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Because of the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, true life now—and eternal life forever—is yours to know and enjoy. What the Scripture reveals about Him is worth more than all knowledge, all riches, and all happiness in this world.
As God’s people pursue His ways in a fallen world, they can expect to find persecution and opposition. While Israel experienced this to an extent in the Old Testament, I believe it does not parallel the depth and extent of persecution the church has experienced p to the present hour. This is, of course, because with the first coming of Christ and His present heavenly session as eschatological king and Lord, the “last days” have come and Satan is energizing the world and the flesh in a new and harsh way. Because God’s people are tasked with furthering His program and advancing His kingdom with His authority and enablement, because the church is the physical representation of Christ’s body on earth, it is attacked by Satan, his demonic hosts, the fallen world system, and even the remnants of believers’ fallen humanness. All of these resent the government of God through His Christ, and all seek to mount an (ultimately unsuccessful) war against Him. Read more
Jesus’ utmost will for His people is that they glorify Him through holy lives—lives that reflect surrender to His lordship, dependence on His counsel, and committed faith in all His Word as the rule of life. Indeed, this makes sense, for God’s plan in creation—to have a world filled with surrendered image-bearers who worship Him comprehensively and joyfully—is restored in and through Christ now and in the future. God means to have a “new humanity” that will gloriously fulfill this mandate, and the church is the current group of people expressing that humanity. This is why God hates sin particularly in His people—they have the knowledge, the ability and the inclination to choose obedience instead, and it goes against their very new nature and His stated design for them and their lives (e.g., Eph. 5:26-27; Col. 3:10, 12a; 1 Thess. 4:8). Further, unholy Christians cannot be effectively used by God for evangelism—the unsaved will not be drawn to something that looks like them and their wicked culture, at least not for any saving, God-exalting reasons. Our distinctiveness is the whole power of our gospel witness. Because this is God’s plan for His people, it is not surprising that Satan opposes this with great fervor and force. Acts 5 describes the first concerted attack of Satan on the purity of the church, how God responded, and how He once again favored the broken, repentant church. For context, the outline begins in chapter four. Read more
The combination of sin and the Curse means that very person is born into a fallen environment and is at enmity with God. God’s design is that men and women be surrendered and comprehensive worshipers of Him, with the necessary effects that has for all of life. Jesus came to earth, of course, to create by His death, resurrection, and reign a New Humanity of worshipers for the glory of His Father. Through their sanctification, their prayers, and His work in the world Christ is gradually renewing the creation as He pushes it constantly forward towards the fullness of His kingdom. However, because we reside in a fallen environment that resist’s Christ’s reign, believers will be well-acquainted with suffering as they seek to live out God’s will in His world that has gone astray. Peter’s first epistle was written to teach believers how to rightly respond to the suffering they will face, and chapter 3 in particular highlights this response as one of faith in Christ’s victory over sin and hell through His salvation. Read more
Psalm 110 describes the comprehensive rule of the Messiah over His kingdom. What the OT does not reveal is that this rule and kingdom would begin in a mystery form, an entity organizationally and functionally distinct from Israel, called the church. Then, it would be consummated in the earthly, visible kingdom promised in the OT. Yet, there is one Davidic eschatological kingdom, one program, though distinguished by different dispensations and institutions. The reason I connect Psalm 110 to Christ’s rule over the world and the church in the current age is because of verse 2b: Christ is told by God the Father, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Christ’s rule is in in the midst of those who hate and rebel against Him. Indeed, it is out from among these enemies that He creates His bride and subjects. His ruling does not (initially) vanquish all enemies; nor does the presence of enemies invalidate His real and effectual reign over all things as Messiah. It is this dynamic we see at work in the second half of Acts 4. We see again Christ’s effectual authority and rule impacting the realm of human experience and existence through the means of His people (specifically, His apostles, who are channels of His authority in a unique and unrepeatable way). This chapter also shows believers how to respond to the real threats and challenges posed by God’s enemies as believers seek to fulfill God’s program. The sermon was divided into two parts: The apostles’ response to their persecution, and God’s response to them. Read more
Acts 4 follows immediately, seamlessly, from the narrative in chapter three. After Peter and John finish preaching the gospel to the people, the Jewish leadership comes to them and seeks to prosecute them in a Jewish court for proclaiming Christ. The chapter discusses how Peter and John, and by extension all believers, can faithfully proclaim the message chapter three revealed. If chapter three deals with the message, chapter four deals with the method—how the message is to be proclaimed. Spirit-filled believers testify to the reality of the truth they proclaim and defend because the Word by the Spirit changes them to live out the truth they know. The substance of the message is of utmost importance because we fellowship with what we believe and practice, and if one of these is suspect then we are in fellowship with error. As such, local churches and obedient believers must be careful to powerfully proclaim the name of Jesus, exclusively Jesus, and fully Jesus. Read more