Sometimes it is easy to become complacent about the wondrous opportunity we have been given by God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we take it all for granted, not realising how truly blessed we are to live in this age where we can receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This piece of scripture looks at the gospel of the new covenant and does a comparison with the offer under the old covenant and we recognise just how blessed we are.
While there were many blessings under the old covenant of law, what we have today in Christ Jesus is far, far better. We have an opportunity that was not even remotely possible under the law. So we must take time and effort to understand the gospel and the teachings of the new covenant to take full advantage of ALL that God is offering and make full use of the blessings we have been given freely in Jesus Christ.
In my recent posts I have discussed the purposes and processes for freedom from law and freedom from sin that we receive by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
These two scriptures continue and expand this issue of law or freedom from law as they drive to the heart of the two covenants. To paraphrase the question contained in these two verses, they ask whom do you serve? Specifically it talks to the service of a Christian and who or what they serve.
And this is important. It is important because we must understand who we serve and how we worship if we are to serve God according to His will.
There are many who seek to serve and worship God but not according to the way God seeks. They want to serve and worship according to how they choose or how they feel rather than the way The Lord seeks them to serve. So let us look at this aspect of service in these words and see what they tell us.
Apollos was a powerful teacher and preacher of the gospel. We don't know a lot about him but it is clear that he was held in high regard as a teacher of the gospel by the people and also by the disciples, especially Paul.
In this section of scripture Apollos first comes to the notice of the disciples when he is found speaking to the Jews in the synagogue. He is described as an eloquent speaker and teacher of the gospel, but his knowledge is still limited for although he speaks about the Christ, he only understands the coming of the Christ from the things that were taught by John the Baptist.
This is an interesting situation both for Apollos and also for us today. His situation in some ways parallels that of many Christians today and the solution to his situation is also significant for us today as well. Before we look at this, let us first have a look at Apollos. Who he was and what he did.
As Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica they went into the synagogue and over a period of several weeks they presented the gospel of Jesus Christ. There were quite a number of those who heard, both Jews and Gentiles who listened to them and believed the truth of the gospel.
But this annoyed and upset the Jewish leaders of the synagogue so much that they became jealous. They incited a mob led by some wicked men and set the city in uproar. They sought Paul and Silas but could not find them, so they took another man, Jason, and dragged him before the city authorities.
However what they said to the authorities as they made their accusations is an apt and accurate description of the truth of the gospel. They said in verse 6, “These men who have turned the world upside down…”
This is true in a number of ways. How did they turn the world upside down? What is the message that turns the world upside down? We will look at these things now.
Stephen was dragged before the rulers of the Jews, falsely accused of many things by men incited to stand against him and put on trial.
But The Lord was with Stephen and his defence was quite remarkable in many ways. Not only did he condemn the religious leaders of his time for their failure to recognise The Lord for who He was and their part in Jesus condemnation and death, but Stephen also made some very interesting observations in the comparisons between Jesus and Moses.
This led me to think about those comparisons and recently it occurred to me that there are a number of other comparisons between the old and new covenants that are hinted at in Stephens defence speech. So I will look at one or two of those in this post.
Stephen was the first of the martyrs for Jesus Christ as far as we know. He was put to death for his beliefs and for preaching the gospel. Now you would have to REALLY upset someone for them to go to such extremes. What I mean is that Stephen was a God fearing man and clearly was well thought of by the Christians as they had put him forward as one of the seven to assist the Apostles.
Given the track record of the scribes, Pharisees and the religious leaders of the Jews at that time, that may have been enough to incur their wrath. After all, they had a track record of violence against the people of God having put the Lord to death not that long earlier and imprisoned the Apostles as well.
But there were some very specific charges they laid at the foot of Stephen that they did not like and which led them to having Stephen stoned. We see those charges in this section of scripture and need to understand why they were so incensed and what it means for us today.
There are many advantages to being a Christian and knowing Jesus Christ. The full number of them may never be known by us as individuals.
However in this section of scripture we see that Jesus points to the specific advantage that we received not through His coming, but by His going. By this He is referring to the advantage that comes to man through His death, which I have called the Jesus Advantage and the reason why Jesus died.
Jesus points to one specific advantage that we will receive through His death, which I will discuss shortly, but there are others that we received through His death which are also worth looking at as they go to the core of the Christian walk and understanding why Jesus died.
After Lazarus was raised from the dead, a great many of the Jews believed in Him. They recognised the power of God in Jesus for no one had ever seen a man resurrected before.
This confounded the leaders, the chief priests and the Pharisees and threw them into despair. They were utterly at their wits end about what they were to do about Jesus. And it was at this time they came together to begin plotting against Jesus and how they would be rid of him once and for all…or so they thought!
This is one of the classic stories and discussion of the New Testament. The story of the woman caught in adultery has been spoken about by so many people, analysed and written about it seems there could be nothing new to take from it.
However there is much I believe still to be learned from the unfolding of these events for it shows the stark contrasts between the ways of man versus the ways of God. It is a powerful teaching worthy of review even if only for reminding us of the great gift of mercy, grace and love that the Lord has given us.
In this section of scripture Jesus shows us the end of an age. He draws a very distinct line in the sand that separates two periods and also provides a spiritual insight into living in the two ages. These spiritual ages, not physical ones, and the transition from one to the next is important. It is possible to still be in either age even today, or even attempt to be in both at the same time which may be hindering your walk with Christ. Continue reading “The End of an Age”