the Christ

The Christ

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. – Matthew 1:1-17 ESV

Matthew, as one of the original disciples of Jesus, was out to present a first-hand account of His life and ministry. But Matthew’s Gospel was intended to be much more than a historical record of Jesus’ earthly ministry. At the heart of his Gospel is his belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews. To establish that claim, Matthew opened up his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus, and, unlike Luke’s version, Matthew began with Abraham, not Adam.

Establishing the Jewishness of Jesus was essential to Matthew’s account. So, he tied Jesus to the patriarchy and the monarchy of the Jewish people. Matthew describes Jesus as the son of Abraham and the son of David. And, as we saw in yesterday’s post, Matthew considered Jesus the fulfillment of the promises made by God to both of these men.

By highlighting these two great legends of the Hebrews, Matthew was tying Jesus to God’s promise to bless the nations of the world through the seed of Abraham, and His promise to establish a permanent kingdom ruled by a descendant of David. Jesus was the fulfillment of both promises. And Matthew provides this truncated genealogy as a way to prove that Jesus was a descendant of both men and, therefore, was the only person who could legally and credibly claim to be the Messiah.

For generations, the Jewish people had anticipated the coming of their long-awaited Messiah. They were familiar with the Old Testament promises concerning his coming and were eager for him to appear. But when Jesus had arrived on the scene, He was not what they were expecting. The Jewish perception of the Messiah was that of a warrior-king, someone like King David, who would reestablish Israel as a major force in the region and remove the yoke of Roman oppression under which the nation struggled.

But Jesus had been born in relative obscurity and under questionable circumstances in the backwater town of Bethlehem. He had grown up in Nazareth, the son of a common carpenter and with no apparent pedigree that would warrant His consideration as the Messiah. After all, Jesus had been little more than a peasant. And even when He began His earthly ministry and began calling His disciples, at least one of them expressed reservations about His less-than-impressive upbringing.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – John 1:45-46 ESV

But Matthew goes out of his way to trace Jesus’ roots all the way back to King David. And he divides the genealogy of Jesus into three concise sections, each comprised of 14 generations and culminating on the arrival of “the Christ.”

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. – Matthew 1:17 ESV

The term, “the Christ” is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. Matthew is insisting that Jesus was the one for whom the Jews had been waiting. He was the Messiah. And yet, John records in his Gospel that the Jews refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. – John 1:11 ESV

From all outward appearances, Jesus appeared to be anything but the fulfillment of God’s promises. He was not kingly in appearance. He had not shown up riding a white horse or leading a massive army. He lacked the trappings of royalty and the obvious signs of success. In fact, long before Jesus showed up, the prophet Isaiah had predicted the unexpected and unimpressive nature of His arrival.

…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. – Isaiah 53:2-3 ESV

The Jews were looking for a conquering king, not a suffering servant. They were expecting and demanding a contemporary version of David the king not David the shepherd boy. They were seeking liberation from Roman rule, not deliverance from the tyranny of sin and death. But little did they know that the one they rejected and scorned as an imposter, was actually their long-awaited Messiah.

Even the disciples whom Jesus chose would wrestle with their understanding of who He was and what He had come to do. Later on in his Gospel, Matthew records an encounter between Jesus and the mother of James and John. She approached Jesus and delivered the following demand: “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21 ESV). She was thinking of an earthly kingdom, not a heavenly one. Reflecting the understanding of her own two sons, she saw Jesus as the Messiah, but was hoping and counting on Him setting up His kingdom on earth, by releasing the Jews from their Roman oppressors and reestablishing the Davidic dynasty in Jerusalem.

But Jesus had a different agenda. He had come to do the will of His Father in heaven. And while a kingdom was part of God’s future plans for His Son, Jesus was going to suffer humiliation and execution long before He experienced glorification and exaltation. And Matthew records that immediately after the mother of James and John shared his maternally-driven request with Jesus, He had responded:

“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:28 ESV

The genealogy found in the opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is intended to prove the claim of the early Christians that Jesus was the Messiah. And the rest of his Gospel will chronicle the somewhat surprising and unexpected record of Jesus’ life. What Matthew describes in his account will contradict every expectation the Jews had regarding the Messiah. His life will not seem to match His lineage. His actions will not track with their assumptions. But Matthew wanted his readers to know from the start, that the one He was about to describe was the one for whom they longed. Jesus was the son of David and the son of Abraham. He was the God-ordained fulfillment of the Davidic and Abrahamic covenants. And while the Jews had failed to recognize Jesus as such, it did not change the fact that the Messiah had come. Jesus was who He had claimed to be. And the details of His life, while not what the Jews expected, would provide proof that Jesus was and is the Christ.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

To the End of the Age.

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:11-20 ESV

Of all the gospel authors, Matthew provides us with the most abbreviated version of the events associated with Jesus last hours on earth. For whatever reason, he chooses to leave out all the appearances Jesus made after His resurrection. We know from the accounts penned by John, Luke and Mark, that Jesus appeared repeatedly to His followers during the hours between His resurrection and His ascension. He had appeared to the two distraught disciples walking on the road to Emmaus discussing the recent death of their master (Luke 24:13-32). Those two had made a beeline to the room where the 10 of the disciples were gathered together, informing them of their encounter with Jesus. And at the very moment when they had shared the exciting news, Jesus had suddenly appeared among them (Luke 24:33-40). John records that Thomas had not been in the room that day, and when his fellow disciples told him what had happened, he had his doubts. So, eight days later, Jesus made yet another surprise appearance, telling Thomas, “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27). The apostle Paul gives us a succinct summary of all of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.

He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. – 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 NLT 

But Matthew chose to leave all of this out. Not only that, He doesn’t even mention the ascension of Jesus. Dr. Stanley Toussaint provides us with a compelling explanation for Matthew’s decision to leave out this seemingly vital part of the narrative.

The reason for Matthew’s diligence in approaching the resurrection in such an apologetic manner is evident since so much is dependent upon the resurrection of the Messiah. It authenticated His person. To the nation of Israel, His resurrection was the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matthew 12:38-39) attesting the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. The reason Matthew says nothing about the ascension is bound up in this point. If Jesus is the Messiah, then an account of the ascension is both unnecessary and self-evident to the Israelite. He would yet come in clouds of glory. What mattered to Matthew was that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and the resurrection proved that fact; therefore he goes no further. – Toussaint, Stanley D. Behold the King: A Study of Matthew. Portland, Oreg.: Multnomah Press, 1980. 

For Matthew, the resurrection said it all. If Jesus had been raised from the dead, which Matthew clearly believed, then His ascension would have been an undisputed fact. Matthew’s primary point was to prove the Messiahship of Jesus. That’s because, as a Jew, Matthew had aimed the content of his gospel on a Jewish audience. He had been ought to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of the world. And, for him, the resurrection was clear evidence and conclusive proof of that claim.

The tomb was empty and news of that reality had already begun to spread. In fact, the temple guards who tasked with protecting the tomb had made their way to the Caiaphas the high priest and his father-in-law, Annas, to break the bad news. These guards had been charged by the high council with the task of preventing the disciples from stealing the body of Jesus. The high priest and his fellow Sanhedrin members knew of Jesus’ claim that He would rise again and they feared His disciples would attempt to steal the body and boast that Jesus was alive.  And much to their surprise and chagrin, that exactly what the guards reported. And Matthew records that the guards told the high priest “all that had taken place.” That would have included exactly what Matthew had reported.

…there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. – Matthew 28:2-4 ESV

These men would have feared for their lives. They had no reason to lie and every reason to tell the truth – as crazy as it may have sounded. Not only had they failed to secure the tomb, they had fallen asleep on the job. So, they most likely told their bosses exactly what had happened, in great detail. But Matthew records that Caiaphas, having heard the unwelcome news from the guards, assembled the rest of the high council. Amazingly, Caiaphas determined that the best strategy was to pay off the guards and spread the rumor that the disciples had stolen the body – the very thing he had hoped to prevent. It seems clear that he knew something else had happened, and this decision was nothing more than a poor attempt at a coverup. The last thing he wanted was news spreading throughout the city that Jesus was alive.

And yet, that fact was Matthew’s primary point. Jesus was alive. He had risen from the dead, just as He had promised He would. He was the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. Matthew had opened up his gospel with the encounter between Joseph and the angel.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:20-21 ESV

He had followed that story with the one involving the arrival of the wise men who had asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?(Matthew 2:2 ESV). He recorded Herod’s attempt to eliminate Jesus as a threat by having all the male babies executed. He reported Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and the divine pronouncement from God, stating, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV).

Matthew had been out to prove that Jesus was Immanuel, when means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23 ESV). And the resurrection of Jesus was the final, conclusive piece of evidence.

Jesus had directed His disciples to meet Him at a mountain in Galilee. We are not told which mountain, but it may have been the very place where Jesus had given His sermon on the mount recorded in Matthew 5-7. But regardless of the exact location of their place of rendezvous, Jesus appeared yet again to His followers. Matthew reports that while all 11 of the disciples worshiped Him, some still harbored doubts. He doesn’t explain what he meant by this. Were they doubting Jesus’ resurrection? That seems hard to imagine, based on the fact that He was standing right in front of them. Did they doubt that He was the Messiah? Perhaps. It could be that they were still harboring hopes that He would reveal Himself to be the king they had long hoped for.  The Greek word translated as “doubted” is edistasan and it refers to a spirit of hesitation. They were unsure of all that was going on. They were probably fearful of all that was going to happen next. What would Jesus’ next steps be? What would happen to them? The Sanhedrin had already proven just how far they would go to eliminate Jesus as a threat, and they were not going to give up easily.

But Jesus attempted to calm their fears and doubts by telling them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18 ESV). This statement was meant to assure His wavering, fear-focused disciples that He was in complete control of the situation. The very fact that He was standing before them alive and well was proof that He had authority from God Almighty. He had done what no other man had ever done before – He had conquered death and the grave. And they had no reason to fear.

But they did have work to do. And Jesus, according to His God-given authority, authorized His followers to continue His work in His absence.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

No more hiding. No more fearing. They were to boldly proclaim the the good news of Jesus’ Messiahship. He was the Son of God. He was Immanuel, God with us. He was the King of the Jews and the Savior of the world. And that news was to be spread around the world. While the temple guards and the Sanhedrin were busy spreading lies, the disciples were to spread the truth about who Jesus was and is.

And Jesus promised them that He would be with them. This promise was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in them at Pentecost. The Spirit would be their constant companion and source of divine power. And, while Jesus would soon depart and return to His Father’s side in heaven, the Spirit of God would remain with them all the days of their lives. And He will remain with the followers of Christ, His bride, the church, until the end of the age.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

What Should We Do?

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away[h]—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. Acts 2:29-41 ESV

Peter, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, continues his explanation of the events that have just taken place. After having heard the disciples speaking in a variety of foreign languages, the crowds had been amazed, perplexed and bewildered. Some had asked what the meaning was behind what they had just witnessed. Others simply accused the disciples of drunkenness. So, Peter, spoke up and began to address both issues. He flatly denied the accusation of public intoxication, writing it off as illogical. No God-fearing Jew would be drunk at that hour of the day, and certainly not a crowd of 120, made up of men and women. But then, Peter had begun his attempt to answer the question, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12 ESV). Quoting from a psalm of David, he used the words of the former king of Israel as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, and that what the crowd had just witnessed was the fulfillment of prophecy. King David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had written, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2:27 ESV). But Peter points out that David did eventually die and “his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29 ESV). So, obviously, his body did suffer decay and undergo corruption. Acknowledging David as a prophet of God, Peter interprets David’s words to mean that the former king had been speaking prophetically and indicating that God was going to bring another to sit on the his throne, in keeping with God’s promise to him.

11 Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. – 2 Samuel 7:11-13 ESV

David would rule and reign vicariously through his future descendant. 

“Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne…” – Acts 2:30 ESV

And Peter unequivocally states that David, when speaking of his soul not being abandoned to Hades or the Holy One not seeing corruption, he was prophesying about the coming resurrection of Jesus, which Peter and his fellow disciples had witnessed.

31 David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.

32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.” – Acts 2:31-32 NLT

This is when Peter gets to the point of his message. He is attempting to answer the question, “What does this mean?” As dramatic and unnerving as the display of the disciples speaking in foreign languages may have been, it was nothing when compared to the resurrection of Jesus. God had raised a dead man back to life. But not just any man. He had raised Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the world, back to life. Peter was claiming Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. Jesus was the Holy One who would sit on David’s throne and reign forever. But, Peter points out that, Jesus did not come to rule and reign from Jerusalem. At least, not yet. He says, “Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand” (Acts 2:33 NLT). Jesus had returned to heaven, where He sits at His Father’s side. And, in the meantime, He had sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His followers. That, Peter points out, is what they had just seen.

“And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.” – Acts 2:33 NLT

Peter claims that what the crowds had just seen and heard had been a work of God and a sign that Jesus had risen from the dead and had returned to heaven in glory. If you think about it, this must have sounded outlandish, even preposterous, to his Jewish audience. As miraculous as the speaking in tongues may have been, what Peter was claiming had to have sounded far-fetched to the Jews who heard him. 

But Peter was far from done. He used yet another quote from David to drive home his point. He reminds his listeners that David never ascended into heaven. He died and was buried. And yet, in Psalm 110:1, David had written, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool”’” (Acts 2:34-35 ESV). This is the very same psalm Jesus Himself would use to refer to Himself as the Messiah.

41 Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

They replied, “He is the son of David.”

43 Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said,

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit in the place of honor at my right hand
    until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’

45 Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”

46 No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Matthew 22:41-46 NLT

Jesus was the Son of David, in the sense that He was a descendant of David. But He was also David’s Lord, because He was the Messiah. And David, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, had clearly been speaking of the Messiah when he wrote Psalm 110. And Peter, drawing his message to a close, delivers the answer to the question that the crowd had asked.

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” – Acts 2:36 NLT

Peter drops the hammer. He delivers the blow that will leave his audience staggering and wondering what just hit them. Because of what he has said, they are going to have to wrestle with the weight of Peter’s claims. What if Jesus had risen from the dead as the rumor mills had been circulating? What if the remarkable display of the disciples speaking in tongues was proof? What if Peter was right and Jesus actually was the Messiah? And what if they had played a part in putting Jesus to death? This was a lot to consider. The weight of Peter’s words would have overwhelmed them, like a heavy blanket of guilt and despair. And the text points out that “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’” (Acts 2:37 NLT).

They were overwhelmed by that they had heard. It was almost too much for them to compute. So, they asked another question. They simply wanted to know what they were supposed to do. And Peter gave them the answer.

“Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38 NLT

Peter presented the gospel. He told them the good news regarding Jesus. Through Jesus, they could be restored to a right relationship with God. By believing that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David, and the Savior of the world, they could be redeemed and restored. But Peter didn’t stop there. He preached for some time, calling his audience to “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” (Acts 2:40 NLT). Their salvation would be found in Jesus, not themselves. Their redemption would come from faith in the Messiah, not their own self-righteousness or feeble attempts at trying to please God. And Peter’s Spirit-inspired words made an impact. Three thousand people placed their faith in Christ that day. They became believers in Jesus as their Messiah. Their lives were radically and irreversibly changed. The church had begun, and the Kingdom of God had begun to spread.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Staying Power.

So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. – 1 John 2:24 NLT

There are always going to be reasons for believers to lose hope and doubt their faith. The enemy is real, his attacks are relentless and the pressure to doubt God is ever-present. John knew that those to whom he wrote were faced with all kinds of questions regarding their beliefs. They were having the very foundation of their faith shaken by those who claimed to be their brothers and sisters in Christ. Their fellowship had been rocked by the recent departure of a group who no longer believed what they believed. They had a different view about Jesus. At first glance, their perspective probably hadn't sounded all that different, but over time it became clear that they were espousing a radically different doctrine regarding the identity and role of Jesus. Evidently, they had come to believe that Jesus was nothing more than a man. He was not the Son of God. He was not God in human flesh. In other words, they were rejecting the very idea of the incarnation. And it seems clear from John's letter, that they were even doubting their need for a Savior, because they were denying their own sinfulness. John called this “the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3 ESV). Their views regarding Jesus were more than just opinions, they were heresy, dangerous and destructive teachings that undermined the very foundation of the faith and denied the Word of God. John called them what they were: liars. “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” (1 John 2:22 ESV). To deny that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world, was to deny that He was God. It was to disagree with what God said about Jesus and what Jesus claimed about Himself. It was to reject the teaching of the apostles, like John, who had been eye-witnesses of not only His earthly ministry, but His death and resurrection.

So John gives his struggling flock two ways for staying strong in the face of unrelenting attacks on their faith. The first was that they must remain faithful to what they had been taught. They must consider the source. John wrote, “So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father” (1 John 2:24 NLT). The Message paraphrase puts it this way: “Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink into your life. If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father.” Where did that original message come from? The apostles. They had been the messengers sent by Jesus to spread the good news regarding the gift of eternal life made possible by His death on the cross. They had brought the message of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God that Jesus’ death and resurrection had made possible. And their message hinged on the reality of Jesus being the sinless Son of God. He was NOT just a man who lived a good life and died a martyr’s death. He was God's own Son, and He had taken on human flesh, lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death, as a payment to satisfy the just penalty required by a righteous and holy God. That is what the apostles had been taught. That is what they had shared. That is what the recipients of John's letter had originally believed, and it had radically changed their lives. So John was encouraging them to remain faithful to what they had heard. There would be plenty of other opinions about God. There would be other views regarding Jesus and the way of salvation. But Jesus had said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). He had boldly claimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25 ESV). And John, who had personally seen Jesus in His post-crucifixion, resurrected state, had written, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).

But there was one more thing John told his readers to remember. “But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you” (1 John 2:27 NLT). They had experienced the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised. When they had believed what the apostles had taught, it had been confirmed by the filling of the Spirit. John reminded them that because the Spirit of God lived or remained within them, they could know that what they had been taught by the apostles had been true. They didn't need any “new” teaching. “…so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ” (1 John 2:27 NLT). This did not mean that they were omniscient or all-knowing. It simply meant that they already knew the truth regarding Jesus and His claim to be the Son of God. The very presence of the Holy Spirit within them was the proof. Just like those to whom John was writing, we have the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We have the testimony of the apostles and the presence of the Spirit. We know the truth. We know Jesus – the way, the truth, and the life. He is who He who claimed to be. The Word of God declares it. The apostles gave their lives to defend it. And the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God makes it impossible to deny it.