Excerpts from Ephesus – Part 3

Making Known the Mystery of His Will

Ephesians 1:8-12

Ephesians 1:8-12 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

Introduction

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus a most glorious letter. The letter is filled with hope and promise as he carefully lays out the importance of God in the lives of the brethren. In the first chapter he lets us in on a profound truth for Christians;

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Paul introduces them to how “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

In verses 4-6 we were introduced to the blessings of the Father: He Chose us (v. 4), He Adopted us (v. 5) and He Accepted us (v. 6). Beginning in the seventh verse, we see the blessings from God the Son. In verse 7 we found that Jesus redeemed us.

In this passage today, we will continue to see the Blessings in Heavenly Places from God the Son as Jesus reveals God’s will to us.

Ephesians 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

In the previous verse we found that “we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of sins”. And all this is according to the “riches of his grace.” Now add “he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” Spiritual blessings heaped upon spiritual blessings from God’s grace to those who trust in Christ.

Notice the word abounded, it means “in excess; more than enough to spare.” God does not give wisdom and prudence in moderation to His children. God will give in abundance to those that love God and keep His commandments.

Wisdom means full of intelligence and carries the idea of acting wisely. It can also mean insight. So another of the spiritual blessings is to have insight into God and then to act wisely concerning His will in your life.

Prudence means to have understanding; to think clearly, a capacity for understanding.

So God liberally gives, through the riches of His grace, wisdom and understanding to believers in His only Begotten Son, Jesus the Anointed One!

Ephesians 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

As a young boy I didn’t like to read very much. I would just as soon be playing baseball with all my friends. This condition existed until my first deployment on a ship in the Coast Guard. Life aboard a ship is one of work and then utter boredom. After the work was done, there wasn’t much of anything to do. I noticed that many of my shipmates were filling the down time with reading. So I found a book in the “loaner library” and I found that I liked to read and that I really enjoyed mysteries. I liked the “who done its.”

Paul uses the word “mystery” in this verse, but it carries a different definition than a “who done it.” Mystery used in Scripture is defined a “sacred secret, which was once hidden but is now revealed.” In this case it is a sacred secret revealed only to God’s people.

There are two elements which always enter into a New Testament mystery: (1) It cannot be discovered by human agencies, for it is always a revelation from God; and (2) it is revealed at the proper time and not concealed, and enough is revealed to establish the fact without all the details being disclosed.[1]

The Apostle Paul says that the “sacred secret” of God’s will is now revealed to Believers. And God let us in on this secret by His own good pleasure.

How Great Is Our God! Say it with me, “How Great Is Our God!”

Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

We really need to understand two terms that Paul uses in this verse; that is the word “dispensation” and “fullness of times”. Dispensation is a term that means “the law or management of a household.” Theologically it means “the method in which God carries out His purposes towards men.” Paul’s use of the word in this verse means the “commission to preach the Gospel.”

Now God has never had but one method of saving folk; everything rests upon one method of salvation. The approach and the man under the system have been different, however. For example, Abel offered a lamb to God, and so did Abraham. The Old Testament priests offered lambs to God. God had said that was the right way. But I hope you didn’t bring a lamb to church last Sunday! That is not the way God tells us to approach Him today. We are under a different economy.[2]

“Fullness of times” means a point in time. It is time for the plan which God had previously hidden to be revealed to believers through Christ. In this case, it is time to reveal God’s redemptive plan for mankind. The clock of God, if I can use that term since God is beyond time, is moving forward to the event when God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah, will return to the earth and rule as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. (Revelation 5:5)

Philippians 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

When my two sons, Sean and Rob, were teenagers and Michelle, my daughter, was just on the edge, I would have to begin the “countdown” on Sunday mornings so they would know that it was time to leave for church. I would begin by shouting “fifteen minutes kids before it is time to leave.” They knew that meant that I would be backing the car out of the driveway on our way to church in fifteen minutes. Soon I would follow-up with “ten minutes kids, all you have is ten minutes.” I called out “five minutes” and finally “I am walking out the door.” It was at this point that I would go to the car, sit and simmer! You see I was the only one on my time. Everyone else was on their own time schedule. Eventually all would get into the car and we were on our way, tying ties, pulling out curlers and applying makeup.

Jesus is coming back one day. The “fullness of time” is at hand. God has already shouted “fifteen minutes world, you have fifteen minutes.” Scripturally there isn’t another event in the prophecy concerning Jesus return that has to be accomplished.

Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Here is a wonderful truth. Christians have obtained an inheritance! God is giving us something we do not deserve. And this is all being done as per God’s will for those that love Him and believe on His Son. God knew this from the foundation of the worlds and he predestinated, it was all part of His Plan of Salvation.

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

All of the Scriptures are coming “in focus” since the birth of the Messiah. The Gospel message includes the birth, death and the resurrection of the Messiah, Immanuel, Jesus the Savior of man.

Ephesians 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

All of the blessings that come from the Father and the Son are given to those “who first trusted in Christ.

Conclusion

Let us review “all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

  • God chose us to be holy and without blame (v. 4)
  • God predestined us to be adopted children by Jesus Christ (v.5)
  • God accepted us (v. 6)
  • Jesus redeemed us (v.7a)
  • God forgave us our sins (v. 7b)
  • God revealed His will to us (vv. 8-10)
  • God has made us an inheritance (vv. 11-12)

 

 

 

[1] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 222). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 223). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Excerpts from Ephesus – Part 2

Introduction

The Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the church at Ephesus

With very little argument, the Book of Ephesians is attributed to the Apostle Paul. Paul’s ministry to the church at Ephesus is found in the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts 18:18-21; 19:2-41; 20:17-35)
Paul wrote this letter from his Roman prison cell, somewhere around 60-63 A.D. (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). Paul arrive in Rome in the spring of 60 A.D. and was placed under house arrest for approximately 2 years (Acts 28:30). Paul wrote his “Prison Epistles” somewhere between 60-62 A.D. or 61-63 A. D. The Prison Epistles were written to the churches at Ephesus, Philippi, Colossi and to Philemon.
There is a lot of similarity in the letters sent to Ephesus and Colossi, which would leave us to understand that they were probably written about the same time. In Colossians 4:16, Paul mentions another letter that was in circulation among the church of the Laodiceans, which he called the “Epistle from Laodicea.” Paul intended for all his letters to be “circular” in nature. That is that the letter would be circulated to believers everywhere.
Albert Barnes writes:
In 1 Thessalonians 5:27, the apostle also charges those to whom that epistle was addressed to see that it be “read unto all the holy brethren.” It is evident that the apostles designed that the letters which they addressed to the churches should be read also by others, and should become the permanent source of instruction to the friends of Christ.1
This epistle is chocked full of doctrine. It is apparent to me that Paul, knowing that his end was near, wanted to teach as much as he could to each of the churches. In that teaching he reveals God’s purpose through creation and His Son for the church. He encourages the brethren to unity and the hope that lays before them, eternal life.

Ephesus

Ephesus was an important port city in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). The city had its roots. Due to its location on the root of the main highways of Asia minor in its natural, safe harbor. The surrounding land, rich in fertile, was excellent supply of fruits and vegetables to support the city and its growth.
However, the harbor became unusable in the middle of the first century, filling up with silt. However, the trade route had become so successful because of the religions of Diana and Artemis. Temples were erected in the city found new life as their worshipers made pilgrimages, if using much-needed revenue into the city.
Silversmiths brought a whole new industry to the city with idols made for Diana and Artemis. Prostitution in the temple was another revenue stream.
As harbor continued to be filled with silt, shipping found a nearby harbor at the port of Smyrna. As more and more of the shipping revenue is lost to Smyrna, the only income was from the temple rites and associated services. The city eventually died out.

The Church at Ephesus.

Apollos, was the pastor of the church, and Paul visited he found 12 believers. Apollo’s was inexperienced and somewhat misinformed concerning the Holy Spirit. Paul spent three months in Ephesus, teaching the church, and preaching in the synagogues. Because of the opposition, Paul moved the church to the house of Tyrannus. Paul spent the next two years, preaching and teaching the young church. (Acts 19:1-9). The church took on the role of the missions throughout Asia (acts 19:20).
Many miracles were performed in Ephesus, and many believed. The church grew mightily even in the face of the city filled with people of superstition, magic, and a desire for the sensual. It was in this city of immoral and pagan practices that the gospel was preached. People were saved. The church grew. The believer respected fellowship, the Lord supper, and baptism.
Even though the church grew and send out missionaries throughout Asia, they soon followed in the trend of the city, and the church declined as they left the teaching of the apostle Paul and Apollo’s. We see the mention of the church at Ephesus spotlighted in John’s vision of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 2:1-7 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Excerpts from Ephesus, Part 1

This is the first “excerpt” from a commentary that I have written titled: “Ephesians: Preparing the Believer for Spiritual Warfare.”I am always in awe of the writers of the Bible. To put pen to papyrus, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to tell the story of God to man, is most wonderful and exciting.

Next to the Gospels, the epistles of Paul are my favorites. The story of Paul’s conversion, in the book of Acts, is so dramatic, it is difficult to fathom. From a hunter for the Jewish aristocracy, to an Apostle of Jesus Christ alone is worthy of appreciation, marvel and amazement and movie rights.

This book is the result of Bible study and sermon series given at churches that I have pastored in Texas. I am indebted to those wonderful brothers and sisters who helped to shape this study.

There is so much the Church of the 21st century can use in following the Pauline Epistles; its methods of church organization, discipline, evangelism, doctrine and teachings. It is incumbent upon every believer to read, study and apply this letter, not only to the life of the church, but to our own lives as well.

It is my hope that by revealing sections of the commentary, that you, the reader of this blog, will dig deep into this most wonderful epistle.
Let us harken to the voice of Paul as we begin this study:

Ephesians 1:1-3 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Does God Have Authority in the Life of the Believer?

Using Galatians 1:1-5 as reference, the Apostle Paul gives an example of how the authority of God’s calling on our life should be protected and expressed.

 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  (Galatians 1:1-5 ESV)

From a position of defending his call, the Apostle Paul gets right down to business and begins defending himself in the epistles salutation. He had a lot of ground to cover, and truth be known, so do men that are called of God into the ministry. A person that does not have the call of God to minster the Gospel, would never understand.

Paul declared to those looking to destroy his witness, that his calling and commission as an Apostle came from God and God alone; “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (Galatians 1:1). His apostleship was not voted on by other apostles as was the case with Matthias, but his came from his Damascus Road experience, where Jesus personally called Paul, just as he had called Peter, Andrew, James, John and the others. The only difference was Paul’s calling came from the resurrected Christ.

My personal calling into the ministry, was established and commissioned by God and Him alone. It was His prompting that I heard, not the voice of man. He hand was moving on my life and I made the decision to follow Jesus as a minister. My calling was just as true and sure as the Apostle Paul’s.

Just being around the Apostle Paul convinced believers, that the he was God’s man. The change in Paul was the greatest argument for his calling. Everywhere Paul went, there was no question that the man, who previously was charged by the Jewish leaders to bring Jewish converts of Christ to the Temple for trial, was now in the enemies camp, a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

For me, this is a daily focus of my life; that others would see Jesus in me by the works that Jesus does through me. I should show fruit for people to see and by doing so, they will know that I am a man of God.

Even though Paul was slandered, ridiculed and not trusted, he wept, prayed and cared for them as a true shepherd. God gave him the fertile ground of Galatia in which to work, and Paul pastored his flock. All his flock, the good, the bad and the worst, did not keep him from completing the task that God set before him.

As a pastor, it is heartwarming to see through the eyes of Paul, as he shepherds his flock. His example is a tribute to God’s grace. That is my goal as well; to love the hard to love and those that would persecute, say evil things against me or to falsely accuse me. I want to show the same love that Christ did on the cross as He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is the heart of Christ, and Paul “got it” from the beginning of his ministry. That is a great comfort to me and great examples of shepherding a flock.

Paul never backed away from giving the Gospel of Christ. The cost of his ministry was summed up in his epistle to the church at Corinth:
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:21-28 ESV).

Paul’s example of continuing the course that God had placed before him, no matter what the circumstances, is a great example to me as well. While I have not been imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, cold, hungry or destitute, it is my desire to proclaim to the world the mighty salvation and work of Christ. To this end, Jesus has called me and to this end I will go.

While this blog has concerned the walk of the Apostle and the Pastor, it is also a great comfort to every believer. God has called us to become a “new man” in Christ. No one can take that away. The creator of the universe, cares so much for you that Yahweh sent His Son to die in your place. For the believer, our task is sure:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Does God have authority over your life today?

What did the Apostle Paul believe concerning the Gospel of Grace as the only means of Salvation?

It is very important to understand the history of Paul. In his own words, he describes himself as: “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.” (Acts 22:3-4).

Paul was not just a follower of Judaism; he was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted anyone that was not a devout adherent. This gives Paul great insight into the religion as well as describing his education. He was an enforcer of the Law. And yet now, he fully embraces salvation by grace as the only means of salvation.

Paul was God’s chosen vessel to proclaim grace to humanity and especially to the Gentiles. By his own words, it was by God’s grace that he was chosen for salvation and to be God’s messenger (Galatians 2:9).

Paul’s salvation (Acts 9) is well established by his first missionary journey in which he proclaimed the Gospel and started churches. His message of salvation is only by faith, by the Grace of God becomes the main point in all his writings.

The Apostle Paul, from the outset of the epistle to Galatia, is dealing with the heresy of adding requirements to the Gospel of Grace by faith. There is a great difference in believing that the grace of God is all that is required for salvation and those that would add works to salvation (circumcision in this case).

The Greek word for grace is charis. It is only found 13 times in the Gospels, but over 144 times in Paul’s writing. Paul’s epistles always use grace doctrinally, in connection with the dispensation of Grace.

The Apostle Paul goes so far as to proclaim; “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

Paul never said it was wrong for Jews to be circumcised. He never said that it was wrong to keep the Law or to observe the Jewish festivals. He said that these have nothing to do with salvation. While customs and practices may differ, salvation never differs. There is only one way to be saved and that is by the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Are You a Naomi or Job?

On Sunday nights, our church has been studying the Old Testament book of Ruth. Last night as I was getting ready to leave, a lady in our congregation came up to me and suggested that I compare Ruth 1:21 and Job 1:21. This intrigued me.  After I got home I eagerly looked at both passages.  Wow.

What we see in these two verses are Naomi’s and Job’s response to the events in their lives. In each case, they had experienced great loss, but there is a dramatic difference in how each one perceived those losses.

Naomi lost her husband and two sons, which led to the loss of her living as there was no man to take care of her. She was in a foreign land (Moab) and decided to return to her home of Bethlehem because the famine was now over in Bethlehem.

As she entered her home town, the townsfolk and family happily turned out to meet her. We pick up the narrative in the first chapter.

Ruth 1:20-21 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

As we can see, she is very bitter at her current situation and is convinced that the “Almighty” is against her and brought on all the calamities of life upon her. Naomi is “Naomi centered.” Her view of life is one of hurt, bitterness and depression.

This was fresh on my mind as we just finished the first chapter.  I eagerly turned to the book of Job. In his case we know that God allowed Satan to interfere with Job’s life, up to the point of death. The incidents that took place included 1) his livestock, oxen, sheep, and camels were stolen and those that were watching over them were slain. 2) all of his 10 children died in a horrible accident (Job 1:13-19).

Job 1:20-22 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job did not blame God. He also was hurt, but his outlook on life was God centered. He was in deep mourning at such a loss, but he fell down and worshipped God. In all this he did not charge “God foolishly.”

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you do not get a “free pass” of bad things happening to you in this life on earth.

In Jesus’ great teaching called the Sermon on the Mount, He gave the listeners this truth:

Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Bad situations will happen to us, that is a fact. It is how we respond to them that will show the intent of the heart to those around you. When life crumbles all around you, will you respond like Naomi or Job?

He Is Not Here: For He Is Risen!

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...
First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1 Corinthians 15

Introduction

The early church, persecuted to the point of imprisonment and death should have failed.  The message they carried triggered division.  Their leader was murdered and yet He was resurrected.  Many saw him and heard him speak after He rose from the dead.  The Roman guards were paid off to tell a lie.

And yet, His followers flourished.  Everywhere new churches were forming.  The Gospel Message was getting out.  But how would they identify who they could trust.  They had to have a way of identifying each other and to find safe places to hide and meet.  For a while, Christian homes would display the ixthus (fish symbol, ‘ikh-thoos’) to identify a safe haven.  Jesus calling of fishermen as His first disciples and the idea that spreading the gospel is like catching fish was easy for them to relate.  Inside the sign of the fish would include five Greek letters.  The letters formed “ixoye” is an acronym comprised of the first letter of five Greek words: iota – Jesus, chi – Christ, theta – God, upsilon – Son, and sigma – Savior…Jesus Christ is God’s Son, our Savior.

These five Greek letters became the message that Christians clearly identify with.

A password was also given that would be easy to identify and yet be general enough that the non-believer would not understand.  The pass phrase would be spoken, “He is risen”.  If the other person responded, “He is risen indeed” that would be the authority that they were followers of Jesus the Messiah.

History tells us of statements made that we will always remember.

  • J. F. K’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
  • Do you remember when we were made to memorize the preamble to the Declaration of Independence?
  • I still remember every word of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
  • I remember hearing the scratchy recording of FDR’s words; “a day that will live on in infamy.”
  • In addition, I remember when Linda said she would marry me.  These words are forever etched in my mind.

Today I would like to remind you of some words uttered by an angel to a follower of Jesus at His empty tomb that mankind must never forget.

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6)

In churches all across the world today, the message of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ is celebrated.

This is the Christian High Day.

We remember today that death and the grave could not hold Jesus.  Throughout the early church, the cross was not commemorated as the central theme of the Gospel, the resurrection became the capstone.  All through the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Gospel presentation always included the resurrection as the cornerstone.

Biblical scholar, G. E. Ladd, stated, “The entire New Testament was written from the perspective of the resurrection.  Indeed, the resurrection may be called the major premise of the early Christian faith.”

The Gospels reveal the remarkable events that Jesus said and did during his three and a half years of ministry.  However, the remainder of the New Testament barely mentions these miracles.  The emphasis is on Jesus death and resurrection.  Much of what we consider Christianity and the message of the early church; how to live, how to love, how to defeat sin, and our hope for the future is centered on the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

  • Without the resurrection, Jesus was just a prophet going about doing good.  With the resurrection, Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away our sin.
  • Without the resurrection, many of the prophecies remain unfulfilled.  With the resurrection, only the final chapter remains.
  • Without the resurrection, God’s redemptive plan is without the perfect sacrifice.  With the resurrection, Jesus sits down next to the Father waiting to return to earth to gather in His bride.

References to the Resurrection in Scripture

  • In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul clearly identifies the importance of the resurrection of Jesus.

“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain”…”And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”  (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17)

  • In order to be considered an Apostle, the qualifications included seeing Jesus after His resurrection.  (Acts 1:22)
  • On that great Feast Day of Pentecost, Peter spoke of the resurrection of Jesus.  (Acts 2:31)
  • Peter and John preached the resurrection of Jesus, after which they were arrested.  (Acts 4:1-2)
  • The Apostle Paul preached “Jesus and the resurrection.”  Acts 17:18)
  • The Apostle Paul in writing to the church at Rome declared “Jesus to be the Son of God and His resurrection”.  (Romans 1:4)

The Apostle Paul lays out the importance of the resurrection to the church at Corinth.  He takes great care to give the brethren hope and encouragement to those who are grief-stricken.  Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies.  With the resurrection, Jesus conquered death.

The Bible speaks of resurrection in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Resurrections of the Bible

Old Testament

Elijah raises the Widow’s son                          1 Kin. 17:17–22

Elisha raises the Shunammite’s son                   2 Kin. 4:32–35

Unnamed man thrown in Elisha’s grave         2 Kin. 13:20, 21

New Testament

Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter                                Matt. 9:23–25

Widow’s only son in Nain                                   Luke 7:11–15

Lazarus of Bethany                                           John 11:43, 44

Many saints                                                       Matt. 27:52, 53

Dorcas                                                                Acts 9:36–40[1]

Paul’s first epistle to the Church at Corinth…

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 ¶ But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

51 ¶ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 ¶ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)

The resurrection of Jesus is the pinnacle of Jesus being God.  Other religions may be ethical, moral, agree that there is an afterlife and even have their own scriptures.  But Christianity stands alone because God became flesh and dwelt among us.  Jesus died for His people and He was raised from the dead in power and glory.

You may be saying, “Preacher why are you so focused on the resurrection?”  Well let me give you some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is so important.

  • The resurrection proclaims the deity of Christ (Romans 1:4)
  • The resurrection turns the tragedy of the murder of Jesus into the triumph of God’s redeeming power.
  • When Jesus was raised from the dead, the world now faces redemption instead of ruin.
  • When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death and therefore His Bride will conquer death as well.
  • When Jesus rose from the dead we know that He will keep all the promises recorded in Scripture.
  • When Jesus rose from the grave that early Sunday morning, the Church was given a message to proclaim to the world.  The Apostles preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead!
  • The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope in times of great tragedy and hope for the future.
  • The resurrection of Jesus assures us that Jesus is on the throne, sitting on the right hand of God.
  • The same power that resurrected Jesus will one day bring our mortal bodies to life. (1      Corinthians 15:12–19).
  • After the resurrection Jesus has been preparing a mansion for me (John 14:1-6)

In Christian denominations, we can look different, worship differently, and even have differing views on politics, how to live our lives and varying theologies.  But the one point that is true of all Christians today is:  Jesus rose from the dead.

Conclusion

The resurrection celebration of Easter invites all to believe that Jesus is the Son of God!

The decision is yours.  The gift has been laid before you.  Will you accept it?


[1] Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s quick reference topical Bible index. Nelson’s Quick reference (530–531). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Let Freedom Ring

Normandy Liberty Bell
Image by dbking via Flickr

On Monday we celebrated the 4th of July for the two hundred and thirty-fifth time.  This holiday is celebrated in towns and  cities all across America with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks and concerts.  It is on this date that the United States commemorates Independence Day.
It is a federal holiday, celebrating the writing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring our desire for independence from Great Britain signed on July 4, 1776.

John Quincy Adams is quoted as saying, “You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you make good use of it.”

Have you ever taken your freedom for granted?  The greatest sacrifice is one laying down his life for another.  We should remember the importance of Independence Day as a struggling group of people were united into a nation as they declared their Independence from Great Britain.

Our freedom has been purchased by the blood that has been shed by the men and women who have defended our country, some paying the greatest price with their own lives.

Today’s military is manned by some of the most interesting people.  They love the US so much that they will leave it and go to foreign lands to defend it.  They revere freedom so much that they will give up their own freedoms and serve this nation in the military.  And finally they love peace so much that they will go to war in order to have peace.

As citizens of the United States of America, we have a responsibility to be thankful to those who have served our great Nation.

However, we will never truly have freedom until we accept Jesus into our lives.  Jesus declares freedom for mankind in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John.  “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:31-32, 36.  Little did those within hearing distance of Jesus realize that their freedom would cost Jesus His life.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy and explained what Jesus did for mankind; “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

Just as the military man will lay down his life for the defense of freedom for our nation, about two thousand years ago, Jesus was the ultimate example when he willingly gave up his life for mankind.

As you remember and celebrate Independence Day, remember those who gave so that this nation is still free today.  Also be thankful to God for sending His Son as a “ransom for all.”