Revelation 19:10

Revelation 19:10 …For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

The prophets who wrote the Old Testament testified of Messiah who would come.  The apostles who wrote the New Testament testified of Messiah who came.  Both testaments testify of Christ and both are thus imbued with the spirit of prophecy.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Scarlet Thread

There is a “scarlet thread” running from one end of the Bible to the other.  It is the blood that has flowed to bring the truth to us in modernity.

All the prophets who were slain for their faith – from Abel to Zechariah – testify to us about the truth of God.  Then, in New Testament times, Jesus Himself suffered death by crucifixion.  And post-biblical tradition tells us that only one of the twelve apostles lived to a natural death, all the rest being martyred, and usually in some particularly cruel fashion.

This scarlet thread bears witnesses to the veracity of those prophets and apostles – and of the Savior Himself.

Let us never read the Bible without an appreciation for the price that was paid to bring it to us.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Gospels Were Written in Anticipation of the Coming Kingdom

The Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – were originally called “The Memoirs of the Apostles.”  (This phrase comes from Justin Martyr writing in the mid-2nd Century A.D.)  When you read the four Gospels, it’s obvious that they are written for believing communities – that is, those gatherings of believers in Christ that had sprung up all around the Mediterranean world in the mid to late 1st Century as a result of the preaching of the apostles.

The Gospels were not written to or for skeptics.  They were not written for those who had no familiarity with the story of Christ.  Even the Gospel of John, which is the only Gospel which states that it seeks to elicit faith (John 20:30-31), lays out its case for an open-minded reader – not a hostile one.  It is easier to imagine its initial use to be for a new generation of believers rather than to convince the surrounding skeptical culture.

The Gospels seek to reinforce faith, especially in light of the coming of the kingdom of God.  It appears that the Gospels were written late, not early, in the lives of the apostles.  Reading the book of Acts, and the letters that follow it, it’s clear that the apostles’ mission was one of preaching and not publishing.  In fact, the production of the Gospels seems tied to the apostolic mortality rate and the need to preserve the witness of Christ’s life.  In other words, if the apostles were not being persecuted and killed to the point of extinction, it’s possible they might not have written gospels.

You can especially see the impending kingdom, and the judgment that would come with it, looming in the narrative that Matthew provides.  It’s not just the story of Jesus being recounted, but being recounted in a way that emphasizes preparation for the coming crucible through which the kingdom of God would be birthed.

Imagine being a 1st-century believer who is hearing Matthew’s Gospel being read in the congregation.  Listen to the teaching of Jesus, knowing that Matthew is preparing you for the judgment that Jesus said would come.  Think about the wheat being separated from the chaff, the sheep being separated from the goats.  Know that you want to respond to Jesus and His teaching so that you will be found among the wheat and found among the sheep.

You will gain more from the Gospel of Matthew – and all the Gospels – when you read them from this perspective.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Take Heed That Habakkuk’s Prophecy Doesn’t Apply to You

Acts 13:40 “Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you:
Acts 13:41 ‘BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH;
FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS,
A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.'”

I have explained carefully to you how everyone is going to heaven in The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.  Therefore, be careful that you don’t disbelieve it and thereby make yourself as a fulfillment of Habakkuk’s prophecy.

(The apostle Paul is the speaker in these verses and he is quoting Habakkuk 1:5.)

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Lord’s Will for You Is Strength of Heart

God does not want you to be weak in heart.  Rather, His will is that you be strong in heart.  Consider and meditate upon the following verses:

1 Corinthians 16:13

Ephesians 6:10

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

2 Timothy 2:1

Hebrews 12:12; 13:9

James 5:8

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Philippians 3:14 – The Upward Call of God Is in Christ Jesus

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The “upward call” of God is, of course, rooted in the resurrection of Christ.  That is why this “upward call of God” is “in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus of Nazareth lived the exemplary human life, and was raised from the dead to heaven that our attention might be drawn there.  Heaven is the light of the earth.  Heaven was dark to us – unknown – until Jesus illumined it.  In His human qualities (e.g. humility, gentleness, and kindness) are reflected the divine qualities of our Creator.

God is calling us through Jesus Christ, for Christ is the message of God.  Listening to this message draws our attention from earth to heaven, and so enables us to live in the manner that our Lord did.

Let us keep listening to the upward call; let us keep following the upward call.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Put Your Trust in His Prophets and Apostles and Succeed!

Consider this Old Testament verse:

2 Chronicles 20:20 They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.”

Of course, in Old Testament times God spoke through the prophets “in many portions and in many ways” (Hebrews 1:1), but in New Testament times spoke through His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2) – who sent the apostles to proclaim His message.

Therefore we may update the words of Jehoshaphat and exhort the people of God in this way:

“Put your trust in His prophets and apostles and succeed!”

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Apostles Did Not Have the New Testament

The New Testament was not gathered into a collection of 27 books until after the apostles died. So, even though the apostles wrote the New Testament documents, they did not have the New Testament at their disposal to settle New Testament controversies.

The apostles had to rely on the Old Testament in order to settle New Testament controversies.  Give that some thought, would you?

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Prophets Saw the Lord Long Before the Apostles Did

Isaiah wrote of Jesus centuries before Jesus actually lived.  As the Gospel of John testifies:

John 12:41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.

Thus Isaiah looked ahead and spoke of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as David had done before Isaiah (see Acts 2:30-31).  And, of course, this foresight was present in all the prophets (see 1 Peter 1:10-12 and Acts 3:24).  Moses, too, for that matter “saw” the Lord who was to come (John 5:46).  (For a broader look at just how much the prophets saw of the promised Messiah, see this post.)  Yet even Moses and the prophets did not see with the clarity that was given in New Testament times (Matthew 13:17).

Let us therefore walk in the clearer-than-ever light of the Lord – that is, the light of Jesus Christ our Lord.  The Old Testament was pregnant with Him…and the New Testament birthed Him.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Matthew 11:28-30 and 1 John 5:3

Note the similar point being made by these two passages, one from Matthew and the other from John:

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  [quoting Jeremiah 6:16]
Matthew 11:30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

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1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Know then what a mistake we make when we mutter to ourselves that the way of the Lord is too hard.

Let us not dishonor Him with such wholly inappropriate complaining.  His commandment are not burdensome.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Paul Did Not Take His Stand on Visions He Had Seen

[Emphasis added in the following passage:]

Colossians 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,
Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

These words are taken from a letter written by Paul – the same Paul who had a vision of Christ.  Paul’s vision was recorded three separate times by Luke in the book of Acts (in chapters 9, 22, and 26).  In his letters, however, Paul never makes extended reference to this experience.  On the contrary, he took his stand on the Scriptures and on the traditions passed down (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) from the earliest disciples of Christ.  Yes, Paul had seen the Lord, but he had a more sure word of testimony (2 Peter 1:19) and was not about to lose sight of it.

Therefore, if anyone had an opportunity to “take his stand on visions he had seen,” Paul was one of them.  Yet he did not do this. Neither therefore should we.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Jesus Inherited His Names from the Old Testament

The New Testament begins with the following verse:

Matthew 1:1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

This verse is laden with references to the Old Testament.  And there is much more to them than just establishing Jesus’ earthly lineage.

What we read as “Jesus” was “Joshua” in Hebrew.  The word means “The Lord saves.”  It was the name that Moses gave to Hoshea the son of Nun (Numbers 11:36) – the man who would be heir to Moses’ authority, and therefore the foreshadowing of the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15-19.  Thus the very name by which this Nazarene carpenter would most commonly be called would provide a constant reminder of Moses and the promises he made on behalf of God.

What we read as “Messiah” was in Hebrew “Anointed” – a term referring to the king of Israel, and especially to the great king who God promised would one day come from the descendants of David.

What we read as “the son of David” would have evoked in first-century Jews a great set of expectations associated with the promises God made to David.  These would center on what the prophet Nathan spoke to David in 1 Samuel 7:8-17, perhaps most notably, at least in hindsight, the words God spoke in verse 14, “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me.”  These words were to ring with dramatic new clarity in the resurrection of Christ (Acts13:33, which is a quotation of Psalm 2:7; and Romans 1:1-4, which echoes this same theme).

What we read as “the son of Abraham” would similarly have evoked the great promises God gave to a very old man at the inception of the Jewish race.  The miracle of a hundred-year-old man and his ninety-year-old wife becoming the progenitors of what would be God’s own nation, was an amazing beginning to remember – and an indicator of just how special this Nazarene’s life might be.

Thus this beginning verse of Matthew carries all sorts of meaning that is lost on anyone not familiar with the history of Israel as recorded by its prophets (i.e. the Old Testament or, as it is sometimes called, the Hebrew Bible).  Therefore, if we are to understand and properly appreciate the name of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, we must study the Old Testament.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Psalm 94:16 – Jesus Took a Stand

Psalm 94:16 Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?

Jesus took his stand against evildoers.  He took his stand against those who did wickedness.

When Jesus took this stand, he found himself all alone.

When Jesus took this stand, he fell (not through his own fault but because he was struck down)…but God made him to stand again.  Forever.

Isaiah 40:8 …the word of our God stands forever.

He is “the word” (John 1:1).  Who will stand with Him?

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

John Wrote a Gospel that Strengthened Peter’s Confession

Recall Peter’s confession of Jesus:

Matthew 16:15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Then consider the rationale John gives for his gospel:

John 20:30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

You could almost say that John wrote his gospel to deepen understanding and strengthen conviction of Peter’s confession, which, by this time, many people had adopted.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who  read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Peter and John Both Saw Jesus as “The Holy One”

Peter and John had reasons to see Jesus in similar fashion.  They also held similar views on how the Old Testament sacrificial system foreshadowed what Jesus did.  They also both saw Jesus as “The Holy One” – as demonstrated in their respective first letters:

1 Peter 1:15 …like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

1 John 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One…

Given that they spent so much time together serving Jesus (especially at momentous events, whether large like the early days of the church described in Acts 4, or small like the Mount of Transfiguration described in Matthew 17), it’s no wonder that these two men would have common ways of referring to our Lord.  What’s interesting is how different their writing styles are.  Truly God can speak in a variety of ways through a variety of persons while delivering a consistent message (Hebrews 1:1-2).  Glory be to Him!

Also, before closing, I should add the source for this title of Jesus (“The Holy One”):  Psalm 16:10, as evidenced by Peter’s quoting and explaining it in Acts 2:24-31.  Thus both Peter and John were quoting Scripture when they called Jesus “the Holy One.”

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Genesis 22:18

Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…”

Who is this seed but Jesus Christ, descendant of Abraham.  So testifies the apostle Peter:

Acts 3:25 “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’
Acts 3:26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant [Jesus] and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

[Note: the NASB puts quotations of the Old Testment in all capital letters.]

See also this from Paul:

Galatians 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Thus the seed of Abraham that blesses the world is Jesus Christ our Lord.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Psalm 2 as Corroboration and Explanation for Peter’s and John’s Confession

We know from reading the New Testament that Jesus’ apostles were steeped in the Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament).  This was in part because of their upbringing as pious Jews, but also because Jesus taught them so much from the Scriptures through His ministry.  Most significantly, Jesus used the Scriptures to explain and corroborate His resurrection.  This enabled the apostles to use the Old Testament as their script – and written authority – as they went into all the world giving their account of Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection.

Peter and John both confessed Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of God.”   Although there are many Old Testament verses that could be employed to undergird this confession, Psalm 2 alone is sufficient.  Note that Psalm 2:2 prophesies of the leaders who would crucify Christ.  Peter and John even made reference to this passage when they were praying with the infant church while facing their own persecution from the same authorities (Acts 4:19-30).  (Keep in mind that “Christ” and “Anointed” and “Messiah” all mean the same thing.)  Then in Psalm 2:7 God declares Jesus to be the Son of God with the power of resurrection (Acts 13:33 confirms that this was the ultimate meaning intended).  Thus Peter and John witnessed firsthand the fulfillment of Psalm 2 in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Thus they could call Him “the Christ” and “the Son of God.”

Of course, Peter’s confession came before the resurrection so he could not have fully understood what he was saying.  He understood it well enough, however, to elicit Jesus’ blessing.   The fuller understanding would come with the resurrection.

In any case, we are wise to appreciate how much the apostles and the early church must have relied on the second Psalm for a effective way to reflect on the events which they had witnessed.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Peter and John Had a Similar Outlook on Jesus

Peter was a partner in a fishing business with the sons of Zebedee – John and James.  Then along came Jesus of Nazareth and the three of them forsook their fishing nets and followed Him.  When it was time for Jesus to choose 12 of His disciples as apostles, all three of the erstwhile fishermen made the cut.  And then, whenever there was something Jesus was doing that called for select witnesses, He seemed to choose always those three.

James was martyred by Herod (Acts 12:2) and therefore didn’t live as long as his brother or Peter.  We can assume that James thought along similar lines to John and Peter, not just because of what we have just recounted about their common experiences and common choices, but also because of what I am about to say.

It is most striking that what could be considered Peter’s most notable statement parallels almost exactly what could be considered John’s most important statement.

At a fateful moment in the history of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?”

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And when John was concluding his narrative of the gospel of Christ years later, he wrote:

John 20:30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Thus to confess “Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God” remains, after almost two thousand years, the signature moment of both men.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Matthew 5:1-2

Matthew 5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.
Matthew 5:2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

This is how Matthew begins his account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Beyond that event itself, we can see in this word picture (as well as in the similar one painted by Isaiah centuries before in Isaiah 2:2-4) what happened when Jesus, in the aftermath of His crucifixion, was raised to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  His disciples came to Him, and, beginning from the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, He poured out the Holy Spirit on those who believed in Him that they might hear the words of God and learn the ways of God.

Thereafter, as described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and throughout the church age, Jesus taught His gathered disciples – right up until the coming of the kingdom of God.  Since that time, He teaches every one who calls on Him.  For with the coming of the kingdom, our gathering is to Him and not each other.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Apostles’ Understanding of Christ Is Rooted in the Old Testament

If we want to understand Christ as His apostles understood Him, we must devote more attention to finding Christ in the Old Testament.

When the apostles wanted to corroborate what they were saying about Christ with an authoritative text, they hardly ever quoted a New Testament document.  Rather, they quoted Old Testament documents…over and over and over again.

It was obvious that Jesus taught His disciples how the Old Testament testified of Him (John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 44-48).   Therefore as we rely on Peter, Paul, John and the rest, they relied on Moses, David, Isaiah and the rest.

Sure, the apostles proclaimed that they had experienced the resurrected Messiah (Acts 10:40-41), but they seasoned their preaching more with Scripture than with their personal testimonies.  Read through the books of Acts and see that this is so.

The apostles exhibited no sense of urgency about getting their gospel written down.  Theirs was first and foremost an oral, face-to-face mission.  We do have 27 New Testament documents, but it’s apparent that they were written to people who had already become a part of the movement – not to people the apostles were trying to convert.  The apostles had all the writing they needed in the Old Testament.  Yes, the New Testament is a blessing to us, but let’s not have it obscure the blessing that the Old Testament was to the apostles and can be to us.  The apostles regarded Christ according to the guidance that the Old Testament gave them.  That is, the New Testament reveals that the apostles were dependent not on the New Testament, but rather on the Old Testament.

For more on how the apostles (i.e. the New Testament) saw Christ in the writings of the prophets (i.e. the Old Testament), see these posts.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Recovering the Apostolic Understanding of Christ

The three main branches of organized Christianity claim to derive their status from the apostles’ teaching…but don’t.  In fact, because of their blindness to the kingdom of God, these institutions proclaim their own teaching more than what Peter, John, Paul and the rest taught.  As a result, much of apostles’ teaching is not being made available to chuchgoers.

How will we recover the apostles’ conception of Christ?  How will we recover the apostles’ understanding of the Old Testament – which is the same thing, because Jesus had taught the disciples that the Old Testament was about Him?

We recover the apostolic understanding of Christ by tracing the thoughts of the apostles’ letters back to the words of the prophets in the Old Testament.

The more literal English translations of the New Testament tend to show Old Testament quotations in some typographical way (either by all capital letters or indentation or some other means).  These more literal translations also tend to have a cross-reference system either in the margins or at the bottom of the page that identify verses carrying similar or related thoughts.  Even so, there are too many New Testament allusions to the Old Testament to capture them all by these means.  Therefore, it requires additional study and reflection to achieve the recovery of apostolic doctrine that is desired.

Almost two thousand years of Christian labor has been diverted to, and distracted by, efforts to build and maintain the church – all at the expense of truly understanding the kingdom of God.  It is long past time that we devote ourselves to recovering the apostles’ understanding of Christ that we might advance His kingdom in our generation.

Since our faith in Christ is based on what the apostles told us about Him (John 17:20), isn’t it critical that we understood the fullness of what they taught about Him?

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Letting Scripture Interpret Scripture

It’s a good idea to let Scripture interpret Scripture.  This is a time-tested maxim – and deservedly so.

More specifically, it’s a good idea to let the apostles interpret the prophets.

Another corollary of this maxim is that we should let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament.

What this central idea embodies is a way of applying the guideline Moses gave when he wrote the first books of the Bible:

Deuteronomy 19:15 “…on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.”

Thus we are letting two or three different scriptures settle an issue.  This keeps us from putting too much stock in one individual scripture for which we can find no corroborating scripture.  God knew that the writings of His prophets would have to stand for the ages, and be understood through many languages.  Misunderstandings can be kept to a minimum if we can find two or three verses that point the same direction.  Also pointing to the benefit of multiple attestation is this verse:

Ecclesiastes 4:12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

Any single verse might be misunderstood or even mistranslated.  Once you have multiple verses making the same point, especially if they involve different languages, it makes more sense to be confident that you have rightly understood the meaning of God’s word on that subject.  Letting Scripture interpret Scripture can also bring meaning to a single verse that might otherwise not be understood at all.  Here’s an example of how to apply and benefit from this rule of thumb in just such a case.

The Scriptures were written by God’s prophets and apostles.  No one knows what one of them means better than another one of those same people.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Who Is Following the Apostles?

All three major branches of organized Christianity claim to be following the instructions of the apostles of Jesus Christ.  The word “apostle” means “sent one.”  Thus the apostles are the ones sent by Jesus.  We have no record that Jesus ever produced any writings of His own.  Therefore, we are dependent on the writings of His apostles to know His teachings.

The Eastern Orthodox Church claims they are following the apostles because they are maintaining churches under the authority of bishops set up by the apostles.

The Roman Catholic Church claims it is following the apostles because Peter was chief among them and that their pope can trace a line of succession all the way back to Peter.

The Protestant Churches claim they are following the apostles because they ignore the bishops and popes, substituting their own leaders who, it is claimed, adhere more closely to the teachings of the apostles than the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic do.

The remarkable thing is that none of these three churches interpret the Bible in the radical Christocentric way that the apostles did.  Even more remarkably, none of these three branches of organized Christianity believe one of the boldest, clearest, and most frequent proclamations that the apostles made: that the Second Coming of Christ would occur in the apostolic generation.  So much for organized Christianity being faithful to the apostles’ teaching.

It is strange indeed that these organizations would claim legitimacy from apostles that they do not think were right about a central tenet of the faith they proclaimed.

If you want to truly follow the apostles, repent and follow Jesus – for that’s what they did.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

1 Peter 4:19

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Did Jesus not suffer according to the will of God? And did He not entrust His soul to a faithful Creator in doing what is right?  And was God not faithful to raise Him from the dead and seat Him in a place of honor?

Let us therefore imitate Jesus as we see His life of faith fleshed out in this verse.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

1 Peter 4:18 (Proverbs 11:31)

1 Peter 4:18 AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?

[Peter is here quoting Proverbs 11:31, which is indicated by the “all caps” rendering in the NASB.]

Jesus was saved from death, but that saving was in the wake of great difficulty.  Was not Jesus rejected and scorned, whipped and crucified?

Jesus is “the righteous one,” saved by faith in difficult circumstances.

Jesus is the paradigm (the pattern) for us.  If Jesus was saved though difficulty, we should expect to be saved similarly (2 Timothy 3:12). Life with Christ is not a life of ease, but it is a life of joy.  See Romans 14:17.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Seeing the Old Testament the Way the Apostles Did

We must do a better job of finding in the Old Testament what the apostles found in it.  We know that the New Testament documents tenaciously clung to the Old Testament documents for meaning.  We must trace the strands of reference until “the prophetic word” (of which the apostle Peter spoke in 2 Peter 1:19) casts the sort of light for us that it did for them.

The apostles “put their trust in God’s prophets and thus succeeded” (as 2 Chronicles 20:20 would have it).  If we would follow the apostles faithfully (Hebrews 13:7), we should do the same.

Until Christ shines as brightly to us from the Old Testament as He does from the New Testament our task will not have been accomplished.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Apostles Stood on the Scriptures, Not on Their Visions

Is there anything the apostles taught that cannot be found in the Old Testament?  Sure, the apostles testified to what they saw and heard from Jesus of Nazareth, but they were always rooting these testimonies in what they called the Scriptures (which is what we call the Old Testament).

Consider how the Gospels, which describe the life and teaching of Jesus, were seasoned thoroughly with references to the various Old Testament scriptures He was fulfilling.  Even after Jesus was raised from the dead and reigning in heaven, the apostles still anchored themselves in what the Scriptures were saying.  (See how they relied on the prophet Amos when they made an important decision about how they were going to handle Gentile conversions in Acts 15:13-19.)  Truly, doing things “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) was a lesson they learned well from Jesus (Matthew 5:17).

Even the apostle Paul, who had a stunning vision from the Lord (described by Luke in Acts 9, 22, and 26), never appealed to this vision in the thirteen New Testament letters attributed to him.  On the contrary, he condemned those who took their stand on visions:

Colossians 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Instead, like the other apostles, Paul took his stand on the Scriptures of the prophets, as the closing lines of his longest and most substantive letter so eloquently testify:

Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past,
Romans 16:26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;
Romans 16:27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.

Thus the apostles embraced the visions that the Lord gave them, but did so within the context and grounding of the ancient Scriptures.  We will be wise to do the same.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Greek “Pais” (Servant) in Acts 4

The Greek word “pais” (rendered as “servant” in English, but could also be translated as “child,” “boy,” or “youth” according to the online NASB – Strong’s 3816) shows up three times in the fourth chapter of Acts (Acts 4:25, 27, 30).  All occur in a  prayer offered by Peter, John, and other disciples.

In the first instance, it refers to David as the servant of the Lord.  In the next two occurrences it refers to Jesus.  As such both occurrences precede “servant” with the adjective “holy.”  Thus David is called the “servant” of the Lord but Jesus is the “holy servant” of the Lord.

This distinction was made earlier in Acts 2 when Peter quoted from Psalm 16, which was attributed to David.  After quoting a portion of the psalm in Acts 2:25-28, Peter went on in verses 29-31 to make it clear that the passage was fulfilled not in David but in Jesus.  Specifically, Jesus was “the Holy One” spoken of in Psalm 16:10 who did not “undergo decay” (a point reinforced by Paul in Acts 13:35-37; the “holy” aspect also reinforced by Acts 13:34).

The term “holy servant” is the effective equivalent of “Messiah.”  This was made clear in the aftermath of Israel’s Messiah being crucified and resurrected – a turn of events no first-century Jew appeared to be anticipating.  “Servant” would show up as “pais” in the Septuagint version of Isaiah 52:13 (see Apostolic Bible Polyglot), which would account for Peter’s and Paul’s use of it to refer to Jesus as raised from the dead.  (Among some 20 other occurrences in Isaiah, and quite a number of other occurrences in the LXX, “pais” also shows up in the messianic verses Isaiah 42:1, 19; Isaiah 42:19 has “pais” occurring first and then “doulos” toward the end of the verse.)

Jesus is the “pais” of God.  It is our privilege to know Him and to imitate Him.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Why Did Peter Call Jesus God’s Servant?

In Acts 3:13 and Acts 3:26 (both parts of the same speech), Peter refers to Jesus as God’s “servant.”  More precisely, Peter refers to Jesus as “His Servant” – meaning, of course, God’s servant.

What made Peter choose this term?  Did he just make it up?  Unlikely.  Did Jesus go around calling Himself the “Servant of God” or the “Servant of the Lord”?  No.  What is most likely is that Peter got the term from the Scriptures – specifically, from passages like Isaiah 52:13.

Isaiah 52:13 Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.

After He was raised from the dead, Jesus explained to His disciples how the Scriptures had described it all ahead of time through verses like this one (for a broader explanation, see Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 4-48).  Thus it became just as natural for Peter to call Jesus God’s Servant as it was to call Him God’s Christ or God’s Son.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

How Did They Know Jesus was the Righteous One?

In Acts 3:14, Peter says that Jesus is “the Righteous One.”

In Acts 7:52, Stephen refers to Jesus as “the Righteous One.”

In Acts 22:14, Ananias calls Jesus “the Righteous One.”

In 1 John 2:1, John makes reference to “Jesus Christ the Righteous.”

How did these four know to call Jesus by this name?  What would have been the origin of the term?

How about:

Isaiah 53:11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

Would not these disciples have recognized Isaiah 53 as a description of Jesus (especially after Jesus pointed such things out to them after His resurrection from the dead:  Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 44-48)?

This demonstrates, once again, how the writers of the New Testament get their ideas from the Old Testament.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Uniqueness of the Apostolic Mission and Message

The apostles of Jesus Christ gave unique witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  These apostles were charged to bear witness to the fulfillment of that which God had promised through the prophets.

Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Note that the first issue to which the earliest Christians were devoted was the teaching of the apostles.  The apostles had learned this teaching from the Lord Himself.  It was rooted in what we call the Old Testament, but which they called the Scriptures, or the Law and the Prophets, or some variation thereof.

On the night before He was crucified, Jesus had prayed for His apostles in the following specific way:

John 17:20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

Of course, “their word” of John 17:20 equals “the apostles’ teaching” of Acts 2:42.  Thus Jesus makes clear just how important the apostles were to His plan for redeeming the world.

Peter himself described the approach which the apostles took to their assignment:

2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

The apostle could take this approach because of their unique access to the Lord.  Regarding this unique access, listen to what Peter says about it:

Acts 10:40-42 “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.  And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.”

For these reasons, it is altogether right and good that we should give unique status to the testimony of the apostles and regard it as more authoritative than any human authority which seeks to supplant them or otherwise usurp the unique authority granted them by the Lord.

It cost these men a great deal to be apostles.  Let us insure that their efforts on our behalf were not in vain.  Peter emphasized in his last letter that the words of the apostles were to be considered as important as the words of the prophets:

2 Peter 3:1-2 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

We are absolutely right, therefore, to put the writings of the apostles on a par with the writings of the prophets, calling the former the “Old Testament” and the latter the “New Testament.”  By any other names, all these documents would be as true.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB unless otherwise noted.

Romans 12:21

Roman 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Did Jesus not fulfill this verse?  Is not His crucifixion and resurrection the most profound demonstration of this dynamic (i.e. good overcoming evil)  that could be possible in this creation?

Yet you and I are called upon to repeat it, to imitate it.  Let us do so in a thousand ways every day.  If we “take up our cross daily” we can be “resurrected” daily (Luke 9:23).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Dying Before Entering the Promised Land

As Moses brought the Lord’ people to the entrance of the promised land but could not enter with them, so Peter, Paul, and other disciples brought the Lord’s people to the entrance of the the kingdom of God but could not enter with them.  The Lord’s apostles – like the prophets before them – were chosen to die giving testimony to the Lord.  Thus their testimony is sealed by their blood, that we might have a sure and certain word of Christ from them.

Let us enter the kingdom knowing what great prices were paid to make clear the path to admission.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

Acts 2:42

Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

When we think of “the apostles’ teaching” we usually think of the New Testament.  That’s not wrong.  However, the New Testament did not exist at the time this passage is describing.  To the degree that the apostles used texts for their teaching, it would have been what we call the Old Testament (or the Hebrew Bible).

In the early days of the church, the apostles were teaching from the Old Testament because it was the only Scripture that they had.  Thus the apostles taught the things Jesus had taught them.  That is, they included their testimony about all that they saw Him do and teach before and after His resurrection, and they used the Old Testament as the “outline” and “commentary” for that testimony .

This means that the apostles referred to passages like Psalm 110:1, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 53, Daniel 7:13-14, Joel 2, and many others.  Many of these Old Testament verses show up in the gospels and epistles that comprise the New Testament.  But we can be sure that the apostles  also taught Jesus from many Old Testament passages that do not show up in the New Testament*.  This is because they did most of their teaching orally over several decades and therefore the New Testament could only represent a small fraction of what they had to teach about Jesus from the Old Testament.  Moreover, Jesus had made clear to them that all of Scripture testified about Him (John 5:39).  Consider together, for example, John 21:25 and Luke 24:27, 44-45 and think about how much more there is to be found of Jesus in the Old Testament!  (In this regard, see The Old Testament (that is, the Hebrew Bible) Is About Jesus Christ – His Suffering and Glory.)

For more on the apostles’ teaching, see:

The Apostles’ Teaching

What Was “the Apostles’ Teaching”?

What Did the Holy Spirit Have to Do with “the Apostles’ Teaching”?

“The Apostles’ Teaching” Is the Lord’s Teaching

[*The NASB, as well as some other English translations, shows these quotations in all capital letters so they can be more easily recognized for what they are; such translations also will cite the “address” of the Old Testament quotation in a marginal reference.  These devices help us to better appreciate just how much the New Testament teaching of the apostles is rooted in the Old Testament teaching of the prophets.]

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

The Prophets Made Promises on Behalf of God…Which Jesus and His Apostles Confirmed

The Old Testament is the name we give to the documents associated with Israel’s prophets, Moses being foremost among those prophets.

The New Testament is the name we give to the documents associated with Jesus’ apostles.

Israel’s prophets made promises on behalf of God about what He would one day do through a special figure.  This special figure was given many names by the various prophets, but the one that came to be more prominent than the rest was “Messiah.”

The apostles’ writings (that is, the New Testament) can be summed up as making the point that Jesus of Nazareth embodied the fulfillment of those promises.  Note these passages to that effect (emphasis added):

“…Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,”  – Romans 15:8

“From the descendants of [David], according to promise, God has brought to Israel, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus,”  –  Acts 13:23

“And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.’  –  Acts 13:32-33

…the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son…”  –  Romans 1:1-3

And particularly note how Jesus put it shortly after being crucified and then raised from the dead, and having been subsequently confronted with some of His doubting disciples:

“O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?  Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”  – Luke 24:25-27

Thus Jesus was the only human being ever to have his biography written before he was born.  He was promised…and then He was a promise that was kept…and that will always be kept.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

The Apostles Confirm the Prophets

The Old Testament contains the writings of the prophets.

Jesus Christ came to confirm the word of the prophets.  After His resurrection, He said to His disciples:

“O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”  – Luke 24:25

Peter took heed and later wrote:

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure…” – 2 Peter 1:19

And Paul preached that his testimony to the resurrection of Christ and the judgment to come was:

“…stating nothing but what the prophets and Moses said was going to take place;” – Acts 26:22

Peter had also preached in the early days after Christ’s resurrection:

“…all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward…announced these days.”- Acts 3:24

And later, when first preaching to the Gentiles, Peter said:

“And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.  “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”  –  Acts 10:42-43

It’s all enough to remind us of the words by which King Jehoshaphat exhorted his countrymen:

“Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.”  – 2 Chronicles 20:20

Thus it was written of Jesus:

“…Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,”  –  Romans 15:8

…and…

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…  –  Hebrews 1:1-2

Therefore, let us trust the word of the prophets about Jesus, just as the apostles have instructed us.  And let us trust Jesus, of whom the apostles and prophets solemnly and faithfully testified.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

“And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise”

“And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”  – Galatians 3:29 King James Version

That’s a mighty big “if.”

Yet, since the kingdom of God has come, we are all Christ’s according to 1 Corinthians 15:25-28.  Thus, our God has taken the “if” out of the sentence.  We are all His now.  Thus everyone is going to heaven, yet judgment is upon every one of us.  Therefore, we should repent and live as righteously as we know how.

We are all Abraham’s seed.  It’s past time we started acting like it.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

Galatians 3:24

Paul wrote in Galatians 3:24 that the Law had become “a tutor,” that it might lead us to Christ.  The Law of Moses had, of course, not always served this function.  Instead, it had been the means of establishing a nation (that is, Israel) and holding it together until Christ would come.  With that coming, though, its prior use was becoming obsolete.

What I’m saying is that since the resurrection of Christ, we needn’t be concerned with the Mosaic Code.  We only need to be concerned with what it reveals about Jesus.

To take one example, we do not need to learn how to sacrifice a lamb at a feast called Passover or learn how to drink juice and eat bread at a commemoration called Communion.  Rather, we need to meditate on Christ as the lamb who takes away our sins.  All that is in the Passover is teaching about Jesus.  Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 5:7.  John confirms it in John 1:29, 36, and Peter confirms it in 1 Peter 1:19.

Let the Law of Moses lead you to Christ…that you may continually come to Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

James 3:18

How can we think of “the seed” without thinking of Jesus our Lord?  How can we think that “the fruit of righteousness” can come from any other source?

If He is truly the seed we sow, then righteousness will surely abound.  For “He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Let us to be sure to sow Him in peace – not in anxiety and strife – so that the full harvest of His righteousness might come!

See also this post on Isaiah 55:10-11.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

James 3:17

How can we think of “the wisdom from above” without thinking about Jesus Christ?

He descended from heaven to live among us, not carrying His great privileges with Him but divesting Himself of heavenly glory that He might be tempted in all things as we human beings are – yet without sinning like we do (Hebrews 4:15).  His great descent from above and return there was prophesied in Isaiah 55:10-11, among other places in the Hebrew Bible.  Truly Jesus has become to us “wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Is Jesus not “pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy”?  James 3:17 again)

Thank God for His wisdom from above!  All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ (Colossians 2:3).  That is, when you are looking for wisdom from God, be sure to seek it in the context of Jesus.  There is no true wisdom outside of Him.  Too often, believers seek God for wisdom, forgetting to live to and for Jesus.  Thus they either fail to receive wisdom or else don’t understand it when it is provided to them.

Let us never forget that Jesus is “the wisdom from above” and that more wisdom comes to those who are using what they already have – for “to him who has, shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but to him who does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Matthew 13:12).

Live for Jesus and wisdom will flow like a continual river in your heart (John 7:38).

See also this post on Isaiah 55:10-11.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Matthew 24:45-51

In this parable, Jesus speaks of a faithful and sensible steward.  Who is more faithful than Jesus?  Who is more sensible than Jesus?

More than any one other single individual, these words describe Jesus.  And this is why He was raised to the right hand of God, charged to be Lord of the new creation (“put in charge of all his possessions”).  That is, He deserved it because He turned out to be the most faithful and sensible steward God had ever found in a human being.

Let us therefore imitate Jesus: the ultimate faithful and sensible steward.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Luke 18:18-30

Luke 18:18-30 tells the story of Jesus’ interaction with “the rich young ruler” (as he’s come to be called).  The story is also found in Matthew 19:16-30 and Mark 10:17-31.

In this story, a rich young ruler asks Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Note that the questioner had everything going for him in life.  He had wealth.  He had youth.  And he had authority and power.  Give him credit for knowing that there was more to life than those things.

When He answered, Jesus essentially described Himself.  To see what I mean, compare the description Jesus gave of the appropriate course of action with the description God gave of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11.  That is, though Jesus was rich in heaven, yet for our sake He became poor so that we, through His poverty, might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Thus Jesus was not telling the rich young ruler to do anything He hadn’t already done Himself.

There is nothing Jesus tells us to do that He has not done Himself.  He preaches what He practices.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Gospel According to Jesus’ Earthly Family

Historically, the epistles of James and Jude are considered to have been written by two of Jesus’ brothers – that is, James and Jude (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3).

According to the New Testament, Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3).

Jesus’ siblings would certainly have a unique view of Him.  That view would not only include the experiences they had with Him growing up, James and Jude being young brothers to Him; it would also probably include what they learned of him from their mother Mary, and possibly Joseph before he died.

Mary knew that Jesus was from God in a way that no other human being could know.  For her, accepting the virgin birth was not a matter of faith.  She had sure and certain knowledge that she had had no relations with a man when that firstborn was conceived in her womb.

Even though Mary knew of Jesus’ special stature from His conception (Luke 1:26-38), it was reinforced in her meeting with the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:39-56), Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:1-20), His circumcision (Luke 2:21-38), and on a particular Passover visit to Jerusalem when He was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-52).

By the time Jesus began His ministry, Mary knew He could do “impossible” things.  Thus when the family ran out of wine at wedding feast in Cana, she turned the problem over to her son telling the servants with calm assurance, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:1-11).  Such instruction could only have been born of experience.

As Jesus began to encounter resistance to His ministry, and even hostility, His family feared for Him and sought to bring Him home (Mark 3:20-35; see also shorter accounts of this incident in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21).  By this time, Jesus was teaching that spiritual bonds were greater than fleshly bonds, and His family surely felt the strain of this.

His brothers even got to the point where they lost all faith in Him (John 7:1-10).  Presumably this would have included James and Jude.

When Jesus was crucified, His mother was there.  In a final act of honoring his mother, he committed her into the care of His disciple John (John 19:25-27).  This, of course, cemented the notion that spiritual ties were tighter than fleshly ones.  Subsequent to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, we see Mary and her other sons praying with the disciples  as they waited on the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised them all (Acts 1:14)

What a family they must have been!  Their perspective on Jesus would have been unique and profound.  Their faith in Him was severely tested…and yet it stood.  And grew.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

The Gospel According to Peter

What if we wanted to know the good news about Jesus and His kingdom from Peter’s point of view?  That would be an interesting study.

We could, of course, start such a study with the letters of 1 Peter and 2 Peter.  Then we could add the first fifteen chapters of Acts.  Then there is the Gospel of Mark which the ancients understood to be Peter’s remembrances of Jesus as written by his protege Mark (1 Peter 5:13).  Then we could add the first two chapters of Galatians in which Paul mentions some interactions he had with Peter.  And we wouldn’t want to overlook the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John which contain some interesting tidbits about Peter which go beyond the Gospel of Mark.  In this regard I’m thinking of particularly interesting stories such as

  • Luke 5:1-11 where Peter, having been overwhelmed by the miracle catch of fish that Jesus caused, exclaimed “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
  • Matthew 14:2-33 where Peter, catching inspiration from the Lord, actually walked on water with Him for a time.
  • Matthew 16:13-20 where we have the fullest exchange between Jesus and Peter over the former’s true identity.
  • John 21:15-23 where Jesus walked Peter through a particularly poignant reinforcement of the latter’s true ministry.

And, of course, there is much, much more.

Peter’s perspective would indeed make for an interesting study!

(When you study Peter, remember that he is referred to in a variety of additional ways: Simon, Simon Barjona, Simon Peter, Simeon, and Cephas.  Remember also that “Rock” is the nickname Jesus gave him – which translates to “Peter” in Greek and “Cephas” in Aramaic.  Jesus and His disciples likely spoke Aramaic to each other but the New Testament comes to us in Greek; this, of course, accounts for some of the multiple names.)

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Acts 2:36

“…Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.”  – Acts 2:36

Note that Peter wanted his hearers to “know for certain” what he was telling them.  In other words, Peter did not want there to be any doubt, equivocation, or ambiguity about the matter.

Oh, how we can thank God for such clarity and conviction!  Because the apostles were not mealy-mouthed about Jesus Christ, we can know the truth.  And know it for certain!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Acts 2:36 – The Lord Jesus Christ!

In Acts 2:36, the apostle Peter declared to his fellow Jews in Jerusalem on the first Feast of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven:

“…Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The name “Jesus” speaks of His humanity.

The name “Lord” speaks of His deity.

The name “Christ” speaks of the promises of God that tie the two together.

Thus this one Peter proclaimed is:  The Lord Jesus Christ!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Philippians 2:5-11

Paul is telling us something wonderful about Christ in this passage.  Note also, however, that he’s telling us to imitate Christ’s behavior – not merely admire it.  This is the same admonition Jesus gave  His disciples (see the post on Mark 9:35).  Greatness lies not in how you rule but rather how you serve.  True humility is the only path that leads to true greatness.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Mark 9:35

Jesus told His disciples that the way to be first or greatest of all was to be last and servant of all.  This was the very principle Jesus was employing when He died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2) – and not for the sins of a few.  Thus He achieved the highest rank (“the right hand of God”) precisely because He died for all.  (Thus, everyone is going to heaven.)

Again, don’t underestimate the correlation between Jesus “coming to have first place in everything” (Colossians 1:18) and the benefit of His work being “for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Paul outlines this same principle, and describes how Christ employed it, in Philippians 2:5-11.  Regarding everyone going to heaven, note that Paul says “every knee will bow.”

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

“Born of a Woman” – Galatians 4:4

When Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia that “God had sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law…” he wasn’t just inserting a truism with the “born of a woman” phrase.  This was an allusion to Jesus’ miraculous birth which had been prophesied originally in Genesis 3:15 as part of God’s response to humanity’s first sin.  Although it was unlikely that anyone picked up on just what God was getting at in the Genesis promise, He made reference to “the seed of the women” – an unlikely phrase given the normal source of human seed.  Obviously, all human beings are born of women – but only one would be born of a woman without the involvement of a man.  Hence, the unusual expression.

Isaiah 7:14 certainly spoke of a virgin giving birth (especially in the Septuagint version), but this promise was merely echoing and elaborating on the Genesis 3:15 promise.  It was not, as we have seen, the first time God spoke about a miraculous birth.

“Born of a woman” is a messianic ascription – an affirmation of Jesus’ unique role as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

1 Corinthians 15:45

“So it is written, the first man, Adam, became a living soul.  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”  – 1 Corinthians 15:45 (the expression “Adam became a living soul” is taken from Genesis 2:7)

Jesus is a life-giving spirit.  He is the life-giving spirit.  He is the one who, when we look to Him, causes us to live (John 3:14-15).

That which is born of flesh is flesh (John 3:6).  Adam was flesh.  That which is born of spirit is spirit (John 3:6).  Jesus was spirit.

As Adam was made progenitor of an earthly human race, so Jesus was made progenitor of a heavenly human race which was reconstituted from the earthly one.

Adam was the father of all flesh.  Jesus is the father of all spirits.  “Shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?”  (Hebrews 12:9)

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Are the Scriptures Inspired by God?

Are the Scriptures inspired by God?  Yes.

The Scriptures were written by the prophets of Israel and the apostles of Jesus Christ.

The prophets and apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was sent by God.

For these reasons Paul wrote that “all Scriptures is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and Peter wrote that “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Thus the Bible is from God.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Four Gospels Begin Their Respective Narratives Earlier and Earlier

The Gospel of Mark begins the story of Jesus with the ministry of John the Baptist.  Jesus began His own ministry after being baptized by John.

The Gospel of Matthew begins much earlier by describing the birth of Jesus, and includes a genealogy for Jesus which traces His roots back to Abraham.

The Gospel of Luke also tells the story of Jesus’ birth, including an account of the birth of John the Baptists as well.  It also has a genealogy for Jesus – one that goes back through Abraham all the way to Adam.

The Gospel of John begins the story much earlier than any of the other gospels, going all the way back to the beginning of creation.  Its first words, just like the book of Genesis, are “In the beginning…”

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Truly, Never Was So Much Owed by So Many to So Few

In some of the darkest days of World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill offered eloquent praise to the Royal Air Force fighter pilots who had warded off the German Luftwaffe and helped deter Hitler from invading England.  Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  The phrase stuck not just because it was eloquent, but because it was deemed true.

Churchill’s encomium was qualified with “in the field of human conflict” – that is, in the annals of war.  We can therefore remove the qualifier, let the statement apply to all human activity, and say truly that never was so much owed by so many to so few in the case of the early disciples who spread the word of Israel’s Messiah:  Jesus Christ.

We know the names of Peter, Paul, John, James, and others.  But there were many more, nameless to us, but memorable to God and the host of heaven, who secured for us the knowledge of salvation, preserved now in the collection of texts we call the New Testament.  This collection, of course, makes the Old Testament come alive with meaning for us because the New Testament testifies of the fulfillment of Old Testament promises.

May we never forget those who gave so much that we might know of the great love God has for all of us.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Those Who Led the Many to Righteousness

Daniel 12:3 says that those who lead the many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever.  Of whom can this be more true that those first-century Jews who believed Jesus of Nazareth and spread His word?

The New Testament is a collection of documents that have survived from those stalwart believers who endured persecution which would have dissuaded less worthy souls.  They endured the same sorts of shame, deprivation, discouragement, rejection, violence, and even death that had come upon their Master.  They were “a people of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 10:38).

Because those first-century disciples imitated Jesus even to the point of death, we can know of the glory that took place when God descended to become a human being.  They will truly shine like stars forever and ever.  And we can thank God that they already shine in our hearts!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

“Where the Corpse Is, There the Vultures Will Gather” – Matthew 24:28

In Matthew 24:28, Jesus said, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”  This statement was made in the midst of a two-chapter discourse in which He was answering questions from His disciples about the timing of the destruction of the temple, His coming, and the end of the age.

His reference to the corpse can be applied to the time when the Holy Spirit left the body of Christ.  Paul makes reference to the one “who restrains…until he is taken out of the way” in 2 Thessalonians 2:7.  James 2:26 reminds us that the body without the spirit is dead.  In the same way, the body of Christ without the Holy Spirit is dead.  Thus when the kingdom of God came, the Holy Spirit left the body of Christ.  The church’s work was done.  It had given glorious testimony to Jesus Christ.  History will forever note that God visited the earth through Jesus of Nazareth.

There’s no longer a body of Christ to which we can tend.  All we have is His Spirit.  But that is enough.  Let us worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.  Seek the kingdom of God for it has replaced the church as the means of God’s grace.  It is not healthy to visit corpses.

See also:

The Holy Spirit Was Removed from the Church

Come Out from the Temples of Idols

The New Testament Church was Shiloh – The Church Afterward Was Ichabod

How Did We Go from Shiloh to Ichabod?

A Deterioration from Prophets to Attendees

Call on the Lord from a Pure Heart

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Ephesians 4:13 – The Unity of the New Testament Church Was for a Specific Purpose

Paul saw that he and the other apostles were leading, and were part of, a process that would result in a comprehensive and unified witness to the world of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And this process was completed, for history records that these first-century Jews testified dramatically to the coming of Israel’s Messiah.

Thus, when Paul decried church divisions in 1 Corinthians 1-3 (and especially in 1:10-17) it was with the same thought in mind that we find in Ephesians 4:13.  The New Testament church was not in the process of establishing an institution.  It was in the process of bearing witness – giving solemn testimony – to the One whom God had promised through the Scriptures of the prophets.

“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith” was the goal upon which Paul was intently focused.  Because he was, and because the other apostles were as well, we have 27 documents bearing ample witness to the clarity of their testimony about who Jesus was and what He did.  (See also Romans 15:5-7; Philippians 1:27-28).

Once that witness was established, unity no longer mattered because apostasy was prophesied to come and divisions would be the order of the day…as they still are.  The kingdom of God is in our midst and the organized church is but a distraction.

Focus on the Son of God by faith and forget about organized religion.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scriptures from the Apostles and the Prophets

Scripture is divided by the Christians into Old Testament and New Testament.  These terms can be misleading because they can appear to misplace the dividing line between the old covenant and the new covenant.  It’s not as if the first set of documents is about the old covenant and the second set is about the new.  Rather, both covenants are addressed in both sets of documents.

Another way our thinking can be misled is to allow the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” to obscure the important fact that both sets of documents are Jewish.  It’s not as if the Old Testament is Jewish and the New Testament is Gentile, or that  the Old Testament is for Jews and the New Testament is for everybody.  Or still another false distinction is that the Old Testament is about the past but  the New Testament is for now.  Yet these kinds of distinctions are ones to which many hold, even if vaguely and sub-consciously.  The prophets were Jews and the apostles were Jews.  And, of course, the Lord was a Jew.  All the documents, regardless of which testament holds them, were cut from the same bolt of Jewish cloth.

A better way to describe this division of the Scriptures is to say it is between the prophets and the apostles.  That is, what we call the Old Testament are those Scriptures produced by the prophets, and what we call the New Testament are those documents produced by the apostles.

Therefore, all Scripture comes from God through the apostles and the prophets.  Let us think therefore of dividing the Scriptures into those from the prophets and those from the apostles.  Thus the Scriptures are “The Apostles and the Prophets” (or you could just as easily say “The Prophets and the Apostles”).

See also any or all of the following posts:

The Twofold Witness of Prophets and Apostles

The Apostles and the Prophets Witness Christ’s Sufferings…in Dramatically Different Ways 

The Prophets Wrote the Old Testament; the Apostles Wrote the New Testament

The Apostles Were Prophets and the Prophets Were Apostles

The New Testament Is Not the New Covenant

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.