The Gospel, Short and Sweet.


“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18)

Three verses before this one is a verse that is quoted often. I have seen it in print and heard it quoted or read several times just in the last two or three weeks.

“always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”
(1 Peter 3:15)

I submit that the challenge of verse 15 is clearly answered in verse 18. What do you give as a defense for the hope that is in you? Here it is! The good news about what Jesus has done for sinners!

What a power packed few words is packed into this verse of Scripture!

The anointed one, the Messiah the Jews hoped for, the one prophesied that would come to save his people from their sins, the one announced by angels and called “God with us”, the one of whom John the Baptist preached saying “The kingdom of God is near!”, This One has come to bring sinners to God.

Jesus suffered “once” for “sins“. Never again would a daily offering be needed. When Christ cried from the cross the word meaning “It is finished” it was indeed finished. He had paid the awful price for my sins and yours. The indictment of sin blankets all of humanity, me and you and every man and woman. But that he died “for sins” means then that he died for everyone, because “ALL have sinned” and miss the mark of God’s righteousness. Now that is good news!

He was “the righteous for the unrighteous” in his suffering and dying. This is called in the seminary class room “penal substitution”. Jesus died “for” me and you, he died in our place. It should have been me and it should have been you. The “wages of sin is death” but Jesus died the death, the “righteous for the unrighteous”, “for sins”. Jesus paid your tab to an offended and angry God who hates sin! That is good news!

He suffered the beatings, mocking, being spit upon, having beard pulled out, and being nailed to a cross as a common criminal in shame outside the city “to bring us to God!” In our sinful condition we were apart from God with no way to get to Him. Separated from the Creator with no means to bridge the gap and our certain end was the wrath of God! But Jesus died for us, in our place, “to bring us to God”. That was his only purpose. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself”. This was his eternal plan, the just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous, and by that one sacrifice we are reconciled to God, brought back to God. That is good news!

Jesus suffered and was put to death, but he didn’t stay dead. He was “made alive in the Spirit“. Just as promised, after three days he came out of the tomb in a glorified body perfectly fit for heaven or earth. We are promised immortality and a body like his. The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will give me a body like his because he died in my place, for my sins, and brought me to God!. That is good news!

When someone asks “What about this church thing? Why are you a Christian?” Here it is. It is the “Gospel”, it is the “good news” that Jesus has solved every mans two greatest problems, sin and death. Jesus has taken sin away forever and defeated death so we can be with God, sinless, forever!

Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel (good news about Jesus), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16,17)

Here is the gracious offer, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. You can’t be good enough, we have already established that, (He was righteous, we were unrighteous). Your salvation is finished, the debt has been paid, do you believe God’s record about His Son? Then receive the gift!

Do a U Turn, change your mind about the course of your life and turn toward Christ, He is waiting for you. If you depend on Him to do what the gospel promises He will enable you to live a changed life, go public for Him by telling others and by reenacting His death, burial, and resurrection in the waters of baptism. It is the formal and symbolic way of going public for Christ. You are saying I am dying to my old way of life and I am being raised a new man who lives a life of love and service to Christ.

Perhaps you have long been a church member, maybe a preacher or teacher, but something has been missing. Have you ever put your whole trust in Jesus Christ? If not, I hope you will now. He will not always wait.

Agape’

Royce

Indwelt and Empowered by the Holy Spirit


Among our churches of Christ there is lively, and decades old debate, concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Some deny He is a person, others deny that He indwells Christians, and still others disagree about the extent of His work in the life of a modern day believer.

This post is not an attempt to fix any of this, but is an attempt to encourage us to carefully look at what the Bible actually says. There are some statements by Peter in the book of Acts that raise some questions that we should at least acknowledge and I believe they beg for an answer.

The Holy Spirit indwells Christians

For those of us who do believe that the Holy Spirit indwells believers today there is broad agreement that He comes to be “in” us at the point of our conversion. Jesus said of Him,

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers ofliving water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit,whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16,17)

Jesus gives this comforting promise of the Spirit’s presence “in” His followers and then even indicates that the Holy Spirit is actually Him indwelling them. He continues by saying to them,

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

Paul confirms this idea in Colossians 1:27 using the phrase “Christ in you”. There are many other passages that make it very clear that the Holy Spirit resides “in” believers.

Does the Holy Spirit come to the believer when he is baptized?

Of those in churches of Christ who believe in the indwelling of the Spirit, the answer to this question is a resounding YES! Peter’s words in Acts 2 were,

“Repent and be baptized every one of youin the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38,39)

It is this passage that ties the reception of the Holy Spirit to the point of one’s baptism. How could it be more clear? It is after all Peter’s own words! But, there is a problem, this is not all Peter had to say on the subject.

Peter has more to say…

Peter has preached the good news to a Gentile audience in obedience to God’s command and they believed, received the Holy Spirit and were then baptized. (Acts 10) The order was not what we would expect if we take the Acts 2 verses at face value. Peter said of those new believers,

“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:47,48b)

“As we have…”? That is what he asked. In the next chapter Peter visits the Jewish brothers in Jerusalem and defends baptizing Gentiles. I encourage you to read the whole chapter but this part of Peter’s defense is striking.

“If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)

Now according to Peter’s words the receiving of the Holy Spirit is tied to “believing”, not baptism. In fact, just before the Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit when they believed, and before they were baptized Peter made this statement.

“And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he (Jesus) is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:42,43)

How do we reconcile Peter’s clear statements? He received the Holy Spirit when he believed just as the Gentiles did when they believed. How does this mesh with the traditional teaching of coc brothers about when one receives the Holy Spirit, and further at what point is one saved?

The question then is when did Peter believe?

  • Did Peter believe at the moment he was baptized? This would have to be the correct answer if we believe it is only at the moment of immersion that the Holy Spirit is given. But, this is not a logical conclusion. The only reason a person would want to be baptized is because they already believe, not to believe. We are right I believe to assume Peter was baptized but we have no record of it.
  • Did Peter believe when he saw the resurrected Christ? I believe it was only after Peter and the others saw for themselves that Jesus had been raised from the dead that they truly put their trust in him. After they witnessed the risen Lord there was never again any of the doubting and fear that characterized them up to that point.

In the passages in John chapters 7 and 14 Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come to be “in” believers when he was “glorified” (John 7:39) later in John’s gospel we can read when that event took place. Jesus had been crucified, he has been buried, and now he is clearly alive. On the evening of the day he rose from the dead he appeared to the disciples in a room with the doors closed. The disciples certainly were expressing unbelief and fear. Here is John’s account.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:19-22)

It was when they saw his hands and his side that their fears vanished and their faith was firm. Thomas was absent at the event and only after he too had seen the evidence did he believe.

I can’t think of any reason, any evidence from the scriptures, that should make me doubt that the disciples received the Holy Spirit on that exact moment. Was Jesus speaking in vain? Hardly! Peter’s defense to the elders about baptizing the Gentiles was that they had received the Spirit just as he did when he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

What about Pentecost?

Again I’ll use Jesus and Peter as expert witnesses. Jesus said of Pentecost, in fact his very last words before his ascension,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Pentecost was not about people being first indwelt by the Spirit but rather it was about Holy Spirit empowered witness. (Luke 24:49) Peter said this in his address right after this power had fallen upon them.

“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons andyour daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:16-21)

It takes this sort of Holy Spirit power and authority to snatch men and women from the clutches of the evil one. Remember when Jesus gave the marching orders to the disciples? “I have all power (authority) in heaven and in earth, therefore go….” (Matthew 28:18)  The purpose was to receive Holy Spirit power. (Luke 24:49)

This Pentecost power was not a one time event never to be repeated. We can read later in the Acts that they were again and again filled with the Spirit for power to witness to the claims of Jesus.

You and I are too commanded to be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)  We too need his power to present the claims of Christ to hopeless and helpless sinners. If we humans know how to give good things to our children how much more does our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit’s power for witness to those who ask and keep on asking him? In Acts 4:31 when the Apostles needed a fresh anointing of Holy Spirit power they prayed for it just like they did earlier in Acts.

God’s work must be done by God’s power. That is Jesus’ plan, not mine. Every person who puts his trust in Jesus is indwelt and those who want to win the lost to Christ need the filling of Spirit as well.

What about water baptism?

The Bible pattern for water baptism is perhaps best illustrated by the man from Ethiopia. After Phillip had preached Christ to him he requested to be baptized. Phillip replied “If you believe with all your heart you may…” Water baptism in the Bible is always believers baptism and is almost always immediately after one has professed faith in Christ. The act alone neither saves or imparts the Holy Spirit but is the God designed gospel symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It is one moment in the life of a person when they are completely surrendered to another, “self” is not in control. Baptism in the public identification of a person with Christ and Christ’s people.

I can’t find any account in the Bible of Christians who rejected baptism. Rather they at once hurried to be immersed. They knew it was their coming out for Christ, that it would separate them from the word at large and set them apart them as God’s own.

There is no Bible precedent that I can find for baptizing anyone who did not in public,  acknowledge his faith in Jesus Christ. Sinners are not candidates for baptism, believers are. And, the clear teaching is that those who trust Christ are saved. This view agrees with Peter’s statements although it goes against our traditional view.

I repeat often that I might be wrong, I am not infallible. But, I might be right too. What do you think?

Agape’,

Royce


“GOSPEL” Up close and personal


I am a Church of Christ guy and in our tradition the word “gospel” is heard often. The context in part is “gospel preacher”, an often used term on a preacher’s resume’, many of our churches have annual “gospel meetings”, and perhaps one of the most heard in our circle of friends is “obey the gospel”, meaning responding to the gospel by being baptized.

In my reader I have perhaps two dozen blogs and other sites and I read all of them from time to time and more. And, I often comment and read comments on some of my favorite blogs.

It has become more and more apparent to me recently that at least some of those who write blog posts and make comments do not know what the “gospel” of Christ is and, or, what it means for us today. (I claim only to be an expert on my own opinion. I am a flawed individual prone to mistakes. I insist that you should check very carefully what I say before you believe it.) The purpose of this post is to lay out what I believe are some important truths concerning the “gospel” that seemingly are routinely overlooked.

One of the most concise statements about the gospel and it’s importance is the familiar passage in 1 Corinthians 15.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)

These inspired words written by the Apostle Paul are a snapshot of the gospel. It’s like one of those professional pictures you might see in a magazine of a beautiful cake or pie. It is wonderful to behold but what are the ingredients?

Unfortunately many of our friends seem unconcerned with the “ingredients” of the “gospel”. The above passage is not just a set of facts to be acknowledged. It is rather God’s redemptive story crammed into two verses. While it is factual and historical, it is far more.

Right away we learn an important truth, one completely missed by many of our friends, that is, Nothing is more important than the gospel of Jesus Christ! I cannot over emphasize this. Every subject, every work,  and every program of every church must take a back seat to the good news about Jesus! It is FIRST! There can be only one thing first and Paul says the gospel is it!

In the next post let’s see what the ingredients are, one at a time.

Agape’

Royce

Choose Life


“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Jesus Christ died for sinners in that he took their sins upon him and paid for them by suffering God’s wrath and dying on a cross by bloodshed. He was the sacrificial lamb offered to God for the sins of the world, (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”).  His perfect life lived fulfilling the law by perfect obedience and his substitutionary and sacrificial death were authenticated by his resurrection from the dead.

Jesus fully satisfied God’s demand for perfect obedience, for a holy life, one with no sin. He took the punishment for sin by giving his own sinless life to suffer and die under the penalty of sin and for sin. His resurrection defeated our common enemy death, and his life is now our life, we can live forever because he lives.

Because of what Christ has already accomplished  God can declare a wicked sinner “just” and not violate his justice, his holiness, or compromise his hatred of sin. Those who trust Christ and what he has done on their behalf have eternal life and forgiveness of sins, now, and a promised future with Christ after their days on earth are done.

This is the very good news!

Doing right, being right, acting right saying the right things, belonging to the right church, being born in the right family, having the right heritage and a million other things cannot do for you what Christ alone can do. Church attendance, holy communion, baptism, confirmation, confession, and every other ritual are meaningless unless in back of them and supporting them is a personal trust in Jesus Christ and his work for sinners like us.

Have you, or will you, turn from your own way to living Christ’s way? Are you depending on Jesus and him alone to forgive you and give you eternal life? If so you should tell a friend who is a Christian, or a minister, the local pastor, or chaplain that you want to follow Christ. You should be baptized at once by immersion reenacting  Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection and by doing so you will be saying to a watching world “I am dying to myself and my ways and I am going to live for Christ in the new life he has given me”. You should join yourself with a group of people who love Jesus and want to do his will and who can help you grow in grace and in knowing Jesus even more.

If you do not trust Christ you are rejecting him and the sentence is death.

“the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)

You have before you a life or death choice. You can accept the gift of eternal life or reap the wages of sin and die, it is your choice. I hope you have or will choose life.

for Jesus,

Royce