Theme: Knowing God is knowing His partnership
Psalm 100 — Praise God who is good and whose love endures
Joyful security comes from knowing God and living as His people
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
“All the earth” – the call to worship starts off wider than the people of Israel, or (we might say today) the Church. It is a call to all mankind, and even all creation. The focus from v.3 becomes more specific.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.
“Gladness… joyful songs” – characterises worshippers of the living God who respond to His goodness, v.5, in praise and joy.
3 Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
“Know” – acknowledging that Israel’s covenant God, Yahweh, is the one true God, and being completely assured of this truth.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.
Enter… with praise” – coming into God’s presence in praise and joy were two conditions for entering the sanctuary.
• For further study, compare Psalm 40:8, 42:2, 43:4, 66:13, 86:9, 118:19-20.
5 For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
“For the LORD is good” – full of generosity, Ps. 23:6, 25:7-8. Here, “good” is supported by His merciful love and faithfulness, emunah, which NKJ renders as “truth”. The root meaning is about being established or confirmed and this is where our word “Amen” comes from.
Exodus 19:2-8 — Israel will be God’s special possession and witness
Moses hears God speak words of covenant on the mountain where he first met God
2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
“Desert of Sinai” – in the south-east of the peninsula and the setting for the rest of the events of Exodus, Leviticus and the first ten chapter of Numbers. This was about seven weeks after the exodus and later this was the time of the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. So Pentecost also celebrated the Giving of the Law.
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:
“The LORD called to him from the mountain” – fulfilling the promise made to Moses here, at the burning bush, that he would bring the people out of Egypt and serve God on this mountain, Exodus 3:12.
4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
“Carried you on eagle’s wings” – as eagles carry their young on their back, a picture of God’s care in the rescue.
5-6 Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.””Now if you… keep My covenant” – the covenant with Abraham 600 years before is to be amplified and extended, but whereas that covenant was an unconditional promise to an individual, this will be conditional on the nation’s continuing relationship with God.
“A kingdom of priests and a holy nation” – unlike the surrounding nations and their kings, Israel was to look to the LORD as their ruler and be a nation set apart for Him, and a model of having Him as their king. As a priest stands between God and people, representing one to the other, Israel would represent God, and be channels of grace to nations that did not know Him. Following the resurrection and Pentecost, every believer in Jesus would take on this role in the redefined new covenant priesthood, 1 Peter 2:5, 9.
“Set before them all the words” – the covenant that Moses was given to convey had three main emphases: (1) the commandments to govern their personal lives, (2) the law for their social lives and way of relating; and (3) ordinances for knowing how to approach God in their religious lives.
• For further study, see Exodus 20:1-26; Exodus 21:1-24:11; Exodus 24:12-31:18.
8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
Moses had encountered the Lord on the slopes of this mountain when he was drawn by the sight of a burning bush, years before. Now the Lord had called him again and was telling him how the relationship would work — ‘relationship’ being an important word.
Everything about God is about relationship, from the oneness of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit relationship of the Trinity, down to the way He hears and speaks to us in the activity of the day – and the way He sets out for His church to love and respect each other.
His desire for the nation of Israel is a protective and providing partnership, exactly what’s needed in difficult terrain with hostile onlookers.
The way this works is in the words “Keep My covenant”, or in our language, “Guard the relationship”.
What does keeping covenant with God mean to us? What is the balance between our actions and our attitudes?
Matthew 9:35-10:8 — Jesus sends the twelve with His authority to proclaim the kingdom
This mission is to heal, deliver and free Jewish inhabitants of Galilee
9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
“Jesus went through” – Galilee, in the preceding section which is bracketed by this verse and similarly-worded Matthew 4:23. Now He is sending the Twelve to proclaim the arrival of the domain of God over sickness.
36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Sheep without a shepherd” – Jesus’ compassion is expressed in pointing out the failure of spiritual leadership that has left the people bereft, Ezekiel 34:5; Zechariah 10:2, 13:7; Mark 6:34.
• For further study, Jesus’ compassion noted: Matthew 14:14, 15:22, 20:34; Mark 1:41, 6:34, 8:2.
37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
• For further study, see Isaiah 18:4-5, 27:12, Hosea 6:11.
10:1 Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
“Gave them authority” – also implied in “apostles” in the next verse; the word conveys the sense of an envoy sent to bring an area into line with a new rule. Jesus delegating His power in this way was remarkable and without precedent, and underlined His deity.
2-4 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
“These are the names” – the lists of apostles always start with Peter but the differences are slight, except ‘the other’ Judas, son of James, called here Thaddeus.
• For further study: Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13.
5-6 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
“Go… to the lost sheep of Israel” – the priority for the good news of the kingdom was the people of the covenant, staying within Galilee for this mission. After His death and resurrection Jesus commanded the kingdom message to be taken to all nations, Matthew 28:19.
7-8 “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
“Proclaim this message” – by speaking and acting in the name of Jesus, the disciples also confirmed His Messiahship, see Matt. 11:2-6.
The headline to this story is Jesus’ memorable statement – which is about partnership: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few… ask the Lord of the harvest… to send out workers…“
The ones that were already committed to that partnership as apprentices of Jesus are the Twelve (soon to be joined by others – Luke describes the sending out of seventy-two). At this point they are taking instruction to carry on the work they have already observed the Master doing; now He will observe them doing it.
However the call to partnership for us, as disciples has an important difference. There’s the work that God does, and the work that He assigns for us to do. In our time, we are the only ones who can tell people who Jesus is, proclaim the kingdom of God He came to inaugurate, and be the connection for people for the works of the kingdom.
What heaven desires and plans, has us as a vital link in the chain – it depends on our willingness to exercise our faith. Jesus didn’t come to start another world religion, He came to call disciples – and that is the kingdom partnership.
How do we see ourselves as the same as, or different from, the first disciples?
Romans 5:1-8 — Our faith through Jesus has brought us close to God
Therefore we can praise Him in difficult times as He strengthens us through them
1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
“Justified by faith” – summarises the teaching of the first part of the letter, c. The believer in Christ has, by God’s grace and Jesus’ action, been pronounced to now have right standing with God. It is a legal status of having been absolved from judgment, and therefore having (not just feeling) peace with God. God confers worth on us, through our faith in Him.
3-5 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
“Glory in our sufferings” – the path to eternal glory has rock falls and other difficulties which God uses to grow our Christian resilience and trust in Him, as we are held by His love. This is not a morbid view of God’s glory because of sufferings, but a joyful one of experiencing God’s majestic, overwhelming presence coming into difficult experiences.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
“Just at the right time” – it is when we acknowledge our powerlessness and our need of Him, that Christ is revealed to us as our Saviour.
7-8 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
“Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person” – it is not unknown for someone to prefer another person’s life over their own, but the point is that Jesus went to His horrific death for us, while we were still in sin’s grip and therefore His enemies.
In the words of an old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It helps (a lot) if we know we are not alone, but held by God’s faithful love, while we wait for Him to break through with His glory.
This is hope, the confident expectation that God has our backs, and has ways and indeed purposes beyond our imagination. As The Passion Translation puts it, “…This hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!“
When life’s road is smooth and we feel in control, the partnership is not as evident as when we find ourselves almost upended by the potholes and finding ourselves relying on His saving hand again.
How much are you influenced by the world system we live in where favour has to be earned? If Jesus died for us while we still in independence and rebellion against Him, how does that knowledge influence how we pray now?
LORD, in the words of the psalmist, we worship You with gladness, joyfully thankful that we have been chosen to know You and to daily experience Your enduring love.
Whenever we rise to the call to be workers in Your harvest field, or we are challenged to persevere in hope when the field gate seems locked, we know that we belong to You, and that You are committed to us.
Thank You for the new and better covenant we have with You through Jesus, and for the practical helping partnership of Your Holy Spirit.
May we know where You are directing us, so we can partner with You and see Your kingdom come, for Your glory. Amen.
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Theme for Trinity Sunday: The three Persons of the One God at work in creation, mission and fellowship
See also page on Explaining the Trinity
Genesis 1:1-2:4 — God speaks into existence the world, its rhythms and also man in His image
Matthew 28:16-20 — Apprentices of Jesus are drawn from all kinds of people who become filled with Father, Son and Holy Spirit
2 Corinthians 13:11-14 — Christians carry with them the grace of Jesus, the love of the Father and the belonging of the Holy Spirit.
Genesis 1:1-2:4 — God speaks into existence the world and its rhythms
Everything created was good, and also man in God’s image
1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
“In the beginning God” – God exists, and existed before creating the universe.
“God created” – God is the plural subject of a singular verb, a mysterious twist which could allude to the Trinity. The word bara used for “created”, literally ‘fashion anew’, is only ever used of God.
3-5 And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness He called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.
“And God said… and there was” – the absolute power of God, creating in His very words.
“Let there be light” – one of the principal themes of the Bible is that God puts light into darkness and confusion, here in the creation of the daily and weekly cycle.
“The light was good”– everything God does or creates comes out of His innate goodness, also vv. 10, 12, 18, 21, 25.
6-8 And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault ‘sky’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.
“Vault” – expanse; the root meaning is a beaten metal covering or dome.
• For further study, “hard as a mirror” and “like a canopy”, Job 37:18, Isaiah 40:22.
9-10 And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land’, and the gathered waters He called ‘seas’. And God saw that it was good.
“Gathered” – God brings order out of chaos with the three domains of sky, sea and earth. The flood of Genesis 6 reverted to the previous chaos for that time.
11-13 Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.
“Plants bearing seed… trees bearing fruit – creation, fruitfulness and reproduction are set in place for human and animal life to come.
14-19 And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day.
“He also made the stars” – Neighbouring cultures worshipped the stars but in God’s creation, He made them.
20-23 And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ And there was evening, and there was morning – the fifth day.
“God created the great creatures of the sea” – which pagan cultures held to be co-eternal with their gods. Hebrew tanninim, creatures, elsewhere refers to crocodiles, powerful monsters or Leviathan – created by God and subject to His sovereignty.
24-25 And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’
“Let us make” – God speaks for His heavenly court of angels, with language that foreshadows the Trinity, an understanding that came much later in God’s progressive revelation.
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.
“In our image” – each living part of creation is designed to reproduce “according to their kinds” and God’s supreme act of creation is creating mankind to share His attributes and qualities, including the rule of His creation, vv.28-29.
28 God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
“Rule over… every living creature” – In ESV, “subdue… and have dominion”. The idea is investigating and finding the earth’s resources, a mandate for responsible scientific and technological development that respects God’s intentions. The strong term “subdue” (compare Zech. 9:15, Micah 7:19) conveys managing with God’s authority, perhaps foreshadowing sin and Satan’s attempts to gain control, which will need determined stewardship. Jesus’ saying about “violence” coming on God’s good order may reflect this, Matt. 11:12.
29-30 Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.
“I give you every…” – repeating “every” and “all” emphasises the abundance of God’s provision.
31 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
“Completed” – and perfect, needing no further work or revision, therefore “rest”, vv.2-3.
2-4 By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
“He rested” – the basis for the word Sabbath although that observance did not come until the giving of the Law, Exodus 20:8-11.
Our first picture of the Trinity is of God the creator of the universe, with the creative Spirit of God present and active over the formless waters. Where is Jesus the Son of God? Also present, although not mentioned in the Genesis account.
John tells us in the opening words of his gospel that Jesus, the Word – or fundamental purpose of God – was with Him in the beginning and instrumental in the creation, John 1:1-3.
The climax of this part of the story is the creation of man as thinking and feeling and caring like God, and given authority to manage earth’s resources well.
How might we seek answers from the Creator to climax change and pollution and energy management?
Matthew 28:16-20 — Disciples of Jesus are drawn from all kinds of people
Full of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they will continue Jesus’ work
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
“Eleven disciples” – following Judas’ suicide, Matt. 27:5.
17 When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.
“But some doubted – The eleven believed but this tells us that others accompanied them, possibly the appearance to more than 500 mentioned by Paul, 1 Cor. 15:6.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
“All authority… has been given” – confirming Jesus’ deity and return to His exalted position as divine Son of God, connecting heaven and earth by His universal lordship.
19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
“Make disciples” – apprentices of Jesus who would learn to follow and do (better than obey) what Jesus taught and did helped by the Holy Spirit, like Jesus coaching them in person.
“The name” – singular, not names. This earliest Trinitarian verse means there is one true and undivided God who exists as the distinct persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The call to be a disciple of Jesus is spelt out in this passage – it is about making other disciples who learn to carry on the ministry of Jesus, who themselves encourage further disciples, and so on. How do we do that?
Those who come to a decision to trust what Jesus has done for them and invite Him to be the influencer of their lives will want to enter the water of baptism to celebrate their new life. That, says Jesus, is a transaction of all three Persons of the one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is not a ritual but a transformation from the old life to the new, empowered to live it for Jesus, receiving the Father’s love, knowing the reality of Jesus in their lives, and being spiritually renewed.
Despite cruel persecution, the early church grew very rapidly – because this is the way it is designed to work.
How might grow more aware of the slightly different relationships we enjoy with Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
2 Corinthians 13:11-13 — Christians carry blessings of the three persons of God
Through Jesus we find God’s love and the oneness of the Holy Spirit
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
“Finally” – Paul’s concluding words in a letter about resolving relational difficulties urge living the life of the Spirit joyfully. The Holy Spirit leads into unity with generosity of attitude and a disposition to build others up, and bring out what God has put in them.
12-13 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.
“Holy kiss… God’s people”– literally the hagio kiss of the hagioi, the welcome of the saints. The custom for family reunions was, uniquely in the church, a way of showing acceptance, love and freedom from judgment, bridging differences of race, social standing and gender.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
“Grace… love… fellowship” – Paul varies the more familiar order to show that through the grace of Jesus, we come to experience the love of God, and receive the Holy Spirit. At the end of a letter dealing with conflicts at Corinth, he gives a succinct formula for the solution.
The special sense of belonging and oneness with other Christians creates a feeling of family that includes all the rich diversity that we bring as varied individuals. And so family-style greetings need no encouragement.
But that togetherness and affinity is the very area the devil will try to damage, and the as-yet-unrenewed carnality and competitiveness of the Corinth Christians opened that door to trouble.
We can read all about it in Paul’s letters, but the end of his final letter summarises with the remedy: grace towards others, like Jesus, with unconditional love, like the Father, is what releases the genuine fellowship that only the Holy Spirit brings, and leaves little room for the enemy to sow strife.
What does it look like to follow Paul’s instruction to “encourage one another”?
Father, I can draw near to You through knowing what Jesus has done for me, and my halting utterances become prayers of praise and joy and every other expression as I allow Your Holy Spirit to lead me.
May I grow in Your kind of unconditional love, and learn to treat others preferentially as Jesus does — and be a disciple who is always learning the trade with Jesus and encouraging others to be on His team.
Your kingdom come! Amen.
See also page on Explaining the Trinity
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TLW21a May 31, 2020 Pentecost
Pentecost: All are on the team in the power of the Spirit
Psalm 104:24-34, 35 — All of God’s creation is sustained and renewed by Him
John 20:19-23 — The disciples receive from Jesus an initial impartation of the Spirit in preparation for Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21 — The outpouring of the Spirit empowers everyone to speak out God’s purposes and be part of the mission
1 Corinthians 12:3-13 — The Holy Spirit bestows a diversity of gifts but they all complement one another for one purpose
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – All of God’s creation is subject to Him
Everything that lives is sustained by God’s breath
24 How many are Your works, LORD! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.
“Your words, LORD” – this is the end part of the psalm which praises God for His creation and continuing lifegiving involvement which later references the Holy Spirit.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number — living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which You formed to frolic there.
“Leviathan, which You formed” – a huge, overpowering and fear-inducing sea monster, also the identity of a demonic principality. Man cannot overpower the monster, but God, who created it, can.
27 All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When You give it to them, they gather it up; when you open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
29 When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
“Breath” – linked to “Spirit” in the next verse. The idea is that God both gives and withdraws, life and renewal.
30 When You send Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the ground.
“When You send Your Spirit” – but in the context of an anointing that can be applied, or lifted. In another Psalm David pleads with God not to take away His Spirit and hence equipping for his royal task. Ezekiel and Jeremiah both prophesied about God giving His people and new heart (motivation) to live according to His will.
• For further study, read Ezekiel 36:26-27, Jeremiah 24:7, 32:39, Ezekiel 11:19.”
31-32 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works — He who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD.
“May my meditation be pleasing” – the poet recognises that sin pollutes God’s creation, and ends with invoking a blessing to be the opposite i.e. “pleasing to Him”.
God’s creation is diverse but it all works together, sustained by Him and under His control. God’s breath or Spirit is the life-breath of everything created, and it is also the renewing force that living organisms rely on. This points to the move of renewal that is Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit’s renewing work brings change – how much do you want to preserve how things are?
John 20: 19-23 — The disciples receive a foretaste of Pentecost
Jesus’ initial impartation prepares them to receive more
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
“Jesus came and stood” – the doors were shut and Jesus was resurrected with a real physical body, so this was one of a series of miraculous, but not ghostly, appearances.
20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
“His hands and side” – John does not mention feet. Jesus identifies Himself, showing that He did not feign death, but conquered it.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”
22 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
“He breathed on them” – a foretaste of what was to happen, an initial impartation preparing the way for the great outpouring at Pentecost. Baptism in the Spirit is often repeated.
23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
“Their sins are forgiven” – by God, not by this action. The apostles (now all believers) become involved in God’s plan of salvation by declaring the truth that God is ready to forgive those that repent and believe.
This is not unlike our experience of receiving Jesus into our hearts and being born again.
As we come to a decision for Him, there is the sense of Jesus revealing Himself to us, and an impartation of the Holy Spirit which changes us from the inside. We know we are now part of God’s plan for salvation, with an important message for others.
This may be the most memorable step, but there will be others. Any encounter with Jesus and the Holy Spirit gives us a thirst for more, and makes us more receptive — just the preparation the disciples needed.
How much do you need the impartation this passage describes? Might you be limiting, what God wants to give you?
Acts 2: 1-21 – The outpouring of the Spirit that moves all into mission
The prophecy is fulfilled: all are empowered to speak out God’s purposes
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
“Day of Pentecost” – the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover and therefore the first day of the week. Pentecost (also called Weeks, Harvest and Firstfruits in Judaism) was by tradition when Moses received the Law, or Old Covenant. Now the Spirit is outpoured to fulfil the promise of the law and prophets and inaugurate the New Covenant.
• For further study, see Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:10; Exodus 23:16, Numbers 28:26.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
“Sound… of a violent wind… tongues of fire” – wind and fire are both signs of the intense presence of God. John the Baptist proclaimed that the Messiah would baptise “with the Holy Spirit and fire”, Luke 3:16.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
“All of them” – probably the 120, not just the 12, including women as in Joel’s prophecy vv.17-18. Spiritual leadership under the Old Covenant was restricted to Aaron’s family. The New Covenant starts by overturning that restriction in an empowering shared by all.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.
“Heard their own language” – here the sign of tongues results in those in the very mixed festival crowd hearing their own dialects and languages. Later the gift of tongues would be a heavenly praise and prayer language not generally understood by others, unless (today’s experience) as a faith-raising sign to them.
7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?
Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
9-11 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs — we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
“What does this mean?” – the sign to them was hearing the wonders of God spoken in a way unmistakably personal to them.
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
“Peter… addressed the crowd” – emerging as a leader able to speak with gravity and explain to the Jews gathered there, “This is that…” and taking them back to words they would know from Joel, v.16
15 “These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
16-17 “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
“In the last days” – or “afterward” in Hebrew, making a contrast with the Old Covenant. Peter grasps that the New Covenant time has started, perhaps remembering the sign of the temple curtain being torn, opening up to all, the old restricted access to God.
18 ‘Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
“They will prophesy” – inspired to declare God’s purposes as a “now”word, not just in the future.
9 ‘I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ “
“Everyone who calls… will be saved” – a revolutionary idea by the general understandings of Judaism. The Holy Spirit was released to the whole world of men, women, son, daughters, Jews and Gentiles — all could turn to Jesus and receive the Spirit.
If we were in a gathering of other nationalities and heard English words praising God, we’d know that He wanted our attention, and we would “listen carefully” to what God wanted for our lives.
The explanation was a challenge: women, and young people would be God’s spokespersons, equal with men, and anyone, not just Jews, could come to God by calling on Jesus to be saved. The salvation and relationship with God won by Jesus is for anyone who will turn to Him. Who is tasked with making this known? We are, but we have to learn God’s ways to do it.
Pentecost changed everything, for ever – but the danger is that we would rather maintain the old ways.
How much do we reflect Pentecost in our lives and gatherings? What might God be saying about that?
1 Corinthians 12: 3-13 – The Spirit confers different gifts which all work together
The creative diversity is like the different parts which comprise one body
3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
“Speaking by the Spirit of God” – what we say comes out of what is in the heart, which is either renewed by the Spirit of God, or not. Jews who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah condemned Him as cursed by God because He died on a ‘tree’, Deut. 21:23. He did die a cursed, shameful death, but it was to release all who believe in Him from shame and the law’s curse into the original blessing of Abraham, Gal. 3:13-14.
4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
“Different… gifts, but…. the same God at work” – an explanation that reflects the Trinity, of how the diversity of gifting that believers carry, all represents a single purpose as God works through them in different ways.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
“To each one… for the common good – those made alive in the Spirit all contribute a particular essential gift or gifts which build up the fellowship and bring God’s presence to the wider world.”
8-10 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
“To one… to another” – not a prescriptive list or a single-label definition of what is organic and situational. Many will experience all of these gifts at different times, but may have greater facility in one or two. These gifts are commonly experienced more in prayer meetings, home groups and personal ministry than in contemporary front-led congregational worship, a pattern that the Early Church might not recognise.
11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.
“The work of… the same Spirit” – together with v.7 “the manifestation of the Spirit” the repetition forms a literary bracket, used by writers of this era to convey emphasis. Gifts were to be seen as God working in partnership, not any individual’s enhanced spirituality.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
13 For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Many parts… form one body” – an important theme which Paul develops further and often returns to. The Holy Spirit confers revelation, or spiritual insight, and an empowering to bring God’s purposes to earthly situations, but in a way which calls for humble inter-dependence. The body needs every part, and no part defines the body, but Christ does.
Half a century ago the present experience of the gifts of the Spirit was held to be more controversial than today, when we know we need all the supernatural help we can get, to reach an increasingly distant world.
God-given insights, wisdom and faith for what God wants to do, help us to show people that God loves them and understands their situations, and bring the team dynamic of ‘every member ministry’ that changes our outlook.
The expectation of the human authors inspired to write what we call the NT, was that hearers would have a post-resurrection and post-Pentecost perspective of being empowered to live and witness for Jesus.
That is the nature of the mission partnership we are all called into.
Pentecost has happened – and the Holy Spirit and His gifts have been given to the church. Where and when do we make room for them and expect them to help us?
Lord God Almighty, from the beginning You planned to send Your Son to be our way of salvation.
You always intended to send Your Spirit for the whole church everywhere, that we might know the close presence of Jesus and share in His continuing ministry and mission.
May we catch a fresh excitement about what You are doing, and calling us into, at the present time.
With many asking spiritual questions and turning to find hope, peace and meaning in You, empower us all to speak out and explain what You are doing at this time and what Your good plans and purposes are.
Out of crisis, bring revival in the new life of Jesus! Amen.
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May 24, 2020 TLW20A
Sunday after Ascension: Living in the power of God as those who are His
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 — The power of God the Lord Almighty
Praise for God’s might in historic acts and presence with us now
John 17:1-11 — Protected by the power of Jesus’ name
Our security is in what Jesus has done for us and knowing the Father
Acts 1:6-14 — Jesus promises the empowering of the Holy Spirit
He reveals the truth about God and enables us to tell others
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 — We resist the devil in God’s greater power
The enemy brings threats and tests but praise God for His power
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 — The power of God the Lord Almighty
Praise for God’s might in historic acts and presence with us now
1 May God arise, may His enemies be scattered; may His foes flee before Him.
“May God arise” – the voice of the worshipping community praises God’s glory going before them from Mount Sinai in the desert to Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
2 May you blow them away like smoke — as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God.
3 But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
“The righteous… rejoice” – God’s people. Early Christians saw Christ’s resurrection, ascension and present rule foreshadowed, Ephesians 4:8-13.
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before Him — His name is the LORD.
“His name is the Lord” – Yahweh. The psalm also uses five other names: elohim God (v.1), adonai Lord (v.11), shaddai Almighty (v.14), yah elohim Lord God (v.18) and Yahweh Adonai God the Lord (v.20).
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.
“A father to the fatherless” – God’s character is to defend the defenceless. Knowing God as Father will be brought out by Jesus and in the NT.
6 God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
“Sun-scorched land” – barren, devoid of vegetation and water, a picture of alienation from God.
7-9 When You, God, went out before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness, the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. You gave abundant showers, O God; You refreshed Your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it, and from Your bounty, God, You provided for the poor.
“Marched through the wilderness” – journey from Red Sea to the Promised Land.
32-35 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, to Him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice. Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens. You, God, are awesome in Your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to His people. Praise be to God!
You kingdoms of the earth” – appealing to all political powers to recognise God’s heavenly rule.
Israel’s security from surrounding nations was in God’s presence giving power and strength to His people, v.35.
This psalm may have been composed by David on the occasion of establishing the Ark of the Covenant in a permanent place of worship – remembering its long journey.
Life’s journey has threats and setbacks but the theme of the praise is clear. God is powerful and mighty but also caring, non-discriminatory and very fair.
What are the some of the ‘milestones of gratitude’ in your journey of life with Him?
John 17:1-11 — Protected by the power of Jesus’ name
Our security is in what Jesus has done for us and knowing the Father
1 After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that Your Son may glorify You.
“Jesus… looked toward heaven and prayed” – His longest recorded prayer.
2 For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him.
“You granted… You have given” – this chapter emphasises God bestowing the path to salvation.
3 Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.
“Eternal life” – which starts the moment we enter a personal relationship with the Father through believing, trusting and receiving Jesus Christ.
4 I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do.
5 And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.
“The glory I had with You before” – which Jesus gave up to be born as man, Philippians 2:6-8. Part of the divine exchange achieved by Jesus’ death and resurrection was His shame changed to exaltation and glory.
6 “I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me and they have obeyed Your word.
7 Now they know that everything You have given Me comes from You. For I gave them the words You gave Me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from You, and they believed that You sent Me.
“They accepted… they knew… they believed” – unlike most of the Pharisees and religious leaders who heard Jesus’ words without believing, the disciples had shown that they accepted Jesus’ teaching, understood His divine origin, and had believed through a change of heart.
9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours.
“They are Yours” – those who accept Jesus and His message are born again into the family of God with the rights of His children.
• For further study, see John 1:12; 11:52; Romans 8:14-15; Galatians 4:5; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 3:1.
10 All I have is Yours, and all You have is Mine. And glory has come to Me through them.
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name you gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.“
“Protect them… so that they may be one” – also vv. 21, 23 which emphasise being brought into unity, a work of the Holy Spirit. Essential to continuing the work and witness of Jesus, unity would also be a target of spiritual attack, as today.
Belonging to God through choosing to believe and receive Jesus is a privilege. The belonging is about the new life in relationship with Him, but it also spells protection.
The devil will do anything to try to spoil God’s offer of salvation to those who believe in His Son, which is where protection comes in. If Jesus prayed that we would have it, we need it!
We may feel powerless against the forces behind evil events, but we have been given the name of Jesus Christ – the Name that is above all names. We can try to live by our own power – or choose to overcome by His.
When things are turning pear-shaped, how long does it take us to recall that we are in a relationship where God is committed to respond and help?
Acts 1:6-14 — Jesus promises the empowering of the Holy Spirit
He reveals the truth about God and enables us to tell others
6 Then they gathered around Him and asked Him, “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
“Restore the kingdom” – first-century Jews longed for the restoration of David’s kind of kingdom and believed the Messiah, a descendent of David, would do this. The kingdom Jesus spoke about was a spiritual kingdom, or rule, in the hearts and lives of believers. At Pentecost the misunderstanding would be corrected.
7-8 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
“You will receive power… you will be My witnesses” – this verse summarises the story of Acts, and a task of unimaginable extent to these men. Acts describes the outward movement from Jerusalem of proclaiming salvation in Jesus in the power of the Spirit, to the known world.
9 After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.
“A cloud hid him” – indicating the drawing near of the presence of God, Exodus 40:34; Luke 9:34-36.
10-11 They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”
“Two men dressed in white” – angels, also indicating heaven drawing near, foretell Jesus’s return in clouds and glory, and in the same resurrection body, Matthew 24:30.
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.
“Mount of Olives” – above Bethany and part of the “come back in the same way” statement.
• For further study, see Zechariah 14:1-15; Luke 9:26.
13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
“Judas” – not Iscariot, but also known as Thaddeus.
4 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
“Joined together constantly in prayer” – the Holy Spirit preparing them, bringing them into alignment with Him and hence unity with one another.
The resurrection and ascension of Jesus was an enthronement – exalted to the highest place in heaven, yet remaining closer than ever to the believers by spiritual impartation.
This is not a religion, but a relationship. Unlike a religion, it doesn’t give us an agenda to live up to, but confers supernatural ability we didn’t have before, to know God personally and live a renewed life.
It is also ” receiving power” to take the message to others – much needed by the early disciples moving out to other lands and cultures and facing murderous hostility at times.
As we face political correctness, social breakdown and spiritual diversity, we need that power to live confidently for Jesus and make Him real to others. And we can ask for more at any time, because it has been given.
Samaria was a challenging place for the Jewish disciples to tell people about God’s kingdom – where might ‘Samaria’ be for us?
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 — We resist the devil in God’s greater power
The enemy brings threats and tests but praise God for His power
12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.
“Do not be surprised” – attempting to lead a Christ-centred life is a threat and can be expected to bring hostility.
• For further study, see John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29.
14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.
“Under God’s mighty hand” – recalling God’s deliverance from Egypt in the Exodus, Exodus 3:19, 32:11, Deut. 4:34. Humiliation brings God’s affirmation for believers who don’t retaliate but submit to His deliverance and timing.
7 Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
“Your anxiety on Him” – actively trusting in God’s fatherly care.
8-9 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
“Your enemy the devil” – the adversary and accuser of every Christian, Satan’s repeated strategy is to “roar” and plant fear in our minds. Faith that speaks out the victory Jesus won and the power of His shed blood is effective, Ephesians 6:12-18.
10-11 And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
“Suffered a little while” –what to us can seem a long while, is momentary in the context of the promise of eternity spent with God.
• For further study, see 1 Peter 1:6; Romans 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18.
“Humble yourselves” – what does that mean? The opposite would be pretending we can put the enemy down.
We can’t – but Jesus already did. So when our ‘mouthy’ adversary has a go – making his threats or trying to place his fears – let him find Jesus with the scarred hands is the one he is talking to.
“Be alert,” says Peter, expecting us to be discerning about what we listen to, because the battle takes place mostly in our thought life – and in God’s power we can say ‘no’ to a thought that doesn’t belong.
How discerning are you about ‘your’ thoughts and where they come from?
Lord God Almighty, I humble myself before You in Your might, majesty, dominion and power.
When things get difficult, I often start by pretending that I can handle them. But when I step aside and trust You, I see Your power come through and the enemy silenced.
Be filling me with Your Holy Spirit, that I may be growing in You, and can be a channel of Your love and truth to others.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Easter 6 theme: Knowing God personally, and telling others
Psalm 66:8-20 — Praise for God who is known through His faithful love
John 14:15-21 — The promise of the Holy Spirit, the continuing presence of Jesus, who makes the reality of God known
Acts 17:22-31 — The Athenians discover how God is not “unknown” but known personally
1 Peter 3:13-22 — Baptism is a sign of coming to know God personally in rebirth, and opportunity to tell others why we belong to Christ
See also a short message on this theme: How God helps us know Him
Psalm 66:8-20 — Praise for God who is known through His faithful love
The psalmist’s testimony to what God has done in his life
8-9 Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of His praise be heard; He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.
“Preserved our lives” – praise, identifying God as the source of deliverance, beginning with the Red Sea miracle, Exodus 14, then more generally.
10 For You, God, tested us; You refined us like silver.
“Tested us” – God allows difficulties to refine faith, separating out the dross of our lack of trust and other sin.
• For further study see Psalm 17:3, 26:2, Proverbs 17:3; Jeremiah 9:7.
11-12 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
People ride over our heads” – a picture of submission to a foreign ruler.
13-14 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to You — vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.
15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats.
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.
“What He has done for me” – notwithstanding the testing of vv.10-12 the psalmist’s focus is on God’s goodness.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue.
Cried out to Him… His praise” – prayer and praise went together in the OT but see Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1.
18-19 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
“Cherished sin” – or (lit.) aimed for sin: selfish prayer does not get heaven’s attention. This is not saying that sinless perfection is a condition, but that sincerity of heart is important.
20 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!
The psalmist looks back on the great deliverances that tested the nation’s faith, and resolves to give praise and testimony for prayers mercifully and faithfully answered. The call, “Come and hear… let me tell you what He has done for me” headlines our theme this week.
How have we separated prayer, and praise, v.17? How might we better integrate prayer with praise?
John 14:15-21 — The promise of the Holy Spirit who makes God known
Jesus promises to be will be a continuing, living presence
15 “If you love Me, keep My commands.
“If you love Me” – Jesus uses the familiar language of the covenant, Deut. 5:10, 6:5-6, 10:12-13 but in the new context of the enabling of the Holy Spirit, v.16.
16-17 “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.
“The Father… will give you” – first in a series of important passages about the Holy Spirit to be given, making v.15 more of a joyful consequence than a hard command.
“The Spirit of Truth – the Holy Spirit “who leads into all truth”, or communicates the truth about God.
“You know Him” – Judaism viewed the Holy Spirit as an aspect of God; now Jesus presents Him as a distinct spiritual person.
• For further study, see John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-15.
18-19 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see Me any more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.
“I will not leave you” – like Moses’ parting words to Israel, Deut 31:6; see also Joshua 1:5.
“You will see Me” – with the resurrection in mind. And see in the sense of strongly perceive, at Pentecost.
20 “On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.
“On that day you will realise” – at Pentecost, what He had taught would fall into place for them, and the indwelling He refers to would become a reality. Here he rounds off His reply to Philip who had asked, “Show us the Father”, John 14:8.
21 “Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them.”
“Has My commands” – as v.15, the evidence of the “who loves Me” relationship is having taken to heart Jesus’ way of living and showing it in everyday life.
In this discourse, Jesus combines two different ideas which are actually closely related.
One is the evidence of knowing and loving Jesus being shown in lives that reflect Jesus’ teaching.
The other is the disciples knowing the Advocate and Helper, the Spirit of Truth, who leads us into the truth and reality of God.
So the reality of loving Jesus and keeping His commands – showing the evidence of being His – is what the Holy Spirit leads and enables. We come to Scripture after the resurrection, when everything changed. The letters to church were written in this context. For us, as for them, discovering the reality of living the way Jesus taught is a lot easier with the divine Coach working with us.
What are the most important commands for us to keep (hint, Jesus answered this, Matthew 22:36-40). How does knowing the Holy Spirit enable this?
Acts 17:22-31 — The Athenians discover God who is known and personal
Paul comments on having found an altar “to the unknown God”
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.
“People of Athens! I see…” – Paul, a Jew, shows respect for his Gentile hearers and a familiarity with the prevailing Stoic and Epicurean philosophies.
23 “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship — and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
“To an unknown God” – centuries before, when sacrifices to all the known gods had failed to avert a plague a Cretan poet, Epimanedes advised the Athenians to build altars to (any) unknown god: there were many that Paul could have noticed.
“This is what I am going to proclaim” – Paul presents the gospel by starting where his hearers are.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
“Does not live in temples” – a personal creator challenges the Stoics’ diversity of deities.
25 “And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
“He Himself gives” – God the creator and sustainer of all needs nothing from humans, but simply seeks relationship – and gives life.
26 “From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
“From one man” – Adam
27-28 “God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Your own poets” – Paul also quotes Greek poets in 1 Cor. 15:33 and Titus 1:12.
29-30 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone — an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.
“In the past God overlooked” – and stayed judgment, but now full revelation has come with Jesus it is time to turn to Him, Acts 2:38, 3:19-21; Luke 3:7-9.
31 “For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
“He has set a day” – Greeks had no concept of a coming day of judgment.
The man He has appointed” – Jesus, the Son of Man, Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 25:31-46.
“By raising Him from the dead” – Jesus was not just a religious teacher; His resurrection and ascension to the place of authority sets Him apart.
What is the difference between all the world religious system and temples, and our coming to know God personally through faith in Jesus?
There is nothing unknown about our God, who is brought close to us by the Holy Spirit, changing from someone we know ABOUT, to One with whom we KNOW in an enjoyable, intimate relationship.
Paul points out another key difference: God does not have demands or needs that are served by us — it is the other way round, as He delights in giving us, His children, spiritual life and everything else.
Do we see our worship as something we ought to do to satisfy God’s needs, or part of our thanksgiving and relationship in which He draws close to meet our needs?
1 Peter 3:13-22 — Ready to tell others why we belong to Christ and call Him Lord
Baptism is a sign of coming to know God personally in rebirth
13-14 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
“Eager to do good” – even a hostile, pagan world generally has respect for those who are kind and caring. Ultimately if doing what is right does bring harm, God’s reward will be in it as well, Matt. 5:10-12, Romans 8:31.
15-16 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
“Revere Christ as Lord” – over and above Jesus Christ as Saviour. To be a disciple is to put yourself willingly under the master – and “give an answer” humbly, thoughtfully and biblically about why you have taken this step of commitment.
17-18 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
“Suffer for doing good” – not encouraging believers to seek situations which will bring them suffering, but to be sure that if they do it is through having been faithful to God, not a lapse into evil.
19-20a After being made alive, He went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits — to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
“Proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – difficult verses, usually understood as Christ declaring His victory on the Cross to the fallen angels of Hades (view supported by v.22); or Christ reaching through Noah to the disobedient unbelievers of his day.
20b-22 In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand — with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.
“Baptism… the pledge of a clear conscience” – the act and the water cannot save, as Peter says, it is not about “the removal of dirt”. But what is represented – inward faith appealing to God for forgiveness of sin and therefore regeneration – makes baptism an outward sign of salvation and new life. Christians have long disagreed about the mode of water baptism but have generally agreed across denominations that water baptism is the outward sign of the inward reality of regeneration, received through grace by faith.
Early on in the Reformation, Swiss and Dutch believers who took seriously the teaching to be baptised publicly as a testimony “of clear conscience toward God” were cruelly persecuted, and so put to the test of suffering for “doing good”.
Here and now, it takes some courage to stand up on the occasion of baptism and tell why, on life’s journey, you have come to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour and turn from the old, independent life to the new life that comes from rebirth.
These days some larger C of E churches have emulated Baptist and Pentecostal assemblies by gaining baptismal pools. People who find Christ want to mark the occasion, often by baptism, which gives them the opportunity before they go into the water to “give the reason for the hope that they have” by telling others how they came to know Him – our theme for this week.
How would you revere Christ by giving “the reason for the hope you have”?
Lord, I am so grateful I can know You through Jesus.
And I am thankful for You giving Your Holy Spirit so we are not left struggling on our own to live this new life.
Thank you that I can tell others what you have done, and are doing for me, through good times and difficult.
Thank you that knowing You makes all the difference in the twists of turns of life; give me opportunities to revere Christ and share my story with others, to Your glory. Amen.
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