Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Nature of the Church


The Nature of the Church

Stuart L. Brogden

Greek Word: ἐκκλησία
Strong's 1577
Transliteration: ekklēsia
from a compound of <G1537> (ek) and a derivative of <G2564> (kaleo); a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both), assembly, church.

What is "the church"?
The Greek word ekklesia is most often presented in English Bibles as "church." The word "church" is not a translation of the Greek word, ekklesia; it’s not even a transliterated version of that word. Strong’s concordance shows ekklesia being used in the KJV as either “assembly” or “church.” But the Greek word means “the called ones” and actually shows up in Scripture being applied to an assembly of town-folk (3 times in Acts 19:32-41). As with most words in the Word, the bare definition of the word does not reveal the meaning in every usage.

As for the use of “church” in the Bible, there does not appear to be a clear record of why it was chosen, nor of the meaning of this word. At least twice in the New Testament of the KJV, “church” applies to God’s covenant people in the Old Testament:

Acts 7:37-38 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and [with] our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.

Heb 2:11-12 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

It is not possible for anyone to make a categorical statement that every occurrence of “church” means the local assembly of the saints, as some do.

The first known use of this word in English Bibles is found in Wycliffe’s Bible, spelled “chirche.” His work was translated from the Latin Vulgate and we have no clear reason for his use of this word.
In Smith's Bible Dictionary from 1884, page 452, we read:

the derivation of the word 'church' is uncertain. It is found in the Teutonic and Slavonic languages and answers to the derivatives of ekklesia, which are naturally found in the romance languages and by foreign importation elsewhere. The word is generally said to be derived from the Greek kyriakos, meaning the lord's house. But the derivation has been too hastily assumed. It is probably associated with the Scottish kirk, the Latin circus/circulous, the Greek klukos, because the congregations were gathered in circles.

Ebenezer Cobham Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable of 1898 agrees:

The etymology of this word is generally assumed to be from the Greek, Kuriou oikos (house of God); but this is most improbable, as the word existed in all the Celtic dialects long before the introduction of Greek. No doubt the word means "a circle." The places of worship among the German and Celtic nations were always circular. (Welsh, cyrch, French, cirque; Scotch, kirk; Greek, kirk-os, etc.) Compare Anglo-Saxon circe, a church, with circol, a circle.
The first definition in Daniel Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “church” as “A house consecrated to the worship of God, among Christians; the Lords house. This seems to be the original meaning of the word.”
There two things to bear in mind regarding the apparent definition of the word “church.” The ekklesia of God in the New Testament refers to the redeemed saints, not a location or a building. Secondly, one of the messages Jesus taught the woman at the well (John 4) is that, in the Christian faith, there are no sacred or consecrated places where we must meet God.

Since the etymology of “church” is based on location rather than on people, it is a poor choice for ekklesia. In practice, so many Christians think of the building as the church, which many refer to as “the house of God,” it is a constant battle to keep the true meaning of ekklesia in front of people. In contrast, the Scriptures use myriad examples of buildings to refer to God’s redeemed people (1 Cor 3:15-17; 6:19; Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:5; Gal 4:26; Rev 21:2), and never refers to a temporal location within the New Covenant context. Why do we carry on with this word that people consistently understand to mean a temporal location rather than the people of God?

After Wycliffe's Bible (1382), the early English Bibles took a different view. Tyndale's Bible (1526), the Coverdale Bible (1535), Matthew Bible (1537), The Great Bible (1539), and the Bishop's Bible (1568) all translated ekklesia as "congregation," a term that conveys the idea of people called to be together. The Geneva Bible (1560) followed Wycliffe and used "church" in place of ekklesia, as did the KJV.
When work on the King James Bible began, the king provided 15 rules that the translators had to follow. Rules 1 & 3 are of particular interest to the topic of this paper:

1. The ordinary Bible, read in the church, commonly called the Bishop’s Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit.
3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept; as the word church, not to be translated congregation, &c.
Rule 1 shows that the king wanted his Bible to be in the common tongue, accessible to the people, who were used to having the Great Bible and the Bishop's Bible used in the state-churches. It is not true, as some KJV defenders claim, that the KJV was a unique Bible; it was based on the Bishop's Bible. Rule 3 came into play in two prominent words that were not translated, but merely used in place of (as with "church") or transliterated (as with "baptism"). Translating these two words would have provided us a clearer picture of what God was communicating. Ekklesia rendered as "congregation" or "assembly" shows we are talking about people, not places. Baptizo rendered as "dipping" or "dunking" shows we are talking about being identified with Christ in His death and resurrection by going down into the waters as if unto death and rising up from them as if unto new life. Advocates of the state-church have a history of building geo-political empires with ostentatious buildings for their gatherings and sprinkling infants rather than baptizing disciples.

There are at least eight passages where ekklesia refers to what is called "the universal church," all the redeemed in Christ, called according to His name.

Matthew 16:18 (KJV) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
1 Corinthians 15:9 (KJV) For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Ephesians 1:22-23 (KJV) And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Ephesians 3:9-11 (KJV) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:21 (KJV) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Ephesians 5:23-32 (KJV) For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Philippians 3:6 (KJV) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Colossians 1:18 (KJV) And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Colossians 1:24 (KJV) Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church.
Hebrews 12:23 (KJV) To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
In each of these passages, the bolded phrases make consistent sense when seen as references to the total number of God's redeemed; not as references to any given local ekklesia. In his 1858 book, Manual of Church Order, John Leadly Dagg spent chapter 3 discussing the universal church, beginning with this: "The Church Universal is the whole company of those who are saved by Christ."

In his book, Concise Theology, chapter "The Church," J. I. Packer, describes the universal church:

The New Testament defines the church in terms of the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes and patterns through a relationship to all three Persons of the Godhead, brought about by the mediatorial ministry of Jesus Christ. The church is seen as the family and flock of God (Eph. 2:18; 3:15; 4:6; John 10:16; 1 Pet. 5:2-4), his Israel (Gal. 6:16); the body and bride of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:25-28; Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9-27); and the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; cf. Eph. 2:19-22). Those in the church are called the “elect” (chosen), the “saints” (consecrated ones, set apart for God), and the “brothers” (adopted children of God).
A dear brother pointed out that where local gatherings are referred to as ekklesia, the reference is a subset of the whole rather than a division. This is particularly emphasized in the first Letter the Holy Spirit wrote to the Corinthians through the hand of Paul:

“To the [ekklesia] of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Co 1:2–3 ESV).

The Holy Spirit through Paul then specifically admonishes them about dividing, quarreling, and following specific men/ideologies to the exclusion of others:


“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Co 1:10–13 ESV).

The truest, purest expression of ekklesia is the vision of heavenly Jerusalem, coming down from heaven with the Lord Jesus upon His second advent (Rev 21:2). Therefore, those New Testament passages which appear to speak of the universal assembly of God’s redeemed should be embraced rather than cast in the shadow, so the references to the local gathering of saints would be established as THE “church.” The primary focus on the “local church” by some brothers is so prominent in their doctrine that one can easily lose sight of the fact that the ekklesia of Christ is a heavenly body. Our citizenship is in heaven, we are pilgrims and sojourners in this age.

It is true that the overwhelming occurrences of ekklesia in the New Testament refers to local assemblies; there is no reason to pretend otherwise. The point is that the local assembly is not the only ekklesia of God's people mentioned in Scripture. It's easier to see this when we use a term that clearly portrays the people of God and not merely a place on the ground. The local ekklesia is important for the saints - this is where critical spiritual growth takes place, this is where the Spirit of God gathers and gifts us as it pleased Him. But in each local assembly of saints, there is likely to be false brothers in the pale. In this way, the local ekklesia is a type of the true ekklesia, the universal church, because in that gathering, there are only true sons and daughters of our Holy God; no pretenders.

The congregation is the people of God. Christ gave Himself for His sheep - all and each of them, whether they belong to a local congregation or are awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. After all, the Bible is all about the Lord Jesus and we ought to be, also. Let us not get so earthly focused that we take our eyes off Him.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Justification

You've heard it said that "justified" means "just as if I'd never sinned."
If that were true, we would be in trouble by the hour.
If all Christ did for us was to make us like Adam before the Fall, we are not clothed in His righteousness, we are not aware of the offense against Him we've committed, and we have no amazement at the grace He lavished upon that we would be the sons and daughters of Holy God.
Justified means MUCH MORE than "just as if I'd never sinned." It means forgiven, reconciled, and destined for glory in spite of my sin.
Praise the Lord! He does not merely make our sin go away; He paid for it on the cross and covers us in His righteousness, reconciling us to the Father by the blood of His cross.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Psalm 14 - Concerning Practical Atheism

Operator error prevented this sermon from being recorded. The basic message is in the following notes.


Psalm 14

Spurgeon said this Psalm might be entitled Concerning Practical Atheism; it portrays and describes the way natural man thinks - as if God is not. The occasion for David's writing it is not known, but the truths revealed are universal, so the reasons are endless. Spurgeon said, "David has given us in Psalm 53 a second edition of this humiliating psalm, being moved of the Holy Ghost thus doubly to declare a truth which is ever distasteful to carnal minds." As the state of New York reminded us this week, God’s truth goes against the grain of natural man, it “is ever distasteful to carnal minds”. We who in Christ need to see His truth as precious and good for our souls, even as we weep for those who are captive to sin.

I am taking as my outline the breakdown found the Miles Coverdale Bible, printed in 1535 and based largely on Tyndale's work.  Psalm 14 looks at natural man, ending with a plea for God's mercy. Psalm 15 is the answer to that plea! This evening, it's mostly bad news.

I. vs 1-3: The Natural Man.
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
 there is none who does good.
 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

We don't lightly call a man a fool. Here we see YHWH's definition of such a man - he says to himself there is no God. He may make a public profession of faith, may be a seminary grad, preacher, deacon, accepted by all the saints who know him. But in his heart, he says there is no God; he thinks he is an atheist. God doesn't believe in atheists - see Romans 1:19-21. Such men, the unregenerate, are fools.  And many local assemblies allow people to join them without any judgment find themselves overrun with professing Christians who deny God exists; and the majority rules in most local churches. When the majority knows not God, majority rule is dangerous.

To say there is no God, however, goes far beyond alleged atheism. It is the ultimate of self-rule, for the fool is actually saying there is no ruler, no governing authority. It harkens back to the garden where the serpent tempted Eve by telling her she would be as God. This is what the fool believes – that he is in the place of God, determining what is good and what is not.

When you watch or read the news – the fool is on display! He or she declares homosex and the marriage of any two people is good; that gender is fluid and gender specific pronouns (he and she) are evil! The fool says the infant might be a boy or girl or something else – we must wait and see what the toddler will decide. New York state says the murder of babies is a good thing. Evil is called good. All this is the natural condition of man.  And God is not mocked. His justice WILL prevail!

Verse 2 says YHWH looked down from heaven to see if there were any who understand – just like He did before the flood. Gen 6:11-12. Has man changed? Can he change himself? Can the leopard change his spots? The flood wiped out humanity, save eight souls, from the face of the earth because man rebelled against God. Noah was a righteous man, blameless, walked with God. And as soon as the ground grew grapes, Noah was drunk. Mankind wasn’t not changed by the flood; sin was not abolished.

Wicked men are allowed to live because there are no other kind. This is what verse 3 tells us. We who are redeemed were as they are, we see this Eph 2 (We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.) and Col 1 (Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions.). We are not better than them, we are better off, having been brought near to the Father by the blood of Christ. Even wicked men benefit from God’s mercy towards His elect. Read Gen 9:8-17 to see the covenant God made with this earth to provide times and seasons for men to live and die, until the last sheep is brought into the sheepfold of Christ.

This is why Paul used this passage and several others in his letter to the Romans. In chapter 3 Paul quoted from this passage; 5:9; 10:7; 36:1; Ecc 7:20; and Isaiah 59:7-8. The ancient preacher said, Eccl 7:20, Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.  see Rom 3:9-18

The verdict is in; it’s irrefutable and final. Man in his natural state is more like an animal than a creature made in God’s image. What can we expect from natural man other wickedness?

II. vs 4-6: God convicts the wicked by the light of their conscience.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?
 5 There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
 6 You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is his refuge.  

David saw that evil people, those who do not call upon the Lord, consume and dominate the covenant people of God. They have no knowledge of God – none that would strike fear in their hearts. These are those who say there is no God, their thoughts and imaginations are only evil continually. They have no regard for others. When you see people rioting in the streets, stealing from stores, robbing people – they are consuming people like they eat bread. When a load of sour dough bread comes out of the oven, it is not possible to resist. Evil doers who consume God’s people (that is who David is mentioning here) like a hungry man grabbing fresh bread do not call upon the Lord. If you study the line of Christ back to Adam, you will see that Seth, born after Abel’s murder, is the godly line. Gen 4:26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD. Godly people, such as Seth’s son Enosh, called upon the Lord.

Matthew Henry said, “While Cain, the head of the apostacy, is made a wanderer, Seth, from whom the true church was to come, is one fixed. In Christ and his church is the only true settlement. Seth walked in the steps of his martyred brother Abel; he was a partaker of like precious faith in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and so became a fresh witness of the grace and influence of God the Holy Spirit. God gave Adam and Eve to see the revival of religion in their family. The worshippers of God began to do more in religion; some, by an open profession of true religion, protested against the wickedness of the world around.”

When God's people live as though we've been raised from spiritual death unto life everlasting, those who are His enemies will not be at peace with us. As we love one another and proclaim Christ, without the fear of what man can do to us, those who are of the world will not know what to think. Like all of us, they will fear what they do not understand, even though they can see enough to know He is.

When Joshua led Israel into the promised land, God conquered all the kings of the earth therein and the fear of God was known far and wide. As of Joshua chapter 10, numerous cities had fallen to the small nation; the sun stood still in the sky all day; and the kings of the earth feared. See Josh 11:1-6. These kings feared being conquered by the God of Israel, so they mustered as many warriors as they could. Reminds of Pharaoh chasing the Hebrews after they left Egypt. Like a weiner dog chasing a car, once he catches it he knows not what he'll do. These kings, just like Pharaoh, had too high an opinion of themselves. YHWH tells His people, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.” Just as He had caused Egypt to give riches to Israel as they left, just as He cause Jericho to fall, just as He had conquered all the other kings in the land, He delivered these self-important rulers of this world over to His people for destruction. This is the Lord's doing and it was marvelous in the eyes of His people!

This is why David could proclaim vs 5 & 6. He is faithful to His people to bring about His purpose and plans! Those would take advantage of the poor (as national Israel did throughout her history!) would be held to account and His people, even the poorest soul that belongs to Him, will find refuge in Him.

III. vs 7: David glories in the salvation of God.
Ps 14:7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Here’s where the tide turns; where we get a preview of Psalm 15. In the face of all the bad news about man's war against God and His people, David knows the only answer, the only relief is for God Himself to save!

Here's where our rule for interpreting Scripture will impact us. Does the king of Israel speak of the salvation for that people only, or does he intend us to see Israel and Judah as typical for the sheep within the sheepfold of God and the sheep not therein, which Christ will seek out and bring in? Is Zion earthly Jerusalem or does it represent the heavenly place from whence our help comes?

Two old time Baptists, John Gill (17th century) and Charles Spurgeon (19th century) were historic premillennialists. Both of them saw Israel and Judah as the full number of God's elect and Zion as referring to where Christ currently sits. As an amillennial, I agree completely. Since this Psalm is not couched in a specific event in David's life, but is a general commentary on the problem mankind has and the only hope there is; it makes the most sense - I say it only makes sense - to see this as our old Baptist brothers did, with the focus on Christ and His salvation of His people.

Gill said Zion refers to "the Messiah, the Saviour of Israel, of all the elect of God, whether Jews or Gentiles; and who is so called, because the salvation of them was put into his hands, and he undertook it; and because he is the Captain and Author of it, and it is in him, and in no other. He was to come out of Zion, out of Judea, from among the Jews."

The middle part of this verse says "When God restores the fortunes of His people"; in the context of the kingdom of God, refer to the bondage of sin man is in and the action that God alone can take to remedy that situation. Again, from Gill: "The people of God are, in their unregeneracy, in a state of captivity to sin, Satan, and the law; the work of the Messiah, when he came, was to proclaim liberty to the captives, to set them free, to deliver them from their spiritual bondage: and this Christ has done; he has redeemed his people from all their sins, and from the curse of the law, and from the power of Satan, and has led captivity captive; and which has justly occasioned great joy in the redeemed ones,".

All this was done according to His eternal plan to redeem a people for Himself, a people from every nation, tongue, and tribe - not only from ethnic Israel.

Jacob and Israel shall rejoice when they see this great salvation. Gill said that the Jews refer to this as the time of the Messiah. They were right in that! Gill finishes by telling us it is "the posterity of Jacob and Israel; not his natural, but spiritual seed, such who are the true sons of Jacob, Israelites indeed; these having faith and hope in the plenteous redemption of Christ, rejoice in the view of their interest in it; they the song of redeeming love now, and these ransomed ones will hereafter come to Zion with joy, and everlasting joy upon their heads."

Now that's something to rejoice over!

Application:
What does all this mean?

The political rulers in New York give evidence that what David wrote so long is still true. To make their position clear: It’s illegal to give the death penalty to a murderer; but it’s legal and encouraged to murder a helpless person.

Does this wreck our world? It shouldn’t – God has told us people left to themselves do horrible things. What we need to keep in mind is that we were cut from the same cloth as these evil people in New York. If not for the mercy of God we would not understand His ways, be outraged for the right reasons, or have reason to cry out for Jesus to come quickly. We should be praying for these wicked people to come to faith in Christ, to repent of their sin and repeal this horrible law. If they do not, they will be filled with terror on the day He returns to judge all flesh.

When the state, even one such as New York, declares murder a health care right, we do not lose hope. Yes, our heart breaks that evil men prosper and rule over others – some of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ. But this wicked world is no longer our home. Our hearts should ache to be done with sin and home with our Lord, even though we recognize that as long as He gives us breath we will serve Him.

So let us pray for those who are as we were, let us encourage one another to not grow weary in doing well, let us love one another in word and deed, and let us keep our eyes fixed on the unseen things so we don’t get dragged into the muck of this world.

Isaiah 26:3-4 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

This is our Lord's promise - we fix our minds on Him, trusting Him when the world is evil. And He will keep us in His peace, for He is our rock of refuge.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Luke 5:12-16, The Poor and the Prideful


The Poor and the Prideful, Luke 5:12-26


Matt 5:3  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I. vs 12-14: Introduction - Spiritually poor leper
Jesus was in a town in Galilee. He had been teaching large crowds and had publicly called 3 men to be His disciples. While in one of these small towns, an outcast from society - a man with a serious skin disease all over him. Leprosy was the term used to describe numerous skin conditions, including leprosy. But all were treated as contagious and kept out of the covenant community. He saw Jesus, recognized Him, fell on his face and begged Jesus to make him clean. IF He - Jesus - was willing. This man was a Jew and cared not that Jesus didn't fit the Jewish expectations of their Messiah. He was poor in spirit and wanted the cleansing that only comes from the true Messiah. Yes - and Jesus, who learned obedience as a man, was vulnerable. But He came for such as this one. And for you and for me. Oh, praise Him!

This outcast begged Jesus to cleanse him, if He would. Jesus reached out and touched the man - he probably hadn't been touched by another human in years. Note how different from every common expectation He was. Not aloof, prideful, condescending, self-promoting. He listened to this man treated as a sub-human, probably looking him right in the eye, touched him - conferring humanity upon this beggar! And Jesus tells him the most marvelous thing: I'm willing; be made clean!

Now what does a person who has won a million dollars do? Most people go tell everyone they know. This Jewish leper was lifted up from the debris where his kind were forced to live, treated like a human, and cleansed! He was told to "go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing as a testimony to them." This leper was a Jew. But He did not care whether Jesus met the Jewish expectations for a political savior; he wanted to have life! “IF you are willing …” This leper KNEW salvation and cleansing was of the Lord, if He wills!, and not of man. Mark’s account, chapter 1:39-45, reveals that this man went from Jesus talking freely to everyone about what Jesus had done for him (page 1895).

Such was the fame that was swelling up around this man who heals!

II. vs 15-16: Not of this world
Contrary to what many people in our day think, large crowds of people are not necessarily a good thing. As many as 40,000 flock to see and hear Joel Osteen each week; never hearing the gospel, but they're told their destiny is to be healthy and wealthy in this age. Jesus was not teaching that message. His kingdom is not of this world; the world will hate you as it hated Him; ALL who follow Christ WILL suffer. And people from everywhere thronged to get a glimpse of this man, to hear a word from Him; to be cleansed. From this point forward, His whereabouts were fairly well known. People were looking for Him. How many accounts are there in the New Testament that tell us of the large crowds that followed Jesus; and how many of them end with a rebuke for wrong motives?

In our passage, He removes Himself from the crowds, as He often did; seeking a place to commune with His Father. The approval of the crowds was not what He sought; the approval of His Father was the goal. The Christian gets encouragement from other saints, but we dare not seek applause or disciples for ourselves. Every one of us should seek the approval of the One Who is self-approving. The Lord Jesus has always been in close communion with the Father. But since taking on flesh, since adding our nature to His, He also had human needs during His first advent. He grew and learned and ate and grew tired. His food was to do the Father's will (see John 4:28-34). Prayer is communion with God. The human nature of Jesus desired the close communion He had always had in the spirit. It is the Father's will that we spend time in prayer with Him. Not so much asking for things (which is not necessarily bad), but merely seeking closeness with him, admitting our need and His sufficiency. This type of prayer builds up the souls of the saints. This is the example our Lord gave us.

III. vs 17-20: Spiritually poor people, not those looking for bread to fill their bellies
Verse 17 describes "one of those days." The Lord Jesus had been going from town to town preaching the kingdom of God, healing people, filling some bellies. Once again, leaders from the Jewish community were gathered - along with scores of people from the villages in the region - from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. A LOT of people, from some distance. A crowd, wanting to hear, waiting to see who would be healed.

Luke includes a very curious statement, And the Lord's power to heal was in Him. Here is revealed one aspect of His earthly ministry that He spoke clearly of in John 5:30 (page 2032). This shows us the closeness amongst the persons in the Trinity - no rogue members, all in total agreement.  As the Messiah was one prophesied to bring healing to Israel, so Jesus came to heal physical Israel physically as a revelation of the spiritual healing He was bringing to spiritual or true Israel.

Many a sermon has been preached on the determination and faith of these friends. That ain't the main point. The main point of this passage is that Jesus has come as promised, to deliver the poor in spirit to freedom. These men who brought their friend to Jesus were not after food; they desired their friend to be healed. This was a genuine hunger for the goodness of God, for Jesus saw that they had faith in Him! All the other people were sitting, waiting for Jesus to perform. These 4 “took the kingdom by force” in making a hole in the roof and lowering their friend to where Jesus was. We know this faith was not merely in Jesus as physical healer because Jesus’ response to them was directed at the man’s soul – seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your SINS ARE FORGIVEN.” In the scene of the 10 lepers, Jesus first heals the body of all of them and then heals the soul of the one who returned to give thanks. Here, He first heals the soul of this man – your sins are forgiven. The lesson in this passage is all about putting spiritual things first.

We know from the biblical accounts of other miracles – the feeding of the 5,000 for example – that people followed after Jesus for food! John 6:26 - Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” As we read a few minutes back, Jesus’ food consisted of more than physical bread – to do the will of the Father. In John 6:27 He taught that we should not work for food that perishes but for food that endures to eternal life – which the Son of Man will give!

Now we are good Baptists and enjoy our fellowship meals – one of which we will enjoy in a short while. Paul wrote that all food is good if received with thanks to God, for every good thing comes to us from Father of lights. The ancient preacher, in Ecclesiastes 8:15 observed that one of the primary joys in life was to eat and drink and be glad; he posited this against the tendency we have to worry about evil men who prosper.  Eating is not our focal point, but we should be content with what we have been given. Those who followed Jesus because their bellies had been filled are identified in Phil 3:18 & 19 (page 2289) as enemies of the cross. Let us be foremost focused on seeking food that endures to eternal life, which Christ Himself gives us as we fellowship with Him and one another, through prayer, and quiet godly lives.

There is another group of people watching and listening to Jesus. The religious leaders.



IV. vs 21: Prideful people clinging to fleeting power
Note the short, sharp report Luke provides about their response. No concern about what has been taught, no concern with the paralyzed man. Their concern was as it had been – with their religious rules being kept so their position would be protected. In Matthew 12 Jesus healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. Verse 14 tells us the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might destroy Him. In Luke 11, Jesus was teaching the religious leaders about their hypocrisy, pronouncing a series of “woes” upon them; summing up in verse 52 “Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge! You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in.” And rather than examining themselves to see if these things were true, the chapter ends with this - When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to oppose Him fiercely and to cross-examine Him about many things; they were lying in wait for Him to trap Him in something He said.

Note the contrast between the two groups present in our passage. One group of people who were routinely put in their place by the other group – religious leaders. The poor people were described as little children by Jesus in Matt 23 as He rebuked the Pharisees, calling them a brood of vipers. Verses 37-38 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you desolate." Note that the poor people of Israel were those He desired to gather tenderly, yet the leaders of Israel - called Jerusalem, as was the custom (calling civic leaders by the name of their territory) - were unyielding and unwilling, so precious to them was their political power within national Israel. In Acts 5, when Peter has been released from jail and he and John are preaching the gospel, the Sanhedrin and Pharisees were enraged and wanted to kill them (Acts 5:33).

Details will differ, but there are still and always will be (until the Lord returns) these two groups of people: the spiritually poor who want the Lord for Himself and the prideful who want themselves as lord.

V. vs 22-24: The Lord reveals Himself
Next up we see how Jesus responds to these prideful folk who accused Him of blaspheme. These men had not spoken, but had begun to think Jesus was blaspheming because no one can forgive sins but God! Jesus perceived their thoughts - a sign that He is God - and then asked them that pointed question. He was telling them, Talk is cheap, ain't it? Anyone can SAY "your sins are forgiven" but something greater than Solomon is here, telling the man to "get up and walk." And then He sets things straight, telling the brood of vipers: So you will know that I have authority on earth to forgive sins. He doesn't finish the sentence, but turns to the forgiven, paralyzed man and says, "I tell you: Get up, pick up your mat, and go home." You would think all would see this as good news. It WAS good news to the poor; it was not seen as good news by the prideful. But one thing was clear: Jesus, the Son of Man, has the ability to heal AND He has the authority to forgive sins. He is God.

VI. vs 25-26: Spiritually poor people rejoice at the goodness of God
No doubt in anyone's mind Who was before them. Sins forgiven, paralysis healed, muscles restored. Not slowly, over a matter of days and weeks. The One Who created all things, by Whom all things are held together, God in the flesh forgave the man's sins, restored the man's body, and told him to pack up and go. The man immediately got up, packed up his mat, and went home glorifying God. Just like the one leper. The sign of a person who truly desire the ultimate healing of being reconciled to Holy God is that he is thankful to God, rejoicing at having found mercy in time of need.

And note this - all the poor folk were astounded! They had heard the prophecies for generations. The Messiah would come and He would heal them! They had seen and heard of the healing miracles - but TODAY this man forgave sins and healed the man! He put the prideful religious leaders in their place by declaring Himself to be God in saying and doing what he did.

They were filled with awe! Think about this. We call all sorts of things "awesome." One definition of awesome is extremely impressive; inspiring great admiration. Is there anything more awesome - more extremely impressive, worthy of great admiration - than the Lord Jesus? What is more awesome than forgiveness of sins and the ultimate restoration of our bodies that will take place when He returns? Let us spur one another to once again be amazed at the grace given us to bring us into reconciliation with holy God. The last thing we should desire is to be complacent at the thought. These people in Galilee had been oppressed by their religious and political leaders for a long time. They rejoiced at what Christ had done in their midst and they were in AWE. We should be. As He said to the leaders of the Jews in His parable of the talents, “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!” (Mark 12:11) It is awesome to see or hear of a sinner being reconciled to God - it is the Lord's doing and it is MARVELOUS in our eyes!

Application:
What does all this mean? I hope you've picked up here and there a few things we ought to grasp. First always first and most important: do you know the Lord? Do you trust in Him for the healing of your soul? Are you willing to bring a paralyzed friend to the knowledge of who He is? Are we desperate enough and sure enough that He is the Lord that we would do something like tear a hole in a roof? How about driving 20 miles to meet someone for coffee and prayer, or give them a ride to church?

Are our lives marked by the applause of man or are we content to be found faithful to the One Who called us? Seeking the applause of men, the approval of the world, is antithetical to being pleasing to God.

There are only two groups of people – masses of spiritually poor people, oppressed by religious tyranny and the religious leaders who were puffed up and intent on preserving their power. Those who come to the gospel eagerly and those who try to suppress the gospel. Those who proclaim the gospel and those who proclaim a false one.

How do you and I respond when we hear the gospel? How do our friends and family and neighbors respond? There are only two groups of people on this planet – the poor in spirit and the prideful. The poor in spirit will receive the gospel with joy while the prideful will hate those who preach it.

Christ Jesus is God in the flesh, come to live a life we could not, pay a debt we could not, to reconcile woeful sinners to Himself by the blood of His cross. Is this good news to you? If it is, you are blessed to be spiritually poor. Is this not good news; doesn't have to be BAD news, merely other than GOOD news; is this good news to you? Let a man examine himself to see if he be in the faith. Jesus came to save sinners and He actually does just that. And that is really good news to those who are poor in spirit.