|Passage: Acts 1-3|
On Friday, November 21, 2014, Yujin wrote,
We see what appears to be a revival in Jerusalem, as every day more and more people were being saved. When we read this account, what is often overlooked is what Luke records as to how these people came into the church. They "were added." The "Lord was adding to their number day by day."
Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say that Peter and the apostles converted three thousand souls, and that they were converting more people every day?
Luke was a physician, and his writing style and approach is widely recognized to be the most meticulous and detailed. In other words, he only writes what he means and everything he means. And Luke observes in the text that the people were added by God. God did not merely save them by virtue of the finished work of Jesus on the cross; He also brought them into the church body. In other words, God gave them the saving faith that they needed so that they could personally believe and be saved. In the same way, when Luke records the salvation of Gentiles, he attributes their faith as a pre-ordained work of God: "And all who were appointed for eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).
Peter and the apostles were agents of God to proclaim the message of the Gospel of Jesus; however, it was not in the proclamation alone that people got saved. God had to connect the proclamation with saving faith. I believe this is what Luke means when he writes about God adding souls to the church.
Praise God for His fore-ordained election and irresistible grace! By overcoming our willfull rejection of Him, He has enabled us to believe and be saved.
|Passage: Acts 1-3|
On Friday, November 22, 2013 (Last Updated on 11/21/2014), Yujin wrote,
The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39).
Right from the beginning of the proclamation of the Gospel, there is a recognition that only those that God calls will receive the promise of salvation. Let there be no arguing the necessity of the divine call. Then, the only question that remains is whether a person can refuse the call of God. But Jesus' words in John 6 left no room for stragglers, but it appears that all who are called would also be saved (cf. John 6:37, 39, 45). For Paul also writes,
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified;those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:30).
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41).
When you read of every instance of salvation throughout the book of Acts, you notice one consistent fact. People are baptized immediately when they believe. Yet, today, for some reason, there are sometimes many years of gap between a person's conversion and their baptism. Yet, how important is baptism. Peter even makes it a critical part of his Gospel message:
Peter replied, “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).
Now, it is true that baptism itself does not save anyone; however, it is that God-ordained outward act that declares the internal reality of repentance and faith. In that sense, it is critical simply as the first act of obedience by the new believer.
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles (Acts 2:43).
Notice that the text makes clear that the wonders and signs were "performed by the apostles." Later, in Acts 6 we are told that the apostles "laid their hands on" certain men to serve as representatives of the apostles. They were given power by the laying on of the apostles' hands.
There is no indication that all believers are given some sort of manifestational spiritual gift. At least in the book of Acts the gifts of tongues, healing, and prophecy seem to be limited in scope, even among the thousands of believers that came to faith. That limitation seems to be to the apostles and those that the apostles chose to impart these gifts through the laying on of their hands. I have included an article that provides a fuller discussion of this here.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6).
Faith healers today are so different from what we see in the New Testament. Could you imagine the embarrassment to Peter and the early church if Peter's word failed here? After such a bold command, "Walk!", how would it appear if the lame man tried to get up and then collapsed. Would Peter just criticize the the lame man for his lack of faith? Would Peter simply say that it was not the will of God for this man to be healed today?
No, dear friends, Peter knew without a doubt that this man would walk. He did not need to check the lame man's faith, because Peter's own faith would bring about the healing. Jesus had conferred upon him and the other apostles the power to heal in this way.
Yet today, we find "faith healers" failing to heal. They sometimes blame the invalid's faith, but now that this has gone out of favor with many, they now blame the will of God. Which of Jesus' or the apostles' healing miracles in the Bible ever failed because it was not "in the will of God"?
Therefore, dear friends, take note of those that claim to be "faith healers" today. They may all be charlatans or self-deceived or worse. God acts in supernatural providence today, and answers prayer, as He has always done, but He does not always act through miraculous displays of power. Those that claim to possess this power must be proven and tested. All that I have personally observed and tested have all failed the test.
When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this (Acts 3:12-15).
Talk about a heavy-handed witness. Peter's evangelism of these people, who are in awe of the miracle just performed, was not to tell them of the love of Christ. Instead, he accuses them of disowning, betraying and killing "the author of life." He adds that God raised the One they killed from the dead. Now, this is not the first time he preached this way. He did the same in Acts 2:36. And what happened? The people were cut to the heart and sought salvation (Acts 2:37) and three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41).
I point this out so that we might understand that we don't always have to just preach the "love of God" to be evangelistically effective. We can and should also point out the sinfulness of people and the coming wrath of God in our Gospel message. The Gospel is not simply a call to faith, it is also a call to repentance.
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see (Acts 3:16).
Here is a remarkable verse. It speaks of faith as an act of a human being, in this case, the lame man, but it also reveals that this faith "comes through him", namely, Jesus. In other words the faith that has the power to heal is exercised by the lame man but given by Jesus. Can we not say the same thing about our saving faith? We speak of it as "our faith," but this does not necessarily mean that it originates with us. It simply means that we are the active agents in believing; however, as this and other passages show, the faith originates in Christ and God. He enables and empowers our faith, so that it becomes a saving faith or a healing faith.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God [or perhaps clearer, the decree of God] (Romans 10:17).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer (Acts 3:17-18).
This is another fascinating verse. Peter tells the Jews, who crucified Jesus, that they and their leaders "acted in ignorance." In other words, they did not know what they were doing. If they truly realized that Jesus was God, would they seriously have tried to put Him to death?! They would have seen their own folly and fallen on their faces and worshipped Him instead. But they did not see, because they did not have eyes to see. They could not hear the truth of His words because they did not have ears to hear. Now, ignorance does not make them guiltless; it simply shows their need, as well as the need of everyone in the whole world, who all stand guilty before a holy God. This also shows that there is no hope of salvation for anyone apart from God's supernatural eye-opening, ear-opening, faith-giving work.
|Passage: Acts 1-3|
On Saturday, February 25, 2012, Bill wrote,
The book of acts begins with the Holy Spirit coming to Jerusalem and all believers. Peter testifies before large crowds of Jesus resurrection.
22 "Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:"‘I saw the Lord always before me.Because he is at my right hand,I will not be shaken.26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;my body also will rest in hope,27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,you will not let your holy one see decay.28 You have made known to me the paths of life;you will fill me with joy in your presence.
What spoke to me this morning was the hope that Peter expressed - Jesus was given to us by God, it was Gods plan, and although we nailed him to the cross - God freed him from death. Peter quotes from a prayer of David (a king from more than a 1000 years earlier) that because God is 'before us' my heart rejoices and body will rest in hope, because God will not abandon us. Let our tongue rejoice because God is with us! Verse 28 says that God will make known the paths of life, this is really the truth of Gods word through the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus is our lamp guiding our feet and through our daily pursuit of Christ (and him of us) we will ultimately be in Gods presence (verse 28) and filled with joy.
|Passage: Acts 1-3|
On Tuesday, November 22, 2011 (Last Updated on 11/21/2014), Yujin wrote,
As in my former entry, I encourage you to read the Introduction to Acts, which is available under the Resources>Bible Book Summaries tab on this site. It will help you avoid many pitfalls in interpreting this book.
Now, I'd like to make a brief comment on Acts 2:23,
Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death
In this verse we learn that everything associated with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was known and determined by God beforehand. We also learn that the Jews unjustly took Jesus, crucified Him, and put Him to death. Do you find something a little confusing here?
How could what happened to Jesus be blamed on the Jews if God foreordained it?
There are many passages like this, both in the Old and New Testaments. Often the answer given by scholars is simply, "It is a mystery." But is it? Is it a contradiction to say that God ordained something and human beings are also responsible? If an ant is making a beeline to a piece of food, but I design a little maze that directs an alternate path to that food, could it not be said that both the ant freely chose and also that I directed it?
The Bible teaches that every person is a sinner (Romans 3:23; 5:12), we are even sinners at conception (Psalm 51:5). Pharaoh, whose heart God hardened to show His powerful deliverance of Israel, was a sinner as well. God directed him, by hardening his heart, so that God might gain glory by destroying him before the Israelites. Judas, called the son of perdition, was also born a sinner. God foreordained that he would betray Jesus to the religious rulers. Were these shown mercy? No, not at all. They were sinners by virtue of their humanity, and God left them to their ultimate fate, but He also directed their lives to accomplish His purposes.
In the same way, God used the unbelieving Jews, the religious rulers, Herod and Pilate, to accomplish His purposes. Nevetheless, they were also guilty in their sin. They chose the path to destruction. God simply designed the pattern of steps that would lead them there.
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen (Acts 4:27-28).
It is likely that theologians talk about "mystery" because it is hard for us to wrap our minds around this idea that people are responsible for sin when God ordained them to do it. Our logic teaches that someone is only responsible when there is a completely free choice for them to make. This is why many are against the death penalty. Sociologists would argue that all murders are a product of their messed-up past; therefore, they are not responsible for their actions. If we followed this logic and thereby set all murderers free, what might such an outcome be?
But there is no such thing as a totally free person, or even a totally free, uninfluenced choice. Only God has that prerogative and ability. Only He is the uncaused Cause. Adam and Eve were perhaps closest to that freedom, and they fell into sin. And everyone born after Adam is born with the propensity to sin. Therefore, by our logic we would have to say that no one is responsible for sin. Yet, the Bible says that even with respect to our common humanity we are sinful and responsible for our sins. David says as much in Psalm 51:4-6,
Against you, you only, have I sinned
David says that he was sinful from conception. God demanded righteousness even in the womb. Therefore, God is just in condemning David even before he was born. As "unreasonable" as this may seem to some, I suspect we only think this because we have a too-high view of ourselves. God has given His creation a little dignity, and now we think that we are gods ourselves. We have forgotten that we are but dust in the Creator's hands. He sets the terms of our existence. The gift of humanity unfortunately came hand-in-hand with sinful rebellion. In the future God will redeem this humanity in such a way that we can be human and also sinless. But today, as it has always been, everyone born is born condemned (John 3:18; Ephesians 2:1-3).
As an aside, there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that God foreordains everything. Even in the case of the religious rulers, Herod, Pilate, Judas, and Pharaoh, God intervened in history and selected these certain ones to accomplish His purposes. However, nothing in Scripture teaches that He foreordains everyone in this way. Therefore, when you chose blue socks rather than black ones this morning, you don't have to think that God had foreordained it. God does not foreordain everything and everyone. This is a level of fatalistic thinking that the Bible does not support.
|Passage: Acts 1-3|
On Monday, November 22, 2010 (Last Updated on 11/21/2014), Yujin wrote,
Two great movements have arisen in the Twentieth Century from the two most theologically problematic or obscure books in the New Testament, namely, the Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation. The first is a book of transitions, from Old Covenant living to New Covenant living. The latter is a book of prophecy, filled with symbols, images and figures of speech.
The first movement arising out of the Book of Acts is often associated with "signs and wonders", giving birth to the Charismatic, Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churches throughout the world. The second movement, arising out of the Book of Revelation, is often associated with all sorts of "end times" discussions that permeate just about every denomination. Both of these movements are widespread and argued by passionate people. In my opinion both movements try to build dogmatic edifices on foundations that are weak and obscure.
Therefore, I encourage every student of the Bible to be wary and mindful and not to follow every "wind of teaching" (cf. Ephesians 4:14). In our former reading, Jesus prayed for the disciples and asked the Father to "sanctify them in the truth," and that His "Word is truth" (John 17:17). While the Word of God is truth, many are peddling "truths" that twist the truth of God's Word to mean what they want it to mean. And if you are unfamiliar with the Word, you will be like "infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14). I wish I could tell you, "Just listen to me and not them," but how are you to judge that what I tell you is the truth versus someone else asking you to do the same?
Therefore, I instead encourage you to do the hard work of immersing yourselves in the Scriptures until your understanding and expertise rises to a level where you can judge correctly for yourselves. On this matter you can't rely on other "experts." You must be the expert yourself. It is too important. By being daily in the Word, questioning, searching, studying, meditating, and applying it, you will in time grasp the all-important context, so that you can discern between what is truth and deception. And you will also see that not every sincere person knows and teaches the truth. They can be very sincere but also very deceived themselves.
When I was in Bible college, I was conflicted. Every book I picked up was persuasive. I would read one book and be convinced that they were right and the others were wrong; that is, until I picked up the next book, giving a different perspective. Then I would change my mind. That is, until I picked up another book based on the former perspective. I was "tossed back and forth, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching." I am convinced most "Christians" fall into this category of learners.
Now, I could have just stopped with the last book and refused to think any more about it. But whose to say that the perspective of the last book was the right one? So, I became very cynical about every commentator and began even to doubt myself. After seminary, I found myself slipping into this state. Many "Christian leaders" fall into this category of learners.
Both categories of learners, whether beginner or advanced, face the danger of compromising truth. And many slip into what Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 4:3-4,
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
So, what can you do to keep yourself from these two errors? I am persuaded that you will always be in danger of the one or the other, but the more that you immerse yourself in the Scriptures, the less likely you will fall into these errors. Today, the crisis of Christians and Christian leaders has gone beyond the issue of obeying God's Word. They hardly know God's Word. How we have moved away from the principle of Joshua 1:8, "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it." And Deuteronomy 6:6-9,
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
A pastor asked me not long ago, "How do you find so much time to spend in God's Word?" First, I was simply shocked by the question, but then I answered, "How do I not?! This is the Word of life." I need to spend even more time than I do. And while I know the peace of God in Christ, there is always a discomfort in me that I am still too worldly. How about you?