Acts 2:40-46, “They Continued”

40] And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”  41] Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  42] And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  43] Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  44] Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45] and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

46] So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47] praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. 

Verses 14 through 39 give us only a small portion of of what Peter said to the crowd who gathered as a result of the commotion surrounding the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  The thrust of what he said is found in v. 40, which says that with many words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.  His words didn’t fall on deaf ears as we read that three thousand souls were converted to the Lord.

The thing that I find interesting is the fact that they “continued” is mentioned twice, in vs. 42 and 46.  This is the great distinguishing mark of true believers in the Lord Jesus, for there are many who draw back unto perdition, Hebrews 10:39.  It’s the characteristic of His people mentioned by our Lord, John 8:31, Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”  He’s not saying that they remain His disciples, or that they become His disciples, but that they are His disciples.  This reminds us of an earlier incident in His life, recorded in John 2:23-25, Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.  But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what is in man. 

We have such a shallow view of salvation.  As long as one makes some sort of  “profession of faith,” or even might have, well, that seems to be enough.  I saw an example of this just the other day.  The media has been filled with the terrible events which happened in Las Vegas.  Of the man identified as the shooter, one pastor wrote, “Now it is possible that he was saved, that he had believed on Jesus at one point in his life.”  Then this pastor wrote, as this man was preparing to shoot, “in those moments, he was not right with God, regardless of his salvation.”

Now, I grant that, generally speaking, we can’t know for certain the spiritual condition of any particular person.  However, Scripture says, you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him, 1 John 3:15.  So, while it is “possible” that this man was “saved,” it doesn’t seem very likely.  He doesn’t seem to have been “continuing”.

We read of these early believers in Acts 2, that they continued, emphasis added.  Verse 42 gives us four examples.

1. apostles’ doctrine.  Since the apostles were still alive, this was possible.  The word translated “apostle” basically means “one who is sent.”  In that respect, any true Christian might say he or she is “an apostle.”  However, there are no “Apostles” in the sense that the twelve were Apostles.  There are no people giving new revelations of Scripture or “messages from God.”  Today, we have the Scriptures.  Our question must be, What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3, not what does this or that preacher or teacher say?  What does “the church” say?

What does God say, as given in His Word?

2. and fellowship.  This seems to be tied in with the first item:  “apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.”  There’s an old saying, which I’ve turned around somewhat:  “the feathers with whom you flock show what kind of a bird you are.”  What kind of people do we like to be around, to associate with?  That’s a reflection of who we are.  These is Acts 2 wanted to be with God’s people.

3. in the breaking of bread.  Perhaps what we call communion or the Lord’s Supper and ordinary meals were together.  Our Lord instituted His Supper at the meal of the Passover, Matthew 26:26.

4. and in prayers.  The hallmark of the NT church.

Verses 44, 45 tell of another aspect of the early church:  they were together, and all things in common, and sold their possessions and good, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  Karl Marx used these ideas as a basis for his views on government.  Many others have tried “communal” living of various sorts.  However, especially as it regards communism and other socialist ideas, there are some things to keep in mind about this “community of goods.”

1. It was voluntary.  There is no evidence that this was a “forced” sharing, as in communism.  The government wasn’t involved at all.  Nor does it have anything to do with the current idea of “making the rich pay their fair share.”  It was voluntary,

2. It seems to have been temporary.  We don’t read of this past chapter 6, though the NT is filled with efforts of Paul and others to relieve the necessities of the saints.

3.  It didn’t work, as we see in chapter 6:1, which tells us of the beginning of “deacons.”  We’ll have more about this when we get to that chapter.

It could be this came about because those early disciples believed that the Lord would return very soon.  They had no inkling of “the church,” at least as we know it, or of the time interval between the Ascension and the Return.  We still don’t know of that interval, though that doesn’t stop speculation.  Just a few weeks ago, there were two different such speculations of facebook, both saying that such-and-such was the date on which our Lord would return, and both were wrong.  You’d think, after nearly 2000 years of such misses, that folks would give up trying to figure it out.  He may come before I get done with this post.  He may not come until our grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive.  In the meantime, there are things for us to do.

Verses 46 and 47 gives us a final summary.  The split between Jew and Christian had not yet happened.  As we said earlier, the early church was Jewish.  It wasn’t really until Paul that the Gospel really began to be preached to Gentiles – usually with Jewish opposition.  It was still a time of Apostolic miracle and ministry, a time of generosity and grace.  A time of joy and happiness.  A time of great salvation, as the last verse tells us.  It was a daily occurrence, no special meetings or anything, just apparently the result of the way these early Christians lived.

They continued.

Advertisements

Revelation 1:4, Greetings

John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:  Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. (NKJV)

In this verse, we see those to whom John originally wrote, as well as the blessing he desired for them.

1. the seven churches which are in Asia.

First of all, the “Asia” John knew isn’t the Asia we know, that is, the Far East: China and such, but was a part of the Roman Empire in what we know as southwestern Turkey.  It sat between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.  The “seven churches” were within a fifty square mile area and are listed in order clockwise from the first to the last.  We’ll have some more to say about each of them when we get there, but it’s important to remember, whatever else might be said about them, that these were seven actual, contemporaneous, churches.

2. the blessing he desired for them.

a. its substance:  grace and peace.

Grace comes first.  Grace must come first – always, because without grace, we’re only under God’s condemnation and judgment.

A common definition of grace is “God’s unmerited favor toward us.”  That’s true, but I like to think of it more as “God’s unmerited favor toward us in spite of our merited disfavor from Him.”  Or just three words, “in spite of….”  You see, for all our supposed goodness and greatness, there’s nothing good in us Godward, Romans 7:18.  We all sin and fall short of His glory, Romans 3:23.  What does that mean: “fall short of His glory”?  I think it means that we fall short – far short, when it comes to glorifying Him, giving Him the honor, respect and worship that He deserves.  Our every breath is in His hand, and yet, like the man to whom that statement was originally made, we have not glorified Him, Daniel 5:23.  All we deserve is His condemnation and judgment.  Without grace, we would all perish in our sins.

Peace.  In John 14:27, our Lord promised the disciples, “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”  What does this mean, “not as the world gives”?  The world’s peace depends on what is happening, on outward things, things going well,  things going “our way.”  The peace Jesus spoke of depends on none of those things.  It rests simply on the fact that God is in control of the “outward things.”  It looks up, not around.

What might this mean in the context of John’s writing, if anything?  I think it could simply mean that, regardless of what happens in much of the rest of the book, chs. 21, 22 will put an end to all of that and usher in, as Peter put it, new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, or as it could be translated, “is at home,” 2 Peter 3:13.  It certainly isn’t at home in this world.

b. its threefold source:

From Him who is and who was and who is to come.

This refers to God the Father and describes Him as being present right now, as He present was in the past and as He will be present in the future.  In other words, there has never been a time, and never will be a time, when, or where, He “isn’t” and isn’t on the throne of the Universe.

From the seven Spirits who are before His throne.

See also 4:5, which also refers to the seven Spirits of God.  There is some discussion about who these are.  Many expositors look to Isaiah 11:2 and what they say is his seven-fold reference to the Spirit, and, so, John refers to the Holy Spirit.  Thus, it is said, we have a reference to the Trinity:  Father, Spirit and Son.  Others say, “No, it’s a reference to the seven angels (of the seven churches) who stand before God’s throne.”  There were no capital letters in the original language.  Everything was written in lower case letters.  Isaiah 11:2 is a sixfold description of the Spirit of the LORD which rests on the Messiah.

Which view of the “seven Spirits” is correct?  At different times, I’ve held to each of them.  At this time, I don’t really know which view is correct.  So I put forth the discussion, though there is more that could be said, and leave it at that.

From Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

the faithful witness.

This refers to His life and earthly ministry.  At His trial before Pilate, Jesus said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth,” John 18:28.

the firstborn from the dead.

This refers to His resurrection.  “Firstborn” refers to His priority, even in this.  Colossians 1:18, In all things, He may have the preeminence.

the ruler of the kings of the earth.

This refers to His reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  The question is, is that true of Him now?  In the sense that providentially He rules in the everyday affairs even of kings perhaps it is true.  Is that all John meant?  That His rule is unseen and unacknowledged?

Perhaps the majority of Christians believe that, yes, He is ruling right now in His “heavenly session.”  It’s a spiritual rule in the hearts of His people.  Yes, but how many of “His people” are “kings of the earth”?  Where is there, right now, even one world leader who acknowledges and tries to live and govern by His Word?

“Ruler of the kings of the earth” is more than a meaningless title.  It refers to a time when He will be universally and openly acknowledged as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”  That title is always and only used in connection with His Second Coming.  There is coming a time, believe it or not, when Washington, London, Moscow, all the other capitals of the world, and their leaders, will submit, willingly or not, to the rule of the Lord Jesus.  We’ll have much more to say about this as we get into the book, Lord willing.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

March Memories: The 1812 Overture – and the return of Christ.

As I work on the blog, catching up on emails and posts, I’m listening to the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.  *sigh*  Now that’s music.  Funny, this stuff used to be called “longhair.”   The “longhair” stuff today is a little different – all noise and percussion.  But then, I’m old.  What do I know?

I especially love the finale.  Always brings tears to my eyes.  All that joy and victory.

Triumph!

This time, I got to thinking about the return of Christ – the finale of present history.

I wonder what it will be like when the Lord comes back in honor, glory and VICTORY to this world which has done, and is doing, everything it can to get rid of Him.  When He ascends the throne of David in Jerusalem as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!  What rejoicing there will surely be among His people.  What a festive time that will be!

I know there are some who pooh-pooh the idea of “an earthly, carnal kingdom” of our Lord.  They’re quite content with the “spiritual kingdom” they envision in the Church, most of which doesn’t pay a lot of attention to Him, either.  I simply cannot understand how they can insult the Lord by calling ANY kingdom which He is over as “carnal,” regardless of where it is.

I’m sorry.  In my reading and study of the Bible, I do not see anything other than such a kingdom as has Jesus as its King, sitting of David’s throne in Jerusalem.  While it is certainly true that the Lord “rules” His people – He is, after all, LORD – that is just a dim foreshadowing of the time foretold by both Testaments when He will rule over all nations, not just in some unseen “providential” sense, but really and personally.

As the finale wound its way to its glorious end, my heart almost burst with longing for that time.

“EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS!’

 

Should Christians Vote?

This is an election year, although it seems anymore that every year is an election year.  We scarcely get the signs out of the yard before it’s time for the next batch.

I know that people from all over the world might stop by and read this post.  I’m grateful for their visit and interest.  This post, however, is different from most of the ones I write, which are usually about Biblical topics, though this one will get there.  This post is addressed to issues in this country.  As Americans, we have the freedom to vote, to get involved locally and have our voice heard.

If you ever visit Arlington National Cemetery, or see pictures of it,  those rows and rows and rows and rows of white markers bear silent, eloquent testimony to the thousands who have died in order that we might have that freedom.

I know of Christians who don’t vote, haven’t ever voted.  They’re “not of this world,” so don’t think it important enough to get involved even to vote.  “Politics is dirty,” is one of their views, and, to a large degree, they’re right.  But why is that?  It’s because good men refuse to get involved, leaving it by default to the bad guys.

Should Christians get involved?  I don’t mean necessarily run for office, but at least register and vote.  Would such a thing be “worldy”?  Is it really all that important?

The Apostle Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship more than once.  He saw nothing wrong with it, didn’t seem to think it was “worldly” or beneath him.  In Acts 16, he and some of his companions were thrown into jail for disturbing the peace, to put it mildly.  They were beaten, thrown into an inner dungeon overnight and put into stocks.  These weren’t the kind of stocks we see in pictures, with head and hands placed between boards.  These were devices which contorted the body and made it impossible to get comfortable.  They were basically torture devices.  The next day, the magistrates told the jailer to release the men and let them go.  How did Paul respond?  Was he just grateful “it was over?”  What did he say?

But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison.  And now do they put us out secretly.  No indeed!  Let them come themselves and get us out’,”  v. 27.  You see, what these magistrates did was illegal.  Even though they didn’t know Paul was a Roman citizen, they were guilty of breaking the law.  And they had made no effort to find out, but had simply followed the crowd.  And when they found this out, they were concerned:  …they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, v. 38.

At least two other times, Paul used his Roman citizenship, once to get out of being whipped, Acts 22:25-29, and once to get away from men who wanted to kill him, Acts 25:10, 11.

Furthermore, in his writings, he addressed this issue of citizenship.  In Romans 13:1, he wrote, Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God (NKJV).  The issue of “God’s appointment” is beyond the scope of this post, except to say that God has instituted the idea of government among humans.  He may or may not agree with what they do, but the idea came from Him.  And Paul certainly didn’t have “voting” in mind when he wrote Romans 13.  Such a thing had never yet been heard of.   The point is, we should live with the government the providence of God has put us in.  But that’s another post, as well.  The government we live under gives us the right to vote.  Though we obviously can’t know for sure, I believe Paul would have taken full advantage of it if he would have had it.  (Could we say that not voting is being disobedient to God?)

If someone should say, “Well, yes, but that’s just Paul,” hear what our Lord said.  For some reason, a lot of people downplay what Paul wrote, and some even say that he took the simple teachings of Jesus and turned them into something the Lord never meant.  That’s another post.  For now, hear our Lord.

In one of their incessant arguments with the Lord, the Pharisees asked Him about paying taxes, another issue Paul addresses in Romans 13.  These religious leaders came to the Lord and asked what they thought was a surefire question to trip Him up.  In Matthew 22:17, they asked, Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” They really thought they had Him!  As usual, they soon found out they were wrong!

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites.  Show Me the tax money.”  So they brought Him a denarius.  And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”  And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.”  And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 

Once again, our Lord probably wasn’t thinking about “voting,” but I think the argument could be made that it is a “thing of Caesar’s” and as such is to be observed.

Let me close by saying that I’m very concerned about the direction this country – and the world – is heading.  I’m very concerned about this election.  This isn’t to say that I don’t trust God, or any such thing.  He generally works through means, and in this case, voting is a means.  I have to say that I think we’ve pretty much gotten what we’ve deserved the last few years.

What I’m afraid of is that candidates won’t be “conservative” enough for some Americans, and so they will sit this election out, as they did in 2012 because they didn’t like Mitt Romney’s religion, and as they have done in other elections because the candidates didn’t say the right “Shibboleth” on certain issues.  (See Judges 6:1-12 for the reference.)  Doing this, they will concede the election before it’s even run.

If that happens this year, well, we’ll deserve what we get.