Raised to Judge
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, April 4, 1999
Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
Recently a very rich and powerful media mogul aired his views on the Ten Commandments. He spoke contemptuously of them, especially the commandment which says "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This man has also publicly stated that he sees Christianity as a religion for losers, not for successful people like him.
Such comments are not new. Throughout history unbelievers have mocked Christianity and treated Christians with scorn. They say they cannot believe the gospel, especially the account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and declare that only unsophisticated, unintelligent people could believe such a thing.
I would like to assert that in this church we do believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and take great pride in declaring it to the world. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of Christianity, and, certainly, if there were no resurrection, there would be no gospel and our preaching would be foolishness. But Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, and so we boldly proclaim the gospel.
Paul in Athens
After Jesus rose from the dead, he commissioned his apostles, saying, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20). After he was converted, the apostle Paul also began to go throughout the ancient world to preach the gospel, and on his second missionary journey he ministered for some time in Macedonia, particularly in the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, before being driven out. Leaving Macedonia, Paul went next to Athens, Greece, and In this passage we find him alone in Athens, awaiting the arrival of his fellow workers Silas and Timothy.
Athens was the great intellectual center of the ancient world, but by the time Paul visited it, its golden age was long past. In the fifth century B.C. the Parthenon and many temples were built under the leadership of Pericles, and literature, science, philosophy, art, and rhetoric all flourished. Scholars from all over the world came to Athens to study and debate. Demosthenes, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, and Euripides all came from Athens.
Named in honor of the goddess Athena, Athens was the first democracy in recorded history. It was conquered by Philip II of Macedon in 338 B.C. and by the Romans in 146 B.C. After the Romans conquered Athens, they gave the Athenians the freedom to govern their own affairs in their own way as a free city.
During the time of Paul Athens was vastly reduced in importance; however, it was still considered an intellectual center similar to Oxford and Harvard in our time. About ten thousand people lived in Athens at the time of Paul's visit.
As we study this account of Paul's visit to Athens, we want to consider three things: first, man's theology; second, man's philosophy; and, third, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, including the fact of his resurrection from the dead.
The Theology of Man
The first thing we want to consider is man's theology. The natural theology of men is idolatry. This is true of all people, even the Athenians, who prided themselves on being highly intellectual and mentally sophisticated. Athens was full of idols. In fact, it was easier to find an idol than a man in Athens. By some accounts there were about thirty thousand idols in this highly civilized city of ten thousand people during Paul's time.
I recently visited the island of Bali in Indonesia and was reminded of this passage because, like Athens, Bali is a place totally given over to idol worship. I saw idols everywhere--hundreds and hundreds of idols. In the same way, everywhere he looked in Athens, Paul saw idols of stone, brass, silver, gold, marble and ivory.
As Paul observed the multiplicity of Athenian idols, he became extremely angry and provoked in his spirit. As a Jew, he knew idolatry is an assault upon the glory of God because it violates the first and second commandments which oppose all idol worship. And not only did the Athenians have idols made of stone, brass, silver, gold, and other materials, but they had mental idols as well. The Athenians loved to study and debate human philosophies, but any philosophy that denies the true God is an idol, because an idol is anything that becomes a substitute for God.
The Athenians were idolaters, as most people are today. An idolatrous man is one who designs his own god, and he will make sure this god is something he is comfortable in worshiping. Most people are more comfortable worshiping idols than the true and living God because an idol, a god of one's own making, will never command the worshiper to repent and will never threaten the worshiper with a coming judgment. But such idolatry denies the clearly revealed will of God in these matters and stands in rebellion against the true God.
Idolatry is the worship of something other than the true God. In fact, according to the Bible it is demon worship. In 1 Corinthians 10:18 we read, "Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God." The highly civilized, intellectually sophisticated, idolatrous people of Athens were participating in demon worship and thus were under the dominion of demons.
The Philosophy of Man
When one's view of God is false, one's philosophy will also be false. We cannot interpret reality correctly as long as our theology is wrong. The intellectuals of Athens worshiped demons and were dominated by them; thus, their philosophies were utterly worthless and false, as far as truth is concerned.
Two philosophies prevalent in Athens during the time of Paul were Epicureanism and Stoicism. The founder of Epicureanism was Epicurus, born on the island of Samos in the fourth century B.C. In 306 B.C. he established himself as a teacher in Athens. Epicureans were materialists whose philosophy was based on the atomic physics of Democritus. Practical atheists who believed that everything happened by chance, Epicureans believed that death was the end of body and soul, and any gods, if they existed, were remote from the world and did not care about man at all. Pleasure was the chief end of life for an Epicurean; man should live as tranquil a life as possible, free from pain, fear, and disturbing passions. The Epicurean motto was "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Believing there was no resurrection or future judgment, Epicureans were the Greek counterparts of the Jewish Sadducees of Jerusalem.
Stoicism was founded in the fourth and third century B.C. by a philosopher from Cyprus named Zeno. Stoicism was pantheistic, meaning that a Stoic considered everything to be God. Stoics said man could not control his circumstances; therefore, he must submit to whatever happened to him. Stoics tried to live in harmony with nature, striving to develop self-mastery and self-sufficiency through the proper use of reason. To a Stoic, the world was determined by fate so he must endure everything with a stiff upper lip. Like the Epicureans, Stoics were materialists. Self-righteous and proud, they were counterparts of the Pharisees in Jerusalem.
We find the philosophy of the Stoics expressed in this poem by W.E. Henley:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
(Invictus by W. E. Henley, as quoted in F. F. Bruce in his Commentary on the Book of Acts: The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979], 350).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Into this city of idolatry and false philosophy came the apostle Paul to preach the gospel. In Acts 17 we read that when Paul saw the city given over to idolatry, he became very troubled in his spirit. Why? Because the true God was not being glorified.
Paul lived for the glory of God, so he did something about this situation. Going into the synagogue every Sabbath, he preached the gospel, presenting to the people of Athens the gospel of Jesus Christ. He told how Christ was raised from the dead and declared that if they believed in this resurrected Christ, they would be saved.
In addition to preaching in the synagogue, Paul went daily to the city center of Athens and spoke to any who happened to be there, giving them the same message of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. He told the Athenians that salvation comes to man only by repentance and faith in this Jesus Christ who has been raised from the dead. This was the gospel message Paul preached to the Athenians.
The Ignorance of Intellectuals
What was the response of the intellectual Athenians to Paul's message? Rather than acknowledging Paul as a fellow intellectual, a systematic thinker, or an original thinker, they mocked Paul, calling him a babbler, a spermologos, meaning one who sifts garbage hoping to find something of value in it. They also said he was a plagiarist, one who had merely picked up his ideas here and there, without exercising any understanding, and who was now trying to peddle these incoherent ideas to them.
Now, anyone who has read the New Testament will recognize that Paul was an intellectual giant. He was a brilliant scholar and eloquent in speech and writing. As a graduate of the universities of Tarsus and Jerusalem, Paul was well-versed in Greek philosophy and could have debated with the best of the Athenians in matters of ideas and philosophies. But after he was apprehended by the risen Christ, Paul's heart was changed, and he was taught to think God's thoughts after him. The gospel became the great determiner and passion of Paul's life, and so he declared the gospel, not human philosophies, to the Athenians.
Why do you think the Athenians mocked Paul's preaching? In 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 Paul explains the relationship between intellectuals such as those of Athens and the gospel: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" And in 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul describes the state of all fallen human beings, which includes all philosophers, scholars, and intellectuals of this world: "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
In Ephesians 4:17 Paul gives another description of the minds of unbelievers: "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more."
Unbelievers, especially intellectual unbelievers, love to boast about themselves. They think that because they have a little knowledge of philosophy or science, they know everything. Yet, Paul says, they are steeped in ignorance, meaning they are ignorant of God. Their minds are darkened and eventually they become entangled in sexual immorality.
The first chapter of Romans gives a very detailed description of unbelievers such as the Athenian intellectuals. In Romans 1:21-24 we read, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." Such people are incapable of correctly interpreting reality because of the sin of their human hearts. Boasting about their wisdom, they look down on and speak with contempt of Christians. They would agree with the statement that Christianity is the religion of losers. However, such people are the true losers, according to the Bible, because their minds are darkened and their lives without God are meaningless and empty.
In Romans 1:21-32 Paul writes of the true state of unbelievers. In verse 28 he says, "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. . . ." Oh, most people will study about everything in the world but God! They think it is a waste of time and effort to get to know God. In fact, any study of God and his ways is contemptible to most people. But what will happen to unbelievers if they continue this way? Paul writes, "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."
The Athenians claimed to be very knowledgeable and looked upon Paul as an idiot. But the truth was, they did not know anything of any value. They were ignorant of the true God, they worshiped false gods. All their great philosophies and ideas were fundamentally wrong.
Paul Before the Areopagus
Not only did Paul preach in the synagogue and marketplace of Athens, but he also preached before a city council called the Areopagus. As Paul preached the gospel one day, some of those listening said, in essence, "Wait a minute. We have a court, a city council, charged with the responsibility of maintaining proper religion, proper morals, and proper education. We want you to appear before that council and set forth your ideas that they may be examined by our court and judged."
Paul came before the Areopagus and said, in essence, "Men of Athens, I see that you are extremely religious. In fact, I noticed you have many idols set up throughout the city. But as I walked about, I noticed an altar dedicated to 'an unknown god.' I deduce, then, that even though you claim to know everything, you are acknowledging by the erection of this altar that you don't. But that which you "worship" not knowing--the unknown God--I do know. As an apostle by the authority of God, I will, therefore, declare to you the knowledge of this true God." Then Paul began to speak about the true and living God to these Athenians.
God the Creator. In Acts 17:24 Paul said, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. . . ." The first point Paul made about God is that this personal, infinite God is the Creator God.
The Athenians' understanding of God was utterly false. They believed in the ultimacy and eternality of matter, and the idea of a Creator/creature distinction did not enter their thinking. Paul's theology was contrary to their understanding. Paul preached against pantheism, polytheism, and chance, and spoke of the personal, eternal, almighty God who, out of nothing and by the mighty power of his word, created the whole world and everything in it.
Paul's declaration about God being the Creator of all is found throughout the Bible. For example, in Isaiah 42:5 the prophet Isaiah declared, "This is what God the Lord says--he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it." Paul boldly proclaimed to these intellectuals that matter is created by God who is not matter.
God the Lord. Paul told the Athenians, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth." The Greek word for "Lord" is kurios, meaning "Sovereign Ruler of all." Paul was telling the Athenians, "All must render obedience to this personal, infinite, almighty, Creator God. Do you think you can domesticate God, putting him in a temple to keep him in one place and control him? You can't. We can never localize, domesticate, or control God. This God is the Sovereign Lord, and he is not confined to temples built by man."
Not only that, Paul said this God "is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything." In Romans 11:35 we read, "Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?" And in Psalm 50:9 God himself tells us, "I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills." God is the Sovereign Lord of everything in heaven and earth.
God the Sustainer. Not only is God the Creator and Lord of all, but he is also the Sustainer of all. He who created the ends of the earth and everything in it continually gives to everything he created life and breath and everything else they need. It is his sun that shines and his rain that comes down. It is because of him that we are able to breathe and eat our bread. It is because of him that we can go and come, and it is he who, by his powerful word, upholds us.
As the Sustainer of his creation, God gives and gives and gives. We cannot exist without his giving gifts to us. Didn't he tell us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread"? God is the great Source and Sustainer of everything we need.
God the Ordainer. Then Paul told the Athenians, in effect, "Men of Athens, you have your theology, which is idolatry, and your philosophy, which is nonsense, but I am giving you revelation of the true and living God. This God I am preaching about revealed himself in the history of the Jews as recorded in the Holy Scriptures, and he is also the Ordainer and Controller of all things." In verse 26 we read, "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." In other words, Paul was saying that all geography and history of nations are controlled and ordained by this God. Certainly these were foreign ideas to the intellectuals of Athens!
God's Purpose for Us
Then Paul told the Athenians that the infinite, almighty, personal God, who is good, who is Lord of all, Creator of all, Sustainer of all, and Ordainer of all, had a purpose in revealing himself to man. In verse 27 we read, "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him." All intelligent creatures are to seek God. Why? So they can worship him, adore him, obey him and honor him. That is the purpose of his creating and sustaining us.
Let me ask you: Are you seeking God? The Athenians failed in this purpose. As we said before, they were like the people we read about in Romans 1, who, though they knew God, exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped the creation rather than Creator, because their minds had become darkened, empty, and futile.
As they rejected the one true God, the idolatrous Greeks designed their own gods. Paul speaks of this in Acts 17:29: "Therefore, since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill." This is the heart of the matter. The problem was with their thinking. The Athenians were ignorant of God.
The Ignorance of Idolatry
Paul condemned the idolatry of the Athenians, attributing it to their ignorance. In fact, in verse 30 he said, "In the past God overlooked such ignorance. . . ." What was the problem of these intellectual Athenians? Ignorance!
Paul was not saying that man is ignorant in that he cannot compute and say that four plus three is seven. He was not saying that man cannot learn philosophy or science or achieve great technological advances. But Paul was saying that, in the fundamental arena of knowing God, the Athenians had failed. In the arena of relating to God and man according to truth, they were ignorant.
No Excuses Allowed
Then Paul said such ignorance is culpable, but until now, God overlooked it. Yes, God noticed, understood, and recorded man's ignorance of God, but in the past he overlooked it and didn't punish it. But that time is over, Paul said. "In the past God overlooked such ignorance but now. . . ." What does "but now" mean? "Now" is defined by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. No more can anyone say "I am ignorant of God," because Jesus Christ has come and explained the Father to all mankind. When Christ came, knowledge of God came in all purity and fullness. Jesus Christ lived and died, was buried, and on the third day raised from the dead. The ignorance of mankind is no longer to be overlooked.
The time has come, Paul was saying to these intellectuals, to decide who you are going to worship--idols or the true and living God. Why? Because this God is not only Creator, Lord, Sustainer, and Ordainer, this God is also Judge, and he is going to judge all people. So Paul told the Athenians, "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed" (vv. 30-31).
Reason to Repent
God is a patient God who overlooks ignorance for a long time. We see something about this patience of God in Romans 2:4: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you to repentance?" Why is God patient with us? He wants us to repent. And if we don't want to repent, God gives us some compelling motivation to repent. Paul spoke about this in verse 31: "For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed."
Paul was telling the intellectuals and scholars of the Areopagus, "You must repent!." What do you think he meant by that? Paul was saying, "You are ignorant, scholars! You are wrong. Your thinking is false, especially your thinking about God, and you must get rid of it. You go around pretending that you know the truth but you don't know a thing. God is demanding that you forsake your thinking and turn from idols to God--the God who created all things, the God who is Lord, the God who is Sustainer, the God who is Ordainer, the God who is Judge. Change your thinking! Change your conduct! Change your worship!"
What if someone doesn't want to change? God tells us he has set a day for judgment. We find this mentioned many places in the New Testament including in Romans 2:16 where we read, "This will take place" --meaning this judgment -- "on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ as my gospel declares."
Paul said God commands "all people everywhere to repent." Why does this command to repent need to be universal? Because God's judgment is going to be universal. We must remember that this is God speaking, not a god of the hills or a god of a nation. The Lord of the whole earth is telling us to repent, and this is a command. He is not suggesting, requesting or pleading with us to repent. He is commanding us, as Creator, Sustainer, Lord, Ordainer, and Judge, and we had better do it.
There is a definite day appointed by God called the day of judgment. In Hebrews 9:27 we read, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. . ." On this day God will judge the secrets of the hearts of all men and bring out everything we did, whether good or evil, as we stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Jesus Christ the Judge
Who is the Judge? Jesus Christ. Paul said God gave proof that Jesus Christ will judge everyone by raising him from the dead.
The apostle Peter spoke about this in Acts 10:39-42: "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen--by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead."
This is the apostolic preaching. God has appointed one man as Judge: Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who was crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. You can laugh at him, mock at him, and treat him with contempt, but he is going to be your Judge. We are living at a time in these United States when anyone who believes in the Bible, in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, in the virgin birth of Christ, in the resurrection of Christ, and in the miracles of Christ, is considered to be a kook. But Jesus Christ is coming again and God will judge every man, woman and child by him on that day. It is a fact ordained by God.
The Certainty of Judgment
Paul said God gave proof of his promise of a day of judgment through the resurrection of Christ. The Greek word for "proof" means "guarantee" in the way a title deed guarantees a piece of real estate belongs to the owner. When God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, he was declaring to the whole world the certainty of the coming day of judgment in which Jesus himself will judge.
Jesus himself spoke about this day of judgment in John 5. In verse 22 he said, "Moreover, the Father judges no one but has entrusted all judgment to the Son." And in verses 27-28 he said, "And he has given [the Son] authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." Everyone who ever lived will be judged by this man, Jesus Christ, whom the Father has raised from the dead.
Have you ever wondered why God raised Jesus Christ from the dead? He did so for two reasons. First, he raised Christ from the dead to save those who trust in him. But, second, he also raised Christ from the dead to judge those who reject him.
I do not know if we in this modern age fully realize how serious sin is. Sin is an assault against the glory of God, and God will not tolerate any human being who does not glorify and honor him. God views sin so seriously that he sent his Son to bear the sin of his elect so that they can be saved. The elect of God who trust in Christ will be saved, because their sin has been judged in God's Son. But those who will not trust in him or honor him must satisfy God's justice on their own, and they will fail to meet God's standard. On the day of judgment they will be caused to render honor to God, but they will die an eternal death.
The Response of the Athenians
How did the scholars of Athens respond to Paul's preaching? We read that they began to mock him. You see, if a man creates his own ideas and philosophies, most of the world will applaud and acknowledge him. They may even give him a Nobel prize and every other honor. But when a man declares God's truth, the world mocks him. Go to any university town, try preaching the gospel, and you will discover that most people will mock you. Like the Athenians, they will burst out in laughter and say, "This man is speaking about resurrection from the dead, but we know that is impossible. How can a dead man rise again? All of our philosophy and science tells us it is impossible. But this kook says God raised one person, Jesus Christ, from the dead, and he is even implying that God will raise everybody else from the dead. How can someone believe such foolishness?"
Isn't that what happens when you preach the gospel in the university or any other place? What happens when you say that it was God who created everything, not evolution? What happens when you declare that there is sin in the world and that every man is a sinner? What happens when you say that Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, conceived in her womb the Holy One of God who later was crucified, buried and raised from the dead? I assure, if you say these things, most people will burst out in laughter, saying, "You are a kook!" This is the first response to the gospel.
But the Athenians had another way of dealing with the gospel preaching of Paul--a more polite, civilized way of treating him. Those who were not mocking Paul said to him, "We want to hear you again on this subject." In other words, they were saying, "That's all we want to hear, Paul. Don't worry about speaking to us again. We don't want to hear these crazy things you are saying about a man rising from the dead and coming to judge everyone. Don't you know we are decent people, with Ph.D.s and all? We really have no desire to hear such ideas, but we want to treat you nicely, so let's just agree that we can hear you another time." Of course, another time will never happen.
However, some Athenians believed Paul and received his message. Verse 34 tells us, "A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others."
Why Preach the Gospel?
In Acts 13:48 we read, "All who were appointed for eternal life believed." When you preach the gospel, never think that your preaching is in vain. It is not! Your preaching is always successful, because everyone who is ordained to life will believe, as these few Athenians did. In fact, your preaching is always successful, whether people believe or not, because all who do not believe have no excuse before God. The days of ignorance are over, as Paul said in Acts 17:30. If you have brought to people the truth of the gospel in all its brightness and fullness, never think you are a failure. Our preaching always accomplishes God's purpose for it.
Additionally, never think that you are a kook if you preach about Jesus Christ. You are not, even though the world may say you are. Keep on preaching the truth of the gospel! Preach that Christ was crucified, that Christ was buried and sealed in the tomb. Declare that his body did not see decay and that on the third day, according to the Scriptures, he rose from the dead. Proclaim that angels themselves showed his disciples that Christ's tomb was empty, saying, "He is not here; he has risen!" and how his enemies failed to produce a body. Tell that this risen Christ was seen of many, especially his apostles, saying to them, "I am not a ghost. Feel me! Touch me! Ghosts do not have flesh and bones," and that he even ate with them to prove his point.
What do you think the resurrected Christ is saying to us this day? First, he is telling us, "Be not afraid. I have destroyed death." Isn't that wonderful? What is the reason for all our fear? It is death. The fear of death is over for us--for you and for me who believe in Christ."
Second, he is saying, "Peace be unto you! Not only have I destroyed death, but I have brought life and immortality for you. He who believes in me shall never die. I will stop speaking one day on earth, but I will live forever with Christ, who has said, 'Because I live, you also will live.'"
Third, the resurrected Christ is saying to us, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." The Christian life is one of great freedom and liberty, including great liberty and power to proclaim the gospel.
Finally, he is saying, "I will be with you always even unto the end of the ages." Experiencing the presence of God is the greatest encouragement we can have, especially when we are preaching the gospel.
Keep on Preaching
There is an assault on the glory of God continuously in the world. Do you feel some pain in your inmost being because of the sin in the world? If so, you and I can do something about it. May God help us to declare the gospel wherever we are--in the church, in the marketplace, in the university, in our family, and in every other place. By the power of the Spirit of God, may we begin to tell people about the Creator God, the Lord of the universe, the Sustainer God, the Ordainer God, the God who is Judge but also Savior. May we tell people that even today this God commands all people everywhere to repent and be saved.
Let me assure you, this media man I spoke of is wrong, totally wrong. Christianity is not for losers; rather, it is for those who are most successful in the world. Therefore, may we not preach anything else but Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, and glory in his death, burial and resurrection, which all happened according to the Scripture and which are all for our salvation. Let us never be ashamed of the gospel, for it is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" (Rom. 1:16). Let us be faithful in declaring this gospel that some may be saved. Amen.
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Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
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