Consecrated by the Father

. 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. – John 10:31-39 ESV

At the core of the biblical doctrine of sanctification is the idea of something or someone being set apart. As we have seen, the Hebrew word typically translated as sanctified or consecrated in the Old Testament is qadash. The New Testament Greek equivalent is the word, hagiazō , which means “to separate from profane things and dedicate to God” (“G37 – hagiazō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It could also mean “to render or declare sacred or holy.” The root word from which it is derived was used to refer to that which was set apart or separated as being “holy.”

Grasping this idea of separation to God is essential if we are to understand the concept of sanctification and its role in the life of the believer. When something, such as the utensils used in the tabernacle or temple, were set apart or sanctified as belonging to God and for His use only, they were deemed off limits for any other use.

On the day when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle and had anointed and consecrated it with all its furnishings and had anointed and consecrated the altar with all its utensils, the chiefs of Israel, heads of their fathers’ houses, who were the chiefs of the tribes, who were over those who were listed, approached – Numbers 7:1-2 ESV

The laver used in the temple could not be used by the priests for personal use. If they were to do so, they would end up profaning what God had deemed holy. While the laver remained ordinary and common in its essence, its status as being sanctified by God for His glory made it totally unique and  extraordinary.

And yet, the Scriptures reveal that the people of Israel failed to keep holy that which God had set apart as holy, including themselves.

Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. – Ezekiel 22:26 ESV

When God set apart something as His own, He intended for it to remain that way. He expected His people to maintain the holiness of His Sabbath, the tabernacle, its utensils and furniture, and their own lives. All of it had been sanctified as His and the Israelites were expected to honor and respect the divine ownership and accompanying sacredness as God’s possessions. Even the great king, David wrote: “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself…” (Psalm 4:3 ESV).

But the track record of the Israelites as recorded in the Old Testament is not a stellar one. Theirs is a history marked by failure to remain set apart unto God. And the story of the New Testament is that of God entering the darkness caused by the disobedience of His children, by sending His Son as the light of the world.

With the closing chapter of the Old Testament book of Malachi, there is a more than 400-year gap until we read the opening words of John’s Gospel.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5 ESV

The light penetrated the darkness. But John goes on to say that, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11 ESV). The people of God, who had been set apart by Him for His use, were living in spiritual darkness. And their spiritual eyes were blinded to the reality of who Jesus was and what He had come to do.

And later on in his Gospel, John records an encounter that took place between Jesus and the Jewish residence of Jerusalem. He had come to town for the Feast of Dedication and was walking in the section of the temple known as Solomon’s Portico. John reveals that there was much debate among the Jews regarding who Jesus was. Some saw Him as a miracle worker sent from God, while others viewed those very same miracles as demonic in nature. In an attempt to clarify His identity, the Jews approached Jesus and said, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24 ESV). And Jesus responded:

“I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” – John 10:25-30 ESV

We know from John’s account that the people were angered by Jesus’ answer because they viewed His claim to be one with the Father as blasphemy. They were so upset that they attempted to stone Him to death. But look closely at what Jesus said to them. Jesus is claiming to have been sent by His Father on a mission with a specific purpose in mind. He was to gather the sheep God had chosen or set apart as His own. Not only had Jesus been set apart for a specific purpose, so had the sheep who would hear His voice and follow Him.

We don’t have to guess at how the words of Jesus impacted by the Jews that day, because John states that “The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” They were incensed. In their minds, Jesus was saying that they were not set apart or holy. And yet, they viewed themselves as the chosen people of God. They were sons and daughters of Abraham. But the problem was, they had not lived as who they claimed to be. Their lives did not reflect the nature of their set-apart status as God’s children.

The only thing the people heard Jesus say was His claim to be one with the Father. To them, this was blasphemy, a crime punishable by death. But Jesus responded to their accusation by stating, “do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:36 ESV). Don’t miss the significance of Jesus’ words. He claims to have been set apart or sanctified by God (hagiazō). They were missing the whole point of Jesus’ God-ordained mission. They were so hung up on His claim to be the Son of God that they missed the mission He had been given and the message He had come to proclaim.

The truly remarkable thing about this passage is that the Son of God was proclaiming His own sanctification by His Father. He had been set apart for a purpose and He had come to faithfully and completely accomplish it. Jesus made it clear that He had come to do the works of His Father, and He challenges the Jews, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:37-38 ESV).

This is a powerful statement and provides much-needed insight into the idea behind sanctification. Jesus had been set apart by God for a specific purpose, and His status as God’s chosen one could be examined and proven by His efforts on God’s behalf. His works bore evidence of His calling. His obedient lifestyle was proof of His status as God’s Son. Jesus didn’t just claim to be the Son of God, He backed it up with visible, tangible evidence. And the same is to be true of each and every child of God. Our lives are to provide tangible proof of our status as God’s possessions. Jesus had been set part by God and His life reflected that calling. And the apostle Paul reminds all the one who has been set apart by God “to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God” (Ephesians 4:1 NLT).

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

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It Is Done.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. Revelation 16:17-21 ESV

199-001On the cross, after having endured the wrath of God against the sins of man, Jesus spoke His final words, “It is finished.” He had been persecuted, ridiculed, rejected, spat upon, and tortured to the point of death. And just before He breathed His last breath, He declared that His work was done. He had completed what He had come to do. With His sacrificial death on the cross, He would make possible the redemption of sinful mankind by providing a means by which they could, through faith in His substitutionary death, have their sins forgiven and their relationship with God the Father restored. The apostle Paul provides us with the unbelievable significance of Christ’s sacrificial act.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. – Romans 5:10 ESV

Just a few verses earlier, Paul stated that “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 ESV). But not every ungodly person accepted the free gift of salvation made possible by God’s grace through Christ’s death. There were many, including the majority of the Jewish population on earth at the time, who refused to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They preferred to remain in their sins. As John writes in his own gospel account: “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19 ESV). The work of Jesus, to make salvation available to all men, was finished on the cross. There was nothing left for Him to do. Except return to the earth one day. And all that John has been and will be shown in the visions recorded in the book of Revelation, are meant to be the preface for Christ’s second coming.

But it is interesting to note the words used to signify this last of the seven bowl judgments. John hears a loud voice coming from the temple in heaven and from the very throne of God. It shouts the three simple words, “It is done!” It is likely that these words came from the mouth of God Himself. He is declaring that the final judgment has come. The end of the tribulation period is getting ready to come to a close. There is more that will happen on earth after the seventh bowl is poured out, but this portion of God’s plan for earth and mankind is complete. Now the Messiah can return and set up His Kingdom on earth. But even more than that, His statement sets up an ever great moment that will take place at the end of the millennial reign of Christ on earth: The arrival of the New Jerusalem. John’s vision of that reality is recorded later in his book, and it envisions the days immediately after the completion of Jesus’ 1,000-year reign, the Great White Throne Judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. John is allowed to see the arrival of the New Jerusalem, as it descends from heaven to earth, and on the throne sits God Almighty, who declares, “I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). And then John hears those three simple words yet again: It is done!

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” – Revelation 21:6-8 ESV

The pouring out of the seventh plague from the seventh and final bowl was not the end, per se, but it represented the completion of one thing and the beginning of another. God was now ready to send His Son back to earth. And this news is accompanied by remarkable signs and wonders:

flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. – Revelation 16:18 ESV

These are all signs of God’s divine judgment. But they also represent His holiness and almighty power. These same signs had all been evident when God descended upon Mount Sinai in the wilderness.

16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. – Exodus 19:16-18 ESV

God was in their midst and it was unmistakable. And now, with the pouring out of the final judgment, it was also clear that God was behind all that was about to happen. This was the work of the almighty, all-powerful God of the universe. And all these fantastic sights and sounds were more than just a divine pyrotechnic show. John immediately sees “the great city” split into three parts. This is most likely a reference to Babylon, which John mentions just a few verses later. Babylon is the poster boy for all cities on earth, representing the age of the Gentiles and man’s rebellion against God. Babylon’s sordid history goes all the way back to the time of the tower of Babel, when mankind refused to obey God’s command to spread across the earth. Instead, they determined to build a high tower and a great city, from which they would create a great nation – all in open rebellion against the will of God.

“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:4 ESV

Their arrogance and pride led to God creating multiple languages, making it impossible for them to communicate with one another. As a result they dispersed and gave up their building project. And yet Babylon would continue to exist as a city, becoming the icon for man’s pride and rebellion against God. And John sees this great city split into three parts, most likely as a result of the great earthquake. “God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath” (Revelation 16:19 ESV). God has a long memory. He doesn’t forget and always remembers to repay those who have stood opposed to Him and His people. But Babylon is not alone. John indicates that “the cities of the nations fell” as well. The age of the Gentiles is coming to an end. The domination of the Gentile nations over Israel is being brought to a close. And Jesus spoke of this very day.

Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. – Luke 21:24 ESV

It is interesting that the seventh bowl is mentioned as being poured out in the air, and yet the results of this judgment all take place on earth. Perhaps this has to do with Satan’s dominion over the air and the earth. Paul described Satan as “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2 ESV). This bowl is poured out in Satan’s domain and impacts the world over which he has been allowed to have dominion. John says that “every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found” (Revelation 16:20 ESV). Evidently, there will be dramatic changes to the topography of the earth. There will be cataclysmic changes to the earth’s crust, causing never-before-seen alterations to the seas and the land. As always, there are those who try to minimize or simply eliminate the literal interpretation of this passage, choosing instead to view this as a symbolic destruction of the political systems of the earth. But there is no reason to doubt that God could not or would not do exactly what John is seeing take place. The very stability of the earth is at the mercy of God Almighty. Nothing will remain as it once was. Mountains and islands will be removed. All that mankind has come to know as reliable and unchangeable, will come to an end.

And then, the 100-pound stones fall from the sky. This devastating and obviously destructive event will leave people cursing God. The death and damage caused by this divine display of God’s power and wrath will be unprecedented. Buildings, animals and people will be destroyed. Everything man has built will succumb to these massive stones falling from the sky. It is interesting to note that stones were used to build the tower of Babel and here, God uses stones to destroy the cities of men. And back in the gospel of Matthew, we have recorded the words that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees.

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” – Matthew 21:42 ESV

And Jesus goes on to tell them, “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him” (Matthew 21:44 ESV). God is bringing His judgment upon the world. He is raining divine destruction upon the earth and all those who live on it. And “the plague was severe.” God will literally stone all those who have blasphemed His holy name. This is the penalty prescribed by God Himself for all those who blaspheme His name.

“Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.” – Leviticus 24:14 ESV

As we will see in the very next chapter, God will begin to deal specifically with the religious and political systems of the earth. He will mete out His divine wrath on the Antichrist and his kingdom, as well as the false prophet and his apostate church. Amazingly, after all the devastation and destruction brought by the seven bowl judgments, mankind will still oppose God. The Antichrist will still maintain his control over the nations of the earth. And the people of earth will still bow down to his image, giving glory to him that was rightfully owed to God alone. But those things are quickly coming to an end. Because, as God has said, “It is done!”

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Believe It or Not.

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Acts 2:14-21 ESV

It should be no surprise to us that, when the time came for the disciples to address the crowd that had gathered, it was Peter who was the first to speak. During the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, it seems that Peter was always the one to open his mouth before engaging his brain. He was impulsive and impetuous, and his tongue used to get him in a lot of trouble. But now that he is filled with the Spirit of God, his words carry weight and significance like never before. This time, he speaks up, led not by his own ego or the need to be noticed, but by the Holy Spirit. And the first thing he addresses is the accusation that he and the 119 other followers of Christ are drunk. Their surprising and inexplicable display of tongues-speaking had left the crowd amazed and bewildered. No one could understand how these unlearned men and women from Galilee were suddenly able to speak in foreign languages. If you think about it, to a bystander, this whole affair would have come across as highly chaotic and confusing. To have heard 120 individuals all speaking in a different language at the same time would have been a bit unnerving. So, there were those in the crowd who simply wrote it off to public intoxication, mockingly saying of the disciples, “They are filled with new wine.”

The first thing that should stand out to us is that there will always be those who mock the things of God. What they don’t understand, they belittle. It was the apostle Paul who said, “when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense” (1 Corinthians 1:23 NLT). The disciples had just visibly and verbally displayed the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and there were those who refused to acknowledge it for what it was: An act of God. Instead, they mocked and ridiculed the disciples, writing off what God had done and labeling it as nothing more than drunkenness. Something very similar had happened to Jesus when He was still with them on the earth and conducting His ministry among them. One day, Jesus addressed a crowd around Him with the following words:

19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. – Matthew 11:19-20 ESV

That day in Jerusalem, the crowds that had gathered outside the upper room had been witnesses to a miracle, a mighty work of God, but rather than recognize it for what it was, they belittled it. They made light of it.

Over in the book of Matthew, there is a scene recorded where Jesus healed a man who was blind, mute and demon-possessed. The passage matter-of-factly states that Jesus healed him and the people were amazed. But there were those in the crowd, specifically the Pharisees, who accused Jesus of healing the man by the power of Beelzebub or Satan.

“It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” – Matthew 12:24 ESV

Jesus addressed the absurdity of their logic, saying, “if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26 ESV). Instead, Jesus suggests that His power to cast of demons and heal was the result of the power of the Spirit of God.

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” – Matthew 12:28 ESV

Then, Jesus made a somewhat cryptic, but powerful statement regarding what these Pharisees unknowingly had done.

31 “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” – Matthew 12:31-32 NLT

Those Pharisees had spoken against the Spirit of God, attributing His divine work to something of someone else, in their case, to Satan. Those in the crowd of people gathered outside the upper room on the day of Pentecost had done the same thing. They had attributed the work of the Spirit of God to drunkenness. And in doing so, they were rejecting the Kingdom of God being displayed in their midst. The disciples had been speaking of the mighty works of God, and there were those who refused to hear what they had to say, but instead, wrote it off to public intoxication.

At one time, during His earthly ministry, Jesus had addressed the heart of the issue going on here..

18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:18-21 ESV

Some in the crowd had asked, “What does this mean?” Others had mocked and accused the disciples of being filled with wine and not the Spirit. And they stood condemned. Not by their words or actions, but by their unbelief.

But under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Peter addressed the naysayers in the crowd, using the Old Testament Scriptures as his proof text. He quoted from the prophet Joel. In doing so, Peter was using the Jewish Scriptures to prove that what they had just witnessed was of God and in fulfillment of the ancient prophecies. What they had heard and seen was a sign of God’s future plans for Israel being fulfilled right in front of their eyes. God had said, “ I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” and that process had just begun. Not “all flesh” had received the Holy Spirit that day, but only the disciples who had been gathered in the upper room. But it was a sign of things to come. As we will see in the rest of the book of Acts, a growing number of individuals would receive the Spirit of God. God was at work. Something new had begun. These were “the last days” as Peter put it, and things were going to be remarkably different than ever before. God had promised, “I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy” and that is exactly what had happened. Luke makes it clear that, when the disciples had spoken in tongues, they were declaring “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11 ESV). Luke doesn’t clarify what that means, but it would not be a reach to assume that part of what they talked about was the death and resurrection of Jesus and His offer of eternal life. They most likely spoke of salvation made possible through His sacrificial death on the cross. If you notice, Peter ended his quotation from the book of Joel with the line: “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21 ESV). That was the focus of his message that day. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the whole agenda of the disciples became focused on the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation. Men and women could be made right with God through faith in His sacrificial death on the cross.

And Peter, by quoting the book of Joel, lets his listeners know that there is more to come in the last days. Not all of Joel’s words were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the various prophecies concerning the last days were set in motion. Peter reminds them that Joel had predicted, “the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes” (Acts 2:20 ESV). This is a prophecy of coming judgment. Jesus will come back some day and, when He does, it will be as judge of the earth. Those in hearing of Peter’s voice needed to understand that they could accept Jesus as their Savior or one day submit to Him as their judge. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, it was the beginning of the end. The last days had begun. And  those in the crowd that day had a choice: They could believe it not.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Sufficiency of Christ.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV

While do not know who the author of the Letter to the Hebrews was, we can almost certainly conclude that his audience was made up primarily of Jewish believers. Throughout the letter, he makes references to facts regarding Judaism, apparently assuming his readers were well-versed in them. He takes little time to explain details regarding the sacrificial system, the office of high priest, the history of Israel, or the identity of the individuals listed in chapter 11, who were primarily Jewish in their ethnic identity. The fact that the author was also addressing Jews whose faith in Christ might be in question is evidenced by his repeated warnings against drifting away, neglecting so great a salvation, having an unbelieving heart and failing to enter in to the rest God has promised. Even in the opening line of his letter, the author tells his readers that, “in these last days he [God] has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2 ESV). He is acting under the understanding that his audience is very familiar with the words of Jesus and the message of the gospel. Interestingly enough, he does not mention the name of Jesus anywhere in this first chapter, but simply refers to Him as God’s Son. That Jesus was inferred and understood by his readers as the one being talked about is quite clear. The original recipients of this letter would have known exactly who was being discussed.

That the writer would delay the mention of Jesus’ name until the ninth verse in chapter two is intriguing. But it would seem that he felt no need to use the name of Jesus, but simply referred to His unique designation as the Son of God. That term would have been very familiar with his Jewish audience and would have brought to mind the very reason for which they had rejected Jesus to begin with. It was Jesus’ claim to be divine, the very Son of God, that led the Jews to accuse Him of blasphemy and to seek His death. At one time Jesus had said, “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27 NLT). These kinds of statements did not endear Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders of His day. In fact, when He was arrested and brought before them on the night He was betrayed, Caiaphas, the high priest, questioned Jesus asking, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:63 NLT). Jesus answered, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64 NLT). And Caiaphas, in shock and horror, responded, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” (Matthew 26:65-66 NLT). And his fellow religious leaders shouted out, “Guilty! He deserves to die!” (Matthew 26:66 NLT).

It was Jesus’ claim of divine Sonship that got Him in trouble – not His miracles, signs and wonders. It was not His teaching that drove the high priest and his cohorts crazy, but His insistence that He was divine. And the writer of Hebrews jumped all over this very fact, claiming that God had “spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2 ESV). He attributes to Jesus the divine role of  creator of the universe. He was and is God. In fact, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT). This man from Nazareth, who was murdered at the hands of the Romans as the insistence of the Jews, was the Son of God. And it was the very fact that He was the Son of God that made His sacrifice on the cross acceptable to His Father. He was without blemish, sinless, making Him the perfect sacrifice and the only acceptable payment for the sins of mankind. And, the writer of Hebrews reminds his readers, “When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. Jesus returned to where He had come from, the very throne room of God. The apostle Paul writes about this very reality in his letter to the Philippians.

When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:7-11 NLT

Over the next chapters, we will see the author go out of his way to insist on the superiority of Christ. He is superior to angels, Moses, and any earthly  high priest or institution. His sacrifice was greater and more effective than anything man could ever hope to accomplish through the sacrifice of bulls and goats. Jesus was and is incomparable. There was nothing in Judaism that could compare. There was no reason for those who had placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior and Messiah, to return to the old covenant of laws and ritualistic rule keeping. Christ was sufficient. The good news was good enough. There was nothing missing and no man-made requirements necessary to complete or compliment what Christ had done on the cross.

Peter reminds us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT). In Christ, we have all we need to for salvation, sanctification and our ultimate glorification. Nothing is missing. Nothing need be added. As the old hymn, Rock of Ages, so aptly puts it, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” Jesus is enough.

Day 129 – Matthew 26:57, 59-68; Mark 14:53, 55-65; Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:24

Guilty As Charged.

Matthew 26:57, 59-68; Mark 14:53, 55-65; Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:24

Jesus replied, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” – Mark 14:62 NLT

When Jesus was finally brought before Caiaphas, the high priest, He found Himself in a room crowded with leading priests, elders and teachers of religious law. Even the high council or Sanhedrin was there. They had pulled out all the big guns for this final showdown with Jesus. There is little doubt that they intended this evening to result in the elimination of Jesus as a threat to their authority and way of life. He had been a thorn in their side for far too long, and now they were going to deal with Him. The only problem was that they needed solid accusations for which to bring this matter before the Roman authorities. They were wanting to have Jesus put to death and they did not have the authority to do so. They were going to have to convince the Roman authorities that Jesus had committed a crime worthy of death. So all these well-educated religious leaders were attempting to find any evidence that they could use against Jesus. But even when they couldn’t find any charges worthy of death, they didn’t let that stop them. They had arranged for a variety of individuals to come and give witness against Jesus, but they all ended up contradicting one another. These people were more than willing to accuse Jesus, probably for the hope of financial gain. Finally, some men stood up and claimed that they heard Jesus say that He was going to destroy the Temple. “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands’” (Mark 14:58 NLT). These men were actually twisting what Jesus had actually said. What Jesus had actually said was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19 NLT). Jesus had made this statement early in His ministry. It took place immediately after He had cleansed the Temple for the first time. The Jewish leaders had confronted Him, asking Him what He thought He was doing and who gave Him the authority to do it. Then they asked Him to give them a miraculous sign to prove His authority. That’s when Jesus made His statement regarding the destruction and raising of the “temple.” They obviously didn’t understand that He was talking about His own death and resurrection. They saw Jesus’ statement as ridiculous, exclaiming, “What! It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuilt it in three days?” (John 2:20 NLT).

So in the minds of those accusing Jesus, His statement came across as the words of an insurrectionist. He had claimed He was going to destroy the Temple – Herod’s Temple. Now they were getting somewhere. This was just the kind of evidence they needed to bring before the Romans. The last thing the Roman authorities would want is someone threatening the peace and security of Jerusalem. But to the obvious disappointment of the religious leaders, even the men who accused Jesus couldn’t get their stories straight. So in frustration, the high priest asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” (Mark 14:60 NLT). But Jesus said nothing. The charges were false and He remained silent. Then the high priest asked Him point blank, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (Mark 14:61 NLT). This was the real issue. When all was said and done, this was the main point of contention between Jesus and the religious leaders. He had claimed to be the Messiah. That was the reason the people followed Him. It was for that reason the people welcomed Him with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna!” when He had arrived in Jerusalem the previous Sunday. He had set Himself up as having been sent by God. Not only that, He had claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus responded to Caiaphas’ question by saying, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62 NLT). His statement brought an immediate reaction from the crowd because they knew exactly what He was saying. He was claiming to be God. His use of the phrase, “I Am” was intentional. It was the very same way God referred to Himself when He spoke to Moses at the burning bush. Moses had asked God what name He should give when the people ask who it was who sent him. God said to tell them, “I Am who I Am” had sent him. Jesus was clearly associating Himself with God. He was using the same language that God had used in order to refer to Himself. On top of that, Jesus claimed that He was going to be sitting at God’s right hand, a place of honor and power, and that He would be returning some day. That was all they needed. Caiaphas tore his clothes in shock. They no longer needed any witnesses. Jesus had committed the unpardonable sin: blasphemy. He had claimed to be God. In reality, it was Jesus’ words that were the problem. Blasphemy was based on injurious or disrespectful words or speech. In their minds, by saying what He said, Jesus had diminished the holiness of God. He had treated God with disrespect and dishonored His “otherness” or set-apartness. By claiming to be God, Jesus had become an offense to God – at least in their minds.

Their immediate response was violent. They began to spit on Him. They blindfolded him and beat Him with their fists. They mocked Him, telling Him to use His “divine” powers to tell them who it was who was hitting Him. The one piece of evidence they needed, Jesus gave them. And all He did was speak the truth. He acknowledged who He was. To do anything other than that would have truly been blasphemy. If Jesus had denied His deity, He would have been an offense to God. So He spoke the truth, and it set in motion everything that was about to happen. Jesus was guilty as charged. Not of blasphemy, but of being the Son of God and the Savior of the world. His crime was being God. And His punishment would be death. But it was for just that purpose He had come. God had come to die on behalf of sinful men. He had come to sacrifice His own life for the lives of all those who deserved death. It was because Jesus was spotless, sinless, and blameless that He was condemned to die. His worthiness was what led to His demise. He was guilty of being God, and nothing else. And it is for that reason that He made a perfect sacrifice. He was guilty as charged and we are innocent because of it.

Father, Your sinless Son was put to death because He was holy, righteous, and fully God. He was killed because He was who He said He was. He died because He was the only one who was undeserving of death. He was innocent, and we were guilty, but He is the one who died. All so that we might have life. What an amazing turn of events. What an incredible plan.  Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 27 – John 5:1-47

The Son of God.

John 5:1-47

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” – John 5:39 NLT

In this passage, Jesus encounters a man who had been sick for 38 years. Every day, this man somehow made his way to the pool of Bethesda, near the wall of the Temple. The waters were thought to hold healing properties and, when they were stirred up, if you could be one of the first to get in the water, you would receive healing. This man’s problem was that, after 38 long years of suffering, he had no hope of ever getting in the water in time. Jesus asked him a question with a very obvious answer. “Would you like to get well?” (John 5:6 NLT). To which the man replied, “I can’t, sir, for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me” (John 5:7 NLT). In response, Jesus tells the man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” (John 5:8 NLT).

And immediately the man is healed and does just as he is told. It was an amazing moment. This man’s life was changed forever. But John reminds of us one small detail in the story. It is the Sabbath. And when the Pharisees see this man “working” on the Sabbath by carrying his mat, they are appalled. And when they find out Jesus told him to do so, they begin to confront Jesus about breaking the Sabbath. But it would be Jesus response to them that would turn their anger into thoughts of murder. Jesus said, “My Father is always working, and so am I” (John 5:17 NLT). Here lies the greatest disconnect between Jesus and the religious leadership of His day. He claimed to be the Son of God, and in so doing, He claimed to be deity. According to their standards, that was blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.

And this is still the disconnect most people have with Jesus today. Most have no problem believing that Jesus lived or that He was a powerful and influential teacher. Many have little or no struggle with the idea of Him doing miracles. But where the problem comes up for most is with the concept of Jesus as the Son of God. This remains a stumbling block for most people today. Even for many church-going, Bible-believing, so-called Christians today. Like the Pharisees, they search the Scriptures, thinking that in them they will find eternal life (John 5:39). In other words, the secret to having a right relationship with God is through discovering His requirement as found in His Word. So they read the Scriptures trying to decipher the rules and requirements God has set out so that they can keep them and make God happy. But Jesus reminds us, “the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life” (John 5:39-40 NLT). Jesus’ miracles were simply to act as proof of who He claimed to be. They were evidence of His deity. The power He displayed came from God and so did He. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that God had given Him the power to provide eternal life to any and all who would believe that He was God’s Son. “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life” (John 5:24 NLT). It was essential that they believe that Jesus was sent from God and was the Son of God. And not only has God given Jesus the life-giving power to provide eternal life to those who would believe He came from God, He has given Him the power to judge all men at the end of the age. With a word from Jesus, all the dead will rise and face judgment – some to face eternal life and some  eternal death. The Pharisees saw the miracles of Jesus. They heard the powerful teachings of Jesus. But they could not handle the claims of Jesus to be God. That was beyond their ability to comprehend or consent to. And as a result, they missed the point. They were so busy trying to work their way to eternal life that they missed the very one who could give them eternal life.

Jesus was and is the Son of God. He is the second person of the Trinity. He was God’s means by which the world might be saved and men might be reconciled to a right relationship with Him. But it is essential that men believe Jesus was who He claimed to be. The miracles and messages of Jesus mean nothing if they do not point us to His deity. The words of Scripture will mean nothing if we do not find within them the message that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to save the world from the judgment of God. Jesus was more than just a man. He was more than just a prophet. He was more than just a faith-healer. He was more than just a teacher. He was the Son of God. Yet Jesus can still say to so many, “For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me” (John 5:43 NLT).

Father, it was Jesus’ claim to deity that became the stumbling block for so many. They couldn’t comprehend it, so they simply rejected it. They couldn’t explain it, so they refused to believe it. But to those who believed through a simple act of faith, He gave eternal life, and I am so grateful to have been included in that number. Thank You. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 24 – Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

We Have Seen Amazing Things!

Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

“And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, ‘We have seen amazing things today!’” – Luke 5:25 NLT

The scene is the village of Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This rural village had become Jesus’ unofficial hometown during the early days of His ministry. Jesus had recently arrived back in town, and His growing reputation had preceded Him. News of His arrival resulted in a crowd showing up at the house where He was staying. They filled the room to the rafters and more people stacked up outside the doors, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Luke tells us, “the Lord’s healing power was strongly on Jesus” (Luke 5:17 NLT). So there were plenty of people crowding into the house in an effort to get a moment with the one who they heard could do miraculous healings.

Outside, watching warily, were the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. A group of them seemed to have been assigned the task of keeping an eye on Jesus, following Him wherever He went. As the crowds gathered, anticipating that something miraculous was going to happen, the Pharisees were looking for evidence to use against Jesus. Two different expectations filled the atmosphere that day. The scene was electric as everyone waited to see what would happen. And they were not to be disappointed. The Gospel writers record an encounter that brought Jesus into contact with a paralyzed man who had been brought to Jesus by his friends. They went to a great deal of effort to arrange this meeting, even removing tiles from the roof of the home in which Jesus sat, and using ropes to lower their friend into the room. What happened next was going to have a significant impact on everyone present.

Upon seeing the man on the mat descend from the roof into the room, Jesus can’t help but notice the men on the roof, laboriously lowering their friend. Luke tells us that Jesus “saw” their faith. What everyone saw was a man being lowered by ropes from the roof of a house. Not something you see every day. But Jesus saw something more. He saw faith revealed in the efforts of these men. They believed Jesus could do something to help their friend and they were willing to step out and put that belief into action, going through a great deal of effort to so.

But what Jesus says next is the most important thing in this story. He simply replies, “Young man, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20 NLT). In that day, sickness was usually associated with sin. Diseases and infirmities were typically blamed on the presence of sin in the individual sufferer’s life. Their sickness was viewed as a punishment from God for some act of unrighteousness or disobedience. So Jesus addresses the elephant in the room and forgives the man’s sin. This simple statement gets the attention of the Pharisees and they immediately begin to salivate, thinking they have Jesus right where they want Him. This was blasphemy. Jesus was clearly claiming to be God, because only God can forgive sin. Jesus knows what they’re thinking and addresses their concerns head on, and He uses an interesting form of logic by asking a question. “Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!'” (Mark 2:9 NLT). Of course, it would be easy to tell someone their sins are forgiven. The results would be hard to prove. So Jesus does the harder thing to prove He has the authority both to heal and forgive sins. He commands the young man to get up, pick up his mat and walk home under his own power. And he does.

And as amazing as it was that this paralyzed man regained his ability to walk, the more significant issue is that he received forgiveness for his sins. Not through some priest, or by making some kind of sacrifice in the Temple. His sins were completely absolved by a word spoken from the lips of Jesus. And while being able to walk was great, being able to live with forgiveness was even better. Spiritual healing trumps physical healing every time. Restoration of our relationship with God is far better than restoration of sight or the ability to walk. Whether this man’s paralysis was related to his sins was not the point. Because every single one of us suffers as a result of our sins. We are all sick, spiritually lame, blind, and dying from the disease of our own sinfulness. What we need is forgiveness. We need release from the very thing that is causing our problem – our sin. And Jesus offers us permanent and complete forgiveness from sin and restoration to a right relationship with God – forever. That is indeed an amazing thing, like nothing mankind has ever seen before.

Father, i can’t thank you enough for healing me from the disease that was destroying me and condemning me to death. My sin had me paralyzed, helpless and hopeless, unable to save myself. But because of what Your Son has done, I have had all my sins forgiven – once and for all!  Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org