There are a few scriptures in the bible that are so well known that they have moved into common usage amongst both Christians and non-Christians alike. This verse is one of those which says,
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now like many scriptures that are taken into common usage, it is often not taken fully or correctly. Too many people look at the first seven words and forget the rest. Even more, the meaning of the words is often not fully understood. So let us look at this verse to consider some of the shades of meaning that we can draw from these words and especially the hope that this verse offers.
What is the greatest gift of all? Well a really great gift is when you get something that you need or want without asking for it. But even better than that is when you are given a gift that you need AND you don’t deserve it.
But the greatest gift of all is the one that God gives to mankind for He has given us something that we both need and want, something that we do not deserve and something that we cannot get except as a gift from God. He has given us the gift of life. Not just life now but the offer of life with Him into eternity.
And the best part about this gift is that we did not deserve it and yet God still saw fit to give it to us. What we see in these scriptures is how great a gift this is, what sacrifice had to made to give it to us and the great love that God had for man in t.he hope that man would seek His gift and Him with it.
The leaders in the early church were established to be either apostles and elders and there are some distinctions between the two groups. They are both important roles in the church and in this section of scripture we see how important and what one of their key roles was.
It is unfortunate that in the church today many of the leaders in the church are not appointed according to the processes established in the bible. Instead they are appointed on the basis of having studied at a bible college, school or university to receive a degree or diploma which then is accepted as a qualification to lead a church.
This is not how the original apostles and elders were appointed and it is not the way of God according to what the scripture defines. It is especially an issue in the case of those who call themselves apostles and in some churches we see the leadership falls to one pastor, priest or minister, which also is not the correct form as defined in the bible.
One of the most frequent questions I receive by email from people who read this blog has to do with receiving the Holy Spirit. The questions usually go along the lines of, how do you receive the Holy Spirit or how do you know if you have the Holy Spirit.
There is a lot of information in the New Testament in relation to this subject, especially in the book of acts where we see the expansion and growth of the early church. And because the gift of the Holy Spirit was one of the important promises given by both the early prophets and Jesus Christ, it is important to understand these things.
This section of scripture is an excellent introduction to answer these questions about receiving the Holy Spirit and also understanding how you will know if you have received the spirit. So let us look at what the scripture has to say about this important matter.
You don’t have to do everything you know! In fact if you try to do everything you are more likely to do everything mediocre and nothing well. I mean, how many balls can you juggle in the air before you start dropping them?
Well, the rapid expansion and growth in the early church as the Apostles preached the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought them to the place where they realised they could not do everything too. We see this in the first of these verses as it says in verse 1,
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
The Apostles clearly started to drop the ball. There were grumblings occurring because they could not serve tables, do admin work, chase after people as well as preaching, teaching, evangelism, healing and so on. They couldn’t do it all and they knew it. So what to do? Continue reading “Sharing the Load”
The process of giving in the early Christian church was not like it was under the law of Judaism. In Jesus Christ the people had been set free from the confines of the Old Testament law, but this did not take place until the New Covenant came into effect at the death of Jesus.
The early Christian church did not tithe, but they gave according to their means. Whatever they had that was excess to their needs they offered to The Lord and as we see in this section of the scripture, they had all things in common so that no one was lacking in anything that was necessary for the sustenance of life. The difference between old and new covenants is that tithing was a requirement of the law. Under the law the Jews had to tithe as it was a commandment. But in Christ, under grace, giving was a free choice and not a commandment.
The early Christians recognised that the things of this earth are temporary and transitory and that the real possessions and inheritance were to come from The Lord through the gospel of salvation. They were awaiting salvation unto eternal life and entry into the kingdom of God that can only come through the knowledge of Jesus and walking in His ways.
So they counted the things of this world as nothing and meaningless by comparison and they gave freely to help others out who had little or nothing. But they did not tithe, which raises the question as to why tithing is such a big issue in the church today? Why do so many churches insist on taking tithes from the people and teaching that it is necessary? And more importantly, tithing as practiced today is a big problem to the modern Christian church.
This one verse today is very interesting and one we should consider carefully today. It goes to the heart of ministry and who is capable of teaching the word of Jesus. Let’s first have a quick look at the verse itself.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Peter and John had just performed a miraculous healing where they had healed a crippled man through the power of the name of Jesus. The leaders of the Jews were most unhappy about this and the fact that they then preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in the temple to the many thousands who had gathered together.
But in this verse it is the perceptions of the leaders and priests of the Jews that is interesting and it shows us a great deal.
As Peter concluded his oration on Pentecost Day we see the unfolding of the first massive calling to the people and the revelation of salvation. In these few words we find an example of the Great Commission that Jesus told the disciples they were to carry out.
This day brought the beginnings of the church as the Apostles preached the word and the people recognised their sin. In these words they were offered the hope of escape and salvation from sin. Three thousand people were added to the church that day after Peter had finished his speech and preaching.
So let us look at the process as it took place. Not only were there insights into the process of these people coming to The Lord, there are also insights into the promises of God that come down to us today.
In this section of scripture where the disciples received the Holy Spirit we see the first outpouring of the gift of speaking in tongues. Here we note the people in Jerusalem rush together at the sound of the disciples who were all speaking in tongues together.
Now there were many visitors in Jerusalem who came to the city for the Passover and the Day of Pentecost celebrations. These visitors came from all over the known world and they were astounded to hear these men from Galilee speaking in all of the different foreign languages from the many lands that the visitors had come from. There were at least sixteen different regions and languages mentioned in this section of scripture and it amazed the visitors that these Galileans were speaking in their home tongues.
This section of scripture is still amazing today, but for a different reason. Today there are many who believe that because the disciples spoke in all these different tongues that the visitors to Jerusalem could understand, that the purpose of tongues was to spread the gospel. As we shall see, nothing could be further from the truth.