Why Do I Exist? - Guest Speaker Kevin Hamm

My Life’s Purpose in Scripture

Arranged and Paraphrased by Kevin Hamm

From the New American Standard Version

When I look around and see all of the opinions of what is right and what is wrong I am encouraged that “blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

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When I look around and see all the evil in this world I am compelled to ask “How can a young man keep his way pure?” Psalm 119:9  I am encouraged that I can do so by “keeping it according to God’s word.  With all my heart I have sought Him; Who will not let me wander from His commandments.  God’s word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Him.” Psalm 119:10-11Because “His word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

When I look around and see all the foolishness in this world I am encouraged that “I understand more than the aged, because I have observed God’s precepts.” Psalm 119:100 I don’t need to let anyone look down upon me, “but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, I willshow myself an example of those who believe.” I Timothy 4:12I will“let my light shine before men in such a way that they may see my good works, and glorify my Father who is in heaven.” Mark 5:16I will“be diligent to present myself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15I will“present my body a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is my spiritual service of worship.” And I willnot “be conformed to this world, but I willbe transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that I may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1&2  Because I am “in Christ,” and I am “a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come.” II Corinthians 5:17 For “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20  “The time already past is sufficient for me to have carried out the desire of the gentiles.” I Peter 4:3  And I know that when I am tempted “God is faithful to provide a way of escape that I may be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13 But all is not perfect and difficult times do come.  At those times I will“consider it all joy, …when I encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance.  And I willlet endurance have its perfect result, so that I may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 For I know that “blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12  And when the negative seems almost overpowering I am encouraged “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, to dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8 And if I am ever tempted to focus too much on myself, I will“do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind I willregard others as more important than myself; not merely looking out for my own personal interests, but also for their interests.  I willhave this attitude in myself which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:3-11This I believe with all my heart and I will“proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that willpresent every man complete in Christ.  For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”Colossians 1:28&29 And with that power I will“run with endurance the race that is set before me, fixing my eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:1&2 And I know that “those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize.  Therefore, I willrun in such a way that I may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but I an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” I Corinthians 9:24-27To stay fit for this race I will“apply all diligence in my faith to supply moral excellence and in my moral excellence, knowledge, and in my knowledge, self-control, and in my self-control, perseverance, and in my perseverance, godliness, and in my godliness, brotherly kindness, and in my brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are mineand are increasing, they render me neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ.  And I know as long as I practice these things I willnever stumble and that in this way my entrance into the eternal kingdom of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to me.” II Peter 1:5-8,10b&11“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13&14 And all of these things I willentrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. II Timothy 2:2

“In God’s book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16  I know the days that were not meant to be my last. They are behind me.  I don’t know how many days I have left, but this I do know, by abiding in Christ and He in me I John 3I willrun the race, I willpress on toward the goal, I willshine my light so that, by God’s grace I may one day hear those cherished words “well done my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

 

Foundational Framework Part 71 - The Great Commision Part 2

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“Our young men are going into the professional fields because they don't 'feel called' to the mission field. We don't need a call; we need a kick in the pants. We must begin thinking in terms of 'going out,' and stop our weeping because 'they won't come in.' Who wants to step into an igloo? The tombs themselves are not colder than the churches. May God send us forth.” -Jim Elliot

In Christ, a brand new Life has been made available. It is one of His power, His message, His forgiveness, His love, and His presence in this present evil age. The interval between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the birth of the Church is an interesting but understandable one. Jesus’ call for them to “wait for what the Father” (Acts 1:4b) has promised, being the coming of the Holy Spirit, places the eleven in a time where patience was paramount. However, they do not waste this time, opting to appoint another to take Judas’ place, making them twelve again (Acts 1:21-26), and spending this time in prayer along with other believers (Acts 1:14). But Jesus’ prescription to “wait” was necessary because the twelve needed power to accomplish the mission that He was placing before them. 

Acts 1:1-5.The book of Acts is Luke, Part II. Luke, the physician, addresses “Theophilus” once more (Luke 1:3), explaining the contents of his first letter. In his Gospel account, Luke had documented all that Jesus “began to do and teach until the day when He was taken up” (Acts 1:1b-2a). This refers to Jesus’ miracles and instructions while on the Earth bodily, lasting up until the time that He was crucified, resurrected, and had ascended (Luke 24:51-52). 

In Acts 1:3, Jesus is said to have presented Himself alive “by many convincing proofs,” furthering the case for His bodily resurrection. We are then told that a period of forty days took place between His bodily resurrection and His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9), in which He was speaking with the apostles regarding the Kingdom of God. Why would the subject matter of the Kingdom of God be the focus of His post-resurrection/pre-ascension ministry to the apostles?

From Matthew 21:43we see that Jesus makes a definitive claim against the nation of Israel, stating, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” This was not a declaration that the Kingdom was to come in the establishment of the Church, nor that the kingdom had come in some “mystery form” while Jesus was ministering on Earth, but that the fruits that would have been, and will be produced in the Kingdom when it comes would be produced in the Church Age as a sign of judgment against them. Israel’s unbelief had cost them a first-century start to the Kingdom of God in which the Messiah would be reigning on the throne (Matt 12). This statement would have some bearing on Jesus’ conversation with the apostles, no doubt. But this does not mean that the nature of the kingdom has changed in some capacity. It is still literal, still political, still earthly, and still to come in the future.

Some have concluded that the Kingdom of God came with Jesus and was established in a “spiritual” sense while He was on Earth. Peters writes, “Is it conceivable, can it be credited, that such special chosen ones, upon whose testimony the faith of others was to be founded, should, aftertheir own preaching, afterall their private and public instruction for several years, and afterthe particular ‘forty days’ (Acts 1:3), ‘speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God,’ be ignorant of the fact (if it be as alleged) that a promised Kingdom was (as eminent theologians now gravely inform us) actuallyin existence?

No! such a supposition is damaging, fatally so, to preachers and Teacher, and cannot possiblybe entertained.”[1]

The apostles were not aware, in any fashion, that the Kingdom of God had come. In fact, we see Jesus moving in a different direction, yet one that is consistent with His teaching during the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16), which was taught at a time “post-rejection.” In Acts 1:4, Jesus calls the apostles together and tells them to “wait for what the Father had promised,” being the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15). Jesus then connects the Spirit’s coming with the words of John the Baptist. “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). 

In Matthew’s Gospel, John’s words are recorded where he says, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11). Notice the similarity with Jesus’ words in Acts 1:5speaking of John baptizing with water. Yet Jesus goes on to speak of another baptism, that being of the Holy Spirit. In John’s case, we see the mention of being baptized with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” This should not be understood as relating two separate baptisms, but one and the same.

We must remember that the word “baptism” needs context in order to determine what is meant by the original author. Not every mention of “baptism” is speaking of an immersion in water. The meaning of baptism is that one is immersed in, or identified with, something. This is the case that we find before us. If we move forward to Acts 2:3, we read, “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.” This captures the baptism of which John the Baptist and Jesus spoke. To be baptized with fire is to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is not a water baptism, but a fire baptism, a spiritual identification with the Holy Spirit. 

At the present time, the apostles had no power. Therefore, they could not minister effectively as Jesus had called them to do. So, He told them to wait for the necessary Power to arrive.

Acts 1:6-8. The apostles “coming together” in Acts 1:6 speaks to the event of 1:4 where we are told that Jesus “gathered them together.” Note the nature of their question to the Lord. “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). This question is revealing in at least two ways. First, the anticipation of the apostles’ question tells us that the kingdom had not yet arrived, that it was still forthcoming. Second, the apostles understood that the coming of the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it was a kingdom that was to be “restored” to Israel. 

The word “restored” means “to change to an earlier good state or condition, restore, reestablish,” and “to return someone to a former place or relationship, bring back, give back, restore.”[2]The apostles understood that only Jesus, the Christ of God could restore this Kingdom, being that He is its King. We must ask ourselves what the apostles might have been thinking of when considering an ideal time of reigning in Israel’s history. Without question, their conception of the “Kingdom of God” is the time of David and Solomon’s reign when Israel was at its most prosperous on the Earth.

Peters writes, “The tenor of the narrative shows that in alltheir conversations respectingthe Kingdom nothingwas said that changedthe faith of the apostles. They still held the belief that they had authoritatively preached. The proof is found in the question (v. 6), “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?” This is admitted by all—very reluctantlyindeed by some commentators and writers—to mean that they still believedin a restoration of the Davidic throne and Kingdom under the reign of the Messiah. The reply of Jesus, as we already had occasion to observe, confirmstheir belief; for instead of rejecting their idea of the natureof the Kingdom, He takes that for granted as substantially correct, and only refers to the timewhen it should again be restored to Israel as something reserved by the Father, thus meeting the question proposed which related to the time.”[3]

Undoubtedly, Jesus’ emphasis on the subject of the Kingdom of God is what had brought this question about. However, now was not the time for the Kingdom to come. It would be at another time. It was not wrong for the apostles to ask Him about it, and He does not rebuke them for their inquiry. However, Jesus does redirect their thinking and He starts by affirming that the Father has another time planned for the promised Kingdom to come (Acts 1:7). This was the Father’s business. The timing of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not to concern them, which is a point that would have saved our “date-setter” friends a lot of trouble. Instead, Jesus set a mission before the apostles, and by extension the Church, that was to be what occupied their time until the coming of the Kingdom. “He does not tell them their kingdom is abandoned, or merged into a spiritual conquest of all nations: He plainly infers that every promise of God is still intact; but assigns to them the immediate ministry of the new gospel age.”[4]

Jesus tells them, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8a). This point resonates with Jesus’ earlier call for the apostles to “wait for what the Father has promised” (Acts 1:4b). What is most often neglected in many contemporary observations of this verse stands as its most indispensable part. It is the essential element to all effective ministry, and yet it is often glossed over. Tozer notes, “Some good Christians have misread thistext and have assumed that Christ told His disciples that they were to receive the Holy Spirit and power, the power to come after the coming of the Spirit… Christ taught not the coming of the Holy Spirit aspower; the power and the Spirit are the same.”[5]He goes on to say, “’Ye shall receive power.’ By those words our Lord raised the expectation of His disciples and taught them to look forward to the coming of a supernatural potency in to their natures from a source outside themselves. It was to be something previously unknown to them, but suddenly to come upon them from another world. It was to be nothing less than God Himself entering into them with the purpose of ultimately reproducing His own likeness within them.”[6]

God the Spirit is the power that accomplishes the task at hand. This is why Jesus mentions it first before telling His disciples that they would be His “witnesses” (martyresbeing where we get the English word “martyrs” from). A “witness” is one who testifies to what they have seen and heard (Acts 4:20; 1 John 1:1, 3). Jesus would ask of the Father and the Father would send forth the Power needed to testify to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that all who believe in Him would be saved from the wrath of God to come. This is a message that will not suffice without the power that IS the Holy Spirit. A message fueled by the flesh meets fear and intimidation and will yield no results. Fruit cannot be expected from dead things. However, the Spirit, living, active, indwelling, and leading the believer in Christ cannot help but to produce fruit because therein lies all of the power.

There are four arenas that are presented for the testifiers of Jesus Christ to go. First, we have “Jerusalem,” which would be considered the place of the apostles’ “home base operations.” For the believer in Christ, it would be the place where you are. Start where you are in testifying about Christ. There is no better place than where you find yourself currently to begin being obedient to this command.Second,we have “in all Judea,” meaning the region that contained Jerusalem. One might liken this to their “county” in America, or one’s province if you happen to find yourself in France, for instance. This calling would be to go beyond the city and into the rural areas, the regions that lie around the place where you find yourself. 

Third, Jesus mentions “Samaria,” and does so close on the heels of “Judea.” Samaria was the middle region in between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north. However, this was a place that Jews avoided at all cost, seeing that it was made up of people who were the offspring of Jews and Gentiles cohabitating. The Jews of first century Israel despised Gentiles and considered them “unclean” at best (See Acts 10:9-18, 34-35, 42-45). This gives us a better understanding. Jesus is saying, “go where you normally wouldn’t go.” Think about who you disagree with. Maybe you have some hidden prejudices that keep you from certain people or certain places. Jesus says go beyond those and see that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. Every person living is a sinner in need of salvation, and Jesus has freely provided salvation for every person. Every person needs to hear of His free gift of eternal life.

Finally, Jesus calls us to be witnesses “even to the remotest part of the Earth.” How far do we go? Forever. We keep going and we do not stop going. Our lives are not ones of staying but of going and all four arenas need to be told of the love of God in Christ Jesus. One doesn’t need to be a missionary; one just needs to be obedient. We don’t need any formal training; we just need to be willing to talk. There doesn’t need to be any special planning; there just needs to be a willingness to be used where you are. There is no need for psyching ourselves up for the task; we always have the authority and presence of Jesus Christ and the indwelling Spirit. Our greatest concerns in leaving this command undone is our greed, fear, unwillingness, worldliness, and pride. All of these are the SELF-LIFE and all of these call for our repentance, for all of these keep us from going and testifying of the death and resurrection of Christ. All of these keep the lost from being saved.  

In writing on the prophet Jonah and his call from YHWH to go to the city of Nineveh and preach there, Merrill writes that “the mission strategy is somewhat different from the normal Old Testament pattern inasmuch as Israel was essentially to be a magnet to which the peoples would be attracted and thus attracted to Israel’s God. In Jonah’s case the command was to go, anticipating perhaps the New Testament centrifugal model of the church reaching out to the ends of the earth with the gospel message (Matt 28:19-20; cf. Acts 1:8).”[7]This is an excellent observation. Just as Jesus had already said, we are to “Go!” The Church of God is not to be a stagnant entity that causes others to marvel at its pomp and circumstance, but a people thriving in the New Life that Christ gives and powerful due to the Holy Spirit’s presence, going and reaching out to the lost. The church’s focus is to be as much outward (evangelism) as it is inward (discipleship). One can easily see that the latter gives way to the former and the former supplies the latter. This is God’s glorious plan for the Church to move forward. In fact, it is the only plan.

Acts 1:9-12.This section is straight-forward. Finishing this command, Jesus ascends into heaven out of the disciples’ sight. His last words before leaving them was that they were to be His witnesses, all around the world until His kingdom comes. Last words are important. Out of all of the things that Jesus could have communicated to them, He told them this. This is how important “being His witnesses” is to Him. And so it is today with us.

Upon ascension, two angels appeared and told the apostles that Jesus would return to Earth in the same way; descending from the clouds. He will come again! He is now preparing a place for His people (John 14:2-3). He will come again and receive us unto Himself and we will be with Him always. In the meantime, we are to be about His business: testifying to the salvation that He has provided and making disciples. 

If we were to combine the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 and the call to be Jesus’ “witnesses” in Acts 1:8, we would say:

Every believer in Jesus Christ is a ministerto the Body (Matt 28:18-20) and amissionaryto the world (Acts 1:8).

The focus of the believer is twofold, calling the unsaved to be saved and for the already saved to go on being saved. This is evangelism and discipleship, justification and sanctification, being saved from the penalty of sin and continually being saved from the power of sin in our lives, receiving eternal life and experiencing abundant life, coming into relationship with the Father through the Son and experiencing fellowship with Him on an ongoing basis, answering the invitation to know Him and enjoying intimacy with Him, having peace with God and experiencing the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, being granted a holy position before Him and cultivating a holy practice in Him, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and abiding with the Lord Jesus Christ. 

There is no other goal, no new vision or revelation, no new program to employ, no other way of relating. It is evangelism and discipleship, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of all that flows out of the Church. 

The greatest fulfillment that we will ever experience in this earthly life is in getting a taste of the Life to come as we testify about Christ and teaching believers about His glorious grace! It is all about Him, not us. Our greatest ambitions cannot compare to the glorious riches that we already possess in Christ. Are we taking advantage of those benefits, or has SELF blocked our access to the depths of His grace?

Make the wise decision to heed the Word of God: share Christ with the lost knowing that the power of the Holy Spirit is with you, and make discipleship a priority, knowing that the authority of Christ and His continual presence will never leave you. 

God has made Himself known by His Word. How blessed we are to be His people and to share in making Him known to the world!

[1]George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus, the Christ, vol. 1 (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1884), p. 366.

[2]BDAG, p. 111.

[3]Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, vol. 1, p. 430–431.

[4]Lewis Sperry Chafer, The Kingdom in History and Prophecy(Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1936), p. 72.

[5]A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man(Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015), p. 91.

[6]Ibid., p. 93.

[7]Eugene H. Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), p. 499.

Foundational Framework Part 70 - The Great Commission Part 1

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If the crucifixion and resurrection serve as the message of the good news about Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit when He comes at Pentecost is the power that enables the believer to effectively share that message (John 16:7; Acts 2), then a methodology is needed for seeing this happen day in and day out. Thankfully, God has provided our marching orders in what is commonly known as the Great Commission.

Before diving in, we must consider the word “commission” since it has been almost unanimously attached to this section of Matthew’s Gospel. Looking for a definition, we find:

1.    the act of committing or entrusting a person, group, etc., with supervisory power or authority.

2.    an authoritative order, charge, or direction.

3.    authority granted for a particular action or function.

4.    a document granting such authority.[1]

To be commissioned, or to receive a commissioning, is to be entrusted with something, supplied with orders about what one has been entrusted with, and having a greater authority that now accompanies you because of the commissioning received. 

Every believer in Christ has been entrusted with a task that always lies before us, along with Divine orders which accompany that task, and the Divine authority placed upon us for the successful execution of that task. This is complete and without exception. So, what is this task?

Matthew 28:16-17.This scene is centered on the rendezvous point previously set forth in Galilee as was told to Mary Magdalene (Matt 26:32; 28:7, 10; Mark 14:28; 16:7). When we remember the Apostle Paul’s comments regarding Jesus’ appearance to “more than five hundred brethren at one time” from 1 Corinthians 15:6a, it would seem that he is alluding to this meeting in Galilee. We know that Jesus’ appearance to Paul (1 Cor 15:8; Acts 9:3-5) did not occur until well after the ascension of Christ, and the other two instances mentioned after the appearance to “more than five hundred brethren” in 1 Corinthians 15 are appearances to James and then to the eleven (1 Cor 15:7). This sequence allows for the mountain appearance in Galilee to include not just the eleven as mentioned in Matthew 28:16a, but also many more disciples totaling over five hundred in all. 

This understanding is significant because it bolsters the commissioning of Jesus Christ to believers beyond the apostles. One could read this verse and wrongly conclude that such a command was meant for only that place and time and that the eleven were “special people,” being unlike us today, therefore they alone have received this special commissioning. But any attempts at exemption would be unfounded. To be frank, and to also say this in love, the excuses that we often use to justify our disobedience to the written Word of God are nothing short of abhorrent before our holy God and Creator. Such inferior reasonings are put forth to assuageour consciences, putting out of our minds that we are rejecting the conviction and leading of the Holy Spirit. 

When this myriad of disciples came to the mountain and the Lord Jesus appeared to them, many worshiped Him (meaning “to prostrate oneself, to have adoration”) while others doubted (Matt 28:16-17). The word for “doubtful” here is distazōmeaning “to have doubts concerning something, doubt, waver” and “to be uncertain about taking a particular course of action, hesitate,”[2]and is used only one other time in Matthew 14:31 when speaking about Peter doubting the Lord once he was out on the water. It would seem that both definitions could be applied in this situation, with some of the brethren doubting that the Lord Jesus had been resurrected (which corresponds with the first definition), and this leading to a subsequent doubting of His commissioning to follow (corresponding with the second definition), though the first definition would be best suited as the intended meaning of the author.

Matthew 28:18-20.Every phrase that Jesus speaks is of the utmost importance and deserves our careful attention and complete understanding. Let us consider Jesus’ words.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and one earth,”(Matt 28:18b). Our first observation would be the emphatic entrusting of authority to Jesus Christ. “All” speaks to the totality and completeness of a thing. “All” is a key word in this passage, with four occurrences, with every one of them instilling confidence for the task being commissioned.  In having “all authority,” we understand that there is no bit of authority that has not been granted to Him in regards to the heavenly or earthly sphere.

The heavenly is that in which demons and angels war. As seen before, “Satan is the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), and the ruler of this world (John 14:30). The earthly realm is where we live now, and where Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8b). The demonic influence, the world system that Satan has orchestrated (Acts 26:18), and the lust and pride that exude from our fallen nature (1 John 2:16) would all be included.   

The first grand truth of this commissioning is Jesus’ place in the midst of all of this. It is one of “authority.” “He spoke as one already in heaven with a world-wide outlook and with the resources of heaven at his command.”[3]This authority stands as the promised power of the Lord Jesus Christ, being mentioned first in order to correctly set the stage for the commissioning that would follow. Had Jesus not said this (meaning that He did not have this authority), His Great Commission would be one that would only have the flesh serving as its power, and the power of the flesh is only toward sin (Jas 1:14-15), having no real power at all (John 6:63; Rom 8:8). Charles Stanley writes, “We can confidently bring the truth of Jesus to the world because we have Jesus’ divine authority to back it up. Our job is to be His faithful messengers; His job is to prosper His Word.”[4]

“Go therefore…”(Matt 28:19a). The word “go” is a passive aorist participle which is typically explained as conveying “not a command to go, but the assumption that the listener will automatically be going. In other words, the idea expressed is ‘as you are going.’”[5]Some may say, “As we are going about throughout life,” or, as the marginal note of the NASB reads, “having gone…” “Going” is commonly explained as the first of three participles (along with “baptizing” and “teaching”) used that constitutes what it is to “make disciples.”[6]

However, Greek grammarian Robert H. Mounce has considered this argument and disagrees. While the word “go” in Matthew 28:19a is, in fact, a participle, its function should not be interpreted as a noun, as would be a possibility in English grammar (commonly known as a gerund). He writes that the participle is “picking up the mood of the main verb. Since matheusate(“make disciples”) is an aorist active imperative, poreuthentesshould be translated ‘Go.’ Jesus’ instructions are proactive; we are to move out into the world, not simple [sic]make disciples when we happen to be there.”

He goes on to state that he “found that in the New Testament there are twenty-seven occasions where poreuthentesis followed by a main verb in the imperative mood. The result? In every case the participle should be translated as an imperative.”[7]From this, we can conclude that “make disciples” (as will be discussed in the next section) stands as the main imperative verb, but the participles of “go,” “baptize,” and “teaching” are all to be considered as imperatives that stem from the main verb.

Why does this matter? This understanding shows us the importance of each facet being listed. “Go,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” are all carrying the mood of the imperative to “make disciples.” Each piece should be considered as a command with the same weight as “make disciples.” We ARE to “go,” we ARE to “baptize,” and we ARE to “teach,” because our lives, from the moment that we trusted in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, are to be lived in obedience to the task of making disciples that has been placed before us. This means that we are to be a people who have been called to intentional living. We are to do this by the power granted in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are to confidently move forward because the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ is never apart from us (Matt 28:20b).

The use of “therefore” points us back to the fact of “all authority” being given to Jesus. Jesus alone has been given all authority by the Father. No church, creed, theological system, or denomination has any power whatsoever. All of the power/authority necessary is that of the Lord Jesus, and only by His authority is there power to accomplish the task.

“make disciples of all nations…”(Matt 28:19b). With the phrase “make disciples” we have the main verb and plain imperative listed. To be clear, an imperative is a command, and this command is being issued in light of the authority given to Jesus. The word “disciple” is pathēteuō in the Greek which means “to cause one to be a pupil, teach,”[8]with the idea of giving many convincing proofs while also beseeching or begging people to follow Christ in greater understanding so that their lives are changed. For those who are unregenerate (lost), this, of necessity, implies that we are actively telling others about Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Again, this is the importance of intentional living.

As we move forward in this passage we will examine the “what” of making disciples, but the question that always overwhelms the believer’s mind is “how.” How do I make disciples? This is a legitimate question that is partially answered in the “what” of baptizing them in the name of the Trinity and teaching them what Jesus has commanded (Matt 28:19c-20a). But to give a larger view that answers the “how” question, we must always look to the sufficiency of the Word of God. We would do well to pay attention to verses like 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says,

 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

The Word of God equips the disciple so that “every good work” can be handled adequately.

We also find in 2 Peter 1:3 that, 

“…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

While the Holy Spirit is the power, the “true knowledge of Him” would be gained through the Word of God. 

These two passages alone give us the textbook from which the believer in Christ is to be discipled. While sound supplementary materials are helpful, they are no replacement for the Word of God, for it is the Word of God that is used by its Author, the Spirit of God, to enact change in the believer from the inside out, conforming each one of us to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). 

A good summary verse for discipleship can be seen in Colossians 1:28 which says,

“We proclaim Him (Jesus Christ), admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”

“Teaching every man” would have its basis in God’s Word, for Christ is the subject of written revelation, being the One that we are proclaiming. Any admonishment that one would receive must come from a source greater than ourselves because we are in need of discipling as well. The goal of educating believer’s in God’s Word and calling upon the Holy Spirit to enact such truth in their lives is for thepurpose of presenting them as mature (“complete”) in Christ. We want God’s people to be walking with Him daily, depending upon Him everyday, because that is what God wants. We were not designed to be apart from Him. 

With “make disciples” we also see the second of four “all” statements with “all nations,” being the boundaries to which we are to “go” in making disciples. There is something to be said for local discipleship, and it should most certainly be occurring amongst every saint within the local church body. “All nations” calls for us to branch out to every people group. One cannot deny that the thrust of this passage calls for this process of making disciples to be stretched beyond comfortable walls. Every nation on Earth should have the opportunity to be discipled by the truths of God’s Word. “All nations” includes every nation, and every nation should be led to, and educated in, the Truth which is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

With “make disciples” being the imperative in this passage, the direction of the Christian is clear. “Any activity unrelated to or inconsistent with this assignment is, in terms of Jesus’ commission, a failure to carry it out.”[9]Thinking through what we understand of the Judgment Seat of Christ, it is no doubt that whether or not we were using our time to “make disciples” while on Earth will be a primary consideration for the Lord Jesus Christ. 

“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”(Matt 28:19c).

In this passage we have Jesus advocating the authority of the Godhead, also known as the Trinity. All three are included, with Jesus considering Himself equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. All three are God, being three in Persons, but One in essence. 

 “The order is that they have first become disciples through personal faith in Him, followed by baptism as their personal confession of their faith, and a pledge of discipleship as acknowledged members of the body of believers.”[10]This ordinance is the identification of the believer with Christ in His death and resurrection. Just as Jesus has died for sins, so the believer is publicly expressing that he or she has died to sin, and just as Christ was raised from the dead to a new life, a resurrected life, so too is the believer raised to a “newness of life” (Rom 6:4b). This identification is crucial, being an outward expression of what has already taken place in Christ. One can easily see the importance of this ordinance being explained to the believer so that they are mindful of all that Christ has done in giving them “new life” and their full accepted place as now being “in Him” because of Him and His sufficient work.

These are beautiful and necessary blessings for the disciple to understand and embrace! 

“teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”(Matt 28:20a). 

The third participle (which, again, takes on the mood of the imperative verb of “make disciples”) is the necessity of teaching. It should be noted that this teaching is unto a particular point: that the one being taught would become a regular observer of the things being taught to them. This helps us to understand that the idea of teaching goes beyond that of simply relaying information and then expecting them to “get to work.” If we follow the section on to the end, we would see that what is being taught to them are all the things which Jesus commanded. This holds the key! Jesus’ commands are meant to be followed, not simply understood. From this we can conclude that the one teaching Jesus’ commands to another must be “observing” those commands as well. This encourages the one beingdiscipled and creates an atmosphere of mutual edification between believers. 

It must be quickly noted that this is the third “all” statement. All that Jesus commanded must be taught. This command is clearly stated, and while we will momentarily see that some things are not applicable to the Church Age, it does not change the fact that those things should be taught, for all Scripture is God-breathed.

The word “observe” is tēreōmeaning “to retain in custody, keep watch over, guard,” “to cause a state, condition, or activity to continue, keep, hold, reserve, preserve,” “to persist in obedience, keep, observe, fulfill, pay attention to.”[11]Observing all that Christ has commanded is for the disciples to persistently retain, uphold, and obey what Christ has set forth as His orders to the disciples. From what we can understand about the Gospels, we know that there was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry when He no longer offered the kingdom to Israel and began looking forward to His death and resurrection (Matt 12). Thus, we would conclude that what Jesus has taught His disciples that does not relate to the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom as being presented to Israel in the first century should be consider as applicable teaching that has carried over into the Church Age. 

For instance, we know that Jesus’ teaching in John 13-16, with its emphasis on love and obedience, should be considered as valid commandments that hold for the church today. While there would certainly be a need to consider the progressive revelation of this section and the fact that the Holy Spirit would be indwelling them in Acts 2, we can certainly see that the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of a new dispensation does not negate the commands that Jesus is giving them. They would be the bedrock of the Church at itsbirth in Acts 2 at Pentecost in Jerusalem. These foundational commands would serve as the core of the teaching that would be threaded through every believer. It is Jesus’ teachings that should be considered as the main content (along with the Old Testament) when we are reading that “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42a). 

Another vital observation here is that we must understand that discipleship is relational. It involves being with other believers in Christ. If we were to define discipleship, we would say that it is life invested into life in order to cultivate Life in the here and now. It is one believer meeting with one (or more) believers for the purpose of encouraging the Abundant Life that Christ has provided to be the “hope and stay” of each of our lives. 

Earl Radmacher once wrote, “one of the greatest problems of evangelicalism today is that many Christians who are saved are not beingsaved, that is, they are not growing in Christ and dealing with sin in their lives. Many American Christians are in the spiritual nursery feeding on milk. We desperately need to get believers out of infancy and into the infantry.”[12]Discipleship combats the impoverished state of personal holiness that is saturating the fabric of today’s Christianity, saving us from the power of sin in our daily lives. Believers are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). This is the pursuit of holiness. 

Our lives have been redeemed, and we are declared righteous by God, but this does not mean that our conduct has become righteous. Any Christian that has been saved for five minutes can attest to this. The “renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2) happens through regular time in the Word of God, prayer, and mutual periods of fellowship, all of which take place in making disciples. For the sake of holiness, it is our responsibility to disciple and to be discipled so that we are“speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspectsinto Him who is the head, evenChrist, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:15-16). 

Christ is our Life and He wants to live His life through each one of us. Only that which He produces in our lives is pleasing to the Father. This can be seen clearly in a basic observation from a well-known verse regarding the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Notice that this is not your fruit. It is the Spirit’s fruit in your life. We have nothing to do with it. We simply set aside ourselves because of the acceptance of God’s Word as the only Truth in existence, and move forward trusting what God has said rather than what man has said, or how we feel. Yielding to God’s Word and allowing Christ to be our All in All is what brings about the Spirit’s fruit. This is living a life that we could not otherwise live because it is Christ living His life through us. These are the types of results that we should see in ongoing discipleship. 

For some of us, we know that we are supposed to make disciples, but many of us do not because we have believed that we don’t know how. No doubt that this is an honest reply, but it stems from a deceptive line of thinking. Many believe that they must be a well-seasoned teacher of the Bible, a rugged missionary with years of experience, or a seminary student on the brink of graduation. One’s personal specialization or gifting is not under consideration with this imperative to “make disciples.” This line of thinking has placed the question of obedience on whether or not one feels that they are qualified for the task rather than paying attention to what Jesus has commanded. This type of well-intentioned reply has SELF at the center, not Jesus Christ. This leads us to Jesus’ closing comments.

 “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age”(Matt 28:20b).

Tony Evans notes that beyond the eleven disciples, and the “more than five hundred brethren at one time” (1 Cor 15:6a), that there was a third group that met with the Lord Jesus on the mountain in Galilee, who were meeting there in spirit. “This includes all believers from that day until Jesus comes again. How do I know we are part of the Great Commission meeting? Because Jesus said His commission to make disciples is in effect ‘even to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20), which hasn’t come yet. So the Lord’s instructions are for us too.”[13]Jesus’ encouragement of being with us until the end of the age means that He is ever-present during the Church Age. This is the second bookend in contrast to the power that His authority promises to the believer in Christ.

Read verse 18-20 again. Notice that the believer has two promises that bookend his or her four responsibilities.

A.   ALL AUHTORITY HAS BEEN GIVEN TO JESUS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH- v.18b; This is the promise of His power.

1.    GO- v.19a

2.    MAKE DISCIPLES- v.19b

3.    BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE TRINITY- v.19c

4.    TEACHING THEM PERSISTENTLY TO RETAIN, UPHOLD, AND OBEY WHAT CHRIST HAS SET FORTH- v.20a

A’.  HE IS WITH US ALWAYS, TO THE END OF THE AGE- v.20b; 
       This is the promise of His presence.

Do we believe this? Jesus is with us. Now. And will be until the Church is raptured. He is here, always available, and ever-welcoming our reliance on Him to make the difference in our lives as we disciple one another. This section contains the last “all” statement, being thatJesus is “always” with the believer. This is more than His attribute of being omnipresent. This speaks to the necessity of His presence in accomplishing the task of making disciples. All that we do is to be done in faith (Rom 14:23). This includes making disciples. Followers of Christ are not made in the power of the flesh. Only the power that Jesus supplies can complete this task so that it is approved by the Father. Fleshly methods are the devil’s tools. We must heed the Lord’s promises and be quick to hold them fast!

Are we making disciples?

If not, why not?

Jesus has commanded it, giving the promise of both His power and His presence in the process.

Personal inadequacy is an unacceptable excuse because leaves Jesus’ command undone, and makes the decision to obey based on us and not Him.

If you are not in a discipleship relationship, ask a dear beloved brother or sister today. Unite together for mutual encouragement and edification, reproof and correction, as only the Word of God can administer it. Look for the Holy Spirit to be your Guide and to “lead you into all truth” (John 16:13b).

Let us GO, and MAKE DISCIPLES, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Trinity, and TEACHING them to persistently retain, uphold, and obey what Christ has set forth in His Holy Word.

[1]“Commission,” Dictionary.com, [online], Accessed on 24 April 2019.

[2]BDAG, p. 252.

[3]A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament(Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Mt 28:18.

[4]Charles F. Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version(Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005), Mt 28:18–19.

[5]Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), p. 1963.

[6]See D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p. 595.

[7]Robert H. Mounce, “The Participle as Imperative (Monday with Mounce 12),” Zondervan Academic, [online] at https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/the-participle-as-imperative, Accessed on 24 April 2019.

[8]BDAG, p. 609. “It is important to avoid the implication of duress or force, that is to say, one should not translate ‘force them to be my disciples’ or ‘compel them to be my disciples.’ This might very well be implied in a literal translation of a causative such as ‘to make.’ In order to avoid a wrong implication of a causative, it may be important to use some such expression as ‘convince them to become my disciples’ or ‘urge them to be my disciples.’” -Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 470.

[9]D. Edmond Hiebert, “An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16–20,” Bibliotheca Sacra149 (1992): 348.

[10]Hiebert, “An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16–20,”: 350.

[11]BDAG, p. 1002.

[12]Earl D. Radmacher, Understanding Christian Theology, ed. Charles R. Swindoll and Roy B. Zuck (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), p. 883–884.

[13]Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On (Chicago: Moody Press, 2008), p. 901.

Foundational Framework Part 69 - Evidences of the Resurrection

It has been said by many that the key component of the Christian Faith is the historical event of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. While the crucifixion provides the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world (John 1:29), the resurrection of Christ vindicates His death as being approved by God. For all of the accusations that Christ sustained both in His earthly life and while hanging on the cross, the very notion that He was raised from the dead and was appearing to many as proof served as the grounds that demanded their silence. Torrey once wrote, “The crucifixion loses its meaning without the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the death of Christ was only the heroic death of a noble martyr. With the resurrection, it is the atoning death of the Son of God. It shows that death to be of sufficient value to cover all our sins, for it was the sacrifice of the Son of God. In it we have an all-sufficient ground for knowing that the blackest sin is atoned for. Disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christian faith is vain.”

Foundtional Framework 68 - The Cross/Altar of Christ

Foundational Frameworks 68.png

The earthly life of Jesus Christ is nothing short of remarkable and we only have a fraction of all that He did and said as recorded in the Word of God. But we have no reason to feel short-changed, for what we have is more than enough Light. It proves His claims, vindicates His Person, leads men and women to salvation, and heartens the child of God to pursue Him in living a holy life. The fulfillment of prophecy alone in Jesus’ earthly life is enough to stagger the mind of the most educated man, seeing that the time gap between the foretelling of an event and the actual occurrence of the event in His earthly life is 400 years in the least to some 1500 years at the most. The following is a list of forty-five of the most significant messianic prophecies that were fulfilled during the first advent of Christ as recorded by Mark Hitchcock.

1.    He was born of a woman (see Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4).

2.    He was a descendant of Abraham (see Genesis 12:3, 7; Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16).

3.    He was of the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 49:10; Hebrew 7:14; Revelation 5:5).

4.    He was of the house or family of David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Luke 1:31-33; Romans 1:3).

5.    He was born of a virgin (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23)

6.    He was called Immanuel (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).

7.    He had a forerunner (see Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1; Mathew 3:1-3; Luke 1:76-78).

8.    He was born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5-6; Luke 2:4-6).

9.    He was worshipped by wise men and given gifts (see Psalm 72:10-11; Isaiah 60:3, 6, 9; Matthew 2:11).

10.  He was in Egypt for a season (see Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15).

11.  His birthplace was a place where infants were slaughtered (see Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18).

12.  He was zealous for the Father (see Psalm 69:9; John 2:17; John 6:37-40).

13.  He was filled with God’s Spirit (see Isaiah 11:2; Luke 4:18-19).

14.  He was a mighty healer (see Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1; Matthew 8:16-17).

15.  He ministered to the Gentiles (see Isaiah 9:1-2; 42:1-3; Matthew 4:13-16; 12:17-21).

16.  He spoke in parables (see Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:10-15).

17.  He was rejected by the Jewish people (see Psalm 69:8; Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11; 7:5).

18.  He made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (see Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:4-5).

19.  He was praised by little children (see Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:16).

20.  He was the rejected cornerstone (see Psalm 118:22-23; Matthew 21:42).

21.  His miracles were not believed (see Isaiah 53:1; John 12:37-38).

22.  He was betrayed by His friend for thirty pieces of silver (see Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 25:14-16, 21-25).

23.  He was a Man of Sorrows (see Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 26:37-38).

24.  He was forsaken by His disciples (see Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, 56).

25.  He was beaten and spit upon (see Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67; 27:26).

26.  His betrayal money was used to purchase a potter’s field (see Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:9-10).

27.  He was executed by means of piercing His hands and feet (see Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34, 37).

28.  He was crucified between criminals (see Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38).

29.  He was given vinegar to drink (see Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34).

30.  His garments were divided, and soldiers gambled for them (see Psalm 22:18; Luke 23:34).

31.  He was surrounded and ridiculed by enemies (see Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:39-44).

32.  He was thirsty on the cross (see Psalm 22:15; John 19:28).

33.  He commended His spirit to the Father (see Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46).

34.  He uttered a forsaken cry on the cross (see Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46).

35.  He committed Himself to God (see Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46).

36.  He was hated without a cause (see Psalm 69:4; John 15:25).

37.  People shook their heads as they saw Him on the cross (see Psalm 109:25; Matthew 27:39).

38.  He was silent before His accusers (see Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12).

39.  His bones were not broken (see Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20; John 19:33-36).

40.  He was stared at in death (see Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 27:36; John 19:37).

41.  He was buried with the rich (see Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60).

42.  He was raised from the dead (see Psalm 16:10; Matthew 28:2-7).

43.  He was and is a High Priest greater than Aaron (see Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:4-6).

44.  He ascended to glory (see Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8).

45.  He was and is seated at the right hand of the Father (see Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 10:12-13).[1]

In this list, we will quickly notice that #22-41 involve His betrayal, crucifixion, and death. One’s personal study of the above references would certainly be humbling and fruitful, yet it is what was accomplished IN the event of Jesus’ death that unifies the Scriptures and proclaims the heart of God for His fallen creation. 

In the cross, God is talking to mankind, displaying the atrocities of sin, the debt incurred, the payment demanded, and the necessary Provision graciously supplied. In every way, the cross of Jesus Christshould incite a sober sense of helplessness, an otherwise-untapped appreciation, and an instant swell of humility.

“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isa 45:22). It is with this verse that the whole process of the Foundational Framework began. It resonates straight from His heart, demonstraing the call of God Himself to the human race. We are often wandering, listless, and needy, yet wanting and scheming and lustful, all of which blind us from our bankrupt condition and separated status from the Almighty. 

God’s love for the world is still complete, unending, and unwavering despite our prideful justifications for our sin. The actual event of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ tells the story of God’s relationship with mankind in communicating a picture, a sacrifice, and a testimony. Herein lies the grand marker of all history and existence stretching to the farthest reaches of the universe. 

The cross is the centerpiece of all time, space, and existence. 
In the cross, God speaks.

A Picture

The prophet Isaiah writes, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa 53:4-6). 

The cross is a vivid and horrifying picture of our iniquity. We are told that He was chastened for our “well-being” (v.5b). This word means“completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.”[2]This line asserts the idea of substitution. The chastening of a child is for the correction of wrong done and for the future hope that their choices will be different. What would a father want more for their child than to live a peaceful, sound, and complete life? (See 1 Tim 2:1,2). This “chastening” fell upon Another, though it was to be administered in full force to us. Was it not OUR griefs (v.4a), OUR sorrows (v.4b), OUR transgressions (v.5a), OUR iniquities (v.5b), OUR going astray (v.6a), OUR turning to OUR own way (v.6b), and OUR iniquity (v.6c) that demands a recompense? And yet He steps into OUR place, receiving OUR punishment.  

The Savior was “struck down” (“smitten” in v.4d) by God with our transgressions being the cause for His judgment. The word “iniquity” in v.6 is translated consistently as such in the major English translations with the exception of the NLT, which uses “sins.” This Hebrew word encompasses the idea of guilt, and the punishment that is due for being guilty. 

God is righteous. No one can argue, for the basis of such an argument would need to supply a righteous standard than is greater than that of God Himself. No, God IS righteous, so we cannot presume that sins are simply passed over without Him taking notice.

Clearly, Isaiah is finding fault in those who have “gone astray” like sheep, having “turned to his own way” (v.6). Each of these descriptions point to the human propensity for selfish and sinful things. At the core, it is always a matter that originates in the heart, is fueled by our pride (ego), and seen in our daily living. Warren Wiersbe captures the thought in mind, writing “we are sinners by choiceand by nature. Like sheep, we are born with a nature that prompts us to go astray; and, like sheep, we foolishly decide to go our own way. By nature, we are born children of wrath (Eph. 2:3); and bychoice, we become children of disobedience (2:2).”[3]Whether in position or practice, we are emphatically stained with sinfulness.

This points us to an earlier truth depicted in the book of Leviticus.

In Leviticus 16, we find the requirements for Israel in offering an atonement for the sins of the people. While the whole chapter should be studied in great detail, some pertinent points in relation to the cross of Jesus Christ give us a greater comprehension of the picture of man’s sin that God was painting. In 16:2-3, we see that Aaron could not simply walk into the Holy of Holies without bringing what was required. Most significant is the bull that was needed to enter the presence of God (Lev 16:3, 6). This bull was sacrificed for the personal sins of the priest who would offer the sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the people. 

This fact is reinforced in Leviticus 16:11“Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself.” The need for Aaron’s atonement is mentioned twice in this verse, magnifying the sin of the priest and the need for atonement which would bring him back into a clean state before the Lord. While a thorough cleansing and a change of garments was also required to enter YHWH’s presence (Lev 16:4), it is the need for atonement that truly cleansed Aaron so that he could perform the necessary duties in bringing blood to the mercy seat for the atonement of the people. 

Sin is so thorough and so wretched that even the one serving as the intercessor, and making the offering for sins between YHWH and Israel, needed atonement. This is not so with Jesus. Hebrews 7:26-27tells us that “it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for allwhen He offered up Himself” (emphasis added). The sinlessness of Jesus makes Him a better priest who offers the necessary requirements for our atonement. 

In Leviticus 16:29there is a direct command as to when and how this “Day of Atonement” is to be observed. What is striking is the Lord’s pronouncement that “you shall humble your souls and not do any work.” This point is not simply about rest for the individual, but signifies that any work done would be in complete contradiction to the work that was being preformed on their behalf with the sacrifice of the lamb (Lev 16:9). YHWH understands man’s inherent propensity to justify himself, fix his own wrongs, and supply for his own needs. But when it comes to the matter of sin, which has greatly separated man from his Creator, God will have none of it. 

The works of man are not, and never will be, sufficient to atone for his sin. Robert Lightner captures this egotistical drive, writing “man has sought to make himself acceptable to God in a thousand different ways, but it still cannot be done. The ladder of human works is well-worn but too short. No man has or ever will reach God’s presence by climbing its rungs. Every such attempt, however small or large, is evidence that the condemned sinner does not really believe he stands condemned.”[4]

Did you catch that last part? The very idea that man can reconcile his relationship to God through “trying harder” or “doing better” is an admission that his condemnation before YHWH is merely partial or simply defective, rather than total and complete. 

At this point we must ask, “What does atonementmean?” The word “atonement” iskipperin Hebrew and would be most commonly understood today in relation to the Jewish observance of Yom Kippur being the “Day of Atonement.” Kipperis used 16 times in Leviticus 16 alone. It means “1. cover over, pacify, propitiate, 2. cover over, atone for sin, 3. cover over, atone for sin and persons by legal rites.”[5]
Notice that in each definition supplied, the concept of “cover over” is first, serving to remove the barrier that sin creates between God and man. 

Previously in Lesson 11, we saw a simple chart that helped us understand the facets of atonement. 

Substitution- Something living dies in place of the guilty party.
Propitiation- The offering satisfies the demands of a holy God.
Forgiveness- The debt has been met and is no longer an issue.

The picture painted before us in Scripture is that sin requires death and necessitates atonement so that man can stand in right relationship with YHWH God. This atonement was only found in the offering of another, for man can never atone for his own sin. 

A Sacrifice

In his book on the Tabernacle, M.R. DeHaan writes, “The altar is the Cross, the starting point of our experience of salvation.”[6]Many have viewed the cross as an execution device, and while it is very much that, there is something more taking place than just torture and death. The shedding of blood, Divine Blood, is being administered due to the sins of the world. The author of Hebrews tells us that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22b). This brings us back to the concept of atonement as stressed in Leviticus 16.

Why blood? What was significant about the necessity for blood in relation to sin? Again, this is a foundational truth first seen in Genesis 4:10where YHWH tells Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” In Genesis 9:4we find, “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood,” showing us that the life of a creature is found in the blood of a creature. In Leviticus 17:11we read, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” The Hebrew word for “life” is literally translated “soul,” which can be verified in all of the major passages that speak of one’s blood as being their “life” (See Deut 12:23). 

If we go further along to Leviticus 17:14, we read “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life.” DeWitt explains, “Since the blood is the literal vehicle of all life, whether animal or man, only it could adequately typify life, and give full meaning to God’s provision for the expiation of our sins, as well as the efficacy of Christ’s blood.”[7]Therefore, it is Christ’s perfect, law-abiding, God-honoring earthly life that is given as a sacrifice for the sins of the world; sins that He did not commit.

The conclusion may be that the demand for blood by a holy God is repulsive, abhorrent, and vile. But is this not what our sin is unto God? Nothing in sin is worthy, precious, or valuable. Nothing of sin is condoned. All sin is a personal offense to the Lord of glory, for it creates a thick-walled isolation between the Creator and His uniquely-designed creature. Thus, it is bright, red blood being presented before Him that demolishes the barriers that sin creates. We are told this fact in Ephesians 2:14-16. It states:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups (Jew and Gentile) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividingwall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two (Jew and Gentile) into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (emphasis added).

The blood of Jesus is the remedy for sin. Death, and this being the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, is the penalty for sin. It is the consequence for rebellion against God. D.L. Moody gives an illustration of the importance of this consequence:

“Suppose there was a law that man should not steal, but no penalty was attached to stealing; some man would have my pocketbook before dinner. If I threatened to have him arrested, he would snap his fingers in my face. He would not fear the law, if there was no penalty. It is not the law that people are afraid of; it is the penalty attached.

Do you suppose God has made a law without a penalty. What an absurd thing it would be! Now, the penalty for sin is death: ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ I must die, or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that, it doesn’t teach anything. And that is where the atonement of Jesus Christ comes in.”[8]

Atonement is truly a God-send, placing all of the deserved punishment on Another so that the guilty may be absolved of all wrongdoing.

A Testimony 

There is an inseparable link between the grace of God and the love of God. Both are what He is, and both are demonstrated in the cross. With the death of Jesus, we find an undeserved Provision (grace) anda visual depiction of the lengths to which God would go to reconcile His creatures to Himself.  

The manifestation of the Creator’s love for His creatures is shown in the death of Jesus Christ in place of the world, though they are fully culpable for their wrongdoing. This incredible transference (known as “imputation”) has been referenced through this series, and for each of these significant statements, we should ponder and worship the Most High God and His infinite mercy in providing a Savior for an ill-deserving people.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21).

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet 2:21-24).

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18).

The cross of Jesus Christ is a testimony of God’s love for people even to the point of great personal cost. Jesus Christ is the substitute for our sins taking upon Himself the death that we all deserve. He loves us and He wants to be with us. Does that sink in? He loves you and me totally and sufficiently. 

Only the perfect life of His Son could overcome the separating effects that sin had caused in the Garden of Eden. And now God’s precious and costly gift in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ stands as the means of providing it freely to everyone who has ever lived, for every sin, including yours and mine, having been dismissed from our accounts permanently. Let’s turn to Jesus’ words on the cross.

Seconds before Jesus took His last breath, He was offered sour wine. Looking to John 19:28and seeing that this is a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21, Jesus took the wine. While He had refused a drink that acted as a sedative earlier (Matt 27:34), He now accepted this drink to quench His thirst so that He could declare that the debt incurred before God had been settle and satisfied. In John’s Gospel, we read, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). 

“It is finished.” This Greek word means, “to complete an activity or process, bring to an end, finish, complete,”[9]and was found to be the stamp of a satisfactory payment rendered on many sales receipts. It has been noted that the “perfect tense denotes the certainty of the fact.”[10]Some render this “paid in full,” having nothing left required or expected. No more lambs, no more blood, no more need or want. 

Jesus has finished the work that He was sent to do; to give His life, dying on the altar of the cross, as the Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world (John 1:29). 

We must remember, no one took His life from Him. No one forced their will against His and caused Him to submit to these unjust proceedings. Jesus tells us in John 10:17-18“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it  again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” This shows His willingness to die; His willingness to be the atonement on our behalf.

_______________________

In the cross, through the selfless giving of His Life, Jesus, God in the flesh, communicates:

A pictureof what the sin of mankind looks like in God’s eyes and the “covering” that we desperately needed;

A sacrificeof perfect blood that contains the very life of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, dying as our New Testament lamb;

A testimonyof the ever-abounding and unceasing love of God for His creatures, supplying the very means of rectifying all offenses that we have created. 

“In no way can the love of God be so clearly, beautifully and convincingly set forth as in the fact that God makes plain to the sinner his condition and peril, and then shows him the way of escape, having, in His great mercy, Himself provided it at infinite cost. Now, at this point the Gospel comes in as indeed good news, showing God’s love for the sinner.”[11]

[1]Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012), p. 31-33.

[2]Brown, Driver, Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 1022.

[3]Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), p. 138.

[4]Robert P. Lightner, Christ: His Cross, His Church, His Crown (Taos, NM: Dispensational Publishing House, 2018), p. 90.

[5]Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 497.

[6]M.R. DeHaan, The Tabernacle (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p. 9.

[7]Roy Lee DeWitt, Teaching from the Tabernacle(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), p. 126.

[8]D. L. Moody, Anecdotes, Incidents, and Illustrations(Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1898), p. 78–79.

[9]BDAG, p. 997.

[10]Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), p. 2121.

[11]Evangelist L. W. Munhall, The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, vol. 3 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 161.