“Believed on in the World”

Yesterday’s post focused on the fourth in the series of six great truths about Jesus Christ: “Proclaimed among the nations” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Today’s truth is the logical result of yesterday’s. When the gospel (good news) of Jesus is proclaimed, God intends for those who hear to believe and obey the gospel (Acts 11:13-14; Romans 1:16; 10:10-17; 16:25; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Only then can anyone be saved (Mark 16:15-16).

Broadening proclamation

The gospel first went to the Jews: “And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number . . .” (Acts 5:14).

Then to the Samaritans: “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (Acts 8:12).

And finally, to the Gentiles: “. . . you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Expanding response

“. . . before seventy years had passed . . . men from every nation accepted this crucified Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Here in this simple phrase [“Believed on in the world”] there is the whole wonder of the expansion of the Church, an expansion which on any human grounds was incredible” (Wm. Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Westminster Press, 105).

Who but God could use such improbable means to achieve such incredible ends?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“Proclaimed Among the Nations”

No other message like it!

This message is called the gospel, which means “good news.”

Not only is it good news, it is the best news—that the One who took the punishment we deserve because of our sin now offers us forgiveness instead of condemnation, reconciliation to God where there had been alienation, and hope for those without hope.

In this series of posts we’re examining six great truths about Jesus in First Timothy 3:16, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: / He who was revealed in the flesh, / Was vindicated in the Spirit, / Seen by angels, / Proclaimed among the nations, / Believed on in the world, / Taken up to glory.”

Truth #4: “Proclaimed among the nations.”

The apostles were the first to proclaim the message of grace through Christ. Jesus commissioned Paul to take the good news to the Gentiles: “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).

The word “Gentiles” means “nations”—how the Jews referred to all those other than themselves.

After centuries of preparing Israel for the arrival of the Messiah through their lineage, God then took it to the next level—all the rest of the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8).

“It must never be forgotten,” said Donald Guthrie, “that a Hebrew Christ had become a Christ for the nations” (The Pastoral Epistles, Eerdmans, p. 90).

“He was being proclaimed without respect to national distinction, without respect to social condition, without respect to culture, with respect simply to the fact that all were sinners and in need of salvation” (James Hastings, The Great Texts of the Bible, Vol. 18, Eerdmans, p. 113).

Good news indeed!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Good News?

His character

The Bible calls him “a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:20). Jesus said of him, “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining . . .” (John 5:35).

The task of John the Baptist was preparing Israel for the coming Messiah. John’s message consisted of two main themes: 1) repentance, and 2) the Coming One.

Concerning repentance, he preached the necessity of showing proof of a true change of heart by not mistreating others and by sharing with those in need (Luke 3:7-14).

He was bold enough to rebuke King Herod for his sins—and consequently was imprisoned and beheaded (Matthew 14:3-12).

Concerning Christ, John said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! . . . . this is the Son of God” (John 1:29, 34).

His message

William Barclay says of John’s preaching, “. . . whatever the message of John was it was not a gospel. It was not good news . . .” (The Gospel of Luke, Westminster Press, p. 28).

I beg to differ. The New Testament specifically says John preached the gospel (Luke 3:18). The word gospel means good news.

It’s true, John preached fire and damnation (Luke 3:7, 9). He had to announce the bad news before the good news could be fully appreciated. The doctor must tell us we have cancer before we would consent to surgery or other treatment.

The good news John preached was that in spite of God’s wrath against sin, He has sent us a Savior who will rescue us from a fate far worse than death.

As William Hendriksen has written, “The Baptist’s warning, dire and dreadful though it may seem, is filled with mercy, for its purpose is that men may be converted” (New Testament Commentary: Luke, Baker Book House, p. 212).

That was the message God sent John to preach, and he faithfully preached it.

And it really was good news.
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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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What Are Ears For?

Closed ears

One advantage of a hearing aid, they say, is that you can turn it off. But even a person with excellent hearing can easily tune out an unwelcome message.

Jesus said, “For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:15).

Note the progression: hear→understand→return→be healed.

Healing is dependent on hearing—receptivity to God’s message of grace, life, hope and peace.  And some would close their ears to this?

Open ears

To His disciples Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:16).

Then He told them, “. . . many prophets and righteous men desired . . . to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (v. 17). Why didn’t they? They died long before Jesus came, and so did not get to hear what the apostles were hearing.

But they desired to, nonetheless (1 Peter 1:10-12).

By telling His disciples this, Jesus wanted them to realize just how privileged they were to hear God’s message.

Open or closed?

Jesus’ most often repeated statement is, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Bible records examples of both those who were eager to hear the gospel (Acts 8:30-39; 10:33; 13:42, 44; 17:10-12), and those who were not (Acts 13:44-46; 18:5-6; 19:8-9; 28:23-28).

Of these two kinds of people—those with open ears and those with closed—which are we?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Roots of Violence

One day as I was taking my morning walk near the lake on campus I was witness to a fight. I stood and watched but made no attempt to break it up. Was I wrong?

The two contenders, by the way, were ducks. I don’t know much about bird behavior, but probably this little fracas was normal, perhaps even necessary. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a fight, although with all the wing-flapping and shoving, it certainly looked like one.

Such things in the natural world may be perfectly normal, but what about conflicts between those who have been made in the image of God?

Downward spiral

The world God destroyed in Noah’s day was “filled with violence” (Genesis 6:5, 11-13). Our own world is growing increasingly volatile.

Domestic violence, school fights, bombings, gang warfare, mass shootings—on and on it goes. These continue to rip and tear at the fabric of society. Should we find this disturbing? Or is it just the way it is?

Surely the dark motives underlying human strife are not factors in the world of nature. Can you imagine ducks nursing grudges or feeling hatred or plotting revenge?

Murder, Jesus tells us, begins in the heart (Matthew 15:19). Violence in its various forms is fueled by such factors as pride, prejudice, anger, hatred, envy, greed, and resentment. None of it is admirable; all of it is ugly—all the way from the hidden motive to the bloody deed.

The ultimate solution

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us…” (Titus 3:3-5).

Those who follow Christ’s example and teachings not only avoid divisiveness (Titus 3:9-11), but are actively engaged in doing good (Titus 3:8, 14).

Oh, what a difference the gospel makes! Former enemies have become friends. Service replaces strife. Peace reigns in the place of discord.

If only the world understood.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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