Sunday, April 29, 2018


Two Reactions To The Gospel

This passage is a good example of how people react to the gospel differently. Jesus said he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. A sword divides. Jesus divides. He spoke even of dividing households as some believed in Jesus and some did not. (Matthew 10:34-36)

Here, verse 4 says many heard the word and believed. Another 5,000 people were added to the church. Peter’s sermon was a success and the Holy Spirit’s work was effective.

But, not all believed. Some opposed Peter. As Peter was still speaking, a group of priests, Sadducees and the captain of the temple arrived. (1) They were annoyed at Peter’s preaching the resurrection of Christ. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. So, they arrested Peter and John and put them in jail overnight.

The Inquiry

The next morning, the Sanhedrin was convened. There were rulers, scribes and elders gathered, along with the high priest, Caiaphas, the former high priest (Annas) and his family. Normally the Sandhedrin met with 70 members plus the high priest. This goes all the way back to Numbers 11:16. There, as Moses struggled to meet the demands of the Israelites, God appointed 70 elders to help him. This is the beginning of the concept of elders for the governance of the church.

The purpose of the meeting was to investigate Peter and John’s miracle. They did not doubt the miracle, but wanted to know their authority to perform it. They asked “By what power or by what name did you do this”.  There is a sense of condescension and arrogance in their question.

These were the same men who had condemned Jesus a few weeks before.  They had likely thought they were done with him. But now, they were confronted by his followers continuing his ministry.

You can have one of two responses when you are attacked for your faith. You can shrink back or you can use it as an opportunity to witness for Jesus. Peter chose to witness.

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised. Jesus told the disciples to acknowledge him before men. That was a command. But the command came with a promise: when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11-12)

In the power of the Spirit, Peter told them plainly, it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that the man was standing, that is, healed. It appears that the man may have come with Peter and John and was standing with them.

Peter did not leave it at this simple statement, however. he went on to preach the gospel. First, he told them they crucified Jesus and that God raised him from the dead. (10) He knew the Sadducees, who dominated the Sanhedrin, did not believe in resurrection, but he did not back off this important doctrine when preaching to them.

And Peter kept going. He told them how to be saved, referring to the Old Testament. He said Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you , the builders. He has become the cornerstone. A cornerstone is a stone placed to anchor a building. Peter was not talking generalities, however. He was referring to Old Testament scripture.

The first Scripture is Psalm 118. It may have originally been written to be sung on special occasions when a new building was dedicated. But it became part of the Passover liturgy. It was probably the last hymn sung by Jesus and the apostles before they departed for the garden of Gethsemane. Verse 22 says “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.

Builders would carefully examine a stone to make sure it was sound and capable of bearing the load of a cornerstone. In this instance, the builders wrongfully rejected the stone. The Psalmist meant the powers of the world rejected Israel, but God used it to build his house.

The second Scripture is Isaiah 28:16. There God condemned the rulers of Israel for rejecting him and lying to the people. God said he is the one who laid the foundation and it is sure. He was pointing forward to the coming of Jesus to bring salvation as God determined.

Peter pointedly declared Jesus as the cornerstone laid by the Father, but rejected the Sanhedrin, who were the misguided builders. Jesus had already applied this Scripture to himself at the conclusion to the parable of the vineyard. (Mark 12:10-11) It was a condemnation of the leaders and a declaration of Jesus as the Christ, the Savior.

Peter summarized by declaring that salvation is only in Jesus and that no one else can provide salvation. (12) The claims of Christ are exclusive. People do not always like that. They do not like it today. But Jesus himself said no one comes to the Father other than through him. (John 14:6)

Who Are These People?

The members of the Sanhedrin were stunned by Peter and John. First, they were bold. Second, they were making good application of Scripture. Yet, they were uneducated, common men. They were not scholars, priests or scribes. They were, however, known as Jesus’ disciples. Jesus also had also been uneducated, but knew and taught the Scriptures with authority. It had to be disturbing to the Sanhedrin that Jesus’ followers had developed his same skill and knowledge.  And the indisputable fact was, the formerly crippled man was standing beside them, healed. So, the council had nothing to say to refute them.

Since the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, much less in the resurrection of Jesus, they had to have been disturbed by Peter’s claims that God raised Jesus from the dead. Peter claimed to be a witness to this. Yet, the Sadducees could raise no arguments against him, for the body of Jesus, though buried, was missing from the tomb and had not been found.

What Do We Do?

The rulers acknowledged that the healing was a “notable sign” and they could not deny it. (15) Yet, they never considered believing in Jesus. They were only concerned with the message of salvation spreading. So, they resolved to order Peter and John not to speak any more in Jesus’ name.

Peter and John Refuse

The Sanhedrin ordered Peter and John not to teach in Jesus’ name. They refused. They had to listen to God. They said they had to speak of what they had seen and heard. In other words, they were witnesses and they had to tell their story.

The Sanhedrin was rendered powerless. They were afraid to punish Peter and John, because the people were praising God for the miracle of healing the crippled man. He had evidently been crippled for 40 years and was now healed.

Praying for Boldness

An amazing thing happened when Peter and John reported to the church what had happened. The people prayed. But they did not pray for protection, they prayed for boldness.

First, they acknowledged God’s power and sovereignty. They addressed him as “Sovereign Lord”.

They acknowledged him as Creator. Because the creator is master over his creation.

This again shows us that the Bible consistently refers to God as the creator of heaven and earth. It is not just in Genesis. To deny this is to deny Scripture.

They addressed God as Sovereign because they believed he was in control of all that happened and they were good with that. They quoted Psalm 2 about the Gentiles raging against the Lord’s anointed.  Although they did not quote it, they knew that Psalm continued to say that God laughs at the opposition of his human enemies, because they cannot defeat his plan.

They applied this to their situation. They acknowledged that Jesus was opposed by Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews. (27) But God the Father anointed Jesus to accomplish what the Father planned and predestined to take place. “Predestine” means to determine in advance what will happen. The church took comfort in the fact that God predestined Jesus to bring salvation and build the church as its cornerstone. They knew God could not be stopped. Pilate and Herod had their parts to play within the plan of God.

They did not pray for protection from the threats, but for boldness in the face of such threats, as the apostles continued to heal and perform other signs in the name of Jesus. God’s response was to shake the building with the presence of the Holy Spirit as he had shaken the temple with the presence of Christ when Isaiah prayed. (Isaiah 6)


There was unity among the believers, now about 10,000 in number. They shared their possessions, even selling property to share the proceeds. One example was Barnabas. He was of the tribe of Levi, but came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles to distribute.

We learn from this chapter that the apostles were bold witnesses for Jesus, that the resurrection was a vital part of their testimony, that the church members shared with each other, and that they believed God would provide and prevail.

May all of these things be true of us as well.

Saturday, April 28, 2018


What God wants from his people is obedience, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how unknown the outcome. Charles Colson, Loving God, p. 36

If you love me, keep my commandments. Jesus.

Monday, April 16, 2018

God's Divine Plan for Muslim Immigrants

An interesting article from Christianity Today:

Sunday, April 15, 2018


The first recorded signs and wonders are worked by the Holy Spirit through Peter and John. They went to the temple to pray and encountered a crippled man. Some versions say “lame”, which is an older term for “crippled”.

This man had family or friends who brought him to the temple every day and laid him at the Beautiful Gate to beg from those going into the temple complex. (2) Since he was crippled, he could not work. Begging was the only way he had to get money.

Peter, however, had no money. So, when the beggar looked at Peter and John expecting alms, Peter did something else. He gave the man the gift of health. He healed him from his crippling disease or injury. And, he did it in the name of “Jesus Christ of Nazareth”. (6)
The man was healed instantly. He walked and leaped.

He followed Peter and John into the temple. He was walking and leaping and praising God. (9) You can imagine his joy. And, he was quite noticeable. As others tried to project dignity and piety, this man expressed joy without reservation. As people watched him, they recognized him as the man from the gate. And they were amazed that he had been healed. (10) He literally fulfilled Isaiah 35:6, “then shall the lame man leap like a deer”.

Peter’s Second Sermon

The miracle, or sign, accomplished by the Holy Spirit through Peter and John again brought attention to them. Verse 11 says they were utterly astounded. Many had likely known and seen the crippled man for years and here he was walking around, praising God. Others had seen him every day at the gate while they had been there for Pentecost. They all gathered at Solomon’s Portico, an area on the east side of the temple, bordered with columns.

The miracle provided another opportunity for Peter to preach about Christ, and he took it. He was quick to point out that the man was not healed through any special power of Peter or John. (12) Just as the miracles point to Christ, Peter’s sermon pointed to Christ.

Again, Peter declares that the Jews killed God’s Christ. Peter referred to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a formula for naming God as the God who made a covenant with Abraham that made the Jews who they were, God’s chosen people. It was also the way God introduced himself to Moses in the burning bush. (Exodus 3:6) They were chosen to bear witness to the real and only God. Their God glorified Jesus (13), meaning he raised him from death and gave him glory in heaven. (14) Peter again says the apostles were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.

In speaking of Jesus’ exaltation, Peter referred to Isaiah 52:13-53:12, a passage about God’s suffering servant. God spoke through Isaiah, saying “he shall be high and lifted up and he shall be exalted”.

Look at the names Peter uses for Jesus: servant, the Holy and Righteous One, and the Author of life. Jesus served the Father by doing his will in life and death. He was holy, as he was fully God. He was righteous in that he never sinned. He is the author of life, both the agent of creation and the giver of eternal life to believers.

Peter declared that this Jesus, the Christ, healed the crippled man through faith in his name, meaning faith in Christ. It is Peter’s faith that he could do what Jesus told him he could do, not the crippled man’s faith. We see no evidence of faith in that man before he was healed. He simply wanted money from Peter.

The Jews bore the guilt of his murder because they denied him and delivered to Pilate and the Romans to be killed. (13-14) Jesus requires repentance, along with faith, for us to receive salvation. In order for a person to repent, he or she must understand that they have sinned. In order for a person to understand he or she has sinned, the preacher must point it out to them. Peter does that here, focused on their guilt in killing Christ. Once the preacher explains sin, the Holy Spirit convicts.

And Peter called for repentance. (19) He called for them to repent so that their sins could be blotted out and they could be saved. And the Father would later send Jesus for them at the second coming.

Peter continued to apply the Old Testament scripture to the situation. He said that God foretold through the prophets that his Christ would suffer, and God fulfilled that through the actions of the Jews. (18) So you see here that men sinned and God used that sin to fulfill his word and bring his plan to fruition. (18)

He also referred to Moses. The Jews revered Moses as leader of the exodus from Egypt, giver of the law and covenant, and prophet. Moses said God would raise up a prophet like him from their brothers and they must listen to him. Everyone that does not listen shall be destroyed from the people. (23) That is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15. Peter shows them they are condemned by their own great prophet. He means that Jesus was the prophet Moses spoke of. They did not listen to him. So, they are in danger of being destroyed from the people of God.

Peter went on to say that all the prophets proclaimed this. He singled out Samuel as the beginning of this. The Jews considered Samuel the next prophet after Moses. The Jews were “sons of the prophets”. (25) Their ancestors heard the prophets speak. They wrote down those words and preserved them. Every Jew in Jesus’ time heard those words read in the synagogue on the Sabbath, heard to rabbi teach them, and memorized many of them. They professed to believe those words.

The Jews were also sons of the Abrahamic covenant. The took pride in calling themselves the children of Abraham. Peter recited the covenant promise to them, although they knew it by heart: in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed”. When Peter said “God, having raised up his servant”, he means Jesus is that offspring of Abraham that will bless all the families of the earth. (25) God sent Christ to the Jews first, before sending him to the rest of the earth through the apostles preaching. He did this bless them and turn them from their sin, that is, to repent, believe and receive salvation.

Paul referred to this promise in Galatians 3, pointing out that the promise was made to Abraham and his offspring. He wrote that this said offspring in the singular, not plural, and that offspring was Jesus. (Galatians 3:15-16) Paul also wrote that the gospel was for the Jews first, then the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

The signs of Jesus and the apostles pointed to Jesus’ divine power, testifying that he is the Son of God. They are also eschatological signs. They point to the time when Jesus will make all things new, when there will be no suffering or pain.

As God sent Jesus to the Jews for salvation, he also sent him to us Gentiles through the preaching of the gospel. If you have not done so, repent today, put your faith in Jesus, and receive eternal life.

Sunday, April 08, 2018


The Early Church

All those who were saved at Pentecost, along with the original disciples, constituted the New Testament church. Luke recorded how the earliest church operated. They devoted themselves to: (1) the apostle’s teaching; (2) the fellowship; (3) the breaking of bread; and (4) the prayers. (42)

Apostles Teaching

The Apostles taught what they learned from Jesus. They taught the Old Testament as it related to Jesus. Jesus had promised them that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that he taught them. (John 14:26) This explains how Peter was able to preach the great Pentecost sermon.

And they taught the Old Testament as it related to Jesus. Jesus had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45) Just as he did on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:27)

It is the same thing Paul did in the synagogue. (See Acts 13; 17)

The lesson for us is that we do not study or teach the Old Testament as a collection of unrelated stories. Rather, we teach it as leading to Jesus.

After Pentecost, the Apostles met with groups of new believers and taught them. That is part of making disciples, according to Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20: teaching them all that Jesus taught and applying it to their lives.

Today we have the teaching of the apostles in the New Testament scriptures. We continue the instruction of Jesus to teach his teachings to others, making them disciples.

The Fellowship
The believers were devoted to gathering together and sharing what they had. The word for sharing, in Greek, is “Koinonia”. They shared themselves, befriending and caring for one another. All of them were together. (44) They met at the temple and ate together in homes. (46)

They also shared their material possessions. They had all things in common, meaning they did not consider their property and possessions to belong to themselves individually, but to all. (44) Some even sold possessions and gave the proceeds to those believers who were in need. (45)

The Breaking of Bread

There is debate about whether this means simply having a meal together or participating in the Lord’s Supper. It could mean both, however. Looking at the example of Corinth, it appears that they had a meal together and also observed the Lord’s Supper. (1 Corinthians 11:20-22)

The Prayers

When the church gathered together, it prayed. We will see prayers in later chapters for specific needs. It could also be that they recited prayers from the Psalms.

There was a prevailing sense of awe among the believers as they did these things. First, because of the awesomeness of Jesus’ resurrection. In addition, the the Holy Spirit did signs and wonders through the Apostles. (43) Remember the prophecy of Joel 2, as quoted by Peter, said there would be signs on earth when God poured out his Holy Spirit. (19)

As Jesus’ signs showed his deity, these signs showed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the Apostles. They were empowered to accomplish the mission that Jesus gave them. They were thankful (46) and they praised God. The signs were also, as Jesus said, signs that the kingdom had come, that a new age was beginning.

All of this lead them to have favor with others, even non-believers. And it led to others being saved daily. (47) Generosity is attractive. A loving attitude toward others is attractive. These attitudes draw people to you and allow you to lead them to Jesus.

This week, try to capture the sense of awe, the sense of gladness and the spirit of generosity that possessed the first believers. Then speak the gospel to those who are drawn to you.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Here is a guy doing what he is called t do with no glamour or recognition.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The Ragman

by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing in my life, my street sense, my sly tongue had ever prepared me for. Hush, child. hush now, and I will tell it to you.

Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear tenor voice: 'Rags!' Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.

'Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!'

'Now this is a wonder,' I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?

I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn't disappointed.

Soon the ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, signing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.

The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.

'Give me your rag,' he said gently. 'and I'll give you another.'

He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.

Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then he began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.

'This is a wonder,' I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.

'Rags! Rags! New Rags for old!"

In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.

Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.

'Give me your rag,' he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, 'and I'll give you mine.'

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood -- his own!

'Rags! Rags! I take old rags!' cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.

The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.

'Are you going to work?' he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head. The Ragman pressed him: 'Do you have a job?"

'Are you crazy?' sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket -- flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.

'So,' said the Ragman. 'Give me your jacket, and I'll give you mine.'

So much quiet authority in his voice!

The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman -- and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman's arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on, he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.

'Go to work,' he said.

After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.

And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider's legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.

I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I need to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.

The little old Ragman -- he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And I waited to help him in what he did but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he signed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.

Oh how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope -- because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.

I did not know -- how could I know? -- that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night too.

But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.

Light -- pure, hard, demanding light -- slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow or age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Well, then I lowered my head and, trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: 'Dress me."

He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him.

The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!