Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Opening The Door To The Gentiles

Open door

Miraculous intervention opens the door to Gentiles.

Through Acts 8 the growing church has been primarily a Jewish movement. There have been a few exceptions. Saul is converted to the Apostle Paul in Acts 9. God tells him he will go to Gentiles.

God opens the door through Peter before sending Paul through. Peter is reluctant. Gentiles were unclean. They did not observe Jewish Law.

God overcame Peter's reluctance. God sent an angel to a Gentile with instructions to send for Peter. God gave Peter a vision while the delegation was en route. They arrived as Peter was mulling the meaning.

Peter understood. So he went. He preached to Gentiles.

Peter's Use of the OT

Peter's message (Acts 10:34-43) doesn't quote any Scripture. Superficial analysis may lead us to conclude that the Old Testament is more important to Jew than to Gentile.

This would be an error.

Peter's Message

They knew of Jesus of Nazareth. Peter built upon this by going a step further: Peter was an eye-witness. He was with Him while Jesus went about preaching and doing good. They had heard some things. Peter was there to make it clear.

Peter preaches the basic gospel message in Acts 10:39b-41. Peter makes it personal in Acts 10:42. Peter's final statement is an appeal to the testimony of the Old Testament:

Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. (Acts 10:43 NASB)
This is a book-end to something he said at the beginning of his message:

The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all) (Acts 10:36 NASB)
The "He" in 10:36 is God the Father. God sent His word to the sons of Israel. He gave them the Old Testament. The modern reader may miss the significance of these opening and ending comments. They would have been clear to a Gentile living in the Greco-Roman Empire. Cornelius knew Jews and Gentiles were separated. Cornelius knew the Jews had their own Law and God.

The Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening while Peter was still talking. Peter had more to say. But they believed at this point. So he stopped. The new Gentile believers were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They were added to the fellowship of the church.

Five Takeaways

1. Follow the lead of the Spirit. This is a common theme throughout Acts. It is the starting point for effective witness.

2. Start with common ground. Peter was a Jew. Cornelius was a Gentile. They didn't have a lot of common ground. Peter started with what they had. It didn't hurt that God was preparing the way by sending visions to both. But Peter didn't use the visions. He knew Cornelius was aware of the events happening in and around Jerusalem.

We can't count on visions and angels to open doors for evangelism for us. We can find common ground if we are willing to look for it. Often people have heard of Jesus. Like Peter we can help clarify who Jesus is.

3. Preach the gospel. Peter didn't spend all his time on common ground. He was a man with a message. All Christians are. We cannot be ashamed of the gospel. We must articulate that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.

We must tell that He came in fulfillment of the Scriptures to live a sinless life. He came to die on the cross taking sin upon Himself. He rose on the third day. He has ascended to heaven. He currently sits as the Lord of all Creation.

4. Make it relevant. The relevance is found in the fact that the risen Lord is Judge of the living and dead. We are speaking to people who are living. Christ is their judge. They may not agree with that but it is a fact proved by the resurrection (see Acts 17:30-31). We must tell them that this is not just an opinion they can take or leave.

Peter understood that this is a solemn testimony. Evangelizing is serious business. We must be sober-minded. It is not a silly task. We are speaking to people made in the image of God. If they fail to repent and trust in Christ they will die in their trespasses and sins. When they stand before the Judge of all the earth they will be condemned. This message is eternally relevant to every person.

5. Know the Scriptures. The consequences of rejecting and/or ignoring the gospel are severe. Peter didn't leave it there. He appealed to the awesome promise of salvation. This promise is that through the name of the Messiah all our sins can be forgiven. Through Him we can receive peace with God. The promise is witnessed by all the prophets.

We can safely assume that Peter would have begun quoting some of these promises from the Old Testament had their faith not been made evident by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Acts records a universal pattern of appealing to Old Testament passages. That is what Peter began to do. He didn't need to continue in this case because faith came by the simple gospel witness.

Start with the simple gospel. Add to this your understanding of the Old Testament prophesies. Rely on the Spirit to lead your proclamation. Take your responsibility seriously. To stand upon the promises and warnings of Scripture we must know them. When we stand upon them we can proclaim with faithfulness, love, and boldness.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Bold Gospel

Saul was present at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. He gave approval to his death. Saul is converted in Acts 9.

He immediately begins preaching Jesus as the Son of God in the synagogues. He was boldly and faithfully proving from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

Yesterday evening a brother in Christ sent me the sermon below. I watched it this morning before continuing this blog series. It is so good I just had to link to the whole message instead of writing my own post on Saul's conversion.

Pastor Durbin discusses the significance of Acts 9:19-22. He preaches the importance of studying Acts in general. He lays out the importance of preaching Christ from the Old Testament. He makes an irrefutable case for the need for boldness in our proclaiming Christ.

He nails it.

I hope you'll take the time. You will be challenged. You will be moved. You will want to see the end.

Monday, August 22, 2016

5 Tips for Effective Witness

5 Tips for Effective Witness

We may not all share Jesus with an Ethiopian eunuch. We can all learn a few things from Philip's ministry.

We will see Philip again in Acts 21:8. Here are five things we can learn about his effective witness in Acts 8.

1. Preparation. Philip's effective witness in Acts 8 began before. Philip was recognized earlier by the congregation in Jerusalem. He is described as a man of good reputation and full of the Spirit and of wisdom (Acts 6:3-5).

But Philip's preparation began even before Acts 6. Philip devoted himself to the apostolic teaching and to the fellowship when he was converted. His dedication was evident. He was one of the first leaders appointed by the early church. He didn't demonstrate himself as a leader. He demonstrated himself before becoming a leader.

Philip's effective witness began before he opened his mouth to preach. It began with dedicating himself to the apostles' teaching and serving the body. This dedication to preparation made him ready when each opportunity came.

2. The Holy Spirit. Philip was a man recognized as being "full of the Spirit and of wisdom" (Acts 6:3-5). In Acts 8:29 the Spirit told Philip to join a specific chariot. When he obeyed he found a person who was prepared to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

The leading of the Spirit is critical. Some think it is unnecessary. They may argue that the power of God for salvation is in the gospel message. That's true. They may also argue that we have been commanded to proclaim the gospel to every creature. That's also true.

But no individual can share the gospel with everyone. The whole church working together will accomplish this task. Our individual part should be led by the Spirit.

To make effective use of the gospel's power we must first know the gospel. Additionally the Spirit can lead to individuals who are prepared to hear. This was the case with the Ethiopian eunuch.

Philip had nothing to do with the Ethiopian reading the scroll of Isaiah. Philip had nothing to do with the questions the Ethiopian was wrestling with. The Spirit brought someone prepared to preach to someone prepared to hear. The result was an effective witness and sound salvation.

The Holy Spirit is able and willing to lead today. Are we willing to listen and obey? When we are led to prepared people we understand what Jesus said:  "For in this instance the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have labored and you have entered into their labor" (John 4:37-38 NET).

3. Preaching Where Present. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit doesn't mean don't witness until the Holy Spirit speaks to you. The Holy Spirit inspired the Word of God which commands Christians to proclaim Christ. This general instruction applies at all times. When specific instruction is given we should obey. Specific obedience is in keeping with the general instruction to evangelize every creature.

Philip preached Christ where he was. When he scattered he found himself in Samaria. He preached Christ to the people there (Acts 8:5). When he continued on his way to Caesarea he preached the gospel to all the cities along the way (Acts 8:40). When we see him again in Caesarea (about twenty years later in Acts 21:8) he is known as the evangelist. He is still preaching where he is.

When Philip heard specific instruction on who to preach Christ to he obeyed. When specific direction was lacking he preached Christ where he was to everyone he could.

4. Person Focused. There are many one-size-fits-all methods of evangelism. They are easy to memorize. They make dedication to preparation much easier. When the method doesn't fit the context some try and force the situation and have an ineffective witness. Or they don't witness because they didn't have an "open door."

Some methods are better than others at fitting into different contexts. No method can ever account for every situation. Every witnessing situation will contain at least one person. If we focus on method we will miss opportunities. If we focus on people we don't have to miss any opportunity.

Philip was fully prepared to meet the Ethiopian where he was. He used the situation to create a natural opportunity to proclaim Christ. Philip didn't begin where his "method" told him to begin. He began where the Ethiopian was. Not everyone will be reading messianic prophesies when we meet them. However, every person is worth taking the time to diagnose their present situation and then effectively, faithfully, and lovingly share the gospel with them.

The ambassador for Christ must always remember that we are not simply preaching Christ. We are preaching Christ to people. Effective witness is person focused.

5. Crosses Barriers. The modern reader may not immediately see the barriers that were crossed with the Ethiopian eunuch. Suffice to say they were many. These two men were about as unalike as could be. Philip crossed this barrier after crossing another by preaching to Samaritans. Philip was willing to do what only few were (e.g., Acts 11:19-20).

There is great opportunity for effective witness to be done among your peers. We miss opportunity when we think the Spirit is restrained by our own barriers. Jesus is Lord of all. The gospel is for everyone. Don't quench the Spirit by disqualifying yourself from witnessing across barriers.

Friday, August 19, 2016

To The Remotest Part of the Earth

Isaiah 53:8

Persecution scattered the believers from Jerusalem into the regions of Judea and Samaria. Philip is led by the Holy Spirit to preach Christ to an individual representing the remotest part of the earth.

Jesus told His disciples they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, even the remotest part of the earth. In Acts 8 we see a partial fulfillment of the entire plan.

When the believers were scattered they preached the word wherever they went. Although these events are recorded in the New Testament this was written after the fact. At the time they scattered not a single New Testament book had been written. They were preaching Christ from an Old Testament foundation.

In Acts 8 we get a closer look at the second non-apostle to preach Christ. Philip is representative of what every Christian was doing at the time. He was preaching Christ wherever he went.

Philip first went and preached Jesus and the kingdom of God in Samaria. Many believed and were baptized. The apostles came to see what was happening in Samaria as a result of Philip's preaching. Philip's preaching received the apostolic seal of approval. The Holy Spirit came to the Samaritans.

The Holy Spirit leads Philip to approach an Ethiopian who served as a court official for the Queen of the Ethiopians. Here is the first recorded preaching of Christ specifically to a full Gentile in the early church.

The Ethiopian eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah. When Philip approached he could hear him reading out loud to himself. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. He said he did not. Philip took the opportunity to preach Christ from that passage. It was Isaiah 53:7-8.

Isaiah 53 in Context

Isaiah 53 was written approximately 700 years before the birth of Christ. The exact verses that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading is part of a larger messianic passage: Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Although directly messianic some Jewish interpreters would interpret the Servant as the nation of Israel instead of as the Messiah.

The Servant in this passage is described as suffering for the sins of the people. This suffering is according to the will of God. Although this suffering will result in the death of the Servant it is also prophesied that the Servant will see the fruit of His suffering. Under normal circumstances this would be impossible as the dead do not prolong their days. A resurrected Messiah would fulfill the full passage.

How Philip uses Isaiah 53

The Ethiopian asks a direct question about this passage. He asks if the passage is speaking of the prophet himself or someone else. In response to this question and beginning with this text Philip preaches Jesus to him.

It is unclear if Philip restrained himself to simply Isaiah 53:7-8 or if he expanded his explanation to include other verses from this chapter. These two verses would be enough to proclaim that Jesus died according to the Scriptures.

Explaining Christ

The gospel message is that Jesus died according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose on the third day according to the Scriptures. The New Testament records that Jesus died, was buried, and rose according to the Old Testament prophesies. Isaiah 53:7-8 describes the false accusation and death of the Messiah according to the will of God.

Jesus was not executed because He made too many political or religious enemies. His execution was always part of the plan.

This passage prophesies the death of the Christ. It foretells that He would not open His mouth to defend Himself from the accusations against Him. Although many believed in a conquering Messiah this text tells of a suffering Messiah. A Messiah who will achieve salvation through His own death. A Messiah who would bring healing to the people by taking their sins upon Himself.

Philip proclaimed Jesus was the man who fulfilled this 700 year old prophesy. Jesus was falsely accused. He did not open His mouth to defend Himself. He came to lay down His life and die to take away the judgment upon all who will put their trust in Him.

When Jesus rose from the dead He fulfilled the entirety of Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Fruit of Devotion

Empty Fruit

The stoning of Stephen brought persecution. It also produced great fruit for the kingdom of God.

Much is made of Acts 2:42-47. Some teach it is the ideal church model. The apostles are teaching. People are getting saved. They are dedicating themselves to learning and growing in the faith. Christians are dedicating themselves to each other.

Great generosity is demonstrated. Meals are shared. God is praised. The church is growing.

This activity continues until Stephen's stoning. The whole church in Jerusalem (except the apostles) is scattered by persecution (Acts 8:1). We could lament the loss of this early church purity. This would be to misunderstand God's will for His people.

We see the true fruit of their devotion from Acts 2:42-47 in Acts 8:4. To stop too soon is to drain the life from these early church activities and replace them with empty shells. We don't want empty fruit. We don't want activity for the sake of activity. At least, we shouldn't.

Between Pentecost and Stephen's message only the apostles are preaching the gospel. The people are in awe of what God is doing through them. As a result, many who aim at reproducing Acts 2 often end with idolizing paid church leaders. To focus only on Acts 2 means we can be happy to let the pastor(s) preach while the rest focus on giving, eating, singing, and small group Bible study.

But the book of Acts doesn't end in Acts 2. That was the beginning. The church was never supposed to be isolated in Jerusalem. It was supposed to spread.

Before Jesus ascended to heaven He said:  "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NASB). God gathered Jews from Judea and Samaria, even the remotest part of the earth, to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. This is where many of the converts in Acts 2 were from.

After they were converted they didn't go home. They stayed in Jerusalem. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship.

The end goal of their devotion was not to stay in Jerusalem. It was to spread. God's goal was not to build a megachurch in Jerusalem. The apostles were not called to be rock star pastors. We see the apostles preaching exclusively in Acts 2-6. Stephen is the first fruits of their true focus on discipleship.

Conversion of sinners. Equipping the saints. Releasing equipped saints to go and do likewise.

The apostle Paul lists the officers given by Christ to equip the saints in Ephesians 4:11. Apostles are listed first. They are foundational. Jesus spent three years equipping and preparing His apostles (minus Paul) during His earthly ministry. The apostles spent the first part of the early church period equipping those who devoted themselves to their teaching.

When persecution came and scattered the church look at what they did: "Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word." (Acts 8:4 NASB)

The church began with the apostles preaching in Jerusalem. The first non-apostle to preach was murdered by an angry mob and received into heaven by Jesus standing from His throne. Their anger spilled over into a great persecution that scattered everyone except the apostles.

At this point we see the fruit of their devotion. They didn't give up the faith. They all went about preaching the word. Acts 8:2 tells us that they were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. We are beginning to see the fulfillment of God's plan for the church to spread. It spreads by every member being equipped and mobilized.

Concluding Observations

The early church model was successful because Acts 2:42-47 led to Acts 8:1-4. If our modern "devotion" to the body results in potlucks and home groups but not people equipped to preach the word wherever they go, then our model is not the same as Acts 2.

Devotion to apostolic teaching is designed to grow us to maturity. When we are mature we are able to proclaim Christ in whatever setting we find ourselves. Business men and women, stay-at-home moms and dads, astronauts, engineers, salespeople, janitors, cooks, students, and everyone else who claims to follow Christ should be moving toward a place of maturity. Then the word of God will be preached to the remotest parts of the earth.

Thousands of preachers were scattered into the world in Acts 8. Twelve preachers remained in Jerusalem. Is it any wonder the church spread so rapidly in the early church? Their devotion led to multitudes of mature believers being released to preach the word wherever they went.

This equipping doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen by accident. It happens by devotion.

Devotion from leaders to equip the saints. Devotion from the saints to be equipped by their leaders. This is what Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4:11-16. This is God's design for His church. Acts 2:42-47 was simply stage one. It was the beginning not the end.

Many people are willing to bring a dish to pass to the potluck but are not willing to devote themselves to being truly equipped. It is a deception to believe that this lesser standard was what the early church was all about.

Are you devoted?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stephen, The Preachin' Deacon

Stoning of Stephen

Stephen's ministry is marked by many firsts.

Stephen is the first man listed to be chosen as a deacon. Stephen is the first non-apostle recorded as performing signs and wonders among the people. Stephen is the first non-apostle recorded to publicly preach the gospel after Pentecost. Stephen is the first martyr of the church age. Stephen was murdered after preaching publicly his first time.

Some may look at the results of Stephen's message and reject his method. His audience became enraged. They stoned him to death for what he preached. It would be a mistake to conclude that Stephen's message and method were faulty.

Stephen is also the first (and only) person recorded in Scripture to be welcomed into heaven by Jesus standing from His throne. The fact that Jesus stood up to receive His servant demonstrated that Jesus was pleased with Stephen. If the King is pleased with this method and message then we should be too!

While many firsts marked Stephen's brief ministry he followed the same course as the apostles: he preached Christ using the Old Testament Scriptures.


How Stephen Used the Old Testament

Stephen demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the flow of the Old Testament. His message (Acts 7:2-53) could be preached in under seven minutes. In this brief message Stephen covered the history of Israel from Abraham to Solomon. That's roughly a thousand years.

Stephen explicitly quotes sixteen Old Testament passages (he quotes one passage twice) by my count. These passages are from Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Amos, and Isaiah. Stephen also paraphrased or alludes to history recorded in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings (and the parallels in Chronicles).

That's a lot of content in under seven minutes!

Stephen's overarching purpose is to point to two parallel truths:
  1. God has been faithful to do everything He has said
  2. People have resisted Him every step of the way
Stephen pulls no punches in applying these truths directly to his hearers. He says that God is at work in their midst. He also says that they are doing what their fathers have always done: resist God's plan.

They understood exactly what Stephen was saying. By putting him to death they continued in the line of killing those who announced news of the Righteous One. They confirmed that Stephen's message was true by their actions. Their fathers killed those who proclaimed He is coming. The present group killed Stephen for announcing that the Righteous One had come and been nailed to a cross by their own doing.

Explaining Christ

Scripture records that Saul of Tarsus was present at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1). Saul is converted in Acts 9 and ministers as the apostle Paul for the rest of his life. The ministry of Stephen no doubt had an impact on Paul. Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth (1 Cor. 10:11) that the Old Testament narratives are recorded for the benefit of present-day people. He heard Stephen preach a message of this type when he was still a non-believer.

Many treat Old Testament narrative as quaint stories with a moral. But they aren't fables. They are an inspired record of God's faithfulness in making a people for Himself. They are the record of God's faithful dealings with often unfaithful people.

All along the way God has been working toward fulfilling His promises. He has made promises to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He made promises to Moses, Samuel, David, and Solomon.

Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises. There are more promises yet to be fulfilled. They will no doubt come to pass just as God has promised. God's promised blessing and His warning of judgment for those who resist His plan of salvation are both sure to happen just as He has said.

The nature of the gospel includes a call to a decision. To repent and trust in Christ or to continue in rebellion against Him. When this distinction is put clearly people will respond with brokenness and humility or they will respond with antagonism and hostility. This has been true since the beginning. It will be true until the end.

When we faithfully explain Christ we should expect one of these two responses. Apathy usually means that we have failed to make our explanation of who Jesus is clear enough to our hearers.

Stephen loved his hearers. He prayed for their forgiveness as they were killing him in their rage. He loved them enough to tell them the truth that they were in rebellion against God. Most of them considered themselves to be "religious people" so they did not respond kindly to Stephen's bold proclamation.

Do we love people enough to tell them that being religious isn't enough? They must be found in Christ or they will perish under God's righteous wrath forever. Moralism is deadly. Jesus saves.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Preaching Jesus as The Christ

The apostles continued to face opposition for proclaiming the gospel. They also continued to experience the power of God.

It would have been very difficult for the apostles to preach Jesus as a "life-enhancer." The people saw the controversy. The early preachers were imprisoned. They were publicly shamed and beaten. The gospel message was clearly scandalous.

None of this discouraged the apostles. They saw the power of God through the persecution. It confirmed their testimony. They were instructed by God to continue preaching and teaching the truth. They were never encouraged to soften the message. They were not told to make the message more pleasing to the ear.

In Acts 5 the high priest and his associates are filled with jealousy. They have all of the apostles forcibly arrested. During the night an angel opened the prison gates and led them out. The angel told them:
"Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life." (Acts 5:20 NASB)
They obeyed. They began teaching in the temple around daybreak.

They didn't teach some of the message. They didn't teach just the parts of the message that they liked best. They didn't teach only what resonated with them. They didn't teach just the parts that made their hearers feel comfortable.

They taught the whole message of this Life.

The Council thought the apostles were still in prison. That's where they left them. When they sent the officers to bring them in for questioning they found the prison gates locked and the guards at the door. But no one was inside.

They were confused. Then someone told them that the apostles were standing in the temple teaching the people. They brought the apostles before the Council for further questioning.

Peter gave a summary of the whole message:
"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:30-32 NASB)
This summary filled the Council with rage. They intended to kill the apostles. However, one member of the Council persuaded them to be more prudent. They had the apostles severely beaten and sternly warned to stop preaching. Then they released them.

The apostles responded by rejoicing.
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41 NASB)
The apostles knew that this punishment was shameful. The Council intended it to be. The public knew it too. That was the point.

The apostles couldn't preach Jesus as a "life-enhancer." It wouldn't have made any sense.

No one would think being publicly shamed for the name of Jesus was an enjoyable benefit. They continued to preach:
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:42 NASB)

Two Observations on the Apostles Approach

  1. The Apostles taught both publicly and privately. The text says the taught both in the temple and from house to house. They used all the venues available to them to reach as many people as possible with the message. Although some tried to shame them they were unashamed of the message.
  2. The Apostles preached Jesus as the Christ. The Christ is the Anointed One. The Messiah. The Promised One. Where were these promises made of the coming Messiah? In the Old Testament Scriptures! In order to preach "Jesus as the Christ" required teaching how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament promises.
There are other ways to preach Christ. The apostles spent a lot of time with Jesus. They could have spoken about the cool experiences they had watching Him multiply the loaves and fishes. They could have explained that despite their current difficulties following Jesus has blessed them because of __________ (fill in the blank).

They didn't follow this methodology. They didn't preach themselves or their experiences. They preached Jesus as the Christ.

As "the Christ" Jesus is no mere life-enhancer. As "the Christ" Jesus is the life-giver. The gospel is not a call to a better life from your current one. It is a call to life from death.

The apostles knew this. They obeyed God and preached the whole message of this Life. There was power behind this approach. Not a manipulative power. Not a rhetorical power. The power of God for salvation.

Will you follow this approach and likewise preach Jesus as the Christ? Are you willing to do what it takes to get equipped to share the whole message of this Life? Are you prepared to rejoice when (not if) you suffer shame for the Name?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A King To Be Opposed

The Old Testament Scriptures encouraged the believers after Peter and John were warned to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus.


Opposition did not discourage the apostles or the early church. It made them bolder. They were not encouraged because they loved punishment. They were encouraged because the Scriptures told them in advance that the Christ would be opposed. It also told them that this opposition would be futile.

Acts 4 records that Peter and John were arrested for preaching Christ. When they were released they were warned by the rulers and elders to stop proclaiming Jesus to the people. Peter and John told them they planned to obey God rather than men. They would not stop. After hearing further threats from the religious leaders Peter and John returned to the believers.

They held a prayer meeting. They prayed Old Testament promises.

Psalm 146 in Context


Acts 4:24 records a citation from Psalm 146:6. There are several other passages throughout the Scriptures which affirm similar truths.

The language quoted from Psalm 146 directly affirms that God is the Creator of the earth. These early believers understood more immediately the implications of this truth than many modern hearers.

Psalm 146 praises God because He is the Creator. It affirms that it is foolish to trust in human leaders because they are only temporary. Humans are powerless in contrast to the Creator God. It affirms that the one who trusts in the Creator is blessed when God helps them.

The power of the Creator allows for Him to open the eyes of the blind; to raise those who are bowed; and to release prisoners. The Creator God is worthy of putting your trust in.

Psalm 2 in Context


Psalm 2 describes the Messiah as God's anointed King. It also describes that the kings of the earth and the rulers conspire together to oppose God's King.

The reaction of God to this rebellion is not to fear or tremble. It is to laugh and scoff. God knows that their opposition is futile. It will be short-lived. Those who persist will be destroyed in His wrath.

The psalm includes a call to worship the Lord with reverence and a command to rejoice with trembling. The final verse tells us of the proper response to the King, God's own Son:
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 2:12 NASB)
The contrast is strikingly clear. Those who fail to do homage to the Son will perish under His wrath. Those who take refuge in Him are blessed.

How the Believers Used Psalm 2 and 146


The gathered believers' response to persecution is one of faith. God revealed in advance in the Scriptures that His plan would unfold exactly this way.

God would establish His Christ. The rulers and authorities would oppose Him.

The believers used these psalms in their prayer time to affirm the truth of God's Word. They used these psalms as an encouragement that God was at work in their midst. They used them to strengthen their own resolve. They knew God had already won and they were confident to continue proclaiming Christ boldly to all.

Explaining Christ


These psalms are used together to emphasize the authority, power, and nature of Jesus.

Jesus is much more than a human ruler whose authority extends for a short period of time. Jesus is much more than a human king whose power is limited.

Jesus is the eternal king. He has been anointed by the Creator of heaven and earth. As God in the flesh Jesus demonstrated His power by overcoming death. He now rules from His throne in heaven.

Jesus' nature as revealed in these psalms is perhaps even more controversial in the modern-day. Many believe in a Jesus who is incapable of wrath. Some teach that the Father is angry. My children were once taught at a VBS they attended that Jesus never gets angry. This is false.

Genuine biblical teaching on the Trinitarian God teaches that Jesus and the Father are the same in their attributes. Both are holy, righteous, merciful, compassionate, and vengeful.

Psalm 2 paints the same picture of Jesus as Revelation. The wrath of the Lamb will be fierce against all who refuse to receive His merciful offer of pardon for their rebellion. This gift is free for rebels to receive. This gift was purchased with the precious and costly blood of Christ.

We must be sure that we worship Jesus as He is revealed in the Scriptures.

He is the eternal King of heaven and earth. He will crush His adversaries under His feet. He is willing and able to save all who take refuge in Him from the wrath that is to come. Praise God! He is both righteous and merciful.

These truths should likewise encourage believers today when we face opposition for proclaiming the name of Jesus. Opposition should not surprise us. It should not discourage us.

We must be equipped to proclaim the fullness of these truths. It is not enough to simply tell people that we like Jesus and inform them that we hope they will like Him, too. Our task is to warn those who are in rebellion against God to turn from their rebellion and seek refuge in the Lamb.

His grace is amazing. His wrath is fierce. This is the Jesus of Scripture.

Monday, August 1, 2016

This is the Lord's Doing

Corner Stone Psalm 118

Peter and John spent the night in jail after their last message.

They used the opportunity after healing a beggar and gaining a crowd to proclaim Christ and the resurrection from the dead. The captain of the temple guard, the priests, and the Sadducees laid hands on them. They put them in jail for the night. In the morning Peter and John were brought before the authorities.

They were asked in what power or name they were acting. Peter preached Christ to them from Psalm 118:22.

He made it clear they were acting in the name of the Lord. God's power in healing the beggar was authentication that they spoke in God's will, power, and authority.

Psalm 118 in Context

Psalm 118 was commonly interpreted in Peter's day to be speaking of the Davidic Messiah.

The psalm begins with a call to give thanks and praise to the God of Israel for His goodness and lovingkindness. It tells of God's past faithfulness in rescuing His people. God's past faithfulness is a firm foundation for present hope in the face of adversity.

God has been faithful. God will continue to be faithful.

The psalmist describes acting in the name of God on the basis of His faithful promises. Victory is ensured by acting in the name of the Lord. No matter how hopeless it may seem. Acting in God's name is synonymous with acting according to His will. To act contrary to God's will while claiming His name is blasphemy. Blasphemous activity should not expect blessing. This should bring expectation of judgment and/or discipline.

The psalm ends by affirming that the one to come in the name of the Lord is blessed. Therefore, it is right to give thanks to God for his goodness and lovingkindness.

How Peter Uses Psalm 118

The question of the rulers was direct. Peter's answer was direct, too.

Peter was leaving little doubt that he was acting in the name and power of the God of Israel by citing Psalm 118 in his response to their question. More directly they are acting in the name of God incarnate: Jesus Christ the Nazarene.

Peter boldly continues by pointing out this is the same Jesus that they crucified and rejected.

Peter makes a strong point that his audience would have understood immediately but may be missed by the modern reader. His audience was very familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures.

When Peter began responding to their question he referred to his inquisitors as "rulers." This same word (archwn) is used in Psalm 118:
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in princes (archwn). (Psalm 118:9 NASB)
Although the English translations are different the Greek word is the same (coming from the Greek translation of the Psalm in the Septuagint). Peter continues to draw a line in the sand and make it personal when he quotes Psalm 118.

The original wording of Psalm 118 says that the cornerstone was rejected by the builders. Peter makes this personal by saying:  "He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone" (Acts 4:11 NASB).

This may seem aggressive. Peter's point is actually compassionate. Peter understands that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. The rejection of the Messiah was part of God's predetermined plan.

The main point is not their rejection.

The main point of Peter's message is that despite their actions (crucifying Jesus) God has also acted in His goodness and faithfulness. God has brought salvation through the name of Jesus and no other name.

Peter's audience would have likely known this psalm by heart. The very next verse says:
This is the LORD's doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:23 NASB)

Explaining Christ

Peter was not shy in declaring that Jesus is God's Messiah and the only Savior.

Psalm 118 includes the details that the Messiah:
  • was to be rejected by the rulers
  • is a better refuge than the rulers
  • was established by God to be the only foundation of eternal salvation
  • is worthy of being trusted
  • is able to accomplish salvation, even in the face of His enemies
  • comes because of the everlasting goodness and lovingkindness of God.
The resurrection of Jesus proves this is all true beyond any shadow of a doubt. Therefore, let's take the psalmists advice:
This is the day which the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 NASB)
If you are in Christ, rejoice! If not, then repent and trust Him today. Today is the day of salvation.
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NASB)