NEW TESTAMENT EVANGELISM (PART ONE)

This is the first of a series of articles I would like to write addressing the topic of New Testament evangelism.

If you haven’t noticed, the influence of the American evangelical church has been in decline for quite some time. Rather than having a good reputation among those outside the church, many evangelicals are now viewed as religious extremists who only care about themselves, and their own political views.

This opinion among unbelievers is not without merit, and many preachers have become bolder in their political views using their pulpits to demonize  those who hold differing views. Ironically, when those same ministers get push-back from people who have been insulted by their harsh rhetoric, they often play the persecution card and lead their followers down a path that is even more self centered.

Lost in all of this is the call to live for Christ in such a manner that shines the light of God’s love and kindness for all people.

In his instructions for those who desire the office of a bishop (a Pastor) Paul writes, “he must have a good reputation with those outside the church.” ~ 1 Timothy 3:7

In his letter to Titus, Paul writes something similar.

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. ~ Titus 2:7-8

Harsh, hateful, and political rhetoric is not godly behavior and brings a reproach on the gospel of Christ, and because of such, many evangelicals need a refresher course regarding true New Testament evangelism.

Consider that during Paul’s conversion experience, God sent a devout man with a good reputation to pray for Paul.

And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. ~ Acts 22:11-13

Notice that Ananias had a good reputation among the Jews where he lived. How we live matters and how we represent Christ to those outside the faith matters.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:13- 16

In 1 Timothy, Paul says the following concerning the gospel.

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. ~ 1 Timothy 1:15-17

Evangelicals need to be reminded that Christ came into the world to save sinners and Paul refers to this as “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation…” 

A faithful saying is a timeless message, an enduring truth. Paul says, this faithful saying is worthy of all acceptation. This means it’s something we must never forget and always be mindful of. I think this is why Paul says in the next breath, “of whom I am Chief.” Paul did not view himself as the chief of sinners because of a sense of guilt, but rather from a heart of gratitude.

Paul never wanted to forget that he once was lost and God had mercy on him. Paul then tells Timothy that his own salvation was a pattern of God’s great salvation to those whom God would save after him. Paul understood the depth of his sinful past, and even so God was merciful, for Christ had come into the world to save sinners. 

In his letter to Titus, Paul tells Titus to remind the people to be examples of godliness with regards to governing authorities, and to speak evil of no man, and not to be brawlers (abusive, fighting, etc.) but rather be gentle, showing meekness to all men (not only to Christians, but all men) because we too were at one time foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving different lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. ~ Titus 3:1-3

Paul tells us that we were saved from such things because “the kindness and love of God our Savior towards all men appeared” (v.4). The grace of God that brings salvation works through kindness and love to save people from their sins. 

Too many evangelicals are sending the wrong message of us vs. them. We are not an exclusive group whom God favors and while hating sinners. God forbid! Instead, we are people who have been saved by the grace of God and at one time we too were lost and we should never forget that. If we do, we forget our calling and our purpose. – we forget the gospel.

Christ came into the world to save sinners and has called us as co-laborers with him so that through us the sweet fragrance of the knowledge Christ might be known in every place, so that the world can taste and see that the Lord is gracious.

Part Two
https://rootedandgroundedinchrist.com/2022/02/07/new-testament-evangelism-part-two/

JUST A THOUGHT: THE CONTINUATION OF THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Just a thought on the continuation of gifts of God’s Spirit.

There are those who believe that the gifts of God such as prophecy and miracles have ceased. However we can see clearly that Paul did not hold to such a mindset. Paul said to the Corinthians that God had enriched them in all utterance and in all knowledge and that the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them, so that they would come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ See 1 Corinthians 1:5-7

In Paul’s view, the gifts the Corinthians had been endowed with were going to continue until the coming of Christ.

While it is true that unscrupulous people mimic the gifts of God for their own profit, the true gifts of God will continue to be bestowed on God’s people as the Lord wills. Let us yield to the Holy Spirit who is at work within the body to build us up into Christ as one new man and the true temple that God dwells in by His Holy Spirit.  

A LESSON FROM ACTS 7:55

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God ~ Acts 7:55

A man that is full of the Spirit of God sees! But what does he see? He sees the glory of God and he sees Jesus!

Blessings…

PAUL AND THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Paul’s standard for gospel ministry was quite different from the standard held by many of today’s more popular ministers, especially those who have turned ministry into a lucrative career.

According to Paul, the gospel which was ministered by him and his company, wasn’t a gospel ministered in word only. It came also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.

What exactly does Paul mean when he speaks of the gospel coming in this manner, and why does Paul, here, make a distinction between the Holy Spirit and power, as he also does in 1 Corinthians?

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Notice that Paul tells the Corinthians that he did not come to them with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring to them the testimony of God. This coincides with his statement to the Thessalonians that the gospel he preached did not come in word only.

Paul did not desire to be an eloquent speaker when it came to his declaration of the gospel. Paul’s quest was to minister Jesus Christ not only in his declaration of God’s word, but also in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

What is the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, and why does Paul make a distinction?

We all should know what power is. It is the signs, wonders, and miracles that accompany the gospel. We can see this in both the ministry of Jesus, the apostles, and men like Stephen who was a deacon and not an apostle.

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. ~ Acts 6:8

Power is easily understood, but what exactly in the demonstration of the Spirit, or as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, the ministry of the gospel in the Holy Ghost?

The ministry of the Holy Ghost is that which brings about a change in the lives of those who truly believe the gospel. In Paul’s doctrine, the gospel was to be preached, confirmed by God’s power, and lived in holiness, and this last point is where so many stumble in their understanding.

When Paul says to the Thessalonians, “our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance,” he follows by saying, “as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”

Throughout the balance of 1 Thessalonians, Paul expounds on how he and those with him behaved and set the example of true Christian living. This is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of the gospel coming in the Holy Ghost.

Many preachers have a theology about the Holy Ghost which is foreign to the teachings of the apostle Paul. They lead their followers into many emotional responses, claiming that such hysteria is the work of God.

Paul, however was concerned with how the gospel had affected the everyday lives of the people. Had they become a holy people living dedicated lives to the Lord? According to Paul’s theology, the gospel ministered in the Holy Ghost brings about a Christ-like life of holiness to the glory of God.

Paul’s ministry wasn’t one of words only. Instead, Paul’s ministry set the example of godly living.

Consider the following:

For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:3-13

Now consider the following:

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 

Though some have devalued the importance of how we ought to live as Christians, Paul believed that the true gospel of grace changes a person’s life into a life of holiness that pleases God. The Spirit ministers the gospel to us, not only to save us from our past sins, but also to create in us holiness of character that glorifies God. Therefore Paul writes the following to the Thessalonians:

Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8

Paul did not feel that his ministry had effectively ministered the gospel unless the people were established in the faith and living according to the changed life produced by the gospel of Christ.

JESUS, PAUL, AND THE LAW

Among the arguments made by those who claim that Paul contradicted Jesus, is the argument that Paul contradicted Jesus with regards to the Law.

Is this so? To begin, let’s consider the following:

Throughout scripture, the Law is referred to as the Law of Moses some 23 times by the following witnesses:

  • Joshua (Joshua 8:31, 32 and 23:6)
  • Daniel (Daniel 9:11, 13)
  • Luke (Luke2:22 and 24:44)
  • Paul(Acts 13:39 and 28:23; 1 Corinthians 9:9)
  • The Pharisees (Acts 15:5)
  • John(John 7:23)
  • The author of the book of Hebrews(Hebrews 10:28)
  • The author of the book of 1 Kings (1Kings 2:3)
  • The author of the book of 2 Kings(2 Kings 14:6 23:25)
  • The author of the book of 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:18 and 30:16)
  • The author of the book of Ezra(Ezra 3:2 and 7:6)
  • The author of the book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:1)
  • Jesus and God, I saved the best for last (John 7:23, Malachi 4:4).

Moses was the one through whom God gave the law to the children of Israel to govern them as a nation. Time and time again the scripture says, “Moses commanded” or “Moses said” or “Moses gave.”

For example, in Matthew 19 the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement?” Jesus answered, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts allowed you to put away your wives: but in the beginning it was not so” (v. 7-8).

The Pharisees specifically asked, “Why did MOSES give a writing of divorcement?” Yet the Law was given by God, through Moses, for the people (Deuteronomy 24:1-3).  Moses’ instructions were authoritative for the people of Israel, for through Moses, God  gave the Law to the children of Israel.

According to Jesus, the bill of divorcement was a law catered for the hard hearted and not God’s intent for marriage. God’s will is for a man to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife just as Jesus says above. In like manner, Paul says something very similar in Ephesians 5.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. ~ Ephesians 5:22-28

As we can see from Paul’s words above, Paul was on the same page with Jesus in his view of marriage as a holy institution ordained by God.

Paul’s standard concerning husbands loving their wives is actually higher and exceeds the commandment given in Deuteronomy 24:1-3 to regulate hardheartedness. Without question, Paul’s teaching regarding marriage is absolutely in harmony with the teachings of Jesus.

Under the law, the writing of divorcement protected the woman from the oppressiveness of a husband who did not love her, and thus she was allowed to remarry. In no way did this writing of divorcement express God’s will concerning the union of a man and his wife. God’s will is for the husband to love the wife and to care for her.

The mistake that many people make when they attempt to disqualify Paul’s teachings is they do not rightly divide the scriptures that pertain to the law. The law was not simply a religious code to live by. The law was the rule of law for the nation and was given to guide the civil affairs of the nation as well as the religious conduct.

Not making this distinction, leads some to question Paul’s teachings about the grace of God. They fail to consider that Paul’s apostleship was to the gentiles to whom the law given to Israel did not apply. The writing of divorcement applied to Israel’s civil laws, and if a man gave his wife a writing of divorcement, it could be said that he had “kept the law”, but he had not fulfilled God’s will in his marriage. Only love fulfills the law.

There is a stark contrast in keeping the law and fulfilling it.

Those who argue that Paul contradicts Jesus often claim that Jesus taught that the Law would continue while Paul claimed it had been done away with. Yet, this contradiction is cleared up when the words of Jesus and the teachings of Paul are understood within their context.

First, consider the words of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. ~ Matthew 5:17-18

When Jesus said these words, he was not intending to imply that he had come as an enforcer of the Law, but rather to bring the Law to its fruition through fulfillment.

Jesus told the people,except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:20

The scribes and the Pharisees were all about ”keeping the law”. They had no interest in fulfilling it. This is evident in Matthew 23 where Jesus says, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. ~ v.2-4

Jesus was not an opponent to the Law or the message of the prophets. His mission was not to destroy (by discrediting) either one. Instead, his mission was to fulfill the law and the prophets by leading the people of God into the way of righteousness which is faith from a pure heart.

In Matthew 5 Jesus says – “you have heard it said…but I say to you”  in reference to what the people had heard from the teachers of the Law.

The Law says, “Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” In contrast Jesus says, “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca (worthless), shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” 

The letter of the Law says “thou shall not kill” but Jesus says keep your heart right towards all men. The law says “thou shall not commit adultery” but Jesus says don’t desire her in your heart. The law says “love your neighbor and hate your enemies” but Jesus says love your enemies.

The letter of the Law could not, and cannot give man a right heart and this is what is at the core of the issue. The letter of the Law merely deals with the outward actions of sinful men and does nothing to change his heart.

While the Law addresses man’s outward actions, Jesus Christ searches the reins and hearts (Revelation 2:23).

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. ~ Hebrews 4:12-13

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they had every right according to the letter of the law to condemn her and to stone her. They had no desire to show mercy or to restore her. They placed the heavy burden of condemnation on her with the wording of the law, but had no compassion towards her.

Jesus by the wisdom of God challenged their motives and dispersed them.  He then sent the woman away without condemnation, telling her to sin no more. Those who condemned her wanted to enforce the law, Jesus fulfilled it. 

Those who condemned the women that Jesus freed, were fixated with the letter of the Law from their uncircumcised hearts. They missed the weightier matters of the law which according to Jesus is mercy, faith, and justice (Matthew 23:23). Rather than liberating the people they used the Law to put heavy burdens on them.

Jesus never employed the law to ensnare people. Instead, Jesus taught that the law was fulfilled by love (Matthew 7:12; 22:34-40) and demonstrated it by showing mercy and compassion on the people. Paul also taught that it is love which fulfills the law:

Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ~ Romans 13:8-10

Paul’s words in Romans 13 (above) align perfectly with Jesus’s teachings from the sermon on the mount. Paul says elsewhere, For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. ~ Galatians 5:14

Paul actually refers to the fulfillment of the law through love as “ the law of Christ.”

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ~ Galatians 6:1-2

Paul’s doctrine regarding love fulfilling the Law is in perfect harmony with Jesus. Jesus taught that all the prophets and the Law prophesied until God sent John the Baptist (Matthew 11:13). The ministry of John the Baptist was the great point of change from the administration of the Law of Moses through the nation of Israel, to the administration of Christ in the hearts of all who believe in him.

Through Christ, the Law of God is written in the mind and the heart of the child of God. Our conscience has been cleansed by the Blood of Jesus and we have been made alive together with Christ. His life abides in us and the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us through his love which is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

In those texts where Paul speaks of the Law being abolished, he is not referring to the necessity of obedience to God or righteous living. He is referring to the Law in the manner in which it made a distinction between the Jew and the Gentile.

The law given to Israel served as their constitution and rule to govern them as a theocracy. The Kingdom of God was manifested through Israel and one could not be a part of God’s Kingdom without becoming a member of the nation of Israel.

Israel was a theocracy, and the Law separated Israel from all other nations as the people of God. Yet, Israel was often very rebellious against God and did not serve him according to the Law God had given to govern them. Consequently Israel inherited the curse.

This is what Paul is dealing with when he addresses the Law as being annulled. The Kingdom of God is no longer a theocracy demonstrated through a physical nation. God’s Kingdom is in the heart of those who follow Jesus, and God’s people are in every nation.

Being circumcised and taking on Jewish identity through the letter of the law no longer has value with regards to covenant relationship with God. What matters is having a circumcised heart through Jesus Christ who died for his people, and in no way did Paul contradict Jesus regarding the law.

THIS IS THE LORD’S DOING AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES

In Matthew 21, Jesus spoke of his death in the parable of the vineyard. The Lord of the vineyard had sent many different servants and they were all mistreated and killed by the wicked husbandmen (the caretakers of the vineyard). Eventually, the Lord of the vineyard sent his Son and they did the same to him and put him to death as well.

And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that
they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But
last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. ~ Matthew 21:34-39

As we can see in this parable, the Lord of the vineyard was not the one condemning his
Son. Instead, it was the husbandmen who mistreated and killed the Son. They did to the Son as they had done to the other servants who were sent before him.  This is an important point to remember in righty understanding how the prophecies concerning the sufferings, and death of Christ were fulfilled. Unfortunately, many have embraced a theological view of the cross that creates a narrative in which Jesus was condemned by God rather than sinful men. Yet the New Testament says otherwise.

According to the New Testament, the rejection of Jesus by those who condemned him was the culmination of their rejection of all the prophets and righteous men God had sent to them and their ancestors. They became guilty and the blood of all the righteous men and the blood of prophets whom God sent by their rejection of Jesus ~ see Luke 11:46-52, Matthew 23:29-39

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. ~ Matthew 23:29 -38

And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God,
I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute. That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him. ~ Luke 11:46-54 

These two references above in which Jesus reprimanded the religious leaders in Israel is exactly what is being referred to in the parable of the vineyard, and it is exactly what played out in the narrative of how Jesus was condemned by them. They rejected Jesus because he was the truth borne witness to by the righteous men and prophets who came before him. In fact, Jesus was God’s own Son whom God had sent to bear witness of the truth.

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. ~ See John 18:37

Like many of the righteous men and prophets who came before him, Jesus would die a martyr’s death, but unlike those before him, Jesus’s death would make atonement for the sin of the world, for only Jesus is the Messiah, and only his precious blood can save us from our sins.

In the gospels, Jesus likened his own death to those who had died before him for the glory of God. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus likened his death to that of John the Baptist:

But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. ~ Matthew 12:12-13

John the Baptist was not condemned by God, he was a martyr who died for the glory of God.

Jesus also describes his death as a martyr in the parable of the vineyard referenced above. As we can see in this parable, the Lord of the vineyard was not the one condemning his Son. Instead, it was the husbandmen who mistreated the Son and killed him. They did to the Son as they had done to the other servants who were sent before him. This is the narrative according to Jesus and his apostles with regards to the nature of Christ’s sufferings. Jesus died at the hands of sinful men who unjustly condemned him.

As we continue reading the parable of the vineyard, Jesus says the following:

When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, he will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?  ~ Matthew 21:40-42 

The significance of Jesus as the Stone the builders rejected and the ONE God has chosen is abundantly clear throughout the gospels, the book of Acts, and the entirety of the New Testament.

Jesus never once attributed the things he suffered in death to the justice or wrath of God, or as condemnation from God. He always attributed things he suffered in his death to the hands of sinful men.

Likewise, in the book of Acts, the apostles never interpret the death of Jesus as condemnation levied against Jesus from God. The apostles always held the people responsible for Christ’s death. Conversely, they attribute the resurrection to God in opposition to what the people had done in condemning and crucifying Jesus.

The message preached by the apostle Peter on Pentecost, was that Christ, whom the people had condemned, had been raised from the dead and enthroned at the right hand of God. By this message, Peter exhorted the people of Israel to repent and to believe all that the prophets had foretold of the Messiah.

Stephen, who was not an apostle, testified of the death and resurrection of Jesus while on trial before the Sanhedrin. Stephen did not preach that Jesus had been condemned by God. Instead, Stephen held the Jewish leaders responsible saying to those who were about to stone him that they had been the betrayers and murders of Jesus, the Just One.

Their forefathers had persecuted the prophets who had showed beforehand the coming of Christ, and they had followed in their footsteps by their rejection of Christ. Stephen says that what they did to Jesus was that of resisting the Holy Ghost!

Because of his bold testimony for Jesus, Stephen was murdered by those to whom he testified of Christ: Stephen was martyred, just as his Lord had been martyred ~ Acts 7:52

Following in Christ’s footsteps, Stephen laid down his life for the glory of God. Stephen was not condemned by God, but rather was a chosen vessel who suffered martyrdom for the gospel and for the glory of Christ.

It is in this way – martyrdom – Jesus suffered and died. The nature of sufferings of Christ, according to the will of God, should be understood in the same way in which we understand others, who according to the will of God, suffered for the glory of God. Job and Paul are also examples. Both suffered for the glory of God, but it was not God opposing and afflicting them. Yet in their sufferings they were completely in the will of God and the purposes of God were accomplished through them. Likewise, it was the will of God for Christ to suffer for us to redeem us with his precious blood.

Because Jesus obeyed God’s will to give his life for the redemption of sinful men, God exalted him in righteousness in the resurrection, and delivered unto him the Kingdom. The stone the builders rejected is the precious cornerstone on which God has chosen to build his house and kingdom. Now all men are commanded to repent and serve him!

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. ~ Acts 17:30-31

Jesus laid down his life according to the will of God, dying unjustly at the hands of sinful men to redeem us with his precious blood. In his resurrection, God overturned the verdict of sinful men by raising Jesus from the dead and exalting him at the highest place of honor.

It is in this way that scriptures, such as Isaiah 53:10: it pleased the Lord to bruise him: he hath put him to grief, were fulfilled. Not by God personally afflicting him from Heaven, but by the surrendered obedience of Jesus to the will of God, he was bruised and put to grief for us. In the parable of the vineyard, Jesus says, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

GALATIANS 3:13, CURSED IS EVERYONE THAT HANGS ON A TREE

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. ~ Galatians 3:13-14

Some have taken Galatians 3:13 (referenced above) which says that Jesus was made to be a curse for us to support their claims that Jesus became the object of God’s righteous wrath when he died for our sins. 

Those who teach such things often present the cross in a manner as if what actually happened to Jesus in the flesh wasn’t sufficient, and therefore some other suffering or torture was needed, such as God punishing Jesus by spiritually by condemning him as a substitution. 

However, Paul qualifies his declaration that Christ was made a curse for by saying, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: For it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.

According to Paul, Christ was made a curse for us in the manner in which he suffered physically on the cross. Paul tells the Galatians, Christ was made a curse by hanging on a tree. There is no mention by Paul of God’s wrath being poured out. In fact, Paul says this within the context of justification by faith in contrast to the works of the law. So Paul’s statement has to do is how we are justified in view of the Law and faith.

Under the Law it was the corpses of those who had already been executed then hanged on a tree, which were cursed. In Galatians 3:1 Paul says, “Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.”

Christ’s death frees us from the condemnation which comes through the law because Jesus absorbed the sentence of death for us so that we could be justified from our sins through faith in him. Paul appeals to the Galatians according to what actually happened out in the open at the cross, and not by some behind the scene exchange whereby God needed to be appeased as those with pagan false gods believe.

In contrast, the crucified body of Jesus Christ is the emblem of our redemption. Jesus sacrificed his body for our sins, and through his slain body which was hanged on a tree, we are free from the curse of the Law. He was made a curse by bearing the penalty for our sin (death) in his own body on the cross. The writer of Hebrews tells us, we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. ~ Hebrews 10:5-10

Christ was made a curse in that his body was crucified, not by God’s righteous judgment condemning him. According to the Bible Jesus was denied justice and suffered unjustly at the hands of sinful men. God’s justice was displayed when God raised him from the dead.

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:. ~ Romans 1:3-4

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 13:4

When God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him at his own right hand, he overturned the verdict of sinful men. Now, all who believe in him have their sins remitted and become heirs of the blessing God promised Abraham through the Spirit.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE GOSPELS

From the four gospels, we read how the Jewish leaders persecuted Jesus and sought to slay him because he had done such things as healing on the Sabbath and claiming that God was his Father.

On more than one occasion they tried to stone him for declaring that God was his Father but he was delivered from them while the stones were still in their hands. On numerous occasions they attempted to end his life but they could not touch him because his hour (the hour in which he would glorify his Father by his death and resurrection) had not yet come.

Luke tells us that at the beginning of his ministry he came to Nazareth where he had grown up. While there, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day according to his custom and read from the book of Isaiah that was handed to him to read. Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and announced among other things that he is the Messiah.

This angered those who heard him so much that they wanted to kill him. The angry listeners rose up and forced Jesus out of the city. They lead him to a cliff on the hill upon which their city was built. They had every intention of throwing Jesus head first over the side of the cliff; however, Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

His life was in the Father’s hand and no one could take it from him prematurely. Yet the Bible tells us that at one point later in his ministry he chose to leave Judea because he knew that the Jewish leaders were plotting his death.

There was real unrest amongst the Jews because of those who opposed Jesus and it had become public knowledge that the religious leaders wanted to kill him. They tried on numerous occasions to arrest him but could not because his time had not yet come.

The confrontation between Jesus and those who wanted to silence him; namely the religious authorities, became so intense that they would stop at nothing to destroy him. The Jewish leaders were so adamant in their efforts to stop him that they agreed together to expel from the Synagogue anyone who confessed or believed that Jesus is the Messiah and they publicly ordered that anyone seeing Jesus must report it immediately so they could arrest him.

They became so obsessed with destroying him that they eventually decided to kill Lazarus also (whom Jesus had raised from the dead) because many people had believed in Jesus because of Lazarus. The religious authorities did not know him nor did they know God who had sent him. The truth in Jesus so angered them and hardened their hearts against God who had sent him that they were blinded by the truth in Jesus.

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. ~ John 12:37-41


In John 9:1-6 Jesus had healed a man that had been born blind on the Sabbath day and this caused quite a backlash from the Pharisees. It was already enough that they hated Jesus but the fact that he had done this miracle on the Sabbath only infuriated them all the more. They were so against Jesus that they refused to believe the man’s testimony and expelled him from the Synagogue for testifying that it was Jesus who had given him his sight.

When Jesus heard how the man had been treated he sought and found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” The man responded by saying; “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe in?” Jesus then said to him, “You have both seen him, and it is he that talks with thee.” The man then replied; “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Jesus.

Jesus then made this incredible statement; “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind” (TNLT).

When some of the Pharisees heard Jesus say this they asked him; “Are we blind also?” In response to their question, Jesus said to them, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (KJV).

They were blind because they refused to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and they refused to believe the works which he did in his Father’s name. They refused to accept the works which God did through him because they did not know God. Jesus address their damnation to his disciples privately when he said the following:

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. ~ John 15:22-25

God did not send Jesus to be the recipient of his judgment. On the contrary, God placed all judgment into the hands of his Son. Jesus was entrusted with absolute authority over all things and this included the authority to judge.

The words which Jesus spoke from the Father and the works which he did in his Father’s name testified that he was the one sent from God to be the Savior of the world. Those who would not hear him nor believe the works he did rejected God and thereby bring condemnation upon themselves.

Jesus is the one whom God ordained to be the Judge of living and the dead (Acts 10:42) and this is what Jesus is referring to in John 5:20-30.

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. ~ John 5:20-30

The Father gave to his Son absolute authority to judge and he gave to the Son absolute authority over all things. In John 12 Jesus declares that his death and resurrection would mean judgment upon both the world and the prince of this world;

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. ~ John 12:31

When Jesus began his ministry, he announced that the Kingdom of God had arrived. By the power of the Holy Spirit he overcame this world and that is why he could say to his disciple in private; “I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

When Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, He fulfilled the scripture which says; “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.’” ~ Matthew 12:5 TNLT

The Pharisees then declared; “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” (John 12:19 TNLT). Jesus was in complete control for the Father had placed all authority into his hands but instead of making himself King for his own glory, he chose to lay down his life for the Glory of God.

He did not exalt himself to be King but instead surrendered his life to the will of his Father to be the offering for our sin. He gave his life as a ransom for many. He is the Servant-King!

Jesus laid down his life so that the world would know that he loves the Father (John 14:29-31) and He glorified God by giving his life as a ransom for our sins (John 13:31-32). The gospel repeatedly describes his death as his departure and his going to the Father (John 13:1, 3; 16:5-7, 10, and 28). He described the laying down of His life as that of a corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying which afterwards brings forth a great harvest.

Jesus laid down his life because of his love for us (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16) and death could not hold him because he is the resurrection and the life (John 11). Jesus gave his life to redeem us with His precious blood and he conquered death for us by his resurrection so that all who believe in him would have the remission of sins and life from the dead.

WHAT JESUS HAS TO SAY ABOUT HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION

When I teach on the subject of the cross of Christ, I like to begin by addressing this question: What did Jesus actually say about his own death? I find it unsettling that many Bible teachers and even theologians tend to pass over this very important question and inadvertently treat the words of Jesus as an unimportant part of the equation. Of all the people from whom we could learn about the cross, why wouldn’t we want to first hear what Jesus had to say?

I also like to follow up with this question: How did the apostles, those who were personally trained by Jesus, describe His death? Once, while teaching a Bible School Seminar, I presented this to the students. I must say, it was tough sledding for the first hour because of the things the students had been taught. During the break between sessions, there was quite a buzz as some of the students were discussing the thought provoking challenge that I had set before them.  

After the break, I began to take them systematically through the scriptures to show them what Jesus actually said and later to what His apostles actually preached. The students began to catch on and at one point one of them blurted out, “How (or where) did you learn all of this?” They were experiencing a real epiphany as the scriptures began to open to them.

The Bible tells us that there was an exact time when Jesus began to teach his disciples about his crucifixion and resurrection. According to the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly affirmed that he would suffer unjustly from the hands of sinners and that he would rise again on the third day.

In all of the accounts that we have in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, never once does Jesus ever refer to his death on the cross as rejection or condemnation from God to satisfy God’s wrath. He always declared what the scriptures had already prophesied: the Messiah would be rejected and condemned by men.

Again and again, Jesus stated that God would raise Him from the dead contrary to what sinful men would do to him. This view of the cross and resurrection is taught all throughout the New Testament.

Understandably, the apostles of our Lord did not comprehend the meaning of His death before He was crucified, but after His resurrection, Jesus opened their understanding so that they could comprehend the scriptures. Their eyewitness accounts, along with the scriptural insight given to them by Jesus, were empowered on the Day of Pentecost by the Holy Spirit. As a result, they preached the death and resurrection of Jesus as they understood it from their Master and the One sent by him.

If you would like to learn more, follow the link below.

THE STONE THE BUILDERS REJECTED: https://rootedandgroundedinchrist.com/the-stone-the-builders-rejected/

CAN THE MARK OF THE BEAST BE TAKEN BY ACCIDENT?

There are Christian people who have fears about the mark of the beast, and one of those fears is potentially taking the mark unknowingly, or accidentally. These fears are often magnified by conspiracy theories such as the covid 19 vaccine being the mark of the beast.

The idea that a Christian, or anyone at all can receive the mark of the beast unknowingly or accidentally, speaks volumes to the lack of sound doctrine which is prevalent among evangelical Christians. The covid vaccination is not a sign of apostasy, but those who turn away from sound doctrine are, and those who believe that you can unknowingly receive the mark of the beast are dabbling with real apostasy by abandoning sound doctrine in Christ.

In 2 Timothy, Paul writes the following:

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. ~ 2 Timothy 4:1-4

Conspiracies which circulate on social media platforms (often repeated by Christians) are fables, and they are not in line with sound Biblical doctrine. The truth is in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:21), and the idea that a person who loves God can unknowingly take a mark whereby they will damned is by definition a heresy, for it is a denial of the true faith in Christ. Maybe your “god” (the one you imagine) would damn you to hell for something you did unknowingly, but not the true God and Father of Jesus Christ!

In John’s gospel, Jesus says the following:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. ~ John 10:27-29

If a person could unknowingly receive the mark of a man (the mark of the beast) and consequently be condemned, that would mean it is possible to be plucked out of the hands of Jesus and out of the hands of the Father. Yet Jesus says such is not possible.

According to scripture, we are kept by the power of God unto salvation. Consider the words of the apostle Peter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. ~ 1 Peter 1:3-5

It’s unfortunate but not uncommon that some people project onto certain Biblical texts (such as those which mention the mark of the beast) their own superstitions, and in doing so they undermine the very gospel they claim to believe.

In the gospel, God’s righteous character is revealed in and through Christ, and the New Testament repeatedly underscores the truth regarding God’s keeping power for those who trust in him. In his letter to Timothy, Paul declares: I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. ~ 2 Timothy 1:12

You never see Paul being worried about the mark of the beast. Paul was persuaded that God would keep him and taught this as an essential part of our faith towards God. Not only does Paul teach it but others in the New Testament do as well. Consider Jude’s encouraging words:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. ~ Jude 1:24-25

Jude’s doctrine is consistent with Paul’s who says the following to the Romans:

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:31-39

In the book of the Revelation, those who received the mark of the beast were not tricked, conned, or deceived. They were marked because they rejected God and refused to repent, and whether one believes the mark of the beast is literal, symbolic, past, present, or future, there is absolutely no truth in the belief that anyone could receive it accidentally or unknowingly and thus be rejected by God.

Such notions are a fallacy and undermine the words of Jesus in John 10, the words of Paul in Romans 8 and the entirety of the doctrine of God in Christ. If the truth be known, that is exactly what Satan wishes to accomplish with fear regarding the mark of the beast. Such conspiracies have no place in Bible interpretation and have no place in Christian behavior, and those who embrace them deny the very truth by which they were saved.