Act: For the Cause of Christ #16

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #16

Title: Saul’s Conversion

Acts 9:1-31

Introduction:

Last time we were in Acts we looked at Acts chapter 8. Acts chapter 8 starts the transition of focus from the Jewish nation to the church at large as the church is being filled with Jews and Gentiles. But more specifically, Acts 8 is a look at two different professions of faith, Simon the Sorcerer in Samaria and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Simon professed acceptance of Jesus, but only sought the power of God without repentance to God. The eunuch was searching the Scriptures seeking to understand. The Spirit had been working in his heart and he was ready for the truth. We also saw that Philip was willing to go where the Lord lead, from Samaria to roads of the Judean desert, to traveling to towns and cities.

This week we look at chapter 9, and see the a new character in the narrative beginning his journey with Christ and that he will put the Cause of Christ before himself.

Saul’s Conversion and Baptism 1-19a

Luke brings us back to Saul. Saul isn’t satisfied with the believers that are that have remained in Jerusalem, he must go to other cities and hunt them down. In Acts 26:11 he says himself before King Agrippa, “…Since I was terribly enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.” It is thought that he was seeking to find those who escaped Jerusalem to bring them back to imprison them. So the papers he received from the High Priest were essentially extradition papers. This also could have letters of introduction to the synagogues in Damascus explaining Saul’s authority and mission. Either way his mission ended on the road outside the gates of Damascus. You’ll notice the that believers are referred to as “the Way”. This term is a reference for the new movement and is used at least 5 other times in Acts, it seems to be a term used by the early church to describe “their movement as way of life or way of salvation (Bruce, F. F., NICNT: The Book of the Acts; © 1988; p 181)”. I think it is also a reference back to Jesus’ teaching of Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Near the city of Damascus, Saul and the men he was travelling with were thrown to the ground by a flash of light. We see in Acts 22 and 26 that they were nearing the city around midday when this light greater the sun flashed causing them to fall. Then Saul’s personal interaction with the Lord begins. Saul hears a voice calling to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Here is another example of the union Christians have with Jesus. The church is called the body of Christ. Saul, seeking to eliminate “blasphemers” of Judaism is fact attacking the body of Christ. In Colossians 1:24, Paul tells the church in Colossae that he rejoices in the afflictions and sufferings he endures, as it is his part of Christ’s suffering for His body, the church. When a believer is persecuted Christ knows it and feels it. John Phillips, commenting on the Colossians passage,  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 (Phillips, John., Exploring Colossians & Philemon, © 2002, p88)”. If this is true of Paul and his sufferings, then surely it is true of any believer being persecuted. Whether it is in China, North Korea, or Iran, or of the early believers in Jerusalem in the first century.

Saul does the natural thing and asks, “who are you lord?” Some think that Saul was offering a respectful “sir” as the word for Lord could be understood in that way. However I have a hard believing that this rabbinically trained Pharisee would have understood this light and voice to be a divine manifestation. In other words, Saul was addressing the speaker with Lord seeking Him to identify Himself. When the Christ identifies Himself as Jesus, Saul is confronted with the Lord of Glory, and his hatred is replaced with faith. Christ tells him to go to the city where he will receive more information.

The men traveling with Saul saw only the flash of light and heard a noise. They did not see Christ standing glory or hear His words to Saul. Saul, now able to get up from the ground, found he couldn’t see. Lots of times before we come to the Lord, or if the Lord is bringing an erring child back, the Lord has to break the pride of the person. There is nothing like a good healthy dose of humility to bring someone on their knees to the Lord. Personally, I think that is part of what happened here to Saul. The Lord took his sight for three days, he was humbled, he didn’t eat or drink for three days. We are told in verse 11 that Saul is praying during this time, so it seems to me that Saul is fasting and praying during this time.

In my head, if this were a movie or TV show, here we might get a fade to black to close the scene for the moment.

If we had a fade to black after verse 9, then here we would have a fade from black and a “Three days later” printed across the screen as Luke changes scenes here to introduce us to a disciple of Christ in Damascus named Ananias. It is believed that this man is a native to Damascus and not a “refugee” that had fled from Jerusalem. We don’t really know anything about him, he isn’t referred to as any kind of leader, he wasn’t an Apostle or deacon. He appears to be an “ordinary Christian”, but the Lord appears to him in a vision.

Ananias is at first willing. He is called, and he replies, “Here I am, Lord”. Then Christ tells him what he is supposed to do and fear comes in. Word of the persecution in Jerusalem has reached Damascus, and word of Saul’s mission to arrest followers of Christ had preceded his arrival to Damascus. Ananias was fearful, but sometimes the Lord asks us to do things we find uncomfortable or scarey, but who are we to question God or His plans? The Lord, in His mercy, explains to Ananias that He has changed Saul. Saul is now Christ’s chosen instrument to take the gospel to the Gentiles, kings and rulers, as well as to the Israel, and that Saul would have to suffer a great deal for Christ.

Ananias obeys and goes to the house of Judas on the street called Straight where Saul was staying. Calling him “Brother” Ananias identifies himself as a fellow disciple. It is important to note that Ananias is not the one commissioning Saul or healing his blindness. Ananias is merely the servant the Lord is using. The Lord is commissioning Saul, which is discussed in greater detail in 26:16-18 and connects to 22:14-16. Ananias lays his hands on Saul and the blindness is lifted and Saul is filled with the Holy Spirit. “It is significant that a non-apostle is the mediator of the Spirit. The church’s ministry is expanding in ways that mean that non-apostles will do important work. In Acts 8 it was baptism by Philip. Here it is laying hands on Saul so that the Spirit may come (Bock, Darrell F., BECNT: Acts © 2007, p 362)”.

Once he his sight was returned, he was baptized and after the baptism, he broke his fast taking some food and regained his strength. We should note that Saul was converted on the road to Damascus and there received the baptism of the Holy Spirit placing him in the Body of Christ, so this was water baptism after his conversion and the filling the Saul received here was not the baptism of the Spirit either, merely the Spirit filling him for his new mission.

Saul was sure he was doing the will of God by persecuting the believers, the members of the early church, but he was acting against God and attacking the Messiah. So the Lord confronted him and humbled him, bringing him to salvation and converting Saul from his former glory in legalism and good works.

Are you seeking salvation in the wrong places? Are you seeking salvation in the good things you do? Or are you a Christian who is living with some sin? Will the Lord have to humble you before you can see?

Saul in Damascus 19b-25

We see in these verses that Saul spent time disciples in Damascus; it’s possible that Ananias introduced Saul to the others. Luke doesn’t give us their reaction, whether they welcomed him with open arms or if they were suspicious and concerned as Ananias had been. But we do see what Saul was doing while he was in Damascus. He was proclaiming that Jesus was the Son of God.

We should note that this is the only place in the book of Acts where that specific title is used. “Other titles, such as ‘Christ’[or Messiah] (see v 22), ‘Lord’, ‘ Righteous One’, and ‘Judge’, are more prevalent (Bock, p365)”. It is possible that the message Saul was proclaiming here in these synagogues was similar to what is recorded in Acts 13:16-41 when Paul is in Antioch in Pisidia. “The title ‘Son of God’ is probably meant in terms of full ‘sonship,’ given its outgrowth from Saul’s vision in seeing the a glorified Jesus whom he had heard preached as the Son of Man at God’s right hand in Acts 7:56 (Bock, 365)”. If we look a little further down to verse 22 and use the Acts 13 passage as a guide, then the title also has a Messianic force with it as Saul was teaching in the synagogues.

The crowds were surprised that the persecutor from Jerusalem was now preaching Jesus as the Messiah. As I suggested earlier, it may be that Saul’s mission or reputation as a persecutor had reached Damascus before he arrived himself. It would be like a member of the ACLU beginning preaching Jesus. Saul continues to preach Jesus and grows stronger. That phrase isn’t about Saul’s physical strength, but is the idea of becoming a stronger, better preacher. So much so, that he was proving that Jesus was the Messiah and confounding the Jews he is debating. Here is also the first time the the term “Jews” is used as a separate group distinct from Christian believers. The Jews in Damascus plot to kill Saul. Saul escapes with the help of the disciples, by being lower down the city wall in a large basket, similar to what was used to collect the leftover food from Jesus’ feeding the 5000. Saul had to go over the wall as the gates were being watched constantly. This is also the first of several plots Luke notes in Acts, all by the Jews against Paul. We see here that apparently sometimes the Christians didn’t wait for martyrdom, but escaped to preach another day.

By looking at Luke’s writing here in Acts, it appears that there was very little time between Saul’s conversion and commission, his beginning to preach and then going to Jerusalem. But Paul’s own writings in Galatians 1:15-18, he tells us he spent 3 years in Arabia before returning to Jerusalem. Paul also tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, that a ruler under the Nabataean King Aretas was guarding Damascus and was going to arrest him. So do we have a problem with Scripture? Aren’t these contradicting and shows that the Bible can’t be trusted? No. These apparent contradictions can be explained.

It is suggested by various sources that there is truth in each account as they are from different perspectives and purposes in writings. We need to remember first that, Luke is not detailing Paul’s entire career, but only major points that intersect with big events in the young church.  Since Luke is recording highlights of the church growth and movement, why would Paul’s three year retreat into Arabia be of interest to Luke’s account? It is suggested that Saul went to Arabia before this section of verses. So that Saul’s time in Damascus bookends his time in Arabia. We are not given and indication of how long a time passed between Saul being in Damascus until his being in Jerusalem. And if Saul’s preaching did create such a stir, why would someone “exclude the possibility that a regional leader such as King Areta might be concerned for the public peace. After all, Pilate in the end execute Jesus, but Pilate’s primary concern was for the public peace, an issue raised by many of the important Jews in Jerusalem (Bock, p364)”. At this point, I lean to the two visits to Damascus view, where Saul went to Arabia and then returned to Damascus to preach before having to escape for Jerusalem.

For Saul Damascus must have meant humility. He entered Damascus blind, being led by the hand as the Lord humbled him at his conversion. Now after he had been doing exactly what the Lord had commissioned him to do, he has to escape in hamper over the wall like a criminal. This was the beginning of the sufferings for the sake of Christ, for the Cause of Christ, that Saul would face in his lifetime. Later in 2 Corinthians 12:10 Paul says he takes pleasure in suffering and persecution for the Cause of Christ, “So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And at the end of his life he reminds Timothy, “In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)”.

What are you willing to do for the Cause of Christ?

Jerusalem 26-31

After Saul was able to get out of Damascus he went to Jerusalem. This would have been difficult to do as he would not have many places to go. His former associates in the Pharisees may have heard of his time in Damascus and viewed him as traitor to the “true cause” of crushing the new movement. While Scripture is clear the disciples in Jerusalem were still wary and suspicious of him remembering him as the persecutor. They probably though he was playing the long con and just trying to infiltrate them to get the evidence he needed to arrest the whole lot of them.

Re-enter Barnabas. Again living up to the meaning of his name (the son of encouragement), Barnabas introduces Saul to the group. Now in verse 27, Luke says Saul was introduced to the apostles. It is generally thought the “apostles” is just a generalized plural, referring to the whole group instead of an individual. Again in Galatians 1, Paul himself says when he first went back to Jerusalem, he only met Peter (Cephas) and James, the half brother of Jesus. Now, this James is not an apostle in the strict sense that we think of Peter and John, but in the broader sense of a messenger. Barnabas introduces Saul and explains his conversion, his seeing of the risen Christ, and his ministry in Damascus. It has been suggested that Barnabas and Saul were familiar with each other from before as their respective homes were near each other (Cyprus and Cilicia), however no real evidence of this exists. So how did Barnabas know all this about Saul? Saul may have told him, or Barnabas had heard about Saul from others in Damascus. Whatever happened, Barnabas’ introduction was enough to calm the worries of the other disciples in Jerusalem.

Saul was now able to come and go as he pleased with the disciples, and we see that Saul didn’t waste much time before proclaiming the Jesus in Jerusalem. There is nothing in the language here that Peter or the others had any authority over Saul. In Galatians 1 Paul is adamant that he received his commission from the Lord and that he was on equal standing with Peter and the rest of the Twelve. Saul apparently decided to pick up where Stephen left off when he died, by debating with the Hellenistic Jews. They once again turned violent and tried to kill Saul. Why not? It got rid of Stephen and inflamed persecution against church. Except the chief persecutor was now on the other side of the debate. Once again, Saul had to flee. “Jerusalem was too hot to hold Saul (Bruce, p195)”. In chapter 22:17-21 we are given some additional information from Paul. At some point he was in the temple praying, and the Lord put Saul in a trance and probably by a vision warned Saul to flee as his life was in danger. Saul seems to protest, saying the he is known in Jerusalem because of the persecution, as that would be able to help him in his witness. The Lord tells him to go, because he will be sent to the Genitles. Then we find that Some of the disciples took to the port at Caesarea and sent him to safety to his home of Tarsus. Here in Tarsus we have to leave Saul for now. He exits. Stage right. Saul will re-enter the scene later in chapter 11

Luke gives another progress report here in verse 31.  We see that the church has come through it first test of persecution and has been strengthened. They church is at peace, but it is still working and growing. The church continues to grow in numbers and spiritually.

Notice that the summary of the church’s locations seem to parallel the locations given in 1:8. The church hasn’t gotten to the uttermost part of the world yet, but the areas of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee have been covered by the Gospel. In Acts 2 the gospel was opened to the Jews, in chapter 8 it was opened to the Samaritans, soon in chapter 10 it will open for the Gentiles. Saul is off-stage for the moment, as focus back on Peter, then Peter will fade into the background of Acts and Paul takes centerstage. The scene will shift from Jerusalem to Antioch. “God changes His workmen, but His work goes on. And you and I are privileged to be a part of that work today! (Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Dynamic © 1987, p 120)”

After his conversion, Saul constantly sought to find ways to be apart of the church body and to proclaim the gospel. He even debated the men that caused Stephen’s death, risking his own life. Saul was willing to risk everything for the Cause of Christ, what about you?

Conclusion:

Saul was sure he was doing the will of God by persecuting the believers, the members of the early church, but he was acting against God and attacking the Messiah. So the Lord confronted him and humbled him, bringing him to salvation and converting Saul from his former glory in legalism and good works. For Saul, Damascus must have meant humility. He entered Damascus blind, being led by the hand as the Lord humbled him at his conversion. Now after he had been doing exactly what the Lord had commissioned him to do, he has to escape in a hamper over the wall like a criminal. This was the beginning of the sufferings for the sake of Christ, for the Cause of Christ, that Saul would face in his lifetime.  After his conversion, Saul constantly sought to find ways to be apart of the church body and to proclaim the gospel. He even debated the men that caused Stephen’s death, risking his own life.

Are you ready to humble yourself before the Lord, or will the Lord have to humble you before you can see? Saul was willing to risk everything for the Cause of Christ, what about you?

…But God(Part 2): The Proof of God’s Romans 5:7-8

Romans 5:7-8 

How do we know God’s love? How did He show us His love? Well the Sunday School answer is Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth and died on the cross for humanity. So what does that look like? What’s the big deal? Let’s walk through Romans 5:7-8 to get a better understanding.

I. Righteous or Good? v7

Paul starts these two verses by saying that most men are not willing to risk their lives for others. But there is more to that. He says, “for rarely will someone die for a just person…”. So what is a “just person”? A just person, other translations say “righteous man”, is someone who obeys the rules. They follow the Law and keep the Commandments. Their actions, attitude, and behaviour are correct and upright. However this person may be cold or follows the rules for the sake of following the rules.

What about the second type of person Paul mentions here in verse 7. “…though for a good person perhaps someone may even dare to die.” What does this “good person” look like? A good person is one who does all the things that the righteous man does, but goes further. This person will act out of love while following the rules, obeying the commandments, etc. This person just isn’t correct, they go beyond being correct. The good person will, because of love, do as Christ instructed in Matthew 5:40-41 “As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” The good person will go the second mile and not even think about it.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones illustrates the difference like this:

A man may play the piano correctly, strike the right note every time, and keep the right time, and yet all you can truthfully say about his playing is that it is just correct. But there is another man who plays the piano and plays the same piece; yet you realize at once that there is something more. He is an artist, he puts life into the performance, he does it in such a way that it moves you and thrills you. The first man was quite correct, but he lacked this extra something that the second man has got. That is the kind of difference between a righteous man and a good man. (Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 5: Assurance, p.121, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, ©1971)

First we need to realize that throughout the rest of this chapter Paul is talking about the doctrine of assurance (being sure that your salvation is true and secure in the Lord) to believers. So here, early in the chapter he is reminding these believers of the glory of salvation and in the previous chapter he discussed the glory of justification (the declaring of God that a sinner is righteous before Him because of Christ’s work on the cross). In the previous verse he discussed that scarcely someone might die for a just or righteous person and someone more likely would risk their life for a good person. “You do not find people laying down their lives for a man who is just righteous or correct; but people love a good man and are so attached to him that they say, ‘I would die for him’ (Lloyd-Jones, p.121)”.

Are you good or are you righteous? Well without Christ, before God we are neither. Without Christ we are the third type of person Paul describes in verse 8.

II. Sinner! v8b

Paul continues his argument here by starting with two of the sweetest words in all of Scripture, “But God”. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Such a wonderful verse that should make any believer rejoice and praise God! We are going to look at the second part of the verse first. Paul says that Christ died for us while we were sinners. What is a sinner? A sinner is the exact opposite of the good person and the just person. The word gives itself to moral failure. A sinner has missed the mark and come short, they are an offender without any righteousness.

Paul spend most of the first three chapters of Romans describing the sinful nature of every person on Earth. Those who have never heard of God: sinners. “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” (Romans 1:18). God’s chosen people: sinners. “For circumcision benefits you if you observe the law, but if you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart — by the Spirit, not the letter. That man’s praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:25,28-29) Those who have heard and turned away: sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23) The fate of sinners? Eternal separation from God in a place of eternal torment. What is the remedy for such a disastrous state for humanity? God’s offer of salvation. “They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.” (Romans 3:24-25) The fact is that as believers we were sinners before God, but the wonder of justification is that though we may fail and still sin while we are live in this world God sees us as righteous and holy.

III. God’s Love = Christ’s Death v8a

“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Christ’s death was the only way for humanity to be saved. But humanity is so sinful that the there is nothing we can do to make God save us. We cannot save ourselves. We can do no work to change God’s mind or change our stance before Him. God had to act. God put the salvation of humanity on His own shoulders, this burden was His to bear. Why? Because God loves us. We are created in His image, and God loves His creation. God word’s clear, there be a time of judgement on the earth and every person will stand before God to be judged as a sinner or as follower of Christ. “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Let’s look what Christ endured to on the cross for our salvation. John 19 gives the account of some the beating (flogging or scourging) as well as the crucifixion of Jesus.

Let’s start with the flogging. Roman flogging was part of the crucifixion, however in the Gospel of John we see that Pilate sent Jesus to be flogged before he passed judgement and gave in to the Jewish leaders. This may have been a way to appease the mob and get out of actually condemning a man he didn’t want to execute. However this didn’t keep the soldiers from mocking Jesus and beat Him cruelly.

flagrum9The Roman flogging used “a short whip with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions” (https://www.cbcg.org/scourging-crucifixion.html).

“Deep lacerations, torn flesh, exposed muscles and excessive bleeding would leave the criminal ‘half-dead.’ Death was often the result of this cruel form of punishment though it was necessary to keep the criminal alive to be brought to public subjugation on the cross. The Centurion in charge would order the ‘lictors’ to halt the flogging when the criminal was near death” (http://www.bible-history.com/past/flagrum.html).

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”
(Isaiah 53:5 NKJV) Christ was beaten in, probably, the worst way devised by sinful man. After Jesus received this beating the soldiers looking to mock Him before Pilate called for Him again, and knowing Jesus was accused of calling Himself a king placed a purple robe on His back, then placed a crown made of thorns on His head.51022-Crown_of_Thorns

“The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state. Moreover, bleeding from the skin particularly from the capillaries around the sweat glands from severe stress had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical” (https://www.cbcg.org/scourging-crucifixion.html).

After this beating He was lead away to the actual crucifixion. The following is from an article on cbcg.org:

It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb. (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried. The crossbar, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed. Later, the sign would be attached to the top of the cross. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death.

Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden post, on which the crossbar would be secured. To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat, often was attached midway down the post.

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild pain reliever. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the crossbar. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. The nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms.

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the crossbar and the victim, together, were lifted onto the post. Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. Nailing was the preferred Roman practice. Although the feet could be fixed to the sides of the post or to a wooden footrest, they usually were nailed directly to the front of the post. To accomplish this, flexion of the knees may have been quite prominent, and the bent legs may have been rotated outward.

When the nailing was completed, the sign was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim’s head. The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees.

The horrid death on a cross was an excruciating death. What Christ did to provide the nailsonly way of salvation for humanity was to die in one of the worst of forms of execution in the ancient world. This is why Paul in Philippians 2 says “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

God’s love for humanity and His desire to save His creation from the curse of sin was to send Jesus, His own Son, to die a horrendous death at the hands of sinners. The only way to God is accept this gift of salvation.

If you don’t know if you have accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation then follow this link for an explanation of how you can know for certain from Dr David Jeremiah or this link to walk down the “Romans Road” on biblegateway.com.

…But God (Part 1): From Death to Life – Ephesians 2:1-10

…But God (Pt 1): From Death to Life

This is another sermon I did during my college internship at my home church in Colorado in the summer of 2010. I have updated it a little and am kicking off a series taking the “…but God” passages.

Ephesians 2:1-10

Intro:

Have you ever seen a dead body before? I have a couple of times, at funerals for a couple of my aunts at different time in my life, one was very recent. Those of you who have seen a dead body do you remember what it looked like? Maybe for some of you in the medical field or those who are combat veterans have seen number of bodies. Here is how Webster’s Dictionary defines a dead body, “deprived of life, no longer alive, having the appearance of death, lacking power to move, feel, or respond”. As unbelievers we are dead. God makes the sinner alive, for salvation of man was nothing but God. Let’s look at our passage.

I. Before Christ vv1-3 

Verses one through three gives us an up close look at the pre-conversion state of man. Verse one tells us that we were dead. Now you’re saying, “Wait a minute I thought you said we are dead, now you’re saying we were dead. What is it?” In verse one Paul is reminding the Ephesian believers of their state before salvation. But what does he mean by dead? Because I know that I was alive before I got saved. Paul is speaking on a spiritual level. Our souls were dead because of sin. The unsaved person is dead spiritually. Wiersbe describes the condition, “that is, he is unable to understand and appreciate spiritual things. He posses no spiritual life, and he can do nothing of himself to please God” (Warren W. Wiersbe; The Bible Exposotion Commentary: New Testament Vol. 2; © 1989; p17). The verse says that we are dead in our “trespasses and sins” what’s the difference? A trespass or transgression is a stepping over the line, the act of sinning, doing something wrong. This is most dramatically seen when your favorite wide receiver catches the game winning touchdown, but he was caught out-of-bounds by the officials. The player trespassed, he crossed the line that allows play. The word sin in our verse is more of missing the mark, this is an action or in-action. If watched Superbowl 52 you may have seen the play when the New England Patriots attempted a play that turned quarterback Tom Brady into a receiver. If you did you would have seen Tom Brady miss the ball causing an incomplete pass. He missed the mark, he “sinned”. Do you know the difference between two sinners? It’s the amount of decay their spiritual bodies have. The bum in gutter who needs a fix and a drink is just as dead, but may be more decayed in appearance than that city council member, but they are both dead.

In verses two and three Paul describes the help we get as sinners to sin. You’re thinking, “What are you talking about?” Well, let’s look. The first encourager we have as sinners is the world. This world system pushes each person to conform to its way of thinking, acting, and living. “The unsaved person, either consciously or unconsciously, is controlled by the values of this world.” The second encourager of sin is the devil. The phrase, “the prince and power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” is a reference to Satan. Satan controls the sinful world. Now Satan is a created being, and that means he is not omnipresent as God is. However, Satan has a horde of evil angels working with him, but I do not believe that because little Jonny stole a cookie he has a right to say, “The devil made me do it”. I will get to our third enemy in a second, but here is a thought of encouragement for us who are born again. My Theology professor used this and I like it. Picture in your mind a man walking down the sidewalk walking his Rottweiler, now the Rottweiler is on a leash but he is jumping and barking at everyone and knocking newspaper stands over. Now picture walking the in the opposite direction a young mother with a baby in a stroller. The mother sees the dog and his master getting closer, and decides to cross the street. The dog’s owner sees the mother, and pulls back on the leash not giving it any room to jump and run ahead, just before the mother crosses the street. The Rottweiler is Satan, and the owner is the Holy Spirit. God has a leash on the devil and he can only do so much and there will be a time when he is punished for his sins.

We get to the third encourager of sin in verse three. This is our flesh. Not flesh as in our physical body, but this is a reference to our sin nature. Warren Wiersbe uses a good illustration in his commentary he says, “An evangelist friend of mine once announced as his topic, ‘Why Your Dog Does What It Does,’ and, of course, many dog lovers came out to hear him. What he had to say was obvious, but too often overlooked: ‘A dog behaves like a dog because he has a dog’s nature.’ If somehow you could transplant into the dog the nature of the cat, his behavior would change radically. Why does a sinner behave like a sinner? Because he has the nature of a sinner. This sinful nature the Bible calls ‘the flesh’” (Wiersbe, p18) The sinner commits sin because he has an appetite for sin. The unsaved think and will say that they do good. But they are depraved. In Isaiah 64 it says that our righteousness is like filthy rags. Because the unsaved are depraved they cannot do any thing that is not selfish. This isn’t to say that every sinner is on the same level of sin, or that the sins are as evil as they could be, but when an unbeliever does something good it is selfish and will not get them any kind of merit with God.

Unbelievers are by their sinful nature, children of wrath. Unbelievers are by action, disobedient under the influence of Satan, “the prince and power of the air (vs 2)”. God, the righteous judge, has passed sentence. The sinners will be punished. But God in his mercy has granted a stay of execution. The individual cannot save himself, cannot work his way to heaven,  but God in His grace has provided a way to salvation. For the salvation of man was nothing but God.

So we have seen the sinner’s spiritual condition before Christ, now let’s look at how God worked.

II. But God vv 4-7

Verses one through three reminds the Christian of life before Christ, then Paul starts verse four with, “But God”. But God. Aren’t those sweet words in your ears? You were dead in sin, but God. But God! Those are very precious words. Those two little words show us attributes of God. You say, “how?” Well think of it this way. There are some attributes that God has that can been seen differently when they are related to man. God is holy, but His holiness when related to man is His justice. God is love, but His love when related to man is His grace and mercy. God is merciful by not giving us what we deserve as sinners. Like a parent not punishing their disobedient child. God’s gracicious to us by giving what we don’t deserve eternal life in His presence. Like a parent giving a gift to child even that child disobeyed.

Verse five reminds us that it was God who pulled us out of the graveyard that is this world It says that He “made us alive with Christ”. What does that mean? God through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit has given us a spiritual resurrection just as He gave Jesus a physical resurrection. Our spiritual resurrection unites us with Christ. Now as members of His body we share His resurrection life and power. Verse six continues the thought of being united with Christ. Warren Wiersbe says this, “Our physical position may be on earth, but our spiritual position is ‘in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ Like Lazarus, we have been called from the grave to sit with Christ and enjoy His fellowship” (Wiersbe p19). He’s saying that even though we are physically here, our citizenship is in heaven. We are not of this world anymore. Philippians 3:20 and 1 Peter 2:11 also reminds us that we are now citizens of heaven and are just travelling through this life.

Verse seven reads “so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” This is part of God’s work. In eternity future God will display those whom He has redeemed. “Riches of His grace” is connected with believer’s redemption. His ultimate purpose for our salvation is that for all eternity the whole church of redeemed believers will glorify God.

Verse four to seven remind us that we could not save ourselves and that we are now citizens of heaven and part of the body of Christ. It’s like someone finding a homeless person who is a drug addict and an alcoholic and cleaning him up and making him king someplace.

III. By Grace vv 8-10

Verse eight is a reminder that we can do nothing for our salvation. Since we cannot gain salvation through our good works, it also stands that we cannot lose our salvation through our bad works. Salvation is not a reward, but a gift. Grace is the basis and faith is the instrument of our salvation. Harold Hoehner says this, “Whereas ‘grace’ is the objective cause or basis of salvation, ‘through faith’ is the subjective means by which one is saved. This is important, for the salvation that was purchased by Christ’s death is universal in its provision, but is not universal in its application. One is not automatically saved because Christ died, but one is saved when one puts trust in God’s gracious provision” (Harold W. Hoehner; Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary; ©2002; p341).   Verse nine broadens the thought as Paul tells us that since we didn’t do anything for salvation, we have no room to boast. Dr Llyod-Jones reminds us, “It is the Lord Jesus Christ who saves you. If you say that your faith saves you, your faith has become a work, and you have something to boast of” (Dr Martyn Llyod-Jones; Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25 Atonement and Justification; © 1970; p47). This is God’s work. It is by His grace.

Verse ten reads “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” The word workmanship has a meaning of a piece of art or a masterpiece.  Like the artist who painstakingly spends hours on a piece of art to make sure it is perfect, so God is working in our lives. This word is different from the word used for human works in verse nine. What is this work that God has done? He has made us or created us into a new creation. Creation is something that only God can do, and because we have new life in Christ we are a new creature than the old unbelieving world. Our new life is not the end of God’s work in us, it is only the beginning. God wants us to be more like Christ, that is progressive sanctification. That term, means that as we live our lives here on earth we strive to overcome sin in our life. We battle sinful addictions, become better husbands and wives. But we do not do this on our own. We cannot. Just as we cannot save ourselves, we cannot overcome our sinful habits ourselves. God must be involved.

The good works that are referred to here have nothing to do with our salvation, but as a demonstration of our faith. John Calvin wrote, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” We are not saved through our good works, but our faith is seen by our good works. James chapter two talks about this very thing. James 2:17 says, “In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.”  He says later that faith is seen by good works. Jesus even talked about these good works, Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” You’re thinking, “Ok, we get it, but what are these good works then?” It’s an “Absolutely Free Car Wash”, it’s working in VBS, it’s giving to missionaries, it’s going calling and sharing the gospel. But remember, we do not produce these good works, these good works come from God. They are a product of God working in one’s life. We see here in verse ten that God knew what works he would have us do. This means He has a plan for our lives, He knows what good works He wants us to do. All we need to do is be in His will for our lives, and those good works will come for us to do so that men may glorify our Father in heaven.

Verses one through three show us that no one is able to do anything good that is worthy of merit with God. Verses four through seven remind us that we had nothing to do with our salvation, but God provided through grace and mercy. Finally verses eight through ten show us that God did the work, and has work for us to do for Him. But you know, we cannot do that work if we do not accept God’s free gift of salvation.

If you don’t know if you have accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation then follow this link for an explanation of how you can know for certain from Dr David Jeremiah or this link to walk down the “Romans Road” on biblegateway.com.

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.