Lazarus Resurrected

(John 11:38-44)

Raising Lazarus
Raising Lazarus from the grave
(Picture sourced from ChristiansUnite.com)

The resurrection of Lazarus was a pivotal moment in the work that the Lord did while He was on the earth. In this one moment and action He showed mankind that He truly did have the power over life and death.

The teachings that He gave while carrying out this work were equally important. He not only did the miraculous, but also taught those around Him and by extension us too, the pathway to receiving and entering the resurrection.

Let’s look at what Jesus said and did.

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The Truth Will Make You Free

(John 8:31-38)

set free
Set Free to Worship
Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Christof Wittwer

This is a scripture of the Bible that is often quoted. So many, many times I have heard people say, “The truth will make you free.” And it is not just in Christian circles that this is quoted.

But how many people know what it is really talking about? How often do the words just roll easily off the tongue without any sense of what the Lord really meant by them? I am reasonably certain that even among Christians there is not a real understanding of the power and depth of these words, especially as it applies to the teachings of the New Covenant. I say this from experience having listened to many people who believe they know the truth, but their words deny that they actually do

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Are You A Sinner?

(John 8:23-30)

freedom
Freedom from Sin
Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Ahmed Al-Shukaili

Are you a sinner? That is a question that truly plagues the church at large today. Most people in the church today say that, “I am a sinner, saved by Grace.” But is this correct? Are you really a sinner?

Jesus in this section of scripture says to the Jews in verse 24, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” Did you note the caveat He added? That you would die in your sins UNLESS you BELIEVE. So He was saying that through believing in Him, that is, through faith, it was possible to be set free from your sins.

Which brings me back to my question, are you a sinner? If you have faith in Jesus Christ and believe according to what He shows us in the New Covenant, then according to His words YOU ARE NOT A SINNER! Wow! So instead of saying, “I AM a sinner saved by Grace,” you should be saying, “I WAS a sinner saved by Grace.” The first says you are a sinner NOW, but the second says you used to be a sinner, but thanks be to Jesus you are no longer a sinner.

Let’s look at this a bit more.

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Jesus Came to Save, Not to Condemn

(John 3:17-18)

Quite often you hear people talk about how hard it is to be a Christian. They talk about all the rules and regulations and laws and how if you make a mistake you’ll be condemned to hellfire and brimstone. Unbelievers in particular talk about God as if he were ready to damn every person for every mistake they ever made and that everyone is under the constant threat of condemnation and damnation.

If you have heard such talk too, then you need to read this post, because nothing could be further from the truth.

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The Resurrection of the Lord

(Luke 24:1-12).

The most fundamental teaching of the new covenant and the core principle of Christianity is the resurrection of the dead. Without the resurrection the rest of the christian covenant does not hold together. It is through the resurrection of Jesus that man receives release from his sins and the freedom from law so that he can come and stand before God. And it is in this section of the scripture that we see Jesus resurrected and the commencement of the new covenant age.

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Rise and Walk

(Luke 5:17-26)

When Jesus was healing the paralytic let down through the roof he asked the Pharisees which was easier; to say “Rise and walk” or to say, “You sins are forgiven.” This is an interesting question and shows again both the power of God and how Jesus views the world in a different way to the way that man does.

rise and walk your sins are forgivenIf we look at things from a human perspective, if a paralytic was before us we would think it impossible to say rise and walk. From a human perspective no man could just say the words “Rise and walk” and expect the paralytic to stand up and wander off. For the people in this world such a thing is not possible for if they could do this there would be no paralytics.

But to say to someone your sins are forgiven is certainly much easier from a human perspective. If someone has committed a sin against you personally, you have the ability and the authority to forgive that person of the sin they did against you and to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” You may not and cannot forgive the sins they commit against others, but where you are involved then it is in your power to forgive sins. This is not the way that the Pharisees saw things of course for they said that Jesus was blaspheming by saying “Your sins are forgiven,” for they believe that only God can forgive sins. And while it is true that only God can take away sins, man does have the ability to forgive sins when those sins are committed against you. Jesus showed us this in the Lord’s prayer and expanded on this in Matthew 6:14-15 saying, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” So it is essential that we forgive sins against us so that we can receive the forgiveness from God. Quite a different approach to what the Pharisees were saying. And of course Jesus IS God so he can forgive and take away all sin anyway, which is what he showed in the scriptures under review here.

So when we look at both these matters from a human perspective, a man might consider there is some possibility to forgive sin where they are the wronged person, but there is no way that any man can say to a paralytic, “Rise and walk.”

But Jesus sees things differently than man does. For Jesus the ability to say to a person “Rise and walk” is no issue at all. He can call upon the power of God who made man in the first place and fix the problems causing paralysis with no effort at all. In the same way he can also not only forgive sins, but take them away and blot them out completely.

But which of these is more important, to say “Raise and walk” or to say, “Your sins are forgiven?” Again the human perspective would be to have the man regain the ability to walk. But in Jesus eyes that is the less important aspect for it is the forgiveness of sin that is important. To be maimed, lame or blind is of no significance at all when compared to being sin free. It is whether a person is a sinner or sin free that will determine whether they can enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus made this point saying in Matthew 18:7-9,

7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!
8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

So whether a person is a paralytic or maimed or lame or blind or anything else of a physical nature is unimportant. It is more important to be set free from sin for this is how you shall receive entry into eternal life in the kingdom of God. And this is what Jesus was showing to the paralytic as well as the people. It is better to be set free from your sin for that has the greater reward, than to have anything of this world including the ability to walk.

But also in this scripture we see Jesus proving his point to the Pharisees and the people. They all believed it was impossible for a paralytic to rise and walk, but Jesus said to them, “But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” –he said to the man who was paralyzed–“I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.” (Verse 24 ) By saying this he was saying in effect that because he COULD say to the man to be healed and to rise and walk, it was the proof that he also had the power and authority to take away sins, which was far better and more important. It was proof also that he was not blaspheming but was doing the will and the work of God.

(Picture sourced from ChristiansUnite.com http://clipart.christiansunite.com/)

The Great Commission Part 3

(Matthew 28:16-20)

The third element of the Great Commission given by Jesus to his disciples was, “…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Verse 20) He told the disciples to teach the people what he had taught them. These are the teachings of the New Covenant, which he instructed the disciples to teach to those who came to them.

He did not instruct them to teach the law and prophets or the Ten Commandments or anything that pertained to the Law of Moses. As we saw in the last post, baptism is meant to set us free from law so why would that form part of the New Covenant? There are many sections in the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles taught or had disputes about the teaching of the law to the new disciples. The law is not part of the New Covenant and in fact it can have a damaging effect on those who are under the New Covenant.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not preaching to oppose the law nor do I oppose the law. There is great wisdom contained in the law for it was the words of God given to Israel to show them right from wrong. We can learn much from the law about how to live a life that is in harmony with God and those about us. But within the law comes the knowledge of sin and the law cannot set a person free from sin. That is only possible by faith in the grace of God and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to take away the sins of the world and this cannot be achieved under the law since it is the law that condemns man as a sinner. If sin is to be removed, then the law must go too.

The commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples under the Great Commission was to teach the people to observe all the “HE” had commanded them. There is a conflict between the teachings of Jesus under the New Covenant and the Mosaic Law under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant law was about bondage and sin, but the New Covenant is about freedom, release from sin and life. These two cannot exist together. You cannot be in bondage and freedom at the same time. As oil and water do not mix, neither can freedom and bondage.

Paul wrote in Romans 7:1-6 that to try to live under both covenants at the same time was like living in adultery. It cannot and should not be done. Again I have discussed this in much more detail in my free eBook, “The Foundations of Christianity” which you can download and review if you choose and I refer you there for a more detailed study of these matters.

Is it then any wonder that so many Christians are confused and suffering needlessly? If they are trying to live under the two covenants at the same time, and thus trying to live a life of freedom while under the bondage of the law, they have no chance of progressing in Christ. They will live as good a life as they can and will be accepted for what they have rather than what they do not have, but they will suffer needlessly under condemnation because it is only when the law is removed that the Holy Spirit can begin the work of transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.

And all of this occurs because the teachers and the churches (not all mind you) have not heeded the words of the Great Commission to teach the people, “…to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Verse 20) They are being taught things that were NOT commanded by Jesus. Thus we see the confusion in the church. If it were only the teachings of the Old Covenant that were clouding the minds of Christians it would be hard enough, but they also bring in many other teachings and lies that have no basis in scripture whatsoever. So it is important for all of us as individuals to seek out the truth for ourselves. In the final judgement we will all have to stand before God and give account and there will be no one to act as intercessory on our behalf. It is our responsibility to find the truth.

And at the end of this final section of Matthew 28 Jesus gives us a great promise. He says to all of his disciples, then and now, “I am with you always to the close of the age.” (Verse 20) Jesus has never left us. He is always here if we will seek him out. He said for us to seek and we would find him. This was not “maybe” you will find him, but a definite, “you WILL find me.” (Matthew 7:7) It is up to us to seek the Lord for he is there to be found when we search for him diligently. Jesus will come to us to teach, guide, strengthen, protect and comfort us. In due course as we listen to his commandments and follow his ways he will transform us into his image through the Holy Spirit and will give us eternal life if we will walk in his ways.

Jesus is with us now and forever until the close of the age. His return is drawing near, so we must also be diligent and prepare for his return. Give him praise and thanks for the opportunity to know and be known by him.

This now ends my commentary on the Gospel of Matthew and I shall move on to the Gospel of Mark in the next post.

The Great Commission Part 2

(Matthew 28:16-20)

The second element of the Great Commission after telling the eleven to go and make disciples was, “…baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Verse 19) Some churches have either ignored this element of the Great Commission or given it only lip service. They do not understand the importance and significance of baptism, especially water baptism.

Given that these words from the Lord to his disciples were probably the last words he spoke to them on earth, you would expect they would be extremely meaningful and important. Nothing that Jesus said in teaching his disciples was ever without meaning and valuable as a lesson. So in these last words of his you could naturally expect Jesus to emphasise the very important matters that they were to recall and do under the Great Commission.

This baptism in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit was incredibly important both then and now. The fact that this message was given in the last words of the Lord makes it incomprehensible that some churches today do not take these words seriously. They either do not observe this command of the Lord at all, or treat baptism as a kind of initiation into the church and a naming ceremony for babies. It was never intended as such. They fail to see and understand the truth and ramifications of water baptism. Since Jesus made a point of telling his disciples to do this specific thing as they made disciples, especially as Jesus himself was baptised before he began his ministry by John the Baptist, then it is evident that the Lord placed great importance on baptism. When we learn and understand the truth about baptism we begin to see why the Lord emphasised this requirement for all his disciples in his final words.

It is through baptism that we die with Christ as we go down into the water. And then as we are raised out of the water we are symbolically resurrected with Christ. By faith in believing that we enter into the death and resurrection of Christ as we go through baptism we then gain entry into the kingdom of God. It is by this faith in entering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through baptism that we are set free from past sins and set free from the bondage to the law. In baptism we take on the death of Jesus Christ as if it were our own death, and that is what we believe. And if we believe that we have died through the body of Christ by proxy, God says that he accepts us as having died to our old life and being reborn as new creations in Jesus Christ.

Now when a person dies they are no longer under the power of sin and the law. Paul showed this in Romans 7:4 saying, “Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ.” And if we are dead to the law we are no longer under it. And if we are no longer under the law we can no longer break the law and so we are set free from sin. And if we are set free from sin we can stand righteous before God, but only by faith. We still have all the weaknesses and failures of humanity and we still fall down and make mistakes, but as new creations in Christ we come to the place where God can and will work with us to transform us into the image of Christ. He will slowly work with us and take away all those human weaknesses and failures until we can stand righteous not just by faith, but in the way we live. We may not achieve that place in this lifetime, but the work will commence immediately once we are baptised and hold on to these elements of faith.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to do the transformation within us as Paul wrote, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) The veil that covers a persons face referred to here is the law. When the law is removed, then the Holy Spirit is able to do the work of transformation.

All of this commences and is based upon being baptised in water into the death and resurrection of Christ and understanding through faith what that baptism is all about. This is why it is so important and why Jesus took pains to emphasise the need for baptism in his last words to the disciples.

There is a great deal of scripture that discusses the purpose and power of baptism throughout the New Testament and space here does not permit a full discussion. If you would like to look at this in more depth and check the scriptures that deal with baptism, I recommend to you to look at my free eBook on the “Foundations of Christianity” which is located elsewhere on my website.

I will look at the last element of the Great Commission in the next post.

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath

(Matthew 12:1-8)

At the end of chapter 11 we saw Jesus state that his “yoke was easy and his burden light.” (Matthew 11:30) Now we see him begin to teach things that have reduced that burden of the Old Covenant.

Under the Old Covenant men were required to keep the Sabbath day holy. This was one of the Ten Commandments. On the Sabbath they were not to travel, nor work, nor prepare food. All food preparation was to be done the day before so they could rest and worship the Lord on the Sabbath day.

Now as Jesus and his disciples walked through some grain fields, the disciples plucked some of the grain and began to eat it. The Pharisees, who were sticklers for the smallest points of law took any opportunity to find fault and brought this to Jesus’ attention saying, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” (Vs. 2) The Pharisees expected Jesus would upbraid and condemn his disciples for breaking the law, but instead Jesus responded by showing other instances of where men did what was unlawful and yet were not condemned. David the king entered the temple and took the bread of the Presence, which no one but the priests were allowed to eat, and ate and gave it to those with him and yet he remained guiltless (1 Samuel 21-16). This was clearly a more significant issue than the disciples rubbing a few heads of grain to eat for the bread of the Presence was part of the offering and was consecrated as holy to the Lord. Then too Jesus said of the priests who offer the lamb and cereal sacrifices in the temple on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9-10), which technically is breaking the Sabbath, also remain guiltless.

Jesus then showed that this new teaching under the New Covenant was greater than the old teachings under the law. At the end of this section he says, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.” (Verses 6-8)

Under the New Covenant those who come to Christ are guiltless for Jesus has taken away their sin. In the Old Covenant men had to seek forgiveness of sin by sacrifices and offerings, but the forgiveness in the New Covenant is not based on offering sacrifices. The one perfect sacrifice has already been offered and we have been set free from sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice is the only one that can not merely give us forgiveness of sin, but completely remove and take our sin away. John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) This is why Jesus came to offer his own blood on our behalf. So that our sins would be taken away, not simply forgiven.

Expanding on this we see in Hebrews 10:5-6, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.” God does not want constant offerings for sin. He wants us to not sin at all. He wants us to be merciful toward each other for our weaknesses and not judgmental over minor points of law, which is what the Pharisees were doing. In the constant sin offerings there was also the constant reminder of sin. But when Jesus took away our sins, he also took away the law so that we would not need to continue to make the offerings and would not be bound by sin.

This is too lengthy a subject to go into here, but if you wish to see more on this matter there is a free eBook on you can download here that looks at the Foundation Teachings of Christianity There is much more detail in this booklet covering this message about freedom from sin and freedom from the law through faith in Jesus Christ.

When we are set free from the law through Christ Jesus, we are also set free from the law concerning the Sabbath. This is why the disciples could be considered guiltless for the law applies only to those under the law. In Christ we are set free from the law and no longer under it and thus guiltless.