Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh refused to back down after pro-abortion supporters were angered by his pro-life comments last week.
Harbaugh appeared as the keynote speaker at the July 17 Plymouth Right to Life dinner and auction at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan, where he asserted that America needs more respect and civility in political discussion especially where it concerns abortion.
“I believe in having the courage to let the unborn be born. I love life. I believe in having a loving care and respect for life and death. My faith and my science are what drive these beliefs in me,” Harbaugh said during his address.
The comments infuriated leftists who spent the following week attacking Harbaugh for his pro-life views.
But Harbaugh won’t be cowed by pressure on social media. This weekend he told ESPN that he would continue encouraging family members and players to let a pregnancy follow through, even if it is unplanned.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Capital One Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
“I’ve told [them] the same thing I tell my kids, boys, the girls, same thing I tell our players, our staff members. I encourage them if they have a pregnancy that wasn’t planned, to go through with it, go through with it,” Harbaugh said on Saturday. “Let that unborn child be born and if at that time, you don’t feel like you can care for it, you don’t have the means or the wherewithal, then Sarah and I will take that baby.”
Head coach Jim Harbaugh waits to take the field to play the Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan Stadium on October 05, 2019, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 10-3. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
“Faith, family, football … those are my priorities. I just think that … the abortion issue is one that’s so big that it needs to be talked about. It needs serious conversation. What do you think? What do I think? What do others think?” the coach continued.
“It’s a life-or-death type of issue. And I believe in, and I respect, people’s views. But let’s hear them,” he added. “Let’s discuss them because there’s passion on both sides of this issue. So when you combine that with respect, that’s when the best results come. … [I’m] just contributing to that conversation and that communication, which I think is really important, in my opinion.”
He reiterated his point, concluding, “Any player on our team, any female staff member or any staff member or anybody in our family or our extended family … that doesn’t feel like after they have a baby they can take care of it, we got a big house. We’ll raise that baby.”
Critics should not be surprised that Harbaugh is standing up for life. His views on abortion are well known, and he’s commented on the topic many times before. In 2020, for instance, he praised people for being concerned about people’s lives during the coronavirus scare. But he added, “You see people taking more of a view of the sanctity of life. And I hope that can continue. I hope that continues and not just in this time of crisis or pandemic.”
Wolverines football starts back up on Sept. 3 against Colorado State at home.
This July we continue to Celebrate Life and Freedom. June ended with three OUTSTANDING decisions from the United States Supreme Court confirming there is still hope.
Freedom and Life come from God. Those who deny or hate God also deny or hate Freedom and Life for anyone other than themselves.
I was stabbed four times while working at a part time job. The stabbings were: in the back, a quarter inch from the heart; the head; the hand; and the leg. Scars of those stabs and chest tubes are present today. I was rushed to the hospital in the back of a police cruiser. They called my wife to hurry to the hospital as they did not expect me to make it another half hour. Two brand new doctors attended to me. There was nothing they could do. I left my body to the edge of the wall and ceiling and saw them working on me. I heard a voice say: “It is not your time”. Then I returned to my body and felt pain and heard the two brand new Doctors… in there second week…yell “He’s back.”
This is not a subject that is regularly talked about in the family. At the time I had one daughter, who could have ended up being an only child, however God had other plans and made sure that did not happen.
June 25th this year seemed to be good day to share the events of that day in 1976. This happened at 11:30 PM and I was dead for twenty minutes, yet I was not saved until 1980.
I often say my two other children are miracle children. All three of them are precious to me as well as to God
This shows how precious you are. God knows the future and had you planned from the beginning.
Well, they are definitely glad I came back and still here!!! So am I.
This gives an added meaning to; this the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
My oldest remembers her mother definitely telling her that story, and she definitely remembers me mentioning it as well… It just seems very surreal!
Some people who experience trauma suffer for years with a whole host of problems such as anxiety, depression and even PTSD. Some self medicate with prescription, alcohol or illegal drugs. By God’s Grace I never had those issues.
Some people had abortions suffer from regret, shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, self loathing, and even PTSD. Some self medicate with prescription, alcohol or illegal drugs.
“No matter what it was caused by, shame can hurt us for many years and may become a “nourishment” for the opinions that we have about ourselves. Under the influence of conditional love or rude and abusive treatment, a person, consciously or not, assimilates a certain “disordered pack” of ideas about their own personality. You may find many women say about themselves: “There is nothing good in me”, “I am stupid”, “It’s my own fault that I became pregnant”, “I need to hide this for the rest of my life”, “I am not worthy (or capable) to be a mother”, “I am not worthy to have normal relations with a man”, “I had one abortion already, why shouldn’t I have one more?”, “I need to punish myself or let other people treat me badly because I don’t deserve anything else.”
While feeling of guilt can be corrected, in some instances rather quickly, by asking forgiveness for our mistakes, feeling of shame can only be healed by love and truth and may require much longer time.
In freeing yourself from the power of shame, a woman needs to remember that who she is, is not defined by actions or opinions of other people. No matter how many mistakes she personally made, she is a human being that deserves love and respect for her dignity. Since feeling of shame may have its roots in very early childhood or due to rude and abusive treatments, this woman may need strong reassurance from friends and family, that no matter how bad her mistakes were she is loved unconditionally. (4)
On the day I shared the events of 1976 I did not know God had been orchestrating events that would culminate in affirming: our right to defend ourselves (1); our right to determine how we govern ourselves (2); our right to pray (3). God was orchestrating these events as He did in providing the tree Zacchaeus the Tax Collector would climb on to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10); and providing that Joseph would be in charge in Egypt after being sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph’s brothers meant it for evil but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). Joseph saved many lives.
Another time God was orchestrating events, according to Kelvin Cochran; slavery saved many lives and was good for African Americans in long run (5). You can watch his testimony in Freedom Sunday video below. Kelvin Cochran was fired as the Fire Chief for writing and publishing his Christian family book “How did you know I was naked”. Kelvin Cochran also shared how his faith sustained him. The city of Atlanta settled with Kelvin Cochran for $1.5M. He shares how his faith in Jesus carried him through.
The church has a tremendous opportunity to walk with everyone who hurts or have hurt others, no matter the circumstances, to help each one of them become the whole, healthy, joyful people God intended them to be.
Freedom Sunday | June 26, 2022
(1) Download and read the actual ruling:
NEW YORK STATE RIFLE & PISTOL ASSOCIATION, INC., ET AL. v. BRUEN, SUPERINTENDENT OF NEW YORK STATE POLICE, ET AL. (Second Amendment)
(2) Download and read the actual ruling:
DOBBS, STATE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL. v. JACKSON WOMEN’S HEALTH ORGANIZATION ET AL. (Abortion – Roe v Wade)
(3) Download and read the actual ruling:
KENNEDY v. BREMERTON SCHOOL DISTRICT (Praying Coach win)
In the United States, history tells us that Old Testament teachings have combined with New Testament declarations to proclaim the sacred interior life of every human being – each created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27).
This sacred interior space, often called the “soul,” received prominence of place in the nascent nation’s first official document, the Declaration of Independence. On behalf of the new nation, the Continental Congress proclaimed to the world, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
As they won their independence from Great Britain the new government of the United States, struggling “ to form a more perfect Union,” ratified what we now know to be the U.S. Constitution ratified in September 1787.
This new American Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights (comprised of the Constitution’s first ten amendments, ratified in 1791) represented a new theory and kind of government, one in which the government gained its power from the consent of the governed and minority rights were protected from majority suppression.
This rather simple sounding concept was absolutely revolutionary in the world of the eighteenth century. Over the next more than two centuries it has proven to guarantee and protect more basic human rights than any government yet conceived and incorporated on this planet.
And, thanks be to God, over that expanse of time it has produced brave men and women of faith who understand the inviolate, sacred integrity God envisioned and planned for every human being. This has produced citizens of great and noble courage with an unshakeable sense of human dignity.
A beautiful illustration of this is Mr. Jack Phillips, the proprietor of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. Mr. Phillips, a devout Christian, on a summer afternoon in July 2012 declined to bake a wedding cake to celebrate a same sex union.
Immediately, the “cancel culture” war machine mobilized against Mr. Phillips and his little bakery. They believed that he must be forced to conform under penalty of law and bake the cake and thus affirm same sex unions. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission began a legal campaign against Mr. Phillips that the U.S. Supreme Court would eventually label as harassment.
Jack Phillip’s response to this campaign of vilification (“his objections must be simple prejudice; religion is just an excuse”) went through the entire legal system until the Supreme Court upheld Jack Phillips’ right to freedom of conscience (7 to 2) in Masterpiece Bake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Now, Mr. Phillips has written a book relating his almost decade long struggle to live out his understanding of how God desires for him to use his God-given talents in living out God’s purposes for his life.
Why not just bake the cake? Mr. Phillips’ answer to the question is brilliantly and beautifully illuminating. He says, “My objection is never to the person. . . asking me to create a cake with a particular message. My objection . . . is to the message itself. I can and cheerfully will serve anyone. I cannot and won’t communicate every message.”
Jack Phillips, in telling his story, discovers and displays a God-given talent for the written word that rivals his breathtaking skills as a baker and decorator of cakes.
Here is a riveting and moving example:
My beliefs are what make me who I am. My commitment to God and to . . . his holy word is the defining premise of my life. . . and the guiding direction for my actions. If you ask me to separate all of that from my work. . . I simply can’t do that.. .It’s like asking a contractor to build a great building, but first remove the foundation.
Then he asks what is really the crucial question:
Where do we think artistic creativity comes from? Something outside of ourselves. Of course not. It’s water from the foundation of our soul. It comes from a deep- down place inside each of us where our experiences, our understanding, our intentions, our deepest beliefs and convictions all stir together. These can’t be separated from each other anymore than you can sift out the various ingredients from a cake after it is baked.
Mr. Phillips goes on to explain that he does not disrespect anyone and affirms everyone as made in the image of God – and “as a person worthy of respect.”
He understands any talents he has were given to him by God and he has a responsibility to use these gifts to glorify God, not that which God disapproves.
Then he explains that demanding that he use his artistry to communicate a message that he believes is wrong is:
asking me to stop being me. . . . to deny the deepest convictions of my heart. . .that’s not something any person has a right to ask of another. . . or a command any government has the right to force one of its citizens to obey.
Well said, Mr. Phillips. As the seventeenth century Puritan preacher Roger Williams, aptly put it almost four centuries ago. for anyone to force the conscience of another person on religious maters is “soul rape!”
May God lead our people to demand that our government continue to hold that the sacred inner space of our citizens’ souls is beyond the purview of any government or merely human organizations.
Lately I’ve had the occasion to fly a lot around the country, preaching here and there. Even though I’m here on Sundays, it seems like my weeks have been spent in airports, sometimes for a long time, as I’ve had mechanical delays and things like that. And I’ve become very much aware of a book that I knew was out there but I see literally all over all the airports that I’ve been in, in the last month or so. It has been labeled, at least, the bestselling religious book of the time. The title of it is Your Best Life Now. I have seen stacks and stacks and stacks of those books everywhere I’ve gone.
Out of curiosity, I want to know what’s in the book and so I found this on page 5, “God wants this to be the best time of your life.” On another page it says, “Happy, successful, fulfilled individuals have learned how to live their best life now.” On another page it says, “As you put the principles found in these pages to work today, you will begin living your best life now.” And that is absolutely true, if you’re not a Christian. This is it. You better get the book, because your next life is going to be infinitely worse than this one. This is your best life now. In fact, it’s your only life because in the world to come, you will only exist in a perpetual state of dying with no hope, no satisfaction, no meaning, no joy and no future, and no relief from eternal suffering. That’s the worst life possible. And this is your best life, if your next life is in hell.
But on the other hand, if you are a child of God and your sins are forgiven and you’ve come to embrace Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, this is not even close to your best life. You can’t even comprehend what your best life looks like, because eye hasn’t seen nor has ear heard the things that God has prepared for them that love Him. Contrary to what is popular today, even in religious circles, even in “Christian” circles, even in the name of Jesus, the Lord is not promising you here and now a full, happy, rich, satisfying, trouble-free life of health, wealth, and success. Oh, He does promise that. Absolutely. A full, rich, satisfying, trouble-free life of health and wealth and success and absolute joy and peace and perfection, but not now – not now. In fact, quite on the other hand, our Lord has promised, to those who know Him and love Him in this life, trouble, persecution, rejection, difficulty, trials, temptation, pain, suffering, sorrow, sickness and even physical death.
So for Christians, this is our worst life now. It isn’t that it’s bad, but comparatively it’s the worst when you think about the life to come, which is the best. Your best life as a Christian begins when this life ends. Christians through the centuries have understood this, certainly the early Christians understood it. The Bible makes it clear. You just can’t expect all the promises that God has made to you for heaven to necessarily show up here. Any sensible Christian understands that. Don’t expect more than this life can deliver.
Turn to 1 Peter chapter 1 – 1 Peter chapter 1. And there is a beautiful doxology, a hymn of praise that comes right after the introduction to this letter from the great apostle Peter. It starts in verse 3 and it runs down to verse 5, 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 3. It goes like this, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Peter introduces his letter, verses 1 and 2, and then immediately launches in to a doxology of praise. He is calling his readers to praise for something they do not currently have. He calls it an inheritance, reserved and protected and later to be revealed. Now why would he be pointing them to the future? Why would he break out in this doxology with regard to things they do not possess? And the answer to that is because they were very realistic living in this world. We find that those to whom he writes are aliens in verse 1. They have been scattered all over the Mediterranean world in to Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia. And everywhere they went life was hard. They were believers in Christ so they were under persecution from the unbelieving and hostile world of pagan religion. Life was very difficult for them. They were hated. They were abused. They were intimidated. They were troubled. They had very little resources. They were poor. They lived in a very difficult world. In fact, that is evident to anybody who reads this brief letter. Let me just help you to see that. Verse 6, immediately following what I read, “In this you greatly rejoice” – that is in your future inheritance, ready to be revealed in heaven. “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while if necessary you have been distressed by various trials.” The now for them was their worst life.
In chapter 2 down in verse 20, Peter says to them, “What credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” And that’s exactly what was happening. They were doing right. They were honoring the Lord, living obediently to Him and they were suffering for it. Christ, he says, called you for this purpose, to suffer in this life. He also suffered for you and left you an example to follow in His steps. He showed you how to suffer unjustly. Verse 23 says when He was reviled, “He didn’t revile in return. While suffering, He uttered no threats, kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” You need to do the same thing. Entrust yourself into the care of God when life is very hard, unfair, abusive, and intimidating.
In chapter 3 and verse 13, “And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear their intimidation, do not be troubled. Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Verse 17 says, “It’s better, if God should will it, that you suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong.” It’s going to be that way and you’re going to have to hold on to hope. The hope, he says in verse 15, that is in you because this life is not going to be your best life. In fact, it’s likely going to be very hard.
Chapter 4 verse 1, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” Christ again suffered in the flesh, unjust treatment. Arm yourself. You’re going to face the very same thing. Down in verse 12 he says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exaltation.” Look ahead, look to the future glory. Verse 15 he says, “I don’t want any of you to suffer as a murderer or a thief or evil doer or troublesome meddler, but if anyone suffers just for being a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.” And then in verse 19 he says, “Let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” Then Peter sums it up in chapter 5 verse 10, “After you have suffered for a little while” – here and now – “the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” You have a great future. You have a glorious future.
Now back to our doxology in chapter 1. Clearly this life was not the best life for them. That’s the way it’s been throughout history. There are no promises in the Bible that this is our best life now. Our best life always is to come. And so Peter calls for a doxology, a celebration, exalted praise to God for the life to come. It is a hymn really that I read to you in verses 3 through 5. It is a call to worship the Lord God who has promised us eternal joy and blessing in the future, in an inheritance, a salvation to be revealed, a living hope. We are to learn, the sooner the better, that our best life is not here and now. This doxology centers on our inheritance. Please notice that’s the key word at the beginning of verse 4, “To obtain an inheritance.” The word means a fully realized and possessed gift. We have a guaranteed reserved future that God has already determined and established. It’s an inheritance.
We understand the concept of an inheritance. We understand that an inheritance is something that comes to you in the future. In the Old Testament inheritance was a familiar word and it was used to describe the land of Canaan very often, because Canaan was the inheritance that God promised to the children of Israel. This inheritance of the earthly Israel, this land of Canaan, the promised land, had begun with Abraham, the father of the nation Israel. But it wasn’t realized for a long, long time. There were hundreds of years between the promise of the inheritance and the realization of the inheritance. There were hundreds of years of bondage in Egypt, trouble in Egypt. There were decades of wilderness wandering in which a whole generation of Jews died. They led a very troubled life until they entered into their inheritance finally. You might say that all the years waiting for their inheritance were years of very, very hard times.
And in a very similar fashion, Peter is saying, “You’re like the children of Israel in bondage in Egypt. You’re like the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness of the desert. You haven’t yet received your inheritance, but it is reserved for you. He’s calling on these troubled believers who are getting hammered from every side, with all the difficulties that life can possibly bring to bear upon them to, forget trying to live the best life now and patiently wait with hearts full of praise for the best life which is to come in the future.
In fact, he is saying you should be so committed to that, that you burst spontaneously into praise, that you join me in this doxology for something you do not now possess. Yes you are children of God and therefore heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, yes you are waiting to possess your unimaginable eternal inheritance, but we like them are childish, like a childish prince who before his years of maturity can never grasp the enormity of his royal inheritance. We have little understanding of what God has prepared for us. We have little comprehension of the realities of what we’re going to receive from Him when He gives us all the crowns that He has promised to us and crowns us with everlasting bliss in the joy of eternal heaven. We have no way to fully comprehend it. But we need to get the finest, the purest, the truest, the widest, deepest, broadest understanding of it we can, because it produces joy in the midst of trouble.
We make too much of life’s difficulties. We can’t be telling people that Jesus wants them to live their best life now or Jesus will disappoint them, because this isn’t going to be your best life now. Don’t invest too much expectation in it. It’s full of trouble. And if you expect too much out of this life, this life will steal your joy. If you expect little and are grateful for every small benefit, but you live in the light of the life to come, then this life can steal nothing of your joy. You attach your joy, you attach your sense of God’s loving you to what you have in this life, and God in your mind will disappoint. That’s why the apostle Paul said this in Ephesians 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling” – listen to this – “and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance.” I pray for you that you will get a grip on your heavenly inheritance. Because if you live in the light of the fact that your next life is your best life, then you can take what comes, because this life is a vapor that appears for a little time and vanishes away. Paul calls on us as Peter calls on us to transcend this life and live in adoring wonder and praise and worship to God for the life to come.
What is this inheritance we will receive? He calls it at the end of verse 5, “A salvation” – or salvation ready, pregnant, imminent – “to be revealed in the last time.” It is the final aspect of our salvation. There’s a past aspect. When you believed in Christ, you were saved from the penalty of sin because you were justified, declared righteous, your sins placed on Christ, His righteousness placed on you. You were saved from the penalty of sin. Presently you are being saved from the power of sin. It no longer has dominion over you. The final phrase of your salvation, you will be saved from the presence of sin. It will not exist in the world to come. You will then be delivered fully, finally, completely from all decay, all sickness, trouble, conflict, pain, suffering, grief, guilt, sorrow, anxiety, tears, discipline, hatred, disappointment, misunderstanding, weakness, failure, ignorance, confusion, imperfection and on and on.
For us, the only way we can understand perfection is from the standpoint of all of that which is our experience so we have to use negatives to speak of perfection. We will enter in to eternal experiences of pure joy, pure peace, and pure holiness. It is this salvation in its final form, ready to be revealed, pregnant language, in the last time, the last epoch, the last day, that is the time when we leave and meet Jesus face to face or the time when He comes to take us to be with Him, when death is swallowed up in the eternal victory, and we enter in to our everlasting inheritance. Look, it really is of little consequence how much you have in this life or how much you don’t have, how well you are or how sick you are, how fulfilled you are or how humanly speaking unfulfilled you are, how many successes you’ve had or how many failures you’ve had, how many fulfillments you’ve had or how many disappointments you have had. It really matters very little. You came into this world with nothing and you will go into the next world with nothing. You can’t take it with you, as Joe Bailey used to say, “You’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.” It doesn’t go. It stays.
Just don’t invest too much into it. We are not, as a church of Jesus Christ, offering people their best life now. That sets up an impossible illusion because that allows them to define what their best life is and then forces Jesus to deliver on that. And when He doesn’t, they move on. We need to learn to live in the light of our best life which is coming after this life is over. No matter how difficult this life is, we live in hope.
So Peter calls us then in this doxology to join him in some praise. Let’s go back to it in verse 3 and just make a few comments, a very simple way to understand this. It is a call to praise, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Among the Jews, the most common way to start a prayer of praise was to say, “Blessed art Thou, O God.” That’s the way they started their praise. Worthy of adoration, that’s what blessed means. Psalm 34, “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Or later in the Psalms, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” This was a very typical form of praise, and Peter borrows from his own experience as a Jew and talks the way a Jew would talk, “Blessed be the God” – but he adds something here that’s important for us to understand – “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And with that, Peter introduces us to the source of our inheritance – the source of our inheritance. Where does this inheritance come from? It comes from the one who is to be blessed. That’s why he blesses God. That’s why he adores God, praises God, exalts God because God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has enabled us to attain this inheritance. He is the source. It is a gift from God, a very basic and simple truth.
I just call your attention to the identification of God as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s a title. That’s not a descriptive phrase. That’s a title. As God is called God the Creator or God the Redeemer or the God of Israel or the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is how He is to be known. He is the God who is one with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a Trinitarian statement that speaks of common life, common essence. To know the true and living God, you must know Him as someone more than God the Creator, the Redeemer God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or the God of Israel. You must know Him as the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the true and living God who is in His Son incarnate. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” I love the fact that it says, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And because of the incarnation, the transcendent God has become near and personal. We bless our God, our God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the One who has given us this inheritance. It could never be ours if it were not for the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we have not earned our inheritance. We have not merited our inheritance. It is a gift to us. It is the gift of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who is one with Christ. It is their gift to us. I think Paul has this in mind in even greater range when he writes in Ephesians 1, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” All that heaven holds is for us…a gift from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who is one with Jesus Christ, affirming the deity of Christ.
Well enough about that, the motive behind it. The source is God, what is the motive? Why would God do this? The motive is simple here, “Who according to His great mercy” – who according to His great mercy. It’s not that we deserve it, it’s that we desperately need it. Can I explain mercy to you a little bit? We talk about grace and mercy, and they can be used interchangeably, I think, in some ways. But there is a shade of difference. Grace is a term that applies in the category of guilt. Mercy is a term that applies in the category of misery. Grace for our guilt, mercy for our misery. Maybe that’s a way to help you remember it. That is to say, God gives us grace by forgiving our sin. God gives us mercy by relieving the consequence of our sin which is our profound sole misery. The word refers to someone in a pitiful condition, someone in a helpless condition.
I remember in Matthew 17:15 a father coming to Jesus and he said this, “Lord, have mercy on my son.” He said, “For he is a lunatic and very ill and is always falling in the fire and falling in the water.” A horrible situation. It is blind Bartimaeus again in Jericho who in his blindness as a beggar cries out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Grace looks at guilt, mercy looks at misery. Have mercy on me became a common expression the Jews used when they cried out to God out of distress, pain, suffering, grief, and misery. That word alone, eleos, and its derivatives are used about 80 times in the New Testament, because God is expressing Himself again and again as a God of mercy. And always when it’s used, it refers to compassion and relief given to those whose condition has overpowered them.
With reference to God, of course, it speaks of His divine compassion on the misery that sin has produced. Grace goes to the sin, mercy goes to the misery produced by the sin. And God is by nature a God of mercy. God is a God of tenderness, loving-kindness, compassion, sympathy. Micah 7:18 says, “He delights in mercy.” Psalm 103:17, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” It is as eternal as He is eternal. Psalm 108:4, “God’s mercy is far above the heavens.” It is as infinite as He is infinite. That’s why 2 Corinthians 1:3 says He is the Father of mercies. Lamentations 3 says that His mercies are new every morning. It’s as if they’re replenished every day and undiminished even as He pours them out. Titus 3:5, “He saved us … according to His mercy.” Ephesians 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us … has made us alive together with Christ.” Why? “So that in the ages to come He might show us the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness.” He extended mercy to us, Paul says, to show us His kindness in eternity. You’re never going to experience full relief from misery in this life. You cannot experience the fullness of God’s mercy therefore in this life. Yes, His mercies are new every morning. There is mercy in this life, but we don’t even begin to comprehend the mercy of being completely and forever relieved from any misery.
So the source is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The motive is the merciful heart of God toward those in misery. What is the means of this inheritance? How do we appropriate this inheritance? Well, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His great mercy” – here it is – “has caused us to be born again to a living hope” – born again to a living hope. You don’t have this future inheritance by natural birth. Quite the contrary. In fact, your natural birth does give you an inheritance, but according to Ephesians 2 you are a child of wrath. You are a child of wrath and you will inherit damnation. All of us. That’s true of all of us. You are not children of God, you’re children of the devil, the Bible says. Therefore, you are children of wrath. Therefore, you will receive eternal damnation. That’s what natural birth gives you.
So as I said earlier, this is your best life now. It’s your only life. But God has caused us to be born again to a living hope. That’s an interesting contrast. The only way you can become an heir of God would be to become a child of God. Right? Inheritance is for heirs. That’s why the words are connected. An heir inherits. You have to be a child of God to have an inheritance from God, and so God wonderfully, miraculously, supernaturally gives us life. Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Unless you’re born again, you’re not going to see the kingdom of God.” You’re not going to inherit all that God has for His own. So Peter says, blessed be the God who has caused us to be born again, who has caused us to be born into His family. So that now I’m a child of God and an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. This comes, of course – later Peter says in the same chapter, chapter 1 verse 23, “This being born again is not of seed which is perishable” – not like human birth, natural birth – “but imperishable through the living and abiding Word of God.” It is a spiritual birth that God produces in the great power of regeneration through the Word of God. Verse 25 he says, “The Word of God which was preached to you.” You heard the gospel. You believed the gospel. As you believed the gospel, God gave you new life, and you were born into His family. And now you have a living hope – a living hope. A very important phrase.
If you’re not a Christian, if you haven’t been born again, you have hope. But I hate to tell you, it’s a dying or dead hope. That’s all it is. You can hope for the best in this life. It’s not going to come. You can live under the ridiculous illusion that you can be completely satisfied, happy in this life, but it never will happen. Hope just dies and dies and dies and dies. As you grow up as a kid, you have dreams and desires and you keep shifting them and changing them as they die. You have relationships and unregenerate people have a difficult time sustaining relationships of any kind, friendships, love relationships, marriages. You have great hopes when a child comes into the world and hope just dies and dies. Most of our hopes for careers, ambitions, you hear people say all the time, you can be anything you want to be. That’s a lie. You can achieve anything you want to achieve. That’s a lie. You can create your own world by speaking it into existence. That’s a lie.
You live in this world without God and you just live with dying hopes, dying hopes, dying hopes. And if they don’t die while you’re still alive, they’ll all die when you die. That’s how it goes. But when you’re born into the family of God, you have a living hope…a hope that never dies. The lost know only hope that dies, dreams that turn to ashes. Most of them die before they die, all of them die when they die. That’s why Scripture says, “If in this world only you have hope, you’re of all men most miserable,” because your hope just keeps dying. Your best life is the life of a Christian, and your best life is in the future. It’s good now, but the best is yet to come. That’s why Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to die is gain” – for to me to die is gain.
What Christianity, true Christianity is offering the world is caught up in the life to come, not in this life. In the life to come, we will have the glorious sight of Jesus Christ, the complete fullness of infinite perfection, the absolute absence of sin and all that it produces, the full enjoyment of unhindered freedom in worship and service to God, the wonder of heaven, the pure fellowship of God, Christ, saints, and angels, pleasure forever unrestrained, unrestricted, and infinite. That’s a living hope. That will never die. Even Christians, we have hope in this life that dies. I’ve had a lot of things in my life that I hoped would happen that never happened. But I have a hope that never dies. In fact, it is even far better than I can imagine.
What is the nature of our inheritance? Its source is God, its motive is mercy, its means is regeneration, what is its nature? The answer to that is found in verse 4, “It is an inheritance which is” – and here is the description of its nature or character – “is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away.” This is something that has to be other worldly because everything in this world is perishable, defiled, and fades away. Everything – everything. Everything in the created universe is touched by the Fall and by sin. And it all perishes and it all gets defiled, diminishes, fades away. But here is an inheritance that, like the Lord who gave us this inheritance is unchanging, is itself unchanging, imperishable, not capable of corruption. In a military sense that was used to speak of an army that was impervious to all the assaults and attacks of the enemy, unravaged by an invading enemy army.
Well think about that in relation to Israel. Israel had an inheritance, the land of Canaan. They took that earthly inheritance, the land of Canaan, and frequently Canaan was ravaged by invading enemy armies. I think if I count correctly, Jerusalem itself was leveled to the ground seventeen times by enemies. But our inheritance, that heavenly inheritance, cannot be plundered by any enemy. It is indestructible. It is impervious to all attacks. It is also undefiled, unpolluted, unstained, cannot be touched by defect. It is unfading, will not fade away. Another phrase to say the same thing about it is permanence. Its nature is permanent. Our inheritance never loses its supernatural glory. It’s not like verse 24, the grass and the flower of the grass that withers and fades away. Our inheritance never fades, never has a defect, is never corrupted, never plundered. All that we have in heaven is forever unchanged, as is our unchanging Lord.
Now this is a wondrous thing to think about because, you know, as we go through life we’re not always faithful. Right? We’re not always as loyal to the Lord as we should be. Grace operates and mercy operates and there is waiting for us in heaven an unchanging glorious eternal life.
Peter has one more truth regarding our inheritance. Its source is God, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Motive is mercy. Its means is regeneration. Its nature is permanent. And that leads to the security of our inheritance – the security of our inheritance. You say, well wait a minute now. It may not tarnish. It may not decay. It may not wither. But can it be taken away and given to somebody else? There are Christians who believe that. Can it be taken away? Can we forfeit it? Could we be disinherited? Hey, that fits the analogy. There are children who are so disappointing to their parents that their parents disinherit them. Can God disinherit us? The answer comes at the end of verse 4 and into verse 5, this inheritance is, “Reserved in heaven for you.” It is reserved in heaven for you. Bless God that in spite of your weakness and in spite of the struggle of life, this unchanging inheritance is reserved in heaven for you, not for somebody else. Safely in heaven in the holy presence of God, not subject to any assault, any plunder.
That’s what Jesus said, didn’t He, in Matthew 6? “Lay up treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Heaven will never be invaded. None of its treasures will ever be plundered. The book of Revelation at the end of Revelation says that there’s nothing corrupted – or nothing abominable will ever enter heaven. Your inheritance is safe there. It cannot be plundered. It cannot be laid waste. It cannot be defiled, defaced, corrupted, or stolen. It cannot be taken and given to anyone else. Why? It is reserved for you, and then verse 5, “You who are protected by the power of God through faith.” Incredible statement. You are protected – military term. You are personally protected by God. Romans 8 says no one can lay any charge against God’s elect. It’s God that justifies. Romans 8 says, “Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God which is in Christ” – nothing. Philippians 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Jude 24 says, “He will keep you from stumbling and present you faultless.”
How does He do this? What if we fall away and stop believing? Well that’s not going to happen, because it says there you are protected by the power of God through faith. God does not guard, protect, secure, and keep us apart from faith or whether we believe or not, but He keeps us through faith the very faith that He gave us when we were saved. You are saved by grace, through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2. So your faith will endure because the faith that He gave you that saved you is an enduring faith. That’s its character. This is what salvation is all about, folks. It’s all about what comes in the next life and what is secured to us.
You say, why are you talking about this on Resurrection Sunday? Because this inheritance, this full, glorious, eternal salvation, this living hope secured for us in heaven, protected by the power of God is made possible – look at verse 3, “through” – end of the verse – “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” No resurrection, no inheritance. No resurrection, no eternal hope. No resurrection, no salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. The stupendous, historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ opened heaven and all the treasure house of eternal glory. If you deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity becomes stupid, foolish, ridiculous, because it makes promises it can’t deliver. But Jesus did rise. In John 14:19 He said, “Because I live, you will live also.” Because I live, you will live also.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is what opened heaven to all of us. At least a dozen times in the New Testament it says God raised Jesus. God raised Jesus. God raised Jesus. God raised Jesus. But we know God slew Jesus. It pleased the Father to bruise Him. God killed Jesus. He was God’s chosen Lamb as a substitute for sinners. God made Him the sacrifice for our sins. And then God raised Him to validate the sufficiency of His sacrifice. And heaven opened for Him and He ascended back, and heaven opened for all of us as well. That’s why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so essential. It’s the cornerstone of the Christian faith. We have eternal life because He conquered death for Himself and for us. Our best life is yet to come with Him in glory. And I hope that will be your best life as well.
Lord, thank You for reminding us again in another way from another portion of Scripture of the greatness of the resurrection and the glory of it. Thank You for life in Christ. Thank You for eternal life. We celebrate that with grateful hearts. We are humbled because we are unworthy. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for Your mercy. Father, open heaven wide for some souls this morning and give them this living hope. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT
Inclusivity training in a common standard in businesses and recently we had one at my work. The goal of this training was to help the employees understand that both employee and customer bring bias into their situations at work and how to navigate this bias so it does not display itself in a negative way. Bias has a negative connotation but it does not have to be. Everyone has bias. Bias can be defined as “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned that can affect a person’s actions.” We all have bias and opinion based on our interests, upbringing, affiliations, activities, career, place of residence, and the list goes on and on. The trick is to not let your bias treat anyone differently.
People have no shortage of opinions on things and Christians are not any different. Christians usually have an answer for what they believe and why. They can tell you all about what sin is, what political party to vote for, what grace is and is not, if you can lose your salvation, what denomination to follow, what the end times are going to look like, and especially how OTHER Christians are supposed to behave!
This is especially the case on social media, from what I have seen, the typical Christian typing away responses to online forums or posts to either believers or non, has no shortage of opinions and “facts” based reasons why someone else is wrong and why they are right.
The missing piece to this formula is love…
But what’s love got to do with it?
With discernment, it is very important to know what you believe and why. You should be able to give an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15). The world, the Internet, and books are filled with more information that you can absorb in one lifetime. The Bible has to be the foundation for which all this information is discerned. As we grow in maturity as Christians, we will be more and more confident, moving from milk to solid food as the Bible talks about.
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to truck us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” Ephesians 4:14
As we build a solid foundation in our faith, how does that affect how we treat others?
We should grow in truth but how do we share it?
One of my favorite quotes on this matter is:
“Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth” John Stott
It’s important to note that not all Christians are in the same phase of their walk with the Lord. We are “running the race” as Romans explains, a race has runners at various stages. We can’t look at our position in the race and ridicule them for not being as far along. Encouragement goes a lot farther than discouragement.
This doesn’t mean you have to ignore heretical statements spoken by another Christian but maybe it does? It depends on the situation. If it happens online, you can simply log off or scroll past. If it’s a fellow Christian who has given you a platform to be able to speak in their life, then provide correction with love if they are in a position to hear.
Someone who has been a Christian for a long time can forget what it was like to be first saved. It can be overwhelming at first trying to understand the Bible, the world will tell you that it is filled with contradictions and antiquated ideas that aren’t relevant today. Newer Christians sometimes don’t know where to start, what to study, or even what to believe. If you include the fact that many churches focus on a “salvation message” without encouraging discipleship, newer Christians are left at the starting line without any fellow believers to help them on their journey.
When considering the parallels with a race and our Christian walk a few things come to mind:
• Conditioning– Reading the Bible, exercising your faith, praying, worship, etc. are all ways we grow and practice before “the big game.” We are all in the main event race our whole life but there are smaller races I believe we take part in. These include callings to a new ministry or phase of life, struggling with a battle of health or finances, and facing rejection.
• Endurance– Galatians 6:9 states, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” A marathon is tough and grueling and many just want to quit. Some estimates say that between 10-30% of participants in a marathon do not finish. Christians are falling away from the faith at a record rate. Some have been in the race their whole life and some are newer Christians who decided the cost was too much. We are called to ENDURE!
• Psychological– A big aspect to running a race is not only physical but mental! A runner can be their own worst enemy if they let their mind control their motivation during the race. You’ve heard the phrase “mind over matter”. Your willingness to push yourself can cause you to go further than you thought was physically possible. The same is true in our Christian walk, our doubts and fears can sometimes get the best of us and make us want to quit.
• Encouragement- Do you see the crowds that cheer runners on the side of the road? They cheer, give high fives, and throw water bottles at them as a sign of encouragement. You often see many runners as well encouraging each other along the way, sometimes even finishing with another runner hugging onto their shoulders. Runners can have sponsors as well, which is a close analogy to Christian mentors. We have a “crowd of witnesses” as Hebrews 12:1 states. These are men and women of faith who have gone before us, our family who we long to see again, the men and women of the Bible, and many we don’t even know! They endured the race and made it to the end, cheering us on through the example they set before us. The onus is on us as runners to encourage those around us, realizing we are heading to the same goal.
Paul knew what he was talking about when he compared our Christian walk to a race! Jesus waits for us to finish, ready to say “well done good and faithful servant.” Every pain we face, every doubt we overcome, every battle we wage is worth patiently enduring the journey to get to the finish line and see our Savior at last!
Discerning Reflection: What areas of my life hinder my race? Is there sin that I need to let go of that slows me down? How can I encourage other Christians around me? Who specifically is God calling on me to mentor and disciple?
Prayer: Lord, help me overcome sin that ensnares my race. Let me see with clarity what my eternal goal really is. May I not be consumed with earthly goals that distract me. Help me be an encouragement to those around me while being conscious of the fact that they are in different stages of their race.
All right, the gospel of John, what a wonderful place to be in the time of darkness to shine the light, right? We have been introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ in this gospel. He is the Word. He is the Life. He is the Light, as we learned in the first four verses, and the fifth verse began to expand on that concept of light, and we came all the way down into verse 13 last time. So pick it up at John 1:14. Let me read it to you.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.”’ For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has explained Him.”
John opens his gospel with 18 verses that we would call a prologue – a prologue. This is John talking theologically. Starting in verse 19, he goes into the narrative part of it in which he starts to tell the story of Jesus’ life in the world. And he goes into the statements that Jesus makes and the works that He does and the miracles He performs and gives us the wonderful story all the way to the cross and the resurrection. But in the opening prologue, he makes his thesis statement, and the statement in the opening prologue is that Jesus is God in human flesh, that He is the Creator of the universe who has become a part of His creation.
He is pure, eternal being who has become a man. That is John’s message, that Jesus is not a created man, He is God in human flesh. And that, dear friends, that is the most essential doctrine in the Christian faith. That is it. And that is why there have been and continue to be so many heresies concerning Jesus Christ, concerning the essence or the nature or the person of Jesus Christ. This is the important doctrine in the Christian faith. It must be known, it must be believed, for someone to escape hell and enter heaven, that Jesus is God.
Summed up in four words at the beginning of verse 14, “The Word became flesh.” The Word became flesh. That is the central truth of Christianity, that is the theme of John’s gospel, and that is the required conviction for anyone who will escape hell, to understand that the Word became flesh.
Now, we’ve already learned in the opening thirteen verses that what that is saying is that the one, true, eternal God became human. That the infinite One became finite, that the eternal One entered time, that the omnipresent One became confined in the space of a human body, that the invisible One became visible. The true church of Jesus Christ has always believed that. It has always proclaimed that. It has always demanded that. Any other view of Christ is unacceptable – it is a damning heresy. This is the only view of Christ by which someone can escape hell and enter heaven. This is the reason John makes such a case out of the deity of Jesus Christ.
He gives his purpose in chapter 20, verse 31, at the end of his gospel. “These have been written” – everything in the gospel up to this point – “so that you may believe that Jesus is the anointed One, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name.” The only way to have eternal life is by believing in Him, believing who He is, first of all, and what He has done.
So in His opening prologue, John talks about the nature of Jesus Christ. He introduces Him as “the Word.” This is a metaphor which speaks of Christ as coming from God, as God revealing Himself, disclosing Himself, speaking. And he says, “The Word was in the beginning.” In other words, He already existed when everything that began, began, which means He’s eternal. He was with God, which means though He was God, He was at the same time distinct from God. He was with God and was God. That is Trinitarian. There is one God and yet three persons. Jesus is God and yet He is with God.
The theology here is profound. And in the beginning when everything came into existence that came into existence, He “was” – the verb “to be,” pure being, He eternally existed. To prove that, everything that came into being came into being through Him, and without Him did not anything come into being that came into being – and that because He is life. He has life in Himself. He is the Creator. And the Creator whose eternal being, verse 5 says, came into the darkness of this world like a light. And that’s how he introduces this incredible book, the arrival of the Light, the very life of God, the very Word of God, into the world.
Now, I think it would be safe to say that John was legitimately obsessed with this great foundational doctrine. And again I urge you, whenever anybody talks about religion and gets to Jesus, you want to focus right down on what Jesus they are talking about. Are they talking about the One who is the eternal God? The One who is the Creator who existed infinitely forever? Or are they talking about some other Jesus? John is obsessed with this.
In the last century, the last decade, rather, of the first century – in the nineties – he wrote his gospel and he also wrote three epistles. And just to show you what was so much on his heart, turn to 1 John for a moment – 1 John – and John launches his epistle, and he’s writing this epistle to believers to identify for them the marks of true salvation. And listen how he starts. He starts very much like he started his gospel. “What was from the beginning,” that’s Christ, who, when the beginning began, already existed because He’s eternal.
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, namely the Word of Life – and the life was manifested.” There is very parallel language. The eternal Word, life itself, manifested itself in the world, John said, and we saw it with our own eyes. And we looked at it, and we heard, and we touched Him with our hands. We’ve seen, he says in verse 2, we testify, we proclaim to you the eternal life – you could capitalize that, The Eternal Life, meaning the Son of God – which was with the Father and was manifested to us – and we’ve seen and we heard and we proclaim to you.
He can’t get over this. John is absolutely blown away by the fact that he has heard, he has seen, he has looked deeply into the face of, and he has touched the Creator of the universe in a human form. I think this would be something to obsess about. That’s where John is. And what we have seen and heard and touched, we declare to you so that, verse 3, you may have fellowship with us, so that you can come into the kingdom, believing in Him, and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these are things we write, so that your joy may be made complete, because complete joy can only be found in knowing Him.
You know, John never got over it. You wonder why John refers to himself in his gospel, not by his name, but he calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” or “the disciple who leaned on Jesus” because he never, ever could fathom the reality that this is the eternal Creator God, the one true God in human form, and He loves me, and He walks with me, and He talks with me, and I touch Him, and I fellowship with Him, and I can’t get over it. This is the obsession of all of his writing.
In chapter 2 of 1 John, down in verse 22, he says, “Who is the liar? Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son doesn’t have the Father. The one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning” – from the apostles, from us – “abides in you, you will abide in the Son and in the Father.” Again he goes back, that if you tamper with who Christ is, you will alienate yourself from God – very, very serious to John.
Chapter 4, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit.” Don’t believe every claim, every teacher, every spirit behind every teacher. Test the spirits, see whether they’re from God because there are so many false prophets in the world. How do you know when someone’s a false prophet? By this you know the Spirit of God that is behind the true Spirit: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. Those who affirm the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, they’re from God. “Every spirit that doesn’t confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming and now already in the world.”
John is absolutely crystal clear that one’s view of Jesus Christ is determinative – determinative. Down in verse 12, same chapter: “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, His love is perfected , and it’s by this we know that we abide in Him and He in us because He’s given us His Spirit. We have seen and testified that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”
If you tamper with the deity of Jesus Christ, you are not in the kingdom of God. Chapter 5, he’s not finished. Verse 1, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” That simple. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Verse 4, “Whoever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” And finally, down in verse 20, “We know that the Son of God has come.”
We know that the Son of God has come, we’ve seen Him, heard Him, touched Him, and has given to us understanding so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, this is the true God and eternal life.
In the second letter, after the first epistle, verse 7, he says: “Many deceivers are gone out into the world who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver, an antichrist.” Verse 9, “Anyone who goes beyond doesn’t abide in the teaching of Christ, doesn’t have God. The one who abides in this teaching has the Father and the Son.” So if anybody comes to you and doesn’t have that teaching, don’t let him in your house, don’t give him a greeting, because you would be a partaker in his evil deed. It’s all about Christ and who Christ is.
Now, with that in mind, you can go back to the first chapter of the gospel of John. It is, therefore, not surprising that of all of the Christian doctrines, there has no single doctrine been more assaulted and attacked than the truth concerning the incarnation of Jesus Christ. There have been all kinds of Jesuses, all kinds of Christs offered to the world. And in the future, we are warned that as we get closer to the coming of Christ, false Christs will multiply, false Jesuses will multiply, and we have to be discerning about whether people are speaking of the true Christ.
To put it another way, it is as damning to believe in the wrong Jesus as to believe in no Jesus. To believe in the wrong Jesus is as damning as to believe you’re saved by a rock, some animistic religion. You can’t be saved by believing the wrong thing about Christ. You must believe in His deity and humanity. And that’s why John is so compelled at this point.
Now, in verses 14 to 18, we come to the crescendo, “And the Word became flesh,” the Word became flesh. The Word, meaning the preincarnate Son of God whose eternal being became flesh. The word is sarx. Sometimes the word “flesh” is used in a moral sense, deeds of the flesh, like Romans 8, Galatians 5. But sometimes it’s used in a physical sense, and that’s the way it’s used here. Romans 1:3 says that Jesus was the Son of David, “according to the flesh,” humanly speaking. So sometimes it has a moral component, and other times it’s just talking about a physical component, and that’s what it is here.
The eternal Word became human, that’s what it means, the eternal Word became human. So you have the God-man. The eternal God who is pure eternal being and not becoming at all as His creatures are becomes a part of His creation. God and man are joined in one person, never again to be separated. Listen to that. They are joined in one person, never again to be separated, yet never confounded and never mixed. His human nature – His human nature does not overpower His divine nature, His divine nature does not overpower His human nature. They are both perfect and distinct and indivisible and yet unmingled and unmixed.
The deity of Christ is not diminished by His humanity nor is His humanity overpowered by His deity. And maybe I can illustrate that by saying this: When you see Christ in heaven, He will be exactly the same God-man that He was when He walked on Earth in the post-resurrection form of the body that the disciples spent forty days with. He is the same Christ. He doesn’t become a floating fog in heaven, as some of these silly people say who take fake trips to heaven and then make up things. He is exactly who He is. He will be who He was on Earth,, fully man, fully God in the same way He walked on earth.
Let me take it a step further. His humanity is not the humanity of Adam before his fall. He does not have a pre-fall humanity. Some people think that, yes, He’s fully man, but He’s fully man in the sense of Adam was before the fall. That is not true. He is fully man in the sense that Adam was after the fall. How do you know that? Because He lived and grew and died, and that is a factor of fallen condition. Furthermore, if He was not in the form of man after the fall, He would have no ability to understand our weaknesses and our infirmities and be tempted in all points as we are tempted and come out as a merciful, sympathetic high priest.
So He is truly human in the sense that we are human in the post-fall realm – with one exception: no sin. He is without sin – holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, without sin forever. Second Corinthians 5, He knew no sin.
So this One, John says, this God-man, “the Word became flesh” and then He says, “and dwelt among us” – dwelt among us, skēnoō, means to pitch your tent. He brought His tent to us and He settled down in our world. For thirty-three years, He lived in our world, took on the form of a man, came and became one of us, Hebrews 2, Philippians 2, grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man. You can’t deny that. That’s 1 John – I just read it to you – 4:2 and 3. If you deny that Jesus came in the flesh, the Son of God was an actual man, then that’s heresy, and you don’t know God. God in human form dwelt with us.
How did we know He was God? John gives us three very important statements, and they’re tied to three words – clear evidence that this is God. First word, glory; second word, grace; third word, God. And we’ll just look at this briefly. I know you’re familiar with it. Back to verse 14, first point: The incarnate Christ displays divine glory. The incarnate Christ displays divine glory. John says in verse 14, “And we saw His glory.” We saw His glory. And it was glory that belongs to the monogenēs of the Father, and it was full of grace and truth. We saw His glory.
What is glory? What does that mean? You have to go back to the Old Testament to pick up on that, really. God’s glory is intrinsic to His nature, it is who He is. It is the sum of His attributes. Take all the attributes of God and you can list them, all of the attributes of God in perfect complex are His glory, His intrinsic, innate glory – all of His attributes.
But then there is also His manifest glory, and He manifests His glory symbolically and in reality. Let me tell you what I mean. Moses in Exodus 33 says, “Show me your glory. I want to see your glory.” And the Lord says, in effect, “Okay, I’ll show you my glory, but I have to warn you, I can’t show it all to you because no man could see my face and live,” Exodus 33:20. So the Lord said, “There’s a place by me, and you can stand there on the rock, and it’ll come about. While my glory is passing by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock, and I’ll cover you with my hand until I pass by.
“And what you’re going to see is the edges of my glory shining across the cover. You can see the fringes of my glory because if you saw my full glory, you’d be incinerated in a millisecond.” What is this kind of glory? What is this? This is God’s nature, God’s essence, the eternal complex of all that He is, the all-glorious God, manifest in blazing light – manifest in blazing light. I think that’s something of what Adam and Eve saw when they walked and talked with God in the garden because God is invisible, called repeatedly the invisible God. So what did they see? They walked with the Shekinah.
They walked with the presence of God manifest in light to some degree. And maybe they were able to absorb more of His glory since they were unfallen, and once they fell, they had to be kicked out because they could no longer look at His glory or fellowship with Him. Moses says, “Show me your glory,” and God says, “I’ll let you see the afterglow, I’ll let you see the back part, I’ll let you see the edges or you’d be incinerated in a millisecond.” That’s the powerful majesty and glory of God that would destroy us because we’re sinners.
And then the glory is defined. Moses said, “Show me your glory,” and He said, “Okay,” God did, verse 19, “I’ll make all my goodness pass before you. I’ll proclaim the name of the Lord, and the name of the Lord is all that He is. Before you, I’ll proclaim my attributes, I’ll be gracious to you, I’ll show compassion on you.” And then down in verse 6 of the next chapter, “The Lord descends,” in verse 5, and then the Lord passes in front of him and the Lord – this light passes in front of him, this glowing light, and the Lord begins to describe His glory.
Verse 6, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth, who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, forgives iniquity, transgressions, sin,” et cetera. The glory of God is the complex of all of His attributes, and sometimes it was manifested in blazing light.
Later on, when the children of Israel were walking in the wilderness, you remember God led them by a fiery flame at night, and when the tabernacle was built in Exodus 40, the glory of God came down to the tabernacle. When the temple was built, 1 Kings 8:11, the glory of God came down to the temple. So God’s glory is His attributes but manifestly seen frequently in the Old Testament as light.
In the future, Matthew 24, Matthew 25, Jesus returns, and it says in both those chapters, chapter 24, verses 29 and 30, chapter 25, verse 31, that He will come in great glory and the Shekinah will be back. Revelation says people will call on the rocks and the mountains to hide them from the face of the glory. The sky will go dark, the moon and sun will not give its light, and into the blackness will come this blazing Shekinah presence of Jesus Christ.
Again, the manifestation of the attributes of God in light. So that had happened in the past and in the future will happen again. In the meantime, the glory comes to earth in Jesus. Okay? And on one occasion – Matthew – Luke also records it – they went up to the mount, Peter, James, and John, remember? And the Lord pulled back His flesh and what did they see? They saw His glory, and it was so blinding, they fell like dead men under the sheer shock and force of this blazing light, even though it was veiled to some degree so they didn’t burn up. And Peter writes, “When we were on the holy mountain, we saw His glory” – “we saw His glory.”
Let’s go back now. When John says, “We beheld His glory” – “we beheld His glory” – he can mean that they beheld the light, the Shekinah, the blazing light, because John was up there on that mount. He certainly can mean that. And this is written long after that happened, so he would remember that experience as well as Peter did.
But it’s more than that. When John says, “We beheld His glory,” he’s not only talking about the representation of that glory in light, he’s talking about the reality of those attributes which were manifest throughout the ministry in the life of Christ. John could say it this way: We saw His love, we saw His mercy, we saw His wisdom, we saw His knowledge, we saw His power, we saw His justice, we saw His holiness, we saw His compassion, we saw His omnipotence, we saw His omniscience, we saw His anger, we saw His wrath, we saw His kindness, we saw His patience, we saw it all.
We saw all those things that the Lord listed back in Exodus 33 and 34, and we saw the light – and we saw the light. We saw His glory. We don’t question that this is God, right? We saw the manifest light that symbolizes His glory, and we saw the attributes that make up His glory – we saw it all, we saw it all. We saw a visible representation of His glory, and we saw the invisible representation of that glory in His life.
We’re going to find out in John 2 when we go to a wedding together that Jesus did a miracle there, and verse 11 says of John 2, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory” – “manifested His glory.” He didn’t pull His flesh back like He did in the transfiguration, but He manifested the glory of His power by creating wine out of nothing. So John says, “Look, we saw His glory, yes, on the holy mount, visible glory. But yes, we saw that invisible glory, the operation of His attributes.”
So when you ask John if Jesus is God, the God-man, God in human flesh, John will tell you yes – yes, He is because we saw His glory. Secondly, John will tell you that the incarnation of Christ dispenses His grace – dispenses His grace. The end of verse 14, “Full of grace and truth.” Full of grace and truth. Not half measures, not fractions, not incomplete – full of grace and truth.
Grace and truth are together in this passage. They need to be together. They have to be together because the only way that you can experience grace is by believing what? The truth. They go together – they go together. So John says, “We have experienced who He is.” Intrinsically, He is the monogenēs from the Father. That’s His essential being. We’ve also experienced His glory through His grace and truth manifest in His works and words and life.
And then John calls His friend, John the Baptist. We call them John A and John B. John the apostle calls on John the Baptist and says, “John testified about Him and cried out saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.”’” How can somebody who comes after me exist before me? John says, “He came after me. He was born after me.” Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist before Mary was pregnant with Jesus. John was born first.
And John says, “The one who was born after me was before me. He existed before me.” Again, that’s pure eternal being. So John the apostle borrows some testimony from John the Baptist. Why do you think he does that? Is that necessary? It’s necessary if you’re Jewish and you believe in Deuteronomy, that everything has to be confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Why not? It was John the Baptist. This language here, the verbs here indicate that this was constantly John’s pattern. This was what he was always saying. “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, because He existed before me.” How can anybody who comes after me have existed before me unless He’s eternal?
So the testimony of John A (the apostle), John B (the Baptist) join together to declare that Jesus is the divine glory – that Jesus is the divine glory, divine God on display.
Number two: The incarnate Christ dispenses grace “for of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” We’re so glad to be delivered from the law, right? And brought to grace. Grace came through Christ. So He displays glory, He dispenses grace. This is the evidence of His deity.
He is full of grace and truth. He is full, in verse 16, and “of His fullness we have all received,” and then he illustrates it by saying in the Greek, “Grace after grace.” “Grace in the place of grace,” that’s what that is. It’s just – endless, non-diminishing supply of grace upon grace upon grace. I love they use the preposition after grace, after grace, after grace – after this grace is moved, there’s more grace filling the vacuum. There’s never any diminishing of grace.
We have received the fullness of the grace that He possesses, grace in the place of grace in the place of grace in the place of grace. Romans 5, Paul says, “In this grace we stand” – we live, this is where we exist. Grace comes constantly to us because we have believed the truth of the gospel, and we don’t receive some small amount of grace. You remember? To the apostle Paul who was concerned about his thorn in the flesh, our Lord said, “My grace is sufficient,” right? “My grace is sufficient.” It’s a never-ever-ending supply.
We read in Hebrews, “Come to the throne of grace.” There’s a never-diminishing supply for every need that you will ever have. John says, “How do we know He’s God?” Because we are living in this realm of grace that just keeps being poured out and poured out and poured out on our lives.
And all we knew under the law was threats and warnings, and death and judgment, and along comes Christ, and it’s grace in the place of grace in the place of grace. At the end of verse 17, “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” Promised in the Old Testament? Yes. Promised in the Old Testament. Activated in the Old Testament? Sure. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Grace all through the Old Testament. Everybody ever saved in the history of the world has been saved by God’s grace.
But grace was not fully realized until Christ came and paid His penalty on the cross. The word “realized” here is egeneto – egeneto. It’s from the verb ginomai, to become, and it means came into being, came into existence. We could read it that way. Grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.
Well, you say, “If they only came into being through Jesus Christ, then was there any grace before Jesus Christ?” Yes, God, knowing that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, was applying the grace that had not yet been validated. And the grace that Christ exhibited and purchased at the cross extended back as much as it extends forward.
John says, “This is not an ordinary man.” Gospel truth tells us that this is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the God-man, fully God, fully man. We see it, we’ve experienced it, we’ve touched Him, we’ve heard Him, He displayed grace, and He dispensed glory.
One final point: The incarnate Christ defines God, He defines God. He displays glory, dispenses grace, and defines God. I love verse 18. “No one has seen God at any time.” Why? He’s invisible. There are times when God has appeared as smoke and fire and things like that, but He has no form. No one has seen God at any time. However, the monogenēs, the Son of God, the incarnate One, the One who is in the bosom of the Father.
“Bosom” is really an antiquated word, let me tell you what that word is. It’s actually used in the book of Acts for bay or inlet. It’s a word for the fold in material. If you took a bunch of material and piled it up and it had little folds, that would be the word used, or it’s for a very tight, small pocket. And so what he is saying is the monogenēs, who is tucked in intimately to the very presence of God – it’s a beautiful picture – who is folded into God, he has explained Him.
That last statement, “He has explained Him” – really powerful. Wouldn’t you like to have God explained to you? When somebody said to you, “How do you explain God?” where would you go? Well, you’d go to that verse and say, “Look at Jesus Christ, He explains God.”
By the way, the word “explained” here is an interesting word. It’s the word exēgeomai, from which we get exegete. We use that word a lot in seminary because we teach people how to do exegesis, how to exegete Scripture. What does it mean? It means to explain, interpret, give the meaning. Jesus exegetes God. So you want to know about God? Jesus defines God. He displays glory, He dispenses grace, and He defines God.
So don’t come to me with any patronizing nonsense about Jesus being a nice man, a good teacher, a noble, religious leader. That’s not an option. He’s God. He is God. And if you believe that and you receive Him – “to those who received Him,” right? Verse 12, He gave the right to become children of God to those who believe on His name. In order to be a child of God, you have to believe on His name. To believe on His name, you must believe that He is who He is.
Father, we are grateful again for how clear and yet profound your Word is, and we thank you for the treasure that every verse, every phrase is to us. We feel like we’ve gone way too fast. We could spend a year on that passage alone. We’re going to have to trust your Holy Spirit (and gladly do) to unfold its truths to us as we go back and meditate and meditate and meditate on its truth.
More importantly, Lord, I pray for those who have not yet confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord, who have not yet come to know the God-man who died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins and rose again to provide eternal life. May those hearts be opened today. May they believe, and not having heard this preached, walk away in rebellious disobedience and forfeit eternal rest. May they enter into the rest that is found only through faith in Christ. We pray in His name. Amen.
All of us on this road of life are searching for and needing love. Unfortunately what we find is, love is not easy. A more familiar expression we experience is rejection and it comes from the ones we love the most.
There are so many forms of rejection we experience. I am learning that looking for love in and through people is a road of hurt, disappointment, insecurity, self doubt, low self esteem, depression, and a loss of true identity.
I believe love was and has always been meant to be found in and through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
You see Gods love is perfect! When we seek Gods love and learn His patients, grace and commitment to us, we will be forever changed in the way we view love, especially the way we view it in this broken world full of broken people who only know how to give broken love!!!
As we begin to understand God and His love for us and how His love deals with our broken love. We will begin to know how to love others with a Godly love and learn how to receive broken love as He does.
Simon Peter, Do You Love Me? John 21 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (21:15–17)
Anyway, using the Greek words (in their anglicized forms), here is a summary of the passage.
Jesus asked Peter if he agape’d Him
Peter responded that he phileo’d Him
Jesus asked Peter if he agape’d Him
Peter responded that he phileo’d Him
Jesus asked Peter if he phileo’d Him
Peter responded that he phileo’d Him
The argument made by the scholars is that Jesus asked Peter if he had the highest form of love for Him. However, Peter could only say that he had the lower form of love for His Saviour. Finally, the third time He asked the question using the word for the lower form of love. This showed that Jesus was satisfied if Peter could only love Him with phileo love.
The reason we reject and are rejected is that we only know the lower kind of love phileo.
Our call from God is to first recieve His love, (agape love) which is a higher form of love that is perfected in Christ! Then in return practice giving this kind of love to God and others that our desire to be loved and to love others will be fulfilling!
God bless you today, I hope this was a word of encouragement and healing!
Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.
Dec 23, 2019
If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.
His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.
This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.
Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.
The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.
The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship
Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.
The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)
John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.
To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.
Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.
One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.
He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.
As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.
Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.
When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”
Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.
This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.
The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.
This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.
P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia
I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?
Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.
Let’s open to the Word of God, the fourth chapter of Acts, and we’re looking at a chapter that essentially is built around one single theme, the predominant part of this chapter running down through verse 31 looks at the persecution that came against the early church, the persecution that came against the early church.
The Book of Acts, as you know, is the history of the first church. It gives us something about the inception of that church, its birth on the Day of Pentecost, born in a miraculous display of Holy Spirit power. We then looked at the very early weeks and months of the church when thousands of people were being converted. By the time we get into chapter 4, the number may well have exceeded 20,000 people who, in a flurry of Holy Spirit regeneration, were added to the newly born church.
But soon into chapter 4, in fact, at the very outset of chapter 4 where we begin to get an idea of how many believers there are, we also find the first persecution. If I can take you back to the beginning of the fourth chapter, let me read the opening verse. They were speaking to the people: “As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. And many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about 5, 000.” Men, there, meaning males. Add females, add to the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost, and those being saved daily, the Lord adding to the church as we learned at the end of chapter 2, and it’s pretty easy to get to a number like 20,000 believers.
They don’t have an organization. They don’t have structure. They don’t have a building. So they’re still collecting in the temple. They pose an imminent threat to the system of Judaism, which has already been assaulted by the Lord Jesus Himself whose name they all proclaim. It was that Jesus that the system and the establishment rejected and had the Romans execute. They had been preaching that He is alive from the dead, and it is by His power that the church has come to life and continue to grow, and it is by His power and in His name as one who is alive that they healed the man at the beginning of chapter 3. This healing of a man that everybody knew was a beggar, a beggar who had sat for a long time. Later in this chapter, it tells us that he was in his 40s, and much of that time, no doubt, had been a beggar and a very familiar site by the gate called Beautiful, sitting there every day, begging. This was a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb, so no doubt started early as a beggar.
The miracle, literally, was known by everyone in Jerusalem, added to the credibility that Jesus was alive, because when Jesus was alive, He was a healer. He was a miracle worker. Now, He was still alive, and He was transmitting His power through the apostles. The threat, then, to Judaism and the threat to the leaders of Israel was very, very serious. They saw it as a religious threat. They also saw it as a political threat. They saw that the impact of this movement exploding in their city, contrary to what they expected; they expected we kill the leader, cut off its head, and the rest dies.
Well, that didn’t happen. He did rise from the dead. The leaders knew that. They bribed the soldiers to lie about it, and now they’re threatened by the reality that not only is He alive, but He’s continued to unleash His power to draw followers, and even to do miracles.
So in chapter 4, we have the beginning of the persecution of the church, which is still going on today. I told you last time that current figures would indicate that there are about 100 million Christians in the world, right now, in this year, that are under persecution. And I’m not talking about those that are socially abused, or alienated. I’m talking about those that are actually under the threat of bodily harm and death. As many as 100 million. Well, all of that persecution which will continue to go on until our Lord comes, and even after the rapture of the church, there will continue to be an antichrist world in which Christians will be slaughtered far and wide. This persecution, all is launched here, and it is launched initially because it is a threat. The growth of the church is a threat to apostate Judaism.
Now, we’ve all known, I think, those of us who are believers who’ve lived in the world at all, we’ve all known a measure of alienation, being ostracized. We’ve all understood that to one degree or another. We know what it is to have to forfeit friends, family. We know what it is to be under pressure not to speak for Christ, or it might threaten our position in the world in some social structure, be it a job, or a school, or whatever. We all understand that. That’s part of the persecution. But the kind of persecution we’re going to see here threatened life and limb.
Now, to start with, I want to just kind of back up from this, as I often like to do to maybe give you a larger perspective on persecution. And by the way, those of you who are under persecution, I trust that the Lord will encourage you by the things that we’re saying in this series. Now, we have to understand that persecution is a trial, all right? Persecution is a trial, and trials are for our benefit. I know that is perhaps not the way we think of persecution. There are people, well-intentioned I assume, who are busy lobbying to get our government and other governments around the world to bring a halt to persecution, to stop the persecution. And while it’s certainly noble to call nations that are killing people to stop killing them, and nations that are threatening people to stop threatening them, imprisoning them, harming them; at the same time, it must be noted that none of this happens outside the purposes of God. This does not lessen the culpability of those who do it. But we need to be reminded that persecution is a trial, and trials have a positive impact. They’re designed by God to that end.
Listen to James 1. James 1 verse 2. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” There is unmistakable revelation that trials produce a tested faith that yields endurance and causes a believer to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
In verse 12, James then adds, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, having stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” So there is a promise that trials produce a perfected faith, and an eternal reward. They have benefit in this life, and they have benefit in the life to come.
Peter understood that. Listen to 1 Peter chapter 4. First Peter chapter 4. “Beloved,” verse 12, “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you shared the sufferings of Christ, that would be unjust persecution and suffering. Keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation, for if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” There again, a fiery ordeal. What is this fiery ordeal? Well, Peter is writing a letter to persecuted believers, aliens, chapter 1 verse 1, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia, who were chosen. These aliens to the world system are under persecution. Verse 5 says they’re being protected by the power of God through faith. They are to rejoice, because now, for a little while, you have been distressed by various trials so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found or result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. There’s nothing more precious in this life than a tested faith. Nothing worth than wondering if you’re saved. Worrying if you might not be a true believer.
How can you be sure? You can be sure if you’ve gone through a fiery ordeal. You can be sure if you’ve gone through an extreme trial, you’ve gone through a great test. You can certainly be sure if you’ve gone through dire circumstances of persecution and your faith is rock solid, and it survives, and it endures, and it grows, and it is perfected. And then, you rest secure in the confidence of that assured faith.
Trials produce that, as well as we see in all of those, an eternal reward. So here are the writers of the New Testament telling us that we should, in the midst of trials, rejoice, that we should, in the midst of trials, welcome their product, their fruit their result, and that we should look forward to our heavenly reward. The apostle Paul talks about a terrible trial he was experiencing in 2 Corinthians 12. He says, “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. He said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” Paul’s response, “If power is perfected in weakness, if faith is perfected in trials, then I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Then he says this: “Therefore I am well-content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with difficulties, and with persecutions for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
He knew that persecutions brought about spiritual strength. Persecutions brought about a tested faith. Persecutions brought a tested faith. Persecutions produced a greater eternal reward. He also knew that persecution was inevitable in preaching the gospel. Philippians 2:17. “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” If I lose my life getting the gospel to you, I rejoice.
Similarly in Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. What sufferings is he talking about? It was all persecution. Beaten with rods, whipped by the Jews, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger from robbers, rivers, everywhere he went. Natural disasters, natural and supernatural enemies, demons. He found joy in all of that, in all of it, because in his weakness, he became strong. And as he became strong, his faith was perfected, and his joy came out of the confidence of a perfected or assured faith. He also had great hope for his eternal reward.
Listen, the world hated Jesus. He said that. They hated Him, really, with an insatiable hate that could only be satisfied when they had Him dead, and then He rose from the dead and continued to live through the apostles and through His church. And so, as Paul said, believers who follow after Christ receive in their bodies the wounds intended for Christ. We take the blows meant for Him. It isn’t that they hate us; it’s that they hate Him, and He’s not here, so they attack us. But it is in this sense that all believers who suffer persecution must view their persecution. It is designed by God to produce a perfected faith. It is designed by God to produce maturity, assurance, joy, and eternal reward.
In Mark 13:13, we read, “You shall be hated of all men for my sake.” In 2 Corinthians 1:5, the afflictions of Christ overflowed toward us. To the Corinthians, Paul says he was always bearing in his body the dying of Jesus Christ. He says to the Galatians, “I bear in my body the marks of Christ.” He even prayed for more, that I may know Him, and fellowship of His sufferings. Philippians 3:10. For the Christian then, persecution is a noble expectation. It produces growth and glory, and maturity, and assurance, and blessing, and encouragement, and reward, and is part of who we are. It is one of the privileges of our union with Christ.
Some of you may be saying, I never thought of persecution that way, but that is the Bible’s way to think about it. That is how the church learned to think about it, through the very revelations of Scripture that I’ve just recited for you.
Now, as we come to chapter 4 of the Book of Acts, the church is going to learn this. The church is going to learn the blessing and benefit of persecution. Those who were persecuted in the past have all entered into the eternal reward, and if they were here, they could give testimony of the glory of that reward. The sufferings of this world, they have learned, are not worthy to be compared with the joy that will be ours in the presence of the Lord. We have a far greater weight of glory awaiting us.
Well, the early church is beginning to learn this. And as chapter 4 unfolds, there are some principles that arise as we watch how they handle persecution. I’ve identified seven of them, and I gave you three last time. We’ll work on giving you the rest this time. One could simply ask the question: how did the early apostles and the early church handle persecution? By what means? The answer is here. First of all, we started in verse 5 to look at the response, and the first thing I told you last time was, this is the first principle of facing persecution: be submissive to it. Be submissive to it. That is precisely how they responded. When everybody gathered together against them and confronted them, they saw it as an opportunity to preach the gospel to the Sanhedrin. They wound up sitting in the middle of the gathered rules and elders and scribes of Jerusalem, with Annas, the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, two other of the elite blue bloods related to the high priestly family. All of them from that descent. They took Peter and John, placed them in the middle of the encircled Sanhedrin, and began to ask them questions. This is the first necessary response that the Lord providentially has brought me to this place and this is going to give an opportunity that probably couldn’t be gained any other way.
There was no resistance. That’s what we see here. It’s really an argument from silence. There’s no struggle here. They knew that even as new believers, that God had allowed this. They were content with that. They waited for God’s purpose to be unfolded. This is God plan. Everything they’ve seen has been God’s plan. From the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and then it was all explained that this is the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies, and they understood all of that for the first time. We see them pour out references to the Old Testament. For the first time, the apostles do that in the Book of Acts because they understand it.
So it’s all coming clear to them, the whole unfolding plan of God, and they submit to it. The second thing we saw last time, the second principle that rises out of this persecution is they were filled with the Spirit, verse 8. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them. They were beyond their own strength, like Paul. They were in the midst of weakness. They had no human resources. They had no one who would get them out of this situation. They didn’t know what they were to say, but they remembered the words of Jesus who said, “Take no thought in what you’ll say. I’ll put the words in your mouth.” That, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So there, we find Peter yielding up fully control to the Holy Spirit.
Now, that’s not just some kind of nebulous expression. What it means is peter didn’t try to operate in his own strength, in his own wisdom. In fact, it parallels James 1. You remember in the next verse, after we read that trials have a perfecting work, producing endurance in a completed faith, we read immediately after that, these very familiar words from James. Remember them? “If any of you lacks,” what? Wisdom. Let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it’ll be given to him, but he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind, for that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
In other words, throw yourself completely, trustingly on the power of God, which means: yield to the Holy Spirit, in the midst of the trial, in the midst of the struggle. So, we saw that last time, the necessity of calling on God, and crying out to the Holy Spirit to take over and fill your life, and give you the words and the understanding and the wisdom to deal with it. This is triumphant.
The third thing and last point that we looked at last time was, in the midst of persecution, boldly use it as an opportunity to present the gospel. Boldly use it as an opportunity to present the gospel. Verse 8, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them. And this is bold: “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man as to how this man is has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all of the people of Israel that buy the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands here before you in good health. He, that is, Jesus Christ, is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” This is really so powerful.
How emboldened are these disciples? You say they’re essentially just in the church for weeks. The church is newly born. They’ve just been literally given the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They received the indwelling Spirit. They’re filled with the Spirit. How in the world could they have such assurance and confidence and boldness? The answer? They knew all that the Old Testament had said but didn’t understand its meaning. They knew all that Christ had said but were shaky and foggy about its meaning. But when Christ rose from the dead, met them in the upper room, and for 40 days explained the meaning of everything, all of it came together in completion. Now, their theology is full, and rich, and historic.
Jewish people who are converted to Christ are the only converts who can drag their former religion into the new one. If you’re a converted Buddhist, you can’t bring anything with you. If you’re a converted Hindu, you can’t bring anything. But if you’re a converted Jew, you bring everything and you understand it, and that’s what was happening to them. They were new in the sense of New Covenant converts, but they had such a vast education that now all had become clear. They understood the plan, the purpose. There is Peter there in verse 11, rattling off Psalm 118 verse 22 to show again this experience of now for the first time understanding even isolated portions of the Old Testament. They preached the exclusivity of the gospel.
What did they do in persecution? Soften the message? No. Broaden the message to be inclusive, so no one is offended? No. They preached the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ and in no one else. Now listen, they start throwing around Old Testament verses, and they do this with confidence, and this shakes the rulers in the Sanhedrin. Verse 13. Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.
Now understand, they, like the rest of the Jews, had been raised on the Old Testament. They knew the content without knowing the meaning. But now, all of a sudden, with their teacher after His resurrection explaining it all to them for 40 days, with the Holy Spirit becoming an internal resident truth teacher, they are profoundly educated in an understanding of Scripture. And so, they speak with confidence about salvation in Christ and Christ alone. And this shocks the Jewish Ph.D.’s who are supposed to be the only ones who can speak with certainty. They’re astounded that these uneducated Galilean fishermen say what they say with such boldness, such confidence, and who talk like they knew what they were talking about. They’re really stunned by this. They obviously know that this is beyond what they should expect, and they began, end of verse 13, to recognize them as having been with Jesus. They were like Jesus. Confident, assured, authoritative.
Remember in the Sermon on the Mount, what shocked the crowd as He spoke as one having what? Authority. They saw the same boldness in the apostles they had seen in Jesus. They saw the same forthright fearlessness they had seen with Jesus. And neither Jesus nor these men had ever set their foot in any rabbinical, authorized school. And yet, they taught as if they had authority. Certainly, none of them, not Peter or John, or any other apostles, in one sense, could handle the Old Testament the way Jesus did, but this is what they were used to from Jesus. None of them could be as assured and as bold and confident as the omniscient Son of God, but it was very much the same.
That leads to a fourth principle. Be obedient to God no matter the cost. Be obedient to God no matter the cost. The leaders have a problem on their hands. They are looking at the man who had been healed standing with Peter and John. He’s still there. Remember? That’s how the scene started, right? Well, when Peter and John came to the Sanhedrin, they brought the man, the living illustration. They didn’t know what to say in reply. They were in no position to deny the miracle. There’s the man. Can’t deny that. They’re not in any position to question the disciples’ understanding of the Old Testament. They could’ve repented. They could’ve said, “We were wrong. Obviously, Christ is alive because His power is at work.” They didn’t. They have to figure out a way to deal with this.
So, in verse 15, they ordered them to leave the council, and then they began to confer with one another. They take them out of the room. They don’t set them free. They just get them out of there so they don’t hear the deliberations. And they say, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.” Does that tell you about unbelief? How stubborn is unbelief?
All right. The miracle happened. It’s a notable miracle. The whole city knows it’s a miracle. We can’t attempt to deny the miracle. What are we going to do with these men. This is a tough problem. Oh, by the way, there’s no law against healing people. There didn’t need to be a law against it ‘cause nobody could do it. There’s no rule against a good deed. And furthermore, Peter and John were popular with the people. How popular were they? 20,000 people by now or about that make up the church which, as far as they’re concerned, doesn’t appear as a church, but a mass movement against them by the populous. They can’t kill these men or they’re going to have a revolution on their hands. That’s not good. They can’t let them go, and at least they can’t let them go doing this, teaching and healing. They’ve got to come up with something, and this is the brain trust now of Judaism. So, they come up with a solution, verse 17, “‘But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.’ And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”
That is the inevitable moment in persecution. Is it not? Every martyr came to that moment in the past. Every martyr comes to that moment in the present. We read it in the papers all the time. ISIS finds Christians, they bring them in, they say “denounce Christianity, embrace Islam or we’ll chop your head off.” That moment comes in persecution. Will you deny Christ? Will you deny Christ? You read the history of the persecution of the church, and that moment comes back again and again and again. They brought them in, commanded them never to mention the name of Jesus again.
Kind of an interesting little turn. The early believers had to be commanded to be quiet about Jesus; modern believers have to be commanded to say something about Him. We’ve come a long way from the fire of the early church, I fear. They still despise His name. They still hate Him, and they can’t get rid of His name, they can’t get rid of Him. So, they warn them. The warning implies some kind of threat, some kind of response if they fail to obey, to speak no longer to any man that name. What they mean there of course is public speaking. The verb is used to refer to actual public speech. No more preaching. So they put a ban on preaching. There are bans on preaching all over the world today. There always have been in the life of the church. So they threatened them with some unnamed retribution if they don’t stop preaching. A ban on preaching. I wonder how far away that is, even in our own country.
So how do they respond? Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.” Boy, that is well-crafted, isn’t it? They might’ve been fishermen, but they were pretty shrewd. You need to make another judgment, gentlemen. Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you or to God. That’s it. You say, well, wait a minute. The Bible says that we are to be subject to the powers that be for they are ordained of God. Romans 13. The Bible says that we are to be subject to the king and all rulers, and to submit to them and be good citizens. First Peter chapter 2. We are to come under authority. God is ordained government. They don’t bear the sword for nothing, and we’re to be model citizens and not revolutionaries. And so, this would’ve been the time for them to say okay, we will submit because the Bible tells us to submit. We are to honor the king, and the governor, and those that are in authority over us. God has ordained all authorities for the preservation of life.
But that has limits, folks, when what men tell you to do is contrary to what God tells you to do. Then, who do you obey? You be the judge. Whether it’s right in the sight of God to give heed to you, rather than to God, you judge that. How did Daniel face that? Daniel was told: do not pray. Daniel answered that question, “I have a higher authority.” Daniel, by nature, was a submissive young man. He had demonstrated that in his training in Babylon. He was a well-rounded noble, accommodating man, and rose to a prime ministership in an alien country. But when it came to being told not to do what God commanded him to do, that’s where he had to obey the higher authority.
So what does someone do in persecution? First, you boldly proclaim the message that brought about the persecution, and secondly, with holy courage and boldness, you take your stand. You have, really, no choice. When the culture tells you you cannot proclaim the gospel, when the culture tells you you cannot read the Scripture, when society forbids you to name the name of Jesus Christ, or when society demands that you do something God forbids like allow homosexual marriage. That is an oxymoron. You have a higher authority.
Listen, they knew that they had a responsibility to government. It was Peter who wrote those words: submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. He wrote that. He understood that. But when obeying that government makes you a violator of Christ’s command, you cannot be obedient. You must not be obedient. You will not be obedient. Chapter 5 verse 29, it comes up again. Further persecution. Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” We must obey God rather than men. I say this not only to you, but to persecuted Christians around the world who may hear this message. When they command you to stop speaking the name of Christ, you cannot obey them. When they command you to stop preaching the gospel, you cannot obey them. When they command you to accept something immoral, something unjust, or something unrighteous, you cannot obey them.
Here we are in America, and some professing Christians have so little courage that the voice of their neighbors sound louder in their ears than the voice of God. The real secret here is the tribute once paid to John Knox. He feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man. Well, that was Peter and John. They obeyed in faith, leading the results to God. That’s boldness.
A couple of other things come out of this. Little dialogue here. It shows how opposite Judaism was from God, because they were put in a dilemma where doing what the leaders of Judaism told them to do would be absolutely contrary to God. Again, another way to demonstrate how ungodly Judaism was. It also let them know that their superficial self-designed authority was meaningless in God’s kingdom.
So, verse 20, they say it as clearly as you can say it: “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” That’s how John described his experience with Christ. First John 1:1. You remember how he begins that epistle? “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at, touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” Christ. We saw Him. We heard Him. We touched Him. We handled Him. The Word of Life. We cannot speaking about Him. This, of course, is where persecuted people have to take their stand. And if it means off with the head, burned at the stake, whatever it means, there’s no choice. Paul put it this way, 1 Corinthians 9:16: “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” I bring judgment down on my own head. I’d rather be judged by man than by God. I’d rather have the condemnation of an earthly tribunal than to have the condemnation of the heavenly one.
We can’t. We can’t stop speaking about what we’ve seen and heard. We can’t. When they had then, verse 21, “threatened them further, they let them go.” Why did they let them go? Finding no basis on which to punish them, “on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened.” There is a mass movement going on. There are the people who have become true believers and are now making up the church, but the whole city, the whole area is electrified by this incredible miracle, and they’re all glorifying God for what happened. Doesn’t mean they were all believers, but they all knew it was a work of God because they knew the man, verse 22, the man was more than 40 years old on whom the miracle of healing had been performed. That means for decades, they had seen this beggar in his lame condition. So they threatened him, but we don’t know what the teeth in the threat might be, but they didn’t put any. They didn’t say we’re going to do this, or we’re going to do that, because they were afraid of this mass movement, this populace.
So, they just released them. If you look over at 40, it’s a similar situation. Only this time, they put some teeth in their demands. They called the apostles in, and they flogged them. They whipped them, and then ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So, the first time, they think the warning might scare them. The warning doesn’t scare them. The next time, they whip them and give them the same command.
That doesn’t stop anything. Then, as you know, eventually they began to kill them. But at this point, they do nothing. Verse 23. When they had been released, they went to their own, their own friends and family, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. They just gave a report. They had stood their ground. They had been bold. No threats could’ve deterred them. This is an appropriate response to being brought to the brink in persecution when your life is threatened.
Wonderful story of John Chrysostom, summoned before the Roman emperor Arcadius, threatened with banishment if he didn’t stop preaching Christ. He is said to have said this: “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” The emperor said, “Then I will slay you.” “Nay. You cannot slay me, for my life is hid with Christ in God.” “Then, your treasures will be confiscated.” “That can’t be. My treasures are all in heaven, where no one can break in and steal.” “Then I will drive you from men, and you will have no friends.” “You cannot do that either. I have a friend in heaven who said I will never leave you or forsake you.” Ultimately, Chrysostom was banished to a remote place on the edge of Armenia. And all he did when he got there was preach. All the time. So they determined they had to banish him further into a terribly obscure place, and he died on the journey. No threat could break his spirit, and no threat could take him away from obedience. Boldly obey Christ in the face of persecution. Boldly obey Christ in the face of persecution.
So what did we learn? Be submissive, be Spirit filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, and be boldly obedient, no matter what the cost.
There’s a fifth principle, a fifth principle. Bind closer to other believers, verse 23. “When they had been released, they went to their own companions,” friends, “and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.” You know, persecution produces unity. Go over to verse 32. As this persecution accelerates, the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul. Not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own. All things were common property to them. With great power, the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and abundant grace was on them. There was not a needy person among them. All who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. This is an incredible coming together. Persecution does that. It produces unity. They clung tightly to one another, dependent. The persecuted church is the united church because it draws its strengths in that corporate fellowship. Persecution inevitably produces unity. It forces believers to circle the wagons, to cling to each other, to hold on tightly.
Persecuted church, then, because expressive of its love. It becomes stronger in its union. Persecution then makes the church collectively strong. So, the fifth principle, just in that one little verse: “Bind yourselves closely together with other believers.”
Two more. Number 6, thank the Lord. Thank the Lord. When the message was given and they heard it, verse 24, they lifted up their voices to God with one accord. There’s the unity. And they said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is them, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David your servant said,” Psalm 2, “‘Why did the nations rage and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’ For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”
What was their response? Just immediate praise to God. Immediate praise. They pour out true worship. They address God as Lord, not the usual Kurios, Lord, but despot. It becomes the English word, “despot,” referring to one who is the absolute ruler of slaves, the absolute master of all. They see themselves as slaves, and they praise their master. They praise their God with one accord, who is the creator of the entire universe, the God who has all of the rulers of the world and nations of the earth in the palm of His hand, the God who allowed them to gather against His Christ. And in their gathering, they accomplished His purpose, which was predestined. This is where theologians get the invisible hand to describe the providence of God, verse 28, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to accomplish.
This is praise. This is blessing God. Their response to the report then, is to praise the Lord, to lift up their praise. They recognize the guilt of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Romans, the people of Israel. But behind it all is the invisible hand of God, affecting His predestined purpose.
This is so critical in persecution, to see that this is part of a scheme, a plan, a purpose unfolding, that God ordained before the world began. Listen. This is where your comfort comes from. This is not outside the plan. This is inside the plan. This is not outside the power of God. This is inside the power of God. This is His purpose, it is His plan, it is by His power and His will. The Old Testaments prophesied that the world would gather against the Messiah, that the kings of the earth would take their stand and the rulers would gather together, and they did, and who are those rulers who gathered against Jesus? Herod, the Idumean; Pilate, the Roman; the Romans and the Jews. The world gathered against Him, just what is prophesied in Psalm 2, and raged, the Gentiles raged, the Jews raged. But all they did in their rage was what God had predestined to occur. This is where the one in persecution finds final, ultimate comfort. This is in the plan of God. That’s how the Book of Genesis ends, in the story of Joseph. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for God. Psalm 76:10 puts it this way: He causes the wrath of men to praise Him.
So, how do you handle persecution? Be submissive, be Spirit filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, be obedient at all costs, bind yourselves together with other believers, and praise the Lord for His purpose and providence in it all.
And then, the final note. Amazing. Pray for greater boldness. Pray for greater boldness. Verse 29. “And now, Lord, take note of their threats,” after all the praise and affirmation, then comes the request. What’s your request? Get us out of this.
No. Here’s their request: “Grant that Your slaves,” your douloi, “may speak Your word with all confidence. Give us greater boldness.” That’s the prayer of a persecuted believer. Give us greater boldness, greater boldness. Amazing. You are despots. You are the absolute ruler. We are douloi. We are slaves. We are committed to whatever Your Word says. We will speak Your Word with all boldness and confidence. And Lord, undergird that speaking. Extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant, Jesus. Undergird our preaching with more miracles, more wonders. Keep it up. And you know that that is what was happening.
If you go back to the end of chapter 2, we know that there were wonders going on. Verse 43. “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” Scripture wasn’t written yet. They needed to be validated. They were validated by the miracles, and so they cry out to God: do more miracles to undergird our preaching. Give us greater boldness, and do more miracles.
Their prayer was answered fast. Verse 31. This is heaven’s response. “When they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the Word of God with boldness.” Verse 32. “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.” Powerful. Too many to number, now. Bold, fearless, undaunted, confident, courageous, trusting in the purpose of God. They are triumphant.
This is how to face persecution. The church, throughout its history, has demonstrated a similar triumphant character. We rejoice in the faithfulness of the saints because we’re here today because of that faithfulness. Faithful saints preserve the Scripture. Faithful saints preserve the credibility of our Christian faith. Faithful saints wrote the books illuminated by the Holy Spirit that explain the Scripture so that it could come to life through the centuries and be brought down to us. We look backwards and see many faithful persecuted believers, but we need to realize that there are many today living. There will continue to be many more in the future. Maybe some of you, who knows.
I was glancing through a book that just came out in the last couple of days called “The Upper Room,” which gives an account that I wrote of John 13 to 16. I was reminded of a little story I put in there about a young man in our church here who used to like to go down to Los Angeles and tell people the gospel. He was in the middle of Los Angeles, and he was at 7th and Broadway, and he was giving the gospel and passing out gospel tracts and sharing the gospel. And somebody came along and bashed him in the back of the head, fractured his skull, and killed him. Tried to save him by drilling holes in his skull, but they couldn’t. That’s a few years back. That’s how it is for some people right now in our world, and it could be our legacy in the not too distant future. But we can rest on the truth of the testimony of the early church in the fourth chapter of Acts, can’t we? What a great gift this is.
Father, thank You again for Your Word. We always say that, and we always mean that from the bottom of our hearts. Thank You for its glorious insights, revelation, truth. Be with persecuted believers. Use this message wherever it can be a help and encouragement to bring glory and honor to You through the faithfulness of Your persecuted saints, and give us courage and strength when we face the hostility that comes against Your glorious name. We ask these things for the sake of Christ. Amen.
Most situations in life are the result of a negotiation. The best negotiators are the ones who have refined the art of reading the situation and the parties involved. A misread of the situation or parties can be disastrous.
Most people became involved in multiple contracts when they got a phone, opened an email account or bought a house.
How many people took the time to read the fine print? There could be something in the fine print that is objectionable. However the fine print is where the ‘gotcha clause’ is hiding in plain sight.
For a couple of thousand years, we have been warned, that whatever is done in secret will come out into the light.
A daily reading reminded me that we should rightly divide the Word. I would take that one step further to say we should rightly divide every situation.
The term rightly divide the Word has also been written to properly handle the Word, digging into the real meaning and using it in context. The Word should be separated into two or more parts, meanings, areas, or groups which fit into the context of the sentence, paragraph and chapter to determine the true meaning of the Word
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Properly reading the situation will provide you the best opportunity to obtain favorable results
This command is for us to “give diligence” (Greek spoudazo) for God’s approval by “rightly dividing” the word of truth. That which is to be rightly divided is not in doubt: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The end goal is to “display yourself” as one who is, therefore, approved by God.
Properly understanding the people, situation, or documents will provide you the best opportunity to obtain favorable results and a peaceful outcome.
The key is to “rightly divide” the Scriptures. The Greek word orthotomeo, only used this one time, has several shades of meaning: to cut straight, to cut straight ways; to proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course; to make straight and smooth; to handle aright; to teach the truth directly and correctly.
This cuts down the opportunities for deceptive practices to prevail.
Two passages emphasize the way to “divide” the Scriptures. When Isaiah asked rhetorical questions about how to learn and understand biblical knowledge, the answer was “precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:9-10).Thus:
Find the major pieces first. Find the supporting elements next. Find the pieces throughout the text.
Solomon, as the “wise preacher,” noted that one who would teach the people knowledge must have given “good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs” (Ecclesiastes 12:9).
Pay attention to the words (meanings, context). Penetrate (research) the teaching (text first, then books). Organize the information for teaching purposes.
This kind of study preparation requires a “workman”—one who is willing to give the diligence necessary to produce the powerful sayings built on the “word of truth.” If properly prepared, the workman will never be “ashamed.” HMM III (1)
We are all the workman in every situation in life. You decide if you want to do life the easy way or the hard way. The hard way could lead you to spiral down the road of fear, anxiety, depression and their related costly and generally unwanted consequences.
When all else fails, read the directions. Pay attention to the words and their meanings in context; to the signs and the situation. Stay alert to the fine print to save yourself a lot of needless aggravation and from the road of fear, anxiety, depression and their related costly and generally unwanted consequences.