Minding Your Own Business

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This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:19-23)

Minding Your Own Business

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus spent forty days with the disciples exhorting, encouraging and admonishing them about the kingdom of God. It was a flurry of activity as the Lord prepared to return to the Father, leaving in the hands of twelve men to carry the gospel to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. One of the missions of Jesus was to spend time with the man who denied his Lord three times that he knew Him or had any association with the man from Nazareth. Peter had gone out and wept bitterly after his denial. There is little doubt that when he realized Jesus was dead the incredible guilt that swept over him as he had failed his Lord in His most pressing time overshadowed his heart with grief. After the resurrection, was there an awkward moment with Peter, as he rejoiced to see his Lord and then realizing what he had done to Jesus, caused some consternation and concern? When Jesus appeared to the eleven the third time, they shared breakfast together by the sea of Tiberias (or Galilee). After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. The apostle responded each time with the affirmation of his love for Jesus. In response Jesus tells Peter three things: first, He exhorts Simon to feed His lambs or tend His sheep (speaking in a spiritual sense). Secondly, Jesus tells Peter how the apostle would die. There will come a time when he will be bound and taken where he did not want to go. Finally, Jesus tells Peter to follow Him.

Peter could not have fully comprehended the meaning of Jesus’ words and how his life would change so dramatically in just a few weeks at Pentecost. In his own impetuous manner, Simon Peter upon hearing the words of Jesus looks over at the apostle John and inquires from the Lord what would happen to him. What Peter missed was the impact of the Lord’s statement about his own life and he ignores the impact of how he would die and wants to know what will happen to John. Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him that if it was the will of the Father for John to never die that is God’s business but Simon Peter needs to mind his own business about his own affairs. The Lord was trying to restore the confidence of the man who denied his Lord three times and Peter could not help but open his mouth at the wrong time about things that were of no consequence to him. What Peter needed to be concerned about was himself and the challenges that he would be facing in the coming months and years. Whatever would happen to John was of no matter to Peter. Simon needed to follow Jesus and feed the disciples the word of truth as instructed by the Lord. Others would misunderstand the meaning of Jesus’s words thinking that John would never die and like Peter were mindful about matters that belonged to the mind of God and not men. Peter was martyred and according to Jewish tradition was crucified upside down. John would die of old age having seen the incredible revelation of Jesus Christ as he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos. Jesus returned to the Father where He has been seated at the right-hand ruling over His kingdom.

Men like Peter are still trying to mind the affairs of God. Everything a man needs to know about salvation is revealed in the Bible. This great book contains sixty-six books that tell the history of the world, beginnings of civilization and the tragedy of a sinful world. For many millennia there was no joy in the world as the darkness of sin held sway over the hearts of men. Then joy came to the world in the birth of a child in Bethlehem that would grow to the stature of a man who lived without sin and was murdered by His own people. The light of the world came on the first day of the week with Jesus rose from the dead. Salvation had come to a lost and dying world. All of this is found within the pages of Holy Writ. There are many questions that remain unanswered. Men have mused over questions that have no meaning and are without profit. Like Peter, they want to know about this matter or that matter failing to realize all that mattered concerned their own lives and how they shared in a relationship with Jesus Christ or not. The great reality of life is that all men will stand before God in judgment with every person that has ever walked on the face of the earth and they will be standing before the Lord alone. Peter needed to realize that accountability was an individual choice. It did not matter what happened to John but it really did matter to Peter whether he would follow Jesus and do his will. The Bible is written to instruct the individual in their walk before God to be found pleasing regardless of what other people say or do. Salvation is a unique experience where the accountability of the individual is the basis of eternal life through the grace of God. What matters most to my life is whether I am saved and thereby by the love of God help others find their own accountability as Peter would say at Pentecost, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”

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Full Obedience To The Will Of God

saul and the Amalekite Battle #Biblefun

Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now, therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'” So Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. (1 Samuel 15:1-9)

Full Obedience To The Will Of God

Israel was the greatest nation on the earth for one reason: God fought their battles for them. The Lord defeated the Egyptian empire when He delivered the Hebrews from bondage. Before Israel became a nation they fought against the Amalekites and gained victory through the power of God. Arriving at Canaan twelve spies went throughout the land to see what the land was like. Ten of the leaders returned fearful of the giants in the land and the fortified cities causing the people unwilling to fight. Joshua and Caleb assured them they were well able to overcome through the power of God and there was nothing to fear. Begging the people not to rebel against the Lord, Joshua tried to convince the unbelieving hearts that if the Lord delighted in Israel, nothing could stand in their way. They refused and for the next forty years wandered through a wilderness of despair and death as God brought judgment against His people. When Moses brought the nation to Jordan he commanded them to be faithful and true to the word of the Lord. Joshua led the people across the Jordan River, conquered Jericho through the divine word of God and proceeded to possess the land in fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. Every city that was taken came by the power of God as the people obeyed the will of the Lord. Many years later, with a rich history of God’s power living in the hearts of the people, King Saul was told to utterly destroy Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up out of Egypt. Victory had come for the Hebrews as Moses held up his hands giving victory to Israel. Whenever Moses grew tired and lowered his hands Amalek prevailed. Aaron and Hur supported the hands of Moses, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. Joshua defeated Amalek and his people through the power of God.

Saul was the first king of Israel chosen because of his regal appearance and kingly presence. Sadly, his heart never committed itself to the will of the Lord and soon the king found himself in conflict with the Lord. First, king Saul had made a presumptuous sacrifice when Samuel was delayed bringing the disfavor of the Lord against him. Now the Lord tells the king to annihilate the Amalekites not sparing man, woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. The instructions were clear with no doubt to the purpose of the Lord. There would be no arguments to the meaning of the instructions brought by Samuel and King Saul was obligated to carry out the full measure of God’s word against the Amalekites. Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. Everything despised and worthless, he completely destroyed. Yet, the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” Why had God rejected Saul? Did the king not utterly destroy all the people with the edge of the sword and everything despised and worthless, he completely destroys? When Saul came up against the Amalekites he decided to reject the counsel of God and do what he thought was best. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive and spared the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs and all that was good and Saul was unwilling to utterly destroy them. The king would later tell Samuel that he had performed the commandment of the Lord. What tragically had happened was that Saul had refused to obey the will of the Lord and believed in his heart he was serving the Lord.

Obedience for Saul was deciding who should live and who should die regardless of the word of the Lord. Why kill king Agag? Had he pleaded successfully for his life and Saul, going against the will of the Lord, decided to give mercy to a man the Lord had determined destruction? Did Saul think God would be please will all the best of the animals spared through the counsel of the king instead of doing exactly what the Lord had commanded the king to do? It may not have made sense to the mind of Saul to kill the king or to destroy so many fine animals and there is no doubt in the heart of Saul he believed God would accept the will of a man over the divine but the conclusion is eternal in its application. There is never a time that God will allow a man to circumvent His will, His word, and His divine plan. When the Lord told Saul to kill everyone and everything He meant every word. Refusing to kill one man condemned the king. The best of intentions to spare the animals condemned the king. Full obedience is not half-hearted willingness to do whatever a person thinks God would accept. The world is filled with religious hearts that serve the Lord in their own fashions, designs, and purposes to placate their own wisdom to decide what God approves and what he disapproves. Content in the knowledge they know more than God, religious divisions fill the landscape of churches that reject the Biblical pattern of truth. Like Saul, they believe they are performing the commandments of the Lord. Salvation will only come when a person submits to the full will of the Lord with no compromise and no change. The power of God to save is offered to those who will obey His will and His will alone. Anything short of this is rejection. Grace will not save a disobedient heart.

 

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A God Of Promise

promise God

And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

A God Of Promise

The most important characteristics of a man is whether he is a person who honors his word and keeps his promise. This becomes a difficult matter in the nature of the carnal mind when some men will make promises they are unable to keep or promise something they have no intention of fulfilling. Circumstances may change and a promise may fail through unintended events. There are myriads of reasons why a man in his best form may have difficulty keeping a promise or at least fulfilling the fullness of what has been promised. The frailty of man is his limitation of knowledge, honor and time. He can promise something without realizing the full impact of his decision. There can be times when a promise is made but has to be changed because of a weak heart or decision not to honor what had been agreed. Promises can fail because of too much time or not enough time. Regardless, the ability of man to keep his promise is a frail attempt often hindered by sin. This has never been the case with the Lord God. All the limitations of man are removed when measured by the word of God. There are no promises that God cannot keep and whether good or bad all the promises of the Lord will come about. God is not limited in knowledge and is able to bring about what He has promised through divine insight. The character of God is established by the historical proof that when He promised something it came to pass. He is not limited by time. Abraham was promised a seed and twenty-five years later the Lord brought His promise to fulfillment. A nation and land were also promised Abraham and while he never lived to see the promise come to pass it was manifested in the nation of Israel and conquering of Canaan many centuries later. God kept His promise. The greatest promise that was channeled throughout the generations of men was the coming of the Seed as told to Adam and Eve and fulfilled in the coming of the Christ. God kept His promise.

Reading the Bible is the testimony to how often the word of the Lord established a promise and in every case was fulfilled as directed by God. Noah was told the world would be destroyed by a great flood and he would find salvation in the ark along with his family. What God said would happen come to pass as the flood destroyed every living being and Noah and his family was saved in the ark. While the division of the earth into languages was not a promise, what the Lord performed at the tower of Babel is still true today. Abraham and Sarah doubted the promise of a son but God fulfilled His promise when Isaac was born. Often through the history of God’s people, it seems to man the Lord has forgotten what He promised. Joshua would say that all the things promised by the Lord had come to pass. The prophets told the people of Israel if they did not repent God would punish them. They refused and the word of the Lord came to pass. He kept His promise time and time again. Jesus told His disciples He was going to Jerusalem to die and be raised on the third day and it happened exactly as He said it would. The promise of the Holy Spirit was given to the eleven apostles and on the Day of Pentecost, the promised Helper came – just as the Lord had promised. Reading the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to the final verse of Revelation 22:21 the promises of God was fulfilled exactly as prescribed by the will of the Lord. The Bible is a testimony to the word of God as being true in every way.

The apostle John writes that God has promised eternal life. Through a study of scripture, one thing becomes abundantly clear: God’s word is sure and steadfast. What He has promised He will grant. A man can make a bold promise that he tries with a valiant effort to accomplish and yet still fall short. This is not the case with the Lord God who has told all men that if they will do His will and obey His word He will give them life eternal. There are no reservations about that promise that would fail, fall short of or be refused. God will keep his promise. If a man is lost it is not because the promise of God has failed but the heart of man rejects the grace of God. The promise of eternal life is given to all men but most have no interest in the word of God. There are those who will name the name of Christ with the promise in mind but fail to keep His word losing the hope of the promise. For those who believe in the promise of God and live every day with the promise of God on their lips, they have nothing to fear that God will not bring that promise about. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. Do not doubt the promise of God. His word is true and His promise is everlasting. Embrace the only promise that is truth in its purest form because God cannot lie and He has promised eternal life.

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When Worship Becomes Tiresome

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But you profane it, in that you say, “The table of the Lord is defiled; and its fruit, its food, is contemptible.” You also say, “Oh, what a weariness! And you sneer at it,” says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” says the Lord. “But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished — for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “and My name is to be feared among the nations.” (Malachi 1:12-14)

When Worship Becomes Tiresome

When the Jews returned to Jerusalem after seventy years of exile, the temple was rebuilt and under the leadership of Nehemiah, the walls of the city were restored in fifty-two days. Instead of there being a renewal of spiritual worship praising God for His grace, mercy, and kindness to restore a remnant, the people fell into a religious carelessness of worship that was a weariness and drudgery. They dishonored God by offering unholy sacrifices, neglecting the commandments and marrying among the heathen. The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi was a stinging rebuke of how apathy had spread through the hearts of the people who worshiped the Lord with insincerity, profanity, and deception. It was clear from the Law of Moses the guidelines for offering sacrifices and presenting offerings at the table of the Lord. All of the sacrifices were to be without blemish yet the people offered blind, sick and broken animals. They did not have the willingness to give God their best. Instead, they brought the Lord the left-overs, the rejected and the refuse of their animals and crops. Their hearts loathed the commandments of God. Worship was only a process that must be endured until they could return to the abundance of their lives. They had corrupted the covenant of Levi, dealt treacherously with one another and profaned the institution of marriage. Malachi’s warning was to tell the people to repent for the day of the Lord was coming and judgment would be meted out to the unruly.

Man has always struggled in his worship to the Almighty. The nation of Israel was the most powerful people on earth blessed by the providence of God and the might of the arm of the Lord. No enemies could stand before them. The abundance of their crops was measured by their faithfulness. The Lord has promised to care for Israel as long as the people’s heart remained loyal to Him. Sin destroyed that relationship and after many years of rebellion, the Lord sent Israel into a foreign land to be punished by the Babylonians. Seventy years would pass before a remnant returned to Jerusalem and the promised land. The new generation did not have the heart of the older generation. They struggled to rebuild the temple waiting sixteen years to finally see the fruits of their labors. It would be a cup-bearer of king Artaxerxes that would rally the people to rebuild the walls. Still, the heart declined in its love and devotion of God. Worship was restored but only at half-mast. The temple was restored and the walls rebuilt but the spirit of the people languished under the burden of having to interrupt their lives to offer some petulance of worship. They thought it useless to serve God and believed there was little profit in keeping His law. Worship had not changed in the mind of God. He still demanded unblemished sacrifices but all He received were the blind and broken. This did not please the Lord and through Malachi challenged the people to reexamine their lives and their relationship with the Lord. Worship must be in spirit and in accordance with the truth.

Two and a half millennia removed from the plight of Israel and the burden of Malachi, the people of God still suffer the pains of apathy, insensitivity and a remarkable ability to offer worship that is filled with the same challenges of Israel long ago. The church was bought with the blood of Jesus Christ to allow man an avenue of worship to the great I AM and to show in their hearts their love for the sacrifice of Jesus. Worship is a central theme of this relationship between man and God. Is it possible the spirit of those from Malachi’s day still find themselves among the church of God today? Have the worship services become weariness and time of restlessness? Many forsake the worship for carnal pleasures. Others come and sit on a pew disassociated as far away from the meaning of worship as possible; they go through the motions to do and say the right things in the right manner. Blind hearts try to offer sacrifices to God and find little joy or peace. The final book of the Old Testament is a testimony to the struggle with sin. In Genesis man refused to obey the Lord and was cast out of the garden. Malachi binds the covenant books together to remind the people that sin still has its power over the true worshipers of God and that apathy must be resisted. A great day of the Lord is coming but those who seek to please the Lord will find the joy and blessing in true worship that is in accordance with the will of God. The Lord still loves His people. He sends men like Malachi to remind all of us of how special our worship should be to serve the Creator of the world, heavenly Father and eternal Savior.

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Asleep In Jesus

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For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:14)

Asleep In Jesus

The human body is designed to work with vigor and energy requiring a time of renewal in sleep so that the energies of the body can continue day to day. A person can go for long periods of time without sleep but eventually, the body will demand rest. Without the periods of slumber, the physicality of the human frame will be damaged. Everyone needs sleep regardless of gender, age, nationality or historical reference. Adam and Eve were created with the need for sleep and all those who have followed go through the same cycle of sleep. This part of the body does not depend on whether a person believes in God or not. The ardent atheist and the most fervent believer all find sleep a necessary part of life. While these observations of sleep seem trivial the reality is that Jesus described death as sleep and the apostle Paul exhorts the faithful saints that death is not to be feared but rather to be looked at as nothing more than sleep. While the body requires rest it will eventually die. There are many things that will preserve life for many years but death will overtake all men. Death comes to everyone regardless of gender, age, nationality or historical reference. Adam and Eve died and everyone that followed them dies. Death comes to all men whether they believe in God or not. The man who fervently denies the existence of God will die and the faithful child of God will experience the same fate. What makes this kind of sleep different is what this sleep will mean to the believer in Jesus Christ and what it will mean to those who refuse to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Death has been the common lot of all men since man was refused the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. All the modern conveniences, scientific discoveries and attempts to bring longevity to life will aid in extending the years of life but nothing will change the reality that no one lives on this earth beyond the habitation designed by God. Some have suggested the furthest limits of man’s existence can be as much as 115 years but regardless death will overtake every human being on the face of the earth young or old. Moses records in Genesis that Methuselah lived 969 years but then he died. Sleep is a reminder of the frailty of the human body. It should also teach the soul that one day there will be an eternal sleep. Death and sleep are synonymous because when a person takes a rest in sleep there is a belief that in a few hours they will awaken again. Many believe that death is final and there is nothing beyond death. Lying down to take a nap is a time of refreshing and laying the head down in death is supposed to be a time of renewal. God created man to need sleep so that he can be revived. This principle holds true for the eternal purpose of man who was created to live in the mortal frame for a time and then dies so they may rise in eternal life refreshed, renewed and recreated for the glory of God. Death is nothing more than a small rest so the mortal may put on immortality. To this end, man was created but through the deception of the devil, sin has destroyed the joy of death. There is no joy in death because man has changed the glory of God to the corruptible nature of sin requiring the wrath of God. All men will die and most men will find that death is not a time of refreshing but a time of punishment.

The apostle Paul wanted the Christian’s at Thessalonica to know that death was not to be feared or viewed with dread. If a person believes that Jesus died and rose from the dead, death is nothing more than a momentary sleep when one awakens in Jesus Christ. To be asleep in Jesus is to be in Christ through the obedience of the gospel. In his second letter, Paul will remind the church of the Thessalonians that salvation comes to those who know God and that obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Having a covenant relationship with God through the blood of Jesus, death becomes a transition from a world of woe, pain, and sorrow to a place of joy, peace, and eternal happiness. When the body is tired and worn down there is a sense of contentment to experience a time of sleep so the soul can be revived and refreshed. Death is a time of revival for the child of God who believes in the power of God to raise the dead and give life to the mortal body. Being asleep in Jesus is to die in the Lord carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham. There can be trepidation of the manner of death and the process of the human body deteriorating but when the final moment of transition takes place in death, Paul says a person sleeps in Jesus. Can you find any better way to describe death? Therefore comfort one another with these words.

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Stephen’s Charge Against The Jews

sanhedrin

You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it. (Acts 7:51-53)

Stephen’s Charge Against The Jews

The persecution of the church did not take long to escalate into violent and threatening charges being made against the disciples. First, it was a miracle of healing a lame man at the Temple that caught the eye of the Jewish leaders demanding Peter and John explain their actions and teaching about Jesus of Nazareth. Warning the two apostles, the Jewish council released the men severely threatening them not to teach in the name of Jesus. This did not dissuade the first disciples from spreading the gospel throughout the land and the Jewish leaders laid hands on all the apostles and put them in the common prison. After interrogating the twelve and beating them they were warned again by the council not to teach in the name of Jesus. After being released the twelve did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ daily in the temple and in every house. When a need arose to care for certain widows that were neglected in the daily distribution, the apostles sought the church to find seven men of good reputation to appoint over the work of the church. One of these men was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit named Stephen. He did great wonders and signs among the people catching the attention of a certain group called the Synagogue of the Freedmen who began to dispute with Stephen. They were unsuccessful in debating Stephen and unable to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Instead, they induced evil men to falsely charge Stephen bearing false witness that Stephen was guilty of blaspheming God. Being brought before the council, Stephen was permitted to give his answer before the high priest. Stephen’s defense is a blistering attack on the hypocrisy of the Jewish leadership as a nation far removed from the holy people of God. In a little over 1200 words, the disciple of Christ reviews the history of Israel as being a rebellious and disobedient people who disregarded every overture of grace offered by the Lord. His message was clear, definitive and accusatory to its core of rebellion characterized by the Jews since being delivered from Egypt.

Stephen did not try to rewrite the history of Israel in a favorable manner. He preached the clear truth of how Israel rebelled against God. Ultimately the Jews killed the Son of God as Peter preached at Pentecost. The great message of Jesus of Nazareth was the saving grace of God that brought joy to three thousand Jews on Pentecost and many more were learning of the Christ through the preaching of the early disciples. The number of the early Christians came to be about five thousand with multitudes obeying the gospel daily. Preaching Christ was not to condemn the Jews but to save them. The word of God came and lived among the people as the manna came among the multitude in the days of Moses but the Jews rejected Jesus. As long as they refused to accept Jesus as Christ they rejected the only spiritual manna that would save them. Sadly, Stephen’s charge against those who accused him was the same charge made against their fathers who persecuted and killed the prophets of old. The old covenant clearly told the stories of how the rebellious Jews refused to hear the words of the prophets and in some cases killed the men of God. Israel was once a powerful nation but through the wicked kings of the northern tribes of Israel and the final demise of the southern tribes of Judah the nation was taken away to Babylon. God punished the nation of Israel for their rebellion and Stephen was reminding the Jews of his day how history had repeated itself. Instead of killing the prophets they had killed the Messiah. His plea was for the Jews to accept the grace of God and believe Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. They refused.

The message of Stephen was not unlike the sermon of Peter at Pentecost with the exception of one thing: at Pentecost three thousand Jews obeyed the gospel; when the Jews heard Stephen’s sermon they rose up and killed him. Infuriated by the message of Stephen, they gnashed at him with their teeth, violently threw him out of the city and stoned him to death. Religious men murdered a man for preaching a simple message of historical truth. Their hearts were filled with hatred and prejudice. They were stiff-necked because they were unyielding to the truth with a stubborn determination. When Stephen called them uncircumcised in heart and ears he was describing their unwillingness to listen to things they knew to be true. They would not listen to Moses’ law whom Jesus said spoke of Him. Like their fathers before them, they resisted the Holy Spirit in rejecting the word of God. It is hard to imagine how people who profess to love God will commit murder in His name. The history of Israel is filled with the rejection of the people to the prophets and Stephen reminds them they had killed the Anointed One when they killed Jesus. Rejecting the word of God was refusing to listen to the law given by the direction of angels, the heavenly word.

Stephen’s message still resonates today as so many read the Bible and rejects its clear and plain teaching. They openly crucify the Lord again by rejecting the established word of God ordained through angels. Salvation can only come when Jesus is believed to be the Son of God and accepting this truth obeys as Peter told the multitude at Pentecost. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” What will you do with the sermon of Stephen and Peter? Will you be among the three thousand that obeyed or the crowd that killed a man of faith? Your choice will be how you respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God.

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Four Points Of The First-Century Church

Four Points Of The First Century Church

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)

Four Points Of The First-Century Church

Jerusalem was filled with a great multitude of devout Jews who had come for the celebration of Pentecost following the seven weeks after Sabbath-rest during the Feast of Unleavened bread. As they had done for centuries, those assembled were keeping the Law of Moses traveling many miles to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Little did the Jews know what changes would take place in their lives when they arrived in the city of God. Instead of celebrating the full harvest with thanksgiving to the Lord for the bounty of the land, three thousand souls would be harvested in the spiritual field of God’s kingdom. As the devout Jews from every nation under heaven gathered in one place suddenly a sound filled the whole house where they were sitting. Twelve men began to speak in the languages of those gathered and there was a notable sign of tongues, as of fire, appearing on the men. Peter stood and delivered a moving and powerful message of God’s will being accomplished by Jesus of Nazareth and how that seven weeks earlier the Jews had killed their own Messiah or Christ. The message struck the hearts of many for the guilt of killing the Son of God and they cried out to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do.” They were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and three thousand honest souls accepted the saving grace of God. What happens next is a remarkable testimony to the sincerity and honest hearts that first obeyed the gospel of Christ.

Imagine the scene for a moment. Three thousand devout Jews came to Jerusalem to fulfill the commandments of the Law of Moses. They did not know how their lives would change. As they heard the message of Peter their hearts were moved to obey the message of God’s love and they were immersed in the waters of baptism. Rising up from the water they rejoiced at the good news that God had forgiven them for killing the Christ, the Son of God. The first Christians were the first Christians that stood on the face of the earth. They had no form or pattern to follow as an example. The church was literally in its first moments of birth. There was not a pattern of two thousand years of church history to examine the writings of four gospels, letters of a man named Paul or examine the exhortations of Peter, James, and John. Luke would not write his historical account of the first days of the church for many years. Three thousand Jews stood dripping wet from the waters of baptism along with the twelve apostles asking the question, “What’s next?” The Lord did not leave them without a witness. Luke shows in the Acts of the Apostles the first Christians did four things: they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine; they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ fellowship; they shared in a communion meal; they enjoyed devoted times of prayer. Four points of the early church establish a pattern as God unveils His will to the first Christians to be shown for centuries to come. The New Testament would be written based on these four principles. Worship in the First Century church was crafted through the will of the Lord and revealed to men so that all those who follow would know how to worship God in spirit and truth.

Worship must be established by the authority of scripture. The first Christians learned the will of the new covenant through the teaching of the apostle’s doctrine. This was not the word of the twelve men but the word of God revealed through the agency of the apostles. The teaching of the apostles was what Jesus had revealed to the eleven prior to His death of the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide them into all truth. Doctrine is the foundation of salvation and should be an integral part of the work of the church. The first converts would learn the elements of the new covenant from the blood of Christ instead of the Temple sacrifices and human priesthood. Fellowship was an important part of the first Christian experience. This would indicate the will of God for His people to spend time together. As the early church unfolded the pattern of worship they would learn of the importance of assembling on the first day of the week to receive the teaching of the apostles and to enjoy the breaking of bread or the supper of Christ and the power of prayer. Three thousand Jews began to gather on the first day of the week listening to the twelve apostles explain the new testament, the life of Jesus, worship according to spirit and truth, growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ and the powerful testimony of the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. The Lord’s Supper would be defined as the manner of remembering what Christ had done. Prayers would flow from the lips of thankful Jews saved by the grace of God. What a marvelous time those first years must have been as the early church began to grow in number and spirit as the Holy Spirit revealed the nature of the church of Christ. The apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, communion, and prayer were the foundations of the church in the first century and must remain the foundation of the church today.

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