Tuesday, 24 April 2018

A Special Testimony

“And last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:8).
The resurrection power of Christ transformed Paul into a preacher of the gospel.
Throughout history, reliable eyewitness testimony about a person or event has been one of the most accepted forms of courtroom evidence. The apostle Paul appeals to the eyewitness record as an important confirmation of the Resurrection’s reality. He cites the examples of Peter, the apostles (twice), 500 believers, and James (1 Cor. 15:5-7). And with today’s verse, Paul presents himself as a special eyewitness to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.
Paul’s case was unique. He was not among the original apostles, nor the 500 other believers, all of whom had opportunities to be with the Lord during His earthly ministry and/or see Him soon after He arose. Paul was not even a Christian during his early life and career but was rather the leader of those who persecuted the early church.
Furthermore, Paul’s situation was different because Christ’s appearance to him was not only post-resurrection but post-ascension. The Lord’s dramatic manifestation to the apostle was probably several years after the forty-day period of His many other appearings.
Paul genuinely viewed the timing of Jesus’ appearance to him as coming “to one untimely born.” We know he greatly rejoiced in his conversion, but if he had not seen the risen Savior then or some other time, Paul could not have become an apostle. In other words, by gracious, sovereign provision God chose Paul to be an apostle because “He [Jesus] appeared to me also.” The longtime opponent of the church was now like the Twelve—he had seen the risen Christ.
The power of the Resurrection is always strong enough to change a life. It transformed Paul’s life in three major ways. First, he recognized his sin and saw how far removed external religion was from internal godliness. Second, his character was revolutionized. He went from a self-righteous hatred of the things of Christ to a self-giving love for the truth. Finally, Paul’s personal energy and motivation were completely redirected. He went from being a zealous opponent of Christians to one who fervently served and supported the church.
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help your testimony always show forth the power of the risen Christ.
For Further Study
What common elements were present in Paul’s experiences in Acts 18:9-10;23:11? Note some things that were more unusual about Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-7.

Monday, 23 April 2018

A Special Testimony

“And last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:8).
The resurrection power of Christ transformed Paul into a preacher of the gospel.
Throughout history, reliable eyewitness testimony about a person or event has been one of the most accepted forms of courtroom evidence. The apostle Paul appeals to the eyewitness record as an important confirmation of the Resurrection’s reality. He cites the examples of Peter, the apostles (twice), 500 believers, and James (1 Cor. 15:5-7). And with today’s verse, Paul presents himself as a special eyewitness to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.
Paul’s case was unique. He was not among the original apostles, nor the 500 other believers, all of whom had opportunities to be with the Lord during His earthly ministry and/or see Him soon after He arose. Paul was not even a Christian during his early life and career but was rather the leader of those who persecuted the early church.
Furthermore, Paul’s situation was different because Christ’s appearance to him was not only post-resurrection but post-ascension. The Lord’s dramatic manifestation to the apostle was probably several years after the forty-day period of His many other appearings.
Paul genuinely viewed the timing of Jesus’ appearance to him as coming “to one untimely born.” We know he greatly rejoiced in his conversion, but if he had not seen the risen Savior then or some other time, Paul could not have become an apostle. In other words, by gracious, sovereign provision God chose Paul to be an apostle because “He [Jesus] appeared to me also.” The longtime opponent of the church was now like the Twelve—he had seen the risen Christ.
The power of the Resurrection is always strong enough to change a life. It transformed Paul’s life in three major ways. First, he recognized his sin and saw how far removed external religion was from internal godliness. Second, his character was revolutionized. He went from a self-righteous hatred of the things of Christ to a self-giving love for the truth. Finally, Paul’s personal energy and motivation were completely redirected. He went from being a zealous opponent of Christians to one who fervently served and supported the church.
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help your testimony always show forth the power of the risen Christ.
For Further Study
What common elements were present in Paul’s experiences in Acts 18:9-10;23:11? Note some things that were more unusual about Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-7.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Church Testifies to the Resurrection

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand” (1 Corinthians 15:1).
The true church has consistently testified to the power of the Resurrection.
Kenneth Scott Latourette observed in his History of the Expansion of Christianity: “It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted his followers out of the despair into which his death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of a movement begun by him.” This statement was true for the church at Corinth, even with its many problems.
The apostle Paul opens his well-known chapter on the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 by implicitly affirming the Corinthians’ testimony to that doctrine. Simply by receiving the gospel and having their lives transformed, the believers at Corinth demonstrated the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. And that resurrection is what empowered the gospel. Paul did not need to explicitly remind the Corinthians of Christ’s rising to life until verse 4, “He was raised on the third day.” The apostle was confident at the outset that the Corinthians had already believed in the truth of the Lord’s resurrection.
The fact that the Corinthian church continued to exist, though beset with problems of immaturity and other weaknesses, was a solid witness to the power of the gospel of the risen Christ. Only a living Savior could have converted some of the hardened sinners of Corinth—extortioners, idolaters, the sexually immoral—into a community of the redeemed. Paul was concerned and distressed about many of the things that did and did not happen in the church at Corinth, but he did not hesitate to call the core group of members there “brethren.”
In spite of many challenges from skepticism, persecution, heresy, and unfaithfulness, the church through the centuries has continued to testify to the reality of Christ’s resurrection. The true church celebrates that truth often, not just on Easter Sunday. Actually, because the church gathers on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (when Jesus rose), we remember the Resurrection every week. Praise the Lord for that reminder the next time you worship on the Lord’s Day.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God that His church was faithful in the past to testify to the truth of the Resurrection.
For Further Study
Read Acts 4, and list some things that suggest a testimony to the power of the Resurrection.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Centrality of the Resurrection

“‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said’” (Matthew 28:5-6).
The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is the culmination of redemptive history and the essential basis of the Christian faith.
Without the Resurrection, our Christian faith would just be a lot of wishful thinking, no better than human philosophies and speculative religions. In fact, the noted seventeenth-century philosopher John Locke, some of whose ideas were incorporated into the Declaration of Independence, wrote, “Our Saviour’s resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it.”
From its very early accounts, Scripture has contained the message of resurrection hope. Death has never been the end for the believer, but simply a gateway to eternal life in Heaven. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac because in faith “he considered that God is able to raise men from the dead” (Heb. 11:19). The Lord assured Daniel that believers “will awake . . . to everlasting life” (Dan. 12:2).
The Resurrection was the focal point of Christ’s teaching to the disciples about His sufferings and death: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). It is therefore completely understandable that Matthew and the other three Gospel writers all included an historical account of Jesus’ resurrection in their narratives.
Paul knew that without the Resurrection our salvation could not have been possible. He was also convinced that the truth of the Resurrection must be believed or else salvation cannot be received: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
It’s no wonder that Paul, the other apostles, and every leader in the early church continually proclaimed Christ’s resurrection as the culmination of His ministry. Those men were so captivated by the significance of the Resurrection that they could not help but preach it. And that should be our attitude today.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for the truth of John 11:25, which gives us the hope of resurrection in Jesus’ own words.
For Further Study
Read Acts 2:14-36 or Acts 3:12-26.
  • What is the focal point of Peter’s evangelistic sermons?
  • How does he prove his theme?

Friday, 20 April 2018

Compassionate Loyalty

“And many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him” (Matthew 27:55).
The women who supported Jesus’ ministry all the way to the cross are fine examples of compassionate loyalty.
Caring, consistent loyalty is a wonderful characteristic of godly women. This trait is probably more evident in them than it is in godly men. The women by the cross were the main group of believing eyewitnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion. They also showed incredible loyalty in the face of ridicule and danger. This courage contrasted with the disciples who, except for John, had fled in fear the night before Jesus was crucified.
We saw in a lesson earlier this month that some of the women, including our Lord’s mother, had been watching the crucifixion from the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27). But in today’s verse the women are described as “looking on from a distance.” They had not suddenly become afraid of the Roman soldiers or the Jewish leaders. Neither had they become ashamed of being known as Jesus’ followers. They withdrew because their grief was deep and their hope shattered at the impending death of their Master. The women’s endurance, however, was undaunted.
Throughout His ministry, devoted women such as those at the cross ministered generously to Jesus and the disciples. Luke 8:2-3 says, “Mary who was called Magdalene . . . Joanna the wife of Chuza . . . Susanna, and many others . . . were contributing to their support out of their private means.” It is probable that most of the meals Jesus and the Twelve ate were prepared by faithful women.
The women who followed Jesus set the standard for faithful service and compassionate loyalty that Paul later outlined for godly women: “a reputation for good works . . . washed the saints’ feet . . . assisted those in distress, and . . . devoted herself to every good work” (1 Tim. 5:10). Such self-giving acts of practical service are marks of excellence and spiritual maturity that ought to be evident in the lives of all believers.
Suggestions for Prayer
Is there a Christian friend to whom you can affirm your loyalty? Pray for an opportunity to serve that person in a practical way.
For Further Study
Read John 13:3-17.
  • How did Jesus demonstrate the theme of today’s study?
  • What impact did Jesus’ example have on Peter?

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Soldiers' Saving Response

“Now the centurion, and those who were with him . . . became very frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54).
The testimony of the soldiers after Jesus’ crucifixion demonstrates the sufficiency of His death for all sinners.
Most of the time our daily activities are dictated by the routine responsibilities of our jobs. That’s how it was for the Roman soldiers who stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus gave up His life. They were there simply out of duty, to make sure the crucifixion was carried out properly and without interference.
The soldiers probably had little knowledge of Judaism and had not heard of Jesus before, unless it was by hearsay. Therefore, they really had no idea why the Jewish leaders and most of the crowd were so intent on killing Him. To these anonymous soldiers, Christ’s claims to be the Son of God and a king seemed equally ludicrous and harmless.
The darkness and the earthquake, however, radically changed their attitudes. Their emotional fear produced by those events quickly turned to reverential awe for who Jesus was. They sensed that the natural phenomena had a supernatural origin and suddenly realized that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.
Jesus’ gracious and profound words, spoken from the cross and before Pilate, and His humble, selfless demeanor worked on the soldiers’ hearts. But it was the ministry of the Holy Spirit that ultimately convinced them to confess Christ’s deity.
The declaration “Truly this was the Son of God!” proclaimed by the centurion (see also Mark 15:39) on behalf of himself and his men, was for the soldiers a profession of faith in Christ. Although that testimony was uttered by someone else after Jesus had died, it became in essence His final testimony from the cross. It also offers us compelling proof that His grace can extend to all sinners, even to those who helped put Him to death. In John 12:32 Jesus announced, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for someone today who needs salvation—perhaps someone whom you quit praying for because you thought it unlikely they would ever respond to the gospel.
For Further Study
Read Mark 10:17-27.
  • The young man was outwardly a prime candidate for salvation, in contrast to the Roman soldiers. What kept him outside the kingdom?
  • What do verses Mark 10:26-27 teach about the nature of salvation?

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

God's Sovereign Departure

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
God always must turn His back on sin, even if that meant for a short time severing fellowship with His Son.
The Reformer Martin Luther is said to have gained no insight at all when he secluded himself and tried to understand Jesus’ temporary alienation from the Father at Calvary. But in the secrets of divine sovereignty, the God-man was separated from God at Calvary as the Father’s wrath was poured out on the innocent Son, who had become sin for all those who believe in Him.
Forsaken means that a person is abandoned, cast off, deserted; he feels alone and desolate. Jesus must have had all those feelings and more. His cry from the cross could be restated this way: “My God, My God, with whom I have had eternal, unbroken fellowship, why have You deserted Me?” Against that backdrop of uninterrupted intimacy, Jesus’ being forsaken by God becomes an even more crushing experience for Him. Sin did what nothing else had done or could do—it caused Christ’s separation from His Heavenly Father.
Jesus’ separation does not in any sense mean He stopped being God or the Son. It does mean that for a while Jesus ceased to know intimate fellowship with the Father, similar to how a child might for a time cease to have fellowship with his human father.
God had to turn His back on Jesus while the Son was on the cross because God could not look upon sin (Hab. 1:13), even in His own Son. Christ, in going to the cross, took upon Himself “our transgressions . . . our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5) and became “a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13) and “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Our fallen minds, like Luther’s, are unable to grasp all the significance of today’s verse. But as our Lord experienced anguish over the separation sin caused, we ought to grieve over how our sins break off the fellowship God wants to have with us.
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would give you the discernment to see the seriousness of sin and the motivation to repent of and shun any besetting sin in your life.
For Further Study
Read John 3:18-20,36.
  • What do these verses say about the basic seriousness of sin?
  • What is the only remedy for sin’s evil effects?