehem)(17:00)

You and me, friend, God had us in mind when He pulled Abram aside and said, „I’m gonna fix this”.  And really, at every place along the way, according to Ephesians 1, according to Romans 8, God was coming to rescue me and you. And we are caught up in something so much bigger than most of us can get our heads around and all over the world today, what I just did was such a cursory sad attempt at a linear attacking of our history, but I find it to be marvelous, even in its smallness. In fact, if present trends continue, by 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa, 640 million in South America, and 460 million in Asia. This is what you and I are caught up in, this is our history. This is what’s happening right now, on this day, all over the world. Men and women have gathered, they have preached the Scriptures, they have taken holy communion and they have rejoiced in the God of their salvation. And our family is much bigger than this, and God is at work and He is moving and He is saving. There’s no such thing as a closed country, anybody picking up on this- there’s a lot of Iranian pastors being arrested this year? Seems like God’s doing some pretty good work in a country that doesn’t have any work.

And yet, still, so much to do. You see, you and I, we find our lives playing out in what the reformers call the narrow space, what we call the already, but not yet. See, the prophet Isaiah speaks of this day that’s coming for you and me, friend, where the desert blooms with roses. Where the mountaintops produce sweet wine. Where the wolf will lay down with the lamb and they will dine together. And then, the clarity on that, the next verse is ‘and the lion will chew hay like the oxen.’ And the apostle Paul says these weak frail bodies of ours will be replaced. That what is perishable will be imperishable, we’ll be raised in honor and you get this picture from the word of God of a renewed world with renewed bodies, reigning and ruling alongside the king of glory, having no ceiling on our worship. See, there have been times when I have heard the Word of God proclaimed, we begun to sing to God and I have felt all my emotions hindered, I felt like I hit a ceiling, that either my legs got tired or my voice couldn’t get loud enough. I felt like I was gonna explode, and in my heart I couldn’t be contained, in this gangly body God gave me. And Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 God’s gonna fix that for me. And God’s gonna fix that for you. And there’ll be a day, unfettered with the constraints of this mortal body. We will make much of Jesus together.

But today, we’re in the space between, today we’re in the space ‘already, but not yet’. So you exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things, for the joy of all peoples, through Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon – JESUS INTERCEDING FOR TRANSGRESSORS on the cross

His View From The Cross by James Tissot c. 1895DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 18, 1877, BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.

“And made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12.

Our blessed Lord made intercession for transgressors in so many words while He was being crucified, for He was heard to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is generally thought that He uttered this prayer at the moment when the nails were piercing His hands and feet and the Roman soldiers were roughly performing their duty as executioners. At the very commencement of His passion He begins to bless His enemies with His prayers. As soon as the Rock of our salvation was smitten, there flowed forth from Him a blessed stream of intercession. Our Lord fixed His eyes upon that point in the character of His persecutors which was most favorable to them, namely, that they knew not what they did.

He could not plead their innocence and, therefore, He pleaded their ignorance. Ignorance could not excuse their deed, but it did lighten their guilt and, therefore, our Lord was quick to mention it as in some measure an extenuating circumstance. The Roman soldiers, of course, knew nothing of His higher mission—they were the mere tools of those who were in power—and though they “mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar,” they did so because they misunderstood His claims and regarded Him as a foolish rival of Caesar, only worthy to be ridiculed. No doubt the Savior included these rough Gentiles in His supplications. And perhaps their centurion who “glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man,” was converted in answer to our Lord’s prayer.

As for the Jews, though they had some measure of light, yet they, also, acted in the dark. Peter, who would not have flattered any man, yet said, “And now, brethren, I know that through ignorance you did it, as did, also, your rulers.” It is doubtless true that, had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory, though it is equally clear that they ought to have known Him, for His credentials were clear as noonday! Our Redeemer, in that dying prayer of His, shows how quick He is to see anything which is, in any degree, favorable to the poor clients whose cause He has undertaken. He spied out in a moment the only fact upon which compassion could find a foothold and He secretly breathed out His loving heart in the cry, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Our great Advocate will be sure to plead wisely and efficiently on our behalf! He will urge every argument which can be discovered, for His eyes, quickened by love, will suffer nothing to pass which may be in our favor. The Prophet, however, does not, I suppose, intend to confine our thoughts to the one incident which is recorded by the Evangelists, for the intercession of Christ was an essential part of His entire lifework. The mountain’s side often heard Him, beneath the chilly night, pouring out His heart in supplications. He might as fitly be called the Man of Prayers as, “the Man of Sorrows.”

Read the sermon in  its entirety here- http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols22-24/chs1385.pdf

H. Passion Week – Good Friday – The hurt of Peter’s denial of Christ + ‘Just as I am’, by Brian Doerkson

Photo from  www.eons.com

How many times did the rooster crow when Peter denied Jesus?


Matthew 26:34 (also Luke 22:34, John 13:38)

„I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, „this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

Mark 14:30

„I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, „today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”


Mark 14:66-72

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

„You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. „I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, „This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, „Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, „I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: „Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

From www.rationalchristianity.net

Jesus’ Great Confession; Peter’s Great Denial
Matthew 26:57-68

57 Now the ones who had arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, in whose house the experts in the law and the elders had gathered. 58 But Peter was following him from a distance, all the way to the high priest’s courtyard. After going in, he sat with the guards to see the outcome. 59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find anything, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” 62 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” 63 But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy! 66 What is your verdict?” They answered, “He is guilty and deserves death.” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ! Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:57-68)

Two events are being described simultaneously by Matthew in this paragraph and the next, so as to set them in contrast to each other. The first is our Lord’s interrogation by Caiaphas, the high priest, and the Sanhedrin. The second is Peter’s “interrogation” by those around him. At the very moments Peter is denying His Lord, our Lord Jesus is affirming His identity as the Messiah – His “great confession.”

It is the middle of the night, and Jesus has been sent from Annas to stand before Caiaphas. The whole Sanhedrin is present (see also Mark 14:55), including the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Matthew 26:57-59). This is far from a legal gathering. In our terms, Jesus is not getting “due process of the law” here. These “judges” are far from neutral. They seek any testimony that will justify their resolve to kill Jesus (verse 59), but they can’t do it.

These are horrible and shameful moments in Israel’s history, but at times the account comes close to being amusing. Here is this pompous group of Israel’s “cream of the crop.” It is something like the convening of the Supreme Court in our day. These are the top religious and legal experts, and they are determined to execute Jesus. They resolved that they would not arrest or kill Jesus until “after the feast” (Matthew 26:5), but Jesus forced their hand when He informed Judas and the disciples that He would be betrayed by one of them (Matthew 26:21). Jesus even let Judas know that he was the one who would betray Him (Matthew 26:25). Judas no longer had the luxury of time. He had to act now to earn his fee, whether the Jewish leaders liked it or not.

The religious leaders were in a real bind. They seem compelled to include the Romans (Pilate, Herod, and the Roman soldiers). They were forced to crucify Jesus, a very public death. And they must complete this matter before Passover, lest they be defiled, and thus would have been prevented from participating in Passover (seeJohn 18:28; 19:14; Mark 15:42-43). A few hours earlier, it would have appeared that they had almost two weeks to prepare for the execution of Jesus. They have not had any time to acquire and “coach” witnesses, and this was very obvious. Imagine these fellows attempting to give an air of sobriety and propriety, while things are in total chaos. Their witnesses disagree so badly that even with their disposition to accept any charge, it is evident this testimony won’t suffice. A parade of witnesses pass by, and all fail to meet minimum requirements. No two witnesses agree, and when two finally agree, the charges were not viable. It was, at best, a corruption of what Jesus had said (“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” – John 2:19). Even if their words were true, it isn’t a crime to say that you are able to do such a thing; it would be a crime if you attempted it. This case would have been thrown out of any court in our land.

You can imagine how frustrated these fellows must have been. Their case was stalling, and there seemed to be nothing they could do about it. The high priest sought to induce Jesus to violate His Fifth Amendment rights (in today’s terms) by giving testimony against Himself. “What did Jesus have to say to this charge?” Jesus had nothing to say. He need not have spoken. The charges were not worthy of comment or of defense. It was not His duty to provide them with evidence; it was their duty to produce evidence of a crime.

Then the high priest had an inspiration. He would charge Jesus under oath to answer this question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” (Matthew 26:63). This was a question Jesus was not legally obliged to answer. And yet Jesus chose to answer. I used to think that this was because the high priest put Him under oath. I now look at it differently. This was a question Jesus must answer. To refuse to answer would imply that He was not the Messiah, the Son of God. If He were the Messiah, the Son of God, then why would He not answer to this effect? This was the crux of the coming of our Lord – to reveal Himself as the Messiah, and as the Son of God.

Our Lord’s answer was far from tentative. Not only did He identify Himself as the Messiah, the Son of God, He also referred to Himself as the Son of Man:

Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:67).

This is an incredibly powerful statement. Jesus affirms His identity. He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. He is also the Son of Man, which means that He will return to the earth in power, to deal with His enemies and to establish justice.

These words, if believed, should have struck terror into the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders. Instead, they were taken as blasphemy, a capital offense by Jewish law (see Leviticus 24:10-16Numbers 15:30). No one in that group paused to reflect on the implications of Jesus’ claim. No one gave serious thought as to whether this claim might be true. In their minds, this was all they needed to condemn Jesus to death. And so the high priest musters all the righteous indignation he can produce, and calls for the death of Jesus:

Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy!” (Matthew 26:65)

His colleagues heartily agreed, and they pronounced sentence on our Lord.

What follows is particularly significant. Once the guilty verdict is pronounced, there is a disproportionate outpouring of wrath and contempt on our Lord. They spit in His face – they spit in God’s face! They strike Him with their fists, pouring out their wrath on God incarnate. They slap Him, and challenge Him to prophesy who hit Him (26:67-68). Here is the highest court in the land, and look at its conduct. Here is God, in the hands of angry sinners.

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A slave girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it in front of them all: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 71 When he went out to the gateway, another slave girl saw him and said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” 72 He denied it again with an oath, “I do not know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there came up to Peter and said, “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” 74 At that he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75).

Meanwhile, Peter is sitting in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, warming himself by the fire. A mere slave girl314 identifies him as one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter denies it. Initially, Peter does not pointedly deny knowing Jesus; he simply responds that he doesn’t know what she is talking about. Apparently this is sufficient to silence this first slave girl. But then another slave girl confronts Peter. She does not just question Peter; she speaks to those standing around: “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene” (Matthew 26:71). From Peter’s point of view, this is much more threatening. He denies his association with Jesus, underscoring his denial with an oath. Finally, a third person – one standing nearby – came up to Peter, and this time with an even more persuasive accusation: “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” (verse 73). Peter more pointedly denied even knowing Jesus, let alone associating with Him. This time he felt it necessary to punctuate his denial with cursing.

At that moment, a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered Jesus’ words indicating that he would deny Him. Peter went outside and wept bitterly. Strangely, this is the last time Matthew refers to Peter by name in this Gospel. While Matthew does provide an account of the final outcome for Judas (Matthew 27:3-10), he does not do so for Peter. Is this because he knows that such an account will take a great deal more time and information? Is this because he knows that a subsequent history of the church (including Peter) will be written? For whatever reason, Matthew does not feel compelled to give us the “rest of the story” regarding Peter.

Conclusion

If our text demonstrates anything, it is that all mankind, without exception, is desperately sinful and, apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus, hopelessly lost:

“There is no one righteous, not even one,

11 there is no one who understands,

there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away,

together they have become worthless;

there is no one who shows kindness,

not even one” (Romans 3:10b-12).

Whether at his finest, or at his worst, every human being is a sinner, desperately wicked in heart and often in deed. There is no way that we can ever earn our own righteousness, that we can attain God’s favor by our efforts. We need salvation from some source outside of ourselves. We need Jesus, for He alone can save.

Our text dramatically demonstrates the sinfulness of man and the perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our text, no one comes out looking good, no one except Jesus, that is. Everything Jesus predicted happened just as He said it would. Under more stress and pressure than we will ever know, Jesus never failed. His words and His deeds are amazing to us. Though men (like Peter, or Judas, or the religious leaders) failed, Jesus did not. Though His closest friends forsook Him, He will not forsake His own – those who have trusted in Him for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Jesus Never Fails; He is always faithful, even when we fail:

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end (John 13:1).

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).

In mankind’s darkest hour, the perfections of our Lord shine ever so bright. He alone is worthy of our trust, and of our worship, obedience, and service. Do not let the horrors of these events in our Lord’s last hours distract your attention from Jesus. He deserves center stage. His perfections deserve our praise.

We should probably say a word about Peter’s denials. Let us not fail to read this text, describing Peter’s worst moments, without bearing in mind “the rest of the story.” We may have seen the last of Peter (by name) in Matthew, but we find a very different Peter in the Book of Acts. With the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we find a transformed Peter. We find a man who now boldly proclaims the gospel, in spite of the opposition and the risks:

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man—by what means this man was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” 13 When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus. 14 And because they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say against this (Acts 4:8-14).

As a result of the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, Peter not only boldly identifies with His Lord, He instructs us to do so as well:

13 For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? 14 But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. 15 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. 16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:13-17).

The events of our text underscore for us the trustworthiness and authority of the Scriptures. Just as at the birth of our Lord, so also here we find that Matthew repeatedly points out to us that the Scriptures are being fulfilled at every point of this procession to the cross. God’s Word is true. It never fails. Even when men try their hardest to resist God and to rebel against His purposes, they end up unwittingly fulfilling His purposes and promises. We can trust His Word.

Let me end with one more observation and application. Our text describes the darkest hour in all of human history, and yet we gather every Sunday to remember the death of Jesus. More than that, we come every Sunday to celebrate His death. This is due to the fact that His suffering and His death is the only means by which sinful men may be saved, and have eternal life. It is also due to the fact that the resurrection of Jesus enables us to view these events in a whole new way. At the cross, Jesus took the curse (death) and made it the cure (His atoning work on our behalf). God used the most cruel and wicked actions of men to accomplish His eternal plan of salvation.

Surely this is an example of the truth that is proclaimed in Romans 8:

28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

God was able to make the horrid events of our Lord’s rejection and crucifixion into a salvation so blessed that it will take all eternity to fathom it. If our Lord can transform this kind of apparent tragedy into a triumphant work of redemption, then is it not reasonable for us to believe that God will cause every event in our lives to work out for His glory, and for our good?

Mark Dever – Centrality of the Church in Disciple Making from the Desiring God Conference 2013 – Session 1 – The Disciple Making Pastor

mark dever

Mark Dever from  http://www.desiringGod.org from February 4, 2013 TEXT – Matthew 28:18-20

 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

1. Preach God’s Word

  • Don’t think that making disciples is something that merely happens in sort of one on one meetings. The most fundamental way you make disciples in your local church is by preaching.
  • There is only one thing that is biblically necessary for building the church and that’s the word of God.
  • The Gospel is God’s way of giving life to dead sinners and to dead churches.
  • God’s word is His supernatural power for accomplishing His supernatural work. That’s why our eloquence, our innovations, our programs are so much less important than we think. That’s why we, as pastors have to give ourselves to preaching, not programs.

2. Pray

  • Devote so much time to prayer that nominal Christians are bored by talking to a God they only claim to know.
  • Diligently call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of His word.

3. Make Personal Disciple Relationships
4. Have Patience
(see notes below video)

Centrality of the Church in Disciple-Making from Desiring God

What does it mean for us to make disciples?

In (this) Session 1 I want to talk about the disciple making pastor. And, in
Session II I want to talk about the disciple making church (coming soon)
We’re going to be looking at similar things, same goal, but, slightly different perspectives.

The disciple making pastor. What is Gospel ministry about? If it’s not about making disciples. If someone were to look at your ministry and ask you, „How do you see the Lord, using your ministry to make disciples?” How would you answer that? What do you see?

1 Peter 5:1-4 – So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Many of you read this passage, no doubt. We understand and see the weight of it. Now, the subject of the ministry should interest any Christian. Anything that gives us examples of how to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, and Pastors we see are supposed to be examples. Anything helps us if we’re Christians. And, if we’re really Christians, we want to follow Christ. And, we’re anxious to get anything that will help us do that. Even though, more than merely Christians, I think this topic is one that is especially interesting to church members.

Normally, we can assume that Christians know that they should be church members and they are. And, for church members, few topics can be more significant than what those who lead them are commanded by God’s word to do, for God’s glory and for their own good.

If we are the one who normally preaches at our church, we need to understand, we need to have unique opportunities as we teach the word from week to week. What a privilege, what a special burden the Lord gives us. I love those weekends where I don’t preach. And, I love those weekends where I preach. I want us to, at this time, consider some practical faithfulnesses that you, brother Pastor are especially called to pastor your church. But, before we do that, let’s make sure we notice these few verses in 1 Peter 5. I think it’s clearly there in verse 4, where Peter writes about Jesus Christ as chief shepherd. He is the senior pastor. He is the Chief shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. You can tell, because good leaders, the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep, as we read in John 10. So, brothers, if you’ve come to this conference weary, take hope from verse 4. „when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. That will never fade away.

The ancient Greeks saw pelicans beating it’s breast with its beak and they thought that the pelican was plucking its breast to feed its young with its own blood. The early Christians adopted this as a picture of what Christ has done for Christians. That He has fed us and given us life, by giving us His own blood, by giving us Himself, for us. This is what a good leader, a good shepherd, a good pastor does. He lays down His life for the sheep. We’ve read of pastors doing this, we have biographies in the book store. We’ve heard of pastors doing this. We’ve seen pastors doing this, in imitation of Christ. But, brothers, these are the years, the days, and your church is the place where you must do this. I want to share with you some reflections on 4 crucial aspects of the ministry of the disciple making pastor. (12:32)

4 crucial aspects of the ministry of the disciple making pastor

1. Preaching God’s Word

preacherDon’t think that making disciples is something that merely happens in sort of one on one meetings. The most fundamental way you make disciples in your local church is by preaching. That is the most fundamental ministry God has entrusted to you: giving God’s word to God’s people. There is only one thing that is biblically necessary for building the church and that’s the word of God. Others, can do pretty much everything else, but, I was set aside by the congregation for the teaching of God’s word. The word of God would be the fountain of our spiritual life, both as individuals and as a congregation. God’s word has always been His chosen instrument to create, and convict, and convert, and conform His people. God uses His word to create faith. As we go through the New testament, we see this.

~~1 Thessalonians 2:13 – when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. So, the word performs God’s word in the believer. Or,
~~Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God’s word gives us new birth. James advises in
~~James 1:21 –  and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. The word saves us. Peter, also claims regenerating power for God’s word-
~~1 Peter 1:23 – since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 1:25 And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

So, there is creating, conforming, life giving power in God’s word. The Gospel is God’s way of giving life to dead sinners and to dead churches. Friends, many of us are called to go to a church that is orthodox on paper, and dead in practice. There is no other way. This is what God does. He creates His people by His word. If you want to work for renewed life, and health, and holiness for your church, then you must work according to God’s revealed mode of operation. Otherwise, you risk running in vain. God’s word is His supernatural power for accomplishing His supernatural work. That’s why our eloquence, our innovations, our programs are so much less important than we think. That’s why we, as pastors have to give ourselves to preaching, not programs. That’s why we need to be teaching our congregations to value God’s word over programs.

Preaching the content and intent is what God used to call His people and build His church in the past. It is what God uses today to build His church. So, preaching His word, His Gospel is primary. Practically, one thing that means for Pastors is – if you want to know what the heart of your public ministry is- it’s your private study. The heart of your pastoral ministry is when you are giving yourself to God’s word in private. To poring over it, studying it, praying for God’s Spirit to give you eyes to see. Praying for the people He has called you to preach His word to. You must give yourself to the study of God’s word.  What did Paul say to Timothy? 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. We must teach our congregations that this is our job description. (19:00)

2. Prayer

man prayingThe second aspect of a disciple making ministry is prayer. In your personal life, pray. In your homes, pray. In your meetings with others, pray. In your public services, devote so much time to prayer that nominal Christians are bored by talking to a God they only claim to know. Don’t worry about them. Don’t try to pitch your times together so nominal Christians will like, you will kill your church. You want to be a disciple making pastor? Pray to God, unashamedly, publicly. Lead your people into praying to God. Show them how to pray to God, by your own example of praying. You want to attract real Christians and hungry non Christians.

Diligently call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of His word. So that you may be able to teach and exhort by the Scriptures with wholesome doctrine and to withstand and convince those who oppose the truth. Prayer shows our dependance on God. It honors Him as the source of all blessing. It reminds us that ultimately converting individuals and churches is His work, not ours. Jesus reassures us that if we abide in Him, and if His words abide in us, that we can ask anything, according to His will and know that He will give it to us.  What a promise! Are you seeing that in your church? (22:00)

Okay, what then shall we pray for, if that’s the case?

  1. What more appropriate prayer could a pastor pray for the church he serves than the prayer of Paul for the churches that Paul planted? Just look through the New Testament: Ephesians 1, 3 Philippians 1, Colossians 1, 2 Thessalonians 1. Allow these prayers to be a starting point for praying Scriptures more consistently. Instruct your church members that one of their most effective ministries is praying for you. 
  2. Pray that your preaching the Gospel would be faithful and accurate and clear.
  3. Pray for the increasing maturity of the congregation, that your local church would grow in corporate love and holiness and sound doctrine, such that the testimony of the church in the community would be distinctively pure and attractive to unbelievers.
  4. Pray for sinners to be converted, and the church built up through the preaching of the Gospel.
  5. Pray for opportunities for yourself and your church members to do personal evangelism. Model that yourself. Pray about such matters publicly in your services.

Pray personally. Model for your congregation faithfulness, in praying for your people. Your prayers don’t have to be long, just biblical. You want to give yourself to prayer. If you want to make disciples, as a pastor, preach God’s word, pray, and

3. Personal Disciple Relationships

bible study groupOne of the most biblical and valuable uses of your time as a pastor, and I realize that a pastor’s time is limited, but have personal disciple relationships in which you meet with a few people one on one to do them good spiritually. If you’re in the kind of church that’s given to gossip about the pastor having friends, you need to confront that head on. Call it carnal, jealous, ungodly, satanic. Tell them you’re a human being, you can have friends or they can fire you. I’m not joking. I really think we are responsible to teach our congregations that that is a good and Godly thing, and will be for their own benefit, even if they’re not the immediate ones that you have time to befriend. Because what will happen through your discipling relationships, your church will be built up and your whole congregation will be blessed through the mature leadership. Pray against the tendency you see to jealousy, or to gossip in this. Teach and encourage your fellow workers to join in with you in this ministry.

So, initiate personal care and concern for others, and pray God would use you to establish a culture of that in your church. Not merely a program that you can implement, a staff member responsible for it and think you’ve taken care of that. This practice of personal discipling is helpful on a number of fronts. It obviously is a good thing for the person being discipled, because they’re getting biblical encouragement and advice from someone a little further along in terms of the life stages or their walk with the Lord. In this way, I think discipling can help to function through another channel in which the word can flow into the hearts of the members and get worked out in the context of personal fellowship.

It’s good for the one who disciples as well, because it encourages you to think of discipling not as something that super christians do, but it’s something that, if you’ve been a christian for 2 weeks, you’ve got something to say to someone who just came to Christ yesterday. It’s part and parcel of your own discipleship to help other people follow Christ. Members need to know that spiritual maturity is not only about their own private quiet times, but about their love for other believers and their quiet expression about that love. It promotes this culture of growing a distinctively christian community in which people are loving one another, not simply as the world loves, but as followers of Christ, who are together trying to understand and live out the implications of what Jesus commanded His disciples, there in Matthew 28- that we are to live our lives in love for God and others. These kinds of relationships help both spiritual and numerical growth of a church.

Another healthy byproduct of your own personal discipling is that other members of your church- you will find that it helps dissolve resistance to your pastoral leadership, as you are there with individuals, trying to help them. Developing these kinds of relationships establishes personal knowledge of yourself, which is so helpful in nurturing personal trust of your character and your motive, and growing an appropriate level of your leadership among the congregation. Brother Pastor, pray for sheep who want shepherds, who want to be pastored and loved, and cared for.

4. Patience

Brothers, run at a pace the congregation can keep.

  1. patienceHave a biblical perspective on time. You’re there for the long haul.
  2. Have a biblical perspective on eternity. As Pastors, we will one day be held accountable by God for the way we’ve led and fed His lambs. All our ways are before Him. He will know if we’ve used the congregation simply to build a career for ourselves. He will know if we’ve led them, or left them prematurely for our own convenience and benefit. He will know if we drove the sheep too hard. Shepherd the flock in a way that you won’t be ashamed of on the day of the Lord. Colossians 3 „Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
  3. Have a biblical perspective on success. Brothers be careful. If you define success in terms of size, and your desire for numerical growth will probably outrun your patience with the congregation, and perhaps even your fidelity to biblical methods. Either your ministry among your people will be cut short- I mean, you’ll be fired- or you’ll resort to methods to draw a crowd without preaching the true gospel. You will trip over the hurdle of your own ambitions. But, if you define success in terms of faithfulness, then you’re in a position to persevere, because you’re released from the demand of immediately observable results  are freeing you for faithfulness in Gospel ministry, to whatever the message would call us to, leaving the numbers to the Lord. It seems ironic at first, but, trading in size for faithfulness as the yardstick for success is often the yardstick for legitimate numerical growth.

God is happiest, it seems, to entrust His flock to those who shepherd in that way. Confidence to christian ministry does not  come from personal competence or charm or charisma, or experience. Nor does it come from having the right programs in place, or jumping on the band wagon  of the latest ministry fad. It doesn’t even come from getting a degree from seminary. Much like Joshua, our confidence is to be in the presence and the power and the promises of God.

More specifically, confidence for becoming and being a pastor comes from depending on the power of the Holy Spirit to make us adequate through the equipping ministry of God’s word. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. And, how does the Spirit make us adequate? What instrument does He use? God’s word. 2 Timothy 3;16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, The one thing necessary is the power of God’s word. That’s why preaching and prayer will always be paramount, no matter what fads top the charts. Stake your ministry on the power of the Gospel. Success is faithfulness in these matters.

Summary

Preach, and pray. Love, and stay. One day, before the American Revolution, there was a day of remarkable gloom and darkness. There was an eclipse over the New England states., known for years afterwards, simply as ‘the dark day’. A day when the light of the sun was slowly extinguished. The legislature of Connecticut was in session, and as its members saw the unexpected and unaccountable darkness coming on, they shared in a general awe and terror. It was supposed by many that this was the last day, that the day of judgment had come. And someone, in consternation, moved and adjournment. And then, there arose an old Puritan legislator, a Mr. Davenport of Stanford, and said that if the last day had come, he desired to be found in his place, doing his duty. And, therefore moved that candles should be brought in, so that the house could proceed with its duty. I think there was a quietness in that man’s mind. The quietness of heavenly wisdom, an inflexible wisdom to obey present duty. Pastor friend, you and I should do our duty, in all things, like this old Puritan. We can’t do more. We should never wish to do less. The ministry has private discouragements, and public discouragements aplenty. And God’s kindness to it, often has compensating blessings in this life.

One day, these clouds will be rolled back like a scroll. Live and minister in light of that day.

Pentecost (4) Discovering and seeking spiritual gifts

by Wayne Grudem – Paul seems to assume that believers will know what their spiritual gifts are. He simply tells those in the church at Rome to use their gifts in various ways: “if prophecy, in proportion to our faith…he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:6-8). Similarly, Peter simply tells his readers how to use their gifts, but does not say anything about discovering what they are: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).

But what if many members in a church do not know what spiritual gift or gifts God has given to them? In such a case, the leaders of the church need to ask whether they are providing sufficient opportunities for varieties of gifts to be used. Though the lists of gifts given in the New Testament are not exhaustive, they certainly provide a good starting point for churches to ask whether at least there is opportunity for those gifts to be used. If God has placed people with certain gifts in a church, when these gifts are not encouraged or perhaps not allowed to be used , they will feel frustrated and unfulfilled in their Christian ministries, and will perhaps move to another church where their gifts can function for the benefit of the church.

Beyond the question of discovering what gifts one has is the question of seeking additional spiritual gifts. Paul commands Christians, “Earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31), and says later, “Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1). In this context, Paul defines what he means by “higher gifts” or “greater gifts” because 1 Corinthians 14:5 he repeats the word he used in 12:31 for “higher” (Gr. Meizon) when he says, “He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified” (1 Cor. 14:5). Here the “greater” gifts are those that most edify the church. This is consistent with Paul’s statement a few verses later when he says, “Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up of the church” (1 Cor. 14:12). The higher gifts are those that build up the church more and bring more benefit to others.
But how do we seek more spiritual gifts? First we should ask God for them. Paul says directly that “he who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret” (1 Cor. 14:13; cf James 1:5, where James tells people that they should ask God for wisdom).

Next, people who seek additional spiritual gifts should have right motives. If spiritual gifts are sought only so that the person may be more prominent or have more influence or power, this certainly is wrong in God’s eyes. This was the motivation of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:19, when he said, “Give me also this power, that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (see Peter’s rebuke in vv. 21-22). It is a fearful thing to want spiritual gifts or prominence in the church only for our own glory, not for the glory of God and for the help of others. Therefore those who seek spiritual gifts but “have not love” are “nothing” in God’s sight (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3).

After that, it is appropriate to seek opportunities to try the gift, just as in the case of a person trying to discover his or her gift, as explained above. Finally, those who are seeking additional spiritual gifts should continue to use the gifts they now have, and should be content if God chooses not to give them more. The master approved of the servant whose pound had “made ten pounds more,” but condemned the one who hid his pound in a napkin and did nothing with it (Luke 19:16-17, 20-23)—certainly showing us that we have responsibility to use and attempt to increase whatever talents or abilities God has given to us as his stewards. We should balance this by remembering that spiritual gifts are apportioned to each person individually by the Holy Spirit “as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11), and that “God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor. 12:18). In this way Paul reminds the Corinthians that ultimately the distribution of gifts is a matter of God’s sovereign will, and it is for the good of the church and for our good that none of us have all of the gifts, and that we will need to continually depend on others who have gifts differing from ours. These considerations should make us content if God chooses not to give us the other gifts that we seek.

Pentecost (2) How many gifts are there?

from Wayne Grudem’s  BIBLE Doctrine – Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith.

In Part 1 We read regarding Spiritual Gifts in general- 1)Spiritual gifts in the history of redemption and 2) The purpose of gifts in the New Testament age. You can read part 1 here.

The New Testament lists specific spiritual gifts in six different passages. See table here –1 Corinthians 12:28 , 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Peter 4:11.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

  1. apostle   – (1-8 from 1 Cor. 12:28)
  2. prophet
  3. teacher
  4. miracles
  5. kinds of healing
  6. helps
  7. administration
  8. tongues
  9. word of wisdom   – (9-13 from 1 Cor. 12:8-10)
  10. word of knowledge
  11. faith
  12. distinguishing between spirits
  13. interpretation of tongues
  14. evangelist        –   (14-15 from Ephesians 4:11)
  15. pastor-teacher
  16. serving    –  (16-20 from Romans 12:6-8)
  17. encouraging
  18. contributing
  19. leadership
  20. mercy
  21. marriage     – (21-22 from 1 Cor. 7:7)
  22. celibacy

1 Peter 4:11 whoever speaks (covering several gifts) and whoever renders service (also covering several gifts). Click to read more…

Mai mult

R.T.France – Aspects of Gospel Harmony

R.T. France, “Chronological Aspects of ‘Gospel Harmony’,” Vox Evangelica 16 (1986): 33-60. via www.biblicalstudies.org/uk/

Chronological Aspects of ‘Gospel Harmony

R.T. France

The recently published excursion by B. S. Childs into the area of New Testament criticism, under the title The New Testament as Canon: an Introduction,1 contains many challenges to accepted methods of New Testament study. Coming into the area as an outsider (ie an Old Testament specialist), Childs argues that traditional ‘Introductions to the New Testament’ have ignored the most important question. They have argued at length about precisely how, when and by whom the New Testament books were composed, and have taken opposing stands on questions of historicity, but they have not considered how these books function for us as the canonical scriptures of Christianity.

One striking indication of Childs’ distinctive approach is the fact that while he has virtually nothing to say about the synoptic problem (ie the process whereby three of the gospels came to be written in such a tantalizingly similar and yet distinct form), he devotes nearly seventy pages to the question of ‘gospel harmony’, by which he means the problem of how we should respond to a canon which has presented us with four differing accounts of Jesus instead of a single ‘authorized biography’. But this is no call for an uncritical conservatism. Childs rejects equally the conservative desire to make all the gospels say exactly the same and the critical approach which is interested only in paring away the later ‘accretions’ in order to uncover ‘what really happened’. His concern is rather to listen to the four accounts side by side, recognizing that their differences pose historical problems, but not allowing those problems to distract him from what the evangelists are actually saying.

‘Harmonization’ of the details of the gospel narratives began as early as the second century, and has remained a major interest of conservative scholars. The more critical scholarship has emphasized the discrepancies between the gospels, and has declared the attempts of harmonizers both futile and perverse; the more conservative scholars have undertaken to prove that every detail can be accounted for as an accurate record of what took place. Great ingenuity has been exercised in the search for possible ways of reconciling the apparently irreconcilable, and many of the proposed solutions strike critical observers as artificial to the point of absurdity.

In this situation of mutual incomprehension and of increasing polarization, Childs’ approach seems to offer the possibility of a way out of what has become a rather sterile debate. By considering the question of harmony worth discussing at all, he has challenged the general critical assumption that harmonization is a pursuit unworthy of scholarly attention, But by refusing to allow the question to be limited to arguments over what is or is not historically feasible, he has rightly insisted that it be dealt with in the context of a wider understanding of the gospels as canonical scripture.

This is a healthy corrective, but it is not, either in intention or in execution, a vote for a traditionally conservative harmonistic approach. When Childs goes on to discuss specific examples of gospel discrepancies, while he has much of value to say on the messages to be drawn from the passages concerned, he generally leaves the historical problems unresolved. Sometimes he clearly regards the accounts as irreconcilable in detail, but in any case he does not seem to regard such resolution as important. It is, rather, a distraction from listening to what the gospels are saying.

But what are they saying? Childs suggests that this question is to be answered not, as exegesis has generally done, by trying to reconstruct the author’s intention, but rather by reading the texts ‘canonically’, ie by considering how they have spoken, and still speak, in the life and doctrine of the church which has adopted these texts as its basis of belief and life. It is this orientation which makes it possible for him to sit loose to more historical questions, since the details of what happened belong together with the process of composition and the original author’s intention in the area of the text’s pre-history, not of its canonical use and meaning. It is what the text is saying now, rather than what it said originally or how it came to be as it is, that is his concern.

This approach raises in an acute form the now familiar literary debate (which is pursued much more widely than only in biblical studies) between those who believe in the autonomy of the text and those who believe that our understanding of it must be governed by the author’s intention in so far as we are able to recover it. A really thorough-going belief in the autonomy of the text does away with any need for historical study in biblical interpretation. To discover the cultural and historical setting of the writing of the text, to reconstruct the literary conventions within which it would originally have been understood, even to discern its place in the development of the author’s thought and ministry, all these traditional concerns of biblical exegesis become secondary, indeed ultimately irrelevant, when the meaning of the text is understood relative to its impact on us in itself, without reference to what the author meant it to convey.

As one who is not persuaded of the autonomy of the text, while I welcome Childs’ attempt to bring the question of gospel harmony back onto the scholarly agenda, I would like to suggest that it should not be divorced from a consideration of the author’s intention. And if it is the case that part (though of course not all) of the intention of the biblical writers is to convey factual information, then it does seem to be appropriate, indeed necessary, to pay attention to those areas where their factual information appears to be in conflict, rather than to dismiss the question in favour of an exclusive concentration on the more ‘spiritual’ aspect of their message.

But this does not mean that I, any more than Childs, want to return to the sort of ‘harmonization’ which caused Osiander in the sixteenth century to conclude that Jairus’ daughter was twice raised from the dead, and which in more recent times has led to the proposal that Peter denied Jesus not three times (as all four gospels say!) but six.2 It means rather a serious attempt to understand how the original writers expected their texts to be taken, an attempt which deals with the texts as works of literature belonging to a particular cultural context, rather than as jigsaw puzzles made up of unconnected pieces awaiting the ingenuity of the modern interpreter to fit them together into a composite picture―an ingenuity which is required to be that much greater in view of the fact that many of the pieces are missing, and no one is sure how many there originally were.

In this article I want to discuss this issue of harmonization in relation to the author’s intended meaning by concentrating on one traditional area of harmonization, that of chronology. This is not a side-issue. A high proportion of the factual discrepancies between the gospels which critical scholarship has pointed out fall in this area, where different gospels record what are apparently the same events in a different relative order, or where they give specific settings for the same event which seem irreconcilable. Indeed Childs mentions that B. F. Westcott ‘regarded the chief problem of harmonization to be the divergence among the Gospels in temporal sequence’.3 Childs rightly sees this as an overstatement, and I would not want to suggest that to find a satisfactory way of resolving chronological differences would eliminate the problem of gospel harmony. But it remains true that much debate has centred on such issues, and it is possible that an approach which offers the hope of resolving some such questions may be in principle applicable to other harmonistic problems also.

In this area of chronological discrepancies I would like to suggest that a consideration of the authors’ intentions, while it will not solve all problems, may suggest that some of the traditional areas of dispute were all the time pseudo-problems. The simple question to be posed is how far the evangelists’ records were meant to be chronologically structured. While in a modern biography we might assume that events were related in chronological order unless the author clearly indicated otherwise, have we any right to make the same assumption for the gospels? The critical dictum that ‘the gospels are not biographies’, while it has rightly been questioned in relation to the nature of biographical writing in the ancient world,4 was right at least in its observation that they are not structured like most modern biographies. They might better be described as anthologies of stories and sayings of Jesus, and it is the privilege of the compiler of an anthology to arrange the material according to whatever scheme he feels appropriate, a privilege of which, to judge by their differences, the gospel writers have to some extent availed themselves. The rather vague links by which they generally connect episodes (‘then’, ‘in those days’, ‘after these things’, etc) do not suggest an annalistic structure, and while Luke declares that he has presented his material kathexēs, ‘in order’, he does not state that the sort of order he means is chronological.

A careful study of the arrangement of material in the gospels often reveals a more thematic connection between the sections. A very obvious example is in chapters 5-9 of Matthew, where an extensive collection of Jesus’ teaching on discipleship (much of which occurs in other contexts in Luke) is followed by an equally striking collection of stories illustrating Jesus’ miraculous activity. Thus chapters 5-7 present Jesus the Messiah in his words, while chapters 8-9 present his messianic deeds. The whole section thus prepares the scene for the following’ account of his mission and of the varying response of his contemporaries. (Most commentators go further and discern in Matthew 8-9 a deliberate structuring of the miracles in three groups of three. It is of course possible that they happened just like that, but is it likely?) A similarly careful composition can be discerned throughout the gospel of Matthew, adding up to a powerful dramatic presentation of the person and mission of Jesus leading up to the inevitable confrontation with Jewish orthodoxy, which in turn culminates in his death and resurrection. The whole gospel is thus an effectively structured portrait of Jesus. Students of Matthew vary in the structural pattern which they regard as basic to the gospel, but all agree that the whole book has been carefully composed for literary and theological effect. Similar observations are regularly made with regard to the other gospels.

There is, of course, no necessary conflict between such a dramatic or thematic ordering of material and a strict adherence to chronological order. But we are at least entitled to ask how important the chronology was to the author, and whether he may not sometimes have recorded events and teaching ‘out of order’ so as to achieve a more effective presentation of the significance of Jesus’ ministry. To observe that there is a basic agreement between the gospels on the broad outline of Jesus’ life and ministry does not require us to assume also that every event is intended to be understood as occurring in the order recorded. Since that order does in fact vary in detail between the gospels, the question is clearly important.

I want to ask, then, whether some of the traditional problems of chronological harmonization are really problems at all. If the gospel writers are not intending to teach us the chronological order of events, where is the problem?

This sounds, no doubt, like a quite arbitrary magic wand to be waved over any suggested discrepancy. Wherever the order varies, invoke a non-chronological principle of arrangement, and the problem is solved! But I am not arguing for any such simplistic approach. All I want to suggest is that in some cases non-chronological arrangement is a possibility to be considered. The problem then is to know where the writers intended a chronological arrangement and where they did not, and to avoid the temptation of the convenient assumption that they were not interested in chronology wherever problems of harmonization arise in this area.

The sort of factors which will be important here will be whether explicit chronological markers occur in the text, whether any theological or other implications seem to be drawn out from the order or concurrence of events, or whether there is an apparent dependence of one story on another having already occurred. On the other hand, a proposal to treat the order as non-chronological will carry more conviction in a case where some other principle of composition can be shown to account better for the form of the text.

In order to show how these considerations may affect our understanding of particular problem passages, I propose to consider a few of the issues arising in what appears to be one of the clearest chronological sequences in the gospels, and yet one in which several notorious problems of harmonization occur, that is the last phase of Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem, the so- called ‘Holy Week’.5 Even with this restriction, the treatment must necessarily be selective,

5 Even this general designation is open to chronological question. Mk. 11-13 is not explicitly linked chronologically with 14-16, and while the events of Mk. 11:1-25 are given a clear three-day framework, no time indications are given for the contents of 11:27-13:37. So while Jn. 12:1, 12 sets the events from the entry to Jerusalem to the passion within the Passover context, the inclusion of all the events of Mark 11-16 within one week is a matter of traditional inference rather than of explicit statement. Further, it has been argued that the entry to Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple (the latter of which John in any case places elsewhere in his gospel, though again in an explicitly Passover context) would fit more appropriately at the Feast of Tabernacles (so T. W. Manson, BJRL 33 (1950/1) 271-282; C. W. F. Smith, JBL 79 (1960) 315327) or that of the Dedication (so B. A. Mastin, NTS 16 (1969/70) 76-82), in which case the events of ‘Holy Week’ may have occurred over a period of up to six months! Do Jesus’ words in Mk. 14:49 also point in the direction of a longer period in Jerusalem?

THE FIG-TREE

Mark 11:1-20 gives a detailed account of certain events following Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem in what is ostensibly chronological order. His entry to Jerusalem took him straight into the temple, where he had a look around and then, ‘as it was already late’, went out to Bethany to spend the night (v 11). ‘On the following day’, on the way back into Jerusalem from Bethany, he cursed the fig-tree (vv 12-14). The cleansing of the temple follows on their arrival in Jerusalem on this second day, and then ‘when evening came’ Jesus and the disciples left the city again (v 19). ‘In the morning’, presumably on the way back into the city, they passed the fig-tree again, and found it now withered (v 20). This is a clear, consistent account of the events of some forty-eight hours.

Matthew 21 differs in two ways. First, there is no suggestion of a night’s delay between the initial entry to Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple: immediately after the entry Matthew continues, ‘And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought…’ (v 12). It is only after this that Matthew mentions going out to spend the night at Bethany (v 17). Matthew thus apparently presents Jesus’ action as an immediate and spontaneous response to a provocative situation, whereas Mark allows us to see it as a deliberate gesture, coolly planned overnight. But while these impressions of Jesus’ action are undeniably different, it is surely pedantic to find a factual discrepancy here. It is Matthew’s regular practice to omit details in the narratives which he finds unnecessary or distracting, and to relate only the essentials of the story (see eg his drastic abbreviation of the vivid stories of 5:1-43 into a mere 16 verses, 8:28-34; 9:18-26, or his omission of Luke’s mention of the centurion’s Jewish friends, Lk. 7:3-6, cf Mt.8:5-8). The one-day interval would be such a detail. Matthew therefore mentions only one night at Bethany, after the cleansing of the temple, which presumably corresponds to the second night in Mark.

But the situation is complicated, in the second place, by the incident of the fig-tree. Integral to the Marcan story is the repeated visit to the tree on successive mornings. But Matthew’s telescoping of the story has removed one of those mornings. So what in Mark appears as a two-stage story (cursing on one day, discovery of withering on the next) is in Matthew a single incident after the (second?) night at Bethany which follows the cleansing of the temple. Is this another editorial simplification by Matthew? Perhaps, but in this case he does seem to be interested in the chronology in a way which puts him into apparent conflict with Mark, for he adds that the fig-tree withered parachrēma, ‘immediately’, when Jesus cursed it, and he further reinforces this emphasis in the wording of the disciples’ response which again focuses on the fact that the tree withered parachrēma. This suggests that the immediacy of the miracle is the point which Matthew wishes to stress, as the basis for the following teaching on the limitless opportunities open to faith.

Now a fig-tree does not normally wither in a mere twenty-four hours from being ‘in leaf’, so that even in its Marcan form the story is of a very sudden and miraculous effect from Jesus’ curse, and the same lessons about faith are rightly drawn in Mark’s account as in Matthew’s. Even if the process took longer than Matthew’s account suggests, his parachrēma is still amply justified. But it does seem that Matthew’s account (if, as most scholars assume, it was dependent on that of Mark) has subordinated strict chronology to a more effective dramatic presentation of the incident in order to draw out more powerfully what he understands to be its theological implications.

I have operated so far on the assumption that things actually happened as Mark’s more circumstantial account relates, and that Matthew has deliberately telescoped the Marcan story. There is, however, another possible explanation. Suppose, as not a few scholars are now prepared to believe, that Matthew’s story is the original, and that it is Mark who has modified the chronological sequence. In that case he would have deliberately separated into two stages an event which in fact occurred all at once.

But why should Mark do such a thing? An answer is immediately to hand in one of the most widely recognized characteristics of Mark’s literary method, his so-called ‘interpolation’ or ‘sandwich’ technique.6 Quite frequently a story is interrupted while another incident is related, after which the original story is concluded. While it is possible that this device may in some cases be used purely to maintain the reader’s interest (one of my students pointed out that it is similar to Ronnie Corbett’s narrative style!), in several cases it seems clear that stories are thus interwoven so that one may throw light on the other. In this case it is generally agreed that, even without this Marcan interweaving, the cursing of the fig-tree is to be understood as symbolic of the fruitlessness of Israel, which is more overtly condemned in Jesus’ action in the temple. In Mark’s version this point is strongly reinforced by the narrative structure:

The temple observed
The fig-tree observed and denounced The temple denounced
The fig-tree destroyed

Later the analogy is completed by the explicit prediction that the temple, too, will be destroyed (13:2).7

So there would be a clear theological reason for Mark to restructure the story into two stages in order to achieve this suggestive ‘sandwiching’ of the two events. We have thus seen good theological reason for either evangelist to have modified the chronology; Matthew by telescoping a two-stage event into a single incident, or Mark by splitting into two stages an incident which in fact happened all at once. Which of these is the more probable explanation will depend on one’s overall view of the extent and the direction of literary dependence between Matthew and Mark, and on one’s estimate of their respective literary methods. But what is clear is that one or the other (or conceivably both) has not felt bound to follow a strictly chronological order. Either the cursing and the dialogue resulting from the withering of the tree occurred all at once after the cleansing of the temple, or they were two separate episodes with the cleansing in between; both cannot be chronologically correct.

Here, then, it seems clear that at least one evangelist has deliberately subordinated chronological order to the effective communication in narrative form of the theological significance which he saw in the cursing of the fig-tree. This need be no embarrassment for the evangelical reader once he is prepared to recognize that chronological sequence isnot the only literary procedure permissible. If either Matthew or Mark was not at this point intending to write in strict accordance with chronology, it is perverse to label non- chronological order as an ‘error’.

THE ‘CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE’

In the previous case the chronological difference involved was a mere twenty-four hours. Much more striking is the divergence between John and the synoptic gospels over the setting of the incident usually described as ‘the cleansing of the temple’. Here the whole length of Jesus’ ministry separates the two settings offered. In John it is recorded very early in the gospel, after the ‘first sign’ at Cana; it is the first public action of Jesus in this gospel, his first recorded confrontation with ‘the Jews’ (2:18), and precedes any Galilean activity other than the Cana incident. But in the synoptic gospels it occurs in the context of Jesus’ final visit to Jerusalem, following his dramatic entry to the city at the head of a crowd of Galilean supporters. The record in each case is of an apparently single-handed onslaught at Passover time on the traders in sacrificial animals and the money-changers, which succeeded (at least temporarily) in driving them out, and which led to a challenge from the Jewish religious leaders as to Jesus’ authority to act in this way. Most scholars therefore assume that it is the same incident which is recorded in each gospel. In that case either John or the synoptics has the event in quite the wrong position chronologically.

The traditional evangelical response has been to claim that in fact two separate incidents are recorded, one at the outset of Jesus’ ministry (during the early Jerusalem ministry to which the synoptics make no reference), the other at its close. If Jesus could act in this way once, why not twice? In principle this is not an unreasonable suggestion. Two similar incidents might well occur within a period of perhaps two or three years, and a situation which excited Jesus’ anger once might be expected, if it was repeated, to provoke a similar reaction again. In some cases of similar narratives in the gospels some such explanation seems preferable to the evolution of circumstantially conflicting accounts from a single incident. For instance, the four stories of Jesus being anointed by a woman (Mt. 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; Lk. 7:36-50; Jn. 12:1-8) contain several variations of detail which are hard to explain on the basis of a single incident, and the feedings of the 5,000 and the 4,000, for all their similarity in outline, are clearly presented by Matthew and Mark (each of whom records both incidents, not just one) as separate incidents in different settings (one Jewish, one Gentile, probably).

But in this case there are reasons for doubting this sort of explanation. For one thing, apart from the question of date, there are no significant factual discrepancies between the accounts; despite some differences in detail and in theological perspective the similarity in the essential narratives is remarkable (and indeed John’s version is closer in detail to those of Matthew and Mark than is that of Luke!). If it were not for the assumption that both John and the synoptics intend to place the incident in chronological sequence, no-one would have dreamed of suggesting that there were two such occasions. Nor does any of the gospels hint at a second such occurrence (as in the case of the 5,000 and the 4,000); it is simply that they locate it differently.

But the decisive objection to the theory of two ‘cleansings’ is the nature of the act itself. Recent studies by B. F. Meyer8 and E. P. Sanders9 have effectively reminded us that this was not an attempt at moral or liturgical reform such as any religious teacher might have carried out, but rather a daring and provocative ‘demonstration’, setting out both Jesus’ conception of a radical, eschatological change in God’s dealings with Israel and his own claim to be the Messiah, the ‘Lord of the temple’, through whom it was to be carried out. No less than the equally provocative gesture of his ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, enacting the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10, this was a deliberate throwing down of the gauntlet, a challenge to Israel’s existing leadership which could not be ignored.

If such an incident had occurred at the very outset of Jesus’ ministry, could the authorities have ignored it for two years or so? Such a decisive declaration at the beginning surely leaves no room for the gradual growth of suspicion and opposition which the synoptic gospels record. Nor can it be squared with the repeated emphasis in the synoptic gospels on Jesus’ reluctance to make any open claim to messianic authority during the majority of his ministry, until the final showdown when he deliberately confronted Israel with his claims, after which his arrest and trial as a messianic pretender followed swiftly and inevitably. In the context where the synoptic gospels place it the incident fits perfectly into this scheme, but if another such event had occurred two years earlier, their whole presentation of Jesus’ approach to Israel is thrown out of gear. The theory of two cleansings thus depends on a quite unrealistic minimizing of the significance and impact of the event; once it is recognized as the provocative ‘demonstration’ which its Jewish context demands, the synoptic account of Jesus’ ministry effectively rules out a second such incident at an earlier date.

For these reasons I regard it as highly probable that John has recorded at the beginning of his gospel an event which in fact occurred at the end of Jesus’ ministry.10 Is this then an error by John, or a deliberate deception of his readers? This would be so only if John’s gospel were clearly presented as an account in chronological sequence of what Jesus did. But is this the only, or indeed the most likely, way to read the opening chapters of the gospel?

10 This majority view has been challenged most recently by J. A. T. Robinson, in E. Bammel & C. F. D. Moule (eds), Jesus and the Politics of his Day (Cambridge, 1984) 455-461. In order to play down any political implications in the incident, Robinson takes it as purely ‘an act of religious zeal for the purity of the holy place, a prophetic protest’, and therefore believes that John has recorded it in its proper chronological position. The synoptic writers were obliged to move it to the final act of the drama because their structure had no room for any activity by Jesus in Jerusalem before that time.

The book as a whole is explicitly presented as a selection of Jesus’ words and deeds recorded in order to inculcate faith (20:30-31). It begins not with an account of his birth or early life, but with a meditation on his true significance as the revelation of God (1:1-18), which leads on to a series of cameos presenting the witness of John and of the first disciples to Jesus as the Messiah (1:19-51). Jesus himself comes centre stage in chapter 2, where initially we have recorded the miracle in which he first ‘manifested his glory’ to the disciples, a miracle which at the same time symbolizes the replacement of the old order of Judaism (2:1-11); then follows this incident, which demonstrates his messianic authority and again illustrates his decisive significance in relation to Israel’s worship, together with the resultant conflict with the authorities and the favourable response of the crowds (2:13-25).

Are we intended to see this as a chronological sequence of events? It is true that in chapter 1 the incidents are linked by temporal expressions: ‘the next day’ (1:29), ‘the next day again’ (1:35), ‘the next day’ (1:43), after which chapter 2 begins with ‘on the third day’. This looks like a deliberate sequence from 1:19 to 2:11, so deliberate that some have seen it as not so much chronological as ‘a dramatic framework, perhaps paralleling the seven days of the first creation in Genesis 1’.11 But in 2:12 the sequence becomes more vague (‘after this’, and a stay at Capernaum of ‘a few days’), and there is no explicit temporal link between this transition verse and the Passover visit to Jerusalem in 2:13, nor between the events of that visit (2:13- 25) and the following chapters.

All this suggests that John allows us to construe the position of the temple incident not so much as the first event of Jesus’ public ministry, but rather as part of an effective ‘collage’ of incidents from Jesus’ life put together at the outset to introduce the one who is to be the subject of the gospel. The particular function of this incident is to apprise the reader of the messianic authority of Jesus, and of the basic challenge which he presents to established Judaism, a perspective which will guide the reader with deeper understanding through the controversies with ‘the Jews’ which will be so prominent a feature of the ensuing gospel narratives.

If this understanding of John’s literary method is anywhere near the mark, then to speak of a chronological conflict between John and the synoptic writers in the placing of the temple incident is to miss the point, and to impose on John a chronological style of composition which may have been far from his intention at this point.

The two examples so far considered have both illustrated the possibility that a difference in order between the gospels need not always be construed as a problem for gospel harmony, since it is arguable that in these cases at least one of the evangelists is not compiling his record in chronological sequence. But I am not wanting to suggest that all differences in order may be dismissed by invoking non-chronological structure. The fact that sometimes the evangelists may have operated on a structural principle other than temporal sequence does not mean that they were never interested in chronology.

11 L. Morris, Studies in the Fourth Gospel (Exeter, 1969) 140. Morris himself prefers to regard the sequence as evidence of personal reminiscence. See further R. E. Brown, The Gospel according to John (New York, 1966) 1, 105-106. C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge, 1963) 153n, sees the reference to ‘days’ as serving ‘rather to articulate the stages of the exposition of the theme than to give a day-to-day chronology’.

Sometimes they offer what appears to be deliberate and significant chronological information. If in such a case there is a prima-facie discrepancy it is not good enough to say that the problem is ‘merely’ one of chronology. If we have reason to believe that the authors intended their chronological statements to be taken literally, and if what they say is apparently in conflict, then there is a problem for gospel harmony. We turn now, therefore, to such a case.
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John Piper – The Holy Spirit: Author of Scripture

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2 Peter 1:20-21

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

On June 27, 1819, Adoniram Judson baptized his first convert in Burma. His wife, Ann Hasseltine, described how Moung Nau had responded to the Scripture: „A few days ago I was reading with him Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. He was deeply impressed and unusually solemn. ‘These words,’ said he, ‘take hold on my liver; they make me tremble.'” God spoke through Isaiah the prophet 2,700 years ago and said, „This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word . . . Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word” (Isaiah 66:2, 5).

The Bible’s Impact in History

For two thousand years the Bible has been taking hold of people’s livers and making them tremble—first with fear because it reveals our sin, then with faith because it reveals God’s grace. A single verse, Romans 13:13, convicted and converted the immoral Augustine. For Martin Luther, a miserable monk, the light broke in through Romans 1:17. He said,

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that „the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. (Here I Stand, p. 49)

For Jonathan Edwards it was 1 Timothy 1:17. He says,

The first instance, that I remember, of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading these words, 1 Tim. 1:17, „Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As I read the words, there came into my soul . . . a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense quite different from anything I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. (Works, vol. 1, p. xii)

From century to century, from Egypt to Germany to New England, the Bible has been drawing people to Christ and making them new.

The Bible as the Word of Man and the Word of God

Why? Why has the Bible had this abiding relevance and power? I believe the answer is found in our text. 2 Peter 1:20–21, „First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” This passage teaches that when you read Scripture, what you are reading does not merely come from a man but also from God. The Bible is the writing of many different men. But it is also far more than that. Yes, men spoke. They spoke with their own language and style. But Peter mentions two other dimensions of their speaking.

Speaking from God, Moved by the Holy Spirit

First, they spoke from God. What they have to say is not merely from their own limited perspective. They are not the origin of the truth they speak; they are the channel. The truth is God’s truth. Their meaning is God’s meaning.

Second, not only is what they spoke from God, but how they spoke it is controlled by the Holy Spirit. „Men, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God.” God did not simply reveal truth to the writers of Scripture and then depart in hopes that they might communicate it accurately. Peter says that in the very communicating of it they were carried by the Holy Spirit. The making of the Bible was not left to merely human skills of communication; the Holy Spirit himself carried the process to completion.

One recent book by three former teachers of mine (LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, p. 15) puts it like this,

To assure verbal precision God, in communicating his revelation, must be verbally precise, and inspiration must extend to the very words. This does not mean that God dictated every word. Rather his Spirit so pervaded the mind of the human writer that he chose out of his own vocabulary and experience precisely those words, thoughts and expressions that conveyed God’s message with precision. In this sense the words of the human authors of Scripture can be viewed as the word of God.

Not Just Prophecy, but All Scripture

Someone might say that 2 Peter 1:20–21 only has to do with prophecy not with all Old Testament Scripture. But look carefully how he argues. In verse 19 Peter says that a prophetic word has been made more sure to him by his experience with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. Then in verses 20–21 he undergirds the authority of this prophetic word by saying it is part of Scripture. Verse 20: „No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” Peter is not saying that only prophetic parts of Scripture are inspired by God. He is saying, We know the prophetic word is inspired precisely because it is a „prophecy of Scripture.” Peter’s assumption is that whatever stands in Scripture is from God, written by men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

His teaching is the same as Paul’s in 2 Timothy 3:16, „All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” None of the Old Testament Scriptures came by the impulse of man. All of it is truth from God as men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

What About the New Testament Writings?

But what about the New Testament? Did the apostles and their close associates (Mark, Luke, James, Jude, and the writer to the Hebrews) experience divine inspiration as they wrote? Were they „carried” by the Holy Spirit to speak from God? The Christian church has always answered yes. Jesus said to his apostles in John 16:12–13, „I have yet many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you things that are to come.”

Then the apostle Paul confirms this when he says of his own apostolic teaching in 1 Corinthians 2:12–13, „We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit.” In 2 Corinthians 13:3 he said that Christ speaks in him. And in Galatians 1:12 he said, „I did not receive [my gospel] from man nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” If we take Paul as our model for what it meant to be an apostle of Christ, then it would be fair to say that the New Testament as well as the Old is not merely from man but also from God. The writers of the Old Testament and New Testament spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit Is the Divine Author of Scripture

The doctrine that emerges is this: The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture. If this doctrine is true, then the implications are so profound and far-reaching that every part of our lives should be affected. I want to talk about those implications this morning. But for our own strengthening and for those still wavering on the outskirts of commitment let me first sketch out the basis of our persuasion.

Coming to a Reasonable Faith in Scripture

Most people come to a reasonable trust in the Bible as God’s word something like this. It happens in three stages.

1. We Are Guilty Before God

First, the testimony of our own conscience, the reality of God behind nature, and the message of Scripture come together in our hearts to give us the inescapable conviction that we are guilty before our Creator. This is a reasonable conviction because the persuasion that there is a Creator above this world and the persuasion that we are guilty for not honoring and thanking him as we ought are not irrational leaps in the dark; they are forced upon us by our experience and our honest thinking about the world.

2. Jesus Wins Our Confidence

The second step on the way to a reasonable persuasion that the Bible is God’s word is that Jesus Christ is shown to us. Someone reads or tells us the story of this incomparable man who talked and acted like so much more than a man. We see the authority he claimed to forgive sin and command demons and control nature, we see the purity of his moral teaching, his utter surrender to the will of God, his brilliant calm under cross-examination, his righteous fury against hypocrites, his tenderness toward little children, his patience with the humble seekers, his innocent submission to torture, and we hear from his lips the sweetest, most-needed words ever spoken: „I have come to give my life as a ransom for many.”

And so by the self-authenticating force of his incomparable character and power Jesus wins our confidence and our trust and we take him as Savior from our sin and Lord of our life. And this is not an irrational persuasion. It’s the way all of you go about making reasonable decisions about whom you will trust in life. Will you trust this babysitter with your children, or this lawyer to give you good counsel, or this friend to keep your secret? You look, you listen, and eventually you are persuaded (or not) that here in this person is solid ground for your confidence.

3. We Follow the Teaching and Spirit of Jesus

Once the character and power of Jesus have captured our trust, then he becomes the guide and authority for all our future decisions and persuasions. So the third step on the way to a reasonable persuasion that the Bible is God’s word is to let the teaching and the spirit of Jesus control how we assess the Bible. This happens in at least two ways. One is that we accept what Jesus teaches about the Old and New Testaments. When he says that Scripture can’t be broken (John 10:35) and that not an iota or dot will pass from the law till all is accomplished (Matthew 5:18), we agree with him and base our confidence in the Old Testament on his reliability. And when he chose twelve apostles to found his church, gives them his authority to teach, and promises to send his Spirit to guide them into truth, we agree with him and credit the writings of these men with the authority of Christ.

The other way the teaching and spirit of Jesus control our assessment of the Bible is that we recognize in the teachings of the Bible the many-colored rays of light refracted out from the prism of Christ whom we have come to trust. And just as Christ enabled us to make sense out of our relation to God and bring harmony to it, so also the many rays of his truth in every part of the Bible enable us to make sense out of hundreds of our experiences in life and see the way to harmony. Our confidence in Scripture grows as we realize that Jesus affirmed it and as we realize that its teachings are as incomparable as Jesus himself. Time after time they help us make sense out of life’s puzzles: failing marriages, rebellious children, drug addiction, warring nations, the return of leaves in spring, the insatiable longings of our hearts, the fear of death, the coming into being of children, the universality of praise and blame, the prevalence of pride, and the admiration of self-denial. The Bible confirms its divine origin again and again as it makes sense out of our experience in the real world and points the way to harmony.

I hope, therefore, that one of the doctrines which we cherish at Bethlehem enough to die for it (and live for it!) is that the Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture. The Bible is God’s word, not merely man’s word.

Implications for All of Life

O, that we had all day to talk about the wonderful implications of this doctrine! The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture. Therefore, it is true (Psalm 119:142) and altogether reliable (Hebrews 6:18). It is powerful, working its purpose in our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and not returning empty to the One who sent it (Isaiah 55:10–11). It is pure, like silver refined in a furnace seven times (Psalm 12:6). It is sanctifying (John 17:17). It gives life (Psalm 119:37, 50, 93, 107; John 6:63; Matthew 4:4). It makes wise (Psalm 19:7; 119:99–100). It gives joy (Psalm 19:8; 119:16, 92, 111, 143, 174) and promises great reward (Psalm 19:11). It gives strength to the weak (Psalm 119:28) and comfort to the distraught (Psalm 119:76) and guidance to the perplexed (Psalm 119:105) and salvation to the lost (Psalm 119:155; 2 Timothy 3:15). The wisdom of God in Scripture is inexhaustible.

How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

© Desiring God

John Piper – Men Moved by the Holy Spirit Spoke from God

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2 Peter 1:20-21

We can sum up what we have seen so far in 2 Peter 1 with three pictures: the hot fudge sundae, a man swimming against an ocean current, and a lamp shining in the night. In 1:1–4 the main point was that God has given believers divine power to lead lives devoted to brotherly kindness and love; and that this power becomes effective in real life when we stake everything joyfully on his precious and very great promises. When we keep the hot fudge sundae of God’s promises in front of us, they exert on us a divine power to allure us on in the excellent way of love and into eternal life.

In 1:5–11 we are taught that God’s divine power is given to us not to make us lazy or limp, but to make us zealous and diligent to advance in every Christian virtue. The evil remaining in our heart and the pressures of unrighteousness in the world are like an ocean current drawing us backward toward destruction. No one who treads water in the Christian life stays in the same place. You always go back. Therefore we must stroke diligently against the current of evil desires within and innumerable temptations without. In doing this (as v. 10 says) we confirm our call and election. The genuineness of our confidence in the promises of God (by which we are saved) is confirmed by the diligence with which we stake our lives on those promises in efforts to live like Jesus.

Then in 1:12–19 Peter zeroes in on the promise of Christ’s second coming and says that this prophetic word has been made more sure by his own eyewitness experience of Christ’s majesty on the mount of transfiguration. What Peter and James and John were granted to see in the transfiguration of Christ was a partial glimpse of what Christ would be like when he comes again. And in verse 19 Peter compares that hope to a lamp shining in the night. The prophetic word of hope is our lamp in the dark night of this world. It functions just like that hot fudge sundae—to keep us on the path until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.

In a word the chapter has said: be a people empowered by hope to lead lives of love. Let your confidence in the coming day of joy make you compassionate in the present night of woe.

Reason or Manner?

Now we want to devote the rest of our time this morning to thinking about verses 20 and 21. First let’s look at the connection between verses 19 and 20. All the modern English versions that I consulted made it harder rather than easier to understand the connection in the original Greek. They all begin a new sentence at verse 20 (and NASB even inserts a totally unwarranted „but”). But verse 20 is not a new sentence, and the version that preserves the original is the old King James, which translates verse 20: „Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” Remember now that in verse 19 Peter is telling us to pay attention to the prophetic word about the coming of Christ as to a lamp shining in a dark place. So you can hear the connection when we boil the two verses down like this: „Pay attention to the prophetic word . . . knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation.” There is a very close connection between what we know about prophecy in verse 20 and our giving heed to it in verse 19.

Now what is that connection? I see two possibilities. First, verse 20 may give the reason why we should give heed to the prophetic word. So we could paraphrase it like this: „Give heed to the prophetic word because you know, first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” The other possible connection would be that verse 20 tells us not the reason but the way to give heed to the prophetic word. So we could paraphrase it: „Give heed to the prophetic word by remembering this principle first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” So it seems to me that in verse 20 Peter is either giving us a reason to pay close attention to the prophetic word, or is telling us how to pay attention to the prophetic word.

Whose Interpretation of What?

But which? Before we can decide that, we have to know what verse 20 means. What does Peter mean that „no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation,” or, as the RSV says, „no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation”? I think it is only fair for me to mention three ways this verse has been understood, and then show why I only accept one of these ways. First, there are excellent evangelical Bible scholars who say that verse 20 has nothing to do with our interpretation of prophecy, but rather with the prophet’s interpretation of history. In other words, when Peter says, „no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” he means, „no prophecy ever came from a prophet’s private interpretation of historical events.” Rather, as verse 21 says, prophecies came from God through the Holy Spirit. So the connection with verse 19 would be: „Give heed to the prophetic word . . . because no prophecy is a mere private human interpretation of events; it is from God through the Spirit.” I find that understanding of verse 20 almost persuasive, but not quite.

A second very important understanding of verse 20 is the typical Roman Catholic one. They have generally said, „No, verse 20 does refer to how we interpret prophecy, not how prophets interpret history. And the point is that no private individual can interpret prophecy on his own. Rather the Scriptures have been entrusted to the church, and the individuals must look to the official pronouncements of the church to know the true teaching of Scripture.” Until twenty years ago and the second Vatican Council, that kind of thinking had kept the Scriptures concealed in Latin and had kept the average Catholic lay person in woeful ignorance of Scriptures. Much of that is changing now. But even recently I read a letter from a priest in California to a young man in our church urging him not to forfeit his connection with the Catholic church and its sacraments; and in three pages there was no reference to Scripture. And I got the distinct impression that had he used Scripture to argue for the church, he would have been compromising his principles. Because evidently it is still true for many Catholics that the church gives credence to the Scripture, not Scripture to the church. It is the same old problem of the Reformation: in practice, ecclesiastical tradition, not Scripture, is supreme. And I want us to be very aware that one of the hallmarks of our Protestant faith is that the church and its ministers are judged by Scripture, and not vice versa.

I will mention one other way of understanding verse 20. „No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” can mean no individual should interpret prophecy according to his own personal whim. You can’t just give Scripture any old meaning you please. There is a true meaning (according to v. 21) which comes from God through the prophet, and this is our standard.

Now which of these three views of verse 20 is most likely Peter’s view? As far as the usual Catholic interpretation is concerned, it just can’t be gotten out of the text. There is not a word about who should replace the individual as the reliable interpreter of prophecy. That has to be read into the text. It can’t be gotten out of it. So for me the choice is between the first and third views. Is verse 20 saying that no prophecy is the result of a prophet’s private interpretation of history? Or is it saying that no prophecy, after it is given, should be twisted by individuals to make it mean whatever they like?

I think verse 20 is a warning not to play fast and loose with the meaning of Scripture. The reason I opt for this second view is that the false teachers which Peter has in view did apparently not deny the inspiration of the prophets, but rather twisted the prophetic writings to suit their own false teaching. We know that Peter had false teachers in mind here because the very next sentence in 2:1 says, „False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” And the key text for understanding how these false teachers related to Scripture is found in 2 Peter 3:16. In 3:15 Peter says that the apostle Paul has written about similar things in his letters. Then he says, „There are some things in them hard to understand which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” These last words show how the false teachers related to the Old Testament Scriptures. They don’t reject them. They don’t deny that prophecies came from God. They twist them to suit their own private purposes. Therefore, since Peter is concerned in this letter with false teachers who twist the meaning of Scripture to fit their own personal desires, the most likely meaning of verse 20 is that the prophetic Scriptures may not be handled that way. „No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” means then, „no individual is entitled to interpret prophecy, or Scripture generally, according to his personal whim” (Kelly).

The Way in Which We Should Heed the Word

Now we can see the connection between verses 19 and 20 more clearly. When Peter says, „Give heed to the prophetic word as to a lamp shining in a dark place . . . knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,” what he means is, „Pay close and careful attention to the prophetic word, and the first principle to guide you in how to pay attention is the principle that the true meaning of Scripture does not come from the mind of the reader.” Or to put it another way: the principle that should guide our attention to Scripture is that its meaning is objective, not subjective. The meaning of Scripture does not change with every new reader or every new reading. It cannot be twisted to mean whatever we like. It is what it is, unchanging and unending. The first principle, therefore, in giving heed to Scripture is that there is a true meaning and there are false meanings, and we must submit our minds to trace out what is really there rather than presuming that whatever pops into our minds at our first reading is the true meaning.

God’s Meaning not Man’s

Now what verse 21 does is give the reason why we can’t treat Scripture as though its meaning is whatever someone thinks it means. Interpretation of Scripture dare not be a matter of personal whim because Peter says, „no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In a word, the reason we may not fill the words of Scripture with our ideas is that God intends that they carry his ideas. The meaning of Scripture is not like putty that we can mold according to our desires. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and carries a solid, firm, divine intention. The glorious truth of this verse is that in Scripture God has spoken and not merely man, and therefore (as verse 20 says) our aim must be to hear God’s meaning, not merely our own.

Now let me try to show how verses 20 and 21 fit into the chapter as a whole and then draw out several implications for our lives. Peter’s main aim in chapter 1 is to help us confirm our call and election (v. 10). He wants us to enjoy the assurance of our salvation. As a means to that end he reminds us that the genuineness of saving faith (v. 1) is proved by whether it produces virtue and knowledge and self-control and patience and godliness and brotherly affection and love (vv. 5–7). But he also reminds us that God has already given us the power needed to live this way (v. 3). And he has told us that this power becomes effective in our daily lives through God’s precious and very great promises. So as we keep our hearts content in the promises of God, we are guarded from sinful allurements and are drawn on in paths of righteousness into eternal life. And where are these promises to be found? Where shall we go to fan the flames of our hope? Peter’s answer in verse 19: the prophetic word of Scripture. Do you need encouragement that the day is really going to dawn—that the life of self-control, patience, brotherly affection, and love is really leading to glory? Then go to the Scriptures. Go daily. Go long. Go deep. And when you go, remember this first: these are not the mere words of men; they are the words of God. „Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (v. 21). Seek his meaning and you will find the lamp of hope. For as the apostle Paul said, „Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by the steadfastness and encouragement of the scriptures men might have hope.”

Three Implications for Our Lives

Now I close with three brief implications of verses 20 and 21 for us. You can hang them on three words: discipline, humility, and the Spirit. Suppose that you are a platoon leader and had been trapped with your platoon behind enemy lines, and your commanding officer smuggles a coded message to you to inform you how to get out. What do you do with that message? Do you pass it around the platoon and collect everyone’s impressions and then flip a coin to decide what it means? No. You sit down and you labor to break the code. Why? Because the impressions of your platoon are not what you need. The mind of your commander makes all the difference. The interpretation of that message has one aim—what did the commander will to communicate? And to that end you submit yourself to the severe discipline of memory and analysis and construction, until you have assurance that his meaning and not your own has been found. And then you stake your life on it.

So it is with God’s Word. God’s intention comes to us in human language. „Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke (in Hebrew and in Greek) from God.” How, then, can we know the mind of God? Answer: God has ordained that some in his family (and some outside) submit to the discipline of mastering Hebrew and Greek and breaking the code open into English and the other languages of the world. But even English is a kind of code. Children must accept the discipline of learning to read it. And adults need to submit to the discipline of learning to read it well. The more disciplined we are in construing meaning out of Scripture instead of pouring our ideas into Scripture, the better we will understand God’s promises and the more power we can have for godliness.

The second implication is humility. If you believe that the Bible is the Word of God with authority over your life, it takes a good deal of humility to interpret it correctly. The reason is simple: the Bible often requires of us that we feel and think and act in ways that go against our natural inclinations. Therefore, the only person who will own up to these uncomfortable teachings is the humble person who is broken and open before the lordship of God and ready to do whatever he says. The proud person who still wants to give lip service to the Bible will twist the Scriptures to fit his own desires. In the long run sound interpretation comes only from the broken and contrite in spirit.

Finally, humility is a fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, we have great need for the assistance of the Holy Spirit when we read the Scripture. If he does not overcome our proud heart and rebellious nature, we will never submit to the uncomplimentary truths of Scripture. We will avoid them or distort them. The work of the Spirit is not to add new information to the Scripture, but to make us sensitive and submissive to what is already there. It was through men moved by the Holy Spirit that God spoke of old in the Scriptures. And therefore today it will be people yielded to the Holy Spirit who hear his voice most clearly in the Scriptures.

Therefore, let us give heed daily the prophetic Word with all diligence and humility and reliance on the Spirit, knowing this first, „that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own private interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

© Desiring God

John Piper – Job (3) Why we can rejoice in suffering

you can listen to the audio sermon here at DesiringGod.org

1 Peter 4:12-19

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Suffering and Christian Hedonism

It might seem strange to you that 1 Peter is one of my favorite biblical books—since it’s mostly about suffering and how to live in a hostile culture, while I am a card-carrying, full-blooded, unwavering Christian Hedonist. But it isn’t strange for people who have lived long enough to realize what Paul Brand, the missionary surgeon to India wrote in his book: Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants.

I have come to see that pain and pleasure come to us not as opposites but as Siamese twins, strangely joined and intertwined. Nearly all my memories of acute happiness, in fact, involve some element of pain or struggle. (Christianity Today, Jan. 10, 1994, p. 21)

I have never heard anyone say, „The deepest and rarest and most satisfying joys of my life have come in times of extended ease and earthly comfort.” Nobody says that. It isn’t true. What’s true is what Samuel Rutherford said when he was put in the cellars of affliction: „The Great King keeps his wine there”—not in the courtyard where the sun shines. What’s true is what Charles Spurgeon said: „They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls.”

Christian Hedonists will do anything to have the King’s wine and the rare pearls—even go to the cellars of suffering and dive in the sea of affliction. And so you can see that it is not strange that we love the epistle of 1 Peter—a handbook for Christian persecution and martyrdom.

A Story About a Joy-Seeking Missionary Family

When Bernie May was the head of Wycliffe Bible Translators he visited a young family in a Muslim nation. They had been there three years working with a people group of 100,000 people and no knowledge of Christ. This couple had three children under five years old.

The baby was covered with pox marks, some of which looked infected. He asked if the child had chicken pox. „No, those are ant bites,” the mother said. „We can’t keep the ants off him. Eventually he will become immune to them.”

Bernie May wrote:

In a moment of honesty she confessed she felt guilty because she was suffering from stress. Stress! She and her young husband came there from mid-USA. Now they live in a place where the temperature is above 100 degrees most of the year. The children are covered with bites; a war is going on close by; their helpers are in danger for being their friends; many in the villages are suffering from hunger and disease; they can’t even let their supporters know what they are doing so that they can pray for them since they are in a „critical” area—and she feels guilty because she is under stress.

I told her she had every right to feel stressful. I had only been their three days and I was already beginning to come unglued.

Yet this dedicated young couple are laughing and joking and filled with the joy of the Lord. (Letter from Bernie May, Jan. 1990)

1 Peter is a letter mainly about how to be like that. Today’s text, in fact, commands us to be like that and gives at least six reasons why we should be and can be.

Keep on Rejoicing: Six Reasons to Do So

The command is found in verse 13: „To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.” Keep on rejoicing. When you are thrown in the cellars of suffering, keep on rejoicing. When you dive in the sea of affliction, keep on rejoicing. In fact, keep on rejoicing not in spite of the affliction but even because of it. This is not a little piece of advice about the power of positive thinking. This is an utterly radical, abnormal, supernatural way to respond to suffering. It is not in our power. It is not for the sake of our honor. It is the way spiritual aliens and exiles live on the earth for the glory of the great King.

„Count it all joy when you meet various trials,” is foolish advice, except for one thing—God. Peter gives six reasons why we can „keep on rejoicing” when the suffering comes. They all relate to God.

1. Not a Surprise but a Plan

Keep on rejoicing because the suffering is not a surprise but a plan.

Verse 12: „Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”

It isn’t strange. It isn’t absurd. It isn’t meaningless. It is purposeful. It is for your testing. Look at verse 19: „Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” „According to God’s will.” Suffering is not outside the will of God. It is in God’s will. This is true even when Satan may be the immediate cause. God is sovereign over all things, including our suffering, and including Satan.

By why? For what purpose? Compare verses 12 and 17. Verse 12 your fiery ordeal comes „for your testing.” Verse 17 says, „For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” The point is that God’s judgment is moving through the earth. The church does not escape. When the fire of judgment burns the church, it is a testing, proving, purifying fire. When it burns the world, it either awakens or destroys.

Verse 18: „And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” Believers pass through the testing fire of God’s judgment—not because he hates us, but because he loves us and wills our purity. God hates sin so much and loves his children so much that he will spare us no pain to rid us of what he hates.

So reason number one is that suffering is not surprising; it is planned. It is a testing. It is purifying fire. It proves and strengthens real faith, and it consumes „performance faith.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn had long been impressed with the patience and longsuffering of Russian believers. One night in prison in Siberia Boris Kornfeld, a Jewish doctor, sat up with Solzhenitsyn and told him the story of his conversion to Christ. The same night Kornfeld was clubbed to death. Solzhenitsyn said that Kornfeld’s last words were, „lay upon me as an inheritance . . . It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good . . . Bless you, prison, for having been my life.”

We have strong hope, therefore, that the sufferings of our own day will bring purity and life to many. Suffering is not surprising; it is purposeful.

2. Evidence of Union with Christ

Keep on rejoicing because your suffering as a Christian is an evidence of your union with Christ.

Verse 13a: „But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.” In other words your sufferings are not merely your own. They are also Christ’s. This is cause for rejoicing because it means you are united to Christ.

Joseph Tson, a Romanian pastor who stood up to Ceausescu’s repressions of Christianity, wrote,

This union with Christ is the most beautiful subject in the Christian life. It means that I am not a lone fighter here: I am an extension of Jesus Christ. When I was beaten in Romania, He suffered in my body. It is not my suffering: I only had the honor to share His sufferings. (undated paper: „A Theology of Martyrdom”)

Keep on rejoicing, because your sufferings as a Christian are not merely yours but Christ’s and they give evidence of your union with him.

3. A Means to Attaining Greater Joy in Glory

Keep on rejoicing because this joy will strengthen your assurance that when Christ comes in glory, you will rejoice forever with him.

Verse 13b: „[As you share the sufferings of Christ] keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.” Notice: keep on rejoicing now, so that you may rejoice then. Our joy now through suffering is the means of attaining our joy then, a thousand-fold in glory.

First there is suffering, then there is glory. 1 Peter 1:11, „The Spirit predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow” (cf. 5:1). Paul said, „If we suffer with him we will be glorified with him.” First the suffering, and then the glory—both for Jesus and for those who are united to him.

If we become embittered at life and the pain it deals us, we are not preparing to rejoice at the revelation of Christ’s glory. Keep on rejoicing now in suffering in order that you might rejoice with exultation at the revelation of his glory.

4. The Spirit of Glory and of God Resting on You

Keep on rejoicing in suffering because then the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon you.

Verse 14: „If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

This means that in the hour of greatest trial there is a great consolation. In great suffering on earth there is great support from heaven. You may think now that you will not be able to bear it. But if you are Christ’s, you will be able to bear it, because he will come to you and rest upon you. As Rutherford said, the Great King keeps his finest wine in the cellar of affliction. He does not bring it out to serve with chips and on sunny afternoons. He keeps it for extremities.

If you say, „What is this?”—the Spirit of glory and of God resting on me in suffering—the answer is simply this: you will find out when you need it. The Spirit will reveal enough of glory and enough of God to satisfy your soul, and carry you through.

Seek to be holy; seek to bring truth; seek to bear witness; and do not turn aside from risk. And sooner or later you will experience the Spirit of glory and of God resting upon you in suffering.

5. Glorifying God

Keep on rejoicing in suffering because this glorifies God.

Verse 16: „If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.”

Glorifying God means showing by your actions and attitudes that God is glorious to you—that he is valuable, precious, desirable, satisfying. And the greatest way to show that someone satisfies your heart is to keep on rejoicing in them when all other supports for your satisfaction are falling away. When you keep rejoicing in God in the midst of suffering, it shows that God, and not other things, is the great source of your joy.

I mentioned Paul Brand earlier—the missionary surgeon to India. He tells the story of his mother who was a missionary in India and who did something that symbolizes a life devoted through suffering to the glory of God and not self. Dr. Brand writes,

For Mother, pain was a frequent companion, as was sacrifice. I say it kindly and in love, but in old age, Mother had little of physical beauty left in her. The rugged conditions, combined with the crippling falls and her battles with typhoid, dysentery, and malaria, had made her a thin, hunched-over old woman. Years of exposure to wind and sun had toughened her facial skin into leather and furrowed it with wrinkles as deep and extensive as any I have seen on a human face . . . Mother knew that as well as anyone—for the last 20 years of her life she refused to keep a mirror in her house. (Christianity Today, Jan. 10, 1994, p. 23)

Twenty years of ministry without a mirror. Do you get it? She was the mirror. God was the light and the glory

6. God’s Faithfulness to Care for Your Soul

Finally, keep on rejoicing because your Creator is faithful to care for your soul.

Verse 19: „Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

The degrees of suffering and the forms of affliction will differ for every one of us. But one thing we will all have in common till Jesus comes: we will all die. We will come to that awesome moment of reckoning. If you have time, you will see your whole life played before you as you ponder if it has been well-spent. You will tremble at the unspeakable reality that in just moments you will face God. And the destiny of your soul will be irrevocable.

Will you rejoice in that hour? You will if you entrust your soul to a faithful Creator. He created your soul for his glory. He is faithful to that glory and to all who love it and live for it. Now is the time to show where your treasure is—in heaven or on earth. Now is the time to shine with the glory of God. Trust him. And keep on rejoicing.

from © Desiring God

PAUL (Part 1) on the ROAD to DAMASCUS

(via) Paul’s call to the ministry of the Way is intertwined with Peters efforts to reach out to the Gentiles in the formative years of the Church. Below is an excerpt (from pp 462-465) of the narrative mostly from Acts of Paul’s ministry before he made his first missionary journey (which will follow in a future post).

Now as he was approaching Damascus…suddenly a light from  heaven flashed around him.  Acts 9:3.

(from The Tyndale Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Copyright 2001 (c) by Neil S. Wilson & Linda K. Taylor.) (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois)

The road from Jerusalem to Damascus owes its fame to an event occurring along it about the year A.D. 34. Acts gives us the most famous account of Paul’s “Damascus Road experience.”    The great persecutor, “still breathing threats and  murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), is on his way to the city, claiming the high priest’s authority to arrest any disciples of Jesus he should find there. But this journey will take an unexpected turn.
Roads and journeys are important throughout Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospel’s central section (Luke 9:51-19:27) describes Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem, during which He prepares His disciples for what is to come. But life-changing experiences also happen on roads out of Jerusalem. It is on  the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus that Cleopas and his companion encounter the risen Lord (Luke 24:13-35). On the road connecting Jerusalem with Gaza, Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Now it is on another road from Jerusalem that the persecutor Saul of Tarsus will be transformed into Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. Given the significance of journeying, it is not surprising that the earliest followers of Jesus were known as people who belonged to the Way (Acts 9:2).

Conversion  or  Call?

Paul most likely followed the major thoroughfare through the Jordan valley, before turning to the northeast from Galilee toward Damascus, the snow capped Mt. Hermon to the north. As he drew near to Damascus, the dramatic event occurred.  Although Christians have come to speak of Paul’s conversion, the story told by Acts, and the allusion to it in Paul’s letters, suggest another possibility.
In that it was so life changing, shaking the very foundations of his Pharisaic worldview, it is appropriately called a conversion. Yet this did not mean a transfer from one religion to another. Rather, Paul prefers the language of a prophetic call: he is being commissioned for a particular task. He believes, like Jeremiah and Isaiah before him, that he has been prepared for this new role since before his birth (Galatiians 1:15); see also Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5). His call near Damascus is understood to include a direct charge to preach God’s Son among the Gentiles (Galatians 1:16).

Paul in Damascus

Damascus is located in an oasis in southern Syria, approximately 135 miles (217 km) northeast of Jerusalem. The city was completely rebuild in the Hellenistic period, on a grid system. The one exception to the right-angled layout was the colonnaded “Street called Straight,” which crossed the city from east to west. Its name probably reflects a local joke, for it was not straight but slightly crooked. Here Paul will reside with a fellow Jew named Judas.
When Paul finally arrives in Damascus, a Christian Jew, Ananias, seeks him out. Paul later describes him as “a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living” in Damascus (Acts 22:12). Acts does not state how the Christian  message reached Damascus, though that might be due to missionaries scattered following Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 8:1). Ananias restores Paul’s sight, and brings him by baptism into the messianic community.  He boldly addresses as “brother Saul” one who, only days before, was intent on persecuting people such as him. He is another of the unsung heroes of the early Church, who disappears from Luke’s story as quickly as he entered it.

DAMASCUS. By the Rev. Dr. PHILIP SCHAFF and Miss M. E. ROGERS Gardens and Rivers of Damascus.

Escape from Damascus

Apart from describing his synagogue preaching in Damascus, Acts is silent about what happened next. We do know from Galatians, however, that after his call he spent some time in Arabia before returning to Damascus (Galatians 1:17).  “Arabia” refers to the area to the south, the kingdom of Nabataea. Its capital was the famous rock city of Petra. ( See a short video of this ancient city that still exists today here.) Paul declines to spell out his reason for heading to Arabia/Nabataea and he seems to have made enemies there. Some time after returning to Damascus, he is forced to flee for his life. Under cover of night he is forced down from the city’s wall in a basket (Acts 9:25), and makes his way back to Jerusalem. Although Acts views the Jews of Damascus as the rime movers against him, Paul sees the real threat as “the governor under King Aretas” (2 Corinthians 11:32). The king in question is Aretas IV, king of the Nabataeas from 9 B.C. to 40 A.D. Damascus remained firmly under Roman control  until Tiberius’s death in March 37 A.D. Paul’s reference suggests the city then came under Nabataean control, thus giving an approximate date for his escape.
So Saul returns to Jerusalem a changed man. It is not surprising that the Church there suspected a plot to infiltrate their ranks. Later, Paul relates that he  met Peter (Cephas) and James the Lord’s brother ( Galatians 1:18-20) and the Cypriot Joseph Barnabas emerges out of the shadows to show his worth as a true “son of encouragement” (see Acts 43:6). The stories of Barnabas and Saul will be inextricably linked in the chapters to follow.

Opening to the Gentiles

Bab Kisan Gate where Paul escapes persecution.

Having prepared the ground for Paul’s future work, Luke now returns to the leader of the Jerusalem apostles, Simon Peter. Although Paul is remembered as the great apostle to the Gentiles, Acts shows how his work is already anticipated in Peter’s ministry. Somewhat reluctantly, but in accordance with the divine will, Peter opens a door for the Gentiles; Paul and Barnabas will use this opportunity to great effect, and on a far wider canvas.

Healing on the fringes

Peter continues Christ’s healing ministry here in two further healings (Acts 9:32-43). Yet as important as continuing Jesus’ healing of those “on the margins” is the fact that Peter is also moving to the geographic margins.

Joppa, prophet Jonah boarded ship here to run away

The locations of the two miraculous events,  Lydda and Joppa, are away from Jerusalem on a coastal plain.  Beyond them is the great sea, the Mediterranean. Soon Paul and Barnabas will sail across that sea to bring the good news to Cyprus and Asia Minor.
Lydda, the ancient Lod, was a large town or city located on the road linking Jerusalem  with Joppa about 10 miles (16 km) inland from Joppa. The port town of Joppa (from a Canaanite word meaning “the beautiful”) although inhabited by Jews, was a Greek city, stressing again Peter’s move to the boundaries. Here he resides with Simon the tanner, an occupation despised by many pious Jews.
The story of the healing of Aeneas in Lydda echoes Jesus’ healing of a paralytic at Luke 5:18-26. Although Aeneas is not a Jewish  name, he fact that Peter’s dealings with him are uncontroversial (unlike those with Cornelius) suggests he is a Jew, probably a Christian Jew. Part of Peter’s motive in traveling seems to have been to encourage the disciples living on the edge of Judea. Aeneas’s healing leads to conversions among the (Jewish) population of  Lydda and “the Sharon,” the coastal plain located between the sea and the central hill country.  Peter’s second healing, at Joppa, certainly involves a disciple. When Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek (“gazelle”), is raised from the dead one is reminded of Jesus’ raising of Jairus’s daughter (Luke 8:49-56). Acts 8:40 hints that both Lydda and Joppa were evangelized by Philip on his way from Azots to Caesarea.

God fearers converted

Now that Peter is on the Holy Land’s geographic fringes, the stage is set for the next major transition in the spread of the gospel. Cornelius, a Roman centurion of the Italian cohort stationed at Caesarea, will receive the Holy Spirit and be baptized. Archaeological evidence attests a “Second Italian Cohort” in the area later in the century, though none has been found for Cornelius’s time. The Caesarea in question is the Caesarea Maritima (distinguishing it from other cities named after the emperor such as Caesarea Philippi). Formerly Strato’s tower, it had magnificently been rebuilt by Herod the Great. Ruins have survived of a fine artificial harbor, a Roman theater and an aqueduct.
Luke frequently speaks of Roman officials who are favorable toward the Christian  message. Cornelius is described as “a devout man who feared God with all his household” (Acts 10:2). In this he resembles the centurion who built the synagogue in Capernaum (Luke 7:1-10). The first step toward the Gentiles will be to one who is already on the fringes of the synagogue. Although Peter is instrumental here, what validates this dramatic step is divine revelation. Cornelius’ visitation from an angel is followed by a trance-induced vision, in which Peter sees a sheet containing all varieties of creatures. Through this vision, Peter comes to see that God is now over/riding the traditional clean/unclean distinction. As he is to learn, this applies not simply to animals and food, but to the distinction between Jews and Gentiles.
Hence, on returning to Jerusalem later (See Acts 11:1-18), he is prepared to justify the action taken at Caesarea. In Cornelius’s house, Peter’s preaching prompts divine activity, as the Holy Spirit descends even upon the “unclean” Gentiles. The Spirit was the expected gift of the new age, and its possession was a sign of being God’s people. Faced with heaven’s approval of pious Cornelius and his family, Peter cannot refuse them baptism.  Indeed, Luke has him seal this by accepting their hospitality for several days. Nevertheless, the full implications of this are not worked out immediately, either for Peter or for the Church. Later, at Antioch, Paul will challenge Peter over his decision to no longer eat with Gentiles, again treating them as unclean (Galatians 2:11-14).

Another Herod persecutes the Church

Back in Jerusalem, hostility directed toward the Church continues. Now it is associated with King Herod (Acts 12:1-5), who executes James, son of Zebedee, and also takes action against Peter. Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great, born in 10 B.C. and educated in Rome, where he became friends with the future emperors Gaius and Claudius. He inherited his uncle Philip’s tetrarchy in A.D. 38, adding Antipas’s Galilee and Perea two years later. He ruled as King of Judea between 41 and 44 A.D.
Acts portrayal of Agrippa is negative, influenced by the memory of his action against the Way. Though a promoter of Hellenism like his grandfather, at home Agrippa was a pious Jew. Acts has a most dramatic account of his untimely death, in which the crowds acclaim him as a god, and he develops a fatal illness. The tragic demise of a figure of royal power (Acts 12:20-23) contrasts powerfully with the escape from prison of the fisherman he sought to destroy and the inexorable progress of the message he wished to quash.

photo from biblewalks.com – In this aerial photo you can see the western layout of the city, with Herod’s theater on the bottom side, Herod’s palace on the left side, the Hippodrome and the Roman city in the center, and the Crusaders and port on the top side.

Caesarea Maritima („by the Sea”) is located on the shore in the center of Israel,  in the middle between Haifa and Tel-Aviv. It is the site of one of the most important cities in the Roman World, the Roman capital of the province of Judea at the time of Jesus, and a Crusader fortress along the road from Acre to Jerusalem.  The followin – towards the end of Paul’s life also takes place in Caesarea Maritima:

Acts (25: 11-14, 23) – Paul appeals to Caesar

In 58AD the Apostle Paul, accused of causing a riot, was sent to Caesarea to stand trial before the governor. As a Roman citizen he requested to be heard by the Emperor , and so he sailed to Rome from Caesarea harbor. There, he was tried and executed after several years.

25:11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.

25:12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

25:13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.

25:14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:

25:15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.

25:23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.

26:32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

The „place of hearing”, where this all happened,  is located near Herod’ palace.

to be continued…

next in this series is Paul’s first missionary journey.

PETER and PAUL 1

PETER and PAUL 2

Tyndale – The Doctrine of the Son of God 1 – The preexistence of Christ

(via) Tyndale publishers Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible

THE DOCTRINE OF THE SON (P 609)

1) Introduction. It has been estimated that some forty billion individuals have lived upon this earth since Adam. What a contrast can be seen in this vast multitude of humanity. These men have explored and settled every corner of their earth. They speak dozens of languages, practice multitudes of religions, and have formulated numerous cultures.

But every single human being shares one vital thing. His purpose of life down here and his eternal destiny afterward depends completely upon his personal relationship with the subject of this study, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, absolutely impossible to overemphasize the importance of His life. The key question of the universe continues to be: „What think ye of Christ? Matthew 22:42

Note the following:

To the artist he is the One altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16)

To the architect he is the chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6)

To the astronomer he is the son of righteousness (Maleachi 4:2)

To the baker he is the Bread of life (John 6:35)

To the banker he is the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44)

To the builder he is the sure foundation (Isaiah 28:16)

To the carpenter he is the door (John 10:7)

To the doctor he is the great Physician (Jeremiah 8:22)

To the educator he is the new and living way (Hebrews 10:20)

To the farmer he is the sower and the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2)

2) The Preexistence of Jesus Christ as God. It is possible (as some have done) to hold to Jesus’ preexistence without believing in his diety. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult brazenly declares that Christ preexisted as Michael the archangel prior to Bethlehem. But the Bible dogmatically declares both his preexistence and his diety.

A. The fact of his divine existence.

1) As taught by John the Baptist. „John bare witness of him, and cried,       saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after meis preferred before me: for he was before me” (John 1:15, see also John 1:27,30). According to Luke 1:36, John’s birth occured 6 months prior to Christ’s birth, but John declares that ‘he was before me’, a reference to Jesus’ preexistence.

2) As taught by the Apostle John.”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).”For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and showed unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” (1 John 1:2). Here the Apostle John connects Jesus’ preexistence to his diety.

3) As taught by the Apostle Paul. „Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of a cross (Philemon 2:6-8).

4) As taught by the Apostle Peter. „Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (1 Peter 1:20)

5) As taught by Christ himself. „For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38) „I am the living bread which came down from heaven:if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, „Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” (John 6:51,61,62). Jesus said unto them, „Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 6:58). „And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5). Here Christ requests that the Father share His glory with the Son. But note the Father’s previous statement about his glory in Isaiah: „I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another…” (Isaiah 42:8). One is thus forced to conclude that either Christ was God indeed and had rightful claim to this glory, or he was an arrogant impostor demanding something the Father would never give Him!

B. The activities of the preexistent Christ. What was the Savior doing  prior to his Bethlehem appearance? The Scriptures make it plain that he was busy indeed.

1) He was creating the universe. „All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).”For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). „Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world…And, thou, o Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands” (Hebrews 1:2,10). This creation included everything, from electrons to galaxies, and from angels to Adam.

2) He was controlling this created universe. „Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High” (Colossians 1:17) Our Lord Jesus not only put all things together, but he continues to keep all things together.

3) He was communing with the Father. „I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast loved me” (John 17:23). „Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24)

NEXT ARTICLE TO COME (soon): The Old Testament Ministry of Jesus Christ.

Read this related article on the deity of Christ: Who do you say that I am?

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