Can You Come Unto Jesus?

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,” (Matt 5:1-2 KJV).

Jan Paron|November 16, 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Matthew in his gospel vividly describes the events leading to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.–Jesus had left Nazareth and settled in Galilee at Capernaum. From this region, He gathered His disciples who reflected the microcosm of the multitudes Jesus served (4:18). And, the disciples followed Him. Jesus then traveled throughout Galilee and taught in the Jewish synagogues, preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healed all manners of sickness and disease among the people (vv. 23-25). As news spread about Him throughout Syria, people brought Jesus their sick, possessed, lunatick, and palsey (v. 24). He healed them (v. 24). Multitudes came from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond Jordan. And, they too followed Him.

Seeing the mountain, Jesus preaches the gospel of the Kingdom with His first of five teachings on the character for the salt of the earth and light of the world (5:13-14). Scripture shows five actions Jesus took at this time: He saw the multitudes, went into a mountain, sat down on the mountain, opened His mouth, and then taught His disciples (vv. 1-2).  When  ancient Jewish teachers sat, they had something important to teach their disciples. But first, their pupils had to be present for the lesson. The same held true with Jesus. He sat on the mountain and began His teachings once “his disciples came unto him” (v. 1). The phrase came unto him means to draw near with the reason being for the disciple to hear Jesus teach (Thayers, 2009). Presumably, the gathered multitudes did likewise.

Jesus makes His guidance available through Scripture and His Spirit. He sits ever-present on the Kingdom mountain ready to teach His disciples. But, this takes action on the part of believers in Christ. They must draw near to hear. This gives pause to reflect on the question, Can you come unto Him?

Prayer for Salt and Light

Heavenly Father, I honor you as the Great Light to those who once sat in darkness. I humbly ask You to help Your children live according to the Kingdom at hand with a character that reflects salt of the earth and light of the world. I stand before You to lay down that which leads me and others astray from You, O Jesus. Purge us of self-centered barriers that prevent Your beloved from drawing near to you. Let us come unto to You and seek Your voice to learn of the Kingdom lifestyle. We lift You up, son of David, son of Abraham–JESUS, Who saved Your people from their sins. I give You all praise and say this prayer in the name of Jesus, Amen.

From the Journeying Through the Beatitudes series. Part 2.

Journeying Through the Beatitudes: A Servant’s Character in Christ

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Matthew addressed Jewish Christians from their perspective in his gospel. He wrote it during a time of great conflict over their identity after the second temple destruction. Even though they accepted Jesus as the Messiah, they still lived within the Jewish community and followed its traditions while different from Israel. The gospel author sought to reframe their new identity within the Christ community aligned to the nature and character of Jesus, King of Israel. This new identity pertains to contemporary Christians as well.–As Card wrote for this purpose “Jesus, tell me who you are, so I know who I am” (2013, Chapter 1, Section 2, para 8). Since Christ Himself embodied each trait, so too must His servants reflect His identity through their nature as salt of the earth and light to the world. These traits embody servant citizenship in the Kingdom of heaven in their fellowship with God (vertical relationship) and all people (horizontal relationship) they encounter. To lead as servants of the Lord they must surrender their former membership and take on the nature of the new.

Jan Paron/November 10, 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Kingdom Citizenship: Ideal Heart Character

The Beatitudes describe the ideal heart character for every citizen in the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus taught eight beatitudes (5:3-10) as part of His Sermon on the Mount, with the ninth explaining the one prior to it (vv. 10-11): Poor in spirit (v. 3); mourners (v. 4); meek (v. 5); hungry (v. 6); merciful (v. 7); pure (v. 8); peacemakers (v. 9); and persecuted (v. 10). Each beatitude functions in an if…then format based on the Old Testament (Ps 1:1) and Greek literary forms (Keener, p. 165). In Matt 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (KJV). Thus, if believers seek His Kingdom and righteous first, then they receive His spiritual provisions. Thus, a blessing accompanies each beatitude Jesus pronounced for people who display it.

The biblical definition of the blessed (Greek: makários) does not connect to any worldly means or sense rather to God’s favor and salvation from His approval (Matt 5:3 AMP). In other words, the blessed receive God’s provisions (favor) and grace (benefits) because they obeyed the “Lord’s inbirthings of faith” (Strong, 2011). Jesus taught a new type of blessing that ran contrary to ancient Middle Eastern culture. Society in His day believed that makários came to elite, wealthy, and powerful.–People whose riches and power raised them above worldly associated with the lower class. Jesus proposed a new standard for living with received blessings only found in His Kingdom. Consider this story to understand Beatitude blessings. A rabbi told his pupil, ‘In olden days there were men who saw the face of God.’ His student asked, “Why don’t they any more?” The rabbi replied, “Because, nowadays no one stoops so low.'” (Stoffregen, n.d.). God gives His blessings to those who stoop low to seek Him, as opposed those who desire gain through their own might and wealth. In Rom 12:2, Scripture directs believers not to be “conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. With a renewed mind and inbirthings of faith, the Holy Spirit transforms the believer’s character to live out Kingdom actions: poor in spirit, mourners, meek, hungry and thirsty after righteousness, merciful, poor, peacemaker, and persecuted.

Jesus conveyed the Beatitudes in passive grammatical construction, a Semitic-fashioned Greek tense, indicating a divinely completed action. Only God delivers these blessings as rewards in the new heaven. Jesus gave nine “Blessed are” promises (Matt 5:3a-11a) originating from God through Christ as Kingdom in cause and effect terms. For every mentioned action (vv. 3-11) that a disciple of Christ takes, God fulfills it with an eschatological promise. Jesus bookended the Beatitudes in verses three and ten with the overarching now promise (present passive tense) of “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (NIV)–as Keener called them, kingdom-time blessings (Keener, p. 165). Then, He followed the Beatitudes in verses four through nine with the specific then promises (future passive tense): “they will be comforted” (5:4 NIV); “they will inherit the earth” (5:5); “they will be filled” (5:6); “they will be mercied” (5:7); “they will see God” (5:8); and “they will be called sons of God” (5:9).

The Beatitudes relate to relationship within the fellowship of believers, directly linking to God’s Kingdom. They build upon each other: vertically in a relationship between the disciples and their Master Jesus–poor in spirit to mourner to meek to hungry and thirsty (vv. 3-6)–and horizontally between the disciples and other people–merciful to pure to peacemaker to persecuted (vv. 7-10). The virtue of humility undergirds the Beatitudes.

A Closer Look: Journeying Through the Beatitudes

To understand the Beatitudes requires one not only to learn their meaning, but also to reach deep inside introspectively.–Studying Matt 5, meditating on each scripture passage, and listening for the voice of God for direction. This writer did just that in journal form in a very personal  manner to look at the very nature and character of salt of the earth and light to the world.  

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:” (Matt 5:1 KJV). Will you come to Jesus and learn of Him? Each week you can read about the Beatitudes in a mixed media format that combines scripture art journaling and narrative. Please join this devotional series called Journeying Through the Beatitudes: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3,10).

References

  • Beale, G. K. & Carson, D. A. (Eds.). (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Card, M. (2013). Matthew: The Gospel of Identity. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
  • Evans, C. Matthew. New Cambridge Bible Contemporary. Cambridge, MA: New Cambridge Bible Commentary.
  • Forest, J. (1999). The ladder of the Beatitudes. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
  • Harrington, D. (2007). Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
  • Keener, C. (1999). A commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Cambridge, MA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Segraves, D. (2007). The Messiah in the Psalms. Hazelwood, MO: WA Press.
  • Stoffregen, B. (n.d.) Matthew 5:1-12 Exegetical Notes. Cross Marks Christian Resources.

Seven Overcoming Statements

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So much focuses on what God will do now, but the greatest rewards come when believers complete the journey as overcomers from the power of God. Pain and suffering occur in life even if they believe in Jesus Christ. Humankind confronts obstacles from the first cry during birth to the parting breath at death. Christ followers can do things that may stop some situations from happening, but cannot end them all. God does deliver and give strength to go through challenges with trust and reliance on Him. By trusting God, believers can overcome a problem. Although God provides great blessings and rewards, He also gives seven promises to His beloved who overcome all situations to the end of their physical journey.

Phil Bradley/September 15, 2014

Background

The Lord Jesus directed John the Revelator to write to the angel[1] of seven churches in Asia Minor, namely Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Rev 2-3). When the Lord addressed each of these churches, He either commended or rebuked them for their actions. He told five out of the seven to repent.[2] After Jesus had addressed each church, He provided guidelines to overcome for every member in the community of believers.

The phrase “he or (him) that overcometh” occurs seven times in Rev two and three after the Lord Jesus gave instructions to the Asia Minor churches (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, and 21). These form the overcoming statements. With each, He gave something great in return for the person who overcomes. This article discusses these seven overcoming statements.

Before examining the actual statements, one should look at the various aspects of overcoming. First, what does it mean to overcome (Greek: nikaō; νικάω)? The term means “properly, conquer (overcome), to carry off the victory, come off victorious” (Thayer, pp. 425-446) Moreover, the verb implies a battle (Pulpit Commentary, 1985). Next, what does a believer overcome? Though the overcome statements do not answer this, anything that might destroy a believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ gives the best response. Finally, how do believers overcome? Revelation 12:11 tells how to overcome the devil: “And they overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (KJV).

Another dimension of overcoming begs attention. Revelation 12:11 uncovered additional information about overcoming according to three main parts. One part related, “And they overcame by the blood of the Lamb” (12:11a). No one can defeat the devil or overcome the stain and grip of sin without the blood of Jesus, which He shed on the cross at Calvary. Without the blood of Jesus, the other two parts cannot happen. A second indicated, “and by the word of their testimony” (v. 11b). This part referred to more than giving a testimony at church. God gave humans the opportunity for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, but everyone needs to receive this gift of forgiveness. A true testimony comes when people put their faith in Jesus and experience what He does for others and them. Psalm 66:16 stressed these facts, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” The last reads, “and they did not love their lives unto the death” (Rev 12:11c). A critical passage, it emphasizes that believers should examine their hearts and ask, “Do I love Jesus this much?” Believers increasingly face ridicule in the U.S. Professing your faith holds life and death decisions in many countries like Iran, North Korea, and Nigeria. Regardless of where believers live, they must love Jesus this much. They will not get to where they need in relationship with God consumed by the worries and cares of life. Leaders in the body of Christ have an additional burden. They not only need to persevere and overcome themselves, but remember that what they do greatly affects what other believers will do during their persecution.

Overcomers

Overcoming Statement 1

“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7b).

When reading the account of Adam and Eve (especially Gen 3:22), it seems the two never ate from the tree of life. It begs the question, “Why?” At first glance, it seems that Adam and Eve only made one decision in relation to eating from this tree. Since they probably knew of it, consequently, they made two decisions. Therefore, another decision Adam and Eve considered was should they eat from the tree of life. God did not forbid them. Then, why did they not eat from it? The Bible does not say. Pursuing this question, people might ponder these thoughts. First, since Adam and Eve never experienced death, they did not know the fear and pain it brings. As a result, they had no motivation to act. Second, Adam and Eve probably just put it off for another day because they did not comprehend death. When people put off or make no decision (like giving their heart to God), this means they made a decision. Leaders in the Body of Christ need to convey the message never to wait to make a decision for Christ.

What does this mean for those who overcome? When experiencing the fear and pain of death, God will restore the human race to paradise. When believers see the tree of life, “which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (a literal place; cf. Rev 22:2), they will not have to be told twice to eat of it. What Adam and Eve did not take advantage of in the garden, God will offer to those who overcome.

Overcoming Statement 2

“He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev 2:11b).

To understand the second death, the first warrants discussion. With respect to the first death, this generation will die if the rapture does not come. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has the promise of eternal life, while the non-believer does not. Scripture in Rev 20:11-15, explained the second death. Simply stated, people who do not have their name in the Book of Life will go to the lake of fire.

Many do not want to talk about hell. Its reality still exists and necessitates a topic for discussion. Jesus talked quite a bit about hell. So too, must believers. Some people view God as cruel because they believe that He sends humans to hell. God loves us, and He does not want to see anyone go there (2 Pet 3:9). To prevent this, God manifested Himself in the flesh (Jesus), and then died on the cross to redeem humankind. When people repent and turn to Him, they need not worry about the second death. Humans send themselves to the lake of fire when they reject Him, not God.

Overcoming Statement 3

“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (Rev 2:17).

Hidden Manna

Jesus will give the hidden manna to those who overcome. God gave manna to the children of Israel to eat while in the wilderness for 40 years during Moses’ leadership. Moses spoke of manna in Exod 16:15, “This is bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.” Now connecting this to Jesus, He said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48), and similarly, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat this bread, he shall live for ever” (6:51). The manna that Jesus will give is Himself, and thus, believers can live forever with Him.

The Book of Revelation taught about the hidden manna. God knew humankind would fall into sin, and He already planned the remedy. Revelation 13:8b supports this idea referring to “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The New Testament described God’s action as a mystery (Greek: mystērion, μυστήριον), meaning “hidden thing, secret, mystery” (Thayer, 2009, p. 420). Paul discussed the mystery in Eph 3:9. He wrote, “And to make men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” He also addressed it in Col 1:26, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is manifest to his saints.”

With this information, the work of God through Jesus Christ was hidden from humankind with glimpse given to the prophets. For many people, the truth of Jesus Christ remains hidden because their minds are void of the truth (2 Cor 4:4). A person cannot say, “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit revealing it (1 Cor 12:3). All believers, especially leaders, need to tell people Jesus is Lord, but only the Holy Spirit can truly make someone believe. Those who overcome get to partake of the hidden manna and have eternal life.

White Stone

The next thing Jesus talked about in this verse was the white stone. He “will give him (overcomers) a white stone” (Rev 2:17b). One explanation of the white stone argued, “The white stone speaks of the custom of casting such a stone into a voter’s urn with the name of a candidate, indicating the approval of the one who cast it” (Feinberg, 1994, p. 2662). Jesus chooses people who overcome. It does not get any better than the Lord Jesus selecting His people!

New Name

The third part in this verse reads “in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (v. 17c). God changed the names of various individuals in both testaments, such as Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, and Simon to Peter. The changes regarded things God did and was going to do in the lives of these individuals. God has a new name for believers, which will reflect specifically what He did in each of the overcomer’s lives. Every name (other than Jesus) has baggage of past wrongs attached to it. The new name comes from a clean slate, and gloriously connects to the Savior.

Overcoming Statement Four

“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as received of the Father. And I will give him the morning star” (Rev 2:26-28).

Power Over the Nations

It seems many Christians have the idea that when they pass from this life into the next, heaven just will function as an eternal church service or chill time. All believers have a purpose, an important job God wants them to do. When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he had jobs to do. God commanded Adam to “replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen 1:28). Additionally, Adam had to dress and keep the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15). Just as God gave Adam responsibilities, He will give overcomers the same. The Lord will give responsibilities to overcomers based on the faithfulness of their assignments in this life (Matt 25:14-30). All believers, but especially leaders in the Body of Christ must remember that labor for the Lord effects not just this life, but that to come.

What will overcomers do? When Jesus returns, He will reign a thousand years. During that time, He will bind the devil in the bottomless pit (Rev 20:2-3). Upon the Lord Jesus’ return, believers will return with Him (Rev 19:15 and Jude 14). Just as He will return bodily form, likewise believers will the same. Physical bodies need a physical earth. As Christ reigns on earth, believers will reign with Him (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 1:5; 5:9; 20:6).

Rule With a Rod of Iron

People may ask over whom overcomers will reign. Simply stated, Jesus will reign over the physically alive who did not take the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-18). These overcomers will reign with the Lord Jesus over forthcoming generations of offspring. After a thousand years, the devil will return (released from the bottomless pit) to deceive the earth’s inhabitants. Perhaps, God lets it happen to test the people of the earth’s faith in Him because most (at least) never experienced the devil’s influence. In the end, God has the victory (Rev 20:9-10).

Give Him the Morning Star

Now, what does it mean when Jesus stated, “And I will give him the morning star” (2:28)? Feinberg noted, “The morning star is the promise of being with Christ before the day breaks; it is the promise of the rapture. Israel awaits the Sun of righteousness (1994, p. 2662; cf. Mal 4:2); the church looks for the Morning Star (cf. Rev 22:16). Believers need to desire the Morning Star to rise in their hearts (2 Pet 1:19 NKJV).

Overcoming Statement 5

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev 3:5).

Clothed in White Raiment

First, this passage tells that God will clothe overcomers “in white raiment” (3:5b KJV). The color white symbolizes purity and righteousness in Scripture (Bible Basic, n.d.). Only the blood of Jesus makes them pure and righteous. In regards to righteousness, 2 Cor 6:21 stated, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The Lord will clothe overcomers (bride of Christ) in a special wardrobe. Revelation 19:8 stated, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Other versions, such as the NASB, translate righteousness as righteous acts.

Name in the Book of Life

The Lord further promises that He will not “blot out his name out of the book of life” (Rev 3:5b). Having one’s name in the Book of Life holds great importance for the believer and only occurs through the blood of Jesus. God will cast those names not in the Book of Life, into the lake of fire at the Great White Throne of Judgment (20:15). Leaders must have the focus of leading people to salvation, so others have their name in the Book of Life.

I Will Confess His Name

In the last part of the verse Jesus said, “but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (3:5c). Jesus communicated this in the Gospels with, “him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 10:32). Further, He said, “him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8). In both these statements, Jesus will confess only after a person confesses before men about Him (Matt 10:32, Father and Luke 12:8, angels). The word confess (Greek: homologeō; ὁμολογέω) means, “properly, to voice the same conclusion; i.e.,  agree (“confess”); to profess (confess) because in full agreement; to align with (endorse)” (HELPS Word-Studies, n.d.). A person who overcomes will confess Jesus before men. In fact, Rom 10:9 tells that believers have to confess Him for their salvation. How wonderful that the Lord Jesus supports people upon confessing Him!

Overcoming Statement 6

“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Rev 3:12).

A Pillar in the Temple

What does it mean when Jesus said, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God?” This statement does not suggest that person will stand in place holding up a building for eternity. “A pillar is constantly used as a figure of strength and durability” (Feinberg, 1994, p. 2664; cf., Jer 1:18; Gal 2:9). A robustly constructed pillar holds up a building. When believers overcome in this life, God rewards them with a position of prominence build upon the foundation, which is Jesus Christ.

Go No More Out

The Lord Jesus told the overcomer “he shall go no more out” (Rev 3:12a). Most believers (if not all) at some point feel that God is far away. Leaders especially can feel this way because of personal and ministry issues. Sadly, far too many stories of pastors committing suicide exist. Overcomes will not experience the feeling of not being in God’s presence anymore because they will be with Him forevermore. They never encounter loneliness again for, “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain (21:4).

Name of the City of My God

Now, looking at the Lord writing the name of God and the name of the city of God on those who overcomes points to another aspect (3:12 b). Though the context of this passage remains unknown, it will identify the person as an overcomer of God. The devil has a counterfeit to it with the mark of the beast (13:16-18). Some will choose the mark of the beast, showing their alliance to the anti-Christ.

Write Upon Him a New Name

Jesus stated that He, “will write upon him my new name” (3:12d) In Scripture, God revealed names and titles of Himself, such as I AM THAT I AM and YHWH (or YHVH). In the New Testament, revealed Himself as Yeshua (or Jesus), which indicates, “name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9). God hid His name (Jesus) throughout history until Gabriel revealed it to Mary and then Joseph. Some Christians might believe they know all about God, but they do not. God will disclose a new name, which He will make known something else about Him that they do not know.

Overcoming Statement 7

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and sit down with my Father in his throne” (Rev 3:21).

Sit With Me on the Throne

Christians must understand the importance of the promise of sitting with the Lord Jesus on His throne (3:21), rather than how they all fit on it. People who sit on thrones might hold positions of royalty and honor. First Peter 2:9 named believers a “royal priesthood.” Further, God made us kings (Rev 1:6). Moreover, Scripture calls us “joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). Through God’s grace, overcomers gain the great honor of sitting on the throne with Him!

An interesting point: Some people, including this writer, believe the 24 elders will consist of the raptured believers (Rev 4). First, the term “church” or “churches” does not appear between Rev 3 to 22:16. The believers in chapter seven will come out of the tribulation. Then, the 24 elders will wear white raiment and have crowns (Rev 4:4), the very same items given to believers. Additionally, Rev 11:16 stated that the 24 elders “sat before God on their seats.” To have a seat that close to the throne of God shows great honor. The closeness of God and His people here truly fulfills what Jesus prayed in John 17:21b, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”

Close

Some concluding thoughts about overcoming come to mind with, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev 4:20). Some people believe that this verse only pertains to believers since chapters two and three deal with seven different churches. This thought does not hold true because this verse specified, “if any man” and “any man” means all (believers and non-believers). If people read this article and have not given their life to God, they should repent and turn to Him. This article told of the great rewards for believers, who overcome and finished their journey. The rewards that God has for overcomers cannot be comprehended because of their greatness (1 Cor 2:9).

All believers (both individuals and churches) need to examine their hearts (2 Cor 13:5). Of the seven churches from Rev 2 and 3, Jesus told five to repent. Today, Jesus knocks on the hearts of believers and churches. Too often believers and churches do not open the door for Him. We need a great repentance for the sins in the Body of Christ. It is only after repentance that a great revival in the Body of Christ will occur.

Of utmost importance to ministry, leaders in the Body of Christ must open the door when Jesus knocks. When the leaders do not, it affects others who do not open the door in their hearts. God will judge the leaders for leading the flock astray (Matt 23).

After the instructions Jesus gave each church in Revelation two and three, even after telling five of those churches to repent, He gave a promise for overcomers. If believers sin and fall away from God, they have a promise from God. In 1 John 1:9 Scripture said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Ending this article, a very important event will happen whether people think it will or not–the return of Jesus. The Lord said in Rev 22:12, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” The last part of Rev 22:20 stated, “Even so, come, Lord.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Rev 22:21).

Endnotes

[1]Thayer’s Lexicon defines an angel as a minister, presiding presbyter, or bishop.
[2]Many people (including this writer) believe these churches and the order of mention indicate the seven periods of the Church Age. The article will not focus on this subject.

References

  • Bible Basic. (n.d.) Colours in the Bible. Retrieved http://www.biblebasic.co.uk/colours/col15
  • Bible Hub. (n.d.). Confess. HELPS word-studies. Retrieved from http:///www.biblehub.com/greek/3670htm
  • Bible Hub. (2014). Revelation 12:17 commentary. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/revelation/2-17.htm
  • Feinberg, C. (1994). Revelation. The KJV parallel Bible commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
  • Plummer, A. (1985). Peter I-III, John, Jude, Revelation, XXII: Vol. 2. The Pulpit Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody MA.
  • Thayer, J. (2009). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

My Servant David: Leadership Lessons for Multicultural Ministry

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What can leaders in multicultural ministry learn from David, one whom God called His servant? From his beginnings as a shepherd, God chose him to rule over all Israel. His Spirit filled David with wisdom and understanding to equip him for service. Considered a type for the Messiah, David humbly served, felt persecution, and experienced exaltation for the God of Israel. Unlike Christ, he had a sinful nature succumbing to moral failure. God’s mercy did not depart from David, however (2 Sam 7:15-16). Regardless of successes and failures David remained a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). This character study illustrates his traits as a servant of the Lord and provides application for them to pastoral leadership in a multicultural church.

Jan Paron, PhD/August 30, 2014

Character Study of King David

God chose David conditioned on his heart rather than outward appearance (Ps 89:20). He took him from a shepherd in the sheepcote to prince over all Israel (2 Sam 7:8). God gave His servants special assignments—David’s rule held critical significance for the messianic Kingdom to come. The Lord covenanted with David that He would build him a house to raise up His seed for an everlasting dynasty (2 Sam 7:12-16). Jesus, the son of Abraham and the son of David (Matt 1:1; Acts 13:22-23), fulfilled this covenant with His kingship, which traced to the seed from the House of Judah (Acts 13:23).

David did not rule immediately, rather served the reigning king, Saul. Because the Lord was with David when His Spirit came upon him, David behaved wisely in all he did (e.g., 1 Sam 16:18; 18:14, 28). Saul recognized the spirit upon David and thus feared him (18:12). All Israel and Judah loved him, though, including Saul’s son Jonathan. As David rose in service and showed even more wisdom through the Lord, Saul conspired against him. Despite Saul’s attempts to slay David, God protected the future king and sustained him (e.g., 21:9, 9; 22:1, 23). David went on to rule over all Israel because he depended on the real King of Israel in faith and subservience while following His will.

Man after Gods own heart.revivenation.

Lessons for Leadership in a Multicultural Church

Pillar One: A Servant of the Lord Belongs to God Through Covenant

The Lord chose David, a shepherd and youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, to rule over all of Israel (1 Sam 16:12; 2 Sam 7:8). He selected David based on his heart. God still looks for a leader after his own heart—apart a person’s background, race, ethnicity, gender, or age.

Pillar Two: A Servant of the Lord Submits to His Commission

David yielded to his commission from the Lord without hesitation. He submitted to serving King Saul as his armor bearer, valiantly facing Goliath, and fighting Israel’s opposition. Sometimes leaders encounter conflict when unifying the diversity of cultures. Leaders should stay the course, and let the Lord of hosts fight the battles (1 Sam 17:47b).

Pillar Three: A Servant of the Lord Places the Future in His Hands

Jealous over David’s accomplishments, Saul sought to kill him. (23:1-9; 26:20). God did not deliver him to Saul (23:14), but kept him. Carrying out the vision of a multicultural church requires endurance for the future. God keeps His covenantal leaders: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Ps 32:7 NIV).

Pillar Four: A Servant of the Lord Follows God in Faith

God viewed David a man after His own heart, because he did everything the Lord wanted Him to do in faith (Acts 13:22c; Heb 11:33). Leading a multicultural congregation calls for a servant who will walk by faith to follow Jesus’ mandate for unity (John 17:20-23).

Pillar Five: A Servant of the Lord Speaks Gentle Truth

The narrator repeatedly described David as “wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with Him” (1 Sam 18:14 KJV). Given the chance to kill Saul, David heeded the directives from the Lord not to stretch forth his hand against him (24:6). After David explained his innocence, Saul said that David was a better man repaying him good for evil (v. 17). Leaders should minister according to the Lord’s wisdom, loving their enemies, and praying for those who persecute them towards unity in diversity for Christ (Matt 5:44).

Pillar Six: A Servant of the Lord Trusts Him, Absent of Fear and Discouragement

Even under trials and testings, David enquired of the Lord for direction (e.g., 23:2, 4; 30:8). He did experience fear, but God comforted him and built his faith. In a later trial, David “But David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Sam 30:6 NIV). God wants His leaders to lean on Him, rather than fear and address the challenges of multicultural ministry on their own.

Pillar Seven: A Servant of the Lord Prevails with His Commission

The Lord directed Samuel to anoint Saul as leader who would have authority over His people Israel (9:16-17); however, David was 30 when all the elders of Israel anointed him as king. Prior to this, only the tribe of Judah recognized him as king. Uniting a church across cultures requires patience for God’s hand to prevail and operate on His time.

Taking Up the Charge

David’s character presents an intriguing portrait of the human embodiment of a leader. From a confident young man in the pasture ready to battle for the living God (1 Sam 17:26) to a dimming ruler who made Solomon king over Adonijah (1 King 1:7-8), David served the Lord to the end. Though David led through losses and victories, frailties and faith, he kept his sights on God. David’s last words to his son Solomon concerned keeping the charge of the Lord God so that He could accomplish His promise to the royal throne for a successor to rule over Israel (1 Kgs 2:3-4; cf. 2 Sam 7:12-16; Ps 89:29). Likewise, leaders must take up the charge to serve the fulfilled King Jesus from the House of Judah. Walk in His ways and do wisely to unite His people.

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Prayer for Leadership

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Anatomy of a Servant's Heart

Let Your Light go forth and shine so that all may know You, O God of redemption.
We will praise You, O Lord, our Rock, Our Shield, our Hightower;
We will tell of You, Lord, of Your mightiness.
We will rejoice and be glad in You, Lord, Our Redeemer, our Salvation, our Light;
We will sing praise to Your grace and enduring love.
Order our hearts, minds, and our bodies for Your purpose, O God.

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Let Your favor go before us for Your glory, O God of all righteousness.
We will look to You, O Lord to prepare our hearts for Grace-full leadership;
We will yield our hearts to You, Lord, we are Yours.
We will draw upon Your divine wisdom, Lord, to guide our hearts;
We will look to You to fill us with Your strength.
Keep our hearts close to Your bosom, O God.

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Let Your Spirit flow free and dwell within us, O God of truth.
We will listen to You, O Lord, focusing our minds on Christ-centered leadership.
We will serve You, Lord, telling others of salvation.
We will seek understanding, Lord, of Your ways for our lives as leaders;
We will use our minds to accomplish Your vision.
Sustain our minds with Your far-reaching knowledge, O God.

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Let Your will be done, Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, O God of creation.
We will be a living testimony to You, O Lord, patterning our ways as Spirit-led leaders;
We will walk with You, Lord, making our actions and words honor You.
We will be shepherds, Lord, and feed Your lambs and take care of Your sheep;
We will show our love and follow You.
Lead our hands and our habits to demonstrate a grace-filled life, O God.

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Let others know of Your joy and peace, O God of grace.
We thank You, O Lord, our Comforter, our Shepherd, our Healer;
We sing for joy to You, Lord, marveling at the wonders of Your might and works of Your hands.
We shout our love for You, our Redeemer, our Savior, Our Light;
We bow down and worship You.
Teach us to be humble, O God, King of kings.


Selah.
Jan Paron
January 15, 2007/ All Rights Reserved

Image from ministry127.com

Understanding Prophecy

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The Old and New Testaments epitomize Jesus Christ as prophecy’s centralized theme. The apostles did not have the New Testament as a source to teach about Jesus during the early church’s formation. Instead, they used Hebrew Scripture that foretold of the coming Messiah to support their eye-witness accounts about His life, death, and resurrection. What does prophecy mean? Scripture explained that God’s Spirit moved the Old Testament prophets to foretell Christ’s kingdom and its triumph (2 Pet 1:21; Thayer, 2009). Therefore, prophecy originates from God Who inspired the prophets to convey it as His messengers. Thayer (2009) defined prophecy (Greek transliterated as prophēteia) as a divinely inspired communication that declares God’s purposes for future events. Thus, prophecy not only originated from God, but also suits His purposes. 

Jan Paron, PhD with Ken Arcand/August 21, 2014

At the Hebrew Scripture’s core, it contains messianic prophecy (Segraves, 2008). Its redemptive language relates the nature of salvation from covenant to covenant. The New Covenant fulfills the messianic prophecies from the Old. How can today’s believer understand Christ in prophecy? By carefully examining prophecies with the Holy Spirit’s illumination, one can interpret God’s progressive revelation of the Messiah. This article presents the framework for understanding Christ in prophecy by providing the meaning of fulfill and foretell as well as basic explanations and examples of the three types of prophecy–Direct, typological, and symbolic.

Fulfillment in Prophecy

The word fulfill, (Greek: πληρόω; plēroō ) appears “twelve times in Matt, two in Mark, four in Luke, eight in John, two in Acts” (Blue Letter Bible, 2014, para. 1). Thayer’s Lexicon defines prophecy’s biblical meaning as “sayings, promises, prophecies of the Lord to bring to pass, ratify, or accomplish” (e.g., Matt 1:22; Mark 14:49; Luke 24:44 (Thayer, 2009, p. 517). The lexicon also gives another meaning, “universally and absolutely to fulfil, i.e. to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment” (See Matt 5:17; Figure 1). Prophecies of Jesus’ first coming already occurred, while those of His second coming have not been fulfilled yet. Two New Testament key passages give insight to fulfillment’s meaning, Matt 5:17 and Luke 24:44. Jesus revealed God’s divine will for Israel in the former, while He projected His fulfillment as necessary to establishing His Church for all nations in the latter. Both verses showed believers in Christ must accept, obey, and follow Him in faith as the fulfilled Messiah.

Understanding Prophecy.Blog

Based on internal evidence from the Book of Matthew, many theologians argued that the gospel author wrote to a predominantly Jewish Christian audience (Beale & Carson, 2007; Harrington, 2007). Blomberg supported this argument reasoning that Matthew used a high amount of Hebrew scripture.–This gospel author quoted 55 Old Testament scriptures in Matthew, as opposed to the three other authors who quoted 65 in their combined three books (Cited in Beale & Carson, 2007). He also explained that of the 55 direct quotations from the Old Testament, 25 remain exclusive to Matthew and 12 refer to fulfilled Scripture. Further, the gospel author Matthew did not explain his quotations suggesting that a Jewish audience would have had the background to understand. Also consider that Matthew wrote this gospel after the second temple’s destruction in 70 A.D. during a conflict when Jews were trying to define their own identity. With this high emphasis on Jewish text, Matthew may have sought to counter their beliefs and convince them of Jesus’ fulfillment as the Messiah. This all comes on the heels of Matt 5:17. Prior to this passage, the gospel author heralds in the idea of fulfillment with five other Hebrew quotes, beginning each an opening like “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying” (Matt 1:22):

  • “Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt 1:23; cf. Isa 7:14);
  • “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matt 2:6; cf. Gen 49:10);
  • “Out of Egypt, have I called my son” (Matt 2:15c; cf. Hos 11:1);
  • “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentations, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matt 2:19; cf. Jer 31:15);
  • “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”(Matt 3:3; cf. Mal 3:1); and
  • “The land of Zabulon, and the Land of Nephthalim by the way of the sea; beyond Jordan Galilee of Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is spring up” (Matt 4:15-16; cf. Isa 9:1-2).

Matthew repeatedly used Old Testament quotations (Matt 1:23; 2:6; 15; 19; 3:3; and 4:15-16) to support Jesus as the fulfilled Jewish Messiah directed at the original audience of this text. As the author continues, he reinforces Jesus’ fulfillment again with a quote from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus taught this sermon at Galilee to His disciples and a large crowd who had followed Him throughout this region (Matt 4:23-25). Jesus ended His teachings focused on fulfillment, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (5:17 KJV). What significance does this verse hold? Jesus did not come to undo or eliminate the law of Moses and teachings of the prophets, rather to complete God’s promises and make them come to pass. He also stressed an even greater revelation about His fulfillment. The audience should obey and follow God’s will for them because His fulfillment was universal and absolute as the law’s Authoritative Interpreter (vv. 19-20). What astonishing revelations!

Fulfillment also acknowledged Christ’s completion for commission (Luke 24:44-48). After the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught again on fulfillment. This time He imparted its importance to His disciples just before His ascension, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44 KJV). All Scriptures had to be fulfilled to bring salvation in all its fullness to all people. The next verse (v. 24:46) tells how Jesus thoroughly opened the disciples mind to reveal its meaning: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. Then, Jesus in the following verse explained the prophecy’s significance (v. 46).–Beginning in Jerusalem, repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations. As witnesses of these foretold events, the disciples would complete its commission. Thus, in order for the disciples to carry out the commission, they first had to understand and accept the fulfillment of this prophecy in faith. Then, they lived it out by going to Jerusalem and remaining there for the Father’s promised Spirit, “until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

After Apostle Peter healed the lame man at the gates called Beautiful, the apostle told an already amazed audience, “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (Acts 3:24 NKJV). The Old Testament prophets held the role of “covenant enforcement mediators who delivered God’s Word” (Paron, 2014). God used these prophets to communicate His will, namely, to tell the future about Israel, the nations, and the first and second comings of the Messiah. They communicated God’s messianic message through symbols, types, and direct prophecies that foretold the coming Messiah, which Christ literally and completely fulfilled. Thus, Jesus fulfilled all messianic prophecy recorded in Scripture with absolute accuracy and authority in every detail.

Interpretation of Prophecy

Scripture interprets Scripture for a harmonious, united message that narrates God’s Big Story. Students of the Word interpret prophecy via the grammatical-historical approach by exegeting prophetic passages in their historic and literary context for a literal meaning. This approach brings literal meaning out from the text, but never adds to it. Exegesis answers the question, What did the biblical author mean? The historical aspect seeks to answer this question by examining words and expressions according to their intended meaning at the time written. In doing so, it considers prevailing biblical geographical, social, political, archeological, political, cultural, philosophical, and religious views and/or events (Bernard, 2005). The grammatical aspect of this interpretation approach looks to words, grammatical forms, and relationships for meaning.

Under the umbrella of the historical-grammatical approach of exegeting Scripture, the interpreter looks to direct, typological, and symbolic features of prophecy to exegete literal meaning. All three concern themselves with literal fulfillment of prophecy. The revelation from the Holy Spirit illuminates understanding during interpretation with these three features, but God’s Spirit will not contradict His own Word.

Direct (New Testament Use of the Old Testament)

The New Testament authors used Old Testament material for various reasons, among them literal fulfillment of prophecy. Their quotes came from Jesus’ direct instruction, the apostles’ witness of Him, and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Jesus Himself quoted the Old Testament for literal fulfillment of messianic prophecies, which made references to prophecy in Scripture authoritative. A direct prophecy presents an Old Testament predictive messianic event that foretells Jesus’ first coming or His second yet to come. With this type of prophecy, prophets clearly foretold of the future king in plain language, which in turn, Jesus literally fulfilled with His first coming or will fulfill with His second.

One easily can recognize a direct prophecy because the New Testament authors quoted or rendered their own from the Old Testament in the New Testament. Sometimes passages contain a combination of one or more Old Testament foretellings. (See point three below.) However, a direct prophecy may contain signs and types within it. Nonetheless, Jesus literally fulfilled prophecy. The below show examples of different direct prophecies.

  • Prophet Zechariah described the coming of Christ: “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matt 21:5 KJV) and “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech 9:9; cf. Isa 62:11)
  • Jesus came as a God of the living regarding the resurrection and future state to come. “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err” (Mark 2:36) and “Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God (Exod 3:6).
  • “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me” (Matt 27:9-10; cf. Jer 32:6-9; Zech 11:12.

Typological (Foreshadow of Christ in the Old Testament as Identified in the New)

Typology prefigures or foreshadows an event, person, or institution from the Old Testament that serves as an example of another of the same in the New. Ramm further explained typology as the “interpretation of the Old Testament based on the fundamental theological unity of the two testaments whereby something in the Old will shadows, prefigures, adumbrates something in the New” (1981, p. 223). Adumbrates means foreshadows or something to come. A type has divine intention and purpose (Bernard, 2005). The type foreshadows things from the Old Testament to greater truths in the New. It predicts and looks ahead for the antitype. For every Old Testament type, a greater exists with a New Testament antitype. The antitype always is greater and superior than the type.

The type’s fulfillment occurs in the good things from the person and work of Jesus ;”Christ, the antitype which corresponds to something prior. One example of a type comes from Heb 10:1. It supports the Old Testament “law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves” (NIV). The law of Moses (type) foreshadows Jesus Christ, the Law fulfilled (antitype). The Old Testament type with the New Testament antitype divinely reveal Jesus throughout the covenants, bringing unity to the message of redemption.

Types come in the forms of persons, things, actions, events, institutions, and offices (Bernard, 2005). The below shows examples of each.

  • Persons. All in Adam die, but those in Christ will be made alive (1 Cor 15:22). 
  • Things. The bronze serpent in the wilderness (Num 21:4-9) foreshadows the cross of Christ (John 3:14-21). The one promised deliverance from the venom of fiery serpents, while the other provides deliverance from the curse of sin.
  • Actions. Noah and his family submerged in the ark during the Flood were the type from the Old Testament that prefigured those who submit to submersion through baptism as the antitype in the New Testament. God delivered the former from an evil and sinful world washed by the flood waters (Gen 6-9), while He saved the latter from the curse of sin through Jesus Christ by washing away their sins in baptism (Acts 2:38).
  • Events. It rained 40 days during the Flood (Gen 7:4) and Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years (Num 14:33), both a type for trials and testing for Jesus being tempted in the desert for 40 days (Matt 4:2).
  • Institutions. Giving a sacrificial burnt offering of the herd, a male without blemish at the door of the tabernacle (Lev 1:3) foreshadows Christ, without blemish, as the sacrificial offering on the cross (John 1:29). Another example involves covenant. The type is the Mosaic Covenant in Jer 31:32. The New Covenant is the antitype because the former had been faultless (Heb 8:7), thus, the second is a better covenant with better promises established upon Jesus as its Mediator (8:6-8). The old is ready to vanish away (v.13).
  • Offices. Melchizedek (Gen 14:17-20) prefigures the kingship and priesthood of Jesus Christ (Heb 5:5-10; 6:19-20; 7:1-22)

Symbolic (Representation of One Thing in Scripture With Another)

Prophecy contains a symbolic feature that one can understand only through proper interpretation of a symbol. A symbol shows a thing that stands for something else. It differs from a type because a symbol might represent something past, present, and future. One finds two rules to follow when interpreting symbols that involve understanding multiple meanings and using biblical context to define the meanings. First, Ritenbaugh (1992) said that several different symbols may represent the same reality in the Bible. The church symbolizes as a woman, living stones represent Christians in a building, human body of which Christ is the Head, and family of which Christians are brothers. Bernard (2005) pointed out that a particular symbol may take on various meanings. The lion means Satan in 1 Pet 5:8 and Jesus in Rev 5:5. Let Scripture interpret itself to understand the symbol (Bernard, 2005; Ritenbaugh, 1992). Look to the context of the biblical passage, both parallel and surrounding, for interpretation. For example, Christ explains the meaning of different symbols, seven stars, and seven lampstands in Rev 1:20.

Symbolic prophecy uses eight categories of symbols that are objects, creatures, actions, numbers, names, colors, directions and places (Conner, 1980). See below for examples.

    • Objects. The wind symbolizes the Holy Spirit (John 3:8; Acts 2:2).
    • Creatures. A lamb of God shows Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to take away sin from the world (John 1:29).
    • Actions. Baptism symbolizes salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 22:16; Rom 6:3-4; 1 Pet 3:21).
    • Numbers. Seven signifies perfection, completeness, or fullness (Gen 2:1-3; Josh 6:1-5; Luke 17:4).
    • Furniture. The brazen altar suggests Jesus’ redemptive work for the atonement for sin on the cross (1 John 2:1-2).
    • Names. Jesus symbolizes His function, “for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21b).
    • Colors. Purple signifies royalty in Mark 15:17.
    • Directions. The Promised Land means a person receiving the mind of Christ, the new earth–Abraham looked for a city, which has foundations whose builder & maker is God (Heb 11:9-10).
    • Places. New Jerusalem symbolizes the holy city of heaven (Matt 5:25; Rev. 21:9-10).

Closing

Prophecy originates from God who inspired the prophets to convey it as His messengers to suit His purposes. Their fulfillment brings salvation in all its fullness to all people. Fulfilled prophecies come in different forms such as parables, double references, and figurative language. However, the basic framework for understanding Christ in prophecy fundamentally resides in three basic types: Direct, typological, and symbolic. Understanding these, with revelation from the Holy Spirit, brings greater understanding of the hidden things of God.

Inspired prophets clearly communicated what God intended to be understood, embraced, and acted upon to suit His purposes. The Old Testament contains 1,239 prophecies of different types. About 300 of these relate to Jesus (Barton, 1973; Fairchild, 2014). The volume of prophecy indicates the focal point of God’s revelation, the incarnation, life, and teachings of Christ–all fulfillments of prophecy in their own right. The force behind these messianic-prophecies lay within all their various forms, across so many periods, and funneled through such an eclectic array of personalities. When one examines messianic prophecy, with openness to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the understanding becomes clear, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor 5:19). He foretold it in great and varied detail and fulfilled it by dotting every i and crossing every t.

References

  • Bernard, D. (2005). Understanding God’s Word: An Apostolic approach to interpreting the Bible. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.
  • Conner, K. (1980). Interpreting types and symbols. Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publishing.
  • Duvall, J. S. & Hays, J. D. (2005). Grasping God’s Word: A hands-on approach to reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Fairchild, M. (2014). Prophecies Jesus fulfilled: 44 prophecies of the Messiah fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Retrieved from http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/a/Prophecies-Jesus.htm
  • Harrington, D.  (2007). The Gospel of Matthew: Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
  • Lloyd, Jones, D. (1976). Studies on Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Pentecost, D. W. (1958). Things to come: A study in biblical eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Ramm, B. (1970). Protestant biblical interpretation. (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker House Book.
  • Ritenbaugh,  J. (1992). Biblical Symbolism. Bibletools.org. Retrieved from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/PERSONAL/k/678/Biblical-Symbolism.htm
  • Thayer, J. (2009). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

 

Uncovering the Meaning of Servant of the Lord

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The biblical testaments harmonize together into one united narrative of which God revealed His identity and salvation plan to all humanity. Scripture interprets Scripture as its own testimony—It reveals a completely Spirit inspired, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative text. The Word of God contains guiding truth for a believer’s walk. Students of the Word exegete and interpret Scripture to unlock its meaning. Against the backdrop of scriptural exegesis and interpretation, the meaning of servant of the Lord comes forth.

Exegesis answers the question, What did the biblical author mean? Tate (1997) defined exegesis as the process of examining a biblical text for what its original readers understood it to mean in a given context. In doing so, it considers the grammatical aspect of word meaning (lexicon) and order (syntax) looking at relationships for meaning.  Words or phrases take on various meanings depending on the author’s intent. Additionally, exegesis examines the historical-cultural aspects through biblical geographical, social, political, archeological, political, cultural, philosophical, and religious views or events from the time of writing (Bernard, 2005). Working in tandem with exegesis, Tate (1997) explained that interpretation draws out implications from the text for contemporary readers and listeners. Interpretation depends on thorough exegesis combining grammatical and historical aspects with illumination from the Holy Spirit for understanding. The Holy Spirit does not contradict His own Word, rather reveals meaning.

The fusion of exegesis and interpretation leads to hermeneutics. Simply stated, hermeneutics reflects on a past event and culture to understand its meaning in a current situation (Braaten, 1966). Hermeneutics = exegesis + interpretation. Theological study offers 19 hermeneutical principles ranging from the dispensational principle to numerical. Three of these principles (first mention, context, and typical) will guide exegesis and interpretation of servant of the Lord to study the subject’s deeper meaning.

Exegeting and Interpreting Servant

Two words surface when mentioning the concept of Christ-centered servitude in the New Testament: diakonos and doulos. This author (2013)  wrote that a diakonos servant (Matt 20:26) shows the qualities of a minister who seeks nothing more than unselfish ambition to God’s service as His subordinate in all humility, love, and submission. Further, a servant waits on and carries out the commands from the King: “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matt 23:11). Working with diakonos, a doulos servant (Matt 20:27) revealed a bondservant who gives up self-interests and will to advance God’s mission as a slave for the sake of Christ. This enslavement brings joy, devotion, obedience, yielding, and sacrifice: “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all’” (Mark 9:35). Christ followers must hold the beliefs and show the actions of both diakonos and doulos. A third word, pais (Greek), gives even deeper meaning into the subject of servitude. Thayer (2009) defined pais as one whose “agency God employs in executing His purposes: “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show justice to the Gentiles: (Matt 12:18 KJV; Isa 42:1). This passage fulfilled what the Prophet Isaiah foretold about the coming messiah, Jesus. It also precedes diakonos and doulos in the Book of Matthew and announces the reason behind servitude (Matt 20:27; 23:11). To understand servitude, What do the first mention, typical, and context principles uncover about the characteristics of a servant of the Lord for believers in Christ?

First Mention Principle

Hartill (1947) stated that the first mention about a subject comes from God about truth related to a subject that stands connected in His mind. The first mention of servant (Hebrew: עֶבֶד`; ebed) occurred in Gen 26:24, in which God referred to Abraham as His servant: “And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham they father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake.” A critical point about the name servant of the Lord relates to the fact that the God Himself identified Abraham as His servant and did so in a possessive form, “my servant” (26:24b). Scripture showed that Abraham followed God’s will by leaving Haran to follow the Lord’s command to go to a land God would show him (12:1). Ancient peoples held land, family, and inheritance as significant elements in their society. Land sustained a farmer’s livelihood, while it represented the urban dweller’s political identity. Children inherited the family land. They worked it to sustain their livelihood, care for their family, and ensure the family lineage. The land, family, and inheritance linked together (Walton, Matthews, & Chavalas, 2000). When Abraham left his father’s house and kindred upon God’s command, he forfeited everything familiar from Haran to go “unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen 12:1d). Instead, he placed his future in the Lord’s hands and followed Him. For the Lord to name Abraham servant brings to mind characteristics of obedience, submission, trust, and faithfulness. These traits tied to God’s covenant and resulted in Abraham gaining a new identity, everlasting inheritance, and divine security.

Some of the Old Testament servants of the Lord included Abraham (Gen 26:24), Moses (Exod 14:31; Deut 34:5; Josh 1:2, 13), Joshua (Josh 24:29; Judg 2:8), Hezekiah (2 Chron 32:16), Isaiah (Isa 20:3), Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon (Jer 25:9), Zerubbabel (Hag 2:23), prophets as a group (2 Kgs 17:13; Amos 3:7; Jer 7:25; 26:5), and the faithful ones of Israel (Isa 49:1-6). Upon closer examination of their character traits as His servant, Scripture revealed its attributes. The servants of the Lord accomplished something particular for Him. Moses led the Israelites from Egypt. He served as God’s instrument to demonstrate His acts (Exod 14:31) and gave His commands (Josh 1:13). God called Moses his servant even after death (1:2). Caleb had a different spirit than the children of Israel. Caleb fully followed God (Num 14:24) as opposed to the Israelites who tested God, did not heed His voice, and provoked (spurned or despised) Him (14:22). God called King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, known as the wicked one in Rabbinical literature (Jewish Encyclopedia, 2011), His servant because he worked for Him. Nebuchadnezzar would strike the land of Egypt (Jer 43:10c-11; AMP).

Context Principle

What does the study of servant of the Lord’s context further determine about its characteristics? The context principle considers a subject through the context of the immediate passage, chapter, book, testament, and Bible (Hartill, 1947; Segraves, 2001). Words, phrases, or passages before or after a word influence its meaning, too, as do surrounding events, conditions, and audience. For example, servant of the Lord first appears in Gen 26:24. The Lord appeared to Isaac and reaffirmed the covenant He made with His servant Abraham. The passages prior to verse 24 open more understanding about servant of the Lord.

A look at the chapter revealed that events occurred at the time of famine. God directed Isaac to sojourn temporarily in Gerar. There, the Lord appeared to Isaac and told him He would favor him, give all these lands, and confirm the oath He swore to his father Abraham (26:3-5 NIV). He emphasized that Abraham obeyed Him; did everything He required; and kept His commands, decrees, and instructions (v. 3). The Lord spoke again to Isaac in Gen 26:24, “I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (KJV). Earlier verses from chapter 26 showed that the Lord’s servant Abraham had an obedient character based on His actions.

By widening the examination of servant to other chapters from Genesis and books of the Old Testament more definitions surface, all influenced by context. From Genesis to 2 Kings, nine variations of servant occur excluding servant of the Lord. These occurrences reflect meanings contrary to servant of the Lord:

  • Slave, Servant of Servants (Gen 9:25). Noah petitioned a curse as a servant of servants; lowest servant, or slave of slaves. A servant of servants can apply to an individual or whole people when subject and tributary to another.
  • House of Bondage (Gen 13:3, 14). The Lord delivered Israel from the house of slaves in the land of Egypt.
  • Consummate Host (Gen 18:3). Servant denotes someone who welcomes a guest with all humility and offers the best, ready to take care of and serve (See also, Gen 19:19a, Lot perceived himself to be a servant, but his character did not match Abrahams’s).
  • Servant of the House (Gen 24:2). A servant in this context served the household.
  • Subjects of a Chief (Gen 26:15). This passage showed collective servants who served a person of importance.
  • Man Servant (Gen 41:12). Slave in this context, indicated a man-servant who served someone else.
  • Polite Address to Equals or Superiors (Gen 43:28). Servant showed a way of addressing one’s superior to show respect.
  • Subject to Forced Labor (Gen. 49:15). The intent of servant here meant that the person possessed a new knowledge based on actions, whether good or bad actions. This might fit with knowledge gained based on revelation or conviction.
  • Servant of the King (1 Sam 18:5). A slave denoted a paid member of the king’s army who held respect in the eyes of the people. In 2 Kgs 8:13a servant of the king carried a negative connotation: “And Hazael said, What is your servant, only a dog, that he should do this monstrous thing?”

The context principle indicated that a servant of the Lord belonged to the divine Master, rather than a worldly (Gen 24:2). A servant of the Lord carried an exalted stature, honorable in God’s eyes rather than dishonorable (2 Kgs 8:13). God esteemed the title, rather than the respect people gave men of war (1 Sam 18:5). The title transcended a polite address (Gen 43:28). This servant voluntarily submitted to everything God required and kept His commands, decrees, and instructions. God did not force obedience (49:15). Further, the servant carried out the Lord’s requests based on faith in God’s covenantal promises for Israel, generation to generation. The Lord’s scope of authority went beyond that of a master’s household (24:2) As opposed to the cursed servant of servants (9:25; 26:15), the Lord blessed His servant with ensuing spiritual and physical prosperity.

Typical Principle

The typical principle pertains to a type from the Old Testament that clearly revealed itself in the New Testament to show a divinely appointed illustration of some scriptural truth (Hartill, 1947; Segraves, 2001). Continuing to follow occurrences of servant of the Lord, the most significant presents itself in Isa 42:1-8. The unidentified “my servant” type in Isa 42:1, prefigured the antitype Messiah: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (Isa 42:1). Jesus Christ, the Lord’s Servant fulfilled these words foretold by the Prophet Isaiah in Matt 12:18. In this prophecy, God assured the helpless servant Israel that He will bless them through His Servant to come Who will rule over the earth (Isa 42:8-9). His servant will bring justice, a divine mishpat, to the nations with salvation (42:1, 3-4). He will do so gently in truth: Neither will He break a bruised reed nor quench a smoking flax (v. 3). But, He will prevail in establishing it. Isaiah 42:4 in the Amplified version detailed the meaning of establish, “He will not fail or become weak or be crushed and discouraged till He has established justice in the earth.”

Servant of the Lord

Seeking the Pillars of Truth

The Bible is the Word of God with truths for daily living. These truths provide each believer and the collective Body of Christ with subsequent meaning that shapes their understanding for God’s intentions as His servant. It also beacons their walk with guiding principles to serve Him. What truths, then, did God have in mind about servant (Hebrew: עֶבֶד`; ebed) in Gen 26:24? Think of the following pillars as the answer to this question. These pillars of truth apply to Christ followers as His servant, His beloved:

  • Pillar One. A servant of the Lord belongs to God through covenant. 
  • Pillar Two. A servant of the Lord submits to His commission.
  • Pillar Three. A servant of the Lord places the future in His hands.
  • Pillar Four. A servant of the Lord follows God in faith.
  • Pillar Five. A servant of the Lord speaks gentle truth.
  • Pillar Six. A servant of the Lord trusts Him, with the absence of fear and discouragement.
  • Pillar Seven. A servant of the Lord prevails with His commission.

God exalts His beloved with the title servant: The Most High bestows them with a name of honor. With this title, though, comes responsibility. Every believer must journey in faith like Abraham and walk as the Servant Jesus to promote the cause of the Gospel to all nations. It takes nothing less than faith and trust in God to serve. Heed the Lord’s words to Joshua, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Josh 1:). Submit, follow, trust, and prevail in faith as a servant of the Lord.

Jan Paron, PhD/August 19, 2014
Dean and Professor of Urban Ministerial Leadership
All Nations Leadership Institute

References

  • Braaten, D. (1966). History and hermeneutics. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress.
  • Conner, K. (1980). Interpreting symbols and types. Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publishing.
  • Conner, K. & Malmin, K. (1983). Interpreting scriptures: A textbook on how to interpret scripture. Portland, OR: City Bible Publishing.
  • Hanson, P. (1995). Isaiah 40-66. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
  • Harrill, J. (2000). Servant. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 1189). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
  • Hartill, J. (1947). Principles of biblical hermeneutics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Oswalt, J.. (1998). The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
  • Jewish Encyclopedia. (2011). Nebuchadnezzar. Retrieved from http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11407-nebuchadnezzar
  • Kaiser, M. (Ed.). (1996). Foundation of contemporary interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Kaiser, W. & Silva, M. (2007). Introduction to biblical hermeneutics: The search for meaning. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Klein, W., Blomberg, C., & Hubbard, R. (2004). Introduction to biblical interpretation. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
  • Oswalt, J.. (1998). The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
  • Paron, J. (2013, March 1). DNA of kingdom greatness [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/dna-of-kingdom-greatness/
  • Segraves, D. (2001). You can understand the Bible: Guidelines for interpreting it. Go Teach Ministry.
  • Swindoll, C. (2014). Abraham: One nomad’s amazing journey of faith. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Publishers, Inc.
  • Tate, W. (1997). Biblical interpretation: An integrated approach. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
  • Thayer, J. (2009). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishes.
  • Virkler, H. (2007). Hermeneutics: Principles and processes of biblical interpretation (2nd Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Walton, J., Matthews, V., & Chavalas, M. (2000). The Bible background commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: Baker Academic.

 Image from singdancepraiselove.wordpress.com

Genealogy of Jesus According to Luke

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The Lukan genealogy of Jesus emphasizes the Son of God in humanity. Luke begins his account with God’s declaration of Jesus, His beloved Son (Luke 3:22) and precedes to legitimize the first human Adam, the son of God (3:38). God’s original purpose and identity for humanity resides in sonship, His highest calling. God created the world by Himself; but fulfills His purpose through us in Jesus with sonship resulting from redeemed and restored relationship. Luke’s genealogical account focuses on Jesus Christ and God’s call for His people in Him.

Daryl Cox/May 28, 2013

genealogy

The Resurrection Seal

Luke presents Jesus as the Son of man, representing God and humanity on earth with provision of salvation for all races. The Lukan genealogical narrative uniquely distinguishes itself with contrasting features from the Matthean by its theme, emphasis, lineage structure, and organization. Luke shapes his theme with unique accounts, teachings, and sayings that collectively present the universal scope of forgiveness and restoration for those who repent. Most notably, Luke presents historical events surrounding Christ’s birth as authentic eyewitness accounts and truths that first century Christians believed (1:1-4). This understanding underscores that Jesus’ lineage descent attests His authentic document of ancestry. His resurrection reveals Him more than just a man. It affirms the documented facts of His genealogy that He is the Son of God. Our faith and interpretation of Scripture rests upon this great truth. When He rose from the dead, He professed Himself as Christ the Son of God and Israel’s promised King (Rom 1:3-4). Gospel author Luke supports Jesus as the King of Israel by connecting Him to the house of King David and other scriptural figures.

Luke strategically places Christ’s genealogy following His baptism. During this event, God speaks the identity of Jesus of Nazareth from heaven to all present. Though God revealed Jesus to be His Son, the genealogy shows that He is made of human ancestry. Both God’s revelation of Jesus and Luke’s genealogical account qualify Him to represent humanity in bearing their sins on the cross. His identification with Adam, the last name recorded in this genealogy, connects Him with all races of humanity and God’s original intent for them.

Jesus’ Sonship

A genealogy records ancestral descent. The Ancients diligently updated family records after a child’s birth to insure accuracy of ancestry. A person’s genealogy said much about one’s family honor and, at times, character.[1] If questions of familial recognition or inheritance arose, these records settled disputes and established due honor. [2] Both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies present Jesus’ honor as God and man. Each author balances his genealogy with the virgin conception and birth of Christ. Using Jesus’ genealogy, the authors establish Him as the rightful heir to David’s throne and Abraham’s son through whom universal calling and blessing flow to all who hear and believe. Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth reveal Him as the Son of God (God manifest in flesh). This balanced understanding of Christ’s genealogy upholds four great truths: Jesus’ messianic claim through Abraham, His kingship through David, His supernatural conception, and God’s incarnation in Him. Luke’s presentation of Jesus Christ’s genealogy differs from Matthew’s. Luke presents evidence of Jesus’ royal connection to David just as Matthew does in His account, but he has a universal focus in mind with a relationship theme declaring Jesus to be the Son of God. Luke uses known individuals from Scripture and reversed order of their naming to inform us of an anticipated redemption and restoration for humanity. God created humankind as sons of God in the beginning, but they lost that relationship in Adam. God now has restored it in Christ, Abraham’s son.

Jesus’ Kingship

Matthew’s genealogy has a kingly nature in content and purpose calling Jesus both Son of David and Son of Abraham.[3] These expressions fulfill the two major Old Testament covenants God made with them. Matthew’s genealogy also gives the royal lineage of kingly succession from David to Israel’s last king, Jehoiakim.[4] It continues until we arrive at Joseph, the husband of Mary. In connection with Mary’s virgin conception of Christ, he presents Jesus’ legal claim as King of Israel through Joseph, who belonged to the house and lineage[5] of David (Luke 2:4). Matthew’s genealogy tells us Joseph did not beget Jesus, but as Mary’s child, the Holy Ghost fathered Him (Matt 1:18-20). This gives Jesus a human and divine ancestry. He is begotten of God and made of a woman (John 3:16; Gal 4:4). Furthermore, Matthew by Scripture and his account of Jesus’ birth identifies Mary’s child as Emmanuel or God with us. Luke also, in speaking of Christ’s birth, calls Him Lord and Savior (Luke 2:11). A truth emerges from both Gospels. Our eternal God became a person of human descent to save us. Jesus’ birth emphasizes He is our Savior, Lord and God while His genealogy reveals Him as promised King and Messiah.

The New Confession

Mary’s miraculous conception of Christ produced the incarnation, a union between God and man in the human person of Jesus Christ. This act, with Jesus’ resurrection, establishes a new faith confession that all God’s people should embrace. The New Testament exclusively declares Jesus is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36; Rom 10:9). This confession agrees with and proves superior to the monotheistic confession of Deut 6:4. The Old Covenant confession affirms Yahweh (Jehovah) is Lord and God alone and His people are to love Him with all their hearts. The new confession retains the previous truth but relative to the incarnation. Jesus is the central focus. The God of the old covenant becomes incarnate in Christ, David’s son after the flesh. By this confession, God promises us salvation. This does not mean we only verbally confess without a change of heart. Just as Deut 6:4 requires a life lived in devotion to God, the new confession calls for obedience to the Gospel (Rom 10:10; Acts 2:38). Our faith and confession begins with repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, receiving the Holy Ghost, and followed by a life lived in devotion to Christ.

Two Genealogies: An Explanation

Luke’s identification of Jesus to Joseph parallels his earlier account of Christ’s conception and birth. Many thought Jesus was Joseph’s biological son at the time (Luke 3:23). Eight days after His birth, according to custom, Joseph and Mary named Him during Him circumcision. Afterwards, Jesus’ name was added to family records of descent as their son. Joseph adopted and raised Jesus as his own child (2:48). Furthermore, Luke records Christ’s descent after His baptism but prior to His ministry. The genealogy follows God’s great decree to Israel that Jesus is His Son in whom He dwells. It emphasizes His relationship to God and man. Like Matthew, we refer to Luke’s account as Joseph’s genealogy, but it belongs to Jesus’ mother Mary, although it does not give her name (Matt 1:16; Luke 1:23). The absence of a woman’s name from a genealogy was a standard Hebrew custom in those days since the emphasis was strictly male oriented. A woman’s genealogy was traced through her father.[6] Once married, her genealogy became her husband’s in relation to her father. Luke presents Joseph as “the son of Heli”  (3:23), and Matthew says “Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary” (1:16). The expression son of found in Luke not only limits itself to begetting, but also can have a more remote relationship. Many of the names in Luke’s genealogy are actually direct descents. For example, Nathan (brother of King Solomon) was a direct descendant from David (1 Chron 3:1, 5; Luke 3:31-32; ), but Joseph is the actual son of Jacob in Matthew and son-in-law of Heli in Luke (Luke 3:23). By tracing Christ’s lineage back to David through Nathan and not Solomon, Luke identifies Mary and Jesus belonging to both the tribe of Judah and house of David. By actual descent, Jesus is the Son of David through His mother Mary. Through Joseph, He also is David’s Son and has a legal claim to kingship by adoption. However, God’s oath of covenant made with David entitles Him as heir to David’s throne (Ps 132:11). Taken together, both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies provide Christ’s biological and legal claim to the throne of David.

Messianic Calling

Luke continues his presentation of Christ’s lineage from David back to Abraham through Judah to Jacob’s son, just as Matthew. This part of Christ’s genealogy reminds us once again of God’s covenant oath with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. God calls them to be a great people for Himself. He promises to make them a great nation in a place of His choosing (Palestine). They would have a royal dynasty throughout their generations, including a chosen son, Jesus of Nazareth, who would rule all nations and make Jews and Gentile sons of God by faith in Him. The actual calling and promises of this covenant are to Christ (Gal 3:16). Since the day of Pentecost, God continues to offer His calling and blessing to all nations through the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Gen 17:15-19; 22:16-18). Receiving the Spirit makes us recipients of this covenant blessing and calling (Gal 3:14). The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of adoption (Gal 4:3-5). We are now called sons of God having the firstborn status of Jesus, risen from the dead. The lineage continues back to Noah through Shem, his second son. From his lineage comes Abraham, father of the Jewish race and his son Isaac. In Isaac, Jesus Christ is Abraham’s chosen son who will suffer death for us and through whom the promise will come. Shem’s calling is the first recorded call of God after the great flood (Gen 9:26). It comes through Noah as a prophecy, but not directly given to Shem. God is prophetically blessed because of His relationship to Shem. This blessing looks forward to the LORD God’s coming as a descendant of Shem and His victory over sin and death (Phil 2:8-9). God comes in flesh to carry out the ultimate calling for humanity’s salvation, death. and resurrection. His Spirit now empowers us to live above sin and walk worthy of His calling. In Gal 3:26-29, Paul describes our union with Christ. He calls Jesus the Seed of Abraham (3:16), but He also calls us the seed by our relationship with Jesus (v. 29). God sees Christ and us as one. Our union with Him destroys our old relationship with sin allows us to speak and impart blessing to all who receive our message. Just like Jesus, a seed does not receive life. It gives life.

Purpose and Unity

Christ’s ancestry concludes with Adam, the first human. Scripture calls Him the son of God. By tracing Christ’s genealogy beyond Abraham back to Adam, Luke identifies Jesus with all humanity and God’s original purpose for us as sons of God in creation. A son of God implies both relationship and fellowship. Knowing God by revelation as Father and fulfilling His call on our lives was the basis of His intent for us. The non-Jewish nationalities in Christ’s lineage reveals God’s inclusion of all nations into His spiritual family. The iniquity of us all would be put to Christ’s account to make it possible. Paul expounded these truths throughout the New Testament (Eph 3:4-6). God calls the whole family in heaven and earth by Jesus’ name (Eph 3:17). He died for everyone descended from Adam. He now becomes the Second Adam: Head of a new race of humans created by grace in His image and calling (1 Cor 15:45-50). By descent from Adam, we are sinners. Through new birth in Christ, God makes us righteous, gives a new identity, and calls us sons of God (John 3:3-5). It embodies our identity and His purpose for us in Christ. His will is the driving force for our existence. This genealogy concludes that all nations have a common origin and purpose. While we are diverse, our union with one another in Christ moves us to intentionally seek working together in accomplishing our Father’s will. Jan Paron makes this point clear. “Intentional ministry purposes a twofold action: open access to the elect for reconciliation with God by reaching across the cultural milieu to the multitudes and bring this collective Body into one fold with the one Shepherd.”[7]

Living With Favor and Purpose

In closing, genealogies were used to establish family honor. Luke’s genealogy presents Jesus’ honor as Son of God. By linking the elements of Christ’s baptism with His record of descent, Luke establishes God in Christ as the central link between God and humanity. He presents a new faith by showing who Jesus is, and God’s intent to redeem and make humanity His children once again. First, the author revealed Jesus as the Almighty God in flesh during His baptism. God anoints Him with the Holy Spirit and declares from heaven His presence in the person of His Son here on earth. Called the incarnation, Christ’s conception and birth allowed God to become part of the human race (John 14:7-10; 1 Tim 3:16). Those who encountered Jesus in this world came face-to-face with God and cannot be approached otherwise. Second, by identifying Jesus in the lineage of key figures from the Old Testament, Luke declares Jesus to be Christ, the Son of David and King of Israel. As son of Abraham, He is the chosen Seed. Through His death, He redeems and blesses all believers before and after His first coming. Jesus is the one whom all Old Testament Prophets wrote. Their message of hope is now our reality in Jesus. Furthermore, God declared His pleasure of dwelling in His Son when He addressed Him as beloved. This decree reveals the new relationship established by the Lord’s death and resurrection. Having received His Holy Spirit, God’s pleasure is now in us. The new birth allows God to accept us as beloved children to work in us the good pleasure of His will. In the hearts of the people of God should rest their Father’s intent and calling. God desires us to know Him by relationship. Also, Luke’s genealogy implies a common point of origin for humanity. Our new relationship with God requires unity with others of like faith. Finally, Luke’s genealogy takes us back to Adam whom he calls the son of God. His creation is a model of God’s only begotten Son who was to come. We will explore Adam as the central figure of this genealogy in greater detail for the next post.

ENDNOTES

[1] K. D. Hanson, Social World of Luke-Acts (ed. Jerome H. Neyrey; Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), 25-26.
[2] K. D. Hanson, 30.
[3] See the author’s article, Generation of Jesus Christ according to Matthew, for greater detail of the Matthean presentation of Christ’s genealogy.
[4] Israel’s last king, Jehoiakim (also called Jechonias).
[5] The author presents Jesus’ legal claim as King of Israel through Joseph, who belonged to the house (Greek: oikos; family) and lineage (Greek: patria; paternal descent).
[6] Bruce J. Malina and Jerome Neyrey, Social World of Luke-Acts (ed. Jerome H. Neyrey; Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), 40-41.
[7] Jan Paron, “Heating Pad Prayer for Unity of the Body,” PerSpectives 12 Blog, n.d. [cited: 15 May 2013]. Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/heating-pad-prayer-for-unity-of-the-body/

Reaching the Nations with Transformational Communication

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Five axioms for effective transformational communication guide us in Christian witness. Transforming communication should support God’s purpose and plan; revolve around love; generate from the Holy Spirit; bring meaning and unify the Body as one.

Jan Paron/May 23, 2013

Aristotle developed speech communication in his treatise, Rhetoric.[1] His work greatly influenced rhetoric since the fourth century BC. The Aristotelian view taught five canons: “topics of finding a subject and supporting materials; organizing topics; using an appropriate level in the style of expression;  delivering the speech so that it has clarity and impact and using the speaker and listener’s memory of events to make the speech appealing.”[2] Aristotle and his contemporaries viewed rhetoric as art forms for persuasion. Certainly, the canons hold solid form today; however, transformational communication goes beyond argument encompassing a range of modes with a purpose specific to Christ for restoration and renewal.

What drives transformation? Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from sin. He loves the lost, having come to seek and save them for life in Him. Jesus passed the responsibility for discipleship to those who follow the original apostles, commanding His believers to go into the world to all nations and preach the gospel to His creation, from every race. Through our witness we not only disciple, but unify the Body. Transformation results from the Holy Spirit’s inner workings. In our role as disciple-making disciples, we serve as Christ’s ambassadors to reconcile the Body for unity in Christ. The Holy Spirit speaks through His disciples in the communicator role to the listener as the message receiver. Transformational communication encompasses five axioms that nurture a saving and renewing culture: supports God’s purpose and plan; revolves around love; generates from the Holy Spirit; brings meaning and unifies the Body in diversity. Each axiom further details the broader communicative purpose with theological function and principles.

Paron.Chart.Transformational Communication.27May2013(3)

Axiom 1. Supports God’s Purpose and Plan

God desires His people abide in Him (John 15:4) through covenant to transform them into His image (Rom 8:29) as His treasure reflecting His glory, separated for the Gospel and to worship Him (Deut 7:6; 2 Cor 3:18; 1 Pet 2:9-10; Matt 4:10). This forms the basis of His mission. Believers have His authority to set their sights on His mission as salt and light for community and world transformation.[3]

Theological Principle
Our witness lets the Spirit save, rescue and deliver others through us (Luke 19:10). The freed then testify of their transformation to others in a replication cycle.

Theological Functions
• Supports God’s mission (Matt 28:18-20)
• Establishes and nurtures a person’s identity in Christ (1 Cor 2:16)
• Enables the Spirit to work through the speaker to save, rescue and deliver the receiver (Luke 19:10)
• Replicates more disciples when the newly delivered testify to God’s transforming power (Matt 28:19-20a) [4]

Incarnational Living.2

Axiom 2. Revolves Around Love

God expects we communicate in love, as He does with us. “Beloved, let us love one another…for God is love (I John 4:7a, 8b). Early Judaism argued over commandment rankings for one that would “interpret the rest.” [5] Jesus settled it by positioning love of God first and neighbor second (Mark 12:28-20).

Theological Principle
Love catalyzes spiritual growth.—People see Christ’s love in us when we show them love, which in turn, invites them to know Him and experience His transforming actions. When we build bridges for reconciliation and communities of restoration, we support vertical reconciliation between God and humanity “through Jesus Christ to unite them as one with their heavenly Father.” [6] Additionally; we strengthen ekklēsia and koinonia among the brethren, which “focuses on relationship between believers” [7]

Theological Functions
• Matures spiritual growth and formation in discipleship (Grow up in Christ) (Eph 4:14-15)
• Opens the door for people to know Christ and experience His intimacy as the object of His love (Phil 1:9; Rev 3:20)
• Furthers reconciles humanity with God in Christ through grace as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20a)
• Extends God’s grace and mercy (2 Pet 3:18)
• Strengthens the Christ community of believers (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:25-27)
• Edifies both the communicator and receiver with each devoted to the other (Rom 12:10; Gal 6:2)

Axiom 3. Generates from the Holy Spirit

The incarnate Jesus works within us to produce His fruit. We yield to His Spirit to harvest good fruit and submit ourselves to convey the fruit in His saving message. As His vessels, He speaks through the communicator rather than of one’s own self. In turn, communication works harmoniously with His will for holiness from Him (Heb 12:10) to create a healthy tree that produces good fruit (Matt 7:17-20).

Theological Principle
Theologian David Bernard says that, “The title ‘Holy Spirit’ describe the fundamental character of God’s nature, for holiness form the basis of His moral attributes while spirituality forms the basis of His non-moral attributes. Thus, it describes God Himself, the one Holy Spirit” [8] God is Spirit (John 4:24). Therefore, we seek a “theological fusion between the Word and Spirit”[9] while communicating His holiness. The Holy Spirit then binds transformation for change.

Theological Functions
The Holy Spirit speaks through the communicator to
• Seal His promise to those who trust and then believe in Him (Eph 1:13)
• Progressively reveal Scripture’s truth to those who believe and obey to further guide them into His will (Rom 1:21-28)
• Pierce the believer’s heart with conviction (Acts 2:37)
• Guide and influence the believer’s walk (teaches, John 14:26; guides Rom 8:14 and commissions, Acts 13:4)
• Align the believer’s body, mind and soul with the incarnate Jesus to walk in union with Him (Gal 5:16-23)
• Bestow spiritual gifts to the believer for the edification of the Church (1 Cor 12)
• Empower the believer for witness (Matt 28:18; Acts 1:8)

Good News.Gospel Word Pictures.2

Axiom 4. Brings Meaning

God speaks uniquely to humankind’s montage to capture their hearts and minds through different formats, expressions, traditions and roles, in addition to various spiritual disciplines and phenomena. Our commission to the nations warrants that we evangelize across cultures

Theological Principle
God’s people encounter Him in ways ranging from the oracles to bold manifestations.[10] Likewise; preach with diverse form, image and need in mind.[11] Hear your audience as well. Communication, in part, derives from listening to people and learning about them. It restores and renews from a circular type, role exchange between the speaker and receiver strengthened by relationship. By no means does it resemble a one-way, isolated message from the speaker. Know them: celebrate their victories; comfort and mourn their sorrows, uplift their emotions; guide them in spiritual formation. Make the message relevant, meaningful and enduring.

Theological Function
• Gives clarity and meaning to the Word (Hab 2:2)
• Restores and renews life and hope in Christ (Matt 11:28)
• Focus on issues and felt needs[12]  crucial to the lives of the listeners [13] (2 Tim 4:2; Heb 4:12)
• Strengthens relationship with God (Luke 15:11-32)
• Reaches the heart of human emotion with the power of the Blood (Mark 7:21)
• Emerges up from the listener, rather down to them (Jesus walked among the people)

Unity.Power Through.2

Axiom 5. Unifies the Body as One in Christ

Jesus prayed “that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21b, NKJV). This passage reflects a seamless and unified one fold under one shepherd for the identity of Jesus as the Messiah. [14] Samovar et al say that, humans are symbol-making creatures.” These symbols “stand for or represent something else. [15] Believers represent the face of Christ and the reconciling unity of the Body.

Theological Principle
Effective cross-cultural communication draws the nations together by harmonizing them for powerful witness. As Nieman and Thomas say, preach to every pew.[16]

Theological Function
• Breaks down liminal boundaries and respects cultural differences (Gal 3:28)
• Frames “the Gospel message in language and communication meaningful to the local culture” [17]
• Enables all parties to cross-communicate beyond ethnocentric viewpoints. [18]
• Gives opportunity for cross-cultural fellowship, prayer, teaching (of the apostles’ doctrine) and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42)
• Joins the Body in unity (John 17:21-23; Eph 2:14-15; Gal 3:28)

Closing

How do these axioms come together for a coherent definition of transformational communication? Grounded in love and generated from the Holy Spirit,  the axioms provide a framework to guide the believer in communicating God’s mission for salvation and renewal to the community and world. The axioms also present the listener with an individualized form and style together with a compelling message aiming for significant and lasting meaning. Last, the axioms produce diverse transmission that reaches across cultures to unite a multicultural Body as one in Christ to bear witness of Jesus, the Son of God.

ENDNOTES

[1] Aristotle developed Rhetoric during two periods in Athens, 367 to 347 BC and 335 to 322 BC. From Wikipedia, Rhetoric (Aristotle), n.p. [cited 27 May 2013]. Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetoric_(Aristotle)

[2] Raymond Zeuschner, Communicating Today (2nd ed., Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997), 4.

[3] Thomas Long, Witness of Preaching (2nd ed., Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005).

[4] The author states in the prior article Examining the Reality of Jesus that, “Jesus’ commissioned disciples to reproduce themselves. He instructed them to “go” (28:19a), “baptizing” (v.19b) and “teaching them to observe” everything He commanded them (v.20a). From Jan Paron, ”Examining the Reality of Jesus,” PerSpectives 12 Blog, n.p. [cited 27 May 2013]. Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/examining-the-reality-of-jesus/

[5] Ben Witherington, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2001), 330.

[6] Jan Paron, “The Ministry of Reconciliation,” PerSpectives 12 Blog,  n.p. (cited 26 May 2013). Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/the-ministry-of-reconciliation/

[7] Paron, “The Ministry of Reconciliation.”

[8] David Bernard, Oneness View of Jesus (Hazelwood: MO: 2004), 61.

[9] Greg Heisler, Spirit-led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery (Nashville: B & H Publishing), 3.

[10] God uses a multisensory and people-centered approach through lingual, aural, visual, tactile and experiential expressions. He met people through oracles, written Word, direct exchanges, worship, prayer, visions, dreams, and manifestations.

[11] Long, Witness of preaching.

[12] Felt needs refer to those most acutely and fundamentally felt by a person and/or segment of the population.” From Bob Whitesel, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 145.

[13] Sherwood Lingenfelter, Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian Mission (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998).

[14] Jan Paron, “Seeking the M.O.S.A.I.C. Church: Understanding New Testament Unity, Pt. 2,” PerSpectives 12 Blog, n.p. [cited 23 May 2013]. Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2012/

[15] Larry Samovar, Richard E. Porter and Edwin R. McDaniel, Communication between Culture (7th ed.,  Boston: Cengage Wadsworth Learning), 16.

[16] Nieman, J. & Thomas, G. Preaching to Every Pew: Cross-Cultural Strategies (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001).

[17] Lingenfelter, Transforming Culture, loc 55.

[18] Ethnocentrism is the perceptual prism through which cultures interpret and judge other groups” It is not always intentional, rather “learned at the unconscious level.” From Larry Samovar and Richard E. Porter, Intercultural Communication: A Reader (9th ed., Belmont: Wadsworth), 10.

Photo Credits:
Relevance, Incarnational Living (Div.despair.com) and Unity, Oasis Church-Nashville,TN

Learning from Paul in Acts: Post-Pentecost Witness

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“Jesus sent His apostles on a disciple-making mission” (Matt 20:18-20).[1] Originating from their very witness, early Christianity rapidly expanded from 1.1% worldwide by 100 AD to 10.5% in 310 AD.[2] In particular, Apostle Paul’s missionary work stands at the forefront. What key strategies can we learn from him to apply today with Jesus’ same mission?

Jan Paron/May 19, 2013

We might find 21st century statistics for worldwide Christianity lower than expected. Considering modern communication conveniences, the worldwide count stands at about 19.5%. The PEW Forum 2010 survey not only shows Christians represent roughly a third of the estimated world population, but also cannot claim any single continent or region as their global center.[3] Further, the study indicates that U.S. Christians number 246,780,000 people or 79.5% of the national U.S. population. Pew bases its survey results on people who identify themselves as Christian.[4] The figures may not represent the real count. Another study by the Barna Group reveals an emerging post-Christian America. They closely examined the so-called “Nones —the increasing percentage of adults who claim no religious affiliation.”[5] While these figures certainly caught my attention; however, ancient disciples triumphed in mission by faith in the Name through the power of His Spirit. Obstacles like travel, displacement and persecution did not impede witness. How can we recapture fervent growth found in the early church? By examining the Lukan account of Saul’s (Paul after Acts 13:9) encounter with Jesus, we find bold and authoritative witness for Spirit-empowered mission with timeless application.

Holy Spirit flame.One Mans Journey in the Holy Spirit.kzlam36.blogspot.com.2

1. Saul Followed the Way

Luke uses multiple meanings for the word way in the Book of Acts. In Acts 8:26 he refers to a specific road that the angel of the Lord directed Philip to travel, “Arise, and go south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is a desert” (KJV). Because he followed the way, Philip met an Ethiopian. This provided opportunity for Philip to teach the Ethiopian about Jesus and baptize him after he believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Luke gave a different meaning to way with Saul (not yet Paul), designating the term to represent those who follow the messianic movement of Jesus. Saul set out to Damascus intending to lead “any of this way” bound to Jerusalem (9:5-6). Of course, the Lord had other plans for Saul instructing him to, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (9:6b). The very person who sought to destroy those of the Way became one of the Way. He not only preached, “Christ is the Son of God” (v. 20) in Damascus, but also proved “that this is the very Christ” (v. 22).

ARISE AND GO IN WITNESS. Imagine this scenario about a person’s walk on the way, as one of the Way. I’ll call this person Vera. After a long day at work, Vera felt the Spirit leading her to stop for a cup of coffee at a nearby eatery. Generally, she went straight home. Just as Vera relaxed at the restaurant counter, she spotted a woman intently reading. She couldn’t help but notice the woman laboring over the print. Just at that moment, the Holy Ghost quickened Vera’s spirit and told her to sit next to the woman. So, Vera obediently moved to an adjacent seat. After Vera struck up a conversation, the women candidly revealed she doesn’t read well and needs help understanding the church flyer someone gave her. The woman then asked Vera, “Can you tell me who Jesus is? I have a paper about Him, but can’t understand it.” Vera realized the reason for her coffee stop on the way home. Nodding her head she said to herself, “I am here, Lord.”

The Lord tells us to arise and go. An angel of the Lord told this to Phillip (8:26a), while Jesus instructed the same to Saul and Ananias (9:9:6c, 11a). Don’t hesitate to follow the way and preach Jesus. Carpe diem, seize the moment. Like Ananias said, “Behold, I am here, Lord”(9:10; 22:14-15)[6] Yield to Him. Arise and go. The Lord’s Spirit will prompt and guide you in witness.

2. Saul Acted in Faith

Saul visually and audibly encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus. In a heavenly spotlight so to speak, the Lord revealed that He is Jesus Whom Saul persecuted (22:8, 10; cf., 9:5-6) and then told him go to Damascus for his appointment. Saul walked for three days without sight, dependent on others to guide and help him on the journey. Jesus revealed Saul’s divine purpose to Ananias through a vision (9:15-16), who in turn relayed it to Paul that, “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou has seen and heard” (9:17; 22:14-15).

LET THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDE YOU. I quit my job several years ago due to an injury. Being honest, I felt somewhat despondent at first. One day, I was on the floor when I felt a light on me. Jesus told me in a vision that He would heal me quickly. He completely flipped what I knew as my world, calling me to a different appointment. Little did I know that Jesus would take me on a journey to a new place during healing. Though I often felt sightless, He built my faith with each step as I leaned on Him. Jesus also sent many to help me during the  process. We often walk to a destination unknown, but should move forward acting in faith. As we make disciples, Jesus will speak directly to us or through those He sends with support and directions. The Holy Spirit comes upon us to empower believers (Acts 1:8). His indwelling gives us the spirit of wisdom, revelation of knowledge, hope of His calling and riches of the glory of His inheritance (Eph 1:17-23). Hold to your faith and don’t let it fail you.

3. Saul Witnessed with Power

The Lord worked through Ananias in Damascus as he laid hands on Saul to recover his sight and fill him with His Spirit (9:17b; 8:17). Shortly thereafter, Saul began to preach Jesus is the Son of God in the Damascus synagogues (9:20) and amazed those who heard him there. As his strength increased, he proved Jesus was the Messiah and confounded the Damascus Jews. Saul had the same power (1:8) and spiritual revelation (Matt 16:17) as Peter, whose witness repeatedly brought people to Christ (2:14-21, 38 and 41) and garnered the ire of Jewish officials. Saul initially taught what he saw and heard (22:15) endued with power from the Holy Ghost (22:15-16; 1:5, 8). The Amplified version says that as Paul gained strength he compared and examined evidence, proving that Jesus is the Christ. We see examples of Peter, a Galilean, speaking eloquently after the Spirit came upon him. Acts 2:41 tells of the baptism of 2,000 souls after Peter testified.

SPEAK BOLDLY IN THE NAME OF JESUS. Every believer plays a key role in building Christ’s church. We can have the same boldness as Saul from the incarnate Jesus through baptism in His Spirit speaking in tongues to fulfill His commission to make disciples (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15). Jesus promised to send His Spirit to indwell within His believers to speak His name boldly and assuredly (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4b-5, 8).

Baptism in the Holy Spirit did not occur just with the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Besides Paul, Luke records many post-Pentecost outpourings of the Holy Spirit over an extended time period such as Samaria (Acts 8:15-17), Damascus (Acts 9:17), Caesarea (Acts 10:44-46); Ephesus (Acts 12:2b-6). This same divine phenomena continues in modern times.

4. Saul (Paul—Acts 13:9) Endured Trials

Audiences often reacted aggressively to Saul announcing the good news of the Gospel. Not everyone welcomed him, the persecutor turned proclaimer, when he preached Jesus is the Son of God. In his early ministry days the Jews plotted to kill Saul (9:23) and Grecians wanted to slay him (9:29-30). Jews from Antioch and Iconium persuaded the Lystra crowd against Paul to stone him (14:19). Further, he faced harsh travel conditions. Acts 27 records that Paul sailed to Italy under a centurion’s charge. In route, Paul’s ship battled the wind. First, the boat met contrary winds (28:4); then, slow-sail wind (vv. 7-8); later, a typhoon-like wind (v.14) and finally, forceful winds causing cross currents that shipwrecked it (v. 41). Amid many inconveniences, Paul changed ships, went without food for several days and swam to shore.

STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR WITNESS. Saul, later Apostle Paul, never ceased his mission. I find it amazing that even with hostile mob action, he still stood firm in the battle. After a mob thought they left him for dead, he later went back to that same region (See Acts 14:19-21). Sometimes we go through trials. What are your storms? An ordinary leaky faucet to the more complex relationship conflict can distract us. Some people shut down when their family stands off because of their Christian lifestyle change. Others quit witnessing when someone rejects their testimony. In Paul’s words, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:47 NIV). The devil may know the rules for engagement, but does not have access to the Lord’s playbook. Jesus will always be with us, “even unto the end of the world” (Matt 28:20b KJV).

5. Saul Witnessed Out

Luke tells of Paul’s three missionary journeys (Acts 13-14; 15:36-18:22 and 18:23-20:38) and the variety of experiences during each. He began preaching not long after his encounter on the road to Damascus. Unlike today’s comfortable and quick transportation system, early Christians dealt with much different conditions. People commonly traveled by foot. A person covered about 17-23 miles under normal conditions in a day’s travel. Paul (then Saul) walked about 150 miles from Jerusalem northeast to Damascus; three days of which he depended on travelling companions to lead him by the hand since his was without sight[7] (9:3-7). He also made the 22-mile trip from Troas to Assos by foot (Acts 20:13) and Malta to Athens while under guard. The average American walks about five miles a day.

MAKE DISCIPLES OUTSIDE YOUR OWN COMMUNITY. God chose Saul to carry the name of Jesus before the Gentiles, Gentile kings and children of Israel (Acts 9:15-16). God calls us, His chosen vessels. He has an appointment for every believer, too. We cannot fulfill Jesus’ commission, though, if we only mix with the saints within the four walls of the local church. We may not feel comfortable separated from our comfort zone, but must move outside it.

6. Spirit-Enabled Miracles and Signs Followed Saul

Mark 16:17-18 says that, “signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Miracles, signs and wonders gave credence to Paul’s witness” (See also Acts 14:3). God worked special miracles through Paul’s hands. When people put handkerchiefs, towels or aprons that touched his skin on the sick, diseases left and evil spirits came out (19:12).[8] Paul healed many people of diseases on an island called Melita. Also, a viper “fastened itself” onto Paul’s hand while he warmed himself at the fire there (28:1). Paul just shook off the snake, without harm. In another account at Salamis, Elymas the sorcerer lost his sight for a season when he interfered with witness to Sergius Paulus (13:6, 8, 11). People believed in the Lord after each of these instances (13:12; 19:18, 20; 28:6).

LET THE HOLY SPIRIT FUEL WITNESS THROUGH YOU. Sometimes people say that miracles, signs and wonders ceased after the Book of Acts or believers have no need for them today in witness. I am here to testify that Jesus empowers my witness with evidence of miracles, signs and wonders from my time of new birth. I would need a lot space to tell my testimony. God will go to great lengths to catch the attention and open the eyes of those who would believe. When we invoke the name of Jesus, we have His authority from the power of His Spirit. God rules in our world the same today as yesterday. He does not operate with a diminished ability. People see Jesus when we let Him work through us. When Annas the high priest and others demanded to know how Peter and John restored a man’s health, the council asked, “by what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (4:7). Acts 4:7 says that Peter was “filled with the Holy Ghost” when he answered them. Because of the apostles’ bold and eloquent response, the council marveled at these “unlearned and ignorant men” (cf., 2:7) and “recognized they had been with Jesus” (4:13c AMP).

Conclusion

Through baptism in the Holy Ghost speaking in tongues–the Spirit’s enablement–Jesus equips His people in the same way as Paul and the other apostles. What we learn from Paul’s experiences in witness results from the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4). Paul did not witness of himself, but from the fullness of the incarnate Jesus Who dwelled within him. Jesus gives the promised Spirit to those of His community. Today’s believers engage in bold witness (2:41; 4:31), perform miracles, have signs follow them, prophesy and experience divine guidance through visions and dreams as His Church. Luke describes the church in Acts as a “community called and empowered for mission through the Spirit,”[9] Further, he gives instructions for living out witness based on the “apostles’ authority for experience, teaching and practice of the New Testament church.”[10] Apostle Paul held to the same Gospel as the original apostles (Gal 2:1-10; cf., 1:8-9). We likewise must follow. Yesterday’s apostolic reality for the New Testament church remains an unchanged norm for witness in modern times.


[1] Jan Paron, “Examining the Reality of Jesus,” PerSpectives 12, n.p. [cited 5 May 2013]. Online:  https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/examining-the-reality-of-jesus/

[2] Alan Hirsch and Darryn Altclass, The Forgotten Ways Handbook: A Guide for Missional Churches (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009), 28. See also statistics on world population. Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones, Atlas of World Population History (London, GB: Penguin, 1978).

[3] Conrad Hackett et al., Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population. n.p. (cited 5 May 2013). Online: http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Global-Christianity-exec.aspx.

[4] Conrad Hackett et al., Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population (Washington DC:  Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life), 46.

[5] George Barna, “How Post-Christian is U.S. Society?” Barna Group. n.p. (cited: 17 May 2013). Online: http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/613-how-post-christian-is-us-society

[6] Barnett in David Peterson’s book, The Acts of the Apostles” remarks that “Behold, I am here, Lord” (idou egō kyrios) shows “both his presence and his readiness to carry out the Lord’s will.” Barnett, The Acts of the Apostles. (Cited in David Peterson, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2009), 306.

[7] Brian Rapske, The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting. (eds. David W. Gill and Conrad Gempf, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994), 6.

[8] Signs follow those who believe. Consider the evil spirit that leaped on the seven sons of Sceva when they falsely tried to cast out evil spirits (19:14-18).

[9] Roger Stronstad, The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999).

[10] David Bernard, Understanding God’s Word (Hazelwood: Word Aflame Press, 2005), 76. 

Photo Credit: One Man’s Journey in the Spirit, kzlam36@blogspot.com