Acts 2:24-36, “…God Disposes.”

24] “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.  25] For David says concerning Him:

‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26] Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27] For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28] You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’

29] “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  30] Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God has sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31] he, foreseeing this, spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.  32] This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.  33] Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

34] “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

‘The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35] Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ “

36] “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  (NKJV)

One of the Scriptures for our last post was Acts 2:23, where Peter has accused his audience that they “by lawless hands, [had] crucified, and put to death” the Lord Jesus, even though it had been evident that His was no ordinary life.

Perhaps the religious leaders who were behind the crucifixion of our Lord rubbed their hands in glee at the idea that finally they were rid of this One who had been a thorn in their sides for three or more years.  Little did they know!  John 11:48 reveals some of their reasoning; they were concerned for their own prestige and power in the nation.  The “removal” of Jesus of Nazareth was considered necessary for the preservation of these things.  And for a few days, it seemed they were right.

However, God’s purpose concerning Christ is an eternal purpose, Ephesians 1:4; 2:7; 3:11, spanning from eternity past, if we can put it like this, into eternity future.  See also Ephesians 2:7.  The events of a few days, months, or even years, are just threads in the eternal tapestry God is weaving.

In thinking of the death of Christ, Peter boldly proclaimed, “It was not possible that He should be held by it, v. 24.  As proof, in vs. 25-28 he quotes Psalm 16:8-11, speaking in those verses of being in the Lord’s presence in heaven, v. 25, then that “his” soul would not be left in Hades, nor would “his” body see corruption, vs. 26, 27.

Just in passing, there are some who knock on your door who claim that “Hades” is merely the the physical grave.  This really isn’t the place to get into that, except to say this.  In Luke 12:4, 5, our Lord said, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear:  Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him.”  It’s obvious from these verses that more than simple burying in the ground is in view.

Then, lest it should be thought that David was speaking merely of himself, Peter continues that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day, v. 29.  Obviously, his body had seen corruption.  In Psalm 16, Peter says, David wasn’t referring to his own body, but to the body of “the Christ,” the Messiah, who would indeed die and be buried, but not be there long enough for His body to begin to decay.  Hence, the importance of “three days and three nights” in our Lord’s death and burial.  Jewish tradition believed that the body didn’t begin to decay until the fourth day.  So Psalm 16 refers to our Lord, whose soul was not left in Hades, not did his flesh see corruption,  v, 31.

In addition, God had made some promises to David.  We read of these in 2 Samuel, where God said to David,

“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever….And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.  Your throne shall be established forever,”  2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 17, emphasis added.

While it could be said that some of this refers to Solomon – who did indeed build a “house” for God’s name – David himself seems to have recognized something more was involved.  In v. 19, in praying to and thanking God for this overwhelming revelation, David said, “…and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come.”  

There’s some discussion about the phrase, “according to the flesh,” in Acts 2:30, but I don’t think it makes any difference.  According to Peter, David knew that the Messiah, a physical descendant of his – “the fruit of his body” – would one day sit on his throne.

Having been raise from the dead, Jesus ascended and, Peter says, “being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” v. 33.

Thus, the apostles weren’t drunk; they had been recipients of the promise made to them by the Lord Jesus even before He was crucified, John 14: 16-18, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”   This last He did in the person and power of the Holy Spirit.

But Peter isn’t quite finished.  As for the Lord Himself, He has been seated at the Father’s right hand, v. 34, “waiting expectantly” for the Father to put down His enemies, those, for example, who cried out for His crucifixion, whose spiritual descendants we see today all around us who demand the removal of any vestige of reference to Biblical truth.  Those who heard Peter were reminded that even though they had crucified the Lord Jesus, God had made Him “both Lord and Christ.”  One day, when He returns to this sin-ruined world, that will become obvious.

God is faithful to His promise.

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Acts 2:14-23, The Truth Is….

14] But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and heed my words.  15] For these are not drunk, as you supposed, since it is only the third hour of the day.  16] But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17] ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God
That I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18] And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
19] I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20] The sun will be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
21] And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.’

22] “Men of Israel, hear these words:  Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – 23] Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

Our title comes from a question asked as a the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The crowd was perplexed by these Galileans, considered uncouth and ignorant by others, but who were speaking a number of other, intelligible tongues, understood by those who heard them.  Some were amazed, but others made fun of it.

When this happened, Peter immediately stood up and began to explain what was happening.  Just in passing, it seems that “tongues” aren’t an end in themselves.  Indeed, Scripture tells us that, even if they are for today, not every believer will receive them, 1 Corinthians 12, though every believer has one or more gifts.  Further, Scripture indicates that tongues are ultimately not for the believer at all, but for unbelievers, 1 Corinthians 14:21-22.  There are a number of other things governing the “gifts of the Spirit,” but that’s another post.

Another thing:  notice all the Scriptures Peter quoted.  He didn’t talk about tradition or custom, or what others thought about all this.  He didn’t take a poll or start a study group.  He went directly to the Scriptures.  That’s always the best place to begin:  What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3.

As soon as some began to mock, Peter raised his voice, v. 14, and began to explain what was going on.  Remember, it is through the foolishness of preaching that is the means God chose to save people, 1 Corinthians 1:21 (KJV).  Newer versions have it as the foolishness of the message preached.  It doesn’t matter.  Except through the power and grace of God, it’s all foolishness to the natural mind, 1 Corinthians 2:14.

So, the truth is, as Peter brought out, that these men weren’t drunk at all.  After all, it was only 9 AM.  Instead, it was a fulfillment of prophecy, vs. 17-21.  He quotes from Joel 2:28-32, although he doesn’t finish the quotation.  Joel refers to the ultimate salvation of Israel and it wasn’t yet time for that to happen.

Having explained the truth about what was happening, Peter seems to go off on a tangent.  After all, what did the execution of a criminal, as He was believed to be, have to do with anything?

But this Man was no ordinary criminal.  His was a life of miracles, wonders, and signs.   These signs indicated that He was no ordinary Man, but rather that He was who He said He was, the Son of God and His life was attested by God. 

I know that many skeptics and unbelievers deny any such thing, and some even deny that our Lord existed.  As far as they, and for all practical purposes, much of the rest of the world, are concerned, Jesus of Nazareth is dead and gone.  And if that truly is the story, then there is no hope for any of us.

I’m thankful that the truth is that He lives, as Peter goes on to say.  Lord willing, we’ll look at this in our next post.

“Beginning At Jerusalem,” Part 2.

This post continues and concludes our last post.

Scripture texts:  Luke 24:26, 27, 45-49; John 20:21-23.

3. Luke 24:26, 45-49, The Message Committed to the Churches.

Verse 26 gives us the essence of Gospel preaching.  There are many Biblical subjects we can preach and teach on, but the Gospel itself is about the two things in Luke’s text.

a. An Awful Reality, vs. 26,

1). “the sufferings of Christ”.

We pretty much don’t like the idea of suffering.  If we have a headache, we take an aspirin.  If we have to have surgery, we welcome the anesthesiologist.  In every part of our life, we try to be as comfortable as possible.  Even typing this, I’m not sitting on a hard, straight-backed chair.  We want air-conditioning and heat in our cars, comfortable pews in our churches.  We’re pretty spoiled.

Even in our views of Christ, we don’t think a lot about His suffering.  I’ve heard preachers describe the agony of crucifixion with the dispassion they might use with some ordinary topic.  And, truly, we have no idea what a crucifixion was like.  We are concerned in capital cases that the criminal suffer as little as possible and great outcry is made if, by some chance, something goes wrong and he does suffer.  I’m not advocating cruelty toward criminals, but the Romans had no qualms about things we cringe at.

Our pictures of His death have been pretty sanitized, as well.  One branch of the church even boasts of its “bloodless icons.”  But with the beatings, the scourging and the nails in His wrists and ankles, in the words of Isaiah 52:14, His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.  In the common vernacular, He was a bloody mess.

Now, some men and women do have an idea of what physical suffering can be like, with serious injuries and such.  But there was more to it than just the physical.  Isaiah 53:6 says, The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Paul carried it even further, he made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin…, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

“He made Him to be sin….”

I don’t think we have any idea what that meant to the Lord Jesus.  Incarnate holiness to be made imputed sin.  That One who had enjoyed eternal fellowship with the Father now turned away and suffering His wrath against sin.

No.

We have no idea….

But He didn’t just die.

2). and that He should rise from the dead.

The Cross isn’t the end of the story.  He’s not still hanging there.  The crucifix gives a false narrative.  There is no grave holding His remains.  Yes, it was necessary for the Christ to suffer,” but something else was necessary, as well.  That was for Him to rise from the dead the third day,” Luke 24:45.  The Cross is empty.  So is the tomb.

The truth of the Resurrection is what distinguishes Christianity from religions of the world.  Other religions have holy books, death, angels, “visions,” etc.  But none of them has a resurrection, indeed, may even deny the resurrection.

Without the Resurrection, there is no proof that Christ’s death was any different than the deaths of the two men who dies with Him that day.  But He did rise from the dead.  This also proved His assertion that He was God, Romans 1:4.  Some deny that He ever claimed to be God, but that claim was the main reason, humanly speaking, He was crucified, John 19:7.  And, further, because He did rise from the dead, then we have –

b. An Individual Applicability, Luke 24:47.

“and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

The announcement of our Lord’s birth to Joseph was that “He will save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21.  The Cross was the payment that made salvation even possible.  The Resurrection was the receipt, if you will, for that payment.  We enter into that salvation through two things:

1). Repentance.

Why didn’t Peter mention “faith”?  To hear some preachers, repentance has nothing to do with it.  We have only to “believe.”  Some even say that repentance is a “Jewish doctrine,” and not applicable to us.  Is that true?  Why did Peter mention it?  – and not faith?

And, yes, just to be sure, we are “saved by faith.”  Scripture is very clear about that:  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast, Ephesians 2:8, 9, emphasis added.

At the same time and regardless of what men may say about it, our Lord specifically commanded repentance to be preached.  In his last remarks to the Ephesian elders, Paul told that he had testified to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,”  Acts 20:21.

“Repentance toward God.”

Too many people have the idea that we’re already the children of God and He is our Father.  He is indeed our Creator and in Him we live and move and have our being,” Acts 17:28, but we are not little children wandering from the side of a loving Father.  We are traitors and rebels against the God of Heaven and would dethrone Him if we could.  Granted, there are different degrees of rebellion, but it is still true that we all go astray.  Isaiah 53:11 says, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.  While that verse refers directly to Israel’s repentance at the Return of our Lord, Romans 3:23 says, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

We have to do with God.  “Sin” is not defined by the latest social or cultural ideas.  It isn’t determined by “social justice warriors.”  Those who can riot and cause the most damage or kill the most people have nothing to say about it.  Indeed, such ideas lead only to the filth, violence and perversion we see engulfing our world and our cultures.

To “repent” means to change our mind so that we agree with and obey God, not this world or our own sinful inclinations.  It doesn’t mean just to be “sorry” for our sins, which too often just means that we’re sorry about the results of our sin.  It doesn’t mean just to “show remorse” at our sins, which just usually means that we got caught.  It means to reject our sins, to view them as God views them: as terrible, heinous things deserving of judgment and punishment and ourselves as wicked felons for doing such things and having pleasure in them.

Even the most decent and moral among us have “fallen short” in this matter.  Too often we judge ourselves by seeing someone worse that we are.  But that person isn’t the standard.  God’s Law is.  The Lord Jesus is the human example of what that looks like.

We have sinned, we have “fallen short.”  This brings us to the second thing our Lord mentioned:

2). remission of sin.

In the words of Paul, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

He didn’t come to this world just to give us a reason to give each other presents or to dye eggs.  He came into this world to be a substitute, to be a sacrifice.

He came to take care of our sins.

That is why He lived and died:

to save His people from their sins.

It took the death of the incarnate God to pay for sin.  Money can’t do it.  Our “good works” can’t do it.  A few “Hail Marys” or “Our Fathers” can’t do anything about our sins.  Indeed such things, the good works or trying to “bribe” God in some way, only add to our sin.  No “priest,” no human effort or idea, can cause “remission of sin.”  There is nothing and no one in this world that can forgive sin.  Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, even the very best we could possibly do is sin.  Apart from Him, there is no hope, no salvation.  He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6.

And “to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” isn’t some physical thing: walking an aisle, “saying a prayer,” “raising a hand for salvation.”  It isn’t baptism or communion.  It isn’t about some ritual or ceremony.

It is to have a “death grip,” as it were, on Him as the Only One who can rescue us from our sin.

4. John 20:21-23, The Means Given to the Churches.

a. His promise, v. 21.

The Lord is not saying that He is sending out His disciples in the same way that the Father sent Him.  There are two words translated “send” in this verse.   The word translated “send” as it pertains to the disciples is more general than the other word.  Some translate the verse so as to indicate that even though the disciples are being sent out, it is still the Lord who is responsible for their mission.  This is a great blessing.  We have enough on our plates to think about without having to worry, as some think, about the results of our faithfulness.  It is the Lord’s mission and it will accomplish what He wants it to, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6-8.

b. His power, vs. 22, 23.

Many think that the disciples didn’t receive the Spirit until the Day of Pentecost.  However, John indicates that they received Him here.  They received the power of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Verse 23 presents a great difficulty.  The KJV and some other translations seem to indicate that the loosing and remitting of sin is done by the disciples.  A more correct translation indicates that these actions have already been done, and the disciples, through the Holy Spirit, are merely confirming what has already taken place, as people either receive or reject the message.

This is solemn.  It is time to quit “playing church.”  We are dealing with eternity-bound men and women.  We are eternity-bound men and women.  How little do we really act as if we realize that we will soon stand before God and give an account of our lives.  The Word of God is all that really matters in this sin-cursed world.  Only the Lord Jesus is able to make “life” what it’s supposed to be.

Hebrews 2:2-4: God Spoke! Listen Up!

In our last post, we began to look at Hebrews 2:1-4, though we focused on v. 1.  We said that Christianity is not what man or society says it is, it’s what God says it is.  It’s not about politics, though our Christianity should inform our politics.  God is not a Republican.  Or a Democrat.  He is not responsible to them; they are responsible to Him, though few seem to know that.  Nor is it what some smooth-talking preacher on TV says it is.  It has nothing to do with health or wealth or wonderful relationships; these may or may not be our lot, but they’re not the focus.  And it most certainly is not about the preacher!   Christianity is about sin and redemption, again not as defined by man, but by God.

Since Christianity is supposed to be motivated and guided by the Word of God and not the latest opinion polls or social views, we said that there were three things we are warned to do with regard to that Word:  heed it, hear it and hold onto it.  We need to heed it, that is, do what it says.  We need to hear it, that is, to let it take firm root in our hearts and lives.  We need to hold onto it, not drift away from it or let it “leak” out of our hearts and minds as we focus on making a living or a difference or whatever.

In the last post, we said there were two things in this portion of Scripture.  We looked at the first one last time.  We want to look at the second one today.

2.  A Three-fold Witness to the Word, 2:3-4.

 a.  The Son, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, v. 3.

“…began to be spoken by the Lord.”  Some people take us back to Moses and the Old Testament and tell us that the church is simply the continuation, in a spiritual sense, of the nation of Israel.  And so they try to fit the New Testament believer into an Old Testament mold.

God indeed spoke to and through Moses and to Israel, but the Lord Jesus spoke a further word.  Moses was to and did lead the nation of Israel, but, while Himself speaking to Israel, the Lord had a wider audience in mind.  In John 10:16, He said, “…other sheep I have which are not of this fold [that is, of Israel], them also I must bring….” 

The folks mentioned in the first paragraph tell us that God is done with the nation of Israel, and that “the church” has taken over her blessings and promises.  Of course, the curses and judgments are still Israel’s, though I don’t know that I’ve ever read or heard a Reformed teacher actually say that.  But it stands to reason, doesn’t it?  If we inherit her blessings, why not her curses?  After all, we took her place.  Or so we’re told.

Then there are some who tell us that the church is “Plan B.”  That when Israel rejected and crucified her Messiah, God, in effect, said, “Oops,” and put another plan into place.

I think both viewpoints are wrong.

The church isn’t the replacement for a failed Israel.  The church isn’t some alternative to Israel because she rejected her Messiah.  The church is not some Plan B, but, if you will, Part B in the great work of the redemption of sinful men and women.  Though intimated in the Old Testament, the church was a “mystery” to that time.  In other words, she wasn’t revealed to or in the Old Testament.  Hers is a New Testament teaching.

As an example of this “intimation,” see Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17.  In Matthew, our Lord asked a bunch of unbelieving priests and scribes, “Have you never read in the Scriptures [that is, the Old Testament], ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  The “Scripture” He quoted is from Psalm 118:22, 23.  Mark and Luke also record this conversation.  It isn’t until the writing of Paul, in Ephesians 2:20, that we learn that this “chief cornerstone” is the Lord Jesus and that He is the chief cornerstone of the church, from which every other stone in the building takes its place.  In that verse, and writing to the Ephesian believers, he said that they had been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets [not Moses and the prophets – that is, not the OT], Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

The Psalmist foretold the rejection of the Messiah.  So did other Scriptures, like Isaiah 53:5-11.  The rejection did not catch God by surprise.  Indeed, it was because of that rejection that the way has been laid for the ultimate restoration of Israel to her Messiah.  Israel has been set aside, yes, but only for the time being, Micah 5:3.  Her rejection is neither final nor permanent.

“At the first,” Jesus began to speak.  Luke carries this thought forward in Acts 1:1, where he refers to all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. His ministry was only the beginning….

b.  and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, that is, the original Apostles and other disciples, who had seen and experienced the ministry and teaching of the Lord. Our Lord intended that the work should go forward. That is why He gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.  That is why He called Saul on the Damascus Road.  That is why we have the New Testament.  And from that time to this, believers have carried on the work, often through rivers of their own blood.  What’s happening in the world today with the persecution of Christians is nothing new.

But the early believers weren’t out there on their own….

c. God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will. 

Our Lord Himself promised this before He left the disciples.  In Acts 1:4-8, He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who would enable them for the task Jesus had appointed to them, namely their evangelizing where they were and eventually spreading everywhere else.

There’s a lot of discussion about this event in the lives of the disciples.  While I don’t feel this is the place to join that discussion in depth, let me just say this:  the emphasis in Acts 1 is not on the Spirit’s presence, but on His power, and God’s purpose in giving it.  That purpose is that the disciples were to witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who He was and what He did.

Our Lord had an earlier word about this, as well.  While teaching His disciples about the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit, He said in John 16:14, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine, and declare it to you.”   In the original language, the order is a little different:  “Me He will glorify….” (emphasis added).

The ministry of the Spirit isn’t about His gifts and who has what.  It isn’t about physical “healing.”  God may be pleased to do that, but I know saints who have been afflicted all their lives.  And that isn’t because they “don’t have enough faith.”  It takes a great deal more grace and faith to serve God through pain and suffering than it does when all is going well….  Doesn’t it?   It’s isn’t about glorifying some preacher or teacher; there are no “personalities” in the service of the Lord.  It isn’t about emphasizing the Spirit, as some ministries do.  It’s about focusing on the Lord Jesus.  There is salvation in Him alone, and no other.

The Sabbath and The Sacrifice

This is the final post in our series on “The Sabbath.”  In the preceding posts, we’ve traced the Sabbath from it’s beginning in God’s creation rest, through it’s inclusion in the Mosaic Covenant God made with Israel to remind them continually of their rescue from Egyptian slavery and their singular privilege as God’s people, through their dismal record of disobedience to it, ending with the Lord Jesus’ absolute honoring of it.  This, however, as we saw in the 12 incidents that the Gospels record, wasn’t in accord with what the religious leaders taught, but according to His own deity and authority.  Since the Lord ministered for more than three years, these 12 occurrences are just a drop in the bucket compared to what must have happened dozens of time, indeed, probably every Sabbath.

There are those who stop right there and say, “All right.  Since the Lord kept the Sabbath, we have to keep it as well.”  However, Scripture doesn’t end with the Crucifixion or even the Resurrection.  Luke refers to all that Jesus began to do and teach, Acts 1:1.  Though absent physically from His people, He is still active through the Spirit in His people.  However, this activity is in agreement with the Word of God as it was revealed to and through the first two generations of the church.  There is no new revelation, nor has there been since the giving of the last book of the New Testament, the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

So what does the rest of the New Testament have to say about the Sabbath?  You might be surprised.

There are 109 references to the Sabbath, by name, in the Old Testament.  There are 50 references in the Gospels.  That’s 159 references total.

In the rest of the New Testament, starting with the Book of Acts, there are –

10….

Ten.

Nine of those are in Acts.

Acts 1:12 tells of the disciples returning to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, where the Lord Jesus had just left them, returning to heaven, but giving them  their last instructions before doing so.  The “Sabbath day’s journey” was the distance the Rabbis had decided was the distance someone could travel on the Sabbath without breaking it. Perhaps based on their interpretation of Exodus 16:29 and Numbers 35:5, this was said to be 2000 cubits, or 3000 feet, about 3/5 of a mile.

The four references in Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44 refer to about two weeks of Paul’s ministry in Antioch of Pisidia.  In v. 14, he and his party visited the Synagogue on the Sabbath and were given the opportunity to “exhort” the people, v. 15.  Vs. 16-41 give us Paul’s remarks to the people there, a wonderful summary of Israel’s history, finishing with David and God’s promise of a Savior coming from his line, vs. 23.  Then there’s the application to the Lord Jesus as the fulfillment of that promise, through His crucifying as fulfillment of prophecies read every Sabbath in synagogues, but not understood by those reading or hearing them.  Also promised, Jesus rose from the dead, as witnessed by his disciples, v. 31.  Paul closed with a warning to heed what he was saying.

As a result of his teaching, v. 42, the Gentiles begged to hear more the next Sabbath.  A lot of people followed Paul and Barnabas after the service, and they encouraged these people to continue in the grace of God, v. 43.  The next week, nearly the whole city turned out to hear Paul.  This aroused the enmity of the Jews, and they chased Paul out of the city.

Acts 15:21 is part of the account of the Jerusalem Council given in Acts 15, which convened as a result of opposition to Paul’s teaching by those who insisted that Gentile converts had to be circumcised according to the custom of Moses, without which you cannot be saved, v. 1, and to command them to keep the law of Moses, v. 5.

Peter answered these assertions by pointing out that Gentiles had been saved through his ministry without the necessity of becoming or acting like Jews.  This referred to the salvation of Cornelius, his family and friends, Acts 10.  By the way, Acts 10 also has something to say to those who insist that one can’t be saved without baptism.

Note carefully the decision of the council in Acts 15:24-29.  First, they had never sent out anyone insisting that keeping the Law was necessary for salvation.  What the Holy Spirit and they did want for Gentile converts were that they abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, vs. 28, 29. Not a single reference to keeping the Sabbath for these Gentile believers.

Acts 16:13 tells of Paul’s meeting in Philippi with Lydia and other women.

Acts 17:2 tells us of the three Sabbath Paul spent in a synagogue in Thessalonica, reasoning from the Scriptures, and seeking to persuade them that this Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ, that is, the Messiah.  Notice that Paul reasoned FROM the Scriptures.  There a lot of people who try to reason TO the Scriptures, that is, they think that if you can present enough “evidence,” people will receive Christ.  However, the Pharisees had all the “evidence” in the world about the Lord Jesus, but, with very few exceptions, all of them rejected Him.  The same is true of the Sadducees and Herodians, though there is no record of any of these ever being saved.

Acts 18:4 tells us of a man named Aquila, who reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

With the exception of Acts 16:13, these accounts all concern Jews and their required observance of the Sabbath.  But even in Philippi, I think we see Jewish influence because these women gathered together on the Sabbath.  Evidently there was no synagogue, which by Jewish law required ten men to start.

Peter and Paul and the others went to synagogue because they were Jews, yes, but also that they might witness through the prophets the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no evidence anywhere in Scripture that Gentiles were or are required to observe the Sabbath.  Many Gentiles did go to the synagogue because it was through the Jewish nation that one came to God.  However, as soon as opposition arose, the Gentiles and those Jews who believed Paul and the others separated themselves.

We mentioned the Holy Spirit.  Since we believe that the New Testament writings were inspired in their giving by the Holy Spirit, what does He have to say in the rest of the New Testament about the the Sabbath?

In the twenty-two remaining books of the NT, Romans – Revelation, containing about 3,146 verses, there is –

1 verse –

one-

which mentions the Sabbath.  That verse is,

Colossians 2:16, So let no man judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths. 

Not a ringing endorsement of Sabbath-keeping.  Instead of being concerned that these believers weren’t observing the Sabbath, he worries that they were.  This verse is the conclusion of a section in which Paul tells us that Christ supercedes Moses, that it is through His death on the Cross that we’ve been made alive spiritually, not through keeping the rituals and requirements of Moses.  The writer of Hebrews makes the same point.

Hebrews was apparently written to Jews who were being tempted, perhaps by persecution and hardship, to return to their old way of doing things, that is, to the Temple worship and sacrifices.  Hebrews is a book of warning against doing that.  The theme of the book may be summarized by Colossians 1:18, that in all things He might have the preeminence.  In the first three chapters, the writer compares and contrasts the Lord Jesus with the Old Testament prophets, with angels and to Moses and Aaron.  In view of this superiority, the writer warns against “drifting away,” that is, not holding fast to His words, because He is God, but being influenced by the things they were experiencing.  Faithfulness in following the Lord Jesus is the evidence we are truly His, not legalism or formal ritualism.

Then, in 3:7-16, the writer turns to a familiar OT story, the failure of Israel to enter the land and the consequent 38 years wandering in the wilderness.  Because of their rebellion, God said, “They shall not enter My rest.”  See also 4:3.

It might be objected that the writer never refers to the Sabbath as such.  That’s true.  But Israel never achieved the “rest” the Sabbath foreshadowed.  They never achieved the completion, the “success,” if you will, of God’s creation rest.  In the wilderness, in the land, out of the land, returning to the land, being defeated as a nation in AD 70, spending centuries scattered among the nations, being recognized again as a nation in 1948, fighting with her enemies now in 2014 – Israel has never achieved that state of peace and perfection typified in the perfection and completion of creation.  They have never entered that rest.  Indeed, dark, dark days are ahead for her, Zechariah 14:1, 2.

Furthermore, as part of the Mosaic Law, the Sabbath was a only a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, Hebrews 10:1.  Though it was called “a rest,” it was always only temporary;  Israel always had to go “back to work.” They could never “cease” because they were never done.  Though they offered sacrifices for centuries, they never achieved the righteousness which would have allowed them to “be done”.  Redemption was never achieved.

In contrast, the writer speaks of the ONE sacrifice of the Lord Jesus by which sin was purged, 1:3.  No other sacrifice is needed. Sin has been paid for, redemption has been accomplished.  In contrast to Israel, the writer says that we who have believed do enter that rest, 4:3.   There is a rest for the people of God, 4:9.  Hebrews 4:8-10 tells us that our “rest” isn’t found in a day of the week, but in a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mark 16:9 tells us that Jesus rose early on the first day of the week.  John 20:19, that same first day of the week, Jesus appeared to the eleven as they huddled in fear in a closed room with a locked door.  Acts 20:7 tells us that the disciples came together to break bread, that is, to observe the Lord’s Supper, not just to “fellowship.”  In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul refers to the first day of the week as the time to prepare for a certain offering which was to be taken up.  The disciples met together on Sunday because that is the day the Lord Jesus arose, not because of some church edict.

Beyond these few references, there is no emphasis on a particular day of the week.  I believe that, if necessary, believers could decide to meet together on a Thursday morning at 3 AM and still please God with their worship.  It’s not a DAY, but a DEATH that brings us to God.

Those who worship on the Sabbath in effect say that redemption has still to be accomplished, sin has still to be paid for, God’s justice has still to be satisfied.  But redemption has been accomplished, sin has been paid for, God’s justice has been satisfied.

There is much more that could be said on all the subject we’ve written about in this series.  We hope that what we have written at least gives you something to think about.

He is not here,” said the angel on that first day of the week, “He is risen!”

That’s why we meet on Sunday.

The Sabbath has been realized.