Wages Versus Rewards

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Wages: “The part of total production that is the return to labor as earned income, as distinct from the remuneration received by capital as unearned income.”

Reward: “a thing given in recognition of one’s service, effort, or achievement.”

While we have to be careful about applying definitions of English words to Greek words used in the New Testament, it seems that these two definitions will serve our purpose.

The word “wage” is used 55 times in the ESV (64 times in the NASV). I am particularly interested in how Paul uses the word in Romans 4: “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due” (4:1-4).

There is absolutely no way we could earn our salvation based on our works. The very nature of sin is such that one sin keeps us out of heaven (Isaiah 59:1-2) and all the good works we can accumulate could not erase even that one sin. One sin makes us a lawbreaker and therefore, too impure to stand in the presence of God.

The word “reward” is used 64 times in the ESV (63 times in the NASV). You may, first, observe that this word is used more (in the ESV) or as often in the NASV as the word “wage.” My attention was drawn to the word recently when I was preparing a lesson from Matthew 10: “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (10:40-42).

Clearly God wants us to understand that, while we can’t earn our way to heaven, there is reward waiting for us there. From Matthew 5:16 – “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” to Revelation 22:12 – “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done,” the New Testament uses the word reward 26 times.

Now, this reward is not based on earnings. But, it is given “according to what [we] have done,” Jesus says in Revelation. Take a look back at the English definition: “a thing given in recognition of one’s service, effort, or achievement.”

That reward in heaven is given in recognition of our service. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

That reward in heaven is given in recognition of our effort. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith …” (2 Peter 1:5).

That reward in heaven is given in recognition of our achievement: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).

Salvation is not given based on our earnings but it is given as a reward based on our service, our effort, and our achievement.

–Paul Holland

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If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit

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“If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

The Pharisees are one of the primary antagonists of the four gospel accounts. It seems as though everywhere Jesus and his disciples turned, the Pharisees were there, attempting to trap Jesus again. In Matthew 15, the Pharisees trap, to no one’s surprise, was not very well planned out. They questioned Jesus, asking why His disciples were not following their tradition of ritual hand washing. Jesus’s response: “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (v.3).

The problem with the Pharisees in this case is that they raised their own personal beliefs and doctrines to a higher standard than the commandments of God. Jesus then called them “blind guides” in verse 14. They were blind because they were teaching something other than God’s Word as binding.

Today, there are still blind guides who hold their own opinions and traditions to a higher standard than God’s Word. Sadly, many of these blind guides have a large following.

So, what can we do? How can we know, for sure, that we aren’t the blind people that are being led into a bottomless pit by blind guides? By consulting God’s Word. Proverbs 14:15 says, “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” We can be simple-minded, and take anyone and everyone’s word as truth, or we can look to God’s Word, which is the truth.

In Luke 6:39, the phrase “the blind leading the blind” is mentioned again. This time, Jesus is talking to the people about themselves. He’s telling them not to be the blind guides. Men were judging their brother, telling them to remove the speck out of their eye while they had a plank in their own eye. I can imagine it would be hard to see with a 2×4 jutting out of your eye! The point is, you can’t see clearly to lead others if you have a blind spot of your own.

Here’s the good news: In a world full of blind guides and blind spots, we have a God who is all-seeing and all-knowing. Blind guides will lead you into the pit of destruction, but God lifts you out of them. The blind stumble, not knowing which way they go, but God makes their steps secure. God removes the plank from our eye so that we can properly lead others in the light that God shines for us.

Don’t be the blind guide or the blind follower. Instead, keep your ears, your heart, and your eyes open to God’s guidance, and you will find that you will always see where you’re going.

~ Jared McLeod

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Judge not, that you be not judged

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We will Judge the World

In the context of intra-family lawsuits, Paul writes: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

The process of judging can come easily – we measure other people by our standards, whatever “standard” we might have: our background, our philosophies, our training, our knowledge.

Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul laments the judging that he had experienced in the court of Corinthian opinion: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (4:3-5).

On one hand, we cannot judge one another. We are not the standard. We have no standards that can be imposed on other people. No one was in a position to judge Paul for his behavior or his teaching.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).

On the other hand, Jesus will go on to say in Matthew 7:6 – “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Obviously, one would have to judge to know who/what are dogs, who/what is “holy,” who/what are “pearls” and who/what are pigs!

Paul gives us the key to the distinction in the passage quoted above, 1 Corinthians 4:4 – “It is the Lord who judges.”

That is also the process whereby we will judge the world and angels, indeed the process by which we even judge the world today. We are judges today inasmuch as we are members of the spiritual body of the Judge, Jesus Christ.

Paul can call Christians “chosen,” “holy,” and “beloved,” (Col. 3:12) because we are in the “Chosen One” (Luke 9:35), the “Holy One” (Acts 4:27; 1 John 2:20), and the “Beloved” (Matthew 3:17). Christ’s designations are by nature; ours is by grace. By the same action, we have the “anointing” because we are in the “Anointed One” – i. e, the Christ (1 John 2:24). So, once again, we judge the world being in the Judge.

Returning to Paul’s letter to Corinth, in 1:10, he writes: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

You and I will have the same judgment if (and only “if”) we both have the judgment of Jesus Christ. It is based on that judgment that we judge the world, one another, and angels.

So, be careful when you judge that you are judging based only on the standard of the divine Judge.

–Paul Holland

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Protest at Valdosta State University in Georgia

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What God Has Sanctified – Numbers 16:36-40

Back in April, there were protestors (against racism) at Valdosta State University in Georgia and part of their protests was walking over the American flag. There happened to be a veteran of the USAF, who was contacted and informed what was going on. She saw what they were doing and she picked up the American flag and walked off. The veteran was arrested by police and handcuffed but eventually was not charged. The Supreme Court has ruled that burning or abusing the American flag is protected free speech under the Constitution.

But most Americans hold the American flag in high esteem for the symbolism it portrays: courage, sacrifice, love, patriotism, freedom. The “Stars and Bars” carries significance for its uniqueness.

There are some things that God has set aside and He warns us not to make “common” what He has made “holy.”

Faced with rebellious men who want more authority than God gave them, Moses and Aaron present the challenge before the Lord of heaven in Numbers 16:36-40.

This is a divine fire from heaven. And I’m sure it’s hotter than anything we’ve felt on earth. The fire goes out and burns the 250 men who were offering incense.

“Take up the censers out of the midst of the blaze – those smoldering carcasses. Eleazar, you go through those 250 and you count – you pick up every one of those censers from among those carcasses, because they are dedicated to me. They are holy. Then hammer them into a plate for the altar so that the Israelites will remember that you do not overstep your bounds.”

What God sanctifies, man cannot profane. Those men had been chosen by God to serve in the temple but they overstepped their bounds and they profaned themselves and the Bible says they sinned against their own souls and God struck them dead. But those inanimate, lifeless, soulless censers had to be taken care of because they were holy. They needed to be put back in to the service of God.

So, with that story as a back-drop, there are some things that we need to guard against as Christians that God has sanctified and we should not profane.

God has sanctified life (Genesis 9:6; Exodus 212:22-25; Prov. 6:16-19). That argues against abortion as well as a modern counterpart, stem cell research when it destroys embryos.

God has sanctified marriage (Hebrews 13:4). That argues against unlawful divorce (Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:1-9) as well as homosexual “marriages.”

God has sanctified the sexual relationship (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). That argues against pre-marital sex, co-habitating, and extra-marital affairs.

There are certainly other matters God has “sanctified,” such as worship, male-spiritual leadership, etc.

1. We need to stick close to the Word of God in our own lives.
2. We need to study and know what the Bible says.
3. We need to teach our children and grandchildren how to make right choices.
4. We certainly need to write our senators, congressmen, and state legislators and let them know what we know and how we feel about things.

We need to keep sanctified what God has sanctified. He’ll punish those who profane them.

–Paul Holland

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Spiritual warfare

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An ongoing battle

IN OUR DAY AND TIME THERE IS A WAR ON POVERTY; THERE ARE WARS INVOLVING RACE, CRIME, DRUGS, POLITICS, AND EVEN BATTLESOVER WHAT IS RIGHT AND WHAT IS WRONG.

i) One way to wage battles and war is our legal system (the courts).
ii) There is a battle strategy which says “Get the majority to side with us and we will win.”

2) In the midst of all the battles taking place we have something called the “church.” Mt. 16:18.
3) On at least two occasions (one of which is Eph. 1:22) Paul said the Lord is the “head” of the church.
4) As the head of the church Jesus does not ignore the battles in our world.
5) Jesus is like a military commander.
6) Rev. 1:14, 16; 2:16, 23; 3:21.
7) The first few verses in Rev. 6 refer to the Lord riding on a “white horse.”
8) He is also pictured as having a “bow” and a “crown.” The Bible also uses the words “conquer & conquering.”
9) Rev. 6:15 pictures great and might people trying to hide from Jesus because He is so powerful.
10) If Jesus is pictured as a military commander, might the Bible compare His people to “troops”? Yes.

11) Phil. 1:12-13 – READ
12) 2 Cor. 10:4.
13) 2 Cor. 6:7 – READ

14) Paul said “both hands” are to be involved with spiritual conflict.
15) If we want to succeed with the spiritual battle of life, the conflict is not limited to getting out of bed Sun. morning.
16) Eph. 6:13 uses the words “armor,” “stand,” and “withstand.”
17) True soldiers seek to “stand” and fight for the right.
i) The next verse (Eph. 6:14) also uses the word “stand.”
ii) Paul spoke about “shod” feet (Eph. 6:15) and a “shield of faith” to “quench fiery darts” (verse 16).
iii) A “helmet and sword” are referred to in verse 17.

18) 1 Tim. 1:18 – “war the good warfare.”
19) 2 Tim. 2:3

LESSONS TO LEARN.

1) Men “make war” against the Son of God (Rev. 17:14).
2) Rev. 12:17 – “And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.”
3) God says His people are at war – we are doing battle with the devil and his helpers.
4) Satan has lots of soldiers and lots of artillery.
5) If we are old enough to know right from wrong, we are playing a part of the spiritual battle taking place.
6) If we have not chosen to be on the Lord’s side, we are on the devil’s side.
i) Are we “enlisted” in the right spiritual army?
ii) God says: “Count the cost.”

2) Being a soldier for Jesus is not always easy or peaceful, but it is a great and glorious army.
3) One day our service record will be judged. When this time comes, what will it say?

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Jewish poem Haddamut

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God of Wonders: God is Good

Back in 1917, in Pasadena, CA, Frederick Lehman was working in a factory. He knew of a poem, a Jewish poem called the Haddamut written in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai in Worms, Germany. During a short break in his work, he and a colleague took a scrap of paper, sitting on en empty lemon box pushed against the wall and started playing around with some lyrics.

The words of the 3rd stanza came from that Jewish poem and someone, a Jewish immigrant probably, had penciled that poem on the wall of an insane asylum. Here are the words to the English translation of that poem…

Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade – to write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

The love and goodness of God. Why do you love your children? Is the simple, basic answer because they are yours? Children don’t have to do anything to prove themselves to us. We love them unconditionally because they are ours. God loves us, not just because we were created by Him, but because He is, in His essence, love.

To say that God is “good” or to say that God is “love” is to say that God is infinite and unlimited in His goodness.

John is appropriately termed the “apostle of love.” Consider just a few verses from his writings: John 15:9-10 – The Father loves the Son; John 3:16 – The Father loves the world; John 16:27 – The Father loves those who love the Son. And Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9:7 – The Father loves the cheerful giver.

So many times when we see the wrath of God exhibited, there was first exhibited the love and mercy of God. Wicked King Ahab is a great example: First, we observe how wicked Ahab was: 1 Kings 16:30-33 (and the incident with Naboth & his vineyard in chapter 21). Next, we observe how frequently God reached out to Ahab before God finally punished him for his sins:

#1 – Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1ff
#2 – Elijah in 1 Kings 18:1ff
#3 – A prophet in 1 Kings 20:13
#4 – “The” prophet in 1 Kings 20:22
#5 – “A man of God” in 1 Kings 20:28
#6 – “A certain man of the prophets” in 1 Kings 20:42
#7 – Elijah in 1 Kings 21:17-19
Observe 21:25-29
#8 – Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:15ff
King Ahab died according to the word of the Lord in 22:38
Luke 17:3-4

If God loved Ahab with such patient, persistent love, can we not love our brethren in the same way?

–Paul Holland

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Killing Jesus: A History in 2013

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Killing Jesus

In the spirit of his other two books, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard have written a third book, Killing Jesus: A History in 2013. (They have actually written a fourth book, Killing Patton). I am not normally drawn to books written by celebrities, even religious books. In particular, since O’Reilly is an abashed Catholic, I would expect his book to weave Catholic traditions into the story line, as if they were true. So, I would avoid such works.

Yet, a brother in the church loaned me the book to read and give him my impression. O’Reilly and Dugard actually do a better job in their history than I expected. They begin with the birth of Christ and continue, obviously, through His crucifixion. There are some strengths to the book. They set the life of Jesus in the broader historical context of Roman history as well as Jewish history. That is fascinating. The reader is given insight into the cultural context of the life of Christ which could help bring the events to life.

Another strength is that when they deal with actual biblical information, they largely follow the biblical storyline. There’s not nearly as much embellishment on the biblical material as you might expect. Obviously they leave out much. In fact, contrary to their statement in the note to the reader (“But the incredible story behind the lethal struggle between good and evil has not been fully told. Until now.” pg. 4), if you want the full story, you will still have to read the New Testament.

Third, there is not nearly as much Catholicism in the book as you would expect. They could have presented more Catholic ideas about the Last Supper (the “mass”) but, instead, they skip the Last Supper entirely. No Shroud of Turin. No traditions about Mary Magdalene. In fact, even one of the fundamental ideas of Catholicism – the primacy of Peter – is relegated to a footnote in the afterword. In fact, these men (Dugard is Catholic too) note that Jesus’ siblings were just what the normal reading of the text would imply – siblings. The standard Catholic response is to deny that Mary had other children.

The primary weakness of the book is that, contrary to their outrageous claim, this book does not “fully” tell the story. The danger in books like this is that so many people think that if you know the “basics” or the “highlights” of the life of Jesus, you know enough. Too many get their theology from such books or TV or movies.

God gave us 66 books in the Bible for a reason. We dare not relegate any of them to a “no-need-to-know” basis.

Killing Jesus would be worth your while to read but not at retail price! Get it used, check it out at the local library (if they carry it), or borrow it from someone else. Then go back and read the New Testament for the full story.

–Paul Holland

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Why we need preachers?

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Boldly Preach the Gospel – Acts 17:22-31

Preaching is God’s occupation. God has chosen to save man through what man would call the “foolishness of preaching” (1 Cor. 1:21). But preaching is not foolishness to God. God designed man to respond to encouragement, exhortation, the power of the spoken word. Adolf Hitler, and others, have been masters at the spoken word even as they have abused that power.

Let’s look at the act of honoring Christ by boldly preaching the Gospel from Acts 17:22-31.

PEOPLE WORSHIP IN IGNORANCE – 17:22-23:
Observe, first, that Paul compliments the Athenians. He observes that they “are very religious in all respects.” We do not get very far in our efforts to evangelize if we criticize and verbally abuse the other person.

But, people are also ignorant. According to Barna Research, 52% of Americans do not believe Jesus was sinless. That is a fundamental and clear biblical teaching. Too many people get their theology from TV or movies or books or anywhere besides the Bible.

As a Christian, you, too, have knowledge you need to share. You need to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ to those around you.

PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW GOD – 17:24-25:
First, Paul points out that the God of heaven is the Creator – verse 24. Paul’s second point is God is the Lord of heaven and earth and He does not dwell in temples made with hands. God is a spirit.

Paul shows that God is self-sufficient and completely good (omnibenevolent). He does not need a temple made with man’s hands (verse 24), nor is He served by man’s hands (verse 25). In other words, God does not need anything from man. God is not a receiver.

God is a giver. He Himself gives to all people “life and breath and all things” (see James 1:17). Man cannot be sustained without God’s help. Man needs God.

PEOPLE DO NOT APPRECIATE GOD – 17:26-28:
Man does not appreciate the design of God in the world. He does not appreciate the impartiality of God as Paul describes it in verse 26. Everything has been set into place by God.

All nations were made from one man, Adam, and here Paul testifies to the authenticity of the creation account from the book of Genesis and, by extension, the authenticity of the entire Jewish Scriptures. From Adam came every man, woman, and child, every nation on the earth and God rules in the affairs of men.

We need to boldly preach the Gospel because people do not appreciate God and His nature.

PEOPLE HAVE A SPIRITUAL NATURE – 17:29:
If we are God’s children, if we are like God, then why make gods out of gold, silver, or stone? That doesn’t make any sense. Man is more than physical. Man is spiritual. That argues that man must respond to the God of heaven.

Go back and take a look at what Paul has said man needs to do in relationship to God…

Man needs to worship God – vss 23-25.
Second, man needs to seek God – verse 27.
Third, man needs to turn to God…

PEOPLE WILL ANSWER TO GOD – 17:30-31:
God allowed man to go his own way and to ignorantly follow His own path. But not now. Not under the Law of Christ. God now declares to all men everywhere that they must repent. There is not a soul living today who is not under the command of God to come to Him through Jesus Christ. There is only one path to salvation and that is through Jesus Christ. People will answer to God. Ignorance is no excuse.

PEOPLE RESPOND IN DIFFERENT WAYS – 17:32-34:
It is important for us to remember that everyone to whom we preach are not going to respond the way we have. Everyone is not going to respond with faithful and humble obedience. That hurts us, especially if it is our family, but everyone has to make his or her own choice.

We live in a culture that is very similar to that of Athens. We can learn some points from Paul on how to approach our modern society. But, more than anything else, we need to boldly preach the word.

Trust the power of the Gospel to change lives. Teach it.

–Paul Holland

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Judge Barbara Jaffe

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Chimpanzees have Rights Too…?

Just when you think the U. S. has reached the ultimate point of weirdness… World magazine reports (May 16, 2015) something that might surprise you. On April 20th of this year, a judge in New York gave legal rights to a couple of chimpanzees. These chimps are under the control/care of Stony Brook University.

Barbara Jaffe, the judge, extended to the chimps the right of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus is a legal instrument by which one cannot be imprisoned without cause. The chimps’ names are Hercules and Leo and Jaffe is demanding Stony Brook provide cause for the imprisonment of Hercules and Leo!

These court cases, which are popping up here and there around the country, are instigated by the Nonhuman Rights Project. Other lawsuits have not succeeded. This is the first to go this far. Giving chimpanzees rights? The world has gone mad! At least a certain judge, in my opinion, in a courtroom in New York.

Where will it end?

There is a world of difference between chimpanzees and human beings (as if you needed me to tell you). They are supposedly our closest living relatives. If that’s the case, the kinship is hard to see. Yet, the effort to mix species runs rampant.

Adam Rutherford, in his book Creation, writes: “It doesn’t take a great leap of faith to see that we are closely related to chimpanzees or gorillas. Only a designer setting out to deceive or fundamentally lacking in imagination or effort would create things so similar and pretend that they were not cousins” (pg. 32).

On the same page, Dr. Rutherford wants to use a Ford Pinto and a Porsche 911 to illustrate the point. These vehicles are different, writes Rutherford, in the details of the engine, the design, the tires, et cetera. But “are both cars, derived via successive iterations from a common ancestor, one that bore an early version of the internal combustion engine built from metal and powered by fossil fuel.”

The comparison is ludicrous. Did the Porsche 911 and the Pinto come from a “common ancestor”? Only in concept! In reality… Google a Pinto and a Porsche 911. Even on the external appearance of the body structure you can see if there were to be a common ancestor in vehicles, there would have to be tremendous alterations made, just to the body of the car! Can you imagine how the schematics would be different between such cars!? I’m absolutely no expert on engines but I can imagine how different these two vehicles would be inside the engine.

To get from Henry Ford’s Model T to a Porsche 911, there would have to be massive alterations from beginning to end. No, the Porsche 911 and Pinto (and Model T) may argue for a common designer but not a common ancestor.

The same is true with the chimpanzee and the human being. Their similarities would argue for a common designer but hardly a common ancestor.

There is a world of difference between the chimpanzee and the human. We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). They are not. What will happen in a country when legal rights are extended to animals? Only God knows.

–Paul Holland

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Sermon outlines on Acts 2

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Lord & Messiah – Acts 2:14, 36-41

Imagine that you are a Jew living in the first century. You are a faithful Jew so you attend the synagogue services every Sabbath. You are aware of the preaching of John and the work of Jesus. You might not be a follower of Jesus, but you are certainly open to His teachings. You are among those who are not quite sure what you make of Him. The empty tomb has certainly piqued your curiosity!

But then, you are present on the day of Pentecost. Imagine that you were in Jerusalem on that day and you heard all the noise that happened when people heard that these followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit of God. So, just like, literally, thousands of other Jews, you run to the temple and see these men preaching. You can hear different languages being spoken and you move over to hear Peter as he is speaking your language, Aramaic.

First, Peter gets everyone’s attention (Acts 2:14). After he clears up a misunderstanding about all the noise, Peter starts talking about Jesus (verse 22). Ah! These men are being guided by the Holy Spirit of God, just like the old prophets from your Jewish history had been, and they are going to explain what all this means! You are ecstatic!

According to Peter’s sermon, Jesus was a man “attested by God.” Peter tells you how Jesus was “attested” by God:

1. First, through the miracles He did (vs 22).
2. Through His resurrection (vs 24).
3. Through the fulfillment of prophecy (vss 25-29).
4. Through the virgin birth (vs 30).
5. Through His exaltation to heaven (vs 33).

Then, you get really excited as Peter gets to the conclusion of his sermon: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (vs 36). Wow! Lord and Christ! He is the promised Messiah from the Old Testament and He is God! This resurrection is something! It is the most remarkable event in all of Jewish history. In fact, it has got to be the most significant event in all of human history!

Now, while you are standing there in the audience, someone yells out to Peter: “Brothers, what should we do?” You can hear the pain in his voice. He means, “What can we do to be forgiven of our behavior toward Jesus?” That is probably the most important question you can ask about the most important event in human history! What can man do?

So, you listen intently to Peter’s response: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Just like John, Peter said this immersion is “for the forgiveness of sins.” That elevates the role of this immersion. In fact, Peter goes on to promise that if you do repent and are immersed for the forgiveness of sins, you actually receive the Holy Spirit. You recognize this as a promise given by the great prophet Ezekiel in 36:26-27.

Multitudes, multitudes respond to Peter’s call to be immersed for the forgiveness of sins. The final count will be about 3,000 people. Still, you have a few questions about this immersion in water, so when the day is over and you are able to pull Peter aside, you ask him just what immersion has to do with Jesus and the forgiveness of sins.

Because Peter was guided by the same Spirit who later guided the apostle Paul, we know that Peter’s response would have been similar to what Paul will later write in Romans 6:3-5.

With that fuller explanation, you and your wife agree to be immersed into Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. You are so excited to have this full and complete sacrifice for sins in the man, Jesus Christ. You have a lot to learn about Christianity but having the forgiveness of sins and not being obligated to keep offering animal sacrifices is a tremendous blessing from the God of heaven.

“What a wonderful God you serve,” you say to yourself as you go to bed that night. Excited. Tired. But forgiven.

Be immersed for the forgiveness of your sins, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

–Paul Holland

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