A transaction for eternal life? (Luke 18:18-23)

POST OVERVIEW. An investigation into Luke’s account of the encounter between “rich young ruler” and the Lord Jesus. Why was this man not converted? How does this affect our evangelism?

Each of the synoptic gospels contains this encounter between Jesus and the “rich, young ruler.” Our young friend seems to ask the right question of the right Person and he seems to be genuinely interested in eternal life, yet, in the end, he walks away from Jesus empty-handed. What went wrong? What did he miss?

TWO APPROACHES TO THE ENCOUNTER

I want to take two different approaches to this episode with the rich young ruler. The first post will be the traditional one where we simply examine the text, studying this meeting between a religious young man and the Lord Jesus to see why some people never receive the gospel, even though they appear to have every reason to do so.

But in a second post will focus on Luke 18:22 and consider what we who are disciples of the Lord Jesus can learn about stewarding those things which the Lord has entrusted to us.

CONSIDERING THE ENCOUNTER ITSELF

As mentioned before, the most striking feature of this encounter between Jesus and this “rich young ruler” (RYR) is that this man who seemed so ripe for harvest and so eager “to inherit eternal life” went away from Jesus without it. There must be something here that requires deeper exploration, because for some reason, the Lord of glory did not convert this simple evangelistic opportunity. A closer look at this story reveals that the RYR’s claim to desire eternal life was only a passing whim.  

TWO DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ON THE SAME ENCOUNTER

In this encounter, even though the young ruler and Jesus seem to be talking about the same thing using a common vocabulary, they are, in fact, seeing this encounter and its outcome from two very different perspectives. So, when the RYR expresses a desire for eternal life, instead of quickly answering his question, Jesus presents him with a series of tests to see if his desire is sincere.

So, first, Jesus tests the RYR to see if he understands Jesus’ true identity. Those who receive eternal life confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and they will only do that when they grasp that Jesus is incarnate deity, God in human form, the Word made flesh. The RYR has addressed Jesus as “good Teacher (Luke 18:18),” but does he understand that Jesus is divine? Jesus thus issues him a test, essentially asking the RYR, “Do you understand that I am God?” The man fails the first test and remains willfully ignorant of Jesus’ identity.

But also, it is telling that the RYR comes to Jesus for eternal life, not for an eternal relationship with the living God. It seems that the man expects the good Teacher to give him a short list of required behaviors so that he can check the boxes, nail down this eternal life thing, and get back to his wealth. As Simon the magician (Acts 8:18-19) wanted to obtain the Holy Spirit without saving faith in Christ, so the RYR wants to inherit eternal life without surrendering everything to Jesus. His thoughts are of a commercial transaction, a fair price for a desired good. Perhaps his thinking goes like this: “Good Teacher, I have a lot of money and can afford to give some of it away to gain eternal life. So, go ahead; name Your price and we can do this deal and You can move on and so can I.” The young man is interested in what the good Teacher can provide, not in the good Teacher Himself. But it is precisely an eternal relationship with Himself that Jesus is offering. To the one who declares Jesus as Lord, to the one who will bow before Him and obey His commands, Jesus gives Himself forever and He will never leave him or forsake him. The RYR must realize what we all must realize that Jesus is not selling eternal life, but He is calling people to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Jesus is offering an eternal relationship with the one true and living God to all those who will give away everything and submit to His lordship and follow Him.

Jesus next tests the young man’s awareness of his own sin and his consciousness of his sin’s consequences (18:20). Does the RYR realize that he is a sinner deserving God’s wrath and full judgment for his rebellion, or does he see himself as a decent chap who is better than most? In the parable that Jesus has just told in Luke 18:9-14, is the RYR the Pharisee or the tax collector? Our young friend’s response (18:21) reveals that he is the Pharisee in the parable. Thus, he fails another test.

A FINAL TEST

At this point in our story, this man wants to obtain eternal life without declaring Jesus as Lord, he wants eternal life apart from loving the One who gives eternal life, and he wants eternal life without confession of sin and repentance from sin. He wants eternal life on his own terms for his own ends. As an act of grace, Jesus gives the man one last opportunity. If our friend passes this last test, he will certainly obtain eternal life.

“Sell all you possess and distribute it to the poor, and come, follow Me (18:22).”

This is a direct command from the Lord of the universe. Like all biblical commands, there are only two possible responses, obedience or disobedience. There are three parts to the Lord’s command and the man must obey all three parts. The RYR’s hardness of heart is starkly revealed in his refusal to obey any of them. Jesus commanded him to sell all he possesses and he flatly refused. Obviously, he had nothing to distribute to the poor. And, most damning of all, when commanded to follow the King of kings, the RYR walks away. He disobeys Jesus and turns his back on Him because he wants to keep his money and his position and his respectability much more than he wants eternal life.

So, what at first appeared to be a man ripe for harvest, a man whom the Father was drawing (John 6:44), turned out to be someone whose heart was still hard and who was only willing to inherit eternal life if it cost him nothing.

APPLICATION TO OUR OWN EVANGELISM

As we reflect on this story and its surprising outcome, it may be instructive to consider how this bears on our own evangelism. Because my own evangelistic opportunities are few, my tendency is to interpret any interest in the gospel as an indicator of saving faith, but this story of Jesus and the RYR says otherwise. Our Lord tested this man’s enthusiastic question (18:18) to see if he understood what eternal life would cost him. Therefore, as we encounter those who appear curious about the gospel or about church or about Jesus, we would be wise to be cautiously optimistic. Does this person understand that Jesus demands everything from those who would be His disciples? Will you bow down to Jesus Christ as Lord and obey His commands? Do you acknowledge your sin and will you repent of it, knowing that Jesus has atoned for the sins of His people? These types of questions can be helpful in determining if this person asking about “eternal life” is also willing to pay the price to obtain it.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 1/18/2023                   #612

Belief and baptism, but no Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12-17)

POST OVERVIEW. Another study from Acts 8 as the gospel spreads to the Samaritans. Here we consider the difficulty of the Samaritans believing in the name of Jesus Christ and not immediately receiving the Holy Spirit.

This post is part of a short series of articles wrestling with the difficulties of the events of Acts 8. Earlier we considered the situation of Simon the magician (post #597, #598) and now we look at the Samaritans who truly believed and were baptized and yet did not immediately receive the Holy Spirit in Acts 8:12-17.

GENERAL THOUGHTS ON INTERPRETING ACTS

Before we dig into this very interesting episode, we need to remember that we are reading the book of Acts, which is part of the New Testament’s history section. Acts covers a time of rapid change as the work of God on earth transitions from the ministry of Jesus to the ministry of the church.

To review our teaching from post #597 (12/7/2022), Jesus was sent from heaven to earth primarily to accomplish the atonement and to ransom His people from sin. In His crucifixion, He finished His work (John 19:30). Then He was resurrected, He commissioned His church to proclaim the gospel to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20) and to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8), and He ascended into heaven until the Father’s appointed time for His return. That was Jesus’ ministry.

When Jesus ascended to heaven, the ministry of the church began. The book of Acts describes the initial spread of the church from one hundred twenty timid Jewish disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem with no new-covenant doctrine or practice to many thousands of mostly Gentile believers scattered all over the Mediterranean world with well-established doctrinal teaching and church practice. The result of this massive transition is that, while all the events of Acts certainly occurred and occurred as described, all the events that occurred were not normative for the church age. In other words, the student of Acts must carefully discern if the event under study is merely descriptive (just describing what happened) or if this event is prescriptive (giving a normative practice of the church until Jesus returns). Some of the events that occur in Acts are unique and simply occurred as part of this transition landscape.

How do we discern what is merely descriptive? There are two basic principles to detect these events. The first principle asks, “Is the event unique in the Scriptures?” For example, Acts 2 relates the coming of the Holy Spirit. This event is marked with a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire resting on the disciples (Acts 2:2-3). Do we expect this to occur again? Should this be a regular occurrence in our local church? No, it is not normative. The events of Acts 2 are unique and unrepeated.

But a second principle is to consider whether the events of the scene are consistent with New Testament teaching on this subject. What do the epistles teach about this and did Jesus say anything about this subject during His ministry? For example, in our current study in Acts 8, we see that the Samaritans believe in Jesus and are baptized before they receive the Holy Spirit. Should we in our churches today teach that the Holy Spirit is received some time after we believe by the laying on of someone’s hands? No, we should not teach that, because the epistles contradict that doctrine (e.g. Ephesians 1:13-14).

With these principles, we read in Acts 8:12 that the Samaritans “believed Philip preaching the good news about the name of Jesus Christ.” There is no reason to doubt that these Samaritans genuinely believed. Philip had proclaimed Christ to them (8:5), he had performed signs of casting out unclean spirits and of healing the paralyzed and the lame (8:6, 7; see also 8:13). The expected result of preaching Christ and performing attesting miracles is that the people would believe. After they believe, the Samaritans are baptized, exactly according to the pattern at Pentecost.

KEY CONCEPT BASED ON ACTS 1:8

“When the apostles in Jerusalem (8:1) heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John” to Samaria (8:14). Why did they send Peter to Samaria?

These events serve to introduce a KEY CONCEPT for understanding some of the events of Acts. Recall that Acts 1:8 is the theme verse for the book of Acts. According to that verse, the gospel of Jesus Christ will spread from Jerusalem to (all Judea and) Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth (to the Gentiles). What we see happening is that, as each new threshold is crossed (the Jews in Jerusalem, the Samaritans in Samaria, and the Gentiles in Caesarea), the apostle Peter is required to confirm that salvation has actually come to each group and so that group may receive the Holy Spirit as a sign of their salvation. Accordingly, Peter is the one who preaches the sermon at Pentecost and declares that all those who repent and believe will receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Here in Acts 8, although Philip has faithfully proclaimed the gospel and the Samaritans have genuinely believed, the Holy Spirit is withheld until Peter prays for them and lays his hands upon them (Acts 8:15-17). This is because Peter, as the lead apostle (Matt. 16:18-19; John 21:15-17), must confirm that the Samaritans are indeed included in the gospel before the Holy Spirit can be received. Finally, in Acts 10, when the gospel goes to the Gentiles, to Cornelius and his relatives in Caesarea, Peter is again there to confirm that “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44), when “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” (10:45). Peter “ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (10:48) because they had “received the Holy Spirit” (10:47) just as the Jews in Jerusalem had received Him on Pentecost.

CONCLUSION

The point is that, in this transition period, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is going out first to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, and finally to the Gentiles, the apostle Peter must confirm that each new group is truly included in the gospel before the Holy spirit is received. Thus, what occurs in Samaria in Acts 8, where there is genuine belief without the receiving of the Holy Spirit, is a one-time, unrepeated event and is not normative for the church age.

What is normative for the church age? Now that Peter has confirmed that the gospel has gone to all groups, whether Jew or Gentile, anyone from any group who has genuinely believed in the Lord Jesus receives the Holy Spirit immediately at salvation (see Romans 8:5, 9, 11, 14; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11, 13; Eph. 1:13-14; etc.). The teaching of the New Testament is that all believers are sealed and in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit from the moment of initial faith.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 12/29/2022                 #605

How to vanquish fear of man in evangelism

POST OVERVIEW. Consistently listed among the obstacles to evangelism and the hindrances to speaking about the Lord Jesus in the world is the fear of man. This article argues that the way to vanquish the “fear of man” is by developing a fiery zeal for Christ.

A RECURRING OBSTACLE TO EVANGELISM

Often when a church conducts training on evangelism to consider how the church can be more effective in the tasks of proclaiming the gospel and of being witnesses for Jesus, the subject “fear of man” comes up. The trainer asks the question, “What are some reasons that we fail to evangelize?” and usually the first or second response from the class is, “Fear of man.” There is then an acknowledgement from class and trainer alike that “fear of man” is indeed a problem and the class moves on. But here I want to address this fear so that we can defeat it.

DEFEATING THE FEAR OF MAN

What we are discussing in this post is this idea of “the fear of man” in evangelism and how we can overcome this obstacle so that the name of Jesus comes up easily in our talks with unbelievers and “many will see and fear and trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:3).

To do that, I will follow four steps:

  1. Define the “fear of man”
  2. Acknowledging the sin and repenting of the sin
  3. Paul as our role model for zeal
  4. Exhortation to be bold

DEFINING “FEAR OF MAN”

We begin, then, by defining “fear of man.” [NOTE: I will abbreviate this FoM.] FoM is a feeling that manifests itself in timid actions. FoM is that tension that seems to rise up in our throat and suddenly choke off bold words about the sin of man and the glory of our Savior. FoM is also responsible when we decide the other person is “not ready” for the gospel or to hear about Jesus. When we are face to face with someone who is on our prayer list and we continue to talk about the trivial rather than the eternal, FoM may be to blame. There are many other examples of ways that FoM can thwart our evangelism, but basically, FoM has won the day anytime you and I are convicted by the Holy Spirit that we have not been faithful to use a gospel opportunity.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE SIN AND REPENTING OF THE SIN

We must acknowledge that fear of man is a sin, and therefore is an offense against our holy God. FoM effectively exalts frail, mortal sinners above the Lord Jesus, because we fear man’s rejection or ridicule more than we love the Lord and obey His commands (John 14:21). We have been commanded to proclaim the gospel to all the nations. If we don’t because we are fearful of what men might say or think, then we have elevated man above God. We should, therefore, repent from this sin of fearing man.

I have found that a helpful pattern of repentance is recognize, confess, and repent. Recognize that you were silent about the gospel or about Jesus when you know that the Holy Spirit was prompting you to speak. Recognition leads to confession of the sin. You agree with the Lord that you have willfully disobeyed and have been silent when you know that you were to speak. Having confessed the sin, you express the desire to change and to live a more obedient life. You repent of your silence or your cowardice, or you repent because you were unprepared when the Lord presented you with a gospel opportunity. In repentance, you turn away from the sin and you turn toward the obedient behavior. You pray for boldness and courage and confident obedience (Eph. 6:19-20; Acts 5:41; Col. 4:5-6; Rev. 2:10) and continue to press toward the prize with renewed vigor.

The point is that FoM that silences or softens my witness is sin and so should be treated as any other sin. We should quickly establish a plan of repentance from that sin so that it does not occur again. Put to death (Col. 3:5) the “fear of man” in any and every way that you can.

PAUL AS OUR EXAMPLE FOR ZEAL

When it comes to zealously proclaiming the gospel, Paul is our example. There was nothing that could prevent Paul from gospel proclamation. In his ministry, he had every opportunity to shrink back from telling about Jesus and he never did. (Acts 9 in Damascus – brand-new convert threatened with death; Acts 14 in Derbe and Lystra – stoned for preaching the gospel; Acts 17 in Athens – philosophers to impress; Acts 24 before Felix – preached righteousness and the coming judgment to the man who could set him free; Acts 26 before Agrippa and Festus – preached Christ before the king and the governor)

Consider this verse: “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). Here is a classic Pauline statement that speaks directly into our current discussion. Paul was motivated by his fear of the Lord, and this compelled him to persuade men to believe the gospel. In other words, the apostle did not have a fear OF men, as though men were a threat to him, but Paul had a fear FOR men, that they would spend eternity in hell. Because Paul was zealous in his devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, FoM had no opportunity for a foothold. Rather, when the glory of Christ and the fear of the Lord are the blaring twin trumpets in our ears, the FoM fades into the background as so much white noise.

This focus on the fear of the Lord gave Paul a zeal for the gospel. Like Paul, we should develop a zeal for Christ that cannot be silenced even by threats of death. Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). For Paul, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). We also read that the apostle had as his controlling ambition to be pleasing to the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9). His fear of the Lord, his desire to please the Lord, and his love for the Lord worked together to create a fiery zeal for the gospel that could not be quenched. Thus, Paul provides for us an example to follow.

EXHORTATIONS TO PROCLAIM JESUS AND HIS GOSPEL

The Scriptures give us many exhortations to proclaim the gospel. The disciple of Jesus is to be a fisher of men (Matt. 4:19), an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), a sower of the Word (Matt. 13:3-8), and a witness for Jesus (Acts 1:8) to the remotest part of the earth. We are to “Tell of His glory among the nations” (Ps. 96:3), “Make known His deeds among the peoples” (Isaiah 12:4), and “Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day” (Ps. 96:2). The disciple of Jesus is to compel, to beg, to persuade, to exhort, to urge, to reason with, and to testify to unbelievers to believe in Christ and to receive the salvation that He offers to sinners.

As those who “have been chosen of God, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12), we put to death the sin of the fear of man as we simultaneously fan into flame our passion for the gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria            rmb                 12/21/2022                 #602

Identifying as a disciple rather than a Christian (Part 1)

POST OVERVIEW. The first of a couple of articles about why it is preferable for the follower of Jesus Christ to think of themselves and to identify themselves as a “disciple of Jesus” rather than as a “Christian.”

The basic idea of the next several posts is this: in my opinion, it is preferable for the follower of Jesus Christ to identify to the outside world as a “disciple of Jesus” rather than as a “Christian.”

Now, before I begin to justify this statement, I need to make perfectly clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the appellation of “Christian.” It is without question that I am a Christian. I am a born-again, water-baptized, Bible-carrying, church-attending, Holy Spirit-filled, heaven-bound Christian. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I will declare “Jesus Christ is Lord” in any circumstance regardless of the consequences. Even the New Testament three times uses the word “Christian,” so there is nothing wrong with the word. Certainly, it is completely legitimate to call yourself a Christian.

But, while it is legitimate to identify as a Christian, it is not the most strategic or helpful way for the follower of Jesus Christ to identify themselves. There are three reasons that I will present for why the identity “disciple of Jesus” is preferable to “Christian.”

  1. “Disciple of Jesus” is more useful for evangelism.
  2. “Disciple of Jesus” is more helpful for my own concept of myself
  3. “Disciple of Jesus” distinguishes our faith from the religious use of “Christian”

“DISCIPLE” MORE USEFUL FOR EVANGELISM

The great task of the church of Jesus Christ is to introduce Jesus to those who are outside the church, to those who have never heard the good news or perhaps have never even heard the name of Jesus. To accomplish this Great Commission of making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20) requires that we first establish meaningful contact with the people we are trying to tell about Jesus. In America, making meaningful contact with unbelievers is increasingly difficult because our modern culture has widened the gap between those who hold to a moral standard and those who do not. What was a gap has become a huge chasm. The days when most Americans respected biblical morals are long gone, as everyone can attest. My observation is that most unbelievers under the age of thirty-five or so seem to think that there is no right or wrong about anything. This moral collapse has had an impact on the way that the word “Christian” is perceived.

“CHRISTIAN” IDENTITY IS NOT AS STRATEGIC

To an American unbeliever, “Christian” generally has no definite or predictable meaning and is more likely to communicate a political agenda than it is to communicate something about Jesus. My impression is that most of those in America who fall outside the reach of the evangelical church, which is an increasing majority of people, make no connection between “Christian” and the Bible or Jesus. I would say that most people under the age of thirty-five know as much about “Muslim” as they know about “Christian.”

What this means is that, if I identify or present myself to those I am trying to influence for Christ as a “Christian,” at best I have communicated nothing meaningful and I may have instead prematurely exposed my position and thus raised the other person’s defenses. “Oh! This guy is a ‘Christian.’ Take evasive maneuvers!” In my evangelism strategy, I want to introduce Jesus or the Bible or some aspect of my testimony to the unbeliever long before and rather than present myself as a “Christian.” In America, among unbelievers the word “Christian” rarely opens doors and potentially creates barriers to the gospel, and so is an unwise identity when we consider those whom we hope to reach.

The point is that, when the disciple of Jesus is considering how to impact his sphere of influence for the glory of Jesus, identifying as a “Christian” is a weak strategy. And we must think strategically! Jesus has sent us out as sheep in the midst of wolves and we are therefore to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16). A wise sheep thinks strategically.

“DISCIPLE OF JESUS” IDENTITY

On the other hand, the identity “disciple of Jesus” is an uncommon and unexpected expression. Since that is the case, this identity has much less baggage with it and most unbelievers do not automatically have a negative response. That is one advantage of “disciple of Jesus.” But another advantage is that, with this identity, the name of Jesus has entered the dialog. In evangelism, one of the key objectives is to guide the dialog such that Jesus enters the discussion and, with “disciple of Jesus,” there He is! If the unbeliever is now antagonistic, he is antagonistic because of Jesus. If he is indifferent, he is indifferent to Jesus. This idea of a response to Jesus carries more weight than a response to the name “Christian.” Also, any discussion that includes Jesus is automatically of more substance and is more serious. When Jesus “enters the room,” so to speak, trivial banter quickly subsides. The King is here, and we must deal with Him. If I present myself as a “disciple of Jesus,” my King has entered the room. Now, since His name has already been mentioned, it can be mentioned again and we can talk about who He is and what He has accomplished. Thus, the identity of “disciple of Jesus” has many advantages over the identity “Christian.”

Having considered the advantages of the identity “disciple of Jesus” in our evangelism in this post, in our next post we will think about why “disciple of Jesus” is preferred over “Christian” first, in our own self-concept and second, in distinguishing our faith in Jesus from religions.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 12/18/2022                 #601

Revisiting imprecatory psalms and imprecation

POST OVERVIEW. Another consideration of the imprecatory psalms and the other acts of imprecation in the Old Testament. This article once again evaluates whether imprecation of enemies is still a weapon in the disciple’s armory and, if not, why not. Other posts on this same topic are Posts #500 (3/8/2022), #503 (3/11), #502 (3/15), #505 (3/18), #509 (3/30), and #514 (4/6) back in March and April of this year, and Post #563 (8/26/2022).

DEFINITION OF IMPRECATION

The first thing we need to do in this revisiting of imprecation is define what we mean. In the Bible, “imprecation” is when a believer calls on God to curse or destroy his enemies. So, in the “imprecatory psalms,” the psalmist (often David) is in distress and his life is being threatened by enemies, and in response, the psalmist cries out to the Lord to give him relief by cursing or punishing or judging the psalmist’s enemies. The question that needs to be answered with regard to imprecation is, “After the first advent of the Lord Jesus, is the believer still allowed to imprecate (call down curses on) his enemies, or has that forever changed with the coming of Jesus?” At the end of my Post #514 (4/7/2022), I wrote this conclusion:

“And so we conclude our study of the imprecatory psalms. We have seen that these psalms which called down curses on the enemies of the righteous are no longer useful to the disciple of Jesus. Jesus Himself commands His people to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, which renders an imprecatory psalm obsolete. But also, since we are to be wise ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), we realize that imprecating others is a poor strategy for sowing the gospel.”

In a later post on this topic of imprecation (#563, 8/26/2022), I concluded:

“Thus, the sanctioned New Testament response to persecution and affliction appears to preclude any retaliation, revenge, or imprecation of enemies. We would thus conclude that the disciple of Jesus is allowed to lament the suffering and to groan underneath it, and to long for the day when God will judge the wicked and set all injustice right but is not to imprecate his enemies. Rather, he is to trust the Lord with the administration of all justice and is to endure the suffering in the strength that Christ supplies.”

STILL MORE THOUGHTS ON IMPRECATION

All my study of imprecation has consistently led me to the conclusion that the disciple of Jesus is not to curse or to ask God to curse his enemies, but is rather to endure the persecution and the suffering. This is clear and incontrovertible. This is what the New Testament teaches.

THE FINAL QUESTION TO SETTLE THE MATTER: It seems to me, however, that the discovery of this New Testament doctrine requires a further step to fully settle the matter. That is, why is the disciple of Jesus not permitted to call down the LORD’s curses on his enemies when the Old Testament saints could do this?

As we explore this question, we begin by acknowledging that the solution is somehow tied to Christ and His death on the cross. The challenge, then, is to discern how Christ’s death on the cross has silenced the imprecatory psalms and removed them from the believer’s arsenal. The Lord no longer hears the believer’s imprecatory prayers because Jesus Christ has died and rendered all our imprecation of earthly enemies trivial by comparison. In the ultimate act of injustice, Jesus has died and yet our Lord “uttered no threats nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:23).

Not only has our Lord demonstrated for us that imprecation is no more, for He uttered no threats in His death (1 Peter 2:23), but He has also commanded His disciples to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27-30). Thus, the imprecatory psalms are obsolete, like the day of atonement and the cities of refuge. These psalms are part of the old covenant when the LORD would demonstrate His power by vanquishing His peoples’ enemies and when His people would call upon Him to rescue them physically. But under the new covenant, Jesus the Messiah has come and has already rescued His people. “It is finished” (John 19:30). Now that our Lord has accomplished His atoning work on the cross and has been raised from the dead as first fruits of all those who will rise on the last day, physical threat and physical death have lost their sting (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:54-55; etc.). Because of the resurrection, the disciple of Jesus no longer fears those who kill the body (Matt. 10:28). Instead, we love and pray for our enemies because our enemies may be of the elect (like Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9). One of my persecutors today could be worshiping the Lord Jesus with me next Sunday.

Under the old covenant, enemies were hated (Hinted in Matt. 5:43; explicitly stated in imprecatory psalms). The sons of Israel often asked the Lord to destroy their enemies and to rescue them from physical danger. But in the new covenant, the Lord Jesus has now vanquished sin, our greatest enemy, and He has rescued us from death. Because of Jesus’ victory on our behalf, we no longer hate our enemies, but instead we proclaim to them our message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20).  With the giving of the Great Commission, the disciple of Christ is no longer focused on sustaining his own physical life but has instead fixed his eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) for the purpose of proclaiming the good news to friend and foe alike.

ENJOYING THE IMPRECATORY PSALMS

But now, on this side of the cross, we can enjoy the imprecatory psalms because they point forward to that time when our great Savior would render all our imprecation meaningless and unnecessary. As the day of atonement (Leviticus 16) and the suffering servant (Isaiah 53) pointed unerringly to Christ in His first advent, so the imprecatory psalms also point to Christ as the One who, by His death on the cross, will rescue us from the most fearsome of all our enemies, sin and death, and will thus set us free to love our enemies and plead with them to come to faith in the Lord Jesus. We can enjoy these psalms because they remind us that Christ has died and risen from the dead and has thus rendered all cursing of enemies obsolete.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 12/12/2022                 #599

Lessons and applications from Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24)

POST OVERVIEW. In the last post (#597, 12/7/2022), we had studied the passage about Simon the magician in Acts 8:9-24. From that study we will observe a couple of lessons and also make a couple of applications.

In the most recent post (#597, 12/7/2022), we had studied the passage in Acts 8 about the false faith of Simon the magician and his baptism by Philip the evangelist. We saw that, despite his claim of belief in Jesus, Simon never truly believed. We also determined that Philip’s baptism of Simon based on his profession of faith was the appropriate thing to do, even though Simon’s profession was false.

In this post, we will extend our study into lessons learned and applications made.

LESSONS FROM SIMON MAGUS

What do we learn from this situation with Simon the magician?

First, this passage makes it unambiguously clear that baptism does not save. The proof is irrefutable: Simon the magician was baptized and yet he was not saved. A review of this passage should serve to silence those who hold to baptism as the means of salvation rather than as a marking of those who have believed and are saved.

Second, we learn that it is possible for a sincere minister of the gospel to baptize an unbeliever unintentionally. The New Testament teaches that a person is baptized upon their profession of faith in Jesus. It is possible, however, that the person’s professed belief is not genuine. Our study passage shows that Philip, already identified as a “man of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3, 5), a sincere minister of the gospel who is identified in Scripture as an evangelist (Acts 21:8), baptized Simon the magician based on his profession of belief. The pattern in Acts, and so the practice in the church age, is that a person’s profession of faith, of declaring Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12:3), is assumed to be sincere and a person is baptized upon profession of faith.

By the way, it is interesting to note that the apostle Peter does not rebuke or correct Philip for baptizing Simon Magus. If Philip had done something that was wrong, then it is certain that, at this infant stage of the church, the Holy Spirit would have prompted Peter to correct that error so that the error was not repeated throughout the life of the church. The fact that Peter does not correct Philip in any way indicates that Philip’s baptism of Simon based on his profession of faith was entirely appropriate. The fault and guilt lay entirely with Simon because he had essentially lied about his belief (see also Acts 5:3, 4).

APPLICATIONS

As we think about this episode with Simon the magician, we need to ask the question, “How does the church today avoid this situation of baptizing unbelievers?” Ultimately, the possibility of baptizing someone based on a false profession of faith cannot be removed. There are no apostles around today who have the gift to discern genuine faith from false. In the absence of this apostolic discernment, however, the church can take steps to try to ensure that a candidate for baptism is a genuine believer. For example, the person’s profession of faith can be examined carefully by wise elders to test the authenticity of their profession. Also, if the person has been a professing believer for some time, the persons interviewing the candidate for baptism can look for “the fruit of repentance” (Matt. 3:8; see also Luke 13:6-9; John 15:2) since their conversion. If after this investigation, the candidate’s profession of faith appears genuine, then baptism is done.

So, it is possible for even the most careful pastor to unintentionally baptize a person because the person made profession of a faith they did not possess. But this event is not a cause of undue concern, and that for two reasons.

THE CHURCH’S CLEANSING BY CHURCH DISCIPLINE

First, the church does have a remedy for this situation. It is difficult for the person who is an “unsheep” to remain undetected in the flock forever. This is because every baptized believer is to bear fruit as a disciple of Jesus. The Spirit-sealed disciple says no to sin and yes to righteousness. He worships, he witnesses, he grows in his faith. So if, over time, it is discovered that a professing believer is not exhibiting the fruit of repentance, but is instead evidencing the fruit of unrighteousness, the church will respond and confront this problem. If the sinning church member does not change and does not repent of his unrighteousness, eventually the church will exercise discipline and will remove this one from the flock (Matt. 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5) because the person’s unrepentance is counted as evidence of unbelief.

THE LORD’S PERFECT CLEANSING AT THE AND OF THE AGE

But second, there is an even more compelling reason that the unintentional baptism of an unbeliever is not a problem. The one who makes sure that His true church is composed only of genuine believers is the Lord Himself. If there are “unsheep” in the earthly flock, they are known to the Lord and will be removed by the Lord. The following are Scriptures that attest to this truth.  

The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19). No matter how cleverly those who are not true believers disguise themselves, the Lord will find them out because He knows those who are His and those who are not.

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me” (John 10:14). Jesus plainly declares that He knows His sheep. Only His true sheep will be saved from the judgment. (Consider John 10:26 – “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.”)

In the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43), Jesus teaches that there will be true believers (wheat) and unbelievers (tares) in His visible church until the end of the age. Then, at the end of the age, He will throw the unbelievers into the furnace of fire (13:42). Again we see that those who make false profession on earth do not deceive the Lord of heaven.

The parable of the dragnet is similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares. In this parable (Matt. 13:47-50), Jesus tells us that the dragnet of the gospel brings in both “good fish” (true believers) and “bad fish” (false), but at the end of the age, the Lord will take out the wicked from among the righteous and will throw them into the furnace of fire.

These Scriptures make clear that, even though man or the devil may sow those who are false in the field of the visible church (Matthew 13:38-39), the Lord is the One who reigns over His church and He will ensure that, at the last day, His bride has no wrinkle or spot.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 12/08/2022                 #598

The case of Simon the magician (Acts 8:9-24)

POST OVERVIEW. A study of Acts 8:9-24 and the episode involving Simon the magician. We consider the implications of Simon’s professed belief and subsequent baptism despite his unbelief.

In Acts 8:5-24, we read how Philip preaches “the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (8:12) in Samaria and, as a result, some of the Samaritans believe and are baptized. This is exciting news, indeed, but this event also presents to us a couple of situations which can be misinterpreted and thus cause doctrinal confusion. The first situation involves Simon the magician and his professed belief and baptism and the second situation relates to the Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit well after they had believed in Jesus and been saved. We will carefully examine these two situations in an attempt to remove this potential confusion.

GENERAL THOUGHTS ON INTERPRETING ACTS

Before we begin looking at Simon the magician, we should note that there are several considerations to keep in mind as we study the book of Acts. First, Acts portrays a time of great transition in redemptive history. At this time, the Jew-Gentile divide is firmly in place; there are still people who have believed in “the baptism of John;” the gospel is spreading first to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, and finally to the Gentiles; and the apostles are the authority in this new gospel movement. The fact that this is a time of transition constrains our interpretations of the individual episodes in Acts.

Second, because things are in transition, we must repeatedly ask the question, “Is this event merely descriptive or is it also prescriptive?” Luke is an excellent historian and includes many details of these events in Acts. His accounts are very descriptive of what occurred. The bigger question, however, is whether this description is also the way things should occur. That is, is this event a prescription for what should happen in all churches or with all believers throughout the church age till Jesus returns? In other words, is this episode in Acts describing for us what is normal in the church? Carefully answering these questions helps keep our interpretations on solid ground.

Third, in the early chapters of Acts as the gospel is spreading from Jerusalem to Samaria to the Gentiles (“remotest parts of the earth” in Acts 1:8), each new group of believers must be folded into the church in the same way. The pattern is established at Pentecost (Acts 2), where those who believe are baptized and, upon apostolic confirmation, they receive the Holy Spirit. What happened at Pentecost with the first fruits of the Jews happened again in Samaria (our current study in Acts 8) as the Samaritans, a mixed race of Jew and Gentile, are brought into the fold, and finally this happened (as we will see later on) when the first Gentiles come to saving faith in Christ (Cornelius in Acts 10). This process of apostolic confirmation and incorporation in the Body was unique in redemptive history, but its occurrence can cause confusion for readers of Acts.

With that as background, let’s begin our study of Simon the magician (Acts 8:9-24).

SIMON HIMSELF BELIEVED AND WAS BAPTIZED

The first situation we will address involves Simon the magician (“Simon Magus”). This Simon is a curious character. Before Philip came to Samaria preaching the gospel, Simon “was astonishing the people of Samaria” with his magical tricks (Acts 8:9). But when Philip performs miraculous signs and preaches the good news, the people give their attention to him, believe in the name of Jesus, and are baptized. The potential difficulty arises when the Scripture says, “Even Simon himself believed” and was baptized (8:13). To this point in Acts, when anyone believed and was baptized, it meant that they had been saved. Belief in the good news followed by baptism was the formula for salvation. But with Simon the magician, it becomes apparent that, despite his professed belief and his subsequent baptism, he is not a genuine believer but is still “in the bondage of iniquity” (8:23). How do we explain this?

PROFESSED BELIEF AND BAPTISM

To understand this situation, It is necessary to examine both professed belief and baptism to see what is happening here.

Our doctrine teaches us that water baptism does not save a person. We could say that “Baptism marks a person as saved, but it is not the means by which a person is saved.”

But we must go further. We can say “Baptism marks a person as saved” because their baptism is based on that person’s profession of faith (belief, trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that faith and salvation precede baptism. “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). In all examples of baptism in the New Testament, salvation by faith precedes baptism. Therefore, we can conclude that a person is baptized because they have professed Jesus Christ as Lord and are therefore assumed to be saved.

So then, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Philip appropriately baptized the Samaritans based on their profession of belief in the Lord Jesus. He assumed that their profession of faith was genuine, so he baptized them. In the same way, he also baptized Simon the magician based on Simon’s false profession of faith. But Philip was not an apostle, so he did not have the apostolic gift that allowed him to discern a false profession.

APOSTOLIC DISCERNMENT

In Acts and during the apostolic period, one of the gifts of the apostles was the ability to discern genuine faith. When the three thousand believed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the apostle Peter was there to confirm the faith of those believers. But Peter was not there in Samaria when the gospel was proclaimed by Philip and so he could not confirm that these Samaritans had actually believed in Jesus and should now be included in the church. The Samaritans, including Simon the magician, had professed belief in Jesus, but without apostolic sanction, it was not certain that they possessed belief in Jesus.

Peter went down to Samaria for the purpose of putting his apostolic stamp on this move of the Spirit of God. In this instance, the apostle Peter was able to discern that Simon’s profession of belief was false. The Scripture makes clear that Simon had not truly believed in the Lord Jesus and was not saved, and so Peter exposed his unbelief and did not lay hands on him.

Having looked at Simon’s unbelief and his baptism and having determined what is happening in this passage, we also want to consider what lessons can learn and what applications we can draw from this study. The next post will take that next step.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 12/07/2022                 #597

When a saint goes home (2 Timothy 4:7)

POST OVERVIEW. Thoughts on the contrast between the death of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and the death of one who does not know Christ.

This morning seemed like every other morning. I had early coffee at Starbucks with a friend, then talked to another friend on the phone, and finally had a fairly long phone conversation with my brother. So, the morning was proceeding as Fridays do. But this Friday was different. This Friday, a dear saint, a member of our church went home to be with Jesus. Edye was 93 years old and had been a member of Oakhurst Baptist Church since the 1950’s. She was in church almost every Sunday and it was always encouraging for me to see her singing all the words to every song. I enjoyed being able to hear about her trust in the Lord developed over a lifetime of walking with Him, so I tried to talk to her almost every Sunday. I will miss her and will look forward to seeing her again in heaven.

As I think about life and death and the human condition, I again marvel at the wonder of Christ’s salvation. For the natural man is lost and in darkness and has a natural terror of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). While all of God’s creatures die, man is the only creature who is aware that he will surely die. And why does man die? Man dies because man sins. Ever since Adam sinned in the garden, man has been born guilty and bent toward sin and this sin has two immense consequences.

TWO CONSEQUENCES OF SIN

First, man’s own sinfulness is registered deep in his soul so that man is aware of his sin and guilt in his subconscious. He may vigorously ignore and deny his sin and declare his innocence with his mouth, but the guilt within remains, like a deep undressed wound, festering and growing more foul. The conscience will continue to convict regardless of how loudly the voice denies. So, the first consequence of sin is that the natural man feels within him a deep sense of guilt and shame.

But while the first consequence of sin is, indeed, miserable, the second is far more serious and threatening. The Bible declares that a man’s sin brings him under God’s wrath and condemnation. The Scripture testifies that God will pour out His wrath on our ungodliness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). When Ezekiel declares, “The soul that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4), the prophet is speaking of eternal death, of a destination in the lake of fire as a result of God’s judgment of our sin. Our sin separates us from God and hides His face from us (Isaiah 59:1-2) so that we forfeit His mercy and receive instead His displeasure and judgment. It is from this second consequence of sin, from God’s wrath and judgment, that we must be saved.

WHY ARE SOME NOT MISERABLE AND AFRAID?

Now we return to the wonder of Christ’s salvation. For while the natural man is miserable because of his deep, subconscious sense of guilt and shame for his sin and is, at the same time, terrified at the thought of his own death because he is subconsciously aware of God’s wrath and judgment, Edye, our recently deceased sister, evidenced neither of these in her life. Instead, she talked easily of her inevitable physical death and had no fear of that event whatsoever. Edye’s health was slowly fading as she journeyed through her low 90’s, but her joy was undiminished and she was optimistic about life and the future. She smiled and laughed easily and enjoyed being around her church family. How do we make sense of this paradox? Why is it that, when Edye was obviously so close to death, she continued to live with joy and not terror?

EDYE’S ANSWER

There is a one-word answer to this question: Jesus. Edye had met the Lord Jesus Christ and had long ago trusted Him for salvation and had walked with Him for more than six decades. When she trusted Christ, He had taken away her sin and had thus taken away her guilt and shame. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Edye’s Savior had given her forgiveness for all her sins and so she had peace with God through Jesus (Romans 5:1).

Edye believed that Jesus accomplished the work He was given to do (John 17:4), that He had faithfully lived a sinless life and had willingly given up His life as an atoning sacrifice on the cross. When He died, all the work of redemption was fully accomplished. Thus, Jesus could cry out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). By faith Edye trusted Christ for her salvation and thus her guilt was taken away.

Edye entered the hospital on Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning she had entered eternity. But for her there was no last minute struggle for a few more heartbeats, a few more breaths. When it was time for her to go to be with her Lord, Edye simply yielded her spirit and died. Why? Because she had accomplished her works the Lord had given her to do (Eph. 2:10) and there was nothing left for her to do. She had fought the good fight and finished the race (2 Tim. 4:7), and now the reward was hers (4:8). Christ had bought her with His blood and she had lived for Him and so now Edye joins the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). Yes, Edye will be missed, but we who believe in Jesus will see her again in heaven.

BUT FOR THE UNBELIEVER THERE IS NO PEACE

One final thought should be mentioned. For the believer, for the one who has trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, the end of this life presents no terror. It is a known fact that all must face death, but Christ has taken away from His disciples any fear. He has given me works to do and He determines when my work is done. He has risen from the dead and so I know that I will be raised with a glorified body on the last day. I know that the Lord delights in me, so I look forward to seeing Him face to face and receiving my crown of reward from Him. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), so I joyfully anticipate the day of my death. Work done, works accomplished, faith kept, I enter into the joy of my Master. On that day, I will be able to commit my spirit into His hands.

But for the unbeliever, death holds great dread. There is no peace with God, so there is no reason to assume that you are going to “a better place.” Without a God-given purpose for your life, there can be no end to your labors, because you can never know if you have done enough. Since you do not know what awaits beyond the grave, there is a desperate desire for life to continue, even when life has lost all purpose and pleasure. So is the prospect of death for the one without Christ.

But there is still time to embrace Christ. As long as you have breath, you can bow the knee to Jesus and receive His salvation. “Behold, today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). The Lord is mighty to save. “For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Right now you can do what Edye did sixty years ago. Repent, and believe in Jesus.

SDG                 rmb                 12/02/2022                 #595

This Jesus is both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:22-36)

POST OVERVIEW. The second post of a two-post series which examines Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. (See first post, #587 on November 16, 2022, which gave the background for the apostle’s message.) This second post will be a verse by verse exegesis of the sermon, showing how Peter brilliantly makes his meaning clear.

OVERVIEW OF THE SERMON

The last post (#587) gave important background information for the sermon Peter delivered on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. In that post, we explored why Peter began his message by referring to Jesus as “the Nazarene” and we considered the two Davidic psalms which Peter quoted in his sermon, Psalm 16 and Psalm 110. Building on that foundation, we are now going to examine the sermon verse by verse to see how Peter crafts his message so that he brings his audience to a saving understanding of who Jesus is.

Before the exegesis, however, we need to see the structure of the sermon and understand specifically what Peter is intending to communicate. (The section of Scripture we will be exploring is Acts 2:22-36, which is the main body of the sermon and contains Peter’s most important points.)

In broad strokes, Peter’s message is that Jesus the Nazarene, whom “you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23), this Jesus whom God raised up again (2:24, 32), “this Jesus whom you crucified” is “both Lord and Christ” (2:36). Thus, Peter must demonstrate from the Scriptures that this Jesus is the Christ, Israel’s promised Messiah, and he must demonstrate from the Scriptures that this Jesus is Lord, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.

The structure of the sermon is as follows:

  • Acts 2:22-23. Opening. “You crucified Jesus the Nazarene.”
  • Acts 2:24-32. From Psalm 16 (of David), Jesus is the Christ.
  • Acts 2:33-35.  From Psalm 110 (of David), Jesus is Lord.
  • Acts 2:36. Closing. “You crucified Jesus, who is both Lord and Christ.”

Now that we see the direction of the sermon, we are ready to explore the details.

VERSE BY VERSE EXEGESIS

This exegesis assumes that the reader is following along in their Bible. I will be using the New American Standard Bible (1995 Edition).

OPENING

Acts 2:22. Peter introduces Jesus the Nazarene. Although He had been crucified almost two months before Pentecost, Jesus’ name was still known to this Jewish crowd. Jesus’ earthly ministry had made an impression on the region around Jerusalem and into Galilee and beyond, so Peter here reminds them of Jesus. As we have said, Jesus as “the Nazarene” emphasizes His humble humanity and His humiliation in His shameful death. But also, Peter reminds the crowd that Jesus was no ordinary man, for He performed miracles and wonders and signs which were attested to many people. In fact, God performed these miracles through Jesus.

Acts 2:23. The vileness of Jesus’ execution and their own corporate guilt is now hammered home. “This Man you nailed to a cross and put Him to death.” Notice that Peter places the responsibility for Jesus’ death not on the ones who carried it out, but on the ones who planned it and agreed to it and who desired it. “YOU nailed Him to a cross.” But the Jews already knew and accepted this. “Yes, we saw to it that Jesus the Nazarene was executed. We were told He was a heretic.” So far, Peter is simply telling them facts they already know.

NOTE: This verse also contains the immensely important phrase, “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” This post will not explore this but will leave its explanation for another post at a later date.

JESUS IS THE CHRIST

Acts 2:24. This verse begins the section of the sermon (2:24-32) in which Peter will demonstrate from Psalm 16 that Jesus is the Christ. “But God raised Him up again.” Peter delivers a thunderclap to the crowd: “You crucified Jesus, BUT GOD RAISED HIM UP.” The crowd begins to understand the wickedness of their act. “We put Jesus to death, but God raised Him to life again. Whom we crucified God resurrected. We must have acted against God.”

The big news, however, is that, in Jesus, we have a resurrection. Peter has thus made the focus of the sermon to be the resurrection. Among the Hebrews at that time, whenever the subject of the resurrection would come up in a conversation, Psalm 16 would be the Scripture referenced. So, if this is a resurrection, then this is a fulfilment of Psalm 16:8-11, which Peter will quote in the next verses.

Acts 2:25. Peter states that, in Psalm 16:8-11, David is speaking of Jesus. (NOTE: Acts 2:25-28 is a direct quote of Psalm 16:8-11.) Remember that, among Hebrew scholars of the time, this section of Psalm 16 was acknowledged to be Messianic. Also, as we have already mentioned, this section of Psalm 16 was the “go to” passage in the Old Testament for the resurrection. Therefore, when Peter says, “For David says of Him (Jesus),” he is saying that, in Psalm 16, David is telling of the resurrection of Jesus.

Acts 2:26. Peter continues to quote Psalm 16 with verse 9.

Acts 2:27. This is the key verse in the passage, a quote of Psalm 16:10.

Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

Before we dig deeper into this verse, we need to notice that Peter has established an important point. In Acts 2:25, Peter declared that, in Psalm 16:8-11, David was speaking about Jesus and here in a quote of Psalm 16:10, he refers to Your Holy One. Thus, Peter has established that “Your Holy One” is Jesus. Remember this when we get to Acts 2:31.

We had noted in post #587 that, at that time, the exact understanding of this verse remained a mystery. It was clear that the verse spoke about a resurrection (“Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay”) and it was acknowledged that “Your Holy One” referred to the Messiah, but how the pieces fit together was a puzzle. For Messiah to be resurrected and “not undergo decay,” it would seem that He would need to die, but that did not agree with their teaching which said, the Christ is not to die, but “the Christ is to remain forever” (John 12:34). But now, with what Peter has said so far in his sermon, we have all the information we need to solve the puzzle. Peter, like any good preacher, will now connect the dots for his hearers so that they can fully grasp the significance of what has occurred and what he has said so far.

Acts 2:28. Peter finishes quoting Psalm 16 with verse 11 of that psalm.

Acts 2:29. In this verse, the apostle Peter eliminates the possibility of someone saying that David is here speaking about himself. In fact, Peter proves that David cannot possibly be referring to himself because “David died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” Thus, David himself certainly underwent decay and was not resurrected. But if he is not speaking about himself, of whom was he speaking in Psalm 16:10?

Acts 2:30. Significantly, Peter reminds his audience that David was a prophet. This means that his writing is divinely inspired and, thus, absolutely true. (“The Scripture cannot be broken” – John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:16; John 17:17). This leads into Acts 2:31.

Acts 2:31. The apostle Peter declares that David, as a prophet of God, spoke in Psalm 16:10 of the resurrection of the Christ. “He was neither abandoned to Hades, not did His flesh suffer decay.” Notice carefully what Peter has done. In quoting Psalm 16:10, he used the pronoun “His” in place of “Your Holy One.” But note that Peter has also said that this verse speaks of the resurrection of the Christ. Thus by simple logic, Peter has proved that “Your Holy One” is the Christ. But there is more. Remember from 2:27 that “Your Holy One” is Jesus. We again employ simple logic and discover that Peter has proven that Jesus is the Christ.

Acts 2:32. Peter again declares the resurrection of “this Jesus” (“God raised Him up again”) and adds that there are hundreds of witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Therefore, from the clear teaching of the Scriptures, from logic, and from the fact that Jesus has been raised up by God from the dead, this Jesus is the Christ. This concludes the first part of the sermon.

JESUS IS THE LORD

Acts 2:33a. The second, brief part of the sermon (2:33-35) is intended to demonstrate that this Jesus (whom you crucified) is the Lord, that is, He is God. Peter makes two declarations in Acts 2:33 that we will address separately. First, he declares that this Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God. We know that, when God raised Him up again, He seated Jesus at His right hand (Mark 16:19; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3). So, now Jesus is at God’s right hand. Hold that thought until we consider 2:34.

Acts 2:33b. Peter also declares that Jesus is the one who “poured forth” the promised Holy Spirit. Now, to understand what Peter is doing, we need to look back in Acts 2 to the quote from Joel 2:28-32a in Acts 2:17-21. There we read (Acts 2:17) “THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND.” But we need to know who is speaking in Joel 2:28, 29/Acts 2:17, 18. Who is it that will “pour forth His Spirit?” To answer that question, we need only look back one verse to Joel 2:27, where we read, “I am the LORD your God, And there is no other.” The LORD your God is the one speaking in Acts 2:17, 18 and so “the LORD your God is the one who will “pour forth His Spirit.” But notice that Peter has declared that Jesus has poured forth the promised Holy Spirit. So, from the prophet Joel we can conclude that Jesus is the Lord.

Acts 2:34. Here, the apostle Peter first establishes that Jesus, not David, ascended into heaven, and then Peter quotes Psalm 110:1.

The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’

The main point to notice in this passage is that, according to Psalm 110:1, the Lord is seated at the LORD’s right hand. But wait! Peter has already demonstrated, in 2:33a, that Jesus is at God’s right hand. What do we conclude? Again, we must conclude that Jesus is the Lord.

Acts 2:35. Peter simply finishes the rest of Psalm 110:1. He has made his second point, that Jesus is Lord, and so will conclude his message.

CLOSING

Acts 2:36. With this verse, Peter will put the final nail in the coffin. He has demonstrated from Scripture that this Jesus is the Christ (2:24-32). He has proven from Scripture that this Jesus is the Lord (2:33-35). Now Peter delivers all the guilt of crucifying the Messiah onto the heads of all the house of Israel as he proclaims, “This Jesus whom you crucified is both Lord and Christ!”

CONCLUSION

What we have discovered in this two-part series is that the apostle Peter, an untrained fisherman from Galilee, has, by the power of the Holy Spirit, masterfully proven from two Davidic psalms, Psalm 16 and Psalm 110, that Jesus the Nazarene is, in fact, the Lord of the universe and the promised Messiah, the Christ.

SDG                 rmb                 11/18/2022                 #588

“Did Adam have a belly button?”

POST OVERVIEW. How to turn a silly question into an opportunity for extolling the glories of our crucified Savior.

Imagine you are trying to engage someone in a meaningful spiritual conversation, either for the purpose of introducing them to the gospel or because you wish to help them go deeper in their walk with Christ or simply because you are hungry for some spiritual meat in a cultural sea of baby food and pork rinds. Just as you attempt to turn the discussion Christ-ward, the other person asks, with a smirk on their face, “What do you think? Did Adam have a belly button?” The question is intentionally silly and irreverent, a meaningless query of utter insignificance, and your irritation burns. But before you turn and walk away, realize that the conversation does not need to end here. Your friend has brought up Adam’s belly button.

LET’S TALK ABOUT ADAM

“You bring up an interesting question. I am assuming you are referring to the first man, who was created by God, right?” Maybe. “Well, that means that you think that Adam really existed, and that God created him.” Hmmm. “And while the Bible gives no information about Adam’s belly button, either pro or con, the Bible is very clear that the second Adam, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, definitely had a belly button.” And now the direction of the conversation has changed for the better.

The Bible teaches that our Savior, Jesus, was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4) in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), in the same way that all of Adam’s fallen posterity were born. Jesus, the second Adam, was given a body with flesh and blood so that His flesh could be broken and His blood could be shed. He was given a physical body so that He, the eternal Son of God, could die as a sacrifice for sin. [ASIDE: Consider the “dilemma” confronting God before Jesus’ incarnation. The Law demanded a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin but, because of the magnitude of the sin that needed to be forgiven, only the death of God would be sufficient to pay for the sins of God’s people. But how would it be possible for God, who lives eternally and can never die, to die for His people? The gospel declares that Jesus, God the Son, was given a physical flesh and blood body that could die (see Hebrews 2:14-15) so that He could lay His physical life down (John 10:11-18) as a sacrifice for the sins of His people. END ASIDE]

Adam left this world fundamentally different from the world that he entered. Adam rebelled against God and so brought sin and death into the world. Adam’s sin ruined God’s perfect creation and brought all mankind into a state of sin, ushering the seeds of chaos and rebellion and destruction into the whole creation. This was the work of the first Adam.

Jesus, the second Adam, also left the world fundamentally different from the world that He entered. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the entire Law by His active obedience of all the Law’s demands and commandments. Thus, Jesus vanquished sin by His obedience (He never sinned) and by His sacrificial death on the cross (He atoned for the sins of His people by His own blood sacrifice). Jesus also conquered death when He was raised from the dead, never to die again (Romans 6:9). Jesus’ resurrection guaranteed that the groaning creation will one day be redeemed into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21.)

The atonement of all the sins of all His people. The promise to all His people of a future resurrection. The redemption of the whole fallen creation. The fulfillment of the Law so that His perfect righteousness is imputed to all His people. This was the work of the second Adam.

A comparison of the work of Adam with the work of the second Adam, Jesus, is presented below. Paul’s inspired comparison is contained in Romans 5:12-21.

First AdamSecond Adam (Jesus)
• Rebelled against the one command he received in paradise.• Perfectly obeyed all the commandments of the Law.
•  Brought sin and condemnation into the world.•  Atoned for the sins of His people and removed condemnation.
•  Brought death into the world.•  Vanquished death for all His people.
•  Ruined man’s fellowship with God by his sin.•  Reconciled man with God by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20).

So when a spiritual conversation turns to the question of belly buttons, let’s use it as an opportunity to extol the glories of our crucified Savior and the work He accomplished. He is the One who willingly left the praises of myriads of angels (Rev. 5:11) to receive a human body, with a belly button, so that He could be crucified for the sins of His people.

SDG                 rmb                 9/14/2022                   #572