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Monday, October 28, 2013

Jesus: All Authority And All Power

Jesus: All Authority And All Power

Mark 1:21-34

What has gone before...

Mark 1:14-20 - Jesus began his preaching ministry, urging people to repent and believe in the gospel, the good news of God's kingdom. He called four fishermen as his disciples: Simon, Andrew, James and John.

Moving on...

"And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

"And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are...the Holy One of God.

"But Jesus rebuked him, saying, Be silent, and come out of him!

"And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.

"And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

"And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.

"And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him."

Mark 1:21-34 (ESV)

Capernaum

These five men, Jesus, Simon, Andrew, James and John walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and came to Capernaum, a city on the northwestern shore of the lake.

Today Capernaum is a destination for tourist and religious pilgrims visiting the ruins of walls and foundations and the remains of a Jewish synagogue.

Jesus taught with authority

When Jesus visited Capernaum, the synagogue was still standing, used daily for worship and teaching. At his first opportunity, Jesus entered the synagogue and began teaching, astonishing the people with his authority.

What did Jesus say or do that overwhelmed his listeners with astonishment?

This word, "authority", is the same used for a commander of soldiers, or the ruler of a kingdom (Mt 8:9, Lk 23:7). The word is used to describe the divine power to punish or forgive sin (Mt 9:6). This word can refer to the power to cast out demons and heal sickness (Mt 10:1). Jesus would later directly claim that "all power is given to me in heaven and in earth", using this same word (Mt 28:18).

Jesus used this word when he claimed the power of life and death (Jn 10:18). In his prayer to God the night before his crucifixion, Jesus praised his Father in heaven for giving him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom God gave him (Jn 17:2).

The apostle Paul prayed, thanking God for God the Father's power "in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." (Eph 1:19-21).

Jesus expressed his authoritative, divine power...not with a loud voice, or a bright light, a halo or even a miracle...but by his teaching.

Jesus Christ spoke the words of God as if he had written the words of holy Scripture, as if he were God himself! This struck the people with astonishment! The Greek text here brings to mind the idea of being flattened to the ground with astonishment.

The people were accustomed to being taught by scribes, religious scholars who preserved holy Scripture through the centuries by copying the originals by hand, word by word. The scribe's skill and sole purpose in life was to faithfully, accurately reproduce the holy words of God. But it was not their words. When they taught the people, it was without power, without conviction, without any expectation of change or effect in their listeners. They spoke in a scholarly, professional manner, as if the author of their holy text was absent, or on sabbatical, or passed away.

Luke records a vivid description of the way Jesus taught:

"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)

Jesus spoke to the people as a prophet, not as a professional scribe or teacher. A prophet proclaimed the message given to him. He is the mouth by which God speaks to men, speaking in God's name and by his authority.

Jeremiah was such a prophet, speaking centuries before the birth of Christ. God spoke directly to Jeremiah, appointing him to be a prophet:

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV)

Jeremiah protested:

"Then I said, Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.

"But the LORD said to me, Do not say, I am only a youth; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.

"Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, Behold, I have put my words in your mouth."

Jeremiah 1:6-9 (ESV)

Such was the authority with which Jesus spoke, and it astonished his listeners.

As confirmation of Christ's authority over life and death, heaven and hell, Mark described God bringing a man into the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. The man entered and cried out,

"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are...the Holy One of God."

Mark 1:24 (ESV)

Jesus has authority over demons

Jesus was a stranger in this town. His hometown was many miles to the south. None in the town of Capernaum would have had any reason to know Jesus. To the Jews gathered in the synagogue that day, Jesus was simply a stranger who had wandered into town and begun teaching.

How did the man know the name of the hometown of Jesus? What made him think Jesus had any authority or power to destroy. Why did the man refer to himself in the plural: "us". Everyone else in the group was astonished as Jesus, but this man alone called him the "Holy One of God". Why?

Mark describes this man as having "an unclean spirit":

There are only brief references and mysterious descriptions of the unseen world of angels and demons. The instances in which we'll find unclean spirits mentioned in the Book of Mark could lead us to believe that demon-possession and satanic powers were common occurrences.

"Satan" means an opponent. "The Satan" is the created being that is the arch-enemy of all that is good. Satan is The Attacker, The Accuser. Satan, the Serpent.

The prophet Isaiah proclaimed the word of God, taunting the king of Babylon in a manner which implies that Satan had entered the king, using a human body to influence the world:

"You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."

Isaiah 14:13-14 (ESV)

This satanic pride resulted in war with God:

"Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world-he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."

Revelation 12:7-9 (ESV)

God banished Satan and the ex-angelic demons banished from His presence, imprisoning them on earth in a gloomy darkness called "hell":

"God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment."

2 Peter 2:4 (ESV)

Loosed on earth, yet still under the ultimate rule of God, Satan and his demons hate and fear God. Without form they attempt to indwell, manipulate and influence humans to ignore or reject God's authority.

"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, I will return to my house from which I came.

"And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation."

Matthew 12:43-45 (ESV)

The "house" that the unclean spirit seeks is human.

Demons will not bow in worship and obedience, and they hate all who do, yet they know they are cursed and they fear their condemnation by God. Matthew describes demons cringing before Christ:

"What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?"

Matthew 8:29 (ESV)

Such is the condition of the man described in the Book of Mark.

Jesus rebuked the demon, commanding it to be silent and come out of the man. The man gasped in convulsion, his body tearing in violent spasms, screaming an explosive shriek, and the demon departed.

There is no such thing as demonic “worship”.

"Worship" by definition means recognition of value, appreciation of good. Demons have no good. They've rebelled against God and left the only source of good they might have enjoyed. Satan has no good, no value, in which others may worship. Satan has no power of his own, he owns no good of his own.

The demon recognized Jesus. The demon understood the power and authority held by Jesus. But the demon did not worship Jesus. The demon saw no good in Jesus, nothing worth desiring or pursuing.

The demon's words of recognition and understanding had no value. No demonic words or wisdom can help or do good in any way, to any person, in any situation.

The crowd was amazed. They were stupefied with astonishment. Jesus taught holy Scripture as if he were God himself. Even demons submitted in obedience to his words of command.

And the fame of Jesus spread everywhere throughout the region of Galilee.

Jesus has authority over disease

"He left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them."

Mark 1:29-31 (ESV)

Leaving the synagogue with the people's mouths hanging open, dumbfounded and amazed, Jesus and his four disciples went to the house of Simon and Andrew, most likely because it was supper time. As soon as they entered the home, they found that Simon's mother-in-law was in bed, seriously ill with fever. Jesus held the woman's hand, helped her to stand up...and the fever left her!

People desired Jesus

"That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him."

Mark 1:32-34 (ESV)

Word spread, and by nightfall a huge crowd had gathered around the house. Everyone in the city who was sick or oppressed wanted to see Jesus. Standing in the doorway, Jesus healed many who were sick, and he cast out demons from many who were oppressed."

What truth about God, or ourselves, does this passage reveal?

Jesus Christ, born to a simple family in Bethlehem, raised as carpenter's son in Nazareth, baptized in the Jordan River as God's Son, preached holy Scripture with authority, commanded demons with sovereignty, and healed sickness with power.

Jesus Christ has global, universal, sovereign authority and power in heaven and earth.

Jesus is Lord.

Demons cringe and obey. Sickness vanishes and life returns.

What can frustrate a man like Jesus? What circumstances are beyond his control? What disasters can threaten him? What governments can control him?

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:35, 37-39 (ESV)

Jesus Christ has global, universal, sovereign
authority and power in heaven and earth.

What will you do?

What must change in your life if this passage is true, and it's from God? How will you obey the truth of this passage of holy Scripture?

God may be using this passage to bring you to a point of decision and commitment right now, or He may be preparing you for a situation that's ahead of you, perhaps later today, or tomorrow, or next month. Or perhaps this passage is a reminder of what God has already done in your life. Perhaps this passage is an opportunity for you to thank God and praise God for the power he's allowed you thus far to walk in obedience to the truth.

I desire that you pray right now, where you are, either in humble obedience or thankful praise. Silently, in your own heart, tell Jesus what you know is the truth about him and about yourself. Tell Jesus what you will do from now on, or what you will continue to do, in obedience to the truth revealed in His word today. It may help you to form your prayer by beginning with the words, "Jesus, I will..."

What will you do, or continue to do, to obey this truth?

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Monday, October 21, 2013

1 Timothy 3: The Mystery of the Faith

The Mystery of the Faith

1 Timothy 3:9

What has gone before...

Paul described a second level of church leadership: deacons. The definition of the word, as well as the context, imply that the early church had appointed specific people to assist or act as "waiters", supporting whatever was needed to be done.

Deacons were to have some, but not all, of the character qualities listed for overseers. The term "deacon" was applied to a wide variety of people, implying that nearly every one in the church who helped or served could be called a deacon.

Moving on...

Paul describes our faith in Christ as a "mystery":

1 Timothy 3:9 (ESV) "They [deacons] must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience."

Early in His ministry Jesus referred to "the secrets of the kingdom", using the same word that Paul used:

Matthew 13:11,13,15,17 (ESV) "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given...This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand...For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them."

The Mystery of Godliness

Paul ended this chapter by describing his purpose in writing to Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:14-16 (ESV) "I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory."

Paul viewed Timothy as the lead pastor, the primary overseer of the church in Ephesus. Timothy's main task would be one of correction. In chapter one Paul urged Timothy to "remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine."

However, the letter was intended to be read, or heard, by all of the Christians in the church. Paul desired that this group of believers "know how one ought to behave in the household of God."

"Household" means a dwelling place, but the word implies the family which lives together in that dwelling place. Paul's concern is not for "church behavior", as if there were rules for people entering a building of worship. Rather, Paul's heartfelt desire was that the people of God knew how to behave appropriately as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus.

To be a Christian, to be "born again" or "saved", means to belong to God's family. That "belonging to" begins with a call from God, to which those that hear and desire will respond to.

To join a church means to gather together with others who have also responded positively to that call from God. Together, the people of God's household, the "called out ones", form a spiritual support for truth: truth about God and truth about people. A Christian church should see itself as having a rock-solid foundation of truth that never changes and never fails.

Truth

"Truth", for many people, is a moving target, dependent upon one's circumstances, culture and mindset. Style of dress, language, food and music can never serve as the hallmark of a genuine Christian church. What things do form rock-solid, unmoving truth?

Paul defined truth as "the mystery of godliness":

1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory."

Paul declared that "the mystery of godliness" is the only rock-solid, unmoving truth upon which a Christian church should be founded.

Godliness could be described as a mystery because only recently had the complete truth about Jesus Christ been revealed to the world. Before His birth, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ was described by prophets in parables and shadowed references.

Godliness here means the truth of Jesus Christ shining brightly, fully revealed, through the lives of believers. Godliness is our response, our obedience, to the truth of Jesus.

"Piety" means the quality of being religious or reverent. It means obedience to one's beliefs, acting in accordance to our faith, walking our talk. Paul lists six defining truths which form the rock-solid, immovable foundation for any Christian, and any Christian church:

  • Jesus was manifested in the flesh
  • Jesus was vindicated by the Spirit
  • Jesus was seen by angels
  • Jesus was proclaimed among the nations
  • Jesus was believed on in the world
  • Jesus was taken up in glory

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Psalm 8: How Majestic Is Your Name!

Psalm 8: How Majestic Is Your Name!

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalms 8:1-9 (ESV)

Digging Deeper

"The gittith" was a type of harp; from a word meaning "inhabitant of Gath". Gath was one of five chief cities of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3).

"Majestic" means wide, large or powerful, from a word meaning to expand, to be great or magnificent.

"Name" means the honor, authority or character that belongs to a specific individual. It includes the sense of high position and reputation.

David described two kinds of glory. The "glory" of God (verse 1) means grandeur, to have an imposing form and appearance. The "glory" of humans (verse 5) means weight, in a good sense: splendor or copiousness (abundant, plentiful).

David describes God's form and appearance to be wider, larger and more powerful than anything on earth or in heaven.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Serving Well as Deacons

1 Timothy 3: Serving Well as Deacons

1 Timothy 3:8-13

What has gone before...

Paul warned Timothy to avoid appointing an inexperienced Christian to a position of leadership. The warning focused on comparing a newly sprouted plant to a newly converted believer, emphasizing their need for a deep, healthy foundation upon which to lead others.

Moving on...

1 Timothy 3:8-13 (ESV) "Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus."

In this section Paul introduces a second level of leadership: the deacons of a church.

With the introduction of this office of leadership, distinct from that of "overseer", we are thrust into the world of "Church Government".

Deacons

We've looked at "overseer", which means superintendent, one who "peers about", inspecting and watching out for the health of an organization. "Overseer" occurs in the New Testament only five times. "Deacon" means a servant, one who "runs" to serve others. This word occurs 30 times in the New Testament, most frequently translated in KJV as "minister".

"Deacon" was used to refer the the twelve apostles, Roman government leaders, Jesus Christ, a woman in the church, demons. Both Paul and Timothy were described as "Deacons".

Mark 9:35 (ESV) "He [Jesus] sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, - If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."

Romans 13:3-4 (ESV) "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good."

Romans 15:8 (ESV) "Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness."

Romans 16:1-2 (ESV) "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well."

2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (ESV) "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness."

Ephesians 3:7-8 (ESV) "Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."

Other Titles

At least six terms are used in the New Testament to refer to leaders in the church:

With all of these words from which to choose, Paul selected only two for his exhortation to Timothy and the church at Ephesus: "Overseer" and "Deacon". Look at the following chart and discuss how the two offices differ and how they are the same.

Overseer and Deacon: What's the difference?

Overseer

  1. Above reproach
  2. Husband of one wife
  3. Sober-minded
  4. Self-controlled
  5. Respectable
  6. Hospitable
  7. Able to teach
  8. Not a drunkard
  9. Not violent
  10. Gentle
  11. Not quarrelsome
  12. Not a lover of money
  13. Manages his own household well
  14. Dignified
  15. Keeping his children submissive
  16. Not a recent convert
  17. Well thought of by outsiders

Deacons

  1. Dignified
  2. Not double-tongued
  3. Not addicted to too much wine
  4. Not addicted to dishonest gain
  5. Clear conscience
  6. Tested first
  7. Blameless
  8. Dignified wife
  9. Husband of one wife
  10. Manages children and households well

Distinctly Deacon-ish

Four characteristics might be seen as unique for deacons since they use distinctly different words:

Feeding the Church of God

Only one specific function can be found for the office of overseer:

Acts 20:28 (ESV) "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

Titus 1:9 (ESV) "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."

Titus 2:1 (ESV) "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine."

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