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Christ and the Early Church #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
May 16, 2024 12:00 am

Christ and the Early Church #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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May 16, 2024 12:00 am

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Welcome to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hello again, I'm Bill Wright. It is our joy to continue our commitment to teaching God's people God's Word. Today Don is continuing with the second part of a message we started last time.

So let's get right to it. Open your Bible as we join Don now in the Truth Pulpit. Look at Acts chapter 2. Let's start in verse 32, Acts chapter 2 verse 32. Peter is preaching to Jews. He had told them about Jesus, and he said, This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses, 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.

They were seeing people speak in other languages, and there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and Peter is explaining what they were seeing. God had raised Jesus from the dead. He was exalted on high.

He sent the Spirit, and the Spirit is the explanation for the miraculous things that you are seeing happen. Now in verse 34, he says, For David did not ascend into the heavens. You see, David was not the expected one because David didn't ascend into heaven. He is buried in his tomb, speaking in the first century.

His tomb is still with us today. David, as great as he was, was not the anointed one. He was not the Christ. And David's own words, he says in verse 34, shows that that's true because David said that, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. David says, I have a Lord, and he said to my Lord. God the Father, speaking to God the Son, David's own words acknowledge that there was someone beyond him, that there was a greater son that would come, a greater David to come.

He said, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. Verse 35. Now look at verse 36 in light of everything that we've seen here this evening so far. Peter says, Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. God, this man Jesus of whom I have been telling you, this man Jesus whom you crucified, let everyone in Israel know and understand for certain that this is true. Christianity is true. Peter says, Know for certain that this Jesus whom you crucified is the Christ.

He's the expected one. He is the Messiah. That was in the city of Jerusalem. Now look over at Acts chapter 9, verse 19, this taking place in Damascus, as we'll see, after the conversion of Saul. Let's start in verse 17 just to remind you of a portion of the context. Ananias departed and entered the house, and laying his hands on him, he said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and taking food he was strengthened. And for some days he was with the disciples at Damascus, and watch this in verse 20, and immediately he proclaimed Jesus, the historical man Jesus of Nazareth. He proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, meaning he was preaching to the Jews that this Jesus was the Son of God. He was the coming one. He was the fulfillment of God's promises. This man Jesus was the Son of God. Look at Acts chapter 10 in verses 40 to 43.

Well, actually, let's go a little further back. And in verse 37 of Acts chapter 10, you see Peter appealing again to the knowledge of the very recent events that had happened in Jerusalem and in the surrounding areas concerning the man Jesus. And he says to his audience, he says, you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed.

You know this. You all know this is a matter of public record, what happened in this region. Verse 38, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth. He's pointing them back to a human being. He was more than a human, but they knew him in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did, both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. Stop there, pause there for a moment, beloved, and realize that, as we said on Sunday, what Peter's doing here is he's just rehearsing historical fact. He's reminding them of what occurred in time and space history. He is not giving them abstract speculations.

He's not giving them philosophical discussions. He's talking to them about what really happened in real time on the real earth. And so, in verse 39, we are witnesses of all that he did, both in the country of the Jews. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear. Not to all the people, but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Multiplied witnesses, multiplied exposure, not a passing wisp in the night, not a ghost-like figure that appeared as an apparition at the end of their bed for a brief time as they were still half asleep.

No, nothing like that. These were repeated occurrences where they ate and drank with him, and many people saw him over many periods of time. Verse 42, and he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he, meaning Christ, is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and of the dead. To him, all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

That's in the village of Caesarea. This Christ who lived, died, rose again, this is the one appointed by God. Look at Acts chapter 17. Notice what I'm wanting you to see is the many, many times in Scripture where this argument is made. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the Christ of God, the anointed, the appointed one of God. And this argument being made to the Jews, that's crucial for what we're going to say in a moment.

Acts 17 verse 1, now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead. And saying, this Jesus whom I proclaim to you is the Christ. In other words, he's teaching them about the Lord Jesus. He's teaching them and reminding them of what Jesus did during his earthly ministry. Alongside that, he's teaching them and expounding the Old Testament Scriptures that painted a picture of who the Christ was, what he would do, and the purpose of his death and his sufferings. So the human Jesus being proclaimed alongside the Old Testament Scriptures that painted the expectation of the coming Messiah. And then the climax of it, Paul says, this Jesus that I am proclaiming to you, he is the Christ. This historical figure in our very recent past is the Christ that's been expected for some 2,000 years now. Look at Acts 18. And we take time to go through each of these Scriptures to let the cumulative weight of it bear on your minds and show what a central feature of apostolic preaching the theme we're considering here tonight was to them. In Acts 18 verse 5, when Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. The anointed one of God was Jesus of Nazareth.

Those two are to be joined together in their minds. And in verse 28, you see it yet again, yet again, this time in the city of Ephesus. He powerfully refuted the Jews in public. Now, speaking of Apollos, he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. The same theme. And beloved one more, beloved one more, in Acts chapter 28.

Again, we're building a case here. In Acts chapter 28 verse 23, Paul is in the city of Rome. He's under house arrest. People came to him to see him. Verse 23, when they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening, he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. There you have it, the law of Moses, the prophets pointing to this Jesus.

And let me just remind you, if you'll turn to the book of Romans just a page, a page further in the opening of Romans. Chapter 1 verse 1, Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The prophets, this is what they promised. In chapter 3 verse 21, chapter 3 verse 21, now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and on it goes.

Beloved, here's the point. In light of this massive expectation created in the Old Testament that there was a coming one from God, the fact that the apostles preached and said, Jesus is this one that we have been expecting. He is the Christ. The fulfillment of thousands of years of promise are found in this man, Jesus.

This is a stunning, stunning assertion to make. They were saying that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. Now, beloved, here's what I want you to see. And now we're pivoting into what is actually the heart of tonight's message. How do we know that Christianity is true? How does the nature of apostolic preaching show that it is true? Beloved, here's what I want you to see. The very fact that the apostles boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ to Jews shows irreversibly and irrefutably that Christianity is true.

Now, that's not immediately apparent why that's the case. So let me explain to you why we say that, why we say that that kind of preaching to the Jews is demonstrable, tangible proof that Christianity is true. So that brings us to our third section here this evening, our third and final section for this evening. We've seen the Old Testament expectation of a coming Messiah. We see the New Testament fulfillment of it as shown in the Old Testament. I'm sorry, the New Testament apostolic preaching to the Jews. Now, thirdly, we're going to explore the implications of that apostolic preaching, the implications of that apostolic preaching. And, beloved, you kind of have to stay with me here and see the significance of everything that's being said here.

And as I said last time, a serious portion of my thinking here is influenced by the book I mentioned by Ian Murray that I alluded to on Sunday called The Underground Revolution. So I just want to give credit where credit's due. What are the implications of this apostolic preaching? And why does this matter? And what does it have to do with building a Christian mind? Why can't we just look at a small text of Scripture and be satisfied with that? It's because there are transcendent themes that you miss if you don't view Scripture in the totality like we're doing in this long extended series.

Understand this, beloved. The apostles appealed to the Old Testament to verify their claim about the preaching of Christ. The Old Testament had been completed 400 years before Christ came. The book of Malachi was the end of the Old Testament revelation and then there was a period of 400 silent years. The revelation to that point had created this expectation then God goes silent, as it were, for 400 years which would put us back about the time of the arrival of the Mayflower on American shores.

That's a long time to have this pulsating tension of an expectation and waiting for another word from God and it's not... and He's not there. The point is that because the Old Testament had been completed there was a fixed picture of what the Messiah would be. And now the apostles come immediately on the heels of the life of Jesus and say Jesus is the Messiah. That means one of two things. Or if you were going to falsify this, if you were going to show it wrong there's a couple of ways that you could do it.

We could ask the question this way. Could the Christians who were preaching this way have edited the Old Testament manuscripts to add details that only happened in their lifetimes to make the record conform to the life of Jesus? In other words, let's say that there were these dishonest overly zealous disciples of Jesus who wanted to exalt Him falsely by making it look like He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament expectation.

And let's assume for a moment that that wasn't true. How could they have done that then? Well, one way would have been to go back to the Old Testament and kind of rewrite it, erase it, and fill in some things from the details of Jesus' life to make it look like that had happened. Could they have changed the Old Testament to conform it after the fact to the life of Jesus? Is that possible? Is that even possible? The answer is no.

That's not possible at all. The Old Testament scriptures were jealously guarded by the Jews who never became Christians. The oracles of God, you see this in Romans 3, verse 1, for example, the oracles of God were committed to the Jews, and not all of those Jews became Christians. They would not allow their scriptures to be falsified by New Testament apostles or New Testament disciples so that after the fact the Old Testament could conform to the life of Jesus.

That's not possible. The Jews who were in custody of the Old Testament scriptures would quickly have repudiated any edit to the text. And so the Christians could not have, what's the word I'm looking for? They could not have manipulated the Old Testament in order to achieve their objectives because the Jews would never cooperate in a fiction that would overthrow their own approach to scriptures. The Jews had many objections to Christianity, beloved, but accusing Christians of rewriting the Old Testament, that wasn't one of them. Christians could not have edited the Old Testament to conform it to the life of Jesus. So let's flip the question. What are the implications of this apostolic preaching?

Let's flip the question. Could the disciples... Okay, so we say the Old Testament was fixed. There wasn't anything you could do about that to create a false picture of Jesus.

And so let's ask this question. Could the disciples have composed a fictitious life of Jesus so that it harmonized with the prophetic records? You've got a fixed prophetic record.

Jesus lived, died, and did all that he did. Could the disciples have made things up, created a fiction that wasn't true, but would match the Old Testament story so the people would believe in their master as Lord and God? Is that possible? And the answer to that question is no. That's utterly impossible also.

Follow me here. Scholars debate the precise dates of the life of Christ. The best sources seem to indicate that Christ died in about A.D. 30.

Now stay with me here because that date is very significant in light of what we showed you on Sunday. Remember, 200 A.D., catacombs. 112, reference to Christ and his many disciples. A.D. 64, Nero, burning of Rome, blames the Christians. You know, you're back within a generation of Christ by this time.

And now here are the apostles preaching within a few years after the life and death and resurrection of Christ. See, the whole question we're asking, is it possible for this to have been made up? Is it possible for the things that we read in the New Testament that conform to the Old Testament scriptures, is it possible that somebody as a joke, somebody to commit a fraud on humanity, sat down and made this up in a way that conforms with what we read in the New Testament? And the answer is no.

It's not possible. If the message was fiction, beloved, it would have needed to have been established many years prior to the time of the apostolic preaching. The very nature of fiction cannot be reconciled with the public record of Christ. If someone's going to believe a lie and accept it as true, the story about which they're asked to believe has to be said in things that are outside of their experience, said in remote places or distant times that are inaccessible for fact-checking. What the apostles did in their preaching was they were not talking about things that were remote and distant, saying, take my word for it. They didn't say, oh, I found these gold plates, take my word for what they say and what they mean in a way that cannot be verified. That's not what the New Testament apostles did.

Stay with me, beloved. This is crucial for having a Christian mind. As we've seen in everything that I've said here tonight, the events of which the apostles spoke and wrote belonged to a period that was familiar to many, many thousands of people in their audience. They were describing things that happened that were a matter of public record to their audience, and they could say, you know this. You know that these events happened. They appealed to recent public events, to many eyewitnesses.

Large crowds had seen what had happened in Judea and in Galilee. And here's the point. A make-believe life of Christ was impossible. The audience would have rejected something that they knew to be false, that they knew to be untrue.

The apostles say, you know this. And that is so extremely powerful because they could not deny it. And they would not have said, you know this, if they knew the audience was unaware of it and that it was a fiction. On a human level, not even bringing into consideration now the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, on a human level, the apostolic message was persuasive because they appealed to contemporary events. There was no room to make this up.

There was no window of time to make that happen. There were too many witnesses of too many events in too short of a time period to be able to make anything up like this. So that, if you'll go back to Acts chapter 26, Acts 26 verse 26, when Paul is making his defense to King Agrippa and the man Festus in verse 24 tried to discredit Paul as people try to discredit Christians today, biblical Christians. Festus said, Paul, you're out of your mind.

Your great learning is driving you out of your mind. But Paul said, I'm not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. And then he appeals to the presiding king. And he says, for the king, he's going over Festus' head at this point. He says, Festus, the king, who is in the room with us now, the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly, for I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe. In other words, King Agrippa, you know what the prophets say.

You know what they say. Do you believe it? Because if you believe it, then there is no other conclusion but that Jesus is the Christ and the fulfillment of everything they said over the course of 2,000 years.

Agrippa did his weakling best to deflect the question. Verse 28, he said, in a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian? Paul said, whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but all who hear me this day might become such as I am, a slave of Christ in spiritual chains to Christ, willing spiritual chains.

I just wish that these physical chains were not part of it. Beloved, let me pull all of this together about Christ in the early church and how we know that Christianity is true. The knowledge of Christ was so publicly widespread at that time that Paul was sure that King Agrippa had heard about it. And the audience that heard the apostles preach did not dispute the facts about Jesus. Jesus was nationally prominent. He was known in surrounding lands.

And here's the point, beloved, all of that to say this one sentence to you here on a wet September evening in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2023. A fabricated life and crucifixion designed to fit the Old Testament prophecies is completely impossible. They couldn't have changed. They couldn't have messed with the Old Testament.

It was fixed and the Jews protected them. They couldn't make things up about Jesus and preach them to a contemporary audience because there were too many facts that were known. If Jesus hadn't really existed, no one would have listened to them. If they had made things up about his crucifixion or his resurrection, no one would have believed it because it was a matter of public knowledge. They did not make it up. They could not have made it up. And therefore, we know that Christianity is true.

What can we conclude from this historical survey? The only credible explanation of the existence of Christianity is that there is a perfect confluence, a perfect match between the Messiah expectation of the Old Testament and the fulfillment in the life of Jesus of Nazareth that shows us that this expectation of the coming Christ is fulfilled in the man Jesus, meaning that he is more than a man. He is God in human flesh. And the explanation that the Scriptures give about the life of Jesus of Nazareth is the truth and that he is the only savior of mankind. Stated a different way, the only explanation of the things that we've seen on Sunday and here tonight is that God, according to his divine eternal decree, which he began and instituted the start at creation and has been operating by his providence ever since, God planned a way of salvation. He announced it beforehand and then in perfect control of everything, he sent his son into the world who took on human flesh, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, was raised again on the third day and ascended into heaven and God had planned it all. Christ fulfilled all of that Scripture. He is the long-awaited Messiah.

He's going to come again in a time still future to us. And whether you're watching this later on video, whether you're here in the room now, watching on the live stream, hearing it on subsequent media, beloved, every one of you, without exception, is responsible and accountable for how you answer the question that Paul put to Agrippa. The truth is a matter of public record. The question is, do you believe the prophets?

Do you believe the apostles? And the exhortation to you in light of all these things is this, as we saw in Psalm 2, verse 12, Jesus Christ is the Son of God and what you must do is kiss the Son. Pledge your allegiance to Him. Give your complete, wholehearted, unreserved, affectionate submission to Him and, beloved, as a pastoral exhortation, encouragement, and warning to you, I can only beg you, urge you, call you, and in the name of Christ, command you based on His Word to bow before this proven Christ. Bow before Him in love before one day He makes you bow before Him by force. You can come to Him at His gracious invitation to receive salvation.

You can reject Him and face the consequences later. Beloved, there is no third door. What will it be for you? Let's pray together. Father, we thank you for the amazing person of your Son, the amazing plan of salvation, the amazing way that you fulfilled these things in time and space history, recorded them for us in Scripture, and now, by your Spirit, you give us understanding to see these things and to understand them. May your Spirit lead those who resist, those who harden their hearts and stiffen their necks against the preaching of Christ. Father, may your Spirit be gracious to them, Father. May you be gracious to those with hard, rebellious hearts. May your Spirit soften them to the truth. May you lead them to a saving knowledge of Christ. For those of us in whom you have already done that work, may you sink these things deep into our minds, deep into our hearts, deep into our convictions so that our affections would respond to you and be shaped by that which you have made irrefutably true. And so, Father, do a work by your Spirit in accordance with your Word. To the glory of your name, to the glory of your Son, by the power of your Spirit, we pray these things in Jesus' name.

Amen. That's Don Green here on The Truth Pulpit. And here's Don again with some closing thoughts. Well, my friend, thank you for joining us here on today's broadcast of The Truth Pulpit where we love to be teaching God's people God's Word.

And I just want to send a special invitation to you. If you're ever in the Midwest area, come to see us at Truth Community Church. We're on the east side of Cincinnati, Ohio. We're easy to find, easy to get to. We have services at 9 a.m. on Sunday and 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday evening for our midweek study. You can also find us on our livestream at thetruthpulpit.com.

That's thetruthpulpit.com. But we would love to see you. And if you do happen to be able to visit us in person, do this if you would. Come and introduce yourself to me personally. Fight your way through the people and tell me that you listen on The Truth Pulpit and that you're here visiting. I would love to give you a word of personal greeting. So hopefully we'll see you one day in person at Truth Community Church.

You can find our location and service times at thetruthpulpit.com. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank you so much for listening to The Truth Pulpit. Join us next time for more as we continue teaching God's people God's word.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-16 04:56:20 / 2024-05-16 05:07:51 / 12

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