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CHRIST - The Mystery of God
by Randolph Dunn - Edited by Roberto Santiago
Promises to The Patriarchs
Looking for The Promised Messiah
Christ - The Promise of God
The Church Christ Established
The Organized and Functioning Church
The Church as a Whole
Worship God and Serve Him Only
God created man in His likeness, His image, and His nature. God created man as a righteous person without sin. The man listened to Satan's lie, choosing to disobey God thus ceasing to be a righteous person and breaking the intimate relationship he enjoyed with God, his creator. But God had a plan to restore man to the original state that he was created and thus restore the relationship with HIM.
God began to reveal "His mystery" gradually, beginning with His promise to Abraham, that through him all people would be blessed. He later told David, a descendant of Jacob; "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me." (2 Samuel 7:16)
Jesus, a descendant of David, was born by the action of the Holy Spirit. He offered his sinless life to God as the "atoning sacrifice," necessary to make restoration possible. God accepted his offering by raising him from the grave and thus freeing man from the dominion of Satan. This sacrifice of Jesus was the plan, the "mystery", of God to obtain the victory over Satan, sin and death.
Forgiveness of sins was first offered on the Day of Pentecost to all who accept Christ's call to repent and seek forgiveness by being buried (baptized) into his death and resurrected to a new creation in the Kingdom of God. This offer of forgiveness is available TODAY to all who hear and accept the Gospel message of Jesus; the Mystery of God!
Promises to The Patriarchs
Creation of Man
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:1-3)
While John 1:1-3 states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."
Comment: The only thing man knows about the beginning is what God has chosen to reveal to him. Theories of "learned men" are unproven, often contrary to what has been revealed and many contradict other beliefs and theories of other "learned men."
The last day of creation as recorded in Genesis 1:26-27 is "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
Comment: This creation was different from all His other creations as man was made in God's likeness, in His image. Man is not an exact copy of God. Man was created flesh and blood while God is spirit.
Adam and Eve
God put Adam and Eve in the midst of the rest of His creation to rule over and have dominion over it. He told Adam to work it and take care of it. "And the LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'" (Gen 2:16-17)
Comment: God gave man the ability to choose. He was told to work by tending the garden and not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were also to replenish the earth after their kind. Therefore, Adam had a choice, to obey or not to obey.
The Devil took on the form of a serpent to tempt Eve. "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." (Genesis 3:6)
Comment:: The temptation process: - "each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:14-15)
Sin has Consequences
To Eve, the fruit was pleasing to the eye and desirable to make her wise but disobedience has consequences and, in some situations, sin may not be found out until the judgment when one faces God. In this case the consequence was immediate. They were removed from paradise to a land of toil and pain. God said to the serpent "'Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.' To the woman he said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.' To Adam he said, 'Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it', 'Cursed is the ground because of you; 'through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.'" (Genesis 3:14-19)
Comment: With this sin both Adam and Eve were separated from God and in need of being reunited with Him. This reconciliation would require a perfect sacrifice for their sin of disobedience. That perfect sacrifice apparently is a reference to God becoming human to be the atoning sacrifice for their sin and all others to come.
Cain and Abel
In Hebrews 11:4 we read that Abel's offering to God was by faith. Now actions of faith are based upon knowledge and love. So, Abel's action and attitude pleased God whereas Cain's did not. God said of Cain's offering "if you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7)
Comment: Perhaps what Cain offered, or his attitude was unacceptable or both. He may have not offered the best he had, he may have offered something not authorized or he offered exactly what was required but offered out of duty or command not from attitude of love. Whatever the situation, God was not pleased and Cain knew why. The consequence of his actions was the earth would not yield its fruits for him and he would become a restless wanderer.
Comment: Adam and Eve's greatest pain may have been when Cain killed Abel. Sin was present before the murder as Cain's heart was not pure and godly. Their pain must have increased when Cain departed becoming a wanderer. (Genesis 6: 1-3, 5-8)
"By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith." (Hebrews 11:7)
God told Noah what he must do to save the righteous people from perishing in the impending flood. No doubt these instructions appeared to be unusual but very explicit. Noah may have even questioned how a boat made only from one kind of wood exactly so long, wide and high with only one window and door could possibly save him and his family. However, he began building immediately warning others of the consequences of their rebellious and sinful lifestyle. After the ark was completed Noah and his family entered the ark and God caused the animals that breathed air to come into the ark. After God closed the door, He opened the fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven to flood the earth. After days and months, the waters abated. Then Noah, his family and the animals came out of the ark.
Noah immediately built an altar, offered a sacrifice and worshipped God. This offering pleased God "The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: 'Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. Never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.'" (Genesis 8:21-22) God also gave man some more instructions.
- "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you
- Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything,
- But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.
- For your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will
demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man,
too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
- Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.
- As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it." (Genesis 9:3-7)
"Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:28-32)
Comment: Note the parallel in Noah's time, the 1st century and today's situation:
a. The people were sinful and we are sinners - Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
b. They were about to die and we may also - John 8:24a "I told you that you would die in your sins."
c. Noah was told what to do to save the righteous and so have we - John 8:24b "if you do not believe that I (Jesus) am (the Christ, the Son of God), you will indeed die in your sins."
d. All the people of Noah's time had a choice to make and we also have a choice - 2 Corinthians 6:2b "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."
Comment: In only six chapters of the first book of the Bible we have seen three situations where people disobeyed God's commandments, substituting them for their own desires; one disobeyed because it was pleasing to the eye and something to be desired to make them wise, one disobeyed by presenting an offering, an act of worship, that was not pleasing to God and one group disobeyed as the thoughts and intent of their mind was evil continually. God was displeased in every case, judging their actions against His standard, against His Word. A righteous God, their creator, established the consequences He considered appropriate for their action.
Looking for The Promised Messiah
Terah became the father of Abram. After becoming an adult, God made a promise to Abram. "The LORD had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'" (Genesis 12:1-3) God changed Abram's name to Abraham when He established His covenant with him. So, Abraham left his home and went to Canaan.
Comment:"By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:9-10) It should be clear that God's promise to Abraham was to all mankind rather than to one nation, since it would be more than 400 years before Israel became a nation.
Abraham and Sarah, his wife, were childless even though God had promised they would have many descendants. They became impatient with God to fulfill his promise of a son. Using human reasoning, they took matters into their own hands. Their impatient action caused great conflicts later between Ishmael's descendants, Abraham's first born by Sarah's handmaid, and those of Isaac, Abraham's and Sarah's son of promise. God waited until it was physically impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have a child so when they did have one there would be no doubt that it was a direct result of God's promise and their faith. (Hebrews 11:11-12)
Abraham became the father of many nations and known as the father of the faithful, but he was not without sin. He lied on more than one occasion. When confronted by God he repented and put his faith and trust in Him. It is through descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that a savior would come into the world to redeem the obedient faithful.
"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, 'I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.'" (Genesis 17:1-2)
Comment:The covenant was sealed by Abraham's obedience to God's command to circumcise all males. This was hundreds of years before the Law was given to Moses. About a year later Isaac was born and Abraham circumcised him on the eighth day according to the covenant.
Later, when Isaac was older, God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering sacrifice. This was a test of Abraham's faith. Abraham reasoned that since God gave him Isaac when it was physically impossible for him and Sarah to have a son then He could bring Isaac back from the dead in order to fulfill his promise.
What is so significant about this relationship between God and Abraham? First and foremost, God requires faithful obedience. Through Abraham's faith God's promise to provide a way for man to be reconciled to Him was initiated, a hint of God's mystery. It would not be realized until years later when Jesus of Nazareth, through complete obedient faithfulness, would offer himself as the atoning sacrifice for man's sins. It was through Isaac, the son of promise, not Ishmael his first born, that the covenant would be continued as Jesus was a descendant of Isaac through David.
It was God's promise that through Abraham all peoples of the earth would be blessed. Therefore, there is no way mankind can earn reconciliation. It is a promise and matter of attitude, faith and obedience to Jesus, the Christ, His Word, the Message of Reconciliation. It should not be so amazing that God blesses the faithful obedient and disinherits the rebellious disobedient.
Because of problems between herdsmen of Abraham and Lot, his nephew, Abraham allowed Lot to choose his land and Abraham would take another area. Lot chose the better area near the city of Sodom. "And the LORD said, 'Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.'" (Genesis 18:20-21)
Before God sent angels to destroy Sodom, He revealed His plans to Abraham who pleaded with God to save Sodom because of righteous people living there. But there were so few. So, God's angels in the form of men appeared at evening entering the city of Sodom. When Lot saw these visitors, he insisted they enter his house under his protection.
The wickedness of Sodom is clearly seen in the following; "Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.' So, Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, "Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 'See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.' And they said, 'Stand back!' Then they said, 'This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.' So, they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the angels reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door." (Genesis 19:4-10)
The angels explained to Lot the purpose of their mission so "When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, 'Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.'" ... "'Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.' The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD out of the heavens. So, He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground." (Genesis 19:15, 23-25)
God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because of disobedience. God destroyed by water all people --because of the wickedness of man and the evil intent of his heart-- except Noah, his family and selected animals. Then He destroyed Sodom by fire because of grievous wickedness. It should be evident that disobedience and wickedness is not tolerated by God and those who practice such will also be destroyed unless they turn from their wickedness and obey the will of God.
God called Abraham while he was living in Ur of the Chaldees to go to a far country. He had no place to call home; only a promise that his descendants would one day have a home. Abraham's descendants would ultimately become enslaved by the Egyptian. God delivered the Children of Israel from slavery through Moses to go to the land of their inheritance, the land where Abraham had wandered.
Comment: This is very similar to our short stay here on earth amid wickedness being slaves to sin. God through Christ will deliver man from slavery of sin to a home in Heaven, if man puts his trust in Christ by obeying His commands and live faithfully to Him.
The Children of Israel's journey into that far country, Egypt, began with a cowardly act by Jacob's sons against a younger brother, Joseph, when they sold him to a band of Ishmaelites, descendants of Abraham's first-born son Ishmael. They sold him as a common slave and then deceived Jacob into believing Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph remained faithful to God and God used him in his plan to create a mighty nation from Abraham's descendants. This nation would occur after years of slavery in a nation who worshipped man-made gods rather than Almighty God.
Comment: Do people professing to be God's people allow Him to use them, like Joseph did?
After some four hundred years in Egypt Moses was born. Pharaoh ordered all Hebrew children be killed. "By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict." (Hebrews 11:23)
Moses was found by Pharaoh's daughter who had compassion on him. Moses' sister summoned her mother and "Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.' So, the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, 'I drew him out of the water.'" (Exodus 2:9-10)
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:24-27)
Comment: After being trained in all the ways of the Egyptians for forty years, God trained Moses another forty years as a herdsman before calling him to lead Abraham's descendants from the bondage of slavery to the land promised long ago to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Because of these former slaves' lack of faith and obedience, it took forty years before they were ready to obey and claim their promised land. Even though this land was given to them by God's grace they had to fight God's enemies to inhabit it.
Comment: Today mankind is under the bondage of sin. By God's grace, the gift of His Son, we can be freed from the bondage of sin by the blood of Christ. It takes continued obedience and faithfulness for us to reach Heaven, our promised land, while always fighting the enemies of God.
At the appropriate time Moses' mother took Moses to Pharaoh's daughter. "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not." (Acts 7:22-25)
Comment: "I thought" can cause a heap of trouble. Instead of allowing God to guide our paths.
Moses, in fear resulting from his rash action he fled from Pharaoh, going to the land of Midian. He humbled himself as a shepherd for forty years, after which God was ready for him to deliver the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from the bondage of physical slavery, a symbol of our slavery to sin. God gave Pharaoh and the Egyptians ten opportunities to choose obedience over destruction. Pharaoh appeared to recognize God's power but with each passing opportunity it was easier for him to refuse. After the death of his first born he told the Israelites to leave. But he changed his mind and pursued them to bring them back to slavery.
It was at the Red Sea, that the Israelites had to make a choice to obey God or return to slavery. It was also there that Pharaoh and his army were buried in the waters of the sea. A new nation, freed from slavery, arose on the other side.
Comment: At the Red Sea Pharaoh thought he could lead his army through the sea like Moses did. This is also like our flight from sin. At the cross of Christ, we must make a decision and if we want to bury our sinful master in the waters of baptism in order to arise as a new creation. Paul stated in Romans 6:3-7 "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."
The Israelites did not enter into Canaan, their promised land, immediately as their faith was weak. They rejected the report of Joshua and Caleb who trusted in God. Consequently, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, near their promised land, for forty years, never entering the Promised Land. It wasn't until all males over twenty died (except Joshua and Caleb) that they would be allowed to enter the Promised Land. God prohibited Moses from entering or leading the Israelites into Canaan. Instead it was Joshua, Moses' faithful aide who was chosen to lead them. Once they put their faith in God and obeyed him, they were allowed to enter their Promised Land.
Comment: While we wander here on earth, we must also be faithfully obedient to God in order to be reconciled and able to enter our Heavenly Promised Land. How many like Pharaoh thought they could continue on their journey without God?
Tables of Stone Covenant
God performed many miracles of blessing upon the Israelites, the most prominent being the leading thousands of slaves toward a land promised years before to Abraham.
Three months after they departed Egypt and around four hundred years after God's promise to Abraham the Israelites camped at Sinai. Here God appeared and delivered to Moses His commandments. "The Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.'" (Exodus 24:12) We refer to them as the Ten Commandments and they are listed below.
- "You shall have no other gods before me.
- "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.:
- "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
- "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
- "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
- "You shall not murder.
- "You shall not commit adultery.
- "You shall not steal.
- "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
- . "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:3-17)
Begin comments on the "Covenant":
Read the commandments again and notice that they are laws, rules, regulations, things to do and things not to do. Did you find any statement of forgiveness or faith? NO! This covenant was designed to bring man to Christ and making them aware of sin. It was to be replaced by a new covenant that forgives wickedness.
But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more'." "By calling this covenant 'new,' he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." (Hebrews 8:8-13)
When Jesus came, he preached a message of repentance, a message of God's grace and of faith, love and reconciliation. His mission was "to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." (John 4:34)
Jesus opened the way to obtain forgiveness of sin by willingly giving his life as the atoning sacrifice for OUR sins, to all who believe in Him and who "wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted." (Romans 6:17)
"But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So, the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." (Galatians 3:22-25)
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14)
God's love and mercy provided the perfect blood sacrifice in His Son. Christ's death established the "new covenant", providing for forgiveness of sins and freedom from sin to all who obey the call to repentance and obedience. (Read Hebrews 9:16-28)
"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (James 2:8-13)
End of comments on the "Covenant"
After God's Heart
After being delivered from Egyptian slavery and receiving a land flowing with milk and honey, Israel was governed by judges that God selected. But the Israelites wanted to be like all the nations around them. They rejected God and wanted a king. So, God gave them a king; Saul. He ruled by what the people wanted - rule by opinion - rather than as an obedient servant of God. Therefore, Samuel, at God's direction, anointed David as king, one who would obey him. Many times, David had to flee from Saul because Saul was hunting him down like a common criminal desiring to kill him. Yet, in spite of this David refused to do anything against God's anointed.
After Saul's death David became king. God said of David: "'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.' From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised." (Acts 13:22-23)
On one occasion David's men were among the flocks of a very wealthy man named Nabal, and while there, they dealt honorably with him protecting him, not mistreating his herdsmen or taking anything that belonged to him. Later David was nearby, his men were hungry and in need of food so David requested assistance, but Nabal, a surly man known for his mean dealings, refused David's request in a harsh and disrespectful manner. David became very angry, intending to kill him, but he repented, allowing God to exercise his judgment.
But not everything was godly in David's life. Instead of going to battle with his army he remained at home. There, he saw a lovely woman, lusted for her and sent for her to commit adultery. Learning she was pregnant by him; David ordered the murder of her husband to cover up his sin. Terrible? Yes! Pleasing to God? No! David desired fleshly satisfaction and yielded to the temptation. He suffered much for this sin. But when confronted by Nathan, the messenger from God, he admitted his wickedness, repented and pleaded for forgiveness. Although forgiven, he still suffered the consequences of his sinful actions.
Comment: No doubt David's heartfelt attitude, his remorse and desire for forgiveness in order to be reconciled to God is why God would say "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will." (Acts 13:22)
Comment: This is everyone's situation today. We have all sinned, need the proper attitude toward our sin to be reconciled to God.
God promised David that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever, referring to Jesus, the Christ, whose kingdom will have no end. It was Christ who; without sin, totally obeying God, and willingly giving his life as the atoning sacrifice for us, thus fulfilling God's promise to David and Abraham.
Prophecies about the Messiah and their Fulfilment
God spoke directly to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob during the era many refer to as the "Patriarchal Age." During the establishment of the nation of Israel, God spoke to Moses, Joshua and then their judges. While Samuel was the judge, the people rebelled against God's leadership by demanding a king. During the reign of the kings God delivered His message through men we refer to as "prophets." All prophets delivered God's message to the Children of Israel but not all delivered prophecies about the coming Messiah. Over hundreds of years more than 50 prophecies are recorded, by many different prophets, all of which were fulfilled in Jesus.
A few prophesies and their New Testament fulfillment are listed below.
Malachi 3:1 "Watch out! I'm sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the LORD you are looking for will come to his Temple. He is the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Watch out! He is coming!" says the LORD of the Heavenly Armies."
Matthew 2:1-2 "After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who was born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Genesis 49:10 "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
Luke 3:23 - 38 The genealogy of Jesus is tracing His linage back through David all the way to Adam.
Jeremiah 23:5 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land."
Matthew 1:1 This is a record of the life of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Isaiah 7:13-14 "And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (meaning God with us)."
Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah happened in this way. When his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, before they lived together, she was discovered to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:31-33 Hundreds of years later the angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary she would have a son and "shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most-High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Micah 5:2 "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."
Mathew 2:1-6 "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod… King Herod …called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied.''
Zechariah 9:9 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
Matthew 21:6-7 "And the disciples went, and did even as Jesus appointed them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their garments; and he sat thereon."
Isaiah 53:5 "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
Matthew 27:26 "Then released he unto them Barabbas; but Jesus he scourged and delivered to be crucified."
Isaiah 53:7 "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth."
Matthew 27:12-14 "While Jesus was being accused by the high priests and elders, he made no reply. Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear how many charges they're bringing against you?" But Jesus did not reply at all, so that the governor was very surprised."
Isaiah 53:9 "And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth."
Matthew 27:57-60 "Later that evening, a rich man arrived from Arimathea. His name was Joseph, and he had become a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and Pilate ordered it to be done. So, Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. Then he placed it in his own new tomb, which he had cut out of the rock. After rolling a large stone across the door of the tomb, he left."
Christ - The Promise of God
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, which resulted from the breakdown of a perfect relationship with God, man has needed to be reconciled to God. It was necessary for their sins to be washed away and their guilt removed.
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, which resulted in his fall from a perfect relationship with God, man has needed to be reconciled to God. He needed to have his sins washed away and his guilt removed. At just the perfect time and by action of the Holy Spirit, God became flesh to dwell among men. The Holy Spirit performed a miracle allowing Mary to become pregnant without sexual relations with man. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary and later an angel announced to Joseph about how God would be using them to bring the Messiah, God's anointed one, to earth to save mankind from their sins. Both were willing to become servants of God regardless of how people would treat them and their son Jesus or what they would say about them. They only wanted to obey and be used by God.
"She (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:7-11)
"At the age of twelve He (Jesus) chose to linger in Jerusalem in the temple to listen to the teachers and to ask and answer questions. It is uncertain if any of these teachers, years later, were among the leaders who sought His death. When Joseph and Mary questioned Jesus about His decision to stay in Jerusalem, He replied" ... 'How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?'" (Luke 2:49)
Upon returning to Nazareth Jesus "... was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:51-52)
John The Baptist's Announcement"In the beginning was the Word, and >the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-10, 14)
John preached a baptism for repentance and it was said all Judah came to John to be baptized. (baptizo, a Greek word meaning immersion). "Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him asking, 'Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?' 'I baptize with water,' John replied, 'but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.'" ... "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.'" (John 1:24-31)
About the age of thirty Jesus left home to begin to accomplish His purpose for leaving Heaven and coming to Earth as the "Word".
Jesus - The Beloved Son of God
While John the Baptist was baptizing unto repentance. "Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John consented." And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:13-17)
Comment: This confirmed what John had said prior to Jesus coming to be baptism "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
Following His baptism "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the desert and where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry." (Luke 4:1-2) Then the Devil tempted Him in all things like we are tempted:
- Desire for food - lust of the flesh
- Desire for power - pride of life
- Desire for things - lust of the eye,
Jesus faced each challenge and temptation without yielding stating "it is written." The devil then left for a more opportune time.
Comment:We need to base our choices and decisions on the will of the Father and in what "is written". Therefore, it is imperative for us to be diligent in our study of His words and the words of the apostles to know what to do to have our sins forgiven and how to live acceptable before God.
Jesus Begins His Ministry
Jesus left the area where He was tempted and "returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'
'Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. 'Isn't this Joseph's son?' they asked. … (He continued speaking to them and) all the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way." (Luke 4:14-22, 29-30)
After a short conversation with the Samaritan woman who came to draw water at Jacob's well, the woman said to Jesus "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." (John 4:7…26)
A short time later Jesus began selecting those He would teach to be his messengers following His resurrection. At the appropriate time Jesus would begin proving to all that He was God who had come to earth to live among men becoming the perfect sacrifice for man's sins. He did this by the perfect life He lived, the miracles He performed openly before great crowds. The statements by John the Baptist, God himself and the Holy Spirit -who descended upon Jesus like a dove- also point to Jesus as the perfect sacrifice.
Miracles, Signs and Wonders
Jesus did not receive any formal training in rabbinical schools. However, people recognized that he spoke with authority, not like other religious leaders; the rabbis, priests, Pharisees, Scribes. To these "learned men" Jesus was very pointed in His remarks calling them hypocrites, and blind guides as their hearts, minds and attitudes, were so prideful, arrogant, haughty, jealous and willing to stop at nothing to maintain their place in society. They even attributed His many miracles to the Devil rather than giving glory to God. Matthew records the following about them in chapter 23: vv.
3 - "For they do not practice what they preach."
5 - "Everything they do is done for men to see."
6 - "They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important
seats in the synagogues."
13 - "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you ypocrites!"
16 - "Woe to you, blind guides!"
33 - "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being
condemned to hell?"
The Scribes, Pharisees and other religious leaders tried many ways to trap Jesus into contradictions but failed. They challenged His authority but failed. (Luke 20 and Mark 12)
John the Baptist told his followers that Jesus was the "Lamb of God". God announced at Jesus' baptism that Jesus was his Son and He was well pleased with Him. Christ began telling the Jews about the Kingdom of God, proving His words by very powerful miracles that no one could deny, not even His enemies. On two occasions they were performed before thousands of people when He fed them from only a few pieces of fish and bread. Once He stopped a funeral procession to bring back to life an only child of a widow. He healed people who had been blind or crippled all their lives, which everyone in the town knew. Lastly, he went to a cemetery, opened the grave and brought back to life a body that was already decaying. All these statements and miracles proved to the honest and sincere people that Jesus was the Son of God. They believed.
Many people benefited from these miracles. Even those full of envy, jealousy and covetousness had to acknowledge that miracles had been performed. The hypocritical religious leaders rejected him because of their desire for power and prestige. In doing so they even violated their own laws and traditions which they outwardly professed to uphold. But the religious leaders did not believe. They wanted "proof". Proof direct from God in Heaven not the God on earth.
The Gospel of Christ
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us." (1 John 1:1-2)
It is in Christ that we are reconciled to God for "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)
- Redemption is found in Christ; therefore, Christ must be the Good News, the Gospel, which is summed up as follows:
- " In the beginning was the Word, Jesus, Christ, Anointed One, Messiah.
- " The Word became flesh and lived among men.
- " Christ had no sin.
- " Jesus was obedient to the Father's will even His death on the cross.
- " God resurrected Him from the grave thereby conquering death and freeing man from Satan's grip - the direct result of sin.
- " The cleansing of sin follows one's belief in Christ, a change (repentance) from a life of disobedience, death to sin and a burial by immersion in water into Christ's death to be raised by God who then put them into Christ's Kingdom, His church - Body.
His disciples had heard His message, His parables and explanations and witnessed His miracles. They had witnessed those raised from the dead, the blind made to see, the deaf to hear and the denial of such by their religious leaders. But there were many things they needed to know so Jesus said "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." (John 16:12-14)
Therefore, Christ offered to God His earthly body as atoning sacrifice allowing the Romans and Jews to crucify Him. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. God accepted His offering by resurrecting Him from the grave which removed all doubt for many people that Jesus was God who came to earth in the flesh of man, His creation. This was necessary as men need to know they could put their trust in Christ and in His power and authority to forgive sins.
The masses had heard His teachings but did not understand. They were very different than their traditions. His was a message of Love. As shown in the following scriptures.
Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
Acts 4:11-12 "This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
1 Corinthians 15:3-5 "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures."
Romans 6:3-5 "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized (buried or immersed) into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."
Ephesians 1:6-9 "In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us."
Before the "Good News" message could become available, an atonement for sins was necessary. Jesus, who lived a sinless life, would freely give his life as the "blood sacrifice" required. Therefore, Jesus' Good News offers man a choice to accept or reject God's offer of forgiveness and salvation.
Time Has Come for The Atoning Sacrifice
As Jesus was preparing for His atoning sacrifice, He said; "'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.' After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.' ... 'I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.'" (John 16:33; 17:1-8, 14-19)
Comment: "Sanctify" means - separation from the world - setting apart for God's service. [Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary]
"When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So, Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?' 'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 'I am he' Jesus said. … Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. … Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 'I have spoken openly to the world,' Jesus replied. 'I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.' When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. 'Is this the way you answer the high priest?' he demanded. 'If I said something wrong,' Jesus replied, 'testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?' Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest. … Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. … Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' … 'Is that your own idea' Jesus asked, 'or did others talk to you about me?' 'Am I a Jew?' Pilate replied. 'It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?' Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.' 'You are a king, then!' said Pilate. Jesus answered, 'You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.' " (John 18:1-5, 12-13, 19-24, 28, 33-37)
He (Pilate) went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him. … Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'? They shouted back, 'No, not him!' … Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head." (John 18:38-19:2)
Begin comment on "Scourging":
Preparations for the scourging (flogging) were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes.
The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back, and legs. At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.
[Adapted from - "A Physician Testifies About the Crucifixion, Dr. C. Truman Davis. konnections.com/Kcundick/crucifix.html"]
End of comment on "Scourging"
Christ's Crucifixion - The Atoning Sacrifice
"Finally, Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So, the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others - one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, 'Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.' Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.'" (John 19:16-22)
Begin comment on "Crucifixion":
The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again, there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.
After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed.
In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return His garments. The heavy patibulum of the cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion begins its slow journey along Via Dolorosa. In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance.
The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock, until the 650-yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed.
Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action being careful not to pull the arms to tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" is nailed in place.
The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The Victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain -- the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.
At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded.
[Adapted from - "A Physician Testifies About the Crucifixion," Dr. C. Truman Davis, konnections.com/Kcundick/crucifix.html]
End of comment on "Crucifixion"
"From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' - which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' … When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely he was the Son of God!'" (Matthew 27:45-46, 50-54)
Comment: John adds "Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.' A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:28-30)
Comment: The curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy --where God's presence was before Babylon captivity-- was torn from top to bottom allowing every Jew to see and have access to the Holy of Holies.
Comment: It is significant that the curtain was torn from top indicating not done by man.
Comment: "But now in Christ Jesus you, all non-Jews, who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations." (Ephesians 2:13-15)
"Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: 'Not one of his bones will be broken,' and, as another scripture says, 'They will look on the one they have pierced.'" (John 19:31-37)
"Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. … He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away." (John 19:38-42; Matthew 27:60)
"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, 'Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?' But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 'Don't be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." (Mark 16:1-8)
Comment:: Matthew stated there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. (Matthew 28:3)
"But Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?' 'They have taken my Lord away,' she said, 'and I don't know where they have put him.' At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 'Woman,' he said, 'why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?' Thinking he was the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.' Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means Teacher). Jesus said, 'Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers (brethren) and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: 'I have seen the Lord!' And she told them that he had said these things to her." (John 20:11-18)
"Some of the guards (guarding Jesus' tomb) went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, 'You are to say, His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.' So, the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed." (Matthew 28:11-15)
"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. … (they said) we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. … He (Jesus) said to them, 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, 'Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.' So, he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight." (Luke 24:13-31)
"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'" (John 20:19-23)
"The two that were on the road to Emmaus returned to the eleven in Jerusalem and while they were talking Jesus stood among them. … "He said to them, 'This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.' Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.'" (Luke 24:38, 44-49)
"'A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'" (John 20:26-27)
Christ, "The Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:15, 16) said to His disciples that He would create a group of "called out people" (church) that God would put into a Kingdom which would come with power during the lifetime of some present.
He was more specific about the time His Kingdom would come when "he said to them, 'I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'" (Mark 9:1)
Comment: Therefore, we see Christ would be establishing his church during the lifetime of some of his hearers.
Shortly after Jesus told Judas that he would betray Him, He said, "'You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'" (Luke 22:28-30)
Comment: Some believe the apostles were put into Christ's church at this time as He appointed to them His Kingdom.
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:1-3)
As He was ready to return to God, the Father, "Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20)
"He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'" (Mark 16:15-17)
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So, when they met together, they asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'"
"He said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight."
"They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.' Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." (Acts 1:1-14)
Comment: For the first time following the sin of Adam and Eve, man would soon have a way opened for them to be reconciled to God.
What Some Secular Writers Wrote About Jesus
Even though it is in the Bible that Jesus is revealed, there is considerable evidence outside the Bible confirming that Jesus is a historical person, just as the Bible presents him. These external writings corroborate what the Bible tells about him. Notice some ancient historians who mention Jesus.
Matthew states "They had crucified him … and sitting down, they kept watch over him there … from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land." (Matthew 27:35-36; 45-46)
Mark put it this way "At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour." (Mark 15:33)
Thallus, a Samaritan-born historian who lived and worked in Rome about A.D. 52, quoted by Julius Africanus, a Christian chronographer of the late second century. "Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun." Africanus stated his objection to the report arguing that an eclipse of the sun cannot occur during the full moon, as was the case when Jesus died at Passover time. The force of the reference to Thallus is that the circumstances of Jesus' death were known and discussed in the Imperial City as early as the middle of the first century. The fact of Jesus' crucifixion must have been fairly well known by that time, to the extent that unbelievers like Thallus thought it necessary to explain the matter of the darkness as a natural phenomenon. ... Ironically, Thallus' efforts have been turned into the mainstream of historical proof for Jesus and for the reliability of Mark's account of the darkness at his death." [F. F. Bruce, "The New Testament Documents," Eerdmens, p. 113 cited by Edward C. Wharton, "Christianity: A Clear Case of History" Howard p. 7]
A manuscript in the British Museum preserves the text of a letter sent to his son by a Syrian named Mara Bar-Serapion. Most scholars date it to shortly after 73. AD during the first century. The father illustrated the folly of persecuting wise men like Socrates, Pythagoras, and the wise king of the Jews, which the context obviously shows to be Jesus. "What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the seas; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. … Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which He had given". [British Museum Syriac Mss., F. F. Bruce, "Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament", p. 31. cited by Edward C. Wharton in his book "Christianity: A Clear Case of History"]
A Roman historian living from about AD 50 to AD 100 wrote regarding Nero's fire. "Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus."
["The Annals and the Histories," 15:44. From Britannica Great Books, Vol. 15, p. 168. cited by Edward C. Wharton in his book "Christianity: A Clear Case of History"]
A Roman governor in AD 112 wrote Emperor Trajan "They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang an anthem to Christ as God, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to commit any wicked deed ... after which it was their custom to separate, and then meet again to partake of food, but food of an ordinary kind." ["Epistles," 10:96. cited by Edward C. Wharton in his book "Christianity: A Clear Case of History"]
An analyst and court official of the Imperial House during the reign of Hadrian wrote about AD 120 in the Life of Claudius. "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he (Claudius) expelled them from Rome." Edward C. Wharton states: "The reason for the fame of this quotation is due to the fact that Luke, some sixty years earlier, had recorded this same incident as the reason for the apostle Paul yoking up with a Christian Jewish couple named Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-2). Again, the mention of Christ in the historical context is observed in extra-biblical literature."
[Edward C. Wharton, "Christianity: A Clear Case of History," Howard p. 11]
Josephus was a first-century Romano-Jewish historian who was born in Jerusalem-then part of Roman Judea- in AD 33. Josephus has an interesting observation. "And there arose about this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should call him a man; for he was a doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth with pleasure. He won over many Jews and also many Greeks. This man was the Messiah. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross at the instigation of our own leaders, those who had loved him from the first did not cease. For he appeared to them on the third day alive again, as the prophets had predicted and said many other wonderful things about him. And even now the race of Christians, so named after him, has not yet died out. ["Antiquities," 18,3.3. cited by Edward C. Wharton in his book "Christianity: A Clear Case of History" Howard p.11]
Early Jewish And Gentile Writers
The following quote from F. F. Bruce summarizes this very clearly. "Whatever else may be thought of the evidence from early Jewish and Gentile writers...it does at least establish, for those who refuse the witness of Christian writings, the historical character of Jesus himself. Some writers may toy with the fancy of a 'Christ-myth,' but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic (self-evident) for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the 'Christ-myth' theories." [F. F. Bruce, "The New Testament Documents." P. 119. cited by Edward C. Wharton in his book "Christianity: A Clear Case of History"]
The Church Christ Established
Establishing Christ's Church
Before Jesus ascended back to Heaven, He told His disciples "do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised." Then "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place" … "all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit" and they began to speak in languages (tongues) they did not know or understand. A crowd gathered so Peter told them about the Messiah that they had crucified and preached repentance and forgiveness of sins. "And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4)
The great sound of rushing wind brought a great crowd to the assembled apostles. Peter and the other apostles seized the opportunity to remind them of what they and their religious leaders had done, stating, "'Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.' When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call.'" (Acts 2:36-39)
Comment: Those who were "far off" were those not included under the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant - the Samaritans and gentiles.
Comment: "Repentance is not a mere feeling; it has not the uncertainty of moods and sentiments. It is not a simple change in the weather of the soul. It is a distinct alteration of the focus of the intelligence; it carries with it a movement of the will; in short, it is a revolution in the very ground of the man's being." ["Reflection" by Al Maxey]
"So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." … "And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number (those already in the Kingdom, His Church) day by day those who were being saved." (Acts 2:41-42, 46-47)
A short time later Luke records "The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together, assembled, in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number." (Acts 5:12-15)
"So, the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)
But things changed, Jewish leaders who had rejected Jesus and His miracles by crucifying Jesus now turned against His people, that body of obedient disciples referred to as His Church. "... On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." (Acts 8:1) "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison." (Acts 8:3) This persecution resulted in even greater growth as "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." (Acts 8:4)
Comment:Since "persecution" was against the church, then the church must have been established sometime earlier.
Comment: These "scattered" persecuted Christians preached the Word wherever they went. The word "preached" is from the Greek word euaggelizo meaning to evangelize, not from the Greek word kerux meaning a herald generally translated "preach." These Christians (who were not professional preachers) taught about Christ. They were not trained in religious schools but were dedicated to Christ.
Samaritans and Simon
Later Phillip, the evangelist, went to Samaria. "But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles. ... When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money. ... Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.'" (Acts 8:12-13; 18; 20-22)
Eunuch from Ethiopia
"Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked. 'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?' So, he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. ... Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?'… And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him." (Acts 8:30-31; 35-38)
"Meanwhile, Cornelius was expecting Peter and had called together his relatives and close friends stating, 'we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.' ... Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.... He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.' ... Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' So, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days." (Acts 10:24; 34-35; 42-43; 46b-48)
Saul of Tarsus
Saul was a devout and scholarly Jew who refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah and was zealous in persecuting Christian Jews. "He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. … For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. … But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man (Saul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.' Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here - has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized." (Acts 9:1-18)
Paul, previously known as Saul, was now preaching the Gospel in Antioch. "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So, after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:2-3)
Comment: Their work was to proclaim the Gospel to all non-Jews - Gentiles.
Much later Saul, now known as Paul, stated to the Galatian Christians: "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia (for three years) and later returned to Damascus." (Galatians 1:15-17)
Comment: Notice it was God who revealed Christ to Paul - not the apostles.
Gospel to the Gentiles
Over a period of years Paul proclaimed Christ and Him Crucified (the Gospel) to Jews and non-Jews alike. Paul stated "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..." (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into (union with) Christ Jesus were baptized (immersed) into his death? We were buried with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." (Romans 6:3-5)
Luke records in Acts that Paul went to many places the following are a few of those listed:
Perga in Pamphylia - where almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul. (Acts 13:13a)
Iconium - "Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed." (Acts 14:1)
Philippi - "One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us." (Acts 16:14-15)
Philippi - "The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized." (Acts 16:29-33)
Ephesus -Paul left the synagogue and took the disciples with him to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Where he taught the word of the Lord to Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19)
Corinth - "Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:7-8)
Corinth - "While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' They answered, 'No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.' So, Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?' 'John's baptism,' they replied. Paul said, 'John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.' On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:1-5)
Rome - Under the penalty of death Paul was escorted by Roman soldiers to Rome, the Imperial city, "where for two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 28:30-31)
Comment: Those "called out" of sin into God's righteousness are the church. All who are put into Christ Body are to be "living sacrifices" constantly doing God's will, worshipping and glorifying God.
Comment: The church assembles together to fellowship as brothers, encouraging each other to faithful obedience, doing good by helping the needy and telling others Christ's message of forgiveness and salvation.
Their Choice - Our Choice
In all the cases mentioned above, people wanted to know "What must they do?" This was first asked of Peter on Pentecost Day. They…
- Understand that Jesus of Nazareth was God in human form.
- Heard the Gospel message - atoning sacrifice, a burial, resurrection and a return to God the Father in Heaven.
- Were convicted of the sin.
- Asked "what shall we do?"
- Accepted the Gospel message:
Were added to Jesus' disciples who were previously forgiven.
Devoted themselves to:
- By repenting, changing from a sinful life to a righteous one.
- Were immersed in the name of Jesus for forgiveness of sins.
- Following their burial, they were put into the Kingdom by God.
- Received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- The apostles' teaching
- The breaking of bread
Comment: The choice to accept or reject Christ's message of reconciliation is always available to everyone.
Comment: Everyone made a decision that day. They either accepted or rejected Christ as God and His offer of forgiveness and salvation. Those who accepted were added to Christ's Church.
Comment: The church is not some building or organization as some think. It is a body of those "called out" of a sinful life into a holy and righteous life through obedience.
The Organized and Functioning Church
All who hear the Gospel and accept it by faith, and are baptized into Christ's death, are put into His Body. "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:4-5)
Comment:No one member is any more or less important than another as each member has their own function for the body to function properly.
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:" (Romans 12:3-6)
The context of "gifts" is the ability to perform a task, work or function for the good of those in the Body.
Christians have functions to perform -NOT offices or positions to hold. Some of these functions are: prophesy, teach, serve, encourage, give, lead (administer) and show mercy. (Romans 12:6-8)
Ephesians 4:11-12 - "He gave some as
- apostles (apóstoloi - a messenger, one sent forth with orders)
- prophets (prophétés - one through whom God speaks),
- evangelists (euaggelistés - a bringer of good tidings)
- pastors and teachers (poiménas - shepherd and didaskálous -instructors) for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up (encouraging) of the body of Christ.
Apóstoloi - one sent forth, a messenger. The word "apostle" is used of the Lord Jesus to describe His relation to God, "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus." (Hebrews 3:1)
Apostello - set apart, to send out, John 17:3. "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." An apostle of Jesus was "one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us - one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." (Acts 1:21- 22)
Comment: The apostles were given to Jesus by God. (John 17:6) The appointing of apostles appears to have ceased following the selection of Mathias by casting lots for God to choose, except for Paul who was appointed as an apostle to the Gentiles.
Prophétés - a) a foreteller, b) an inspired speaker. The "prophet" proclaimed the message given to him, as the "seer" beheld the vision of God. (See Numbers 12:6, 8.) Thus, a prophet was a spokesman for God; he spoke in God's name and by his authority (Exodus 7:1). He is the mouth by which God spoke to men (Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 51:16). 1 Corinthians 13:8 states that the need for prophecies, thus prophets, would cease: "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they would cease."
Comment: "Cease" is from the Greek word katargeó meaning to make idle (inactive), make of no effect, annul, abolish, bring to naught [Strong's Concordance]
Euaggelistés - one who proclaims good tidings, good news, the Gospel. Only Philip and Timothy were specifically called evangelists. Philip taught the gospel and Timothy assisted Paul in teaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. One who goes forth to proclaim may go far or near and he could stay for a longer period of time in one location than another, as in the case of Paul. No doubt the receptivity of hearers was a criterion to determine whether to stay or go. One may also feel compelled to remain in one area, perhaps even longer than originally intended, until they have completed the task, they set out to accomplish.
On Pentecost Day those who accepted God's message delivered by Peter and the other apostles were immersed (baptized) and "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42-43)
Paul evangelized - taught the gospel: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) The "seed" is the Word which Paul taught to those who did not know Christ. Apollos taught Christians the way of the Lord, perhaps like Priscilla and Aquila who explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:26)
Comment: "Watered" comes from the Greek word epótisen which means - give to drink; irrigate, water. Evangelists, heralds and preachers are to proclaim the Good News. The more mature Christians such as the watchmen, sentinels, shepherds skilled in instructing, taught them how to live sacrificial lives pleasing to God, helping them to mature into the nature of God.
"Then Philip, (the evangelist), opened his mouth, and
beginning with this Scripture he told, him (Ethiopian eunuch) the good news, (The Gospel) Jesus." (Acts 8:35)
Pastors and Teachers (Teaching-Pastors)
Elders, (pastors, overseers, guardians, sentinels, watchmen, bishops) are English words describing a specific function or work. Some translators consider this an office or position rather than a function - describing the work assigned to perform - even though Paul called it a work (érgou -work, labor, deed) 1 Timothy 3:1. Three Greek words describe the function of the teaching-pastors:
- presbuteros - a spiritual mature person with experience - elder, older, senior.
- eepiskopeés - a sentinel / guardian - one who watches over and alerts of pending danger.
- poiménas - shepherd who tends to physical but primarily spiritual needs of those under his care.
Comment: God puts the saved into Christ's Church under the care of these men desiring this function.
Comment: Christians do not request the shepherds of a congregation to take them under their care since the Holy Spirit who puts them there.
Men desiring to perform the function of an elder are to meet certain spiritual criteria and character traits recorded in 1Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
|hold firmly to the message
||be faithful to Christ and know Him and His apostles' teachings
||not open to censure
|good reputation, blameless
||good reputation with outsiders
|the husband of one wife
||not a polygamist
|temperate, sober minded
||uses good judgment
||disciplined, not a "loose cannon"
|| orderly, good behavior
||takes care of the needs of others
|able to teach ("apt" - KJV)
||powerful in communicating |
|not given to drunkenness
||not drink excessively no brawler |
|not a striker (violent)
||not combative or quick tempered |
||kind and considerate of others |
||not contentious - argumentative, e.g., "my understanding is straight from the Bible" |
||does not puts material things first |
|manage his own family
||family lives within income - not a spendthrift |
|not be a recent convert
|| need to face trials as Christian |
|children not open to the charge of being
wild and disobedient
|children not rebellious, whether a Christian or not a Christian |
Comment: The word "apt"- Greek word didaktikos meaning skillful in teaching (Thayer) or possessing the necessary qualities for effective communication. [etymololine.com]
Comment: "He (teaching-pastor) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." (Titus 1:9)
Perhaps an understanding of shepherding sheep and goats will provide the key to understanding the function of shepherding spiritual sheep.
A good shepherd cares for his sheep and wants to take on the responsibility of their wellbeing. He will constantly be with them calling them by name for they must recognize his voice in order to follow. It is his responsibility to locate pastures near still or slow-moving water and away from danger. He must have knowledge of and remove toxic plants in pastures so they won't be able to eat them and become sick and die. He must be physically strong to protect them from thieves and predators. It is not a job for anyone who just needs a job or money. Recall David's 23 Psalm "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. … You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." I trust HIM for HE takes care of me!
On the other hand, goats are independent, inquisitive and difficult to herd whereas sheep are followers and require continual care and protection.
As a young Jewish boy your father has decided it is time for you to assume the responsibilities of a shepherd. You have been with him or your older brother while they were shepherding. Are you prepared?
- Do you know the sheep by name so they will follow you?
- Do you know how to lead?
- Do you know where to find pastures and still water?
- Can you identify and remove plants they must not eat?
- Can you recognize predators?
- Are you physically strong enough to fend off the enemy?
- Do you have the tools necessary for tending the sheep and taking care of your safety such as a sling, pouch, stones, rod, staff and tunic? Are you proficient in their use?
Spiritual shepherds, guardians, watchmen or sentinels need to have:
- A close relationship with God and those in the Body of Christ.
- A good knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Christ and His apostles' doctrine (teaching) to prepare Christians for serving and to bring them to maturity into God's nature.
- Ability to recognize false teachings and provide opportunity for those under their care to learn, recognize and acquire ability to refute such teachings. For example, soon after the beginning of the church, a false teaching known as Gnosticism became prevalent. This false doctrine taught that since all flesh is evil, Jesus could not possible been inhabiting a human body, therefore He was a spirit - a phantom.
- Knowledge of the difference between an opinion and a false teaching.
- Ability to lead without forcing your personal opinion on others.
- Equipped with spiritual tools needed to perform the shepherding functions and their proficient use; e.g., patience - not to fly off the handle or quick to judge; compassionate; gentle when expressing concerns; not combative, not a loose cannon, not contentious.
- The desire to protect your brethren even if it cost your life.
Functions of Watchmen
- Teach, feed, equip and bring to maturity
- Exhort, admonish, edify and strengthen
- Convict false teachers and their false teachings; e.g.,
Promote unity and harmony
Comfort the weak and sick (physically but primarily spiritually)
Seek and restore those who have drifted or are drifting away
Assist all to become participants according to their ability and congregational needs according to God's plan for salvation
Pray for self, those under your care and the lost
Warn of dangers lurking in the pathway of life
. Prepare God's saints for work of service (being an example).
- a. One who denies Christ as God in human body
- b. One is saved without being cleansed by Christ's blood
- c. Salvation is received, earned, by what a person accomplishes
During the persecution of Christians by the Jews and Romans, these teaching-pastors desiring to do the spiritual shepherds work were willing to put their lives on the line to protect his fellow brethren. The spiritual wellbeing of the brethren was more important than his physical body. It was not a position of honor, power or prestige but a dangerous work. These men were to be known by the Body, not pretender's intent on identifying Christians to deliver to the persecutors.
Functions Guardians must refrain from
- Being partial
- Assuming Christ's authority by making decisions, His Body should make
- Performing work others should be doing
- Assuming an arbitrator's function
- Yielding to voice of the more vocal and large contributors
- Demanding others to agree to his interpretation of some teaching
(from 1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-11; 1 Peter 5:2-4; Acts: 20:28-30; Ephesians 4:11-15; Ezekiel 34:2-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14; James 5:14 and Luke 15:3)
Warning to God's Shepherds
The words spoken by Ezekiel long ago to God's shepherds of Israel under the Old Covenant are also applicable to His spiritual shepherds under the New Covenant who are not performing the tasks given to them by God.
"The word of the LORD came to me: 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel (their leaders); prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not
"You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So, they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them." (Ezekiel 34:1-6)
- strengthened the weak
- healed the sick
- bound up the injured.
- brought back the strays
- searched for the lost
"Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them." (Ezekiel 34:7-10)
"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so, hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself." (Ezekiel 3:17-19)
"My people come … to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice." (Ezekiel 33:31-32)
Paul warned the Ephesian elders "Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves (wolves in sheep clothing) will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!" (Acts 20:28-31)
How could these elder-wolves "from your own number" come in?
- The process of selecting them is flawed: popular vs spiritual.
- The body of Christians do not know the beliefs and opinions of those being selected - they do not recognize his voice.
- The training and equipping method is faulty, insufficient or the task is turned over to others to develop men of sound Bible knowledge; e.g., colleges, preachers or even secular institutions.
- Not hearing the concerns of the spiritual meek and gentle while paying attention to voices of the vocal who speak without substance.
Comment:"Spiritual wolves" are people within the assembly professing to be Christians but have a non-biblical agenda. How can they be prevented from drawing Christians away after their teachings? Equip and train the Body with knowledge by open discussion of prevalent teachings comparing them to biblical truths. Christians need to be able to recognize their teaching as false. We must cease being hearers only and become serious students of God's Word while receiving and participating in much instruction, discussion and edification by their, watchmen/shepherds and others knowledgeable in the Word.
Comment: Discussions are more effective if the group is not too large, probably 10 to 20, for greater participation and when led by mature spiritual leader - shepherd.
Warning to Christians about False Prophets
"We have something more-sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit… But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 1:19 - 2:1-3)
Comment: "Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." Mathew 7:15
Comment: Peter is talking about trusted teachers, preachers and shepherds who promote their opinions and interpretations. To prevent false teachers ("wolves in sheep's clothing" - 2 Timothy 4:3-5), the congregation needs to have better knowledge and understanding of Christ's teachings given to the apostles. Another possibility is that the church does not have an intimate relationship with these "trusted brethren" enabling them to know their personal opinion and interpretations.
God's shepherds devote their time feeding, teaching, equipping and maturing Christians that the Holy Spirit put under their care. This requires that they know God's word and the spiritual condition and needs of those God has placed under their care, individually and collectively. They protect by
- alerting those under their care of false teachers and teaching,
- building up by teaching, the brethren in the Word,
- restoring those who have fallen away
- promoting unity in Christ.
This requires that they are aware of Satan's cunningness - that "roaring lion" on the prowl seeking someone to destroy (1 Peter 5:8). It is essential that they lead the flock by their examples as submissive servants of the Lord and not drive them by edict or demanding their opinions and interpretations be adhered to by all to be in fellowship. They are not the head but servants fulfilling certain activities.
Comment: The "building up" and teaching is most effective when it done in discussed is a setting where questions and opinions can be freely expressed rather than lecturing - sermonizing.
Scriptures describing activities of God's shepherds:
"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17)
Comment:: The phrase "who rule," well leading, direct the affairs, is from the Greek word proistemi, meaning "to preside, rule or maintain." [Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words]
"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith (not the oil but the prayer) will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects." (James 5:14-16)
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers (provide spiritual nutrition), not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away." (1 Peter 5:1-4)
"And from Miletus, he (Paul) sent to Ephesus and called for the elders … Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:17, 28)
Comment: The Holy Spirit puts Christians under the care of the shepherds, watchmen, sentinels. It is not up to individuals to request
the elders to accept the oversight of their spiritual life.
"…In everything I showed you (elders from Ephesus) that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:34-35)
"For this reason, I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders … so that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine (teaching) and to refute those who contradict." (Titus 1:5, 9)
"Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless." (1 Timothy 3:9-10)
Comment: "Deacons" (Greek diakonos - servants) is a general term for servants either male or female who assist others in performing some function or activity.
"In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things." (1 Timothy 3:11)
Comment: Since "their wives (idios gunaíkas)" is not in the Greek text, but woman (gunaíkas), then a more appropriate reading would be - In the same way, women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.
Servant to Assist Shepherds
"Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:12-13)
Comment: The diakonosus qualifications given above include being husband of one wife and managing his children and household well cannot apply to all diakonosus as all Christians are diakonosus, servants. Therefore, the function of men with these qualifications must be different from other diakonosus and thus their function is to assist elders in their work.
Comment: The work of these deacon/servants is not specified so; any understanding is an interpretation or opinion. While we do have a certain conviction about the work of Christians having these special qualifications, we should never be so dogmatic to think that this is the last word on the subject. We must keep in mind certain Biblical truths about the Body of Christ so that any interpretation will be consistent with these truths.
Those in Christ's Kingdom (the Body of Christ) Gentiles taught by Paul and Jews from Pentecost are those called out of sin to righteousness - a changed and forgiven people. They are members of a living organism with many parts and functions, similar to the human body. Therefore, these members do not all have the same function and each member belongs to all the others. No part is any more or less important than another as each member has their own function for the body to function properly.
"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:3-6)
The "Body" of forgiven people are given functions to perform - NOT offices or positions to hold. These functions include; "Prophecy, teach, serve, encourage, give, lead (administer) and show mercy." (Romans 12:6-8)
There are many ways one can hear Christ's call for redemption. Someone could personally show them the message directly from the Bible, they could learn from reading the Bible or verifying from the Bible the truth of printed, digital or Internet lessons. The Apostles taught:
One must die to sin
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires." (Ephesians 4:22)
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved
by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy,
being hated and hating one another." (Titus 3:3)
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)
Since you died you must be buried
Like a seed that is planted into the earth and rises as a new plant - so sinful man accepts the Word, is buried into death of Christ and rises a new spiritual man to live a different life.
"Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:3-4)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation." (Galatians 6:15)
God raises a forgiven and a new spiritual man
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)
"You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)
(We) "have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Colossians 3:10)
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would." (Galatians 5:16-17)
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." (Galatians 5:22-26)
Living a righteous life
"As a new Christian I urge you to live a life worthy of your calling.
- Be made new in the attitude of your minds
- Put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor
- In your anger do not sin
- Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry
- Steal no longer, but must work
- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths
- Get rid of all bitterness, rage, brawling and slander, and every form of malice.
- Be kind and compassionate
- Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you
- Live a life of love
- Among you there must not be:
- A hint of sexual immorality
- Any kind of impurity
- Foolish talk
- Coarse joking
- No immoral, impure or greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of God.
- Do not get drunk on wine
- Be filled with the Spirit
- Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
- Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord
- Always giving thanks to God the Father
- Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
- Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord
- Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
- Children, obey your parents in the Lord
- Honor your father and mother
- Fathers do not exasperate your children
- Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect
- Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them,
- since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him." (Ephesians 4, 5, and 6)
"You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Ephesians 4:17-19)
"Be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Titus 3:1-2)
"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)
A Christian's righteous living and a united family based on love will be displayed in all relationships with others.
Paul explains to the Ephesians Christian, men and women, how they were to live righteously in a perverse world (Ephesians 4-5). They were to avoid:
- porneía - all sexual relationships other than between husband and wife - fornication; physical act.
- akatharsía - a term broader than porneía, includes physical and mental acts; e.g., vulgar words, sexual humor, trash talk and filthy minds.
- Pleonexia - all-inclusive term, covetousness, never satisfied, always wanting more; e.g., power, fame, sexual pleasure, or the material things of life. For example, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)
Paul gives instructions about the actions and activities of Ephesian men and women outside the assembly. "Look carefully then how you walk (one's daily life), not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-22)
Comment: Paul encourages righteous living, being filled with the Spirit in their daily life.
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands', love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her (people in Christ) by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church." (Ephesians 5:22-29)
Comment: Husbands and wives are to nourish and cherish each other as they are united as one. Their honor and respect must always show one's love of Christ even if one spouse is not a believer for, they may be won to Christ by their spouse's actions. A wife is to yield to the head of the family even when she disagrees so long as it did not violate her relationship with God.
Comment: Submission is easier when love is present.
"I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands (unstained by sin) without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness-with good works." (1 Timothy 2:8-10)
Comment: Paul shows the objective is for Christian men and women to proclaim the gospel of Christ. This requires prayer and righteous living by those teaching so that what is taught is heard as well as observed.
Comment: Christians are not to be angry, quarrelsome, but to seek what is best for others. They are to be different from the world in which they live. Their lives are to be open books to be read. It is difficult for anyone to hear the message when the messenger does not live by the message.
Comment: Women's appearance in public reflects her values. Does she reflect godliness or godlessness? In the Greek/Roman culture a woman's hair was a very erotic area of her body. Being adorned with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire called attention to her wealth and sensuality and not proper for women who profess godliness.
"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. About this (probably Jesus' obedience as a son) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you, (Christians), have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God." (Hebrews 5:11-12)
Comment: God placed the responsibility of teaching the Gospel to the lost to all Christians, men and women, rather than to a few evangelists or shepherds. There is no mention of today's "pulpit preachers" who generally present a message to the saved.
Comment: One of the shepherd's functions is to train Christians how to recognize and refute teachings contrary to God's inspired word. The shepherd's functions are discussed in greater detail in: thebiblewayonline.com/HTML/FunctionEldersDeacons.htm
Comment: Christians, to whom the Hebrew writer is addressing, were slack in their teaching responsibilities. They were immature in their knowledge and with little a desire to teach.
Comment: The context of these passages focuses on the message one sends to others by the way they conduct their lives and relationships - calm, godly and simple lives, preferring others over self, not demanding of others, not calling attention to their knowledge, wealth or position but in all actions respecting others whether poor or wealthy, Jew or pagan, man or woman. Thus, Christian men and women will be known by their righteous lives and by their appearance and demeanor in public by not calling attention to the sexual and sensual but to the spiritual. Their teachings will reflect their humility and respectfulness.
Relationship among Christians
"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:2-3)
Comment: Euodia and Syntyche helped Paul in teaching the gospel. They were servants in the church and, like many men and women today, they needed to be reminded that Christ's gospel is of greater importance the individual and that unity is required for effectiveness in reaching those outside Christ while encouraging Christians to be faithful to their calling.
Relationships between husband and wife
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." (Ephesians 5:22-31)
Comment: A wife's preferences, wants and desires are to be made known in discussions among couples but neither should be demanding but seeking what is best for them.
"Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them." (Colossians 3:18-19)
Comment: How can a husband love as Christ and be harsh toward his wife?
Comment: The love of the husband and wife for each other is greater than submission - it is companionship.
"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives - when they see your respectful and pure conduct." (1 Peter 3:1-5)
Comment: Peter and Paul are addressing the actions and attitude of Christians as they live daily among the saved and the perishing
Begin comments on "husband and wife relationship":
Husbands and wives are joined together in marriage, a covenant relationship, living and working together united as one being. Each is to love the other better than self. When this is present all significant situations or problems will be discussed in a calm loving environment doing what is considered best for the eternal well-being of each member of the family. All discussions leading up to the decision must not be:
- An exercise to prove who is right.
- A relationship of a husband as a "ruler" and wife as a "servant."
- The wife challenging the responsibility or authority of the husband by some defiant action.
- Fulfilling personal desires over that of the family.
Respect for each other must be of the highest order. Husbands and wives wrangling over settled matters to 'get my way' is very damaging to the marriage relationship, to training of children and not in the likeness of God.
Paul stated that the submitting by Christian wives to their husbands' decision is the way Christians submit to Christ; e.g., "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." Christ made a request to loving His Father. The Father's decision was what was best for His creation. Out of love and respect for His Father and His created beings Christ yielded and submitted to do the Father's will.
Christians are fully assured of Christ's love, knowing that He always chooses what is best. So, also the Christian husband's decision must be whatever is best for the family. However, a wife cannot submit to any decision of Christian or non-Christian husband that would violate her relationship with Christ.
End comment on "husband and wife relationship"
Responsibility for Treatment of Those in Need
In the parable, in Luke chapter 10 (referred to as "the parable of the
Good Samaritan"), a comparison is made between living by law, the Old Covenant law, and living by love, the law of Christ. The Samaritan showed love, compassion, on the one attacked, robbed and beaten. He recognized his needs and took care of them. Whereas following their tradition and law the priest and Levite (religious leaders of the Jews) ignored him and his needs. In the New Covenant of grace, love for the destitute - especially widows - is expected.
"Whoever has earthly possessions and notices a brother in need and yet withholds his compassion from him, how can the love of God be present in him? Little children, we must stop expressing love merely by our words and manner of speech; we must love also in action and in truth." (1 John 3:17-18)
Comment: The "whoever" are the Christian family both men and women.
Comment: A "brother in need" is an inclusive term (being either male or female). Everyone who is in need of necessities of life are to be assisted.
"In those days, as the number of the disciples was growing larger and larger, a complaint was made by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food." (Act 6:1)
Comment: There appeared to be a lack of respect of Hellenistic widows by Hebrew Christians which was resolved.
"This is how we have come to know love: The Messiah gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our lives for our brothers." (1 John 3:16)
It is the Christians responsibility, individually and collectively, to taken care of the needy. "Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1Timothy 5:3-8)
Comment: "Truly a widow" is a widow with no family of any kind or one whose non-Christian family will not provide for her care - perhaps because she is a Christian.
Comment: "Not truly widows" - Is a capable widow who makes no attempt to provide for her needs does not appear to be destitute.
Comment: The church needs to allow Christian "children" and "grandchildren" to grow in servanthood by caring for their elderly.
Comment: Christian families, that not take care of the needs of their widows, are worse than unbelievers and they must be confronted by their fellow Christian brethren.
Comment: The tradition of the Jews allowed them to pledged their financial worth to God, then withdrew pledge after death of parent, thereby relieving them of taking care of their needy parents.
Comment: The key words are "honor" and "is truly in need." Christians must show their love of God and Christ by their actions of love, honor and respect.
"Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work." (1 Timothy 5:9-10)
Begin comments on "Widows"
The church, the Christian Body, takes care of physical needs of a widow in exchange she performs functions needed by the Christian family. Functions to be performed or where they are to be performed is not specified. Their work for the Christian Body was not done in some "church building" as there were none but with or for people. The church was still to care for destitute widows not enrolled.
Not less than sixty years of age - The desire for sexual relations can be better controlled as one's sexual desires has generally wane in older adults.
Wife of one husband - possible meanings are:
- Only married once.
- Re-married following a divorce that terminated caused by sexual immorality (fornication) by her husband.
- Re-married following a divorce that terminated the marriage by adultery; i.e., breaking marriage covenant other than by fornication.
- Re-married if marriage terminated by death of husband
- Not a polygamist.
Reputation for good works - Community knows and respects her because she helps others by her good works.
Brought up children - experience in parenting by parenting orphan children even if no biological child. But caring for children on an occasional basis does not carry the responsibility of child parenting.
Shown hospitality and washed the feet of the saints - taking care of needs of traveling Christians rather than entertaining friends or relative with meals and visits.
Cared for the afflicted - Possibly a beaten slave, a parent of a rebellious child of friend or relative, a deserted wife or one persecuted because of their faith, an orphan or unwanted child left to defend for themselves.
Devoted herself to every good work - actions before becoming a widow clearly shows she was God's servant and indicating a heart to continue and not become a busybody, idler or gossiper.
End comments on "Widows"
"Refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So, I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows" "If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows." (1 Timothy 5:11-16)
Comment: Destitute "younger widows" under 60 are still to be cared for by the church but not enrolled as they were expected to marry.
Comment: The "if any believing women" appears to exclude believing men who has widowed relatives. Perhaps the man should provide resources, so as not to burden the church. The enrolled widows would perform the caring for function, thereby avoiding any impropriety of a male relative caring for widows in his family or extended family.
Comment: All Christians, man or woman, are expected to take care of all in need.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)
Comment: "Religion" from the Greek word threeskeia meaning -external worship (Thayer's). Consist in taking care of orphans and widows in need. Also appear to include Christians and non-Christians. (James 1:27)
Comment: The verb "visit," as translated in most versions of the Bible, means to go to one in need to examine with the eyes in order to help or to comfort or benefit.
All in Christ
"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. - But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:4-5; 9)
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." (1 Peter 3:8)
Comment: "Being built up" appears to mean, maturing in knowledge, in faith and functioning as a servant of Christ. All Christians whether male or female are servants to do the will of God which is to be faithful, do good works and teach the gospel.
Comment: Unity of mind among those in Christ is not the same as agreement in personal interpretation, complete agreement. There is still room for differences in understanding, opinion and interpretation on a teaching (doctrine). To be united in Christ there must be agreement of what constitutes the gospel - Jesus was God in human form, His atoning sacrifice, (His death, burial and resurrection) is "the power of God unto salvation" and how God adds one into Christ's Body.
Unity does not require that everyone is in agreement on a personal opinion and interpretation. Demanding unity of opinion creates division.
The Church as A Whole
The Assembly in Corinth
"So, if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So, he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!' What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two - or at the most three - should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." (1 Corinthians 14:23-35)
- "The whole church" refers to Christians coming together for the purpose of encouraging faithfulness in the midst of persecution. Most Christians met in private houses in several communities of a city.
- "brothers" - adelphos, male and female - brethren
- "you come together" - the community of Christians - men and women
- "everyone" - himself, if any, someone - all-inclusive terms, either men or women
- "prophets" - in both the Old and New Testaments there were women prophets
- "weigh" - to make a distinction, discriminate, distinguish
- "women" - either wives or women depending on context
Begin comments on "The Assembly in Corinth"
There are different functions, so everyone is not expected to do the same thing in order for the Christ's Church to grow. It is the Christian Body that should determine what their needs are, not the preacher, shepherds or an individual.
The purpose of assembling together was to encourage Christians to remain faithful and do good works. While together they sang, instructed, gave revelations and spoke in other languages through interpreters.
Speakers, men or women, who were not able to be understood because an interpreter was not present, were to keep quiet.
Chaos was caused by all praying, speaking or singing at the same time, thus visitors would conclude "you are out of your mind" and prevent God's message from being heard.
Allowing everyone to speak or sing one at a time is respectful to God and one's fellow man.
The Greek word gunaikos translated here as women, means a female of any age, whether a virgin, married, divorced or widow. Depending on context it is often translated as wife. Since Paul's instruction was for the women to ask their husband at home, then wife (wives) based on context is the better translation. Paul's instructions would not apply to unmarried, abandoned, divorced or widowed Christian women or those whose husbands were pagan.
The key is to respect whoever is teaching whether man or woman.
As the law, Torah, says appears to refer to synagogue rules and traditions.
End comments on "The Assembly in Corinth"
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word (say) or deed (do), do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:16-17)
Comment: Don't take the glory of God for yourself.
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts (functions) differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them." (Romans 12:3-8)
Comment: According to the "grace given" is not based on ability or education. It is a gift.
Comment: "More highly" is how some consider themselves - in statements such as: "I am more important than you, I can speak in tongues!"
Comment: All parts of the human body do not perform the "same function" and all parts are important. The heart is no more important than the intestines.
Comment:: Since each person is accountable for their own actions and since each person is to consider one another, it appears everyone should want to do what the Body as a Whole needs done. If the individual does not know what the Body needs then the individual must do what they believe God wants done.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)
Comment: Therefore, the Church Christ built is a body of faithful, obedient and involved people organized a way that the they may grow and fulfill its mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the lost, by caring for one another and performing services that Christ, the Head of the Body, gave them to do.
During the 1st century those in Christ who were called out of sin
- Devoted themselves to apostles' teachings (Acts 2:42)
- Had everything in common (Acts 2:44)
- Met together daily, ate, shared what they had, gathered at Solomon's Colonnade (Acts 5:12)
- Ignored the Greek speaking widows, Jews from different parts of the Empire (Acts 6)
- Chose servants to provide for the needs of the Greek Christian widows (Acts 6)
- Buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him (Acts 7)
- Remained faithful while being persecuted (Acts 8)
- Fled persecution, abandoned their home and non-Christian family. (Acts 8)
- Preached the Gospel upon arrival in their new home - no mention of preacher as everyone was a servant and priest. (Acts 8:4)
- Determined everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. (Acts 11:29-30)
- Gathered together praying (Acts 12:12)
- Gathered the church together for a report (Acts 14:27)
- Choose men from among them and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 15:22)
- Gathered the multitude together - deliver the letter (Acts 15: 31)
- Came together to break bread (Acts 20:7)
- Delivered a brother practicing sin to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (1 Cor 5:4-5)
- We re to rebuke sinning elders in presence of all (1 Timothy 5:20
The Bible does not appear to provide specific instructions for the frequency of or location for meeting together. In fact, Jesus stated to the Samaritan woman that the location was not important. (John 4:3)
- Little can be learned and few edified under chaos and confusion
- Teaching is more important than being heard
- Orderliness and understanding are important
- Participation by all Christians is important
- Edification necessary for faithfulness and growth
- Respect of husbands and others enhances unity
- Respect of law and customs cannot be ignored
- There was disrespect of others by trying to talk louder than them
- Their actions needed to display their love for each to glorify God.
- The Body is one in Christ and united in Him and His purposes rather than in agreement with personal opinions and interpretations.
"'Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.' Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent (change your way of life) and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.'" (Acts 2:36-38; 41-42)
"God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9)
"All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (Acts 2:44-45)
"We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints- and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us." (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
"At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings." (Romans 15:25-27)
"There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet." (Acts 4:34-37)
"But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.'" (Acts 5: 1-4)
- Equality of spiritual knowledge is not the foundation for fellowship.
- We walk in peace because we are in fellowship.
- Endorsement is an act of an individual's will in which one approves or supports the opinion or acts of another when he agrees with or concurs in such opinions or acts.
- Unanimity of opinion is not fellowship.
- Fellowship is sharing, mutual affection, enjoyment of another's presence association, community, communion, and joint participation. ["Our Heritage of Unity and Fellowship," Cecil Hook]
Therefore, "fellowship" could be expressed as - a non-sexual intimate relationship based upon love, the likeness or nature of God. This is the relationship in which God created man and the way man originally lived with God before he sinned. The great two commands are the fulfillment and the creation of fellowship. "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:36-39)
Removing someone from fellowship with God
When Adam and Eve were created God placed them in Paradise and in His fellowship. But they chose to reject that relationship by disobedience. God removed them from their intimate relationship with Him.
After Christ established His church (His body), His church, consisting of those who call upon God to cleanse them of their sin by being buried, (immersed - baptism), into Christ's atoning blood sacrifice and raised a new creation with God putting them into Christ's Body and into His fellowship.
"Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (the abode of the souls of righteous and evil man). Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." (Rev 1:17-20)
Comment: Most were slack in their obedience to Christ. To the church in Ephesus He said: "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent." (Rev 2:4-7)
Comment: So, it is God who removes one from His fellowship. However, His servants or assembly of servants can withhold the common sharing for the purpose of bringing the wayward Christian brethren to repentance from the lifestyle that leads to eternal death. They are not to withhold fellowship based on differences in their personal understanding of some scripture.
Comment: Personal understanding of some teaching may differ among those in the Body of Christ. These differences may result from lack of knowledge (whether newborn Christians or not); intellectual ability; pre-Christian background, or from their spiritual growth and maturity. These differences must not result in the removal of fellowship among them. Christians cannot remove anyone from fellowship with God.
The church established by Christ, also referred to as the Body of Christ, has many parts each performing different functions. It is a living organism not an inanimate organization. Like the human body sometimes the members of Christ Body do not perform as desired. For His Body to be healthy occasionally disciplinary action may be necessary. Most of the time this action is minor, a few times it is major but seldom radical.
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-18)
When one-on-one attempt does not produce repentance and restoration then other Christians must become involved. Two or three Christians, respected by the offending brother and the whole congregation, should go with the offended, not your buddy who always agrees with you, to discuss his situation (Matthew 18:16). In the unlikely event this action does not result in repentance and reconciliation, radical action by the entire Body of Saints must be taken as his everlasting life is at stake.
As a last resort the whole congregation need to confront him in person, not by letter, e-mail, text message, tweet, phone call or public announcement. It is not the elders' problem it is the whole congregation's problem and all are to be involved. (Matthew 18:17)
Brother living a sinful and ungodly life
"'I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.'" (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Comment: This lifestyle choice has severe consequences as a brother is living an ungodly life that leads to eternal destruction if he does not change his way of living and return to his redeemer and loving Father. "Purge" (cleanse) out the old leaven" … "not to keep company ("associate") with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of." (1 Corinthians 5:7, 11)
Comment: God's people are to correct their brethren sometimes in what may appear to be extreme punishment.
Brother who wanders from the truth
- Immorality (fornication) - Sexual relations with someone other than spouse whether heterosexual or homosexual, married or unmarried.
- Covetousness- One who takes advantage of another for unjust gain. This can occur among elderly, youth, men or women. - "I want it and I will do whatever it takes to get it."
- Idolatry - Putting things or activities ahead of God; e.g., self-indulgence.
- Reviling- To express objections or criticisms in bitter, harsh, or abusive language - slanderer.
- Drunkenness- Lack of self-control while under the influence of alcohol (or drugs).
- Wickedness (extortioners) - Laziness or inactivity by one capable of caring for self while obtaining another's possessions by deceit, trickery, force, power, or intimidation.
- Disorderly - Out of Step with others in Christ - offensive conduct.
- Divisive- One willing to fight and divide in order to get their way. It must be what "I" want or understand regardless of the consequences. Thus, believing "my" interpretation is the correct and only valid interpretation causes division when requiring or forcing "my" opinion on others to be in fellowship.
- "Not associate with" or "keep company with" is NOT shunning, speaking to, giving aid to, prohibiting from assembling with, eating or sleeping with family. It is the ceasing of close companionship. Action must be clear that ceasing companionship is that their eternal life is more important than earthly fellowship. The purpose of discipline is to cause a change, a return to God and reconciliation with His Body. So, no association of any kind prevents communication thus defeating the purpose of disciplinary action. Stopping all close companionship; such as, not eating the communal meal (agape meal) when the Lord's Supper was observed, is the intended action.
"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)
This brother is in process of moving away from Christ. For Jesus said in John 14:6 "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He was wandering from the truth, Christ. It is worth noting that some "Christians" referred to as Gnostics denied that Jesus was God in the flesh or human so no atoning sacrifice (sin offering) was necessary.
New Testament Church Practices
The early Christians were intensely Christ-centered. Jesus Christ was their pulse beat. He was their life, their breath, and their central point reference. He was the object of their worship, the subject of their songs, and the content of their discussion and vocabulary. They made the Lord Jesus Christ central and supreme in all things and lived as a face to face community. They:
Today's Church Practices
- Had no fixed order, liturgy or worship service but they gathered in open-participatory meetings in an atmosphere of freedom, spontaneity and joy.
- Had no one as a spectator, except possibly visitors.
- Assembled to encourage faithfulness to Christ and to make visible the Lord in every Body function.
- Were Christians, the first and only religion the world has ever known that was void of ritual, clergy and sacred buildings. For the first 300 years of the church's existence, Christians gathered in homes. On special occasions they would sometimes use a larger facility (like Solomon's Porch).
- Did not have a clergy.
- Made decisions as a body - the whole church assembly.
- Were a living and breathing organism not an organization as there were no positions, offices, programs, rituals, hierarchy or chain-of-command structure.
- Did not practice tithing but they gave according to their ability in order to help their poor and church planters.
- Practiced baptism as a burial in water (immersion) which occurred immediately following one's death to sin. Peter stated in 1 Peter 3:21 "baptism now saves you - not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal, plea, to God for a good conscience - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
- Did not construct buildings.
- Trained themselves by performing their task with assistance of a mature seasoned Christians.
- They were not divided into denominations.
- All were in Christ by dying to sin, being buried by immersion in water, being resurrected by God into a new living spiritual creation and put into Christ Body. [Adapted from Pagan Christianity]
The church is influenced by its surrounding culture, seemingly unaware of its negative influences. Because of training and education, people tend to accept whatever the priest's, pastor's or preacher's state as biblical.
Therefore, people generally do not consider it necessary to go to the Bible in an attempt to determine the validity of their teachers' statements. People tend to consider them highly educated and accept their words as true often stating: "that is what I've always heard."
When we do study, we commonly use the "proof text method," which dates back to the 1590's. A group of men called Protestant scholastics took the teachings of the Reformers and systemized then according to the rules of Aristotelian logic. They held that not only is the scripture the word of God, but every part of it is the Word of God in and of itself - irrespective of context.
Christians have been taught incorrectly to approach the Bible generally in one of eight ways by looking for verses that will:
- Inspire you.
- Tell you what God has promised so you can confess it in faith therefore, obligating God to do what you want.
- Tell you what God commands you to do.
- Allow you to quote them to "scare the devil out of his wits" or resist him in the hour of temptation.
- Prove your particular doctrine so you can "slice and dice" your theological sparring partner.
- Help you control or correct others.
- "Preach" well and make good "sermon" material.
- Suddenly "appear" when flipping the Bible randomly.
Methods Used in Interpreting Scripture
Facts can be established - such as Christ died - but Christians need to know how to properly interpret scripture regarding beliefs, practices and procedures. The following are some methods used:
Specificity (a command)
Any action specified excludes all other action relating to the subject specified.
When the Bible is silent about a subject it neither requires nor prohibits an action. Therefore, it allows one to make all reasonable and responsible interpretations and inferences, which may vary by one's knowledge and intellectual abilities. Thus, different opinion may exist among those in Christ but they must not be forced upon another to be in fellowship. They must remain private interpretations.
A necessary inference is a personal judgment of a belief, practice or procedure made equivalent to a command that requires Christians everywhere and at all times to comply. The question then becomes, "who is authorized to decide for others what inference is necessary?"
An inference is a personal interpretation and conclusion about a teaching not a command.
Procedures or practices - not explicitly required or prohibited by the biblical text - considered permissible in the execution of some clear biblical command.
Examples found in the Bible showing actions of individuals or assemblies of Christians generally confined to one location. Some examples were contrary to a specific inspired teaching.
Comments: The context of a passage is essential to its understanding.
The meaning of words must be understood. Dictionaries help but their meanings reflect usage of words at various times. For example, the word "visit" during the time the King James Bible was translated meant to go to someone to determine and take care of their physical needs rather than "to have a time together socially".
Commentary books give Bible scholars' personal interpretations. They are not inspired and often differ with other Bible scholars.
Christians must not quarrel over words and interpretations.
"Worship God and Serve Him Only"
WHAT Is Worship?
There are various definitions for worship such as kiss the hand toward, kiss the ground, prostrate oneself or offer some type of sacrifice to appease. Webster Dictionary defines worship as "an act or expression of reverence and a form of religious practice with its creed or ritual." One's actions without love and affection are meaningless rituals. But is this really worship or just a form of worship?
The patriarchs worshiped by building altars and offered sacrifices to God as worship. The Children of Israel worshipped by the sacrifice of animals without blemishes and offerings of grain and oil, some offerings were as commanded other offerings were from their desire.
But God so loved the world He gave His only Son. Christ so loved that He offered to God His body as the only sacrifice that will cleanse man of his sins. God accepted Christ's offering by raising Him from the grave - triumphing over Satan and his grip on man.
After Christ resurrection and ascension, the promised Spirit of God was poured out on all people. All people of every nation and race who seek forgiveness through Christ, will change the way they live - from evil desires to righteousness. They will be baptized (buried - immersed) into Christ's death and raised by God a "New Creations" and put into the Kingdom of God and Christ.
Christians are to offer their bodies as "living sacrifices" as their inner being will radiate an outpouring of love and with thanksgiving, proclaim Christ and grow into the nature of God. "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel." (Colossians 1:21-23)
Real or genuine worship to God originates from love, the giving of one's self over to serving, praising and living in accordance to the wishes of God. Paul stated it this way "offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate" (Romans 12:1). It is out of love and devotion for the one being adored or worshipped.
Comment: One worships out of love and devotion. It is a participatory activity. It is something someone does, an individual action from within one's inner being. Worship is not a passive activity such as listening to a concert or watching a ball game. However, there are benefits derived when assembled with others. First, one recognizes they are not alone in their devotion to God. Second, they are edified and encouraged to remain faithful and continue in their service to God by doing works pleasing to God and beneficial to their brethren and fellowman.
Worship is "the direct acknowledgement of God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deeds done in such acknowledgement." [Vine's, IV 236 from "Instrumental Music and New Testament Worship," J. D. Bales 1973 p175]
WHO Is to Be Worshipped?
Paul stated to those in Christ "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship (service)." (Romans 12:1a)
Obviously, if one has great respect and pays honor to the point of becoming a living sacrifice, the object of that devotion must be someone or something very important.
"God is spirit (not physical) and his worshipers must worship in spirit (not physical) and in truth." (John 4:24)
"John 4:24 declares that 'God is a Spirit.' These words contain one of the most-simple, yet most profound truths which ever fell upon mortal ear. Their truth is one of the great glories of revelation, and corrects the mistaken conclusion of human reason. They show that:
["The fourfold Gospel," p. 149, J.W. McGarvey and Philip Pendleton]
What does the Scripture say about God's nature?
- God is absolutely free from all limitations of space and time, and is therefore not localized in temples (Acts 7:48).
- God is not material, as idolaters contend.
- He is not an abstract force, as scientists think, but a Being.
- He is lifted above all need of temples, sacrifices, etc., which are a benefit to man, but not to God (Acts 17:25)."
- God is love. 1 John 4:8
- God is life. John 1:4
- God is truth. John 14:6
- God is just, (holy, righteous). 2 Thessalonians 1:6
- God is mercy. Luke 6:36
- God is peace. John 14:7
- God is faithful. 1 Corinthians 10:13
What is Pleasing to God?
"What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). Jesus did not bless but had harsh words for the religious leaders who did not follow the Lord's requirements. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth the amount commanded) of your spices-mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23)
Comment: The Jews made sure to give a tenth (a tithe), and probably only a tenth.
In the "Sermon on the Mount" (Mathew 5) Jesus identified several actions and attitudes that are pleasing to God, by stating "Blessed" indicating God is pleased and gives blessings to those who are:
- Poor in spirit - those recognizing their own sinfulness and God's righteousness.
- Mourn - those unhappy about their spiritual weakness as opposed to those unhappy with their physical plight in life.
- Gentle - those who are not proud, arrogant or haughty. Those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness," - those who are constantly seeking to do what is right and pleasing to God.
- Merciful - those who are not judgmental or condemning.
- Pure in Heart - those who are sincere, free from what is false, free from anything that soils, adulterates, corrupts. (Thayer's)
- Peacemakers - those living at peace with their fellowman and helping others to do the same.
- "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (James 2:12-13)
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." (Luke 10:36-37)
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged." (Matthew 7:1-2)
All the above are non-physical attributes of God, surely, they must be included in the meaning of being created "in likeness or image of God" as stated in Genesis. God also gave man an intellect allowing him to think, reason, analyze and choose. So, man could choose to continue in God's likeness by discerning truth, showing mercy, desiring justice and pursuing peaceful relationships, or he could choose not to do so thus severing his relationship with God.
Since all men have sinned and are in need of forgiveness, the reasoning ability given by his Creator allows him to change his ways, receive forgiveness, and begin living more like Christ. To those in Christ, Paul wrote: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:12-14).
"By growing in them Christians will reflect God's image and display the fruit of the Spirit which is 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.'" (Galatians 5:22-23)
All of God's characteristics relate to the inner being, mind or soul. They cannot be felt, smelt, tasted, seen or heard. But by observing Jesus' actions and attitude one can know the Father which is exactly what Jesus told Philip (John 14:19). We desperately need love and forgiveness. In our state of sin and rebellion we deserve death, which justice requires. God through Jesus' life, death and resurrection provides us the opportunity to be forgiven and restored to a relationship with God.
What Does God See and Hear?
- Beautiful sound of the human voice or expressions of the heart.
- Money given or reasons why money is given.
- Words of the song or heartfelt thoughts generated by the song.
- Words of prayer or a contrite heart even if unable to speak.
- Sermons given or sermons lived.
- Quest for fame or practice of justice and mercy.
- Partaking of Lord's Supper or remembering Christ's life and atoning sacrifice.
- Criticizing others or glorying in others praises to God.
- Failing to assemble or failing to edify others when assembled.
- Reading the Bible or meditating on the Message from God.
- Living a good moral life or a sacrificial life glorifying God.
When there is an attitude of love, peace and gratitude within one's inner being, there comes forth a desire to express it in various ways, words, thoughts and actions. These expressions when directed toward God will take various forms such as doing good as opportunity arises, singing praises, praying with thanksgiving, giving because of the joy of helping others, studying scripture to obtain a better understanding of what God desires and is pleasing to Him, remembering the atoning sacrifice made by Jesus and daily living to mirror or reflect God's image in offering "…your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate." (Romans 12:1)
A grateful Christian will seek ways to express his gratitude to Christ as his savior. He will live as close to Jesus' example as possible, and seek to understand God's will which He gave through the Holy Spirit. He will praise Him in all his actions including the remembrance of Christ's life, death, burial and resurrection when partaking of the "Lord's Supper."
WHEN Should One Worship?
By being a living sacrifice, one will in everything gives thanks, glory and praise to God while looking for ways to:
- Assist other children of God and others in need.
- Encourage others to live sacrificial lives.
- Spread the message that forgiveness and salvation is in Christ.
- Proclaim and defend the life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and return of Jesus, our Redeemer.
Christians will not abandon being with, edifying or fellowshipping others in Christ, regardless of when or where they assemble. They will be faithful to their Savior, to His Message, to His people and not be ashamed of their chosen way of life.
Paul put it this way "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." … "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed (says or does), do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:1-4 … 15-17)
Comment: One's heart is his inner being, the whole man, his soul.
The following examples relating to specific times Christians assembled, neither of which is considered to be a command since they contradict each other; E.g., "they met daily" vs. "they met on Sunday."
"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people." (Acts 2:41-47)
"These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week (Sunday) we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight." (Acts 20:5-7)
Comment: The word translated "talked." ("preached" in some translations) is from the Greek word dialegomai; meaning to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss: drawing arguments from the Scriptures, with the idea of disputing. [Thayer's Greek Lexicon]
Comment:"Kept on talking" (prolonged his speech in some translation) means Paul continued his discussion - he continued talking.
Therefore, worshipping God by serving, teaching, singing, admonishing and meeting together is not limited to any specific day or location.
WHERE Is One to Worship?
Jesus told a Samaritan woman: "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem." (John 4:21). So, going to some specific location to worship is not what God desires. The time was approaching when they would not worship at Mt. Gerizim as the Samaritans did; nor in Jerusalem, as the Jews did. Everyone is now expected to worship God everywhere -for God is spirit! In fact, "going to worship" or "going to church" is not a biblical concept and is not found in the Bible.
Therefore, neither the place nor the building is important. But one's desire, intent of mind or attitude is important. It is how one lives their life and treats others, what one thinks, sees, hears and serves by giving our resources, money, time and abilities. Our "living sacrifice," the actions in our lives, is to be done everywhere rather than a physical location, such as Mt. Gerizim, Jerusalem or a church building for God is spirit - not matter or flesh and blood.
HOW Is One to Worship?
Understanding the what, who, when and where of worship should help in understanding the how of worshipping. If, "giving ourselves as a living sacrifice" is a lifestyle of service, then there are many acts of service one can and should do. But they must be motivated out of a desire to be more like Christ by following His examples while we worship Him, with glory, honor, and praise.
Man is to worship in his spirit, his spiritual being, and in truth which requires knowledge. Thus, it is not some physical act, a ritual, but something coming from within, from a love and desire to honor, praise and please. Consequently, someone who is totally incapable of performing a physical act can still worship and serve God.
Worship can be done alone or in groups of like-minded people. Worship actions, absent of emotions and feelings of love, done for the purpose of complying with a command or those centered on self are considered as vain worship. Jesus stated "these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain." (Matthew 15:8-9, Mark 7:6 quoting from Isaiah 29:13)
Therefore, if one's thoughts and emotions are based upon a knowledge of God and an intimate relationship with Him, then he has trained his whole being to love, adore, praise, serve or worship God with a real and genuine desire to please for him. He is now prepared to serve God in spirit and truth. But what is one to do when serving or worshipping God?
One can read in Genesis that while God was delivering Abraham's descendants from bondage in Egypt, He established a Covenant with them. In this covenant He selected a group of people to serve Him as priest by offering animal sacrifices for themselves and all the people. God through Moses gave very specific instructions how their service of offering sacrifices was to be done.
Many years later God came to earth in the form of the man we refer to as Jesus, the Christ. He lived as one of His creations facing the same type of temptations as man, but without sin thus becoming the perfect sacrifice for sin by offering Himself up to The Father as "the blood sacrifice" required to remove man's sins. The Apostle John states "He (Jesus Christ) has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father." (Revelation 1:6)
His instructions to the New Covenant priest were also specific although very different than those of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant priests, those in Christ, are to be "living sacrifices" (Romans 12:1) as they daily serve God and offer thanks, praises of love and adoration to Him from the heart. By examining acts of worship (acts of service) one should be able to determine what New Testament servants and priest did and are to do today and in all future time.
Based upon love of God non-ritual outward acts of service benefit man while glorifying God. Internal activity, whether in the form of prayers, thoughts or groanings, expresses one's adoration, praise and honor to God. God's mercy through Christ's atoning sacrifice has provided forgiveness to all who obey Christ's call to repentance through faith, trust and obedience. The motives for one's actions will be from gratitude and thanksgiving rather than performing some act out of sense of duty or commanded.
Comment: Repentance is not a mere feeling; it has not the uncertainty of moods and sentiments. It is not a simple "change in the weather" of the soul. It is a distinct alteration of the focus of the intelligence; it carries with it a movement of the will; in short, it is a revolution in the very ground of the man's being" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18, p. 66 quoted in "REFLECTIONS" #515 Al Maxey, January 3, 2012]
God is Spirit. He is not localized in time or space nor is he an abstract force but a Spiritual Being not wanting anyone to perish but all have eternal life. Man, on the other hand is self-centered, rebellious and in need of forgiveness and mercy. All who are convicted in their heart of their sinful situation, that leads to eternal death, and turn to Christ for forgiveness, will from -their inner being- express their gratitude and thanksgiving to God by their new way of life pleasing to Him.
Therefore, it is the motive in one's heart, the why behind the act, that is more important than the act itself as man's service (worship) to God must be genuine and from their inner most being. If it is not then it is in vain and unacceptable. Consider:
- Prayers may be with selfish motives to benefit self.
- Money given for personal recognition or to meet some budgetary objective without regard to how it will benefit man or glorify God.
- Songs with words of praise to God are sung because "they sound good" and are pleasing to the listener with no thought of God.
- Lessons taught or sermons preached may be done for money or praise of man while those listening may "hear" but never "do."
- Lord's Supper may be taken without considering Christ's atoning sacrifice and without any thanksgiving for the forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation obtained.
- Good works may be done for self-satisfaction, to promote a civic or commercial organization but without compassion or without glorifying God; recognizing, praising or honoring Him.
If the Kingdom of God is truly within you, then your character will be one of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control and your actions will reflect this character.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.
1 Do you believe?
a. Jesus Christ is the Son of God? YES __ NO __
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
… Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16b)
"Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?' Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.'" (Acts 8:35-37)
b. You are a sinner? YE S __ NO __
"… All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8-9)
c. Jesus came to die for the sins of mankind? YES __ NO __
"… The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)
d. Jesus died for you? YES __ NO __
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone." (Hebrews 2:9)
2. Have you?
a. Repented of your sins? YES __ NO __
"I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3)
"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30)
b. Confessed your faith in Christ? YES __ NO __
"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33)
c.Been baptized for the remission of sins? YES __ NO __
"Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)
3. Do you?
a.Study the Bible with any consistency? YES __ NO __
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
b. Pray with any consistency? YES __ NO __
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
c.Believe the word in the Bible will judge us when Jesus comes? YES __ NO__
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
d. Believe the Bible will judge us when Jesus comes? YES __ NO__
"And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak." (John 12:47-49)
e. Take care of those in need when the opportunity and need are present? YES __ NO __
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'" (Matthew 25:31-36)
f. Show any interest in those who are lost? YES __ NO __
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you." (John 15:1-3)
g. Give as you should? YES __ NO __
"On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper." (1 Corinthians 16:2)
h. Love the church as Jesus does? YES __ NO __
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:25-27)
4. If you should die right this moment, do you feel you would die? LOST ___ SAVED ___
If your response is LOST or if there is doubt about your situation then:
"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil." (Isaiah 1:16)
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:8)
"Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." (Acts 3:19)
"Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)?
Now is the time for decision
"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16)
Therefore, seek out someone who will baptize you by immersion as you seek God's forgiveness.
Upon being raised from your burial in the waters of your baptism, God will:
- Forgive you and reconcile you to Him
- Put you into the Church, Christ established
- Give you the Holy Spirit who will intercede with God through your spirit, especially when you do not know how to pray
- Continue to cleanse you of sins by Christ's blood as you walk faithfully with Him