Acts: For the Cause of Christ Sermon #1

The Book of Acts: For the Cause of Christ

Acts 1:1-11 – Commission and Ascension

Intro:

Today we are starting a new series on the Book of Acts. I’ve decided to call this series “For the Cause of Christ” and we’ll see the passion and endurance the Apostles had in spreading the Gospel of Christ around the world. So we’ll start at the beginning, and as the song says, it’s “a very good place to start”. Acts chapter 1, verses 1-11.

1. The Prologue and Background: vv 1-3

As we begin let me give you some background of the book itself. Most scholars believe that Acts was written by Luke, the same author of the third gospel. It is also believed that both books were probably written very close to the same time and that they were one book Luke-Acts. This combined volume was split up when the church was recognising the gospel accounts that were canonical, or what should be considered inspired of God. Some of the evidence used for Luke’s authorship of the book is in both introductions (1:1-2) and Luke 1:3-4. Both books are dedicated to the same individual, Theophilus. There are also a number of times in Acts where the author switches from third person narrative (he, she, they) to first person, these are referred to as the “we passages”. The purpose of the book to is have a written record of the Christ’s continued teaching and work through His Apostles and other believers in Jerusalem, the Judean region, and then to the ends of the world. The date this book was written is debated. Some believe it wasn’t written until the second century (100-199 AD), others believe it was written in the 70s AD, and still others believe that is was written earlier between AD 62-64 (shortly after the narrative of the book closes). Something to keep in mind is that the book covers, roughly, a 30 year time span, form about 30/31 AD to about 62 AD. I hold to an early writing between 62-64 [For more reading on some of the evidences of an early writing to Acts, check out the New International Commentary of the New Testament: The Book of Acts written by F. F. Bruce, which can be purchased here]. So, now let’s get into the book.

Luke begins his book linking back to his first “narrative”, which we call the Gospel of Luke, he is even writing to the same person, Theophilus. There has been some debate over this name. Since the name literally means “friend of God”, it has been suggested that these books were not written to a single person, but that Theophilus was being used to address christians in general. However, in the opening of his gospel, Luke calls, “most honorable” or “most excellent”, this phrase is always used in Scripture (including the book of Acts) as a title of respect to a specific individual. It is also thought that the Theophilus is just a pseudonym or code name if you will to hide the real identity of who the books were written too. It is also possible that Theophilus is the real name of an individual Luke was writing this accounts for, whether he was a wealthy patron helping to publish and distribute the work or not we do not know. Scripture is silent and we should avoid filling gaps like this with imagination and idle talk. As far as I am concerned Luke wrote these to a specific person named Theophilus for reasons known only to God and history.

Verses 1 and 2 briefly summarize what Luke wrote about in his gospel account, “all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was take up, after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. (1:1b-2). This is like the saying “previously on” when you watching part 2 of a cliffhanger TV episode, or when listening to radio preachers that have split the sermon for the radio program starting out with “last time on [Turning Point with David Jeremiah or Truth for Life with Alistair Begg]”. But did you catch a word in there? “All that Jesus began to do and teach”. Jesus had taught everything He wanted to, so look at verse 3.

“After he had suffered”, this obviously refers to His beatings and death on the cross, “he presented himself alive to them”, this is after the resurrection. We know from other scripture Jesus appeared to many disciples and followers from his earthly ministry after His resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, Paul accounts how Christ had appeared to Peter, the rest of the twelve, His half-brother James, and to over 500 people at one time all, apparently, during this 40 day window all with convincing proofs to reassure them that it was really Him having been raised from the dead. But Christ still had work to do with the Apostles apparently as Luke tells us He was “speaking about the kingdom of God.” We don’t know for sure what exactly He was explaining and teaching to them at these appearances. The reference to the kingdom of God could have been a proof of His resurrection for them or He may have been explaining the suffering Messiah and the future glorious kingdom to come. F.F. Bruce puts it this way, “This same Good news as Jesus Himself had announced earlier, but now given effective fulfillment by the saving events of His Passion and triumph (Bruce, F.F.; New International Commentary of The New Testament:The Book of The Acts; ©1988, p 32).”

So we see the purpose of this book here. In Luke’s first volume, his Gospel account, he covered Jesus life and teachings up to His ascension. Here in his second volume we see that the implication in these first few verses is Christ’s continued work by the Holy Spirit in His followers. In essence this book is the beginning work of the Great Commission given in Matthew 28:19-20, which by the way has never been countermanded in Scripture. We as followers of Jesus Christ must still follow that direction of “Go” given in the Matthew 28. We as followers of Christ have been given the Holy Spirit, we therefore have strength and power to share the Gospel, to plant seeds for the Lord to harvest.

2. The Commission vv 4-8

The command Christ gave the Eleven here in verse four may have happened during this 40 day period, or this could have happened while they were going to or already on the Mt of Olives outside of Jerusalem. Christ first tells them to wait in Jerusalem until what was promised from the Father arrived. This promise was familiar to them as Christ points out by saying, “you have heard me speak about”. This is a reminder of Christ’s final instructions to them before He was arrested. This is the promise of the Holy Spirit, or Comforter, that is discussed in the Gospel of John chapters 14-16. In verse 5 He reminds them of the ministry of John the Baptist and that he baptized with water after repentance to prepare Israel for Christ’s coming. John’s baptism of water foreshadowed the coming of the Holy Spirit which baptize them and the rest of the believers in a few days time.

In verse 6, Luke’s language changes, this seems to show that the command and promise in verses 4-5 happened during that 40 day period, but now here, we say a transition to the last conversation the apostles would have with Christ while He was on this earth. They had apparently still been hoping for the Kingdom of God being set up physically and Israel’s independence to be restored to them. It’s possible that since the Lord was discussing the coming of the Holy Spirit, the sign of the coming age, they were thinking that Christ was going to set up His kingdom. Can you blame them? But they remind me of my daughter when we’ve promised her something, time play or to let her help with something. She’ll ask 15 or more times within the next 20 minutes, “Now is it time?” “Is it time now Daddy?”

Here in verse 7 the Lord doesn’t give them a direct “no”, but gently rebukes them by reminding them that matters like this belong solely to the Father. F.F. Bruce says, “Whatever purposes of His own God might have for the nation of Israel, these were not the be the concern of the messengers of Christ (Bruce, p35)”. The Apostles were to focus on proclaiming the Gospel of God and His grace in Christ. To the Apostles’ credit, whatever they were thinking, from this time on they devoted themselves to proclaim Christ and Him crucified.

In verse 8, Christ promised them power from the Holy Spirit when He came, power to perform mighty works and effectively preach the Gospel. He tells them that they will be witnesses for Him.The word witness here is the idea giving testimony or bearing-witness, this is the same root word in Hebrews 12:1

“such a large cloud of witnesses”. The idea of “witness-bearing” is a theme throughout the book of Acts. Verse 8 is also the key verse for the book, as it gives a broad outline for the rest of the account. The Apostles and believers would be witnesses first in Jerusalem (the city to reach) in chapters 1-7, next in Judea and Samaria (the region to reach) chapters 8-11:18, and then to the ends of the earth (the world to reach) chapters 11:19 through the end of the book. How are we doing in our city, our region?

3. The Ascension vv 9-11

Luke’s account here gives us the most detail of Christ’s ascension. Matthew and John don’t discuss it in their gospels. Mark talks about it and gives some detail about what Christ was telling the Apostles, then mentions that Christ “was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mk 16:19b). Luke obviously mentions it in his gospel account, but here in Acts we are told about the cloud and we see that the Apostles watched Him rising up into the sky. Now this forty day period Christ had appeared and disappeared before them several times, but this was different. This was final. After the ascension there were no more visits from the resurrected Lord, where they could touch Him, where He ate with them which was to show them He had physically resurrected. This time was to impress on them His heavenly glory.

The cloud that is mentioned is similar to the one in Luke 9:34-36 that removed Elijah and Moses from the Mount of Transfiguration, as well as Christ’s description of his return in Mark 13:26 and 14:62. It is thought that in each of each of these descriptions, the cloud mentioned should be understood as the Shekinah. The cloud that showed God’s glory and represented His divine presence with the Nation of Israel. This cloud led them through the wilderness before entering the land, it rested above the Tabernacle and filled Solomon’s Temple (1 Kg 8:10-11). This is the same cloud that, after years of disobedience and sin from Israel as a nation, left the Holy of Holies in the Temple, went through the streets of Jerusalem, up a mountain east of the city and ascended into heaven as the nation was taken into captivity and Jerusalem was destroyed (Ezekiel 10:4-5,18-19, 11:22-23). Probably leaving the same place Christ left and will one day return.

The Apostles were standing there heads back to watching Jesus ascending, and though He had disappeared they were still staring after Him, possibly still expecting Him to return and wanting to be there when He did. But while they were watching the clouds, two men appeared next to them. It is commonly thought that these men are angels from God, and I don’t doubt that. Luke’s description of the two men here is similar to his description of the angels that appeared to Mary and the other women at the tomb on Easter morning (Lk 24:4). Here again we see the theme of witnesses being brought out. F.F. Bruce puts it this way, “In both instances the fact that there were two suggests that they were viewed as witnesses, two being the minimum number for credible witness-bearing (Deut 19:15). On the former occasion the two men bore witness to Jesus’ resurrection; here they bear witness to forthcoming [return]” (Bruce, p38).

The angels didn’t come to find shapes in the clouds with the Apostles, they came with a message for them.Their message was one of reassurance to the Apostles, but I don’t wonder if it wasn’t also one to get them moving. The angels addressed them, which would have snapped them back to the moment. The message reassured the Apostle that Christ would return, and they gave them a piece of information they may not have had, Christ would return the same way. From here they leave. We aren’t given an account of the angels leaving, but in verse 12 we see that the Apostles returned to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Closing:

So what can we take from this account? First we see that the commission was to the Apostles, but through their teaching, their writings which have handed down over 2000 years, that this commission was passed along to each follower of Christ. As I mentioned earlier the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and the commission here in Acts 1 has never been countermanded in any of the following Scripture. We are still commanded to “Go”. But we also need to be mindful of Christ’s return. It is evident here and throughout the rest of the New Testament that the Apostles and early church were ready and waiting for the Lord’s return.

So how are you doing with going? How are you doing with waiting for the Lord’s return? We cannot focus on one and neglect the other. We wait, but we labor while we wait.


I partly got the title for this series from Keith and Kristyn Getty’s song “For the Cause” which you can watch the lyric video of the song here. You can find out more about theire music here at www.gettymusic.com.

This is the current series I am just beginning to preach at First Baptist Church of Brownsdale, Minn. I will try to keep these posts coming as we work through the Book of Acts in our church.

“This is My Blood…” – Matthew 26:17-30

Another sermon I originally did during my college interniship in Colorado in 2010. I have updated and adjusted it slightly. As we are getting closer to this year’s Passover and Easter celebration I thought this was an appropriate one to post.

Intro:

Has anyone ever participated in a Passover Celebration? Even a Christianized version? I have once in college. My wife and I celebrated with some friends at school, one of whom used to be a Messianic Jew.  Passover is a lot of fun.  But do you realize that this Jewish celebration is where our Lord established the Lord’s Table?  We need to realize that to understand the Lord’s Table we need to understand Passover.

I. The Passover is a reminder to Israel vv 17-25

We see in the text that Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, better known as Passover. On a side note since Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper whil ecelebrating the Passover where only unleavened bread (bread with no yeast) that at any communion service only unleavened bread should be used in the elements. We see in a parallel passage (Luke 22) that Peter and John, two of the inner-circle, were sent to make the preparations for the feast that night.  Now if you are like me you can get in the habit of thinking that just because one verse says this and the next is the next part you assume that it happened really quickly.  But we need to remember that the Gospels are narrative, historical books.  When it says the Peter and John went to prepare for the Passover meal that was no small task especially on the day of the meal.  You all know what goes on in planning and purchasing a big celebratory meal like Christmas dinner or Thanksgiving.  Try doing all that on Thanksgiving Day. Now the disciples had it easier, there was no planning and wondering what they were going to make, it was an issue of will the shops have what they need.  Peter and John had their hands full.  They had to find the place that the Lord had told them about, then go buy the unleavened bread, the herbs, the wine, find a perfect lamb, take that lamb to the temple, have it’s blood sprinkled on the altar, have the lamb roasted whole, then the feast would be ready.

SederI want to take some time and explain the modern Passover, not that it was changed that much. Now must of us know that Passover was instituted with Moses during the tenth plague against Egypt when the Lord caused the death of  the firstborn in the houses that did not have the blood on the doorframe. The Passover celebration is a time of remembrance of that event  The exodus story is told throughout the meal. At chabad.org is an in-depth explanation of the Seder. I should mention that the afikomen was probably not started until after the AD 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. For more information on the afikomen check this article at chosenpeople.com. The afikomen bag as three compartments. Besides the lamb did you notice Christ?  Christ’s death, burial and act of redemption was shown with the afikomen.

Except for the afikomen this is what Jesus and His disciples were in the middle of when our Lord made a stating announcement, verse 21. Verse 22 says that the disciples “deeply distressed”.  Could that be the understatement of the millennia?  Surprisingly though, they did not start to accuse and point fingers at one another, they simply asked “Lord is it I?”  Jesus gave an unusual answer to identify the traitor, verse 23. What is Jesus saying? Probably, since they were in the middle of the Passover Seder this was referring to one of the bowls, salt water, bitter herbs, or charoset.  And I would imagine that since there was 13 people eating this meal they probably had a couple of bowls of each on the table for people to share.  So probably what happened was that Judas, since he was sitting on the Christ’s left hand which is a place of honor, shared one of those bowls with our Lord.

Verse 24 is a good example of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Even though, through prophets of old, God foretold that Jesus would be betrayed, Judas was still responsible for his own sin.  We may never, as humans, understand how these coexist, but they do.  I can picture the room, the eleven have asked “Lord is it I,” Judas has been silent, Christ has identified him and then Judas asks, “Rabbi is it I?”  Notice the change in words there.  The eleven called Jesus “Lord”, but Judas called Him “Rabbi” which is different.  He called Jesus Master or Teacher, but he didn’t call Him Lord.  In John’s account, Jesus tells Judas to go do what he had to quickly (John 13:27).  And the eleven didn’t understand exactly what was going on.  I think they may have been in shock that they had a traitor, or they just didn’t understand, but for whatever reason they didn’t try to stop Judas from leaving.  After Judas had left, Jesus continues the Seder, but adds something new to it for His disciples.

II. The Lord’s Table is a reminder to the Church vv 26-30

Christ interrupted the process of the Seder slightly.  After they recite the first part of the Hallel, they have the meal.  Today, the afikomen is done right after the meal, but at the Last Supper Christ instituted the communion here.  He took a piece of the unleavened bread said the specific blessing over the bread which is  “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”  He then said, “Eat, this is my body.”

In verses 27 and 28 we see Jesus adding something new to the third cup of the Seder called the cup of redemption.  Again, Jesus said a specific prayer over the cup, the same blessing that is said over all the cups during the Seder.  This blessing is, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine”  He then said, “Drink…this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  What’s this new covenant that He is talking about?  The eleven disciples that were still there knew what covenant He was talking about, whether or not they realized what He was saying is unknown, but because these were Jewish men their minds went right back to the prophets.

This covenant is found primarily in Jeremiah 31.  Now put your finger in Matthew and turn to Jeremiah 31 and will take a look at what this is talking about.  Jeremiah 31:31-34.  Verses 35-40 I’ll just summarize quickly for you, God is assuring the people that the nation will stand forever through a few metaphors.  But the part I want to focus on is verse 31-34.

Verse 31 starts with a phrase common in Jeremiah. He says the that “the days are coming” in Jeremiah this is a reference to the Messianic age.  God is specific as to who this new covenant is with, it is with the houses of Israel and Judah.  Notice how God unites the people even though they have divided the kingdom.  This is a promise to every Jewish person.  You’re probably wondering what makes this new and what was the old covenant?

Verse 32 tells us what covenant becomes the old one.  Understand that national covenants do not die of old age, or become voided when a new covenant is made.  God is just making some changes.  The old covenant is the Mosaic Law.  That covenant was established not just at Mt Sinai, but also with the physical redemption from Egypt and the blood of lambs.  A covenant usually has two parties where each agree to do something for the completion of the covenant.  With the Old Covenant the people of Israel agreed to follow the Law and in return God would bless them.  This new covenant is different as the people don’t have to agree to anything.  God promises to do everything in this covenant.  Well what is in the covenant?  Look at verse 33.

God says that He will put His law in the mind of the people and write it on their hearts, that’s so they will never forget it.  They don’t need to worry about breaking it anymore.  God uses a familiar term, “I will be their God and they shall be My people,” God is showing that the relational part of the covenant is not going away.  God wants the personal relationship with each of His people and He wants them to treat Him as they should.  Verse 34 continues the covenant. This verse starts with a new element.  People are not going to have to be instructed about the Lord, everyone will know who He is.  There will be no need for Bible studies, for every person will “know the Lord”.  There will be no need for any outward instruction by man, the Spirit will be instructing from within.  The Lord then says in the second half of the verse that He will forgive the people’s sin and will not remember it anymore.

This covenant is what came to the mind of the eleven in the upper room that night.  Whether or not they realized that it would be ushered in with Christ’s death the next day, I don’t know.  But we see that in Acts chapter 2 these spiritual blessings began to be poured out.  There is a debate in the theological world between Covenant Theologians and Dispensationalists about how much of the new covenant the church actually participates in.  But even in Dispensationalism, there is a difference of opinion about this.  There are some who think we participate in New Covenant like blessings as Christians and there are some who think we are actually participating in some of the spiritual blessings.  I tend to believe that we participate in some of these blessings.  Now you’re asking, “okay, so what are these blessing that we do participate in?”  Well, obviously we still have teachers and preachers so the promise of not having to say, “Know the Lord” is not fulfilled yet.  So, what do we have? Renald  Showers in his book, There Really is a Difference lists them, “Church believers have been regenerated, received forgiveness of sin, been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and received the new nature” p 104.  Even though the Old Testament presented the New Covenant to literal, national Israel the Church partakes in it.  This is not to say that the Church is Israel, we are distinct, or that Israel is not going to receive any of these blessings.  This covenant will be fulfilled completely in the Millennium.  Israel did not enter into the covenant with the first coming of the Messiah but it will at the second coming.

Returning to Matthew 26 we pick up at verse 29.  This verse, I’m really not sure what Christ is saying, I tend to believe that He is saying that He will not partake of the Lord’s Table or Passover or something like it until the Millennium.  Verse 30.  This is the second part of the Hallel, they probably sang Psalm 118, then drank the fourth cup, the cup of praise then went to the Mount of Olives.

Conclusion:

Just as the Passover feast was a reminder to Israel, so is the Lord’s Table a reminder to the Church.  It reminds us what God did for sinful man, but it is also a reminder that Christ is coming again we will enter into an age with national Israel where everybody sins will be forgiven, Israel will see the fulfilled covenant and accept their Messiah.


For more information on the Christ in the Passover check out these ministries.

Chosenpeople.com or JewsforJesus.org

Starting with the Heart – Romans 9:1-5

Would you be willing to go to hell and feel the wrath of God for an eternity so someone else can heaven? How about two people? Three? How about your neighborhood, city, county or even the state? What about the nation? Romans 5:6-8 says ‘For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person — though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!’

This is a sermon I did during my college internship at my home church in Colorado in the summer of 2010. I’ve added a few things and reworked some of it.

Introduction:

Let me start by asking you question. Would you be willing to go to hell and feel the wrath of God for an eternity so someone else can heaven? How about two people? Three? How about your neighborhood, city, county or even the state? What about the nation? Romans 5:6-8 says ‘For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person — though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!’. Now you’re asking yourself, “what’s this got to do with anything?” Well, if we are going to be good witnesses, evangelists even, we have to start with a heart for those close to us. Let’s look at our text, Romans 9:-15.

1. Paul’s Heart of Sorrow vv1-3

Paul is really showing us a glimpse of his heart here. In verse one he is really stressing a point to us, he says, “I tell the truth” now if someone comes up to you and says the they are telling the truth you’re not going to think they are lying to you. Now, generally, no one is going to not believe someone when they say they are telling the truth. Paul takes it one step further by adding “in Christ”. Now he’s saying “I’m a Christian and am telling the truth.” Now you’re going to put more stock into what that person has to say right? Paul goes further, “I am not lying”, and further, “my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit”. Paul we get it, you’re a truthful Christian, who isn’t lying and is confident that God Himself knows that your conscience is allowing you to say this, now, what do you want to say? Paul saying, “not only is he making this statement and not lying, but his conscience also, enlightened by the Spirit, is saying Amen to this; it is agreeing, there is no condemnation in him” (©1991, Lloyd-Jones, Dr Martyn; Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 9: God’s Sovereign Purpose, p17). What is it he is wanting to stress to his readers? Let’s keep reading.

Paul tells us that he has “great sorrow”. The word for sorrow can be translated grief or pain as well. So Paul is in pain. We read on and find that it is continual. That is a good translation, it can also mean unceasing, that is how the NASB translated it. The word he used for grief here is not the same word as he used for sorrow, this one means, pain, It implies the anguish or smart of the heart which is the result of sorrow. So Paul emphatically tells us that he is being truthful when he says he has a deep sorrow that will not go away. So what is this pain and sorrow?

Verse three gives us the cause of Paul’s great sorrow. The phrase “For I could wish” might have been kind of idiomatic and meaning, “I was on the point of wishing”. The verb translated “wish” means to “pray, wish, or long”. Paul was longing, though he knew it could not happen, if all of Israel would accept the gospel and their Messiah, he would gladly have been separated from Christ and sent to hell. The word here for “accursed” is “anathema”, now this means, “under the curse of God”. This is what Paul was willing to do if it meant the nation of Israel would be saved.

Warren Wiersbe in the Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers wrote, “One Sunday evening, William Booth was walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a saloon! The place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were poisonous. ‘Willie,’ Booth said to his son, ‘These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ.’ Years later, Bramwell Booth wrote, ‘The impression never left me.’”

If we are going to be evangelistic we need to start with a heart for those close to us. The question that verse three leaves us with then is, why? Why would make Paul want to go to hell if it meant they were saved? Verses four and five give us the answer.

2. What Israel Had vv4-5

What did Israel have? Israel was already adopted by the Lord. Many times in the Old Testament the Lord refers to the children of Israel as His children. In Exodus 4:22 He claims them as His firstborn. And in Deuteronomy 7:6 God says He has chosen them above all the people of the earth. MacArthur puts it this way, “Not in the sense of providing salvation to every person born a Jew, but sovereignly selecting an entire nation to receive His special calling, covenant, and blessing and to serve as His witness nation” (©2005. John MacArthur, MacArthur Bible Commentary, p1535).

What glory is Paul talking about? This is referring to the Shekinah glory that lead the people through the wilderness, that dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon. This was the representation of God’s presence with the nation of Israel. No other nation was ever so visited, was ever so blessed. The covenants go back to Abraham and David and the New Covenant promised in Joel. The Abrahamic covenant was the promise of land, which has not been fulfilled yet, the promise of a descendant (Christ) and many descendants. You can find these in Genesis 15 and 22. The Davidic covenant was a promise that a descendant of David (Christ) would sit on the throne of David forever this is found in 2 Samuel 7:8-17. The New Covenant was a promise that the people would receive eternal blessings, a new heart that would never wander from the Lord.

Israel had an other special blessing that was just theirs. They had received the Law of God. In Romans 3:2  Paul says that the Jews had a great advantage, as they had been entrusted with the oracles of God, which is the Law. Remember, every writer of the Old Testament was an Israelite. They were the only ones to receive direct messages from God, except Egypt and Nineveh but they warned by Jewish messengers. They also had a sacred service to God to perform. Their temple worship was prophetic, until Christ came, the Temple practice will be established once again in the millennium as a memorial of Christ. We see this in the last nine chapters of Ezekiel. They, also, were the recipients of the promises. William Newell says this, “God’s salvation promises were lodged in Abraham; His kingdom promises, in David. No promises were made to Gentile nations as such. For the gospel now proclaimed is not a promise, but the announcement of a fact to be believed; and it is not preached to nations as such, but to individuals – good news to sinners everywhere. But to Israel, promises, thousands of them, were committed, – as a nation”(©1945 Newell, William R. Romans: Verse by Verse, 360).

Paul’s point of mentioning all these things of Israeli history is because it was their Messiah that had come. They were to receive Him, believe Him, and all the promises and covenants would have been fulfilled 2000 years ago. As Paul will talk about a couple of chapters later, the Gentiles who are being saved are being grafted into the plan of God and Israel is being put on hold. This is Paul’s sorrow and pain in his heart.

Verse five points out that these six things were given to the fathers.  We’ve talked a little about them already, but listen to what Newell says, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are directly referred to; and Jacob’s sons also, especially Joseph, and Judah the vessel of royal promise and blessing to Israel. Our hearts include Moses, Samuel, David, and the prophets when we think of Israel and remember ‘the fathers.’ But it is especially to Abraham, ‘the father of all them that believe,’ that our grateful memory turns; for, although we have no connection with Israel, but we have indeed a vital connection with Abraham, as his ‘children’” (Newell, 360-1). The rest of verse of five shows the greatest honor that Israel had received, [read, “and from whom, according…”] The Messiah had come. God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity had come in human form, fully God and fully human ready to save His people and fulfill the prophecies of Himself and complete the promises. The phrase “over all, the eternally blessed God” is another reminder Who Jesus Christ is, what He has done, and continues to do. We see other verses in the New Testament making this claim as well, 1 Corinthians 15:27; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-20.

Israel had everything going for them spiritually. They were God’s chosen people, they knew it. Israel had the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They had Moses and Joshua. They had judges like Ehud, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel. They had Kings like David, Solomon, Josiah. They had prophets like Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Micah. They had courageous leaders like Nehemiah, and priests like Ezra. They had the Law, the Psalms and Proverbs, they had the writings of the Prophets. And yet they did not accept their King, their Messiah. They rejected the gospel, the rejected Christ, they once again turned their back on God. This is Paul’s sorrow and unceasing grief.

Conclusion:

Now after that history lesson you’re wondering, “What’s this got to do with me?” Two things really. The first is that, like Paul we need to have a burden in our hearts for those close to us. Remember he said of these people we just read about, were his kinsman according to the flesh. We need to have a heart for people, but we need to start with those close to us. Paul’s heart beats with our Lord’s heart on this matter. In Luke 13 Jesus, heartbroken, laments over Jerusalem and the nation as a whole when He cries, “‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!'”. Paul lived this desire out throughout his journeys recorded in the book of Acts. Every time he went to a city he always started at the synagogue, or, as in Philippi, when there was no synagogue he started where the Jewish community would meet.  (Acts 16:11-15) Why? Because Jesus was and is their Messiah, and Paul wanted his countrymen to come to that knowledge.

Second, and this is more broad, but we need to be concerned for the salvation the Jewish people. That is what Paul is getting after in chapters 9-11 of Romans. We need to be concerned with what happens in the Middle-East. We need to find Jewish communities and be praying for their souls as well as for that neighbor who thinks you are nuts for believing in the Bible or “intolerant” for saying Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.

The Committed Preacher – Colossians 1:24-29

The following is a sermon I wrote a few years ago and have preached it in 3 or 4 different churches. I hope you enjoy it.

Introduction:

This passage means a lot to me, and if you want a glimpse into my heart please turns to Colossians 1:24-29.  As you turn there, let me give you a little back ground on the book of Colossians.  Paul had learned of two doctrinal heresies getting in the church and threatening it.  One was a form of legalism, and the other a form of mysticism.  It is believed that these were teachings from an early form of Gnosticism.  To overcome these teachings, Paul writes exalting Christ in his personhood and work and the believers union with Christ.

1. The Sacrifice v24

Paul says that he rejoices in his sufferings for the Colossian church.  What sufferings is he experiencing?  This is one of his prison epistles it was written between sixty and sixty-three AD.  That doesn’t mean he was in a dungeon.  This was during his first imprisonment in Rome.  Even that sounds bad.  More than likely he was under house arrest awaiting to go before the Caesar, Nero.  This was before the great persecution by Nero.  Paul, at the end of Acts, claims his right as Roman citizen to plead his case before the Emperor himself. And the book of Acts closes on that journey to Rome.

Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel.  For preaching Christ crucified by the plot of the Jewish leaders, by the order of Pilate, and the execution of Roman soldiers.  Paul was in prison for preaching that Jew and Gentile had the exact same opportunity to be saved by the God of the Jews through faith in Jesus, the Messiah.   This is why he says, “my sufferings for you”.  He is in prison because the Jewish leaders don’t like the idea of Gentiles able to worship their God and not have to follow the Law of Moses.

What does Paul mean here when he says that his sufferings are filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ?  Was Christ’s sufferings on the cross not enough?  That’s not what he is saying.  The only to get to heaven is through faith in the death of Christ on the cross.  Then what is Paul talking about?  Those afflictions he is referring to, are Christ’s.  When a believer is persecuted Christ knows it and feels it.  In Acts 9 when Christ appears to, then, Saul He says, “Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?”  John Phillips explains it this way, “As just one member of the body of Christ, Paul was suffering. But no member of a body suffers alone; other members suffer with it. If I cut my finger, my whole body feels it, especially the head, where the nerves register and interpret the pain. Paul was in prison and in pain. The Lord Jesus, the Head of the mystical body, felt that pain. Paul was suffering, and Christ was suffering. They were suffering together. Paul, in his sufferings, was helping to fill up the measure of the sufferings of Christ (© 2002 Phillips, John. Exploring Colossians & Philemon: An Expository Commentary, p88)”.  Think of it this way, as a parent I hurt when my children hurt. If you look at my son, you’ll notice that he is missing a tooth right in front. When he was about 9 months old, he hadn’t been walking long, he tripped and hit his tooth on the sippy cup he was carrying/drinking from and knocked that tooth clean out. My wife and I hurt as he was crying over the pain of the fall. This, in essence, is what we’re talking about with Paul’s pain and Christ’s pain.  Everything Paul is doing and going through is for the sake of the body of Christ, the church.

2. The Stewardship vv25-26

Verse 25 starts where Paul makes his claim as a minister of the Church because of the stewardship or responsibility God gave him. Paul used the “minister” here and he used the same word in verse 23. This is the word where we get our word “deacon” which simply means “servant”. Paul viewed himself as a servant of God with a special commission and responsibility. What was that responsibility? Paul’s responsibility was to fully preach God’s Word. Verse 26 finished the thought started in verse 25.  The “word of God” that Paul was charged with to fulfill was the mystery of God kept from mankind from ages past.  Warren Wiersbe explains the term mystery this way, “To us today, a mystery is something eerie and perhaps frightening; but this was not the way the word was define in Paul’s day.  The false teachers used this word to describe the inner secrets of their religions. A mystery is a “sacred secret,” hidden in the past and now revealed by the Holy Spirit” (© 1989. Wiersbe, Warren. The Bible Exposition Comentary: New Testament Vol 2. p121). The word “mystery” when used as a theological term from the New Testament, is a secret that has been hidden but is now revealed by God.

3. The Secret v27

Let’s look to verse 27 to see what the secret was that God and revealed. Did you catch it?  The revealed secret was the Church and essence of salvation, “Christ in you”. “It is Christ’s dwelling in the heart of the individual believer in a vital, life-sharing union that provides ‘the hope of glory’” (©2006 Homer A. Kent Jr, Treasures of Wisdom: Studies in Colossians & Philemon: Revised Edition. p60). The Church is where Gentiles and Jews would share in the same spiritual blessings, same future glory. In Ephesians 3:3-9 Paul expounds on it, let’s turn there real quick, but keep your finger in Colossians.  This was all new revelation to the Apostles and the early church. The new aspect was that the Gentiles did not have to practice Jewish rites and customs, all that needed to be done to be saved is by faith accept Christ’s work on the cross for your sins. “In Judaism opinion was settled that Gentiles could only be saved by becoming Jews. This idea persisted even in the early church among some of its Jewish members” (Kent, 60). We find that struggle recorded in the Book of Acts.  At the time, for the Jews, being a Jew was a point of pride for them and even the proselytes weren’t quite good enough. So you can imagine the struggles in the local churches in Palestine.

The prophets of the Old Testament saw what God wanted them to see and they prophesied accurately, but the church wasn’t mentioned.  Many of the prophecies have been fulfilled by Christ, but not all, not yet.  Think of it this way: the prophet saw two different mountain tops, but they thought they were only seeing one mountain top.  They saw the Messiah coming and setting up His earthly kingdom.  What they couldn’t see was that there was a valley between those two mountain tops.  That valley is the Church Age.  That valley is now, where Christ has made way for Jew or Gentile to have a fellowship with God by grace through faith.  That was the secret, the mystery of God from ages past.

4. The Service vv28-29

Now we come to the really important part of the passage.  These last two verses I claim as some of my favorites.  These verses are my battle cry for my service in ministry, for my service in the army of the Lord.

In verse 28 we see the phrase “every man” three times.  In the Greek that is very important.  That means Paul is really stressing, really emphasizing his point.  He says that he and the other ministers of Christ preach.  That verb used for preach there can mean to proclaim, like a herald. Paul says they warn that word “warn” can also mean to correct through instruction.  They also teach, and they do that so they might “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”.  The word for “present” has an idea of a legal word, where a person is placed in a court of justice.  The word “perfect” doesn’t mean sinless like Jesus was and is perfect, but it has the idea of being mature or complete in Christ. Think of it like this, we don’t send 5 year-olds out as college freshman, they aren’t mature enough.

Let’s look at verse 29.  Let’s look at what some of these words mean. The word “labor” means to “work to exhaustion”.  Also the word “striving” has the idea of exerting effort.  One resource says this, “The athletic picture behind this word emphasizes Paul’s missionary work with all its attendant toil, tireless exertion, and struggles against all manner of setbacks and opposition” (©1998 Cleon L. Rogers Jr & Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament,  p463). Is Paul saying that all his missionary work is through his struggle and work? Of course not! Look at the second part of the verse. Essentially Paul is saying that the Word can only be preached through Christ’s strength. If you read the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians Paul makes it abundantly clear that the gospel is spread, souls saved, and growth happens only through the power of God.

Challenge:

My challenge today is more for myself, every pastor, and missionary and Christian worker who claims to proclaim the Word of God.  My challenge is that I live up to these verses.  Especially verses 28 and 29.  But the application from these verses is for everyone who is not called into full time ministry.  To the Deacons, Sunday school teachers, parents, and every born again believer.  We must proclaim, warn, teach so that “we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”.  And we must do that in the Power of God.