Theme: Know who I am, and know who you are
SUMMARY Really knowing God is the path to truly knowing ourselves. Knowing the majesty of God, knowing who Jesus is in your life, knowing who we are in Him — this all defines us as belonging to Him. That changes how we see ourselves — as God sees us, people bearing His spiritual authority, with a spiritual dimension and spiritual gifts.
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This linked article Seeing ourselves as God sees us is a reflection and message that further develops this theme.
Isaiah 51:1-6 — Those who have been alienated are reminded of their godly ancestry
Matthew 16:13-20 — The disciples declare Jesus to be Son of the real, live God
Romans 12:1-8 — With Spirit-renewed minds we see ourselves within the body of Christ with its richness of spiritual gifts.
And also read: Psalm 138
Isaiah 51:1-6 — God’s plan to gather the alienated ones
His people showing salvation light are the hope of the nations
1-2 “Listen to me, You who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.
“You who pursue righteousness” — encouragement for those still faithful to God in trial.
“The rock from which you were cut” — God is called “the Rock, your fortress” elsewhere, Isaiah 17:10. The rock represents godly Abraham and the quarry, Sarah.
3 “The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
“Deserts like Eden” — The well-watered garden, Eden, was a place of close fellowship with the Lord. The Lord will restore the relationship.
“Joy and gladness” — with the Lord present, as in heaven, so on earth.
4 “Listen to me, My people; hear Me, My nation: Instruction will go out from Me; My justice will become a light to the nations.
“My justice… a light to the nations” — the justice or salvation of the servant.
• For further study, see Isaiah 42:4, 6; 49:6, John 3:17-18
5 “My righteousness draws near speedily, My salvation is on the way, and My arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to Me and wait in hope for My arm.
“Righteousness draws near” — in the immediate context, deliverance from exile, Isaiah 46:10-13. Ultimately, being made just (right with God) through Christ, will come to all nations.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But My salvation will last forever, My righteousness will never fail.
“The earth will wear out” — the old cosmos and its wicked inhabitants will perish; only God’s people will inhabit the new. The word of God and His salvation will last for ever, Isaiah 40:8.
SUMMARY The prophet brings a word of hope for the outcast exiles, reminding them who they are. Their ancestry has good and godly foundation, hewn out of the ‘rock’ of Abraham and Sarah and carrying the imprint of God’s original covenant of that time. God is gathering them again in restored relationship with Him to take the light of His salvation to the nations, a salvation which will outlast the present world.
APPLICATION We, too, are ‘covenant people’ but the grounds of our belonging are not Abraham, but the New Covenant in Jesus and our faith in Him. God is relying on us to be bearers of the revelatory light of His salvation (also in Jesus) offered to others. These may be of other nations or ethnic groups. They may just be people in our neighbourhood but not part of our ‘tribe’ or social group.
QUESTION How confident are you about your ‘belonging’ and being able to show God’s light and love to others?
Matthew 16:13-20 — Who is Jesus? The answer also defines who we are
In a city of pagan shrines the disciples declare Jesus Son of the real, live God
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
“Caesarea Philippi” — not the coastal city but in notoriously pagan northern Galilee and dedicated to the Greek god Pan — a fit setting to discuss Jesus’ identity.
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“One of the prophets” — people who had long expected the great prophet foretold, saw similarities with Elijah and Jeremiah, Deut. 18:15-18; Malachi 4:5.
• For comparison, see 1 Kings 17:9-16; Matt. 14:13-21; 1 Kings 17:17-24; Matt. 9:18-19, 23-26
15-16 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
“Who do you say” — now Simon Peter speaks for the group with the bold answer, that Jesus is the Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek), the Son of the God who is alive, unlike the pagan gods around them.
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.
“Not revealed… by flesh and blood” — not understood in a natural way but by spiritual revelation.
• Faith makes the connection, Matt 11:25-27; 14:33; 27:54
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
“You are Peter… on this rock” — the name Petros, stone, becoming petra, bedrock, spoken with the massive stone facade used for pagan worship in view.
“On this rock I will build My church” — on Peter’s grasp of the truth, like the parable of building a house on rock, Matthew 7:24-25, with rock also meaning the eternal rock of Israel, Psalm 18:2, Isaiah 26:4, 30:29.
“I will build” — Jesus’ work of word and Spirit in every age, in which Peter participated.
“Church” — literally ‘assembly of those called’, only used here in the gospels and Matt. 18:17. Nothing suggests an office, an institution, infallibility or apostolic succession. Ephesians 2:17-20 teaches that the cornerstone rock the church is built on is Christ and the good news of the kingdom that He proclaimed, together with the apostles and prophets and all the believers.
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
“Keys of the kingdom of heaven” — alluding to Isaiah 22:22, what is permitted. Peter was a key person in opening the kingdom to Jews, then Samaritans and Gentiles. Later all the disciples received spiritual authority to pray and teach with confidence, Matthew 18:18.
• For further study, see Acts 2:3; Acts 8:14-17; Acts 10.
20 Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah.
“Not to tell” — The name Messiah was widely misunderstood as a political and revolutionary leader.
SUMMARY In a modern city full of shrines and symbols of the Greek god Pan and others, Jesus asks the disciples who people are saying He is — and presses them about what they believe themselves. Peter, probably speaking for all of them, says that they know he is not a controversial prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah who has come back, but God’s anointed servant, long foretold. In this place of lifeless pagan idols, they proclaim Him as the Son of the God who is living and real. Now Jesus tells Peter who he is, naming him ‘The Rock’ and praising him for speaking out what he has discerned spiritually. This truth about who Jesus is, and people’s faith in Him and His teaching, is what He will build His church upon.
APPLICATION We talk about “my” church and what we like. Clearly, though, the church belongs to Jesus alone — and He is the One who builds it, not us. We have a part: the partnership is vital. As disciples, we are to “go” (or at least be outward-looking) and encourage more disciples. Through this, Jesus will build His church, His way.
QUESTION How would you explain who Jesus is and why that’s personal to you?
Romans 12:1-8 — A call to see ourselves with the renewed mind of the Spirit
New life and spiritual gifts empower the whole body of Christ
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.
“In view of God’s mercy” — the gospel is not only merciful salvation but also the power to live changed lives.
“True and proper worship” — not ritual, but intentional availability to God and His mission.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.
“Be transformed” — a process of the Holy Spirit. The new spiritual start that comes from receiving Christ as Saviour and Lord starts a renewal of perception and understanding — new heart leads to new mind — with spiritual discernment of God’s will.
3 For by the grace given Me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
“Grace given me… faith God has distributed” — the danger in being empowered to share in the ministry of Jesus and seeing it as a mark of spirituality, rather than a spiritual gift given to be used for Him.
4-5 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
“One body with many members” — in the church fellowship all the different gifting is needed and works together, like arms, legs, eyes and balance all enabling us to walk. Also 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
6-8 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
“Different gifts” — have several mentions in the letters, with differences in context, and a representative 17 or so listed. Gifts here in Romans are innate spiritual attributes that go with character, e.g. gifted as proclaimers, or as those who get the job done, or having the ability to explain and disciple others, to build them up, to be generous with God’s provision, to enable others with good leadership, or to bring God’s comfort. Other spiritual gifts are those that arise with an intensity of the Holy Spirit in worship especially, or gifts that define a mature ministry that equips others.
• For comparison , see 1 Cor. 12:12-28; Ephesians 4:11-13, 16.
SUMMARY Receiving the gospel is a step into salvation and the start of a transformation, being renewed from the inside out. We see ourselves differently in this renewing of the mind. The Holy Spirit, now active in us, gives us a new awareness of who God is (Father!) and who we are as God’s children, and how we live out God’s will.
This is about His gifts, bestowed not achieved, which are not badges of honour but the essential working of the body of Christ as the different spiritual attributes we each carry, work together like parts of a human body.
Some are speaking and coaching type people while others are doers, making things happen or contributing as good earners and generous givers; some have gifts as enablers of others through leadership; while others, equally important, are encouragers and carers in the fellowship.
APPLICATION This diversity working in unity is how Christ builds His church, Matthew 16:18. The working of spiritual gifts in the fellowship of the church has not always been clearly taught in formal churches — but it is plain enough here in Scripture. The gifts are certainly not all in the leader or leaders. Those who have a recognised ‘front’ role need to be equippers of all the others who bring other vital attributes — a challenge for clergy who seek reserved roles not open to ‘laity’.
QUESTION What gifts from this description do you see in others? What gifts might others see in you? How could they work better together?
PRAYER Lord God, we are so grateful that we don’t have to have the right family name, or a certificate of knowledge, to know You. We thank You that it’s about “who you know” and knowing Jesus is how we, in fact anybody, can come into Your presence.
We acknowledge You, Jesus, to be Lord of the church and we say it is Yours. We release any ownership we feel, that You may build Your church, Your way.
We thank You for new life, for new understanding, and for renewed vision that sees Your gifts working together and Your kingdom touching others. All for Your glory, Amen.
And also read: Psalm 138
1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing Your praise.
2 I will bow down toward Your holy temple and will praise Your name for Your unfailing love and Your faithfulness, for You have so exalted Your solemn decree that it surpasses Your fame.
3 When I called, You answered me; You greatly emboldened me.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise You, LORD, when they hear what You have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great.
6 Though the LORD is exalted, He looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, He sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life. You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes; with Your right hand You save me.
8 The LORD will vindicate me; Your love, LORD, endures forever — do not abandon the works of Your hands.
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