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The Word of the Apostles as the Foundation of Movement

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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April 15, 2024 9:00 am

The Word of the Apostles as the Foundation of Movement

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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April 15, 2024 9:00 am

Crime scene experts often confess that eyewitness testimony is subject to personal interpretation. But Pastor J.D. shows us that the testimony of the first-century disciples all points to the same rock-solid evidence.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Why do we believe the Bible? Why should we trust what the apostles recorded? Why should we think of that as authority from God? Why should we interpret lordship of Jesus? Why should we interpret that as adherence to what the apostles taught and wrote down?

You ever think about that? Welcome to a new week of solid biblical teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. Did you know that crime scene experts say that eyewitness testimony is often subject to some personal interpretation and can therefore sometimes be unreliable? That's a little disconcerting, isn't it? But today, Pastor J.D. shows us that the eyewitness testimony of all the disciples all points to the same rock solid evidence and therefore can be trusted.

It's part of our study in the book of Acts titled Scent. Now, if you've missed any of our previous messages in this teaching series, remember, you can listen online free of charge at Let's join Pastor J.D. as he teaches us today about the word of the apostles as the foundation of the movement. Are you surrendered to Jesus' Lord, willing to go wherever he tells you to go and do whatever he tells you to do? I mean, it's easy to kind of say that, but what does that actually, I mean, does that mean that if he shows up in a dream and he tells you something to do, that you will do that?

Well, yeah, I certainly hope that you would answer yes to that question. But the way that the early church applied the lordship of Jesus, hear this, the way they apply the lordship of Jesus is by being devoted to the apostles' teaching. That's the way they applied it. Remember that phrase a couple weeks ago from Acts 2, they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching? That's how you apply the lordship of Jesus is you become devoted to what the apostles taught. What the apostles taught is called the New Testament.

So I want to deal with a really basic but very important question this weekend and not skip over it, and that is why do we believe the Bible? Why should we trust what the apostles recorded? Why should we think of that as authority from God? Why should we interpret lordship of Jesus? Why should we interpret that as adherence to what the apostles taught and wrote down?

You ever think about that? Sometimes, I'll be honest with you, I get bewildered when I hear Christians try to defend why they use the Bible as their authority, and I can almost understand why skeptics won't take us seriously. You ask a lot of Christians why they believe the Bible, and they'll be like, well, because it's the word of God. Why do you believe it's the word of God? Well, because it says so. Well, why do you believe what it says? Because it's the word of God.

And you're like, ah, you can almost hear the skeptics saying you really have no reason at all to believe what you believe other than it's what your parents taught you. Well, today I want to try to show you why we believe the Bible is the word of God and why it was the teaching of the apostles that was the foundation of the movement. I'm going to show you that from the last half of Acts 1. Let me read the last half of Acts 1 to you, starting in verse 12. Then they returned, they being the apostles, returned from Jerusalem, from the mount, for to Jerusalem, from the mount called Olivet, where Jesus had ascended from. And when they'd entered, they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and the rest of the apostles and disciples, whose names I won't mention, minus Judas, of course. Verse 14, all these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers. If you ever wonder, by the way, why we do not believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, that is why right there, because Jesus had a bunch of brothers. You know, they were half-brothers to him because they were the sons of Mary and Joseph, but how could he have a bunch of brothers if Mary was a perpetual virgin?

Duh, okay? So that's why, in case you're curious about that. Verse 15, in those days Peter stood up among the brothers. The company of the persons was in all about 120. So you got 11 apostles and 109 other people. And they said, verse 16, brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.

For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry. Verse 18, now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness and bawling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out, mmm. Isn't that an edifying verse?

You want to put that one on your memorization list. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the field was called in their own language a keldama, which in Aramaic means the field of blood. For it is written in the book of the Psalms, chapter 69, or Psalm 69 to be exact, may his camp become desolate and let there be no one to dwell in it. And Psalm 110, let another take his office.

Verse 21, so Peter said, one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, starting with the baptism of John, going all the way through the death and resurrection, one of these men must have come with us a witness to his resurrection. Verse 23, and they put forward two, Joseph, who was also called Barsabbas, who was also called Justice. Guy's got some name issues here.

I can't just pick one man, go with it. But he's got three names. And then this other guy who has just one name, Matthias. And they prayed and said, you, Lord, you know the hearts of all. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take a place in this ministry and this apostleship, from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. And so they cast lots for them.

Means they rolled the dice. And the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the 11 apostles. And the other guy said it was an honor just to be nominated.

Okay? So here's a question. Why is this story in there? Is it to tell us how we ought to choose a successor?

Is that why? Is it trying to tell you that, hey, if I'm not pastor anymore, you get a couple guys, roll the dice, see which one God chose. Is that how you're supposed to pick a girlfriend? You just got to roll the dice. You're like, oh, number seven, that's the seventh girl I met.

Boom, I got to ask you out. No. There's a lot of stuff in Acts that we say is descriptive, not prescriptive. It describes what happened, not prescribes what we ought to do. There's nowhere in the Bible, anywhere else in the New Testament, that tells us that's how we ought to go about decision-making.

It's describing it for us. So it's not there to tell us how to pick successors. It's not there to introduce to us this pivotal character, Matthias. Because you want to know that? He's never mentioned again.

Never. Nowhere in the Bible is his name ever brought up again. So why is it in there? I believe that it's in there to show you, listen, it's in there to show you how the apostles viewed themselves and how they viewed the scriptures, both the Old Testament and what we would now call the New Testament, the scriptures they would write, and it demonstrates for you right at the beginning of Acts why the Bible is going to become the authoritative divine guide for Christians.

So here's what I want to do. I want to show you four things about this passage that support that. Number one, I'm going to show you how the apostles saw Old Testament scriptures. Number two, I'm going to show you the authority that the apostles assumed for writing new scriptures, which is going to be the New Testament.

Number three, I'm going to show you the resolution to an apparent contradiction. And then number four, I'm going to give you a reason for skeptics to consider the apostles' bold claims to authority. So number one, how the apostles saw Old Testament scripture. All right, I'm going to give you two things, two ways they saw Old Testament scripture you can see in this passage. Letter A, they saw them as authenticated prophecies about Jesus. That's how they saw the Old Testament, as authenticated prophecies about Jesus.

In Acts 1 16, Peter quotes a psalm. And he says, brothers, the scriptures had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas. And then he goes on to relate what was predicted about Judas. The apostles saw the whole Old Testament as a book written by the Holy Spirit predicting the coming of Jesus. Bible scholars tell us there are close to, or not close to exactly, 322 direct prophecies that describe for us the character and the nature of the Messiah, details specifically about his life, his birth, his ministry, his death, his resurrection, and the fulfillment of these prophecies help prove to them that Jesus really was from God. They were like a divine signature that could not be forged because it was God signing beforehand, this is what it's going to look like.

Jesus had not sick signs to identify him, but 322. Scripture says, for example, in Micah 5 2, that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem, that happened. In 2 Samuel chapter 7, that he would be of the tribe of Judah and from the lineage of David, that happened. That in Zechariah 11, he would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver and that silver would be used to buy a potter's field, that happened. That he would be preceded by John the Baptist, Malachi 3 1, that happened. That he would die by being pierced through and that he would die as a substitute for other sinners. Isaiah 53 5, that happened. That he would be raised from the dead, Psalm 16 10, that happened. All these things are God's way of authenticating, that's my guy, that's the one I've said.

I've heard it said before that the mathematical odds of all that happening by coincidence is something like covering the entire states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia in quarters. Painting one of the quarters, or two and a half feet deep by the way, two and a half feet of quarters over the entire three states, painting one of them purple and then taking a blind man and catapulting him in from somewhere like in Maryland, the odds of him picking the one correct quarter out of the entire three states of two and a half feet deep quarters have the same odds of all 322 prophecies happening to coalesce upon Jesus Christ randomly. So it was authenticated prophecies about Jesus. Here's the second thing, letter B, as words from the Holy Spirit. They saw the Old Testament as words from the Holy Spirit. Look again in Acts 1 16. Peter quotes a psalm written by David, but he says it was the Holy Spirit's words. Now which is it? Is it David's words or is it the Holy Spirit's words?

Yes. How could something you say simultaneously be the word of God and the word of men? How could it be simultaneously be David's words and the Holy Spirit's words? The analogy I've used with you before is when my kids were learning to walk, you know, a toddler, they kind of, you know, the first two or three steps they're taking, they're shaking everywhere and they're falling over. So I would hold their hand and I'm walking along beside them. It is their feet that is taking the steps but it is me that controls where they go.

So in a sense it's them walking and in another sense it's me walking. That's what the Holy Spirit is doing with the Bible. It is the men who are speaking but it is the Holy Spirit that is guaranteeing that they are saying exactly what he wants them to say. So how could, listen, how could fallible man produce an infallible document?

That's how. You see I hear a lot of people say this, like a lot of people. Well the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles, gave them like God thoughts, you know, but they were fallible men so they got a lot of stuff wrong when they were writing it down. So the divine parts, the inspiration of the Bible, that's inherent but the human parts, they're fallible. Well think about Jesus, right?

Jesus was called the word of God and Jesus was what? Fully God and fully man. Did the fully man part of him make him fallible and sinful?

Not hardly. The divine part made him perfect so that fully God plus fully man equals fully perfect. Well the same way the Bible is fully man plus fully God and the product is fully perfect, it's not that the Bible writers were themselves infallible.

They were not. It's because they wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit that the product they gave forth, the Bible, was infallible. Here's how Peter said it in 2 Peter. Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man.

Not one word of that came from the heart of man. It all came as men were carried along, pharaoh in Greek. The word pharaoh, carried along by the Holy Spirit, it was the word they used when a ship would be, you know, being driven by the wind.

So the wind is kind of blowing it where it's going to go. The Holy Spirit was moving these men along so that what they wrote was according to the exact destination that God had intended. Now that didn't mean that the Bible doesn't sometimes speak with human conventions of speech, estimations, metaphors, figures of speech, just that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and instruction and rights of 2 Timothy 3.16, that the law of God is perfect, reviving the soul. Psalm 19, that not one word of it can be broken. John 10 30, that sooner would heaven and earth pass away than one jot or tittle from God's word ever not come to pass or ever be found wrong. Matthew 5 18. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. In case you haven't heard yet, we have a brand new featured resource for all of our gospel partners and financial supporters this month. It's Pastor JD's new book, Twelve Truths and a Lie, complete with a family friendly discussion guide, crafted to help you talk about the book with those around you. Just like the title suggests, Twelve Truths and a Lie tackles some of the biggest questions we all face, like how could a good God send people to hell? And how should Christians handle political differences?

And if God is really in control, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? I mean, talk about some hot topics. This resource is available to anyone who gives $35 or more to this ministry or joins us as a monthly gospel partner right now. And remember, you'll also receive a family friendly discussion guide that we've created to help you talk through the book with someone on a deeper level.

So why wait? Join us as a gospel partner or give a one-time gift today by calling 866-335-5220 or by heading to Thank you for your ongoing support that makes this program possible. Now let's get back to today's teaching. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Because the apostles saw the Bible as divine, their opinions about things ceased to matter. They quit speculating about their opinions, and they started to say, what does the Holy Spirit say? And because they saw the Bible as divine, they devoted themselves to it.

Here's a quick question for you. Is that how you feel about the Bible? Do you feel the liberty to put the Bible on trial and accept certain parts of it and reject certain others? It astounds me how many believers feel the liberty to just opt out of like 10% of the Bible that they just don't really find convenient for them. If it is the word of God, then you adhere to it, all of it. Now properly interpreted, yes, but you adhere to all of it.

If Jesus is going to be Lord, he's going to be Lord of all. And if you're the kind that feels like you can pick and choose what parts of the Bible you get to follow, which ones you don't, then I don't think you understand the concept of lordship. Look, it's either from God or it's not. If it's not from God, then choose your own way. If it is from God, then you better surrender to what he says, right?

If it's the word of God, you devote yourself to it. That's why when I get up here, very little I'm not trying to tell you eight things that make the Greer family happy. I'm not trying to tell you my life secrets or be your life coach. I hate it when a pastor calls himself that.

I'm not your life coach. I'm the guy who stands up, opens the Bible and yells at you for 45 minutes. But I'm just trying to tell you what God's word says because that is the word we devoted to because it is the word of God and what you people need is not the word of men, you need the word of God, right?

All right, number two. Number two, the authority the apostles assumed for writing new scripture. So we see how they saw the old stuff. Now, number two, the authority they assumed for writing new scripture. Peter says, verse 21, the men who accompanied us during the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, starting with the baptism of John, went all the way through the resurrection and ascension, one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.

Now, listen closely. Peter feels like they need to replace Judas because Jesus had declared that 12 apostles would be his authoritative representatives. And since Judas was gone, because he betrayed, you know, and left, they needed a new 12th man.

Texas A&M, right? There you are. They needed a new 12th man. The number 12 was important because it corresponded to the 12 tribes of Israel.

These guys and these guys were like the new Israel, right? So these guys were supposed to be the official authoritative representatives of Jesus and the requirement was that they had to have been with Jesus from the very beginning, from the baptism of John, all the way through to the end. Now, you say, well, where did Jesus say that these apostles were going to be the official authoritative representatives? Great question.

Several places, I'm only going to give you two. John 14, 26, the helper of the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, watch this, speaking to the apostles, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I've said to you. So there's your promise. It's not going to be these guys sitting around going, what did he say again? I don't know.

I can't remember that. Well, yeah, that's not, no. I'm going to bring it to you infallibly so that you can write it down exactly as I intended it for it to be understood, right?

Here's another one. Matthew 16, 19. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.

Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. These apostles had Jesus' authority to declare his judgments and record them authoritatively. So that all the books in the New Testament, listen, all these books are either written by an apostle or they come out of what we call the apostolic community.

What I mean by that is Mark, Luke, these guys are not apostles, but they traveled with apostles and their writing comes out of the apostolic community so that the apostles verified that what they were saying was an accurate record of what Jesus had taught, right? Same is true with Paul. Paul, you know who would come along a little later. Peter would say this about Paul. This is one of my favorite verses, things that Peter ever said. It's one of the last things he said in the second Peter. Our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks.

There are some things in them that are hard to understand. Did I make you feel better? I'm like, oh, you too. I mean, I can just see Peter looking at you, reading Romans 9, like, what in the world are you talking about?

I feel like that half the time. And he says, the ignorant and the unstable twist them to their own destruction, just like they do the other scriptures. What did he just call Paul's writings? Scripture. He's thinking of Paul's words as scripture. Now, that's two things you got to learn from that verse. One, he sees Paul's words as scripture. Number two, you got to get the humor of Peter saying Paul is hard to understand. Have you ever read the book of second Peter? There's a reason I never preached on second Peter in this church, because it's right up there with Revelation, like, I don't know what in the world you're talking about half the time, Peter. And so I just find it humorous. That's seminary humor.

Sorry about that. What I'm trying to show you, I'm trying to show you that at the very beginning of Acts, the apostles have taken on the responsibility because of the promise of Jesus to speak and write authoritatively on Jesus. And from that point on, whenever they speak or write about Jesus under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what they write is considered to be the words of the Holy Spirit, the very words of God, which is why we trust this book and is why we build everything we do on it because of the promise of Jesus. Number three. Number three, the resolution of an apparent contradiction. Whenever people say the Bible contradicts itself, my response is always, okay, why don't you show me an example? And there's this awkward silence where they're like, well, I can't really think of one right now, but I know there's a lot of them. And I'm like, well, just pick one.

And we stand there for two or three awkward minutes, and it basically comes out. They've never found one. They don't know about one.

They just heard that somewhere, and they're just saying that. Nine out of 10 times, that's what happens. On that one out of 10 times that they actually produce a contradiction, all right, three out of four of those times, this is the one they come up with, the one that's in Acts chapter 1.

So why don't we talk about it for a minute, okay? Here's the supposed contradiction. Matthew 27 says that Judas died by hanging himself. But in Acts 1, it says that he died by falling off a cliff and having his bowels burst out, okay? Matthew 27 says that the money that Judas earned for betraying Jesus, he threw back into the temple and discussed, and the Jewish authorities used it to buy a field. But when Peter retells the story in Acts 1, he says that Judas bought the field with the 30 pieces of silver.

So which is it? Did he die by hanging, or did he fall down and have his bowels burst out? And did he give the money back, or did he go buy a field with it? Clear contradictions, right?

Not necessarily. When you hang yourself, you weren't expecting to learn this at church, when you hang yourself, if your body stays that way for a long time, the body swells up, and evidently, eventually, the branch broke, and he fell down, and his abdomen ruptured, and his guts spilled out. Or, I've been to that area, scholars say that the area is really rocky and hilly, so maybe the branch that he hung himself on overlooked a small cliff, and when you hung himself, the branch broke, and it happened.

Right? So they both kind of happened. It's not a contradiction, it's just two different eyewitness accounts of the same thing. One guy saw Peter's, you know, saw Judas's body dangling from the branch, and we hung himself, another guy found him after he'd done it, so they put the two together, and you got a fuller story than you do with one account. With the money situation, one writer says he, you know, threw it back, another one says he bought the field. What probably happened is that Judas threw the money back, and the Jewish authorities bought the field with it, like Matthew says, but when Peter tells a story in Acts, he just shortens it to say Judas bought the field, since the money that he earned from selling Jesus was used for that purpose anyway.

Right? So it's not really a contradiction, it's just different. Whenever you have eyewitness accounts, you put them together, and you get a fuller story.

That's what's happening here. Now, that is just one resolution to a supposed contradiction, but I will tell you that I have looked at these supposed contradictions for years, hundreds of them, and just about every single time, with a little study and a little work, you find that they harmonize, and there's a plausible way to resolve it. So don't just write that off and don't believe what you hear, just because people are too lazy to get in there and figure out what's actually being said. All right? Don't be gullible, don't be naive, study it out for yourself.

All right? Number four, number four, a reason for skeptics to consider the apostles' claims to authority. Let me give you a reason for skeptics to consider the apostles' claims to authority. Now, if you're one of those skeptics who say, well, I just don't believe the Bible because it claims to be the Word of God. A lot of people have claimed that over the years. Mohammed and Joseph Smith, David Koresh, you remember that guy? They've claimed to speak the Word of God, so I'm just not going to believe the apostles when they say they're speaking the Word of God.

If that's you, that's fine, really, because there's another reason for you to consider their claims. Look at what Peter claims there in Acts 1. Acts 1 21, 22, he says we got to find somebody who was an eyewitness to the life, the ministry, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

They can't have heard about it. He's got to be an eyewitness. These accounts point to something miraculous happening, and be sure to join us tomorrow when Pastor J.D. Greer gives us four reasons we can confidently know that the gospels are true. Here at Summit Life, we're always committed to creating gospel-centered resources to help our listening family grow as disciples of Jesus. And this month, we've got a brand new premium resource for all of our gospel partners and anyone who gives to support us this month. It's Pastor J.D. 's latest book, Twelve Truths in a Lie, along with a bonus discussion guide. Pastor J.D. wrote Twelve Truths in a Lie to package together some of the most frequently asked questions that he hears as a pastor, big questions about some of the most important topics we all wonder about in life, like what's my purpose and how do I know for sure that I'll go to heaven.

And we've also put the discussion guide together to help you unpack the teaching in a book with a friend. We'll send you this set today with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. You can give by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220, or give online at If you'd rather mail your donation, our address is J.D. Greer Ministries, P.O.

Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 27709. I'm Molly Bidevich, inviting you to come back tomorrow when Pastor J.D. continues our study about the word of the apostles and the birth of the church.

Confidence is brimming as we see God literally create his church before our very eyes. So we'll see you Tuesday for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program is produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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