Tag Archives: Jesus

From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Two)

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To those who have asked or wondered, yes, I realize that there was still more of the life of Peter to cover.  I ended up teaching those sections without notes, and so I’m behind on that.  It will get done at some point.  🙂

Saul the Persecutor

Saul first appears on the biblical stage, by name, as an enemy of the cross.  It is possible that, living in Jerusalem, Saul was among the groups of Pharisees who saw, questioned, and aggravated Jesus during His earthly ministry.1  But the first time we see his name is in connection with the death of Stephen.  It is possible that, being from Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, that Saul is one of the men who was arguing with Stephen in Acts 6.

Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and them of Cilicia, and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke.  Then they suborned men, who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the Law.  Because we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered to us.2

After Stephen’s sermon before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7, the Jews were outraged.

When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.  But [Stephen], being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, “Behold!  I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God!”  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him together, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him.  And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. … And Saul was pleased with his death.3

After hearing the sermon, Saul accompanied the mob (and was perhaps involved in it) that threw Stephen out of the city.  According to Deuteronomy 17:7, the witnesses against someone had to be the first ones to stone him.  So it was these witnesses who removed their outer garments and left them in the care and supervision of Saul.  This event seemed to awaken a bloodlust in Saul, an indignation against anyone who would dare promote the name of Jesus, for we see soon afterwards:

As for Saul, he was devastating the church, entering into every house, and dragging men and women away, and committed them to prison.4

Years later, Saul spoke about his actions against the church:

I truly thought within myself that I ought to do many things antagonistic to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  I did these things in Jerusalem, and I shut up many of the saints in prison, having received authority from the chief priests.  And when they were murdered, I voted against them.  And I punished them often in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme.  And being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even into foreign cities, in which I also went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests.5

He also said that, “beyond measure, I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.”6

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Since Saul was a “young man” when Stephen was killed, he would have been even younger (and thus not in any sense a leader) when Jesus was on the earth, some 3-7 years earlier.  Therefore, if Saul was among the groups of Pharisees, it would be no surprise that he isn’t mentioned at all.  Additionally, only two Pharisees are mentioned by name in the gospel accounts: Simon (Luke 7) and Nicodemus (John 3); and both of them are mentioned because they were involved in a one-on-one discussion with Jesus.  All that to say, the fact that Saul is not named in the gospel accounts does not prove he wasn’t there.

2 Acts 6:9-14.

3 Acts 7:54-58; 8:1.  The word “consenting” (KJV) literally means “was pleased with.”  It gave Saul pleasure to see Stephen get stoned.

4 Acts 8:3.  See Modern Literal Version.

5 Acts 26:9-12.

6 Galatians 1:13, KJV.

The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved–The Life of the Apostle John (Part 2)

John as an Apostle

One morning, John and the rest of the disciples of Jesus were called to go up a mountain where Jesus had been praying all night.  John must have been excited by being selected as one of just twelve men that would be representatives for the miracle-working man that he believed to be the Messiah.  John then followed his cousin down the mountain, where he saw a crowd of people waiting—and Jesus healed the sick and diseased among them.1

After preaching in Decapolis, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus returned to Capernaum2 and was approached by the ruler of the synagogue, Jairus,3 concerning his daughter who was near to death.  John was one of just three disciples of Jesus who was selected to accompany the Lord inside the house to see this little girl raised from the dead.4

Later on, John was taken by Jesus, along with Peter and James, to a mountain where Jesus prayed.  John fell asleep, but when he awoke, the sight before him was quite a shock: Jesus was positively shining, and standing with Him were Moses and Elijah.  Then a cloud overshadowed them, and they heard God Himself speak, “This is my beloved Son: hear Him.”  And then John looked, and the two Old Testament figures had disappeared, leaving only Jesus.  A mixture of fear and excitement was boiling inside John, but Jesus told them not to say anything about what they had seen until after He was risen from the dead.5

Upon returning to Capernaum, John and the other disciples argued about who was the greatest among them.  Jesus criticized them all, and said, “If any man desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”6  This is a lesson that John apparently didn’t learn the first time, because not too long afterwards, he and his brother James had their mother ask Jesus for the two greatest seats in the kingdom, causing Jesus to say almost the exact same words: “Whoever shall be great among you shall be your servant; and whoever of you desires to be the first shall be servant of all.”7

In between these two events, John tells Jesus a story about how, when the apostles were out and about, they saw someone who wasn’t part of their group casting out demons in Jesus’ name.  John and some others went to the man and told him to cease, because he wasn’t following them.  To this, Jesus replied, “Don’t forbid him, for there is no man who shall do a miracle in my name that can speak evil lightly of me.  For he that is not against us is on our side.”8  John learned an important lesson there—don’t forbid people from doing good.

But what happens when people are staunchly rejecting Jesus?  John didn’t just want to forbid them, he wanted to kill them!

It came to pass, when the time was come that [Jesus] should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.  And He sent messengers before His face: and they went and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make [things] ready for Him.  And they didn’t receive Him because His face was as though He desired to go to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples, James and John, saw, they said, “Lord, do you desire that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did?”  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”  And they went to another village.9

Jesus and His disciples came to the Jerusalem area, and stayed at the house of Lazarus on the Sabbath.10 On the next day, John witnessed the “triumphal entry,”11 where Jesus entered the city riding the colt of an ass, and heard the people crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!”12  Then John followed Jesus to the temple, where the Lord taught the people, after which they returned to Bethany (probably to the house of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha).13  On Monday, John followed Jesus back into Jerusalem.  Along the way, they saw a fig tree, and Jesus desired to eat some of the fruits from it.  However, there was nothing but leaves on the tree, and John heard Jesus utter the words “Let no fruit grow on you, henceforward forever!”14  After they came into Jerusalem, and into the temple, John watched:

Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and He would not allow that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.  And He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called by all nations The House of Prayer’?  But you have made it a den of thieves!”15

That evening, John accompanied Jesus out of Jerusalem for the night.16

On Tuesday, John again accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem, and they passed the same tree they had the day before.  Except this time, the tree was dried up from the roots—completely withered—after which Jesus spoke about the power of faith.  They then entered the city and went into the temple, where a group of scribes, elders, and chief priests confronted Jesus and demanded to know where He got His authority to do these things.  John must have smiled to himself when he heard Jesus reply by asking them where John’s authority to baptize came from—and saw the Jewish leaders feign ignorance.17

Then, John heard Jesus give a parable, condemning the Jewish leaders—and they knew it was directed at them—for rejecting Him.18  Then he saw Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees all working together, taking turns trying to trap Jesus.19  As they were leaving the temple, one of the disciples (we’re not told which one) said to Jesus, “Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings!”  To this, Jesus replied, “You see these great buildings?  There shall not be left one stone on another, that shall not be thrown down.”20

It was because of this statement of Jesus that John approached Jesus with Peter, Andrew, and James, and asked Jesus to “Tell us when shall these things be?  And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”21  In answer to those questions, Jesus told these four men about the signs to look for, including “when you shall see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.”22 This he did, foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem—which took place 40 years later in AD 70.23

Thursday evening,24 Jesus came with John and the rest of the apostles to a large upper room that was prepared for them to eat the Passover.25  Earlier, Jesus had specifically selected Peter and John, sent them from Bethany into Jerusalem so that this room could be made ready.

Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed.  And He [Jesus] sent Peter and John, saying “Go and prepare us the Passover, so that we may eat.”  And they said to Him, “Where do you wish that we prepare it?”

And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered into the city, a man will meet you there, carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters.  And you shall say to the goodman of the house, ‘The Master says to you, “Where is the guest-chamber where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.”

And they went, and found [everything] as He had said to them: and they made ready the Passover.26

Based on the command of Jesus and John and Peter’s obedience, it appears that these two disciples actually did the killing and cooking of the lamb in preparation for what is usually called “The Last Supper.”

When they were all gathered together in the upper room, Jesus said, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”27 It was during this occasion that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, followed by announcing that one of the twelve was going to betray Him.28  The apostles all began to ask, “is it I?”29

Now there was, leaning on Jesus’ bosom, one of His disciples [John], whom Jesus loved.  Therefore, Simon Peter motioned to him, so that he should ask who it would be about whom He spoke.  He, then, lying on Jesus’ chest, says to Him, “Lord, who is it?”  Jesus answered, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.”  And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.30

Then, the same old argument came up again about which one would be greatest among them.  It is possible that James and John had learned their lesson by this point and kept their mouth shut, but it’s also possible that their ego took over again.31  And like before, Jesus had to teach them the lesson about being a servant.32  Yet just hours after they were arguing about who would be the greatest, they all (even John) ran away and forsook Jesus.33

Before abandoning Jesus, however, John was taken by Jesus with Peter and James in order to “watch” while He prayed.34  But John, like the other two, fell asleep.  After being awakened by the Lord, John again went to sleep shortly after the Lord left to go pray a second time.  The next time John woke up, Judas was arriving with a band of soldiers.35

After abandoning Jesus, John regained some of his composure, and began to follow the crowd to the high priest, Annas.  The high priest knew John, which many have taken as evidence that John’s family was wealthy, and so this disciple was permitted to enter into the court to view the proceedings.  He watched as Jesus was interrogated and brutalized during this mock trial.36

Whether John followed Jesus to his other trials that morning isn’t stated, but he stood at the cross, looking up at His Master who was hanging, bleeding, and beaten.  He heard the Lord say to His mother Mary, “Woman, behold your son!”  Then John heard Jesus speak directly to him, “Behold, your mother!”  And from that moment, John took care of her.37

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 6:12-19.

2 Matthew places this incident with others which took place in Capernaum.  See Matthew 9:1 (“His own city”), 9:9-17 (the call of Matthew, followed by the feast at Matthew’s house), after which Matthew says “While He spoke these things to them, behold, a certain ruler [Jairus] came to Him…”  Mark places these events in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-22).

3 This Jairus, being the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum, would have been on hand to see Jesus casting out the demon, as recorded in Luke 4:31-37.

4 Luke 8:51-55.

5 Luke 9:28-36, Mark 9:8-9.

6 Mark 9:33-35.

7 Matthew 20:20-24; Mark 10:35-44, especially verses 43-44.  The KJV says “chiefest,” but the Greek is the same as in 9:35 and 10:44.

8 Mark 9:38-40.  Neither Mark nor Luke (the only other gospel writer who mentions this event) tell us who this man casting out demons in Jesus’ name was.  Some (Lange, Lightfoot, and others) have suggested that this man was a disciple of John the Immerser who cast out demons by the name of the “Messiah” which he expected to come, not necessarily doing it in the name of “Jesus”—but there is no evidence that any of John’s disciples were able to perform miracles.  Others (Calvin, most notably) take the ridiculous stance that this man “proceeded inconsiderately to work miracles.”   Clarke suggests that this man might have been one of the seventy who had been given miraculous abilities, yet who decided to not be part of the mass of disciples after returning from his mission—except that this event took place before Christ chose the seventy (see Luke 9:49-10:1).

What is important to note is that John doesn’t say the man was trying to cast out demons (like the sons of Sceva in Acts 19), but that he was actually doing it.  Jesus even acknowledges that this man was actually working miracles by saying “Don’t forbid him [from casting out demons].”  Thus this man had been given miraculous power by God (probably via Christ), because he was a true disciple of the Lord, even though for whatever reason, he was unable to devote all of his time to following Jesus on His preaching tours.

9 Luke 9:51-56.  The first-rate chronological historian gives no record of events between John’s misplaced zeal for forbidding those who believed in Jesus and his desire to destroy the ones who rejected Him.  It’s as though John was saying, “Jesus, I get that we aren’t supposed to forbid those who are doing good, but surely you can’t have a problem with us wiping out those who are refusing to help you at all!”  What John didn’t understand at that point was the patience of the Lord, and that the Lord Himself will take care of punishing the wicked at judgment.

10 John 12:1-13, with special emphasis on the first and last verse of that section.

11 It is never called that in Scriptures, but it is the commonly accepted name for what took place on the Sunday prior to Jesus’ crucifixion.

12 Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38 (Luke says “Blessed is the King…”).  This is a quotation of Psalm 118:26.  Most likely, the Jews who were saying this would have quoted the verse as it is written, which is “Blessed is he that comes in the name of Jehovah!”

13 Mark 11:11, Luke 19:47.  Mark provides some specifics on the passage of days during this week (see Mark 11:12).

14 Mark 11:12-14; Matthew 21:19.  Mark adds the detail that it wasn’t time for figs yet (verse 13).

15 Mark 11:15-17.  This was a significant event which emboldened the scribes and chief priests to even more want Jesus dead (Mark 11:18).

16 Mark 11:19.

17 Mark 11:20-33; Luke 20:1-8.

18 The fullest account of this exchange between Jesus and the Jewish leadership is found in Matthew 21:33-46.

19 Mark 12:13-27. This is astounding, because these are (for lack of a better term) different political parties within Judaism.  They were violently opposed to each other (see Acts 23, for example), but they all recognized that Jesus was a danger to their positions of power.

20 Mark 13:1-2, Matthew 24:1-2, Luke 21:5-6.

21 Mark 12:3-4 is the only place that tells us that this question was asked by just these four men.

22 Luke 21:20.  Matthew calls it “the abomination of desolation” which Daniel foretold, meaning that Jesus described something that had been prophesied hundreds of years earlier.

23 There are disagreements about the exact year of Jesus’ death, but biblically and historically speaking, it is most likely AD 30, which makes Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 forty years away.

24 For the Jews, the new day of the week began at 6pm, because of Genesis 1, which says “the evening and the morning were the first day.”  So Thursday evening to them, because it began a new day, is what we would refer to as Wednesday evening.

25 Mark 14:12-17.

26 Luke 22:7-13.

27 Luke 22:15.  This is another way of saying, “I have desired very much…”

28 Some have argued, based on Matthew and Mark’s accounts (juxtaposed with John’s) that Judas left prior to the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  However, Luke (who claimed to write chronologically) places the announcement of betrayal (“the hand of him that betrays me is with me on the table”) after the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14-22).

29 Mark 14:18.

30 John 13:23-26.  It seems strange that though Jesus positively identified Judas as the betrayer, none of the other apostles seemed to catch what He was saying.  Judas had them all fooled.

31 Luke 22:24.  It’s interesting that this should come right on the heels of Jesus announcing that one of them would betray Him.  It may be that they went from saying, “Is it I?” to “It couldn’t be me,” to “I know it couldn’t be me, because I’m the most devoted follower Jesus has.”

32 Luke 22:25-30.

33 Matthew 26:56.

34 Mark 14:32-34.

35 Matthew 26:36-47.

36 John 18:15-22.

37 John 19:26-27.  Some have questioned why it is that Jesus would ask John to take care of his mother instead of asking His own brothers.  First, it is most likely that Joseph was no longer alive at this point (otherwise Jesus would be asking His mother to leave her husband, which is ridiculous).  Second, John wasn’t a stranger—he was Mary’s nephew, so John is still family.  Third, at this point, the brothers of Jesus were not believers, and perhaps Jesus didn’t want to subject His mother to staying with non-believers.  Fourth, John was apparently wealthy—the family fishing business was large enough to employ servants, and John was on friendly terms with the high priest (which couldn’t be said of many—if any—poor people).  We don’t know that the Jesus’ brothers were financially able to care for their mother.

A Disciple with “Horse” in His Name (part 1)

We hope you have been enjoying reading these sections of our upcoming book, “Who Were The Apostles?”  Today, we begin talking about a man named “Philip,” whose name in Greek literally means “Lover of Horses.”

Philip the Disciple

Like Andrew, Philip is known by a Greek name, which means “Lover of Horses.”1  Philip was a Jew,2 a native of the fishing village of Bethsaida like Andrew and Peter,3 which possibly means that these men were already acquainted with each other before they were called.  He was one of the earliest disciples of Jesus, joining the band of followers just one day after Andrew and Peter.4

That day, Jesus planned to go to Galilee, and He searched for Philip.  The Greek word used by John (from which we get our word eureka!) indicates that Jesus found him after searching for him.5  When He found Philip, He said, “follow me.”6  What kind of a man must Philip have been that Jesus would actively search him out to be one of His disciples! Since Philip was from the same city as Andrew and Peter, it’s quite possible that they were the ones who suggested that Jesus find him. 7  Given the quickness with which Philip followed Jesus, and the fact that he knew where He was from and who His earthly father was, it is possible that Philip already knew Jesus, or at least knew of Him.8

Philip’s immediate response was two-fold.  First, he accepted the call to be one of Jesus’ disciples.  Second, he searched out his friend Nathanael9 and told Him they had found “Him, of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write.”10  This shows that Philip had a very high regard for the inspired word of God, and that he was awaiting the advent of the Prophet like Moses.11  After Nathanael expressed doubt because of Jesus’ hometown (“can anything good come out of Nazareth?”), Philip encouraged him to “come and see” for himself, showing that Philip had confidence in who Jesus was.12  Philip then led Nathanael to Jesus, where the Lord convinced the doubter with His greeting.13

The day after he was called by Jesus, Philip accompanied Him to the wedding feast in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, increasing his faith in Jesus as the Messiah.14  Afterwards, Philip accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem, where the Lord overturned the tables in the temple, sending animals and greedy money-exchangers running.15  Philip watched in awe as Jesus performed miracles on the Passover in Jerusalem.16  Some time afterwards, they went out of Jerusalem, and Philip began to baptize many people.17

After returning with Jesus to Galilee, Philip apparently resumed his regular occupation while the Lord traveled around the area, preaching.18  But after Jesus returned to Capernaum, calling Andrew, Peter, James, and John, Philip must have re-joined Him, for it is thereafter that Jesus and “His disciples” ate with a tax collector named Levi, causing consternation among the Pharisees and scribes.19  Some time later, Philip and the other disciples walked with Jesus through some fields, picked some wheat, and ate some of it—all on the Sabbath—again causing the Pharisees to be very upset.20

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Philip was a common name both then and now.  The popularity of the name likely originated with Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.  As Alexander conquered cities and areas, new names were occasionally given, which led to the city called “Philippi” (in Macedonia), the city of Caesarea Philippi, etc.  There were three men mentioned in the Bible who had this name: (1) Herod’s brother, whose wife had been stolen from him by Herod (Matthew 14:3-4); (2) Philip the evangelist, “one of the seven” who was chosen to assist the widows in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-6; 8:5-40; 21:8), and (3) Philip the apostle, one of “the twelve” chosen by Jesus (Luke 6:13-16).  As such, it is unlikely that we can gain any insight into the character of Philip or his family through the name he was given.

2 James Hastings, in his Dictionary of Christ in the Gospels, states that Bethsaida had a mixed Greek population, and suggests that this is possibly Andrew’s background.  While possible, such a background would almost certainly have been used as a reason by the Jews to reject the apostles, having a “half-breed” in their midst.  Since there is no hint of such an objection, this theory is highly unlikely.

3 John 1:44.  As seen in our chapter on Andrew, this verse does not necessarily mean that he still lived in Bethsaida, but that it is where he originally came from.  Andrew, according to Mark, lived in Capernaum with Peter, though John said they were from Bethsaida.

4 John 1:40-43, especially verse 43.  It seems probable that John, the son of Zebedee, was also called to follow Jesus the day before the Lord called Philip.  See John 1:35-40, and remember that John never mentions himself by name in his gospel account; the other unnamed disciple may well be the author himself.

5 Ευρισκει.  See Thayer’s definition.

6 John 1:43.  Vincent’s Word Studies points out that this word is often used when Jesus was calling disciples after Him.

7 A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures, makes this suggestion.  Herbert Lockyer, in his All the Apostles of the Bible, boldly jumps from suggestion to an all-out declaration, embellishing the gospel narrative by saying that Philip “owed his soul to Andrew…his father in the faith” (page 155).

8 It is not outside of the realm of possibility that these two religiously-minded men (Jesus and Philip), both growing up in Galilee, would have met each other.  If this is the case, then Philip would have known the impeccable character that Jesus had.  It is also possible that Philip’s quick acceptance of Jesus as the promised Messiah had to do with Jesus’ choice of words (saying “follow me” as a disciple) and the presence of Peter and Andrew, whom he apparently already knew well, saying they had already become His disciples.  If Philip was at all aware of the teachings of John the Baptizer, he would have been looking for the “greater” One that would come; and when Jesus called him to follow, he knew he’d found the One.

9 Lockyer, in All the Apostles of the Bible, states that “There are those expositors who suggest that Philip and Nathanael, or Bartholomew, were brothers” (page 156), though he does not state who.

10 John 1:45.  John uses the same word for Philip’s “finding” of Nathanael as he does for Jesus’ “finding” of Philip.

11 Deuteronomy 18:18.

12 John 1:45-46.

13 We will delve into this in more detail in the chapter on Nathanael/Bartholomew.

14 John 2:11.

15 John 2:13-17

16 John 2:23

17 John 3:22; 4:1-2.  There is no telling how many people were baptized at this point, and no names are given.  It has been suggested in the chapter on Andrew that it is perhaps at this time that Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and even Judas Iscariot were baptized and made disciples of Jesus.

18 There is no mention of the disciples in the travels of Jesus from John 4:43 through the end of chapter five.  It is after this preaching mission that He returned to Capernaum and called Peter, Andrew, James, and John—all of whom had resumed their fishing trade.  It is, therefore, logical to conclude that Philip would have resumed his trade as well during this time.

19 Luke 5:27-33.

20 Luke 6:1 (KJV) says that these events took place on the “second Sabbath after the first.”  The meaning of this phrase, and even its validity, is in question.  Some have suggested that it is a reference to the Sabbath after that which is described in Luke 4:31-41.  However, that ignores verse 44, which entails weeks, if not months of preaching after that event.  Others have suggested that this took place on the Sabbath of Pentecost, which was the second most important day on the Jewish calendar, thus literally in Greek, Luke would be calling it the “second-first” Sabbath.  Others relieve themselves of the difficulty by pointing to some of the ancient manuscripts which don’t contain the word at all, and simply record Luke saying “on a Sabbath.”  In short, there’s nothing from this passage which will give us a more exact idea of when Philip rejoined Jesus.

 

Did Paul Receive the Holy Spirit by the Laying on of Hands?

Question: The book of Acts says that Ananias came and laid hands on Paul so that he would “receive the Holy Spirit.”  Does that mean that he had the Holy Spirit before he was baptized? –F.B.U.

To answer this question, we need to look at the text that it comes from:

Acts 9:17-18

And Ananias went his way and entered into the house. And putting his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus that appeared to you in the way as you came has sent me so that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales, and he received sight immediately, and arose, and was baptized.

Putting his hands on him…”Brother Saul…receive your sight…”

Here we see the miracle of Saul’s sight being restored. Verse 18 makes it clear that was the result of Ananias’ laying hands on him. That much is clear and undisputed by anyone who believes the Bible.

The question now, though, is what do we make of the phrase “be filled with the Holy Spirit”?

Jesus…has sent me so that you might…be filled with the Holy Spirit.

There are several opinions from scholars as to what this means. Some insist that it is the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit being given to Saul of Tarsus—prior to baptism—by Ananias laying hands on him. Others say basically the same thing, except they say it was the gift of miracles being given to Saul prior to his baptism by Ananias laying hands on him.

When Luke uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full of the Holy Spirit,” miracles (usually inspiration) are always under consideration. Examine them for yourself: John the Immerser (Luke 1:15), John’s mother, Elisabeth (Luke 1:41-45), John’s father, Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79), the apostles (Acts 2:4), the apostles again (Acts 4:31), Stephen (Acts 6:5, 7:55-56), Barnabas (Acts 11:22-24), Paul (Acts 13:9-11), and the disciples of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14, 51-52).

Understanding this, let’s now look at the evidence to come to a rational, biblical conclusion to this potential conundrum.

First, Jesus said that the purpose of Ananias’ laying hands on Saul was so he would receive his sight. That was seen in verse 12 of this same chapter. There was no indication in Jesus’ words that Ananias was going to give Saul the Holy Spirit.

Second, the only result of this event shown in the Bible is that Saul received his sight. After he put his hands on Saul, the Bible only records that Saul received his sight. It says nothing about him receiving the Holy Spirit. If we look at Acts 22, where Saul (who is also called Paul) is telling about this very event, we see that he doesn’t even mention the Holy Spirit at all—but he does mention receiving his sight again.[1]

Third, the ability to pass on the Holy Spirit was only available to the apostles. This is shown in chapter 8, verses 14-18. Ananias was not an apostle, and so—unless someone wishes to argue that Ananias should be classed as an apostle—the evidence is against his being able to pass on this gift.

Fourth, Saul was lost in his sins when Ananias laid his hands on him, and was not a candidate to receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not been baptized. This principle is seen in Acts 8:15-16. Acts 22:12-16 shows that he was still lost in sins after Ananias laid his hands on him. The Holy Spirit was promised only to those who were the obedient servants of God.[2]

Fifth, Paul makes it very clear throughout his life that he did not receive his apostleship from any man. Miracles (the gift of the Holy Spirit) and the ability to pass them on were “the signs of an apostle.”[3] Paul states that he was “an apostle—not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.”[4] All of the apostles received their miraculous ability direct from heaven.[5] Paul would be no different.

Sixth, we see no record of Saul performing miracles until years later. The first time we read of Saul (now called Paul) doing any miracle is in Acts 13:9-11. This is the first time where Paul is said to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Now, this does not mean that Paul was unable to perform miracles prior to Acts 13, but it is supportive evidence that he didn’t receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him. There is no evidence that Saul was able to work miracles before that event.

Seventh, it took the testimony of Barnabas to convince the apostles that Saul was really a disciple of Jesus Christ. You might ask, What does that have to do with anything? If Saul of Tarsus had the miraculous abilities given by the Holy Spirit at this point, it would have been very simple for him to prove to the apostles and other disciples that he was a Christian. But instead, it took Barnabas speaking on his behalf. Though not conclusive, this evidence seems to indicate that at this point Saul did not have the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit.

Since the evidence implies that Saul did not receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him, what exactly did he mean when he told Saul “Jesus…has sent me so that you might…be filled with the Holy Spirit”?

Ananias’ mission was to heal and baptize Saul; to bring him into the family of God and Christ. As you can see from other passages in Acts,[6] the Holy Spirit was only given to those who were servants of God, and who obey Him. Ananias came to help Saul become spiritually acceptable before God, and thus also help him become a candidate for the reception of the Holy Spirit. It was preparatory work.

-Bradley S. Cobb

[1] Acts 22:12-13

[2] Acts 2:17-18, 5:32

[3] II Corinthians 12:12

[4] Galatians 1:1

[5] Acts 2:1-4, 4:29-31

[6] Acts 2:17-18, 5:32

“I think the sheriff has very little ability and no guts.”

These words were spoken by Major General Milton Foreman about Sheriff Melvin Thaxton of Williamson County, Illinois, back in 1922.

You see, for days, everyone knew tensions were rising in Herrin, IL, then the biggest city in the county.  One of the mines had brought in non-union men (“strikebreakers”) to work during the UMWA strike.  The mine had brought in hired guns as “guards” who terrorized people who drove down the roads that crossed over mine property.  The union miners had robbed stores of guns and ammunition, saying “charge it to the union” as they left.

The governor was receiving telegrams from concerned citizens about the events, but when the Major General of the Illinois National Guard contacted Sheriff Thaxton, the sheriff said, “I have everything well in hand.”  And he added that there was no need for troops to be sent.

Even as June 22, 1922 came, and literally thousands of union miners and sympathizers attacked the mine, took the miners and guards prisoner, dynamited the mine equipment, and led the men at gunpoint to the city, the Sheriff did nothing.  In fact, he was nowhere to be found, having gone to a neighboring county to investigate a shooting (which wasn’t even in his jurisdiction).

Even after reports surfaced of prisoners being dragged from behind cars, shot, stabbed, beaten, and hanged, the Sheriff told the national guard “I have everything under control.”

When Major General Foreman was asked what he thought of the Sheriff’s response, he replied “I think the sheriff has very little ability and no guts.”

See, the Sheriff knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it.  He either supported the actions (my personal guess) or he was to big of a wimp to stop it.

You might wonder at this point why I’m even mentioning all of this.  I’ve noticed (and I’m sure you have too) that there are many Christians who fit this same description.  They have very little ability to fulfill their role as Christ’s messengers and they have no guts.

I don’t say this to sound demeaning towards these people.  I really don’t.  I’m talking about people who have been Christians for years, but who couldn’t tell someone the plan of salvation and prove it from the Bible if their life depended on it.  I’ve heard of preachers who passed out a worksheet to the congregation asking for this exact information.  The overwhelming majority of the congregation couldn’t tell you where the Bible says to hear, or to believe, or repent, or confess, or be baptized.

These Christians have very little ability–because of their own choice.  The writer of Hebrews chastised people like this because they should have been able to teach others–instead, they needed someone to teach them again!

We’d think there was something wrong if a baby was born and 15 years later, he was still a baby, unable to walk, to talk, or to chew food.  But for some reason, we give people a pass when they remain spiritual babies for 5, 10, 15, or more years!  This ought not be!

Another great fault of many Christians is that they have no guts.  Obviously, the ones who don’t know how to even show something as basic as the plan of salvation have good reason to be afraid to engage in spiritual discussions with others.  But what about those who do know the Scriptures?

Have you noticed that in this modern age, many Christians are more concerned about how others will react than they are about their eternal judgment?  We see lost and dying souls everywhere we go, but we don’t want them to think that we’re “religious nuts” or “Jesus freaks.”  We don’t want to potentially hurt their feelings by pointing out that they’re going to hell because they’ve not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We’ve got the greatest news in the history of mankind, yet we’re more willing to tell someone about low gas prices than we are to tell them about that which can save their soul!

In short, several Christians have no guts when it comes to spreading the gospel.

My friends, we’ve got a job to do.  Whether we feel prepared for it or not, we still have a job to do.  We can either go into the job completely unprepared and fail miserably, or we can prepare ourselves.  If we are unprepared; if we do not cultivate the ability to carry out the work of the Lord, it is our own fault.

It takes guts–it takes courage to show others that they are living in sin and what the consequences of their continued sin will be.  It takes guts to be active in the Lord’s work.  It may not be easy, but it still must be done.

When you stand before the Lord on Judgment Day, will He say “well done, good and faithful servant”?  Or will His words be more like “I think you have very little ability and no guts”?

-Bradley Cobb

Note: The above story is true, and the quotations come from an Associated Press story printed on June 24, 1922 in newspapers across the country.

An Introduction to Apologetics

Life has been extremely busy the past few weeks, leading to our less-than-stellar frequency of posts here at TheCobbSix.  Thanks for sticking with us.  🙂

Beginning this week, we are studying Apologetics in our Wednesday night Bible class.  We hope you will find these lessons as useful as we do!

What Is Apologetics?

Now, seemingly more than in any other time, apologetics is needed. “Apologetics” comes from “apologia,” which means “a formal, usually written, defense or justification of a belief, theory, or policy”[1]

God is being attacked on many different fronts by different people. There are some that completely deny His existence. Some will acknowledge His existence, but deny the Scriptures are really His  Word and are inspired by Him. And there are literally billions of people in the world today who do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and is indeed deity.[2]

Because of this, and the constant onslaught of teachings that come along with these  three topics, we are devoting some time for the next several weeks to study apologetics — the defense of the truth of these things.

 Why should anyone study apologetics?

Everyone should study apologetics to establish or solidify their own faith in God, His  Word, and His Son Jesus. Perhaps you are sitting, thinking, “I already believe in God and those other things.” But why do you believe? Is it just because that is what you’ve been taught?[3] Or have you weighed the evidence?

God never expected people to operate on “blind faith.”  God sent the ten plagues on Egypt so that They would know that He was the Lord (Exodus 14:4). God sent the quail and the manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness so that they would know that He was the Lord (Exodus 16:12). Jesus performed miracles so that people would see that He was from God (John 3:2). God has always, since the beginning of time, shown His existence. Our faith must be built on the evidence, not on what someone else has told us.

You should study apologetics so that you can teach others.  There are many in the world who call themselves “agnostics” who say that there is not enough evidence to prove God exists or to prove that He doesn’t exist.[4]  Simply put, these people just don’t know what to think.  Most want to know one way or the other, and the only way to prove it to them is to show them all of the evidence. You would not want a judge deciding a case against you without presenting him with all of the evidence, so why would you not want to teach a lost soul and show them all the evidence for the existence of God?

When you have that faith that is rock-solid because it is based on all of the evidence,  you are much more likely to convince someone else to become a Christian.

You need to study apologetics so that you can combat false teachings. In the schools (and everywhere else for that matter), evolution is being paraded as the truth about the origin of man and everything else.[5]  This denies the existence of God.  This denies that the Bible is inspired from God.  This denies that Jesus exists.  We must be able to combat these falsehoods that are being taught to everyone, especially our children.

There are false teachings even within the church that need to be combated with apologetics.  There are those who say they believe in God, but also claim to believe in evolution.[6]  This contradicts Genesis 1, Exodus 20:11, 31:17, and others which clearly state that creation began and ended in a total of six 24-hour days.

This would make Moses a liar or uninspired. If Moses was uninspired, so was Jesus who quoted him and who was called the      prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22). To say evolution is true is to, ultimately, deny the inspiration of the Bible and the deity of Jesus Christ!

 Can these things really be proven?

Yes! They can be proven!  God gave us everything that pertains to “life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3).  This would include proof that He indeed exists.  If there was no proof God’s existence, there would be nothing on which to base faith.

The heavens declare that God exists (Psalm 19:1).  The fact that there is design in the universe shows that someone had to design it.  The fact that nothing comes from nothing shows that someone had to create the universe.[7]

The complete accuracy of the Bible (even though it had many writers over a period of 1500 years) historically, doctrinally, and scientifically screams out that it is inspired of God. Skeptics have tried over and over to show the Bible as being historically wrong on something, yet it always turns out that they were wrong and the Bible was right.[8]

The Bible has stated scientific facts that were not discovered until thousands of years later.[9] The Bible predicted specific world events, sometimes tens and sometimes hundreds of years before they happened.[10]

The Bible records all the things we need to believe in Jesus as the Son of God (John 20:30-31).  Once we establish the inspiration of the Bible, we can see that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God.  The Jews heard Him say this, and they called it blasphemy because they knew it meant that He was claiming to be deity (John 10:24-33).  Jesus truly was God (John 1:1).

 What to Expect

We will see in the rest of this study various things that prove the existence of God, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and the deity (God-ness) of Jesus Christ. We will also look at arguments used against these things and show why they are wrong and should not be accepted. Ultimately, the goal of this study is to make your faith strong and to help bring others to Christ.

[1] Encarta World English Dictionary: “Apologia.”

[2] The “Jehovah’s Witnesses” claim that Jesus was the first being created by God, and is not deity (see their translation of John 1:1 as “the word was a god”). Other religious groups, such as the Muslims, claim Jesus was a good man and perhaps even a prophet, but deny that He is deity. Others, such as Buddhists, believe that if Jesus ever did exist, He was just a man. Still many others claim that Jesus never existed in the first place. As strange as it might seem to some of us, this denial of Jesus’ deity is held by the majority of people living today.

[3] Remember that Aquila and Priscilla had to teach Apollos more perfectly the way of the Lord. He did not have all the evidence, and thus was teaching an inadequate gospel (Acts 18:24-26). We must be ready to search the evidence to find out if these things are true (see Acts 17:11).

[4] The word “agnostic” means “no knowledge.” (Encarta) They believe it is impossible to know if God exists.

[5] Nearly every science textbook in public schools teaches the theory of evolution as a fact, and offers no alternative to it.

[6] There are examples that could be given, but this is not the place to list names of brethren who hold this belief. Suffice it to say, if one does much investigating into the topic, they will find numerous brethren of both today and times past that hold this stance.

[7] The Law of Biogenesis states that living things can only come from other living things, and not from non-living material. Basically stated, spontaneous generation is impossible.

[8] See later lessons on the inspiration of the Scriptures for specific examples.

[9] Again, see later lessons on the inspiration of the Scriptures for specifics.

[10] Specifically, the destruction of Jerusalem was predicted by Jesus approximately 40 years before it happened (Matthew 24:2-3); Daniel prophesied the Babylonian Empire would fall to the Persian Empire, which would fall to the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, and that there would be a fourth kingdom, that being Rome. It was during the days of the Roman Empire that the church would be established. Daniel wrote this hundreds of years before the fact (Daniel 2, especially verse 44).

Bible Q&A – Prayer to Jesus?

Question: I’ve heard a lot of people recently addressing their prayers to Jesus. When I asked them about it, they said that we’re supposed to pray to God, and Jesus is God, therefore we can pray to Jesus. On the surface, that sounds good, but I’m still bothered by it. Can you help me understand this?—“Confused,” in Oklahoma.

Thanks for writing. I understand your concern, and I think it’s great that you want to know for sure what the right thing to do is. Before we answer this question, I want you to realize that there’s no way to deal with this completely in one article. Entire books have been written on this topic (from both sides of the debate).

To get the answer to this question, we have to turn to the Bible. One thing that bothers me is that the specific people you mentioned did not show you from the Bible where they get their doctrine, but they tried to prove it by human reasoning. Even if they are correct in their belief, the argument they gave you is not proof. After all, here is the exact same argument, applied to something else.

Jesus died on the cross. Jesus is God. Therefore God died on the cross. And since the Holy Spirit and the Father are both God, that means that the Father died on the cross, as did the Holy Spirit.

What is true of one person of the Godhead is not always true for the rest of them. Regardless of whether prayer can be offered to Jesus, the “Jesus is God, therefore we can pray to Him” argument isn’t proof at all.

Let’s look at the evidence:

What did Jesus Say?

Therefore, pray after this manner [or, in this way]: “Our Father who is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9).

Jesus is the Son of God, and is deity in His very nature. However, when He was giving instructions about the one people were to pray to, he specifically stated prayer is to be directed to “the Father.”

…That whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you (John 15:16).

Jesus, speaking to His apostles, is preparing them for His departure. And He tells them that whatever they ask of the Father, He would give to them.

In that day, you will ask me nothing. But whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you (John 16:23).

Jesus has just finished telling His apostles that He will be leaving them. He will die and later ascend to heaven. And after He left, He would send the Comforter, that is the Holy Spirit, to guide them into all truth (16:12-15). That’s important to keep in mind, because here Jesus says, “in that day, you will ask me nothing.” When is Jesus speaking about? He’s talking about the time after His ascension. From that point on, Jesus says, they won’t ask Him anything. Instead, they will be asking the Father.

To Whom did Jesus Pray?

This may seem like an ignorant question, but it’s worth answering. Nowhere did Jesus pray to Himself. But just as important, there is no record of Jesus praying to the Holy Spirit either. And if praying to Jesus is permissible based on the fact that He is God, then why didn’t Jesus ever pray to the Holy Spirit—who is also called “God” (Acts 5:3-4)?

“Father, the hour is come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you” (John 17:1).

We could put the entire prayer of John 17 here, and it would be abundantly clear who Jesus addressed His prayers to. Look at verses 1, 5, 21, 24, and 25 of that chapter and you’ll see that Jesus continually addresses His prayer to the Father.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46)

At His death, His prayer was to the Father—and to no one else.

To Whom did the Apostles Pray?

They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, “Lord, you are God who has made heaven and earth and the seas and all that is in them….For of a truth, against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together…” (Acts 4:24, 28).

It should be obvious from this passage that the apostles were praying to the Father, since they were speaking to the one who had a child named Jesus. Thus, this passage shows them praying to the Father.

What were the Apostles’ Commands?

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you (Colossians 1:3).

The one they give thanks to and pray to, is identified as the Father.

Giving thanks to the Father… (Colossians 1:12).

Paul repeats his previous statement about the one to whom prayers of thanks are offered.

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17).

To whom did the inspired apostle Paul direct Christians to pray and give thanks? The Father.

Giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

We are to always and in all things give thanks to the Father. That covers every prayer of thankfulness. There are no prayers of thankfulness, then, that are to be directed anywhere else. They belong only to the Father.

Be anxious for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:6-7).

Paul says that in everything—nothing is left out—requests are to be made known unto God. And lest anyone argue that this could mean Christ, Paul continues and shows that he is speaking of the Father, and not Jesus Christ as “God” in this passage.

In everything, prayers and supplications and thanksgiving are to be directed to the Father.

Objections?

In the light of this clear, direct, and blunt evidence, there are still those who object and argue that prayer can be directed towards Jesus. We will, Lord willing, consider their arguments in a later article.

 -Bradley S. Cobb

Bible Q&A – Jesus the Only Speaking God?

Question: I read an article recently in a brotherhood paper which said that it was Jesus, not the Father, who was “walking and talking” with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. His reasoning was that “A Spirit does not have feet and a voice …” And since Jesus is the only one from the Godhead who was said to become “flesh,” it must have been Him in the garden, and not the Father. This is confusing to me. Can you shed some light on the matter?—G.J.R., Oklahoma.

I have read the article that you refer to, and while I don’t necessarily have an issue with his conclusion, the arguments that he uses to get there are not valid.

The article is on the question “Where art thou?” from Genesis 3:9. This question was spoken by “The LORD God,” but as the person who wrote the article showed, the Godhead is comprised of more than one entity. And to quote the article, “therefore the phrase ‘Lord God’ does not ‘definitively’ answer the question!” To this, we fully agree. Just because something is said to be done by God doesn’t show us exactly which member(s) of the Godhead were the doers. For example, Genesis 1:1 says God created the heavens and the earth, but John 1:1-3 shows us that it was “the Word” [Jesus] who did the actual work of creating.

The article makes the statement that “the Father is the planner,” and gives some passages which show the Father is the one who planned and purposed the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:23, Ephesians 3:11). The article then states that Jesus is the “Executor,” that is, the one who actually does the doing of things. There is nothing in the article to pinpoint the Holy Spirit’s role is in the Godhead.

While we gladly admit that these statements are often the case, they are not always the case. They are not absolutes. We will show this to be the case momentarily.

The article, however, assumes that these distinctions are true 100% of the time, with no variation, and that therefore the Father is only ever the planner, and never the “executor” or doer of His will. Therefore, Jesus [the Word] is the only “Executor” or doer, and that everything that is actively done by God can only be done by Jesus.

Using these two descriptions as absolutes, the article proceeds to reason from them and apply them to Genesis 3:9. The exact quotation is:

[W]hen it is observed that “The Word/Logos” is the “Executor” and He created all things, it is correctly deduced that it was “The Word”, who became “flesh” (John 1:14) “walking and talking” in the Garden.

The problem with this reasoning is that the roles of the Godhead in regards to “planner” and “Executor” are not absolutes. For example, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the Father (Acts 13:30, 37, Galatians 1:1). The Father planned it, and the Father executed His plan Himself.

The quotation continues (immediately following the above quote):

A Spirit does not have feet and voice that spake the world into existence, which asked the question, “Where art thou?”

It is this argument that I have the biggest problem with. While it might sound good on the surface, the necessary conclusions from this statement violate Scripture. And if the necessary conclusions violate Scripture, then the statement itself must be wrong. The article argues that only one who “became flesh” can be “walking and talking” because “A Spirit does not have feet and voice that spake the world into existence.”

Here, we offer our objections:

(1) If it requires flesh to do “walking and talking,” then that demands that before the world could be spoken into existence, one of the Godhead had to become flesh. The writer states that a Spirit does not have a voice; therefore the necessary conclusion is that one of the Godhead had to be flesh before creation.

(2) Jesus is the only one of the Godhead who is said to have been “made flesh.” If it requires flesh for God to speak, the necessary conclusion is that every time we see God talking in the Bible, it’s actually Jesus speaking. This makes for a very interesting conundrum, because when Jesus was raised up out of the water after being baptized, a voice [God] spoke from heaven, saying “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Are we really to believe that Jesus (the only member of the Godhead who was ever in the flesh) was speaking to Himself from heaven, calling Himself His own Son?

(3) The Holy Spirit—one of the Godhead that did not become flesh—can speak (Acts 10:19-20).

There are other instances that could be used, but we believe these are sufficient to show that these arguments used in this article are not valid.

Please note: the article was written by a good, faithful gospel preacher. This response was written merely to bring to light some issues that the brother probably did not consider in his arguments. His conclusion, that it was Jesus who asked the question to Adam and Eve, is his opinion, and could possibly be the correct one. My problem was not with the conclusion, but with the reasoning used to get there.

———-

Because this question is now before us, I will present the evidence that I believe might point to a different conclusion.

When people read Genesis 3:8, they make an assumption that God Himself is “walking” in the Garden when this event took place. As in, this is God in human form, literally walking with human feet through the foliage. If that’s what Genesis 3:8 said, I’d stop right there and say, “that might be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.” But that’s not what the text actually says.

Genesis 3:8 says “They heard the voice of God walking in the Garden.” It’s not God walking through the Garden; it’s God’s voice “walking” through the Garden. You might ask, “How does a voice walk?” The word which is translated “walking” is usually translated as went or go (or a variation of these two words). Thus, they heard the voice of God going through the Garden. They didn’t hear God Himself in human flesh walking through the Garden of Eden; they heard His voice as it went through the Garden.

Luke 3, in giving the complete genealogy of Jesus, states that Adam is the son of God (Luke 3:38). The member of the Godhead that Adam would have interacted with, it seems, would have been his “Father.”

We’ve already shown from the incident at Jesus’ baptism (and to that, we could add the Transfiguration) that the Father is fully capable of speaking to humans in a voice they can understand.

These arguments are not definitive in answering the question, but they absolutely show that the Father could easily have been the one whose voice went through the Garden of Eden, asking Adam and Eve “Where art thou?”

-Bradley Cobb

Sermon Wednesday – All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Today, we continue our series on “Singing with the Understanding.”  We thank you all for the encouraging emails that you have sent us regarding this series.

Introduction:

Have you made Christ your king?  When someone is made the leader (be it of a city, state, or nation), they hold the office, even though some people may not recognize their authority.

Christ is indeed the King over all, but do you submit to that authority?  Have you made Christ the king in your life?

The song we will be looking at today deals with the power of Christ—His authority—and the recognition of it.

“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”

Verse 1 – He has authority over the angels.

The song starts with its main theme:

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!

It means “Everyone, recognize the power of the authority of Christ!”  Jesus claimed all authority in heaven and on earth after His resurrection (Matthew 28:18-19).  The first three verses of this song express this truth in different areas. First…

Let angels prostrate fall

He has authority over the angels.  Though He was made to be a little lower than the angels by becoming man, through His death He took a place of authority over all (Hebrews 2:7-9).  The angels are subject to Him and are commanded to worship Him (Hebrews 1:4-6).  Angels are powerful beings, without question, but their power is subject to Christ (Revelation 22:16).

The phrase “Let angels prostrate fall” means “let angels bow down before Him.”

He is the royal ruler: King and Lord of all!

Bring forth the royal diadem

This is the crown of the king.  He is the Son of God (the King) and through inheritance has taken His rule with God as king (Hebrews 1:3-4).

And crown Him Lord of all.

He has been put over all things (Hebrews 2:7).  The angels are commanded to recognize Christ’s authority.  His authority stretches beyond heaven—but that’s described in the next verses.

Verse 2 – He has authority over God’s people.

The church is the recipient of the promises to Israel—we are spiritual Israel.

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race.

Spiritual Israel is not the same as physical Israel:  For they are not all Israel who are of Israel (Romans 9:6).

The true Israel of God are the ones who follow His commands.  And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy on the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

The seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made are those who are his children by faith

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all (Romans 4:13-16, see also Romans 2:28-29).

The blood-bought ones should recognize Christ’s authority in all things.

Ye ransomed from the fall.

To be ransomed means to be purchased—bought back.  Christ has purchased us from sin with His blood (Acts 20:28).  The fall is our sinful state—for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Hail Him who saves you by His grace.

Christians—recognize Christ’s authority, for He is the One who saved you!  Christ’s saving work isn’t a one-time thing—He continually saves us.  When we are baptized, He saves us.  As we stumble on our walk with Him, He picks us up and dusts us off so long as we’re still trying.  As we repent of our sins, He keeps saving us (I John 1:9).

He has saved us by His grace.

“Grace” is a much-abused topic these days.  But we need to remember that if Christ didn’t want to save us, we couldn’t be saved.  There’s nothing that mankind did that made Jesus say, “wow! I have to save these people.”  It was completely His grace that made the way for us to be saved.  It was completely by His grace that He made that way known to everyone through His word.

We still have to accept it on His terms, but we can never forget that it is God’s grace that saves us.

And crown Him Lord of all.

All Christians must submit themselves to Christ.  And not just that, but recognize His complete sovereignty—His total rule over our lives.  Have you crowned Christ as the King of your life?

Verse 3 – Christ has authority over the entire human race.

This cannot be stressed enough—everyone is amenable to the rule and law of Jesus Christ!

There are some in the church who are trying to sidestep some of God’s laws by teaching that non-Christians aren’t amenable to the law of Christ.  By this, it is meant that the rules in the Bible don’t apply to anyone unless they’re Christians.

Here’s the problem with that reasoning—if they don’t apply to non-Christians, then non-Christians cannot be lost, because they aren’t under any law.  Where there is no law, there is no sin (Romans 4:15).

If this doctrine were true, there would be no point in evangelizing either—because we’d be bringing them into a law that they could possibly break and thus be eternally damned!

Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball

Everyone, regardless of their family, ethnic background, or location, is under consideration here.  Everyone on earth is subject to Christ.

Terrestrial ball = land-sphere, this earth.

To Him, all majesty ascribe.

Everyone on earth should recognize the authority of Jesus Christ and submit to it.  Part of that responsibility is ours—to take the message of Christ to others so that they know about it.

Everyone on earth—even non-Christians—need to recognize Christ as the one supreme King.  This is what it means to ascribe all majesty to Him.  It is to recognize His complete authority—that He is supreme.

And crown Him Lord of all.

Non-Christians—by definition—have not crowned Christ as their Lord and Savior.  If you’re not a Christian, then you are living in rebellion to the Supreme King and Judge, Jesus Christ.

Verse 4 –  The reward for submission to the king—heaven!

Why should we recognize and submit to the Kingship of Jesus Christ?  This verse describes it for us!

O that with yonder sacred throng…

This is to be with the saved in that great by and by in the sky.  This is to be with the redeemed, to hear our name when the roll is called up yonder.  This is the sacred (holy) throng (multitude of people) yonder (over there in heaven).

We at His feet may bow

We will be able to worship Christ forever in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10).  We will be in His presence (you have to be in His presence to be able to bow at His feet).

Eternity in heaven with God and Christ—free from all care, happy and bright, Jesus is there, He is the light.

We’ll join the everlasting song…

Singing praises to God forever—continual joy, unending happiness.  In short, heaven!

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less day to sing God’s praise than when we first begun!

Everlasting life in heaven, never to be separated again!

And praise Him Lord of all.

Those who submit to the authority of Christ here on earth will have the pleasure and desire to praise and thank Him for all eternity in heaven.

Conclusion

Christ Jesus is the King over all creation—of angels and of ALL people—including you!  Have you made Him king of YOUR life?  Have you acknowledged His authority and submitted to it so that you can go to heaven?

Christ has set forth His law, and it’s not hard.  Believe in Him as the Christ, the Son of God.  Repent of your sins.  Be Baptized in order to have your sins forgiven.  Then afterwards continue to do your best to serve your King.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Tracts from the Past – The World’s Greatest Question

THE WORLD’S GREATEST QUESTION

(No. 8 of The Gospel Tract Series)

By Eugene S. Smith

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This question, asked in Acts 16:30 by a man in Philippi nineteen hundred years ago, has never been equaled in importance. In substance this same question is asked in two other places in the Book of Acts. In the inspired answer to this question, asked three times, we have an infallible answer. To this we do well to give heed in these days.

The importance of this question stems from the fact that it deals with the salvation of our souls. Nothing in this world, no, not even the world itself, can be compared in value to our souls. The soul of man, your soul or mine, is the most important thing in the universe and the question concern­ing its salvation is the greatest and most important that we can ask.

It Is of Doing

Please note in beginning this study that the question is, “What Must I Do?” We know that “God so loved the world that He gave his only begot­ten son” (John 3:16). We know that Christ so loved the souls of men that He “tasted of death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). We also know that the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles, revealed unto us “the way of salvation” (Acts. 16:17). These, therefore, having done their part in our salvation, we are now interested in what we should do.

Further, it is not a question of what one should be, how one should feel, where one should live, or the language that one should speak. This is a ques­tion of doing, and the answer that is given by inspiration (as the question was asked these three times) is evi­dence that there is something for us to do and that everyone must do these same things.

Acts 16:30-34

In the sixteenth chapter of Acts when the question was asked the im­mediate reply of Paul was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” (Acts. 16:31). A great many people want to stop here, thinking that this is all the answer that was given to the question. However, an examination of the verses fol­lowing reveals that this is not all of the answer and that to stop here is to stop short of a complete answer.

The remainder of the answer of Paul is indicated by the words of the fol­lowing verse: “And they spake the word of the Lord to him, with all that were in his house” (Acts 16:32). This was necessary for even faith could not come to the man or his house apart from the hearing of the word. Paul has said, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The word had to be spoken to produce the faith and faith could not come till the word was spoken. However, when the word was spoken we find that the jailer had learned that he must do more than be­lieve and this he did. Verse 33 says that “he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, im­mediately”. Here repentance and bap­tism are definitely shown to have been included in the word of the Lord, the answer given by Paul and Silas to the man’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” The washing of their stripes indicates repentance and it is definitely stated that the man was bap­tized, Therefore, these things were in­cluded in the answer given him or he would have known nothing of them. These are as much a part of the word of the Lord as belief and have as much to do with our salvation from sin.

Therefore, we must remember that in answer to this man’s question he was taught to, 1. Believe on the Lord Jesus, 2. Repent of his sins, and, 3. Be baptized unto the remission of his sins. When he had done these things, the record says that he “rejoiced great­ly, with all his house, having believed in God”. By his obedience his faith was made perfect and he became a Son of God and could rejoice in that rela­tionship.

Acts 2:37-42

In the second chapter of Acts the question again is asked. This time, however, those who ask are believers in the Christ. Although only a few days previously they had denied the Christ and condemned him to be cruci­fied they are now convicted of their sins and realizing that he is the Christ cry out to Peter and the others of Christ’s apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

With all directness the Apostle Peter gave answer to these inquiring souls as he said, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). This answer of inspiration is too plain to need ex­planation and “They then that received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). Here again sinners were taught to: 1. Believe on the Lord Jesus, 2. Repent of their sins, and 3. Be baptized unto the remission of their sins.

Having done this they “continued steadfastly in the Apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42). That is they “walked in the newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) and were acceptable in the sight of God as his children.

Acts 22:10-16

In the twenty-second chapter of Acts, Paul gives an account of his own con­version. On the Damascus road he be­lieved in the Lord and confessed that faith, calling him Lord. He repented of his sins and desired to know and do the will of the Lord. This is all evi­denced by his asking the question, “Lord, what shall I do?” (Acts 22:10). This question shows the faith and the repentance of Saul of Tarsus yet he was not saved.

The Lord, in answer, told him to go into the city and there it would be told him all things appointed for him to do. When in that city Ananias came to him he said, “Why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16). This is Paul’s own account of the matter and one I am sure we can trust. Paul realized that his sins were not re­moved by faith or repentance but only when his faith was expressed in obe­dience to the Lord’s command to be baptized.

Thus, again we have the question and the answer is the same, 1. Believe. 2. Repent. 3. Be baptized unto the remis­sion (washing away) of your sins. This brought him “into Christ” and in Christ he was a new creature.

Therefore, the question is asked and answered. You can see the answer as given by inspiration. You can walk in the same way to your own salvation.