Friday, November 17, 2017

Two Main Tasks In The Church

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17)


Paul's declaration in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is one of the most well-known and oft-quoted verses in Scripture. It speaks of the beautiful truth of salvation. The old things passed away. New things have come.

Praise God!

Much less quoted are the next verses.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, bold added)
If you are in Christ, you are a new creature. The old has passed away. The new has come. The "new" includes a ministry of reconciliation.

This isn't for some. It's not for those who are spiritually gifted for it. It's for anyone and everyone who is in Christ. All of us.

Every Christian is an ambassador for Christ. Every Christian has received the ministry of reconciliation. Every Christian. Period.

If 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 is quoted infrequently, I think the sentiments leading up to the "Therefore" in 5:17 are quoted even less.
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. (2 Corinthians 5:9-11, bold added)
Paul lived his life in light of the truth that Christians must appear before the Lord. This truth led Paul to have as his ambition to live a life that is pleasing to Him. Living with a healthy fear of the Lord caused Paul to persuade men. Paul engaged in this task because, as a Christian, he had received a ministry of reconciliation.

Paul knew he must stand before the Lord and give account for his ministry of reconciliation. Paul figured he should spend his life trying to persuade men to be reconciled to God.

Fairly simple.

The disconnect for many Christians is that we think this was all well and good for Paul. But it doesn't apply to everyone. Yet, Paul didn't let anyone off the hook. His language is inclusive. It's not just for him. It's for everyone who is a Christian.

And the famous declaration about the old passing away and the new coming fits snugly in the middle of this context.

If we fail to understand this truth we can skew the entirety of Christianity. All of the New Testament instruction fits within this important framework.

A Firm Foundation

If we trace God's work of salvation from beginning to end we see that He is making a people for Himself, redeemed from the curse through their faith in the Messiah. God promised to Adam and Eve that a Messiah would come. God promised that through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. God chose Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, and the nation of Israel to be a light to the nations and the nation through which the promised Messiah would come.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of these promises.

But Jesus has not yet fulfilled all of them. The Old Testament promised that the Messiah would suffer, die, rise to life again and enter into His glory. The Old Testament foretold that repentance in His name would be proclaimed to all the nations of the earth, then the end would come.

Passages like Psalms 2, 8, and 110 declare that the Messiah will sit at the right hand of the Father until all things are fully subjected to Him. We are currently living in this time. Jesus is risen and ascended. He is reigning in heaven. He has promised He will return. He will not return until the Great Commission has been fulfilled.

In order to fulfill the Great Commission, God has left the church to be the Body of Christ on earth. The church - comprised of all born-again believers, both Jew and Gentile, in whom the Holy Spirit of God dwells - has been given the gift of salvation. We are new creatures in Christ.

And God has entrusted a ministry of reconciliation to each of His children.

It's not the work of a few. It's our mission from our Lord and Savior. It is literally the purpose for our existence.


That God May Be Glorified

Paul wrote about the purpose of the church: "to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12).

The church exists to glorify God. We don't exist to plan for retirement or to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of this world. We exist to glorify God.

In order to glorify God the church has two main tasks:
  1. Edification of the saints
  2. Evangelization of the world.
This is an internal (edification) and an external (evangelization) task. But these tasks are not contrary to each other. They don't compete with one another. At least, they're not supposed to. As designed by God these tasks complement and support one another. Therefore, it is not our task to pick one and ignore the other. It is not our task to participate in whichever we are most comfortable with.

We must embrace both because the Great Commission is made up of both.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20, bold added)
Disciples making more disciples. Go (evangelize). Teach (edify believers). Repeat. Edified believers will faithfully represent God in the world. As every member evangelizes, we should see persons added to the kingdom of God and His Christ. In this way, the process won't end until Jesus returns.

Some stumble on other aspects of Christianity. But these shouldn't be stumbling blocks. They all fit within this basic framework. They aren't contrary to it. Once again, when properly understood, they don't take away from these two primary tasks. They support and enhance them.


Stumbling Blocks

Some will object to this simple design. They'll point to passages that emphasize other gifts and responsibilities. What about service? Hospitality? Prayer?

All of these are important. They all fit. When we use our gifts we use them in line with these two major purposes. We use our gifts to edify our brothers and sisters. We are likewise edified by the exercise of their gifts. We also use our gifts to proclaim God's excellencies in all the earth in both word and deed.

We do ourselves a disservice when we reduce evangelism to merely speaking the truth of the gospel. It is true that the gospel must be preached. How can they believe in Him whom they've never heard?

But the ministry of reconciliation is blessed when accompanied by the use of our spiritual gifts. Those who have a heart for service should serve. They should serve in the name of Jesus. Their service falls under the larger umbrella of proclaiming God's name to the ends of the earth.

Without the gospel accompanying our service, our hospitality, our kindness, or our generosity, there is nothing to distinguish believers in Christ from non-believers who likewise seek to diminish human suffering and meet felt human needs out of natural human compassion. What separates Christian ministry from non-Christian humanitarian aid if not the inclusion of the gospel?

Our spiritual gifts are not designed to separate members of the Body of Christ. They unite us. We are unified in our purpose as the church. We exist to glorify our great God and Savior. We do this through walking in our two primary tasks, 1) the edification of believers, and 2) the evangelization of the world.

In both tasks our spiritual gifts are critically important. We use our gifts to edify and evangelize. We are edified by the proper use of the gifts of others. In fact, some of the most powerful evangelism opportunities are created when differently, complimentary gifted members of the body serve together. What power and joy is accomplished when a spiritually gifted servant and a spiritually gifted teacher minister together in love!

In times like these, we are actually doing both tasks (edification and evangelization) simultaneously as both believers encourage and bless one another while they together bless the world through serving in His great name.

Conclusion

Every church ministry, program, and decision can (and should!) be filtered through these main purposes. The edification of the saints and the evangelization of the world.

Christ reigns in heaven. He is coming back. He is seated at the right hand of the Father until all things are put under His feet. We must proclaim the gospel to all nations before the end will come. Jesus told us so: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).

What are we waiting for?

Get equipped. Obey your King. Glorify your God.

For more on this, read my books on the church and church leadership. They discuss these important truths in greater detail.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Kingdom of Priests

'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
(Exodus 19:5-6)



God declared His purpose in salvation after bringing the sons of Israel out of Egypt. God did this just  prior to giving them the Mosaic covenant. The purpose of salvation does not change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. The New is a continuation of the Old. God declared that He was making a people for Himself to be His own possession. He was making a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.

The nation of Israel is foundational in this purpose. Gentiles in the New Covenant are grafted into this same purpose. The use of this language - a kingdom of priests, a holy nation - is used by the Apostles John, Peter, and Paul in addition to the author of Hebrews.


A Conditional Covenant

God told Moses that the condition for enjoying the covenantal blessing was their obedience. God said they would be His own possession among all the peoples if they obeyed His voice and kept His covenant.

The New Covenant is likewise conditional. However, it is not conditioned on our obedience. It is conditioned on the obedience of Jesus.

Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law and accomplished the will of the Father. The Old Covenant required the obedience of the people to enjoy God's presence and fellowship. Because of what Christ has accomplished the people of the New Covenant are able to enjoy the blessing of fellowship with God based on the righteousness and obedience of another, Jesus the Christ.


Priests of God

Many people have different views of what it means to be a priest. In Exodus 19 God declared a defining characteristic of priests that is helpful for understanding His meaning in making a kingdom of priests for His own possession.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them." (Exodus 19:21-22)
Whatever duties a priest may have, the essential characteristic of a priest is one who comes near to the Lord.

Throughout the Old Covenant there was a line of priests that were allowed to come closer to God than others. The High Priest was able to come closest. Before all of these regulations were given, God declared that His purpose was to create a kingdom of priests for His own possession.

The Old Covenant was temporary. It was the shadow of the substance that was to come in Christ (Colossians 2:17). Because of Christ's perfect obedience and His ministry as our High Priest, He has opened wide the door for all who are in Him to draw near to God in His name. This is fulfilled in the New and everlasting covenant.

Throughout the Old Covenant the veil remained in the tabernacle and the Temple to make sure no one came too close. Likewise, in Exodus 19 Moses was told to create a border which no one, even the priests, could go past. When Christ died on the cross, the veil was torn down from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38).

God was demonstrating that Christ had succeeded in His earthly ministry. The veil was torn from top to bottom demonstrating God's activity. It was not the work of man that would allow us to enter into God's presence. It was God's work through His Son, the Messiah.

Jesus died to fulfill the Law and open the door for salvation to the ends of the earth. God is working through the church to graft a people from all the families of the earth into His kingdom as priests. Those who experience the joy of salvation are blessed with the ability to fellowship with the living God through Jesus, His Son. We are priests to God because of the High Priestly ministry of Jesus.

God gets a holy people as His own possession.


Understanding the New in Light of the Old

Christianity isn't about going to heaven when you die. Heaven is just a continuation of the blessing of knowing God. It doesn't start or end at death. The New Covenant promise of eternal life is similar to the promise in the Old Covenant. The redeemed get to know God, live in His presence, and proclaim His glory.

When God made the nation of Israel He made them a nation holy unto Himself. He dwelt in their midst. In the New Covenant, the dwelling place of God is not in a temple or tabernacle made by human hands. God now dwells in the temple of His people, the church.

The blessing of knowing God and being known by Him is a present tense possession. The blessing will continue into eternity for those who are redeemed in this life.

Each of the New Testament authors who speak of this awesome privilege call Christians to take hold of these promises and live as holy people now. We are called to draw near to God now, not just in the future. We are called to live in God's presence now and to continue into heaven. Jesus made it clear that eternal life begins at salvation, in this life.
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
John speaks of the purpose of Jesus in salvation.
and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father-- to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6, bold added)
Paul speaks of God's purpose of redemption in Christ, opening the door to all peoples.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14, bold added)
Paul prayed with the reality that believers are God's possession, His inheritance. Paul had on his mind what God gets out of our salvation. We belong to God. He redeems us so we will be His to the praise of His glory.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14, bold added)
Peter likewise writes to the Gentile churches Paul had planted using this terminology. He urges the redeemed to not only know God and be known by Him, but to proclaim the excellencies of God in the world.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (1 Peter 2:9-10, bold added)

Conclusion

We have been redeemed for a purpose. That purpose is to be a kingdom of priests to our God. This means that we are called to live in His holy presence and draw near to Him. We belong to God because He has redeemed us with the blood of our Savior. He belongs to us because He has freely given Himself to us.

This is the direction and purpose of salvation. It will finally be accomplished in the end when the redeemed are gathered in from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people and the enemies of God are cast into the Lake of Fire.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4)
While we wait for God to accomplish His purposes, let us draw near to Him through Christ. Let us enjoy the presence of God on a daily basis. Let us live as His holy people, proclaiming His excellence and glory for calling us out of darkness into His marvelous light.



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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stand By & See

But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent."
(Exodus 14:13-14)


Water from the rock

Salvation is wholly a work of God from beginning to end. The fact that you can contribute nothing to your salvation is a stumbling block to non-believers and believers alike. Pride can keep people from humbling themselves before God and receiving the gift of salvation. Those who have received salvation can begin to think they must now add something to what they have received.

Both are serious errors.

The Apostle Paul used the exodus and wilderness wanderings of the sons of Israel as a picture of God's work of salvation.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
To fully understand this you should read Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in their entirety. This brief study will not be able to delve into every nuance. We are attempting a big picture overview.

As God brought His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, we see that their formation, deliverance, sustenance, and receiving of the promises were all a work of God's mighty power. Those who were faithless perished along the way. Their faithlessness is a stark warning for New Covenant believers:
Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. (1 Corinthians 10:5-6, bold added)
To learn from this example we must understand two things:
  1. Salvation is wholly a work of God from beginning to end; and
  2. The longing of God's people should not be for evil things but instead for God to be glorified in and through the work of salvation.

Baptized in the Cloud and in the Sea

The judgments leading up to the exodus were intended to bring God's people out of Egypt so they could be a people holy unto Him. Through this holy nation God would bring a Savior and King who will rule the nations and bless all the families of the earth.

As God was leading His people, He led them by manifesting Himself as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God's people followed their God out of Egypt. They followed Him up to the sea. For four hundred thirty years the sons of Israel had served as slaves in Egypt. They were laborers, not warriors. They were a group of men, women, and children.

As they stood on the shore of the sea the Egyptian army came bearing down on them. They were in a situation that appeared hopeless. Despite recently experiencing God's protection while still in Egypt, they were frightened. They cried out to the Lord and Moses.
Then they said to Moses, "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians '? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." (Exodus 14:11-12)
In this moment, the sons of Israel saw their helpless and hopeless state. They had nothing to contribute to their deliverance. Moses declared to them that their salvation was going to be a work of God.
But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent." (Exodus 14:13-14)
God commanded Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea. When Moses obeyed, God worked through Moses to divide the sea so that the company of Israel could walk through on dry land. Then God brought the waters back together upon the Egyptians who had tried to follow.

Moses did not deliver the people. God did. God chose to have Moses participate. Moses contributed nothing of value. He simply obeyed God's command and God worked through his obedience. Moses had no power in himself to divide the sea or to bring it back together. His only hope was that God would do as He had promised when he walked with God in faith. Had God not done what He promised the sons of Israel would have perished on the seashore.


The Spiritual Rock

The Apostle didn't end with the deliverance through the sea. Paul continued to include the sustenance of the people through the wilderness in his picture of God's continued work of salvation.

The people needed food and water in the wilderness. God provided. They needed God's continual provision. So do we.

The people could not work for these things. They had to receive them as they were provided. When they attempted to gather more manna than they were commanded it rotted. When Moses added himself to the miraculous deliverance of water he was disqualified from entering into the Promised Land.
So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." (Numbers 20:9-12)
Moses began by obeying God. Moses had been a faithful instrument in God's hand. Yet, his obedience faltered and he disobeyed God in this instance. Moses failed to treat God as holy. Moses added something of himself into the equation. God told Moses to bring forth water by speaking to the rock, not by striking it.

Moses attempted to bring forth God's intended results through his own means. God still used Moses in his disobedience and brought forth the water the people needed. Yet, Moses himself was disqualified and not allowed to enter into the land.

The analogy can easily be misunderstood. I am not questioning Moses' salvation. Neither Moses nor anyone else is saved by their works. Moses' disqualification from entering the land serves as a warning to everyone that even the most obedient, who falter in such a small way, will not make it on their own.

In Moses' case, he lost out on an earthly blessing. Those who attempt to add anything of themselves to the work of salvation will necessarily ruin the sinlessness and perfect righteousness offered in Christ alone and won't succeed. We begin by the Spirit of God and run the entire course by His grace. Works will follow as the fruit but they add nothing to our salvation other than evidence that it is genuine.
This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:2-3)
Paul continues in Galatians 3 to emphasize that our salvation, if it is genuinely from God, will begin and be completed by the Spirit of God. As we walk in faith works will result. They do not save us. The grace of God saves us. If no works are evident it is likely you have not been saved and that your faith is a dead faith (cf. James 2:14-26; Matthew 7:16-29; etc.).



Conclusion

Salvation is accomplished by the grace of God. It is not the work of people. Salvation is received through faith. While obedience to God is clearly commanded in the Scriptures we must never make the mistake of thinking that our obedience contributes to the work of salvation. God works in and through His people in both their obedience and their disobedience.

While the Bible consistently encourages God's children to obey Him, we must not make the mistake of concluding that our obedience adds to the salvation God provides through Christ alone. When we attempt to add to what God has done we can, like Moses, attempt to steal glory from God.

From beginning to end salvation is wholly a work of God. It must be received as a gift by faith. In faith, we must be sure to never attempt to add to it or take away from it. In faith, we must always treat our God - who loved us and sent His Son to accomplish our salvation and keep us until the end - as holy. Attempting to add anything to our salvation is a craving for evil as it is an attempt to steal glory from God. All who enter into God's presence in the company of the redeemed will be a reason to boast in God, not in themselves.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
When we humbly walk in faith and obey our God, we have opportunity to stand by and see how He works in and through us. That creates many opportunities to boast in the Lord.

The truth is, from the greatest to the least of us, we all need God's grace every moment of every day. Just like the sons of Israel needed God to provide for them every step of the way out of Egypt into the Promised Land we must depend on God for everything. If we think we only need Him for some, or even most, we are woefully deceived.

May God be treated as holy among His people.
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)




Monday, November 13, 2017

Christ Our Passover

For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
(1 Corinthians 5:7)


Passover

God promised to make a great nation of Abraham. Genesis records God's faithfulness in beginning to fulfill these promises through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As Genesis ends we see that God has orchestrated events in order to bring the sons of Israel (Jacob) into Egypt.

When they entered into Egypt there were about 70 persons in all. Over the next four hundred and thirty years the people multiplied greatly. God brought them out of the land of Egypt with powerful plagues in order to make them a holy nation, set apart for His great name.

The series of plagues drew a distinction between the sons of Israel and the Egyptians. The final plague was the harshest and was a foreshadowing of the coming Christ. The Apostle Paul makes it plain that Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover.


Distinguishing The People of God

God declared the purpose of the plagues from the beginning.
"But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur."' (Exodus 8:22-23)
God intended to draw a distinction between His people and the people of Egypt. He intended to demonstrate that He was in the midst of the land. God wanted all to come to the same conclusion.
"For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth." (Exodus 9:14-16, bold added)
If you simply read through the account of the plagues in Exodus 7-11 you will see the repeated theme of the distinction between God's people and the Egyptians and how God's power and name are magnified in His judgments upon Egypt while simultaneously protecting His own people in the land of Goshen.

All of the plagues were intended to culminate in the final demonstration.


The Passover and Death of the Firstborn

God had a very specific purpose with the final plague. Moses had fled from Egypt to the land of Midian. Moses remained in Midian for forty years before God appeared to him in the burning bush. Before Moses returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh, God told Moses the ultimate purpose.
The LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, 'Let My son go that he may serve Me'; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn."'" (Exodus 4:21-23, bold added)
The final plague of the death of the firstborn was to serve as a major sign of the coming Messiah. To maintain the distinction and deliver His people from the judgment upon the firstborn, God instructed His people to participate in the Passover.
'For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-- I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.' (Exodus 12:12-13)
The blood of the lamb on their house would literally cause the judgment of God to pass over them and fall upon every house that was not covered with the blood of a lamb. Moses made it clear that God's instructions must be obeyed perfectly and that to remain safe the sons of Israel must remain inside their dwelling after applying the blood to their homes.
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you." (Exodus 12:21-23)
After both of these instructions Moses made it clear that this major event was to be celebrated annually to remember God's deliverance of His people and the formation of the nation by bringing them out of Egypt with a mighty display of power. As they remembered the original Passover, they were also to redeem every firstborn of their own in every generation.

Fulfilled In Christ

The imagery of judgment passing over individuals and households is the essence of the gospel and salvation in Christ. When the sons of Israel heard of the coming judgment and the means of deliverance, all who heard and acted accordingly were saved. Likewise, the gospel declares that a Day of Judgment is coming and all who take refuge in Christ will be saved from judgment. The message of Christianity is essentially a declaration of what God has provided for judgment to pass over guilty sinners. Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed. All who hope to be saved from the penalty for their own sin must have His blood deliver them from judgment.

The inclusion of the firstborn being killed in Egypt and the ongoing redemption of all the firstborn in the sons of Israel likewise pointed to the only begotten Son of God who would come and lay down His own life willingly as the Lamb of God.

Finally, the very specific aspect that the lamb to be slain on the first Passover was not to have any bone broken (Exod 12:46; Numb 9:12) was perfectly fulfilled in the suffering of Christ on the cross. Written 1400 years before the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, this prophecy was dramatically fulfilled when Jesus was the only man of the three crucified that day whose legs were not broken.
So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN." (John 19:32-36)


Conclusion

God's purpose in the judgments leading up to the Passover and exodus of the sons of Israel from Egypt were to point to the salvation that was to be perfectly achieved in and through Christ. These events were to be remembered and celebrated each year to continually point to the coming Messiah.

Now that Christ has come and has been sacrificed we must heed the call to repent and trust in Him alone. There is salvation found in no one else and no other means to escape the coming judgment.

While we should celebrate our salvation in Christ we should also heed the Apostle's instruction to those who have taken refuge in Christ:
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
God used the original Passover to bring His people out of Egypt so they could be a holy people unto Himself. Likewise, Christians are called to be a holy people unto God in Christ. The language of cleaning out the old leaven is a reference to ridding ourselves of the old, sinful way of life from which we were redeemed. The blessing of salvation is not just an escaping of judgment but a call to a new life - a celebration of sincerity and truth.




Friday, November 10, 2017

The Lion of Judah

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
(Genesis 49:10)


Lion of Judah

God declared that a seed would come and overcome the enmity of the curse of the fall. God chose Abraham and promised to make of him a great nation. God promised that the blessing upon Abraham would be a blessing upon all the families of earth. God miraculously provided Isaac to Abraham and Sarah to continue the lineage of promise.

Isaac grew up and took a wife at the age of forty. Isaac's wife Rebekah was barren. Isaac prayed for his wife, God opened her womb, and she conceived twins. The twins struggled together while in the womb and the LORD explained the struggle to Rebekah:
The LORD said to her,
"Two nations are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger." (Genesis 25:23)
God sovereignly declared His choice saying the older will serve the younger. The younger twin, Jacob, would later come to be known as Israel. The tribes of the nation of Israel are named from the sons of Jacob.


The Promised Ruler of the Nations

Near the end of Jacob's life he blessed his sons. In blessing his sons, Jacob passed over his first three sons (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) with the blessing to rule. That blessing would rest upon Judah.
"Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father's sons shall bow down to you." (Genesis 49:8)

Jacob prophesied that Judah's brothers would praise him and the descendants of Israel will bow down to him. Jacob continued,
"Judah is a lion's whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He couches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." (Genesis 49:9-10)
The description of Judah's rule with the imagery of a young lion is vivid. Lions are majestic and powerful. This prophecy of Judah's rule is not temporary. Jacob prophesied that the scepter (the symbol of authority) would not depart from Judah. The next line is a euphemism relating to the coming descendants of Judah. The lineage of Judah is given authority over the nation of Israel and eventually all the nations.

The phrase, "Until Shiloh comes," is difficult to interpret. It is translated differently by many English versions. Although each of the four major interpretive options have merit, I believe it is best to take this phrase as rendered by the NET:
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs;
the nations will obey him. (Genesis 49:10, NET, bold added)
A promised seed has been declared from the beginning of Genesis. The blessing bestowed upon Judah is a blessing that will remain until he comes to whom it belongs and the nations will obey him. This is fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus. The fulfillment of this prophecy in the first book of the Bible is made explicit in the final book of Scripture.
and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." (Revelation 5:5)


The Importance of the Virgin Birth

The promised King of the nations is Jesus of Nazareth. There are more prophecies of His reign to be fulfilled in the future at His return. While we wait for His second coming we should take note of how God perfectly fulfilled His promise through His Son. The genealogies recorded in Scripture firmly root these fulfilled promises in human history.

By paying attention to the promised lineage of the coming Seed we can be alerted to some important truths. First, God never intended for the first king of Israel, Saul, and his line to remain in authority. Saul descended from the line of Benjamin, not Judah. Saul's son, Ish-bosheth, reigned over Israel for two years after Saul's death (see 2 Sam 2:8-11). It was through David, the third king in Israel, that the lineage of promise would be fulfilled.

It is from the descendants of David that the Messiah is to be expected. In 2 Samuel 7 we see a  promise to David, a descendant of Judah, that a ruler will sit on the throne from his house forever. This lineage is fulfilled through Solomon in the kings of Israel.

An apparent problem arises in history through Solomon's line, however. The prophet Jeremiah records a curse placed upon king Jeconiah (a.k.a. Coniah):
"Thus says the LORD,
'Write this man down childless,
A man who will not prosper in his days;
For no man of his descendants will prosper
Sitting on the throne of David
Or ruling again in Judah.'" (Jeremiah 22:30, bold added)
This curse seemingly disrupts the promised lineage. Matthew's Gospel records the genealogy of Joseph through the lineage of Judah, David, and Solomon. In the midst of this genealogy we read:
After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. (Matthew 1:12-16, bold added)
If Joseph was the biological father of Jesus, then Jesus could not be the promised Messiah. The curse upon Jeconiah makes it impossible that the Messiah could come from this line. However, since Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus this curse does not pass to him.

Luke's Gospel records Mary's lineage. She is likewise a descendant of Judah and David. However, the genealogies separate as Mary descends, not from the line of Solomon, but from Nathan (see Luke 3:31).

Jesus' legal lineage, from both Joseph and Mary, is through the line of Judah and the house of David. As the promised seed of the woman Jesus perfectly fulfills the promises made by God throughout Genesis


Conclusion

Genealogies may not be your favorite part of Scripture. But they are included for a reason. God's promises are not made in a vacuum. They are made and fulfilled in human history. The genealogies have served for generations as a clue to God's fulfillment of His promises in Jesus of Nazareth, the Lion of Judah.

As the promised Messiah, Jesus is the appointed King of the nations. As the fulfillment of these promises we can fully understand how the Great Commission is to be carried out in Jesus' name. After rising from the dead Jesus explained that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in the name of the Christ to all nations. Since all authority in heaven and on earth have been given to Him as the fulfillment of these promises, He has the right to command obedience, offer salvation, and warn of retribution if His call to repentance is ignored.

When we declare that Jesus is Lord we are standing upon these promises.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Lord Will Provide

Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided."
(Genesis 22:14)



After the miraculous birth of Isaac, the child of promise, Abraham was tested by God. This testing should not be taken in the sense of tempting but refining. God was testing Abraham like a master goldsmith tests his metal. The testing is not an attempt to find out what you have. The testing is intended to refine what you have. Big difference.

God has already been refining Abraham for years. While Abraham waited for the fulfillment of the birth of Isaac his trust in God was built. The miraculous nature of Isaac's birth foreshadowed the miraculous birth of Christ. The offering of Isaac served as a type of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.


The Offering of the Son

We must always be careful when offering allegorical interpretations. Such handling of the text without restraint can lead to all sorts of speculation. In this case, we are on firm ground in treating the offering of Isaac as a foreshadowing of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED." He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
God chose to refine Abraham with this very specific and difficult test because God Himself would fulfill this type in the future by the sacrifice of His own beloved Son. The author of Hebrews tells us plainly that Abraham's faith in offering Isaac and receiving him back were a type of the resurrection.

This word, type, means something like figure, illustration, or symbol. Very literally this testing was a parable given by God of the future death and resurrection of the coming Christ.

In the illustration we see some parallels between the crucifixion of Christ and the offering of Isaac. Both Jesus and Isaac carried the wood on their backs on the way to the place of their sacrifice. Most astounding is the expectation that Abraham expresses that God will provide the lamb.


The Lamb of God

The context of Genesis 22 demonstrates an unresolved fulfillment of the faith of Abraham. Abraham is vindicated in his trust of God. God's testing achieves its intended purposes. Isaac was never in any real physical danger. But there is still an unresolved issue that remains in the text.

Abraham answers Isaac's question about the sacrifice with his expectation of God's providence:
Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together. (Genesis 22:8)
A few verses later this expectation is partially fulfilled.
Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided." (Genesis 22:13-14)
In the immediate context, God provided. However, Abraham expected a lamb and received a ram. The expectation of God's provision of a lamb is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist immediately recognized this when he exclaimed at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry:
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

 

Conclusion

Indeed, God provided for Abraham and Isaac. This provision served as an example more than 1600 years before Jesus was born, crucified, and risen from the dead. God chose this emotionally charged and difficult test to exemplify the seriousness of sin and the heaviness of the price that would be paid to redeem a people to Himself.

Those who use this passage of Scripture to claim that God was cruel in using such a drastic test in the life of Abraham and Isaac fail to understand that this passage really emphasizes the love of a God who, although He stayed the hand of Abraham and ensured Isaac's safety, was willing to offer His own beloved Son for the salvation of His enemies.

Genesis 3:15 proclaimed that the victory would come through the suffering and death of the promised seed. Genesis 22 proclaimed that the promised seed would be received back from death as a type of the resurrection of Christ.


For more on this, take a listen to this sermon:



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Child of Promise

 "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year."
(Genesis 17:21)


The promised son

Christians are called to walk by faith and not by sight. This is not a wishy-washy call to live by wishful thinking. Instead, it is a command to trust that God is able to accomplish what he has said he will do. Walking by faith is living in a confident expectation that God will do as he promised.

Scripture records God's faithfulness throughout history. Often God chooses to reveal his hand by working through circumstances that would be impossible if not for his miraculous intervention. These miraculous workings serve as evidence that God will likewise do as he has promised in regards to the salvation of individuals who put their faith in Christ. Salvation would be impossible if not for God's miraculous intervention.


The Promised Son

God laid the foundation for salvation in the promised seed to come through Abraham. Abraham believed God and his faith in God's promise was credited to Abraham as righteousness. However, time continued to march on and by sight it seemed like this promise was simply wishful thinking. As the years passed by the fulfillment of this promise seemed more and more unlikely.

Abraham had faith but he did not yet see how God would fulfill this promise. At the time of hearing these promises, Abraham was already growing old. Abraham's wife, Sarah, was barren (Gen 11:30). So, a foolish decision was eventually made to try and take hold of God's promise through their own means. Since Sarah was barren, Sarah gave her maid Hagar to Abraham in order to bring forth a child (Gen 16:1-4).

At the age of 86, Abraham had his first biological child, Ishmael, with Hagar (Gen 16:15-16). But this was not the promised son.

In Genesis 17, God tells Abraham that the promised son would be born from Sarah. This declaration was laughable. It didn't make any sense. He was old. His wife was old. She was barren even when they were young. Now she was past child-bearing years. Abraham even argued with God saying that this plan did not make any sense. Abraham asked if God would simply apply the promise to his teenage son, Ishmael.

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before You!" But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him." (Genesis 17:17-19)
God chose this timing and situation so that his power would be evident. What was impossible with human beings was possible for God.

Conclusion

The birth of Isaac through the dead womb of his mother Sarah foreshadows the miraculous nature of the Messiah's miraculous birth through the virgin womb of Mary. Both are humanly impossible without the miraculous intervention of God. Both demonstrate God's ability to do all he has promised. Both show that faith in God is well-placed because God is faithful.

Walking by faith would be foolish if the object of our faith was untrustworthy. God has wisely demonstrated his faithfulness and power repeatedly throughout history so that his people will learn that walking by faith and not by sight is the truly wise way to live.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Promised Seed

And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
(Genesis 15:5-6)



The great doctrinal cry of the Reformation was the assertion that salvation is by the grace of God through faith. This doctrine did not originate with the Reformers. Instead, the Reformation insisted on this truth because of its assertion in the Scriptures.

The Apostle Paul emphasized this same truth in Galatians 3. He quoted Genesis 15:6 and knit it together with the truth of Genesis 12:3.

Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU." So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:6-9)
This doctrine and teaching that "those who are of faith" can easily be misunderstood. Faith means different things to different people. The Apostle Paul did not intend to leave the object of faith unclear.

The Apostle pressed on to make Jesus the Christ explicit in his teaching because he is included in these great and foundational texts regarding salvation. To be clear this passage does not teach that faith is enough on its own. If your faith is in something other than Jesus this promise does not apply. Therefore, we should be careful to proclaim salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

We are not simply to preach repentance and salvation in general terms. We are also not called to testify according to our own experiences, preferences, opinions, and personalities. We are commanded to testify in the name of Jesus to all nations.


Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:5; etc.

It is very common in translations of the passages noted in the heading above (and others) to see the singular seed taken as a collective singular. The collective singular reads like a plural. It's the difference between seed and seeds or descendant and descendants. The often used offspring is also popular, as the form is ambiguous and can be read as a singular or plural.

In the context, this makes a lot of sense. A plain reading of the text seems to indicate that many descendants are expected.

However, the Apostle Paul makes a very significant theological conclusion based on the use of the singular instead of the plural in these passages.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. (Galatians 3:16-17)
While we certainly cannot fault any translators for using the collective singular in their translations, we must also pay careful attention to the Apostle's inspired interpretation.

The blessing of God's covenantal promise of salvation by grace through faith is fulfilled in the promised seed. The seed (singular) is Christ. Therefore, faith alone is not enough. That faith must be put in Christ. Abraham believed God's declaration about the promised seed. His faith in this promise is the foundation for the New Covenant doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

Conclusion

Salvation has always been by the grace of God through faith in his Christ. God established this starting with Abraham.

When we proclaim the gospel we must testify that salvation is found in Christ alone. The Apostle Peter wasn't shy about this: "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).

The foundation for this proclamation did not start at the Reformation. It didn't even start at Pentecost. It started all the way back with Abraham. When we testify to these truths we are standing in the unbroken testimony of God from the very beginning. This truth will endure until Christ returns.

The promise is in the singular seed. All who repent and believe the gospel, putting their faith in Jesus, are adopted into the family of God and put in Christ. In the singular person of Christ are contained the great multitude of all the redeemed. In Christ we see the fulfillment of the collective singular.

An allegorical example has presented itself between Genesis 3:15 and the promises made to Abraham starting in Genesis 12. In the flood account salvation was found in the Ark. Likewise, it can be helpful for Christians to understand Jesus as the Ark of Salvation. Salvation is literally found by being hidden in Christ. We are hidden in Christ when we are saved by the grace of God through faith in his Messiah.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Blessing of Abraham

And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
(Genesis 12:3)



Genesis 3:15 contains the first proclamation of the gospel. Starting in Genesis 12 we have the second. Both are from God himself. If you are a Gentile - that is, if you are of non-Jewish lineage - then your ability to participate in the New Covenant blessing is built off Jesus' fulfillment of this promise from God to Abraham.

The Apostle Paul builds his theology of the church and the New Covenant blessing upon Abraham. You are encouraged to read Galatians 3 and Romans 4 in particular. The Apostle Peter likewise builds from Genesis 12:3 in his second sermon of the church age recorded in Acts 3.

To get the full context you should read the account of Abraham's life in Genesis 11:26-25:11. The most important texts for our purposes are found in chapters 12 and 15. The outline Christ presented to his earliest followers to testify to included that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in the name of the Christ to all nations.

Testifying that repentance should be proclaimed in the name of Jesus to all nations is in fulfillment of these scriptural promises to Abraham starting in Genesis 12. It defines the blessing of the New Covenant.

Genesis 12:1-3

After the fall of humanity in Genesis 3, we see corruption of God's creation, judgment through the flood, and the establishment of many nations through the descendants of Noah and his sons. Out of all these people groups God chooses Abram. God promises to make of Abram a great nation.

The purpose of God's choice is not simply to bless Abram and the nation that will result. God explicitly says that his purpose is so that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him.

The Apostle Peter makes it clear that this blessing is particularly related to the repentance of all nations in his sermon recorded in Acts 3.

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

Peter makes four things clear in his full proclamation (Acts 3:12-26).
  1. The Scriptures have uniformly testified that the Christ would come to fulfill the promise of God to redeem a people to himself from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people (Acts 3:18-24);
  2. This New Covenant blessing flows from the original covenant promise God made to Abraham (Acts 3:25);
  3. This blessing is first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Acts 3:26); and
  4. The blessing is to offer them salvation in Christ if they will repent of their wicked ways and trust in the Messiah.

Conclusion

It is important to understand that the New Covenant is built on promises that predate the Mosaic covenant. The New Covenant is not "new" in the sense that it is recent. It is "new" in the sense that it is the fullness and substance of God's plan of redemption from the very beginning. It is the fulfillment, not the abolishment, of the Old.

God chose Abram to build a nation for himself, the nation of Israel. God never intended to stop at a nation of his own. Instead, it was through this nation that God would bring the Messiah. It would be in the Messiah that all nations would find salvation. The Messiah would bring them freedom from the curse and offer reconciliation to God.

God has demonstrated in history that Jesus of Nazareth is the appointed Christ. The process of this blessing spreading to all nations is the current mission and ministry of the church. It is carried out in the name and authority of the One who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Great Commission is carried out in obedience to Christ. It is also carried out in fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham about 2000 years before the birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Enmity Unto Death



And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel."
(Genesis 3:15)





Genesis 3:15 has been called by many commentators and theologians the protoevangelium. This term simply means the first (proto) gospel proclamation (evangelium). In this foundational passage God himself declares the good news of the gospel in the midst of proclaiming the curse upon humanity for their rebellion against him.

Much can and has been said about this passage. Our purpose is not to discuss everything that can be said. Instead, we will focus on the elements that Christ outlined for his followers to testify about. Of particular interest is that this passage declares an enmity leading to death. This was fulfilled in the suffering of the Messiah.

Enmity is put between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Remaining in the immediate context of this passage a few observations can be made.
  1. Something odd is being declared about the "seed of the woman"; and
  2. The enmity is unto death.

The Seed of the Woman

This text prophetically declares a biological impossibility: the virgin birth of the Messiah.

Consistently throughout Scripture the seed is a byproduct of male biology, not female. Some translations bypass this oddity with the non-literal translation offspring (see, e.g., ESV, NET, NIV, NLT, etc.).

The terminology of the seed will be important for other passages declaring the lineage of the Messiah. We will see that the promised seed, the Messiah, will come through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David. All of these males will feature prominently in looking for the coming Messiah. However, the foundational text at hand in Genesis 3:15 declares boldly that the Messiah will come miraculously through a virgin birth by being the seed of the woman, not the man.

Unlike every other human being who is born by the seed of a man the protoevangelium declares that the decisive battle will be fought by the seed of the woman.

Prophecy regarding the virgin birth of the Messiah is more popularly understood from Isaiah 7:14 (cf. Matthew 1:22-25). However, we'd be missing an important nuance of this passage if we failed to note that the prophesied seed would be miraculously born of the woman.

Born to Suffer and Die

More important for our purposes is not the miraculous nature of the birth of the Messiah, but the purpose of his birth. This text explains that the Messiah is born to suffer and die.

While many commentators have taken pains to explain that the battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman is one of victory, this is an idea that would be foreign to the text. This interpretation has a long history and has been very influential. However, it is still incorrect.

The original hearers who were familiar with the hostility between venomous serpents and human beings would read this passage differently. They would not see a victorious encounter being described. Instead, they would see a description of a struggle unto death.

A venomous serpent striking the heel of a person crushing its head with their foot would most naturally result in the destruction of both. A fatal wound is depicted on both sides.

As a result, this passage prophesies the coming purpose of the Messiah: that he would come to lay down his own life to put the enmity of the curse to death.


Conclusion

While most expectations of the Messiah emphasized his victorious ministry and the establishment of the kingdom of God, the very first gospel proclamation declares that the Messiah was coming to suffer and die. Yes, Christ would rise from the dead. This important truth was likewise prophesied in the Scriptures. However, to rise and enter into his glory, the Messiah first needed to suffer and die.

There is a reason that Jesus started here with the confused disciples on the road to Emmaus on the day of his resurrection. Jesus said, "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" (Luke 24:26).

Yes, it was necessary. It was necessary to fulfill the Scriptures. Among these Scriptures is Genesis 3:15.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

You Are Witnesses Of These Things

Hebrew Scriptures


For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures

(1 Corinthians 15:3-4)




Preaching Jesus as the Christ requires an understanding of the Old Testament. The Apostles and early church proclaimed the gospel from the Old Testament. They explained how Christ fulfilled the Scriptures. They did this in obedience to Jesus' instructions to them.

On the day Jesus rose from the dead he walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These men were confused that the tomb had been found empty. Jesus responded to them:

"O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)
Afterward, Jesus disappeared from their sight. The men were so excited that they ran back to Jerusalem to tell the others. When they arrived, Jesus appeared again. After assuring them that it was really him, Jesus took the time to explain the testimony of the Old Testament regarding himself.

Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:44-48, bold added)
They were witnesses of these things:
  • That the Christ would suffer for the sins of his people;
  • That the Christ would rise from the dead;
  • That the Christ would enter into his glory; and
  • That repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in the name of the Christ to all nations.
They were to testify of these things from the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. The Apostles were faithful in beginning this process from Jerusalem. Are we being faithful in our own testimony today?

In an effort to help equip the saints to be faithful in proclaiming this truth of first importance - the truth by which we are saved if we hold fast and do not believe in vain (1 Cor. 15:1-2) - the next several posts will cover at least some of the passages that Jesus would have explained and which influenced the inspired preaching we read about in the New Testament.

Stay tuned.

Get equipped. Obey your King. Glorify your God.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jesus Is King

Jesus Is King
(Tract available from our friends
While sharing the gospel last weekend I had the opportunity to speak with a young man who does not believe the same things that I do.

We didn't argue with each other.

We didn't call each other names other than the ones given to us by our parents.

Neither of us got angry or raised our voices. No fingers were pointed in faces or poked into chests. No insults were thrown or intellects questioned.

It was nice.

But we still disagreed.

One of the great things about our country is that we have the freedom to believe as we choose. Other people don't have to like our beliefs or our opinions. Other people don't have to share them. But we are free to believe.

It's our right.

We have an inalienable right. Even if we use that right to be wrong.

The constitutional freedom to believe differently is a good thing. But we fool ourselves if we think we can all be correct in our beliefs. We can't be. Not when many of our beliefs are totally contradictory with one another. In these cases, at least one of us is wrong.

In my conversation with this young man he told me that he simply doesn't believe in my Jesus.

That seemed like a good opportunity to discuss that Jesus is more than mine. Our current political climate in the United States created a good example.

You've likely noticed that there are a lot of people who don't like the president. It's kind of a big deal. A lot of people are talking about it. A lot of that talking is loud. And angry.

Some people who don't like the current president say things like, "He's not my president. I didn't vote for him!"

People have a right to say these things. But they are wrong.

He is their president whether they like it or not.

Their belief about the president doesn't change reality. Whether they voted for him or not he still has keys to the Oval Office. He still flies around on Air Force One. He still has a Secret Service detail tasked with protecting him.

He's president until he isn't. Their belief on what should have happened in the election is just an opinion. No better or worse than anyone else's. But it doesn't shape reality. Just like the opinions of the people who didn't like the previous president didn't change the reality.

People will seemingly always argue over politics. And people will be in rebellion against Jesus until He returns.

Jesus' resurrection from the dead proves that He is the promised Messiah. Jesus ascended into heaven and took His seat at the right hand of the Father (see, e.g., Psalms 2 & 110). Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. There is no one above Him.

This is true whether people believe it or not. Their rebellion may be noisy but it is also futile.

Unlike a president, Jesus' reign is not limited by geography. He is not restricted by term limits. There will never be a vote. Impeachment is an impossibility.

You don't have to like the president. You don't have to believe in Jesus. You have the right to hold your own opinion.

You must also understand that your opinions, beliefs, and wishful thinking don't change reality.

Jesus is risen from the dead. This is the proof God has provided. When our opinions disagree with reality we should change our opinions. That's the wise thing to do.


"Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)


It is not our job as Christians to argue with people. It's not our job to complain and throw gasoline on the fire.

We are called to testify to the truth. To live as salt and light. To love justice and mercy. To urge people on behalf of God to be reconciled to Him through Christ.

Let's stop arguing with people over temporal matters and start testifying about eternal ones.

Jesus Christ is Lord. He is able and willing to save all who will repent of their rebellion against Him and trust in Him alone as their Savior from the wrath to come on Judgment Day. Today is the day of salvation. Tomorrow isn't guaranteed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Share Jesus Without Fear - A Review

You've got to love an evangelism training book that starts with a chapter titled, "You Can't Fail."

I've been in ministry long enough to know that many don't share the gospel with others because they are afraid to fail. They are afraid of looking stupid. They fear making things worse by not knowing every answer or becoming argumentative.

But William Fay is right. When you share the gospel faithfully and define your goals appropriately, failure isn't an option. Fay's book, Share Jesus Without Fear seeks to help focus the willing follower of Christ's attention on the proper focus of evangelism while providing a method of leading the conversation that eliminates any and all argument.

Greatest Strengths

1. Fay's Method is Easy To Master and Implement Immediately.

Essentially, Fay lays out a strategy of evangelism that allows God's Word and the person you are sharing with to do all the work. In order to make this possible, the Christian needs to do a little preparation with their Bible ahead of time. Once this preparation is complete there is no need to do anything else other than bring it along so you have it when you need it.

2. There's Nothing To Memorize.

Evangelism methods that rely on memorizing steps and scriptures can be beneficial to some. However, many Christians get so nervous when they begin any witnessing conversation that their minds go blank. Even if a perfect method existed it wouldn't do any good if you can't remember it!

With Fay's method there is nothing to remember because everything is written down already.

3. The Person Being Evangelized Does All Their Own Interpretation.

I'm guessing I'm not the only person who has ever heard, "Well, that's just your interpretation... " while talking to someone about the claims of the Bible. Sometimes this statement is just a dismissal. Other times, these words can cause a verbal sparring match.

Neither is good.

Perhaps the strongest element of Fay's method is that it forces the person who is being evangelized to interpret the Scriptures for themselves. When Fay says his method eliminates any possibility for argument, this is why. At no point during the conversation does the Christian using this strategy ever have the need or opportunity to argue because the person they are speaking with is the one doing all the interpretation.

I have personally used this strategy with some people in my life who are particularly argumentative and I can testify to the power of letting them tell me what the Scriptures say, instead of the other way around. For this reason alone, I believe every Christian should be aware of how to use God's Word the way Bill Fay outlines.

Greatest Weaknesses


I like this book and method. Even so, there are some weaknesses that need to be mentioned.

1. The Scripture List

Fay outlines in chapter 5 the seven share verses for his method. I like all of these verses with the exception of the last one. I don't mean I personally dislike the last Scripture on its own ... I mean the Scripture doesn't belong at the end of an evangelistic encounter.

Fay himself acknowledges that some people think this verse is inappropriately used in his audio teaching. I am one of those people.

However, in the audio teaching Fay encourages people like me to make their own list of Scripture references. I took this advice and so have all of the men who I witness with regularly. After we all made our own lists individually we shared our share verses with each other. The whole group was edified as a result.

I'd recommend to anyone interested in using this method to create your own list of share verses using Fay's outline only as a suggestion. Doing so turns this weakness into a strength.

2. Can't Be Used With Everyone.

This method requires a very willing participant. Other methods of evangelism can be employed better in street evangelism when you can't get someone to sit down with you and read a bunch of verses from your Bible.

As such, this method is limited.

Nevertheless, most Christians do have many people in their lives already who they have never evangelized but who would be willing to sit down and chat with an open Bible between them. For those situations, this model works beautifully.

Concluding Thoughts

I love Bill Fay's passion for evangelism, for equipping the saints to share the gospel boldly and faithfully, and for God's Word. I truly believe that this method should be understood by every Christian so that they can learn how to unleash God's Word powerfully without any possibility of argument while evangelizing. Once the principles are understood, they can be adapted and grow with you as you live your life as an ambassador for Christ.