KLMX

July 2013

Gospel Chunks

Matthew

Luke

Ephesians

Philippians

1 Peter

 

This week on the Ministerial Alliance, Iíll be looking at what I call "gospel chunks". These are pieces of text, several verses each, that give us a complete picture of the gospel message. Itís common to use 1 or maybe 2 verses to create oneís picture of the gospel message, but I think itís a better use of Scripture to take several verses together and look at the whole of Scripture. We should always be looking to see what Scripture says instead of making it say what we want and taking chunks of it as a whole is one way to do this. In addition, if youíre a Bible highlighter, then you can leave this series having highlighted large pieces of text. If you can remember just one or two of these larger passages, youíll have them for future reference

So, with that said, and asking Godís blessing on this message, that it might glorify Him thru the truth and light that is Jesus Christ, letís proceed.


Matthew

The first chunk of text I want to look at is:

Mat 16:13-19 NKJV When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" (14) So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." (15) He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" (16) Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (17) Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (18) And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (19) And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

In this passage, we see the critically important distinction between what the world says about Jesus and what his true followers say about him. Jesus say "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Heís saying "What does the world say about me?" He waits for the answer and then says "But who do you say that I am?" In the words, who do you who follow me say that I am?

The world has a very different view of Jesus than do his followers. In response to his first question, his disciples answer "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and other Jeremiah or one of the prophets." The world can easily call Jesus a prophet, or a great teacher, or a shining example, or any of a number of good and honorable things. But it has much more trouble calling Jesus the prophet, or the great teacher, or- especially- the savior. That, however, is exactly the answer that Peter gives when Jesus says "But who do you say that I am?" Peter says "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". By calling Jesus the Christ, Peter acknowledges that he is Messiah, the chosen one, and the only chosen one. This is a very important part of the gospel message- believers will see Jesus differently than non-believers. Itís not like thereís a gentle graduation between what believers and non-believers see; instead, thereís a hard, clear-cut line. Either Jesus is just one of many prophets or heís the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Another critical part of the gospel message is evident in Jesusí reply to Peter. Jesus says "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." Jesus is saying that this understanding of the deity nad Messiah-ship of Jesus requires a revelation from our Father in heaven. Flesh and blood cannot reveal this; in other words, no man can convince himself of the fact. Iím going to back all these statements up with additional verses in a just a minute, but for now, letís just see what the chunk of text says. This is another critical aspect of the gospel message in that our faith doesnít rest upon our own intellectual decisions but rests upon the power of Godís revelation in our life. Maybe Iím wrong, but that certainly seems to be what the text is saying: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."

Letís back up my statements with some verses from other books of the Bible. First, I said that the Matthew text shows the difference between the secular world and people who believe in Jesus as Messiah. Look at the division between the world and believers in these passages:

Joh 15:18-19 NKJV "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. (19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

1Co 1:18 NKJV For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1Co 2:14 NKJV But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Joh 3:5-6 NKJV Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

There is a very clear division between the world of man and the world of God, differences that are well discussed by Augustine in his book "The City of God". We see those differences here (as we well should, since Augustineís book is based upon Scripture and not vice-versa). The world sees Jesus as another prophet, believers see him as Messiah. The world hates Christ because he calls it into judgment, believers have been called out of that judgment into forgiveness. The message of the cross is foolishness to the word but is the power of God in action to believers. The natural man, or the man of the world, does not receive the things of God because, again, they are foolishness to him; the believer, by contrast, understands and accepts them. Jesus tells us that we must be born again; the fleshly or worldly birth produces worldly people and one must be born again with a new, by the Spirit of God. In short, those who believe in Christ are in the world, but are not of the world. They have been given a revelation of who Jesus really is, as Jesus tells Peter in our main passage today when we says "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."

 How, then, does one get from the world of man to the world of God? Jesus already told us in his reply to Peter- the knowledge of Jesus as Christ is something revealed by the Father, thru the Holy Spirit. Letís look at some more passages:

 

Joh 6:44-45 NKJV No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (45) It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT BY GOD.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

Joh 17:6 NKJV "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

1Co 2:9-12 NKJV But as it is written: "EYE HAS NOT SEEN, NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." (10) But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (11) For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

Eph 2:8-10 NKJV For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Col 1:26-27 NKJV the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. (27) To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 

In these passages, Jesus says that no one can come to him unless the Father draws that man and then we see him praying to his Father, saying "you have given me these men". In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that "God has revealed these things to us through His Spirit" and says explicitly that "no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" and then declares that we have received this spirit so that we might know Godly things. Paul says to the Ephesians that faith is not of ourselves but is a gift of God and tells the Colossians that God has revealed to his saints the riches of the glory of Christ.

In these passages (and many more!), it seems clear that faith and understanding and acceptance of Jesus as Christ comes about by the will of God the Father and not as a result of any human effort. Human effort comes later, in following Christ and in obedience to the call, but understanding comes from God, alone. One should never, ever, ever think that they receive this revelation because of any effort or any merit on their part. In other words, believers are no better than any one else. Paul makes this clear:

 

Rom 12:3 NKJV For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Gal 6:3 NKJV For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

 

To sum up, weíve seen in Matthew a picture of the gospel message with 2 main parts:

 

1) the believerís view of Jesus is radically different from the worldís view of him.

2) this new view requires an act of God on the part of the believer.

 

Which is your view? If you think this through, youíll see that you canít believe unless God moves in you. Yet, youíre not to use this as an excuse for unbelief, because other passages tell us things like this:

 

Tit 2:11 NKJV For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,

Joh 6:37 NKJV All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

Mat 11:28 NKJV Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 

So, having heard the gospel message, what will you do about it? Will you come to Jesus, acknowledge Him as Christ, and take his light yoke? Or will you remain in the world, burdened with your heavy yoke? Do you have ears to hear or not? 


Luke

 

The text weíll look at today comes from:

Luk 4:16-21 NKJV So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. (17) And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: (18) "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR; HE HAS SENT ME TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET AT LIBERTY THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED; (19) TO PROCLAIM THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." (20) Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. (21) And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

In this passage, we see Jesus attending the synagogue and reading from the book of Isaiah. He finishes the passage and then sits down and proclaims that on this day this Scripture has been fulfilled. How is this a picture of the gospel message? As I did yesterday, Iíll examine this text and then follow it up with additional passages from the Bible.

First, letís examine the text that Jesus quotes. It proclaims that "the spirit of the Lord is upon me." This is critical for the gospel message because, as we saw yesterday, the movement of the Holy Spirit upon a personís own spirit is essential for an understanding of the gospel. Now, as the son of God, you could say that Jesus didnít really need this movement to happen- not like you and I do- and youíd be correct. But, he cannot proclaim or understand the gospel message without the Holy Spirit either. While it might seem like a moot point to have Jesus proclaim that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, donít forget that Jesus asked John to baptize him in order to fulfill all righteousness. When he did, well, letís just go get the passage:

Mat 3:13-17 NKJV Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. (14) And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" (15) But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. (16) When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. (17) And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

After being baptized, the Spirit of God descended like a dove and rested upon Jesus. I suppose this didnít need to be done, but it was done and there could be no question about Jesus having met the requirements. Likewise, in todayís passage, we see Jesus declaring here that the Spirit of the Lord is indeed upon him as a requirement of one preaching the gospel and, as we saw yesterday, as a requirement of one effectively hearing the gospel.

Next, the text that Jesus quotes says "...HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL". As with the evidence of the Holy Spirit, the word "anointed" is an important word. "Messiah" means "anointed one" and before being called Messiah or Christ, one should be anointed. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit has anointed him not to do this or do that or do the other, but to preach the gospel. The word "gospel" means "good news" and one should ask "well, if this is the good news, then what is the bad news?"

The bad news, for which the good news is delivered, is that we are poor in spirit, broken-hearted, oppressed slaves. Isaiah tells us this and now itís time to pull up some other Bible passages to support the idea. For the poor, Iíll look at Jesus speaking during the Sermon on the Mount:

Mat 5:3 NKJV "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Poor people are people who are lacking something. We often think of "poor" as being "money poor", but a person can be "guitar poor", "cattle poor", "land poor", "food poor", or- in this case- "spiritually poor". The gospel is preached to the poor because itís to them that the good news is especially good. Or, as Jesus says:

Mar 2:17 NKJV When Jesus heard it, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

 

The first qualification for one to receive the good news is for one to see and acknowledge that they are spiritually poor. To these, Jesusís good news is welcome news and to them who accept the good news, is the kingdom of heaven. Everyone else, I suppose, is well and not in need of a physician or is spiritually rich. Or so they think.

The next group mentioned in Jesusí Isaiah passage are the "brokenhearted." I donít think weíre talking about teenage break-ups here. I think weíre talking more about people as mentioned:

Psa 34:18 NKJV The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Psa 51:17 NKJV The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heartó These, O God, You will not despise.

Jesus statement about healing the sick rings true here- those who think they have a whole heart have no need of healing. But those of you with broken heart, those of you who have seen your sin, realized your failing, and experienced your shortcoming know that you need healing. God, through Jesus Christ, can and will heal you, and this is part of the gospel message. Recall a passage I used yesterday:

Mat 11:28 NKJV Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Thatís a promise, but first one must be able to acknowledge their laboring and burden.

Jesus says he has "come to proclaim liberty to the captives". The Greek word behind the English word "captives" means "prisoner of war", thus the captives referred to are prisoners, and furthermore prisoners of some war. We know that thereís a war between righteousness and sin going on and we know that Jesus and Paul both call us "slaves of sin". Here are those passages:

Joh 8:34 NKJV Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

Rom 6:17 NKJV But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

Jesus has come to set slaves of sin free. In fact, if we read a bit on both sides of the passage I just quoted we see:

Joh 8:32-36 NKJV And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (33) They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?" (34) Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (35) And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. (36) Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

I think you should get the gist of the Isaiah passage that Jesus read. But thereís one more interesting point and we can see that if we look to the original passage. First, hereís how Jesus quoted it:

Luk 4: (18) "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR; HE HAS SENT ME TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET AT LIBERTY THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED; (19) TO PROCLAIM THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." (20) Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.

And hereís the actual quote from Isaiah.

Isa 61:1-2 NKJV "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (2) To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God;

If youíre paying attention, youíll note that Jesus skipped one little part and that is where Isaiah says "And the day of vengeance of our God". Jesus stopped just prior to this and then sat down. Do you think Jesus just missed that section or stopped there randomly? I donít think so and neither do most commentators. We work under the assumption that Jesus knew what He was doing and what heís doing is telling his listeners and us that there is a day yet to come and that day is a day of vengeance from God. This, also, is part of the gospel message. After all if Jesus saves, ask yourself the question "From what does Jesus save?" Paul has this to say:

Rom 5:8-9 NKJV But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

1Th 1:10 NKJV and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

And Jesus himself says:

Joh 5:24 NKJV "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

People donít like to hear about fire and brimstone, but if I didnít tell you about this wrath to come and the power of God in Jesus Christ to save you from it, I would giving you only part of the gospel message and thereíd been no urgency associated with that part. Remember also that Jesusí first message upon starting his ministry was:

Mat 4:17 NKJV From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Repent?! From what and why? Can you answer that question?


Ephesians

 

Our text today is from Paulís letter to the church at Ephesus and is one of the greatest and presentations of the complete gospel in the Bible.

Eph 2:1-10 NKJV And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, (2) in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, (3) among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (4) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5) even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6) and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

 

This text starts off with two concepts weíve already seen; 1) we all have sins and trespasses, and 2) the attitude of the world is different than the attitude of believers. However, this passage expands on those a bit by telling us that not only have we sinned but those sins have produced death in us. We can back this concept up with many verses, but Iíll take one from Genesis and two from Paul:

Gen 2:16-17 NKJV And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; (17) but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Rom 3:23 NKJV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Rom 6:23 NKJV For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Itís clear from just these three passages that sin leads to death and all men have sinned, therefore all die. Itís also clear from todayís passage that this is course of the world, further described by Paulís words when he says "according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others." The information we get from this section is that there is a spirit which works in the sons of disobedience. This spirit is, of course, contrary to the spirit of God and we know that because Paul calls it the spirit of "disobedience".

Paul is talking to the church at Ephesus in this letter and therefore when he says "us" or "we", he is referring to believers. Read very carefully, then, what he says about our non-believing nature: "...we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others." Prior to being born again by the Spirit of God, all men have a non-Godly nature or, as Paul says, "...were by nature children of wrath..." Manís natural state of being is that of a child of wrath. Maybe this will help you understand why Jesus says:

Joh 3:3-6 NKJV Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." .... unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Unless one is born again by the Spirit of God with a new spirit and a new nature, one remains a child of wrath and a child of the flesh. It is absolutely essential that one be born-again. Paul now tells us how this happens.

Eph 2 NKJV (4) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5) even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6) and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

God understands that our nature is not His nature- he should know because he created us! Because God is rich in mercy and loves us, He has provided a way for a new spirit and new nature and that way is thru Jesus Christ. As we are going to see tomorrow, the way this works is thru "imputation"; Christís nature is literally implanted in believers and then they begin to grow as little children in their new nature. This is why Christians donít always act the way they should; some of them are still little spiritual children, no matter what their physical age.

What we should see here, though, is the fact that it is God who makes us alive in Christ. Itís nothing that we can do, but is an act of God from start to finish. Actually, our next passage should make that very clear.

Eph 2 NKJV (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.

This passage tells us that it is because of Godís grace that we are saved. Faith is the conduit or the pipeline for salvation. The words "that not of yourselves" are a clause modifying the noun immediately proceeding; that noun is "faith", therefore, faith is not of ourselves, but is a gift of God. This tells us that no man has faith all by himself; he must get that faith from God and, in fact, 2 Thessalonians 3:2 says specially that "not all have faith". This concept fits perfectly with the concept that one must be re-born by the Spirit of God in order to accept the things of God. We discussed this yesterday and the day before but hereís a quick verse:

1Co 2:12-14 NKJV Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. .....(14) But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Why would God have mercy on people who donít naturally like Him, who are by nature children of wrath, and who- prior to receiving faith- are enemies of God? Our passage tells us why in these two verses:

Eph 2:7 NKJV that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Eph 2:10 NKJV For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

We see at least two reasons in these passages: God does everything for His glory and He has good works for Christians to do (which they should walk in!). I can demonstrate that God creates His people for His glory from these passages:

Isa 43:7 NKJV Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him."

Isa 48:9-11 NKJV "For My name's sake I will defer My anger, And for My praise I will restrain it from you, So that I do not cut you off. (10) Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (11) For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.

Accepting the fact that God does everything for His glory alone is one of the most difficult things for human beings to accept but itís true. And if one can eventually accept it, then the entire Bible will fall into place.

Todayís passage from Ephesians may be the most complete presentation of the gospel that Iíve found in the Bible. It has the difference in views between the world and believers, death because of sin, Godís mercy and effectiveness in making dead sinners alive, the necessity of Jesus Christ in this process, the source and reason of faith, and more. The only thing I canít find in this passage is the way this process works but weíll see that tomorrow when we look at a passage from Paulís letter to the Philippians.

Until then, carefully consider the passages and texts Iíve discussed today and ask yourself "Which side of the cross am I on?"


Philippians

  

Our text today comes from:

Php 3:8-14 NKJV Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (11) if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (12) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (13) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

This certainly is a chunk of text with a lot of information in it! Letís start with the things that Paul counts as rubbish. He explained these things just prior to this passage, but they basically include his great knowledge of the law- he is a Pharisee and he calls himself a "Hebrew of the Hebrews". Heís met all the qualifications of the law, with shining colors. But he casts all these aside for Jesus Christ, who is so much better than any of them.

One of the most significant concepts of this passage is when Paul says "...found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith". Boy, is this a rich passage! It shows us, first, that our righteousness is inferior to that of Christís. In stating that he can have Christís righteousness, Paul is showing the concept of "imputation" in action. Itís not that Iím a good man and better than you; itís that Jesus is a good man and better than any of his and thru the conduit of faith Iím able to have that righteousness working on me. In fact, if we look back to Isaiah, we find out about righteousness:

Isa 64:6 NKJV But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

 

Our works, by themselves and apart from Christ, are worthless. We need the righteousness of Christ applied to us, working in us. Paul says that this righteousness is "from God by faith". If itís from God, then we know it is perfect and holy. Lest we think that we immediately become holy and righteous ourselves, letís look at Paulís words later in this passage when he writes;

Php 3: NKJV (12) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (13) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Here Paul says that is not perfected, but quite the contrary. However, instead of looking behind and dwelling on the past, he looks forward and presses on toward the goal, toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. This is part of the gospel message. Christians have the righteousness of Christ applied to their lives and the Holy Spirit working in them, but they are by no means perfect in this life. Instead, they press on, becoming more and more like Christ through their various troubles, trials, teachings, lessons, and chastisements. Sometimes people think that Christians think theyíre better than anyone else but this could hardly be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, even some Christians think this, forgetting just who they are and why they are what they are. Like Paul, they should count their accomplishments as rubbish and press on in Christ and Him alone.

Letís pull up some more passages from elsewhere in the Bible to further illustrate these points. First, letís look at Paulís struggles with his old nature:

Rom 7:18-25 NKJV For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. (19) For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (20) Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (21) I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. (22) For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. (23) But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (24) O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (25) I thank Godóthrough Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

 

This can be a difficult passage to read, so let me quote a looser translation that puts this in more common English:

Rom 7:15-25 CEV In fact, I don't understand why I act the way I do. I don't do what I know is right. I do the things I hate. (16) Although I don't do what I know is right, I agree that the Law is good. (17) So I am not the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them. (18) I know that my selfish desires won't let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. (19) Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. (20) And so, if I don't do what I know is right, I am no longer the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them. (21) The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right. (22) With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. (23) But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. (24) What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? (25) Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. So with my mind I serve the Law of God, although my selfish desires make me serve the law of sin.

We should clearly see Paul struggling with the remnants of sin in his body and also clearly see that Jesus has the eventual victory in this battle. This is part of the gospel message- when Christ is in you and you in Him, your transformation isnít over, itís just started. Youíre a new creation in Him, born again in the Spirit, but just like a newborn fleshly baby, youíve got a lot to learn and a long ways to go. But donít fear because- as weíve seen this week- this born-again Spirit is from God and of Godís will and, as Paul says:

Rom 8:31 MKJV What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

And John says:

1Jn 4:4 MKJV You are of God, little children, and you have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

This is why itís so important that your faith be from God and of God; if itís from you and youíve just convinced yourself of it, you will fail. You cannot stand against the enemy on your own. Only Jesus can do that. You will know for sure if you encounter trials and you overcome them with faith. Hereís the passage:

1Pe 1:6-7 NKJV In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, (7) that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

Trials prove our faith and demonstrate that it is, indeed, of God. I see that as the whole point of the book of Job. Job did not curse God and did not blame God because his faith was not of himself, but was from God and therefore able to stand against the devilís devices. And that, too, is part of the complete gospel message. As a Christian, you will be tempted, tried, and tested. But youíll also overcome.

Letís look now at the last piece of Paulís writings, one that we skipped over but are now going to examine. Hereís the first part of todayís passage again:

 

Php 3:8-14 NKJV Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (11) if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In this section, Paul is talking about the power of Christís resurrection. Resurrection is, indeed, is the hope of everyone in Christ. Peter says as much in:

1Pe 1:3-5 NKJV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

And thereís our gospel chunk for today. To summarize:

our righteousness is nothing compared to Christís

Christís righteousness is imputed to believers

the process of becoming less like our old selves and more like Christ is just that, a process.

The Christianís great hope is freedom from sin and resurrection from the dead,

 


1 Peter

 

Todayís text is from the writings of Peter.

1Pe 1:3-9 NKJV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, (7) that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (8) whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (9) receiving the end of your faithóthe salvation of your souls.

The first thing I see here is that Peter starts out by praising God when he says "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ..." This is the way it should be. God should get the praise and glory first and foremost. Next, I see that it is because of Godís abundant mercy that we have any hope at all. Sometimes people ask the question "Why doesnít God save everyone?" The flip side to that question is the equally good question "Why does God save anyone?" After all, if God is our creator and we are his rebellious children, Heís under no obligation whatsoever to save or purify any one. As the potter can do with the clay as he wishes, so can God do whatever he wants with his creation. Because of His mercy, though, Peter says God has "begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..."

The word "begotten" means "born", therefore what Peter says is that we are "born again to a living hope." This immediately makes me think of Jesus words:

Joh 3:3-7 NKJV Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (4) Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (5) Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

Note carefully who, again, gets the credit for this born-again-ness. God does. Being born again is nothing that happens according to the will of man. As John says:

Joh 1:12-13 NKJV But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: (13) who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Having been born again, by the Spirit of God with the Spirit of God, believers have a living hope which is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The importance of Jesusí resurrection cannot be overstated. Paul says:

1Co 15:16-19 NKJV For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. (17) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (18) Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (19) If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

Paul also references the importance of Christís resurrection in his message to the Greek philosopher at Mars Hill:

Act 17:30-31 NKJV Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, (31) because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."

And finally, Paul shows how Jesusí resurrection is a pattern for that of believers:

Rom 8:10-11 NKJV And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (11) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Having said all this, letís look at todayís passage again:

1Pe 1:3-9 NKJV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.

I have seen non-believers stat e that Christianity is an oppressive, guilt-ridden religion that enslaves its followers. Really?! Iíd like to know how the passage I just read supports that thesis. I see freedom, joy, and praise in Peterís writings! I also see a lot of promise when he says things like "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you". Just think what itís like to have a room in heaven reserved just for you. You leave this live of turmoil, tears, and trials and check in at the front desk of Heaven: "I have a reservation!" "Yes, we know! Weíve been expecting you." Sign me up.

Peterís next statement makes this reservation solid:

1Pe 1:5 NKJV who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The words that encourage me are the words "...kept by the power of God through faith..." Itís not up to me to hang on to the lifeline. I am kept by the power of God on that lifeline. If I slip and fall, Heís got me and is able to pick me up and get me going again. Here... Iíll give you some verses:

Psa 37:23-24 NKJV The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. (24) Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.

Rom 8:31 NKJV What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

What a comfort those words are, to know that those born-again by God are "....kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

Now comes some more difficult words, at least in the short term. Peter writes:

1Pe 1 NKJV (6) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, (7) that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

At some point, if need be, we are tested with trials. The purpose of these trials is not to beat us up and make us feel bad or to torture us. God is not a big meanie in the sky! Instead the purpose is to show us and others the genuineness of our faith. Remember, God does everything for His glory and if it glorifies Him to showcase us with His faith, then so be it. Check out this very interesting passage from Paul:

Eph 3: NKJV (10) to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places....,

 

Paul says that heís been given the grace to preach the gospel so that "the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and power in the heavenly places." Letís read that again... "the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and power in the heavenly places." In other words, the church reflects the wisdom of God and there are principalities and powers in the heavenly places watching. Think about that. What we do as a church is a reflection of Godís wisdom. Is that an awesome responsibility or what? So, if God chooses to lay a trial on us, knowing that weíll survive it and even flourish, thanks to God-given faith, in what would otherwise be a disastrous situation, and that this brings God glory, are we going to shun the trial or welcome it? Hereís what James says:

Jas 1:2-4 NKJV My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

This testing is, of course, the point of the book of Job. God was glorified in Jobís sufferings and Job himself understood God better. It wasnít pleasant for Job, no... but in the end, Job saw Godís Holiness and that made it worthwhile.

Back to Peter, weíre wrapping up todayís passage:

1Pe 1:7-9 NKJV that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (8) whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (9) receiving the end of your faithóthe salvation of your souls.

Faith is not fully accomplished here on earth- the fulfillment remains until our souls are actually saved. For now, we rest on the promise and the hope.

Well, this passage of Peter contains a very solid chunk of the complete gospel message. Letís review. Weíve seen that:

God gets the glory

God is 100% responsible for our essential re-birth in the Spirit.

Jesusí resurrection is our great example

God keeps us by His power

If need be, weíll experience trials designed to grow and confirm our faith, to the glory of God.

We rejoice in hope.

 

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