CTT | Be Perfect

 We talk a lot here about the need to preach Law and Gospel in equal measure. Too many churches preach Law with a mere mention of Gospel taken as Given or a start-point. If you’ve been tracking some of the sermons and lectures we’ve shared lately (Dr Rod Rosenbladt and Tullian Tchividjian), we have been drawing attention to the need to remain focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ without ignoring the Law and without placing born-again Christians back under the burden of the Law. Rod Rosenbladt did a great job in his sermon of accepting responsibility on behalf of the Church for allowing bad Law preaching to beat-down Christians into sad or mad Broken Christians. It come down to preaching all the Do’s and Don’ts of Godliness (Law), the 5 steps to perfection in [topic] based on [Law], and we’ve allowed the Gospel of Grace to go unspoken or left as a “given”. We all have to deal with this creep into legalism, even within the less orthodox traditions with a slightly diminished view of Scripture that look for “new” and “fresh” words of inspiration/revelation. Whether Lutheran, Calvinist, or Wesleyan the drift into the legalism of works-based righteousness is ever-present.

 Be Perfect, as Your Heavenly Father is Perfect

Not every preacher who slips into the error of legalism does so intentionally. I’m willing to guess that the vast majority are well-intentioned and struggling with the paradox of being both sinner and saint as born-again believers. Let us begin with where this passage is preached. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount, particularly Matthew 5:48. As we’ve been studying the Gospel According to Matthew in our Gospel Wednesday segments, it should be fresh in our minds what Christ was preaching… He was preaching the Law from Chapter 5 through Chapter 7. Since we’ve so recently gone through this sermon in detail, allow me to work through portions to illustrate what is going on for this

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV) | Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus came to fulfill, not abolish, the Law and the Prophets. He goes on from here to address major areas of the Law and actually elevates the Law. He actually makes the case that no one is capable of fulfilling the Law satisfactorily. Notice here, that even the scribes and Pharisees will never enter the kingdom of heaven by their law keeping. This is Law, not Gospel. Now, before we get to the last segment on the Law of Love, let us first remember that the command to Love God and Love Neighbor is a commandment of the Law (not Gospel).

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) | The Great Commandment

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Does that make Love evil? No! But we’ll get to that. For now, let’s close out chapter 5.

Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) | Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Is this the Gospel? No. Jesus is preaching the Law. The Law is not measured by our standards, but by the standard of the Holiness of God. And ONLY Jesus Christ could fulfill the Law.

Hebrews 7:11-28 (ESV) | Jesus Compared to Melchizedek

11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,

“You are a priest forever,
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Hebrews 10:1-10 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

10 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

So, we see that perfection was attained on our behalf by Jesus Christ. His perfect blood atones for our Sin. His works secure our righteousness by way of a Promise. Jesus fulfilled the Law that no one else could fulfill.

Our Right-Standing Before God is by Faith not Works

Romans 5:1-11 (ESV) | Peace with God Through Faith

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

So the Law is of no Value?

No. The value of the Law, the purpose for the Law remains the same, its purpose is to reveal and expose sin. The remedy for the sin exposed by the Law is repentance at the foot of the cross and receiving forgiveness for our sin, in Jesus Name, because of His Finished Work on the Cross.

Romans 6:15-23 (ESV) | Slaves to Righteousness

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 7:7-12 (ESV) | The Law and Sin

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Simultaneously Sinner and Saint

The problem is trying to resolve the paradox of being set free from sin by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross and continuing to live out our earthly lives in fallen, sinful flesh.

Romans 7:13-25 (ESV)

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

A day will come, when our healing from sin will be complete. That day, is the Great Day of the Resurrection. Whether by our deaths or by the Return of Jesus Christ for His Church, our flesh will be put away, and the sin with it. And those of us who by faith are found in Christ Jesus… His blood having been shed for our sin, His righteousness and perfection imputed to us by Grace through Faith, we will be made alive in Him. Never again slaves to sin and death, never again in fallen, weak flesh. Praise be to God for His Grace and Mercy.

We do not overcome the flesh by trying harder in the flesh. The righteousness of the Law is not attained by observing the Law, it can only be obtained by faith in the One who is Righteous. In fact, if there is one thing we should “do” is die to the flesh, die to sin, and repent. Humble confession and repentance before a Righteous and Holy God, with Jesus Christ as our intercessor, our substitute, our Savior. I pray that the Church repents of its treatment of the Gospel as merely a “reset” or “a one-time thing” rather than a life-long understanding of “It Is Finished”.

Romans 15:13 (ESV) 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Christmas | Gospel According to Matthew

bible

As we move into another Christmas season, we plan on working our way through the Book of Matthew for our Gospel Wednesday study.

On a personal note, I dislike referring to this book (and the other three) as “the Gospel of Matthew”. there is only one Gospel, and that is of Jesus Christ, not Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this and when researching the Encyclopedia of the Bible, I found the following discourse on the title of this book:

2. The title. The title of this gospel in most modern Bibles reads, “The Gospel According to St. Matthew.” This wording is an exact tr. of the title in many Gr. MSS which reads Εὐαγγέλιον Κατα Μαθαῖον, “The Gospel According To Matthew.” But the oldest Gr. copies of the gospel have the shortened form, “According to Matthew” (Κατα Μαθαῖον). Most scholars believe the original text had no title at all. When the early Christians wished to distinguish one gospel from another, they called the first gospel not the “Gospel of Matthew,” as we often say, but “The Gospel According to Matthew,” to distinguish it from the other VSS of Mark, Luke and John. There is only one Gospel, but four VSS or accounts of it. The term “Gospel According to Matthew” is, therefore, not the “Good News of Matthew,” but Matthew’s VS of the “Good News from God.” The Gospel is “God’s Story” of salvation and life, the best news story the world has ever heard. The earliest Church Fathers, for example, Irenaeus (a.d. 180), spoke of the fourfold Gospel canon in this manner; that is, that there is only one Gospel according to four different authors (Against Heresies III. 11, 8).

I will be referring to these from now on as The Gospel According to Matthew. Let us turn to the first chapter of Matthew. It is critically important that we remember that Matthew 1 isn’t the beginning of the story of God’s relationship with His Creation, it is in-fact the start of the final chapter, the last days. God is bringing about the fulfillment of His promise to crush the head of the serpent back in Genesis 3. Let that sink in… while it might be said that for the Gentile everything begins at the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then we have to learn the Law to grow in our faith in God; for Israel, God’s chosen ones, they are awaiting the promised Messiah.

Matthew 1 (ESV)

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud,15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

I don’t want to get into the weeds in this geneology, but this was recorded for a purpose, for God the Holy Spirit’s purpose. For now, I want to highlight that Matthew was being very intentional here to point out how perfectly Christ completes God’s Promise to Abraham. He points out the following:

Abraham –  King David – Babylonian Exile – Christ

 God promised Abraham the land of Canaan, and King David ruled over it, but Israel fell away after David, and were sent into Exile. God promised Israel that He would send an Anointed One (Messiah / Christ) to sit on the Throne of David again… and He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus. I feel this is significant for understanding the framework of Matthew’s narrative, considering that the Gospel According to John began “in the Beginning was the Word…”, focusing on the Deity of Christ from before Creation.

Matthew 1 | The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

The Gospel according to Luke spent a great deal of time on Mary and the immaculate conception, but here Matthew jumps straight to Joseph. Here, we see Joseph desiring to show mercy to Mary by not putting her to shame. Apart from the intervention of God the Holy Spirit, there was no way for Mary to be pregnant without having had unlawful sex. Joseph is a popular name in this culture, but have you thought about why? Let’s look back in Genesis at one of the patriarchs whose name was Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel.

Genesis 37:1-3 (ESV) 1 Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.

Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, loved Joseph more than any other of his sons. He was a favored son, and he made him a robe of many colors. Fast-forward to Matthew, and we have Joseph, favored of God to serve as an earthly guardian of Mary and Jesus. And the angel of the Lord appeared to Joesph in a dream. No doubt the Jewish readers/hearers of this Gospel account would already be thinking on Joseph. Where did the dreams given to Joseph, son of Jacob, lead him? To Egypt. Eventually God would preserve Israel in the land of Egypt during the 7 year famine. Let’s continue in Matthew where we will see this connection revisited.

Matthew 2 (ESV)

The Visit of the Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

So we have the Wise Men from the east coming because they recognized the sign in the heavens, a star, marking the birth of the king of the Jews. Where were they from? Most likely from Babylon, from where Israel spent so much time in Exile (remember how Matthew set apart this event as significant). These wise men were not quoting prophecy as we tend to think of quoting, they were giving their understanding of the meaning of two different prophetic passages (Micah 5:2 and Ezekiel 34:23). Quoting the prophets directly wasn’t necessary given their audience was all of the chief priests and scribes, they needed to convey the interpretation that was undoubtedly revealed to them by God of the fulfillment of these 2 prophetic passages. Reflecting on the life of Joseph, son of Israel, notice that this news troubled Herod and all Jerusalem with him. This is analogous to the response of Joseph’s brothers. Let’s look at some of the their thoughts toward Joseph recorded in Genesis 37 (ESV):

4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words

18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”

They hated their brother. Herod and all of Jerusalem were troubled by the news of the birth of the king of the Jews. Now, these parallels aren’t provided to suggest that “they should have seen it coming”; rather, they are being examined to point to God and His Sovereignty. Let’s continue in Matthew 2.

Matthew 2 | The Flight to Egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Herod Kills the Children

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Herod was indeed evil. God warned Joseph in a dream (again) of Herod’s plot to kill Jesus, so Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt until Herod’s death. What I find fascinating here is that Matthew (via the Holy Spirit) points to Jesus as a picture of Israel when he quotes Hosea 11:1 (ESV), When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son”. This is right in line with how we’ve been reading the Exodus account and how it points to Jesus. This is how the Book of Hebrews approaches the message of the Gospel. Hosea was prophetically looking backward to the shadow of Christ in the Nation of Israel, as well as pointing forward to Jesus the Messiah. Praise God. 

Matthew 2 | The Return to Nazareth

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

With another dream, Joseph brings his wife and Jesus out of Egypt and settled down in Nazareth. Now, there is no direct quote that I could find pointing to His being called a Nazarene. Again, Matthew seems to be conveying understanding of prophecy (revealed by the Holy Spirit) more than actually quoting it. Being called a Nazarene bore with it some disdain, because there was nothing special about Nazareth, and that was part of God’s point. Let’s look at a few verses that suggest this could be a way of rightly understanding this point.

John 7:40-52 (ESV) | Division Among the People
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Had Jesus begun his ministry having grown up in Bethlehem, he would have had instant buy-in. Instead, God chose a different route. Indeed, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the City of David, but by the time of His ministry He was known as a Galilean, a Nazarene.

John 1:43-51 (ESV) | Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him,“Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him,“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nazareth had a reputation. Even Nathanael, of whom Jesus said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” held an unfavorable view of Nazareth. How does all of this point to what the Prophet said of Jesus? Let’s look to Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) 3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

This was by design, according to His purpose. Jesus humbled Himself in order to redeem mankind. He created all things in the beginning, yet He came to save wicked sinners like you and me. Let us close on this thought, wonderfully conveyed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2:1-13 (ESV)

Christ’s Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Colossians 3-4

bibleAs we continue working through the fundamentals of the Gospel as explained in the New Testament, it is our hope that you will also explore our Old Testament (OT) studies and see how the Bible truly is one complete document, the very Word of God.

Last week we started in Colossians 2. We looked at what it means to be made alive in Christ and how important it is that we not allow false teaching lead us away from Christ and His Gospel. We see Paul progressing in his letter to the church he hadn’t visited in person from the Person of Jesus and the truth of His Gospel as the central focus of the Christian Life. Brothers and sisters, there will be many false teacher majoring in the minor things of life, seeking to profit from you while getting you off-track from the central focus of Christianity… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is so much we can dive into in these last two chapters of Colossians, but for now let’s do a high-altitude flyover of the text to see how the Christian life should look. So, without further adieu, let’s continue in our study of Colossians.

Living the Christian Life

Colossians 3 (ESV)

Put On the New Self

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Seek the things that are above. This utterly destroys any so-called “prosperity gospel”. Paul isn’t inventing this teaching, either… Jesus taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20)” The Truth of the Gospel is that in Christ we are over-comers… but not as the world defines over-comer with untouchable health, wealth, and prosperity… those are earthy treasures where moth and rust destroy, and thieves steal.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

This is the hard part, this is where the Law of God continues to work in us. The purpose of the Law is to convict us of sin… and the wages of sin is death. Now, Christ died as a substitutionary atonement for our sin so that we needn’t fear eternal death, Christ paid that price. However, Jesus told us that to follow him we’ll have to take up our cross (Luke 9:23-27) … we are to die to our sinful natures daily. Notice the wording of the first list “what is earthly in you”. These are the sins of the heart that we’ve inherited in our flesh, born of the seed of Adam. Sexual Immorality is a broad sin… it covers everything that isn’t within God’s design for sexual intimacy which is the union of one man and one woman for life. Any and all deviation from this design is Sexual Immorality. Homosexuality, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, rape, incest, adultery… all of it. That’s the first item… impurity, passion, and evil desire are next in the same list… lust, fantasizing of sexual immorality, pornography, emotional intimacy with someone other than your spouse… these are all bad copies/replacements for God’s love for us, how He designed us to love our spouses and how we are to love our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. And your flesh craves it all. Paul is urging/reminding his readers that we must put to death that which is sin in our flesh. We do not have the strength (or even the will) to do this apart from faith in Jesus Christ. For in Him we have forgiveness and the hope of resurrection in Christ at the last day. In Him we the genuine article… Love. The second list refers to the corruption of sin in our emotions. Anger for the wrong reasons (sinful selfishness) is a fallen version of righteous anger against sin and unrighteousness. Wrath… it’s not our place. We deserve, have earned, the wrath of God… and Jesus bore the full brunt of God’s Wrath in our stead. Slander has no place in our dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ, they are His children. Slander is pointless with the lost… for they are condemned by their unbelief and destined for destruction. They don’t need slander, they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ… they need Grace… they need Faith. There is no Greek or Jew, there are no haves and have-nots within the Church… we are all equally free in Christ for He is in all who have been Saved by Him.

But the Christian life isn’t just about “thou shalt not”. The Law has both prohibitions and commandments… and in Christ all have been fulfilled. In Christ we are made free to do the works of God. So, while we put to death the sin of our flesh, we should also seek to put on the righteousness of Christ.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The world specializing in lies. The world will tell you, that you should keep silent regarding their sin or their need for a Savior because in their eyes that’s unloving. They are lying. Some of our Christian brothers and sisters will try to tell you that rebuke for sinful living or false doctrine is unloving, that’s also a lie. Silence in the face of sin is unloving. People don’t stay silent in the face of sin for the sake of the sinner, but for their own sake. Have compassion on those who are trapped in sin, and also for the lowly and the downtrodden, and for those being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Speak and walk in kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Remember, there is forgiveness available for us when we fail (and we will fail) and if we keep that in the forefront of our mind then we should also extend forgiveness for others who have wronged us.

This is tough, and it cannot be done out of pride or effort, but only by faith in Christ. The take overall can be quite daunting and if you lose sight of the core of the Gospel, and start buying into false notions of “inner purpose” or “the champion within you” discouragement is inevitable. It’s not about you, it’s about Christ. Start small, start with your family. God instituted the family as a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

The first relationship in the family that needs to be set straight is that of husband and wives. It points to the relationship between Christ (husband) and the Church (wife). Children are to obey their parents, fathers are not to provoke their children. Here we have bonservants and masters all included in the household. What took place in the U.S. under slavery was sinful in the sight of the Lord. Don’t let anyone get away with twisting this scripture. The better picture of what this bondservant thing would look like (when done scripturally) would be like Alfred serving Bruce Wayne, or Higgens serving Magnum P.I., or Baileywick serving King Roland. If I’ve managed to miss every pop culture reference that matters to you, then I suppose it would be best to think of this proper bondservant would be a live-in nanny or house keeper. It would also be wise to extend the rules of the master-servant relationship found in the New Testament to the Employer-Employee relationships in business.

Colossians 4 (ESV)

Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Further Instructions

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Notice that this is the first time we have a direct command regarding outsiders or unbelievers. The purpose of the Church is to grow in Christ, to mature the saints. There is a lot of bad theology out there, particularly with a complete misunderstanding of the role of the Church. The purpose of the Church is to mature the saints so they can be edified and grow in the fullness of Christ. We are all called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost, but the role of the Church is to nurture the infants in the faith into men and women of God. The role of the pastor isn’t just to preach the Gospel to the lost… it’s to feed Christ’s sheep… to tend His flock. In his closing remarks, Paul names his fellow workers in Christ… the elders and pastors/teachers. Quite the list of names, because Paul wants this church to know who is faithfully working on their behalf, for the edification of the Church.

Final Greetings

Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Such great love, to take the time to write to this young church whose congregation he never met. Paul loves them, and they are also loved by several other servants of God. This is the role of the pastor/elder. This letter isn’t a long one… and yes, there is more to learn of the mystery of God… but this letter covers the essentials, the supremacy of Christ and the need to guard your doctrine and love your family and the Family of Jesus Christ. In closing, let’s turn to the Apostle Peter’s prayer in his first letter.

1 Peter 4:7-11 (ESV) 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge