Friday, September 15, 2017

Peresecution is a Blessing!


At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. (Acts 8:1-3)

It’s interesting the Stephens’ witness in death lead to a great persecution. Yet let us not believe that Holy witness always leads to persecution.
God brings about persecution for his purposes. Our responsibility is obedience to the spirit without particular regard for our circumstances. We may indeed be placed in a hard place, but it is to the glory of God.
Years ago when I was a student at MBI, Mr. Hanna was my teacher for the book of Acts. And one of the points made was how the book was structured geographically. First in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and lastly to the end of the Earth – all based on Acts 1:8.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Acts 8:1 is the first point of transition from one geographic sphere to the next. And what grows this change?
Persecution.
It was God's plan from the beginning to have the church as witnesses in ever-increasing geographic circles – But in Acts 1:8 we are not told any means except the Holy Spirit. Now we see external means of another sort. Persecution of the church – spreads influence and also cleanses the church from false pretenders and bad doctrine.
Persecution is not bad - it may be intended as bad by the persecutor (Gen. 50:20), but God uses such for his purposes. Romans 8:28 is not simply a platitude, its reality!
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
It's a great blessing to remember Joseph, Job, Daniel, and all the rest who suffered for their trust in the all-powerful God! Just as they also trusted God, so ought we! God indeed means all things are for us if we are the called. And while all people encounter some difficulty in this life – it is the believer who can rightly esteem God’s intent, even when we do not know that intent. How so?
We know the One whose intentions are true and good and right. His intentions do not simply hang like a hopeful expectation – but rather God is able to make the outcome, exactly what he desires, using means that we cannot now see. But we who know our God – and who are known by him can have a hope that will not disappoint! (Rom. 5:5; Heb. 11:1)
There is a great cloud of witnesses in heaven who surround us to remind us to stand fast! (Heb. 12:1-2) See and remember their struggles and when you are troubled on every side – pressed down to the dust, recall we are not alone!
Read II Corinthians 4:8-18, Hebrews 11, Genesis 37-50. Be encouraged Brothers and Sisters! We have a great High Priest who is familiar with our weaknesses and cares for us! (II Cor. 4:9-11; Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Pet. 5:7)
Can I encourage you, who do not know the Lord to call upon Him? He says that “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37)
Amen

Monday, September 11, 2017

Imprisoned and Beaten for the Lord!


Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” (Acts 5:17-19)

Imprisoned for the Lord!  Would I be willing to be imprisoned for my faith? Have I ever been so obedient as to find myself under scrutiny? Have you ever asked this of yourself? Why not?

The high priest was filled with indignation. I am sure it was a righteous indignation he felt, but this is only due to his being convinced that he was the authority, and had commanded them ‘not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus’ (Acts 4:18).

Yet the highest authority – God – had not even been considered by this high priest. So in his indignation he arrests them and puts them in the common prison.

Let us remember that those in high places may not have yet have been humbled by the mighty hand of our God. And though we are mistreated or unrighteously held – the true authority could, as he did in verses 19-20, release us at will.  (Cf. Dan. 3:16-18)

We should not take personally the mistreatment of those of the world – but considering where we were before and apart from Christ, be tender hearted. If it is a great burden to bear – let us remember the Lord Jesus Christ bore a greater burden for us, and he did this while we were in rebellion (Rom. 5:8)

And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5:40-42)

Beaten, but they rejoiced!  Upon Gamaliel’s advice they had them beaten and threatened them once again. Yet they considered it a blessing to be counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. In this politicized polemical world – far too many live in the pride of ego and argumentation. How can a man whose value is from his ego or his great ability to debate rejoice when he is beaten? He cannot! He fires back again and again. What did the apostles do? They did not argue – they obeyed the teaching received – they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Ultimately man can do only so much to us. We read in Luke 12:4-5 that ‘we ought to fear him who has the power, after he has killed to cast into hell – Fear Him!

The patience of our God is all too often mistaken for approval of sin or apathy for it. Yet God does not approve of or ignore sin! One look at the cross and we see the Savior of the world was cursed for our sins (Isa. 53:5).  
My Friends – if God is willing to punish sin on the cross of shame, even to his own son – this tells us how much he hates it. Sin is so bad!!! But God demonstrates not only his love for us in the cross (Rom. 5:8) but also his justice for our sin!

We ought to be willing to be beaten and suffer loss for our faith in Christ to save… but are we? In addition – is our willingness due to love for the savior or because we seek to bribe God with a ‘good deed’? Love must be our highest motive!!!

Amen

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Spiritual House

(This message was preached at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 8/2/2017: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=82172217103)

THESIS: Jesus deliberately chose very ordinary, even petty men – to do very extraordinary things and he continues to use plain men and women for His glory!

This evening we’ll be considering Mark 3:13-19

And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. 14 Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: 16 Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”; 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; 19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house.[1]

This is one of 4 lists of the 12, later called apostles. Matthew has a list, Luke and Acts each have a list. John alone is the only gospel account with no list. In addition, depending on your translation, you may also see a phrase ‘whom he also called Apostles’ in the text. This phrase is not represented in the KJV, or the NKJV, or even the NASB, but it is in the ESV and the HCSB. Since it is not a disputed matter – the 12 certainly were apostles, and Luke’s account invariably includes the phrase – so I will not even be considering this minor textual variant. I just wanted to address it, so that you are aware of it. And I know this is an elementary question, but we have to ask – Why do we even have the lists in the first place? What benefit is it to us to know who those men were? Why does Mark include an apostolic roll? How does it further his goal to show Christ as a suffering servant?

As we consider these verses, let me point out that no matter which list you look at Peter is listed first, Philip is listed fifth, James son of Alphaeus (aka James the less) is listed ninth, and Judas Iscariot is listed last. This is likely due to the Lords grouping them in 3 groups of 4 men. This would probably indicate Peter, Philip, and James son of Alphaeus were each one chief among their respective group. Each list is slightly different in order, showing that one writer did not copy from the other. Even the two lists by Luke are different in order, but they all agree in Peter, Philip, James, and Judas.

I’d like for us to consider each of these men individually.  Let’s see what kind of people these disciples, now called to be Apostles were.

1.      Simon, to whom He called Peter: We know that Peter means rock – or we might say, a stone or even a pebble. Think of these men as foundation stones. Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. Simon being the first called became the first among equals. And think how rocks need to be smoothed out at the quarry before they are of any use. Peter certainly needed Christ to chisel off his rough edges. We might ask ourselves, what kind of rough edges is the Lord working to smooth off us?

2.      James and John: We will consider these men together, since they are brothers and have the distinction of being known as ‘Sons of Thunder’. Probably the term Boanerges is better understood as a loud vociferous preacher.[2] (the verb βοα (boa), meaning to shout or cry, the word ενεργεια (energeia), meaning activity or operation). John was a follower of John the Baptizer.  We are quite familiar with John – The author of the beloved 4th Gospel, 3 epistles and the enigmatic Book of Revelation. Today we think of John as the Apostle of love addressing in his epistles his ‘beloved’ brethren…But he was not always considered loveable. He and his brother had asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans of a certain village because they would not receive them (Luke 9:51-56). And what do we know of James?

Less than we sometimes think. There are 3 James’ in the New Testament. In verse 17, the brother of John, was one of the Sons of Zebedee. James the less, son of Alphaeus who we read of in verse 18 – another of the 12, and James the half-brother of Christ, who wrote the epistle of James. As for John’s brother James, he had a short ministry. In Acts 12 we read that Herod the king had him put to death by the sword. He was not the 1st martyr, but was the 1st of the Apostles to be martyred. John, on the other hand outlived the rest of them all and for a time was exiled to the island of Patmos working in the mines.[3] He was the only one of the Apostles not to die a martyr’s death. Yet they did try to kill him, they boiled him in oil & poisoned him, both ineffectively; he died a very old man in Ephesus. There is a church tradition, which says, that when John was evidently an old man in Ephesus, he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples.  At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, “Little children, love one another!”  After a time, the disciples wearied at always hearing the same words, asked, “Master, why do you always say this?” “It is the Lord's command,” was his reply. “And if this alone be done, it is enough!” Just to add to the possible confusion, James, the brother of Jesus was also called an apostle in Gal. 1:19, but he was not one of the 12.

4.      Andrew was the brother of Peter and also originally a follower of John the Baptizer. He evangelized his brother Peter as we read in John chapter 1. Andrew is also the one who brought the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish to Christ.

5.      Philip is one of those easiest to be confused. If you recall, in Acts there was also a Philip who was one of the 7 deacons chosen. This deacon was known as the evangelist, and seems to me to have a greater ministry than the Apostle! Philip the Apostle is the one who asked Jesus to ‘show us the Father’ in John 14. But he is an Apostle and in the list in the fifth position – which is has some significance.

6.      Bartholomew is not listed anywhere outside the gospels. Some think he is also known as Nathaniel especially since Bartholomew means ‘son of Talmai’. John Henry Burn states, “St. John always couples Nathanael, as the other Evangelists do Bartholomew, with Philip; and while they never mention Nathanael, he never mentions Bartholomew, but speaks of Nathanael instead.”[4]

7.      Matthew we also know as Levi the tax collector. It is likely he is brother to James the Less – but this is not certain.[5]

8.      Thomas has the distinction of being one of whom we immediately think of as ‘doubting Thomas’ since he did not at the first believe the Lord had risen. He is also called the twin (didymus).

9.      James (son of Alphaeus) aka the Less. May be the brother of Matthew, or not. He seems to be the leader of the 3rd group of four apostles.

10.                              Thaddaeus is also known as Judas (son of James). Edersheim says, “James is designated by St. Matthew as Lebbæus, from Lebh, a heart, and is also named Thaddæus, a term which we would derive from Thodah, praise. In that case both Lebbæus and Thaddæus would point to the heartiness and the thanksgiving of the apostle, and hence to his character. St. Luke simply designates him Judas of James, i.e. the brother (less probably, son) of James. Thus his real name would have been Judas Lebbæus, and his surname Thaddæus.”[6]

11.                              Simon the Cananaean is not from Canaan as you might think, but more likely Cana where water was made wine.  He is also known as the Zealot, and the reference to Cana may actually be a reference to his affiliation as a Zealot. The Zealots were religious extremists who desired the overthrow of Rome.

12.                              Judas Iscariot is possibly the Apostle of greatest notoriety. Judas Iscariot was the only apostle NOT from Galilee. His surname is given as Iscariot (Mk 3:19), which probably means “the man from the place called Karioth.”[7] He was apparently the only one of the 12 from Judea.

Thus ends our brief evaluation of the men who became the 12 Apostles. Walter Wessel in the Expositors Bible Commentary states, “Four were fishermen. One a hated tax collector, another a member of a radical and violent political party. Of six of them we know practically nothing. All were laymen. There was not a preacher or an expert in the Scriptures in the lot. Yet it was with these men that Jesus established his church and disseminated his Good News to the end of the earth.”[8] All but one died a martyr’s death.

Another commentator writes, “It was amazing that Simon the Zealot and Levi the tax collector were part of the same family of followers of Jesus. They were miles apart in their political convictions (Barbieri, Mark, p. 85). As a tax collector, Levi was accustomed to Roman rule and in fact profited from it while the Zealots wanted nothing to do with the Romans.”[9]

A word about Disciples vs. Apostles. Disciples are not all Apostles.  A disciple could be a woman, such as Mary who sat at the feet of Christ while Martha served.  All the Apostles were disciples.  Luke 6:13 puts it this way, “And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.”

So now, having examined the men let me remind you of the earlier questions. Why do we even have the lists in the first place? What benefit is it to us to know who those men were? Did you notice how confusing the information was? I suspect that some of you are still a bit confused, but I won’t reiterate the list. I even put together a spreadsheet to try and keep track of the names, the order, and other information. Even after a number of weeks of reviewing many commentaries, it is very apparent that these men are NOT well known and I will not claim to have more than the smallest bit of knowledge about them.

One thing which was pointed out in more than one commentary, the fact of the 4 lists having such variety in order and what name was chosen to be put in the list points to the veracity of the accounts. If this was a scripted or polished list – wouldn’t they all have had the exact same order and specificity? Only if this was a list comprised late. Instead, the variation points out the very truth of the accounts!

Instead what we have are 3 individual writers, seeking to present to us the names of the men who were chief among Christ’s followers, and who became apostles. Why? Because they were largely unknown! Though we may get them confused, one with another, we know them, at least in name. And that is the very point. We know something about Peter, James, and John. We know Andrew was Peters’ brother. But tell me – what was Andrews’ ministry? Do we have a book of Andrew? What kind of man was he?

Or Philip? We far too often confuse him with the Evangelist of Acts – but that Philip was a deacon. You see how plain and ordinary these men were? These lists of unknown men who were foundation stones of the Church! Listen to how Paul puts it:

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.[10]

 

We know so little about these men, because they were magnifying God first. Look at the first portion of the text we are expositing. And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. 14 Then He appointed 12, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons. The reason Christ chose these men had nothing to do with their credentials. He called to himself those He Himself wanted. This is a very emphatic statement. In Christ’s High priestly prayer we read, I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me.[11] This is how Christ leads out in this great prayer for the Apostles, and towards the end, for us who believe in their witness. They were men of no value humanly speaking. This is why we read of the authority given them to heal and cast out demons. These men were nobodies so that God would get the glory.

In verse 15 we read that they were to have power to heal and cast out demons.  Some of you may have the word authority here instead of power. That is a much better translation choice for today. Power is a word often associated with the ability to do something of my own strength. We live in a very paganized world today – video games and Dungeons & Dragons have so warped the minds of our youth that many of them cannot even think outside of that world. Several years ago at a friends’ home I ran across this in a vivid way. A young man who was trying to talk to us of Spiritual matters. He was spiritually minded, but just not at all Biblically minded. 

 I heard him say certain things that were to me, red flags. “So when I see these unholy spirits” he said, “I ask God for power to overcome them?”  My response was to tell him that is exactly the wrong thing to do.  No! We do not treat God like our genie in the bottle, or a good luck charm that we hold up to ward off the devil.  He is not to be conjured up, to be used by someone claiming against Him with magic words. Another time, because we were extremely focused on the words of a certain passage he began to say, “So I pray the words of God against them and...” I cried out , “NO!  You call on God's Word, not ‘words of God’ as though these were the words of power or magic.  We do not in our own strength stand.

The authority to heal and cast out demons is not a power which they held – but rather a fact that points to God. He gives authority and takes it away. An example of this is Acts 5:12 where we read that ‘through the hands of the Apostles many signs and wonders were done.’

But let me remind you that before it is written of the authority to heal and cast out demons, Christ chose these men that they might be with him and that He might send them out to preach. The authority to heal was only to support or validate the ministry of preaching and teaching to which they would be sent. (Heb. 2:4)

The power of the message was tied to the relationship he had with Christ. And folks – that is still the truth today. If I, or any other man step into this pulpit without an active vital communion with the living Lord – whatever is spoken will be at best empty words. If my message has no unction it may be because I have not the closeness to the Lord I ought to have. And the same goes for each of us.

Recall for a moment how disciples and Apostles were different. All Apostles are disciples – learners or students of the Rabbi. Yet the Apostles did not take in only – they were also to give. That is the difference. And while Apostles are a special class – the 12 being the foundation stones, there is a very real sense that we as believers are also sent ones – ambassadors if you will (2 Cor. 5:20) And though our message is not authenticated by signs and wonders – It has the veracity of the very Word of God behind it – as long as we ourselves hold fast the word of truth (1 Cor. 15:2, Heb. 10:23)

And listen to the richness of the analogy. Christ is the cornerstone. The Apostles are the foundations stones. We are the living stones Peter tells us in 1 Pet. 2:5. We are building a spiritual house.

Of all the Apostles, the one we know the most about, Paul – is not even named in the 4 different lists. These days the Apostle Paul has fallen out of favor, primarily due to the dislike of Pauline theology and the new perspective on Paul. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says of Paul that he was perhaps the greatest mind that lived in New Testament times. Indeed, some call him one of the 100 most influential men of the whole world.

For all this, note how Paul puts himself down – he only boasts in his learning, in order to give a defense of his apostleship. Yet he places a greater stock in his children. Listen to how he puts it writing to the Corinthians:

Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.[12] In Philippian’s we read, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death[13]

Even the great apostle himself makes his relationship to Christ his only hope! His great learning with Gamaliel – nothing but garbage. Whatever he might have once thought to boast in – worthless. Because it is not the man – but the relationship the man has to the Lord which marks him and makes him a living stone in the spiritual house.

One last thing – why didn’t John include a list? It was clearly important to the early church, and yet John completely omits this significant grouping of men. I can’t be authoritative in this, but consider when he wrote his gospel account. In the mid 90’s of the 1st century – long after the other gospels and Acts were written – and long after the majority of the apostles, including Peter & Paul were martyred. I think John knew that their blood became to some extent a seal of their testimony so they no longer needed to be listed. We read in the Revelation of a great war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the devil and his demons. In this context John writes, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.[14]” Even in the angelic world – it is the blood of our dear Savior and the Word of God which prevails.

The thesis of this message is that Jesus deliberately chose very ordinary, even petty men – to do very extraordinary things and he continues to use plain men and women for His glory. That includes you and I. We have a calling each and every one of us. The so-called great commission isn’t a missionary call – it’s the call of everyone who is a blood bought believer.  Go – Make disciples – teaching them whatever he commanded us.  

These men gave of their lives by the strength of the Lord. Their relationship to Him gave them the strength to press on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ. We have their foundation – that is to say the very New Testament itself to stand upon as He uses us to build his Church. In Him we become part of the Church standing against Satan himself! The gates of hell will not prevail!

Church tradition gives us a little to read on how these men died. Listen to how they each loved not their life to the death: [Read the martyrdoms]

He is coming again folks – who have you taught?

Amen.




[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 3:13–19.
[3] Patmos was used by the Romans as a place to banish criminals, who were forced to work at hard labor in the mines and quarries of the island. (Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995).)
[4] John Henry Burn, Mark, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York; London; Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892), 106.
[6] John Henry Burn, Mark, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York; London; Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892), 104.
[7] Karioth (Kerioth) is identified either with Kerioth Hezron (Josh 15:25), twelve miles south of Hebron, or with Kerioth in Moab (Jer 48:24) Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 643.
[8] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 643.
[9] Rodney L. Cooper, Mark, vol. 2, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 52.
[10] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Co 1:26–29.
[11] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 17:6.
[12] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Co 9:1–2.
[13] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Php 3:7–10.
[14] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Re 12:11.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Controversies - An Autobiography of William F. Luck

I met Bill sometime about 1998 or 99 at a Bible study of the Gospel of John held at a downtown Chicago law firm.  I was a recent graduate of Moody Bible Institute ('96) and had heard he was a former teacher.  I never had him as a teacher at Moody but did take numerous classes with friends of his (Paul Haik, Paul Nevin, John Walton, Tom Cornman).

Recently I have been discovering his books, and this one in particular was of interest - as all biographies are to me.  Having read Controversies - let me say at the outset, THIS is the book to read to get a handle on this rather interesting and complex man!  He has written more than 20 other books, and this book puts them all in context with history and helps you to see how it is that Bill, for example, took on the very challenging topic of Divorce and Remarriage in the late 70's. 

If you like to get a historical feel on the theological debates and discussions of the 70's through the 90's you will get that here!  Many of his contemporaries are given a new light as we read how they interacted with Bill, and others.  Oftentimes we only see men in light of the conclusive books they have written, but we do not get an inside look as to how they came to writing and why they ended up believing as they do.  Controversies will put such men as G. Coleman Luck (Bill's father), Coleman Luck, Jr (Writer of numerous TV series in the 90’s and Bill’s older brother), Paul Feinberg, Greg Bahnsen, Lou Goldberg of MBI, Robert Van Kampen, Irwin Lutzer, Norm Geisler, Paul Little, Clark Pinnock, Walter Kaiser, Thomas Parker, Bruce Rigdon, Mark Cosgrove, Jim Williams, John Buell, J. P. Moreland, Lou Barbiari, Gary Freisen, Bill Bright, Bill Gothard, Robert Gundry, Stan Gundry, Alan Johnson, in a new light (not necessarily a bad light!).

Remember "Hampden DuBose" (https://www.hampdenduboseacademy.com ) boarding school?  Read Bill's account of his time there! Ever wonder what it might be like to be a conservative in a liberal seminary?  Wonder no more as Bill takes you in depth through his years at McCormick Seminary ('73-4).  Want to wade into some deep Ethical debates, but not so deep that you'll drown?  Bill takes you there and makes the trip worthwhile.  You may not agree with him, but you will certainly appreciate his authenticity in the discussion. 

I do wholeheartedly commend to you Bill's autobiography, Controversies.  And after that, you will know which of his many books to consider next!  https://www.amazon.com/William-F.-Luck-Sr./e/B00WYR8UE0

'Uncle' Dave Cox

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Our Great Physician!

(This message was preached at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 6-7-17: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=67172129105 )

THESIS: The work of Christ in healing many in such a vast crowd ought to point us to the greatest of the works of Christ – Salvation to our souls!

This evening we’ll again be considering Mark 3:7-12

But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.[1]

This passage could become rather ordinary.  What do we see here?  A crowd of people.  Jesus healing them. Mark is speaking in generalities – let’s not get lost in them.  Sometimes we get to thinking like this.  But there is far more here, when you look closely at the text, and consider the time, the crowd, and the places mentioned.  When we consider the work of Jesus, in light of the crowd, and in light of our own selves – 2000 years removed from the occasion – we will see once again, that we have a faithful compassionate and considerate heavenly Father.

Let’s set the stage – what do we really have here?  Jesus withdrew to the sea.  This is probably the Sea of Galilee.  The sea provides a natural barrier against which large crowds could not cross, literally ‘crowd control’.  I avoid crowded places.  I especially avoid large crowds.  Crowds can be dangerous.  I don’t have to tell you that – we hear the news.  Terrorists look for crowded places to make their mark, because people are constricted.  Jesus had the disciples get a boat ready – because of the crowd.

And who were the people of this great crowd?  Scripture records a much more diverse group here than we have observed so far in Mark.  Remember the crowd that gathered in Peters’ home that Sabbath when Peters’ Mother-in-law was healed?  Right after sundown they converged on Peters’ home because of the incident in the synagogue.  And of course the time when the paralytic and his friends tore the roof open at Peters home to get to Him. Or especially the crowd we read about in Mark 1:29 – 39 where we considered the land of Galilee and how dark a place it was. But the crowd in today’s passage was much larger and far more diverse.  Consider the places mentioned:

v Galilee

v Judea (Jerusalem) - 80 miles south of Capernaum

v Idumea – This is the area south of Judea, extending as far south as Gaza

§  This is up to 145 miles from Capernaum (aka Edom – Esau)

v Beyond the Jordan - This would be east of the Jordan – Perea (the area vacated by Edom) & Decapolis.

v Tyre & Sidon – North of Capernaum as far as 50 miles

 

The area this crowd was coming from was a range as far as 175 miles round!  What this tells us is not that people traveled that far to see him but the word traveled out so far!  The furthest people may have traveled was from Idumea and those traveled as much as 145 miles.  But remember this travel was not in the comfort and speed of a car, but on a horse, camel, or for many, on foot.  Are you ready to travel 100 miles on foot to see a faith healer?

And what about those people?  They weren’t necessarily the young and healthy now, were they?  These were the blind, the lame, the sick, the demon possessed – and their families who traveled because they had heard of a man who could help them.  How fast do you think such people traveled?  Do you think it was an easy trip?!

About 30 years ago my Mom heard about this faith healer who was apparently in town.  My Mom was a Nurse. Since she was working on the evening of this event she enlisted me, and my 2 sisters to bring my brother Scott – who was diabetic – to the healer.  I don’t remember all the particulars, but we kids weren’t all that convinced.  In any event, who were we to stand in Scott’s way?  He needed help – maybe this guy could help?

So we sat down in the far back of this large room.  At some point the invitation was made and we pushed Scott down the aisle.  After a bit of yelling and other hocus pocus, they pushed him backwards into someone who caught him and sent him back to us.  His face was literally bright red.  So on the car ride home, I asked him, “So, are you gonna take your insulin tonight?”  We knew this was a farce.  But we went – just in case it wasn’t.  When people are hurting they often do the ridiculous.  Americans spend money on meds and health pills by the millions annually.  The woman who had an issue of blood (Mark 5) spent all that she had for 12 years and was no better. 

This crowd had heard that there was a gentle healer in the area and they came in droves!  So many that Christ had to have a small boat nearby so that he could still minister to them.  I’m not sure I’d be so patient.  The crowds pressed in to touch him.  The woman with the issue of blood thought just that!  If I but touch the hem of his clothing I will be healed.  This was the crowd who traveled on foot, though sick for many miles to be healed.  And Christ healed many the Scripture says. The Greek word is πολύς and it isn’t a mystery.  It means numerous, populous, much, abundantly, freely.

Do you see the compassion of our God?   How willing he was to spend himself and be spent upon the people!  How long would you put up with such a large imperious crowd?  I doubt for very long.  Yet this was Christ’s reason for coming!  And He desired to do it!  Think about how long the crowds hung around.  To the point of not bringing enough food and fainting in the way.  The disciples, patient perhaps for a while could not put up with them for so long.  Remember the request they made to Christ that he send the crowds away to get food for the day was spent?  Yet the ministry was not done for the day…  And remember the circumstance of the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus sat on the well, and sent the disciples to get food – he was tired and hungry.  But when they returned, they saw him back at it – ministering to her.  When they pressed him to eat we read, “But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest![2]

If it was Jesus plan to do the will of the Father, what is that will?  When I was researching the passage I of course thought of Isa. 61:1-2, a passage which I have cited numerous times – the same passage which Christ cited in the synagogue in Nazareth as having been fulfilled in their very hearing! In the parallel passage, Matthew cites Isa. 42:1-4 as being fulfilled in this account.  It is a familiar passage, but I’d like to read it.

Isaiah prophesies of the Lord Jesus that he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.  Recall the list of places all the people came from – Beginning with Galilee – Galilee of the gentiles.  Idumea – AKA Edom or Esau. In my Bible, one map shows that Edom originally settled east of the Jordan, and another map referencing the time of Christ show Edom south of Judea.  Beyond the Jordan – Perea & Decapolis. Perea represented places almost entirely composed of Jewish people, while Decapolis was primarily of Gentile people.  Tyre & Sidon were Phoenician historically and therefore primarily Gentile.   Matthew tells us that Isaiah’s prophecy here is being fulfilled. 

Consider the prophecy if you will for a moment.  Matthew 12:18a seems to foreshadow his baptism.  18b speaks to the fact that Christ is not the Christ of the Jews only – a point I made repeatedly in an earlier message.  Verse 19 references the manner that Christ will be in his 1st coming – gentle – not railing.  Verse 20a expands on this considerably.  Verse 20b and 21 speak to the aspect of justice and to the Gentiles. 

This is the 1st time Isaiah uses the phrase ‘My Servant’ in reference to the Lord Jesus.  You may recall that in Isaiah 52:13 Isaiah also uses the phrase in the same way as he introduces the key essential ministry of Messiah.  Keep that in your thoughts as I begin to catalog for you a few of the Lord’s healing activities. 

 

·      The woman with the issue of blood.  (Mark 5:25-34) 32And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”[3]

·      The Syro-Phoenecian woman - (Matthew 15:21-28) 21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” 23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” 27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.[4]

 

·      The Paralytic let down through the roof (Mark 2) 5When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”…10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all.[5]

 

·      The Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10) 9When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”[6]

Contrast those 4 accounts with this verse, “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58)

Why did Jesus heal people? Recall the passage in Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord[7]  Recall for a moment the response Christ gave to the disciples of John as he languished in jail - Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22)

 

What do we see in each of the various healings cited?  We see faith exercised.  Faith is defined in Hebrew 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. [8] And in Nazareth he did not do many mighty works because of their unbelief.  Their lack of faith is what kept them from experiencing the blessing of the Messiah. 

But these healings? Are they really the point?  Why did Christ pour himself out on such an unruly crowd?  And think about it – when the blind was given sight how did that help him?  Or the lame walk? Even the dead raised?  Wasn’t it the fact that all these eventually died again?  Yet the Messiah did come with healing in his wings as it were.  Remember the phrase ‘My Servant’ in Isaiah?  Chapter 52:13 through 53 depicts our Saviors work on the cross to cure our true malady – Sin. 

Physical healing was truly only a pointer that something is wrong.  But to heal a man’s blinded eyes and do no more will not help that man.  Remember that Isa 61 and 42 both reference something greater that the miraculous healings – the poor have the gospel preached to them.  What is that gospel? – the suffering death of the Saviour in our place on the tree! 

The fact that we have illness and troubles really only help to point us to the greater problem of our Spiritual deadness because of Adam’s sin.  One could actually say that these physical troubles are the symptoms of a far more pervasive dilemma which is our standing before a holy & righteous God after we die.

Yet Jesus willingly spent himself on helping men and women with many symptoms so that they might hear him and trust in Him and His work on the cross for our sake!

Blessed are the poor in spirit – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)

Are you poor in spirit? What does that mean? In all the cases where Christ healed – it was said of them, that their faith has made them whole.  Faith is defined as the substance of things hoped for.  Substance references something weighty.  The Greek word is ὑπόστασις – which is translated confidence most of the time.  It can also mean to stand.  When we trust in Christ we stand upon the finished work on the Cross.  Our confidence is in his perfect sinless life, and his satisfactory death to pay for our sin debt and atone us to God.

Before I complete this message there is one more portion we have not really addressed.  That is verses 11 – 12, “And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.[9]

Again we have the demonic set before us.  How does their presence fit and what are we to make of their statements and Christs rebuke?

I would direct you once again to Isaiah 61:1 and the phrase ‘liberty to the captives’ As Luke quotes it, “to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Demon possession – or oppression is nothing good.  And it is a real problem these days as it was in those days.  But Christ set us free of the bondage of sin – giving Satan no foothold in our lives.  As for the declaration, ‘You are the Son of God’ This is nothing more than a kind of political speech.  Our Lord Jesus will indeed come again with recompense for his agenda – but his first coming was not to take vengeance – but to heal the sin-sick soul.  Christ did not need the declaration of demons to further his work.  They furthered it only insofar as they came out of men and women shrieking in agony.  Indeed he is the very Son of God.  But his actions speak very much louder than their words!

 When I began to study for this message I read two of Spurgeons’ messages on the passage.  And though they were preached about 15 years apart both seemed to be evangelistically oriented.  At the time, I really did not see the need to focus the message evangelistically.  But we have the children among us today, and for the summer.  We have the poor among us.  Indeed we are the very poor in spirit. Jeremiah says,

Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?[10]


The old spiritual replies:

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Brothers & Sisters, are you truly trusting in Jesus and him alone for your confidence before the Father?  Do you think you can stand apart from Him?  People of faith are not those who build up a faith all their own.  It is a gift of God – lest anyone boast.  People of faith are those who trusting in the very goodness of the Lord say – If I but touch the hem of his clothing I shall be healed.  Our Lord Jesus is now in heaven.  We cannot even see the hem of his clothing let alone touch it. 

Yet I tell you in all confidence that He hears you and heals today just as he did on that seaside beach with all the clambering crowd.  And you do not have to fight the crowd - you call upon the Lord – and be saved!

 




[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 3:7–12.
[2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 4:32–35.
[3] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 5:32–34.
[4] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 15:21–28.
[5] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 2:5–12.
[6] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 7:9.
[7] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Is 61:1–2.
[8] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Heb 11:1.
[9] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 3:11–12.
[10] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Je 8:22.

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