Thoughts of the Word

This article was generating from the rich insights Richard Murray (which btw, if you aren’t following him on FB you should. If you don’t do FB, find out if he’s on another SM platform. His insights are amazing!) I did however add and put in my own insights as well. It’s fascinating to me to understand the different uses of the Greek words, which in my opinion, we in English erroneously use the same word, “word” at times. This leads us to misunderstand what the original readers would have clearly understood. On that same train of thought, which would lead to a different discussion, it’s interesting to know that Augustine, who was the chief influence on the Western Church was not a fan of the Greek language, for he was a Latin speaker. Therefore, it’s worth noting what he had to say and interpret from the sacred text in contrast with men like Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and who spoke and understood Greek as their mother language. But, I digress. Most Western Christians, particularly in evangelical circles use the three below Greek words synonymously with the English word, “word.”      

Scripture – Graphe (γραφὴ)

Divine Insights – Rhema – Word / (ῥῆμα)

Word/Expressed Essence of God – Logos (λόγος)

When the New Testament refers to the Bible as a whole, it uses the word “Scriptures,” which is the Greek word “Graphe.” Jesus continually referred to the entirety of the Old Testament Bible as “the Scriptures.” This included the Law, the Prophets, and the wisdom Writings, all of which formed the Bible as it then existed in Jesus’ day. “You study the Scriptures (Graphe) thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me.” John 5:39. (Also see Matthew 21:42, 22:29; Mark 14:49; 15:28; Luke 24:32, 45). 

When the New Testament uses the term “Rhema-Word,” it refers to divinely inspired insights. It represents a divine devotional truth “quickened by” God and then “expressed through” the heart and mouth of man. “The Rhema-Word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart : that is , the Rhema-Word of faith, which we preach.” Romans 10:8. “So faith comes from hearing and hearing by (or through) the word [Rhema-Word, of Christ, ῥήματος Χριστοῦ]” Romans 10:17. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhemati) that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. (also Luke 4:4). Interesting, because I always understood this to be the scripture, which it obviously is not referring to.

It’s also interesting that Colossians 3:16, which says “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” It’s using Ὁ λόγος, which is referring to Jesus, and is synonomous with the Spirit of Christ, which is synonomous with the Holy Spirit of God. So Paul is in essencence telling them all to allow God’s Spirit/Jesus/the Father to live or reside in them abundantly through wisdom by instructing and teaching one another by spriitual songs and hymns through having thankful hearts to God.

The point of this article is to show that the Bible does not constitute the “Word of God” in the way it’s commonly used today and we should be able to identify in the Scriptures or Graphe (γραφὴ) when it’s referring to something outside of itself with the uses of Rhema – Word (ῥῆμα) or the Expressed Essence of God – Logos (λόγος).

I hope to add to this discussion of these different uses in the future. But for now, it’s good to consider these different words from the Koine Greek that are being used in our NT text and the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) as well. 





Religious Hypocrisy

In this section, Jesus is in the middle of interacting with the Pharisees, who were the Jewish religious leaders or the religious elite within Judaism. They assumed ultimate authority over how the people needed to understand their sacred writings and act. Even though many of them were hypocrites, which Jesus is constantly addressing with them.

The backdrop leading up to this interaction starts at the beginning of chapter 21 where “The Triumphal Entry” of Jesus occurs. Jesus is entering Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling yet another prophesy (Zech 9:9) and there is a large crowd gathered, who are yelling out things reserved for the Messiah of Israel. Jesus then makes His way to the Temple and the surrounding Temple courts seemingly to engage the religious leaders, who are the face of the religious charade that is the sad reality of this system. This does not make the Pharisees happy at all!

So here are a few observations from this passage recorded in the gospel according to Matthew found in chapter 23 vv. 1-12.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples….

Jesus is talking to all sorts of people. Some are Jews, some are Gentiles, some followed Him and some didn’t. Keep this in mind, especially with regard to what He will say. Jesus intentionally and publically again rebukes their religion.

“The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

The Pharisees were the epitome of hypocrisy!

They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them.

They hold people down in religious bondage that never seems to lighten. It’s always about doing this or not doing that. There’s no sense of mercy, love or peace. Not to mention, they don’t even practice what they preach.

They do all their deeds to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries wide and their tassels long. They love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces, and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’

The religious leaders main motivation is to be seen by people. They love being recognized at special events and when the people gather for worship. And they love to have people call them ‘Rabbi,’ which would be synonymous today with teacher or even pastor. Rabbis are those who teach the law to the people and guide them like a shepherd in it.

you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ.

First, Jesus says that they shouldn’t be called ‘Rabbi,’ since all have one Teacher, who He says is Him alone. He also says that they all are brothers. This is truly remarkable! Remember, Jesus was talking to a variety of people, not just the religious leaders. He also says that all have one Father, who is in heaven, referring to God our Abba Father.

The greatest among you will be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Jesus then flips the script and says that those who want to exalt themselves will be humbled and those who are humble will be exalted, since to be great means to be a servant. Jesus, the Son of God is the suffering servant who voluntarily became a man and let His own creation murder Him, so that He could enter death and defeat the one who holds the power of death, that is the Accuser, the Destroyer, the Adversary, the Devil, the Antichrist.

Can we fall into the trap today of being just like the Pharisees? Yes, we certainly can! Can we fall into the trap of following those who are just like the Pharisees? You bet we can! Being religious like them, only leads to bondage, guilt and fear. I think the main focus of Jesus was not to just correct right thinking or action, but to infiltrate and debunk religiosity at its core. He came to show that He is the Savior of the World, that He is the Teacher, who we should be paying attention to.

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Father God, Matt. 3:17).

“This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Father God, Matt. 17:5)

“This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Father God, Luke 9:35)




The Son of Man Did Not Come to Destroy Men’s Lives, but to Save Them

When the days were approaching for His [Jesus’] ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”]And they went on to another village. – Luke 9:51-56 NASB

I find it interesting that of most modern English translations of Scripture, only the NASB, a very literal translation (word for word) of the text includes this bracketed portion of the details of Jesus’ rebuke. In the events recorded by Luke,; James and John who Jesus gave the nickname “Boanerges” or “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17) recalling what Elijah did in 1 Kings 18 and 2 Kings 1, wanted Jesus to give them permission to “command fire to come down from heaven” to consume Samaritans who did not receive Jesus (vv. 53-54).   

What’s amazing is what Jesus tells them in His rebuke of their request. He says in v. 55, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Jesus here seems to be telling them that they are not thinking or wanting to act like God with mercy and love. He tells them that He hasn’t come to destroy lives, but to save. So could the power Elijah used to not only call down fire from above on several occasions to destroy people, but also to slaughter many more not be from God?

Remember in Job 1, God gives all that Job has, over to the power of Satan. In Job 1:16 one of Job’s servants says to him, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them.” Was this fire from God? No, it was from Satan.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive study of this topic, just something I noticed and want to share for consideration as I myself continue to evaluate the character of God revealed in Jesus Christ, with things in the Bible from the Old Testament that seem to contradict His character. I believe it’s possible for God to have given us a collection of writings that reveal the misunderstandings and ignorance of man along side the beautiful snap shots of Jesus in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures) and the actual revelation of Jesus in the New Testament.

May God help us to see Him and rejoice and hope in Him as we look intensely at the true character of God revealed in Jesus Christ. God is love (1 John 4:7ff) and He says He will reconcile all things to Himself both on heaven and on earth (Colossians 1:20), and because He is the God of hope, He promises to fill us with peace and joy as we abound in all hope (Romans 15:13).

Grace, Peace and Love in Christ Jesus!  


Jesus Fills and Fulfills

Look how the NLT translates Matt. 5:17: “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” And then v. 18, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear UNTIL its purpose is achieved.” Or the ESV and NASB, which says, “”until all is accomplished.” This is why in John 19:30, Jesus says, “It is finished” before giving up His spirit. All of the prophesies about Jesus had been fulfilled and accomplished in Christ, from His birth to His death on the cross.

The Gk. word for fulfill is πληρόω, which means, “to fill,” e.g., a glass with water. Think about this for a minute. Jesus is saying, there is something that needs filling and He has come to fill it and that thing is the law and the prophets. This means what was already there and in place needed to be filled and would be filled by Jesus. Think also about fulfillment as in, “they had a wonderful meal and their hunger was fulfilled.” Jesus completes what was missing before. This is what the NC is all about. There was something missing, and that was the very thing, or rather person that the law and prophets pointed to, and that’s Christ. If Jesus has filled up all that was given in them, then what need is there to look to a partially filled pool, when we have the filled up pool we can enjoy and swim around in? We have a full glass of water that not only is always full, but gives eternal life. 

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life” (John 4:13–14 HCSB).

Properly understanding the relationship of the Old Covenant with the New Covenant and all Christ has told us, is a matter of understanding the truth of God as revealed in Scripture with the New Testament/New Covenant being the zenith of all of God’s revelation in the Person of Jesus Christ (c.f. Heb. 1:1). And right truth is directly connected to right worship (c.f. John 4:23). If God’s given us a feast of blessing in Christ and we’d rather hang out with the menu that pointed to that feast, we’re missing the point, but hopefully not missing the mark.

Grace and Peace!


Living Together by God’s Spirit is Peace

So we know the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23), but Paul says elsewhere in the context of bearing with one another and forgiving one another, to “PUT ON compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col 3:12-13). He then says, “Above all, PUT ON love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And LET the peace of Christ…rule your hearts…LET the word of Christ dwell richly among you in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another…And whatever you do, in word or deed, DO EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:14-17).

In fleshing out the truth of us “putting on” the fruit of the Spirit, and us “letting” the peace of Christ rule our hearts and “letting” Christ’s word dwell among us. How do we do this?There has to be a corporate explanation. It can’t be a solo deal.

To the Christians in Galatia, after describing the struggle with the Spirit and the flesh, Paul tells them and us to carry each other’s burdens with regard to sin. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit…Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (6:1-2). Does not James also speak of this as well? “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person (Christian) is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16).

Now looking back to the letter to the Christians in Colossae, Paul tells them about letting Christ, who is peace, rule the hearts of the one body (the church) and let the word’s of Christ dwell among us (3:15-16). How? “In ALL wisdom teaching and admonishing.” I noticed that I used to misread this verse and not see that the wisdom comes from teaching. It’s “wisdom teaching”, which is directly tied to our source of all wisdom, which is Christ. Therefore, it’s through “wisdom teaching” and “admonishing” or warning via God’s word that brings the peace of our Lord, thanksgiving to God, and unity amongst the body. If we let God’s word and God’s word alone guide us, just imagine how unified we would become and what a powerful witness that would be to the dark and dead world?

So, as we are instructed, influenced, and guided by the word’s of Christ in Scripture, we will undoubtedly understand more and more that the Christian life is not a solo act, but involves a variety of characters in the body of Christ, who have a variety of gifts, roles, and abilities, which God uses to persevere us, comfort us, and shape us into what or who we were meant to be, and that’s the bride of our loving, majestic, and glorious God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the Name and Glory of The Lord and Savior of the World!


What Are Christians Free From?

What are we free from?

The apostle John tells us, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 NASB). Think about that; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. Prior to the public, prophetic, Messianic ministry of Jesus, grace and truth were not realized. The Greek word used here is ἐγένετο (egeneta), which has to do with coming into existence. Therefore, the fullness of truth or the better version of truth comes with Jesus and the NC. There’s a clear contrast here: Moses/Law with Jesus/truth.

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV). Then later on Jesus says, “I am the truth” (14:6 ESV). Therefore, the coming of Christ Jesus brings now in this time, in this covenant, something different than before, something new. In the OC, God used Moses to administer the law, but now in the NC, He uses Jesus, His unique, one of a kind Son to administer grace and truth. Jesus is truth and knowing Him will set us free.

So, what are we free from?

In Galatians 5:1, Paul says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject to a yoke of slavery” (NASB)He then goes on to explain that law keeping places you under the law: “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law” (5:3 NASB). Now this has a primary focus on law keeping in order to be justified, but it has significance for the life of the believer after conversion by faith. It’s notable also to see Paul is using circumcision as an example of law keeping. What’s the point? The requirement of circumcision is part of the law. Some think of the law being only the moral aspects of it i.e. the Ten Commandments. Clearly, Paul doesn’t see any specific distinction within the law itself. It consisted of multiple things, which for the sake of explanation could be broken down as moral, ceremonial and civil. But in reality all of it is what we call the Mosaic Law, since it was distributed through Moses. Erroneously, some today would say the civil and ceremonial elements of the law are done away with, but the moral aspects of the law are still in effect today. I don’t believe Paul would agree with this.

In v. 6, Paul says that circumcision (law keeping) means nothing. However, “faith working through love” (NASB)means everything. The NLT captures the understanding of this: “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.”In v. 13, Paul says Christians (NC believers) have been called to live in freedom. Freedom from what: freedom from being under the law. To Christians in Rome he says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2 ESV). In the NC, we are free from the bondage and condemning purpose of the law as laid out in the Mosaic administration, and therefore able to fulfill it as Jesus did. Verse 14of Galatians 5says the law is fulfilled in love to our neighbor.

So how do we love our neighbor unconditionally, thus fulfilling the law of Christ?

This is only possible by God’s Spirit working in and through all believers today. From Pentecost (50 days after Jesus was crucified) when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers until the return of the Lord, Christians have the power and ability to fulfill the law of Christ through loving our neighbor as our self. In v. 18 of Galatians 5, Paul says, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (NASB). This is not a come and go kind of thing. All true believers everywhere in every time since the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost are being led by the Spirit, therefore are not under the law.

To the Roman believers, Paul says, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14 ESV). Paraphrase: “You have the power to live a life of love to God and others, because you are not under Moses’ administration (OC), but Jesus’ administration (NC).”

So what’s the purpose of the Mosaic Law?

In the most helpful and gracious manner, God through Paul tells us in anticipation of this question: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring(alsov. 16[Jesus]) should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by and intermediary” (Gal 3:19 ESV). Again to the Christians in Rome: “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20 ESV). Clearly, the law’s purpose was to make it crystal clear God’s way to be brought into loving fellowship with Him, which would overflow in genuine love of others would come not through the law, since being under the law makes sin increase.

Amazingly, Paul tells the Christians in Corinth that the law empowers sin: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15:56 ESV). And also, knowledge of sin comes through the law: “…through the lawcomes knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20 ESV).Ultimately, the law is used for and against unbelievers: “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners…” (1 Tim 1:8-9 ESV).

Jesus took the curse of the law for us

Jesus the Savior came to suffer and die taking on the curse of the law: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the lawby becoming a curse for us-for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal 3:13 ESV).Therefore, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Rom 7:4 ESV). Since Jesus fulfilled all things necessary for salvation, you are under the Law of Christ, which brings freedom, life and fruit for God (loving God and loving each other) and not the Law of Moses, which only brings more sin and death.

A rigid external adherence to the law is not what God is doing with His people. Salvation has always been of faith (Hebrews 11), but in the NC, faith is expressed in genuine love of neighbor as self and loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Therefore, we, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2 ESV), because, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love” (Gal 5:6 NLT). This becomes possible because of God’s gracious work of His Spirit being poured out in this New Covenant.

 Glory to God Alone


Reason and Evidence Doesn’t Convict People of Their Need of God

I really appreciate ministries that are proclaiming the gospel and speaking out on misunderstandings of reason and logic. I enjoy listening to these ministries that are pointing out that what so many things people say and think are actually self-defeating. For example, criticizing someone for being critical, or judging someone about judging, or making a truth statement to say there’s no way to know what is true.
My frustration comes with hearing talk about people coming to faith, as if you can just give someone a good argument apart from the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17) and all of a sudden they will realize they’re a sinner and repent, while trusting in Christ alone for salvation. How can this be? Why are you using evidences of the resurrection and rational arguments of the incredible growth of the early church in the midst of severe persecution as means of convicting someone of their sin. How can you disregard Ephesians 2 and John 3? Are these things credible and helpful? Yes! Just not as a substitute for the gospel. Now I’m not implying these rationalists or evidentialists are not proclaiming the gospel in their ministries. It just seems their method leans heavily on human reason and acceptance of evidence. 
The only reason any of these arguments for evidence and reason make sense in a salvific way, is because God changed your nature and gave you a spiritual one that’s capable of repenting and believing? Do you not remember the time when you cared nothing of the things of God. When every day was a self-absorbing mission to satisfy yourself and do whatever you thought was right in your own eyes.
I have to conclude that much of this comes from people who did not experience much of a life as an enemy of God. If you don’t have a significant part of your life when you’re not under the control and oversight of your parents and you’re making all decisions on your own, while not being saved, then I guess it’s hard to see the dramatic change God makes in your life after conversion. If you’re saved at a young age, I imagine it’s hard to see the “before” and “after” realities of your own life. This, I think attributes to the thinking that God is not completely responsible for the initial and continued faith we have. As well as the initial and continued repentance in our lives, which is in conjunction with our trust in God.
God’s children were saved by His grace (Eph 2:8-9). We were “born again” and given new life (John 3:3ff.). If it wasn’t for God, we would be the same utterly spiritually selfish and God rejecting people we were before. And He did this through the Holy Spirit and His Word. Praise be to God! All thanks be to God! May we never try to take credit for our salvation or that of others. We are merely instruments God might use for His own glory. Woe to man for stealing any of God’s glory! 
A great resource to understand this issue better is Dr. George Zemek’s “Doing God’s Business God’s Way.” 
See also previous post Biblical Evangelism
Glory to God Alone!

Christian Unity: Don’t Major in the Minors

THEGMP_a4img1In Acts chapter 15, the question was raised whether a Gentile Christian had to submit to circumcision in order to be a true Christian. Since salvation was at stake, this was important. At this council, which convened in Jerusalem, Peter championed salvation being by grace, apart from any human work, leading to the apostles and other elders to commend the ministry to the Gentiles without the need for Jewish legal observance. They did however request the Gentile believers be sensitive to Jewish customs in a letter written from the council.

There is something that sticks out to me when I read this portion of Holy Scripture. Verse 5 of Chapter 15 reads, “But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses’”(ESV, emphasis added). This is interesting, because it says some of the Pharisees were in fact believers. I believe this is in contrast to those of the Pharisee party who were unbelievers, because they believed salvation in Christ was by works. Verse 1 tells us, “some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’”(ESV, emphasis added). This is different than what we saw in verse 5. Here, these men are saying one’s salvation was invalid if they forsook the specific Jewish ordinance of circumcision. Something similar today would be to say, that in order to be saved you must be baptized.  

The Pharisees of verse 5 don’t seem to be saying the person’s salvation was at stake. Their issue was that believers needed to keep the customs of Moses, not for salvation, but as obedience to God. Therefore, we have Pharisees who are unbelievers (verse 1) and Pharisees who are believers (verse 5). Could this happen today? I don’t see why not. A few years ago while I attended the Shepherd’s Conference in California, a very respected theologian warned all of us about this reality. He said something to the effect of this: “Be careful men, because the Pharisees were the ironclad Calvinists of their day.” I believe his point was exposure to the truth could cause an ironic ignorance to how we treat one another. Or to how we practice our faith with regard to the truth.

The apostle Paul says in his letter to the Roman believers: “you yourselves are full of 1-Corinthians-13-4goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another”(Rom 15:14 ESV). And of this same knowledge in 1 Corinthians 8:1 he says, “we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1 ESV). He is warning us that our knowledge of truth will in fact cause us to “puff up.” This is because of our sinful nature, which distorts everything that is good.

This is why Paul later in his letter to the Corinthian believers (1 Cor 13:4-13) explains this love that builds up. Verses 4 and 5 capture the essence of what true love is: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” So when Paul tells us we are to be, “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), he has in mind the characteristics of love described in 1 Corinthians 13.

The Pharisees during Jesus’ earthly ministry, and even those who came to faith in Christ later, had a tendency to put unrealistic and outright unbiblical expectations on the people. At this gathering of apostles and church leaders in Acts 15, which is known as “The Jerusalem Council,” Peter speaks up and addresses this issue in verses 7 through 11. In conclusion to the understanding that God has included Gentiles in salvation, in verse 10 Peter says, “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear (verse 10)?” Our exhortation today should be the same as Peter’s. We should be very careful that we don’t elevate preferences, or what we should consider minor, or secondary issues of theology over the things that matter for salvation.

The response of the apostles and other church leaders in Jerusalem to this error was a letter, which would be brought back to the church in Antioch, which was essentially the hub for Gentile gospel ministry at the time, and read to the believers there. This letter mentions specific immoral things and also some traditional things for the Gentile believers to abstain from. The traditional things were asked of the Gentile believers, so they would be sensitive to the Jewish believers, thus building unity amongst diversity. Paul talks about this type of sensitivity to certain convictions in Romans 14 as well.jerusalem-council-acts-15

The best part of this is it’s from God. We know the Scriptures are God’s inerrant, inspired Word, but here we have a specific Holy endorsement of their decision. Luke records for us the portion of this letter with this endorsement:

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell” (vv. 28-29 ESV, emphasis added).

We know from Act 10:9-15 that it’s not a sin to eat certain animal anymore, since God has made all things clean. The issue is Christian unity. God wants the Gentile believers to be sensitive to the different convictions of the Jewish believers. This doesn’t violate the gospel; it actually accentuates it!

Believers are called to love one another, which means we are toward one another to be patient and kind. Not envious or boastful. Not arrogant or rude. Not insisting on our own way, and not irritable or resentful. This is hard and at times seems impossible not to do. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we have all done this to one degree or another. Now is not a time to be fighting, and bickering with other Christians. Now is the time for us to show love that highly emphasizes unity amongst diversity. For whatever reason the Lord has given us different convictions on secondary theological issues. Things like the end times, baptism, church government, spiritual gifts, or philosophy of ministry. None of these have crystal clear clarity in Scripture or we would not have such diverse beliefs in these matters.

daily-image-020113The amazing thing is that we can have differences in these areas yet have the same belief in the mandatory things of the faith. Things like the deity of Christ, the necessity of the atonement, justification by faith, the resurrection of Christ, and the triune nature of God. We can be unified in the majors and diverse in the minors, which ultimately allows us to be unified as one Body of Christ for the world to see.

When we love each other as God calls us to do we will witness to the world the beautiful diversity that exists in God’s gracious good news of salvation. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).

May the Lord give us the conviction and power to do this for our good and for His glory!

Grace and Peace!



God Fulfilled Prophecy in Jesus Christ

imagesThe book of Acts in the Bible is called so, for it is a record of the “Acts of the Apostles,” or one could also say it is a record of the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” These acts are significant, because they occur at a significant point in human history. God has become a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who we come to know as the fulfillment of many prophecies recorded in a collection of writings we know as the Old Testament. The Old Testament covers the portions in the Bible from Genesis through Malachi (39 books).

Included in this portion of the Bible are many prophecies focused on a specific person of God, who would do specific things. This person is the Messiah, the Savior, who actually is God Himself. We come to learn as revealed in the New Testament, this person is in fact Jesus of Nazareth, or more appropriately, Jesus Christ. Christ means Savior, or Anointed One; and this is exactly who Jesus is.

The book of Acts launches immediately into the promise of the coming Holy Spirit. It then describes Christ’s ascension after being back on earth bodily post crucifixion. It then describes the actual event when the Holy Spirit came, which we refer to as “Pentecost.” This marks the earthly, physical beginning of the Church. We then see the Apostles starting with Peter preaching about what has happened and what is happening. And as he continues preaching, he explains how Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled before their very eyes in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He explains to the people that Jesus is the Holy One who was promised from long ago. Peter is here preaching and this is what Luke recorded for us through the divine oversight of the Holy Spirit:

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:17-26 ESV).

Peter, unashamedly and without doubt or hesitation, says that God has fulfilled prophecy in Christ. In these few verses we see several things:unknown

  1. He reminds them the Christ will suffer (verse 18). Jesus specifically mentions this when He appears (in disguise) to several disciples who were walking on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13). These disciples were disappointed, because they were hoping Jesus was the promised One. They had forgotten what the prophets spoke of long ago. They forgot that this Messiah would actually suffer tremendously at the hands of His own people. Here what Jesus said: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? (Luke 24:25-26)” He reminds them that the Messiah would have to suffer as spoken of. He then later while they were eating revealed to them He was the Messiah. (verses 30-32). “Their [spiritual] eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (verse 31). Once they saw Him for whom he was, it was not hard for them to believe, since they had just seen Him die on the cross and now He was having a meal with them.
  1. Peter then identifies Jesus as the prophet who Moses spoke of, who is greater than him that will come (verse 22). Moses also told the people, they would listen to Him in whatever he tells them (Deuteronomy 18:15). This is actually a command. I like the New Living Translation, which says, “Listen carefully to everything he tells you.”

This also connects to Matthew 17, which records the events of Peter, John and James on the “Mount of Transfiguration.” Basically Jesus reveals some of His heavenly glory to them. Moses and Elijah also show up and speak with Jesus. I think their presence with Jesus represents the Law and the Prophets of God. During this encounter God interrupts Peter, who was rambling about making a campsite for everyone and says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (verse 4).

  1. He then declared that all the prophets from Samuel on foretold the days in which they were seeing (verse 24). He is basically reiterating what Jesus had done with the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. There, Jesus essentially went through the Old Testament and explained it was speaking of Him (verse 27). All of the events of the Old Testament and New Testament are somehow linked to Jesus Christ.

I like to think of it this way. The Old Testament is Jesus concealed; the New Testament Gospels are Jesus revealed; the New Testament book of Acts is Jesus preached; the New Testament Epistles are Jesus explained; and the New Testament book of Revelation is Jesus expected. It’s all about Him, because, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).

  1. Finally, Peter connects Jesus as the promised “offspring” of Abraham who will bless all the families of the earth (verse 25), which is cited from Genesis 22:18. The cool thing about this reference from Peter is the “offspring” mentioned to Abraham is not plural, but singular. So when God gave this promise to Abraham, He was revealing a single person will be the one who will fulfill this promise. And Peter says this person promised is Jesus Christ.

As a result of the coming of Christ there will be things happening that will authenticate Jesus as the promised Messiah:

  1. There will be repentance for the forgiveness of sins (verse 19). And this repentance will be a result of the Lord’s blessing on His people. God will actually be the agent working personally in people’s lives causing them to turn from their evil ways (verse 26).
  1. And as a result of this genuine turning to the Lord in faith, there will be refreshing that comes in the form of the actual presence of the Lord, since Jesus will come to those who repent of their sins and believe in Him (verse 20).

Jesus is also called “Immanuel,” which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). Jesus as loving, compassionate, gracious, and merciful God gets into the yoke of burden and despair with us and leads us to Him more and more (Matthew 11:30).unknown-1

We have the awesome privilege of knowing who God is and what He has done. The incarnation, life, work, death and resurrection of Christ are marvelous truths. We now know the way, the truth and the life, because of what God has done and is doing through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV).

Glory to God alone!


Commitment to the Truth of God

cod01Pastor John MacArthur talking about Paul’s statement in Ephesians 6:14 to “Stand your ground putting on the belt of truth:”

“This whole thing of spiritual war starts with commitment…until you get a grip on eternal things; until you set your affections on the things above and not on the things of the earth; until you offer your body as a living sacrifice; until the purposes of God matter more to you than your own goals and ambitions; until the eternal glory is the compelling issue in your life and not worldly comfort; you’re not going to get the belt on and pull the loose ends of your life in and make a commitment to battle, that can turn out in victory. “ [1]

The truth that’s spoken of here is the commitment to what is right and true as revealed by God. The truth of right doctrine, Paul gets to a little later in verse 17 when he says, “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” We must daily be committed to spiritual battle by standing firm with commitment to God’s truth.

  • We need to keep our hearts and minds set on eternal things.
  • We need to set our affections on things above and not on earthly things.
  • We need to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God.
  • We need to consider the purposes of God to be greater than our purposes.
  • We need to make the eternal glory of God the compelling issue and not worldly comfort.

Glory to God alone!



[1] Excerpt from Grace to You sermon “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Strength, Part 4.