How God Stays in Touch with Man: #15

Jesus, before He went to the cross, to the grave, and before He rose from the dead, promised the disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to refresh their minds, to remind them of what He had taught them, and to direct their future mission. The disciples were slow in reaching out to the world with the Gospel. They even were not able to collect Jesus’ Life and Jesus’ Message into writing. Meanwhile, Jesus enlisted Saul of Tarsus, who was trained in the Scriptures. Saul was raised in a Gentile, as well as in a Jewish culture, to become the first Gospel preacher to the World. Saul became Paul! And Luke, his Gentile friend, became his physician and his scribe. The Holy Spirit used Luke’s mind and skills to record Paul’s life and work. Paul met the “Risen Christ” on the road to Damascus and he had a different perception of the invisible Lord. For instance, Jesus’ body died, but Jesus’ Spirit revealed Himself to the spirits who were in prison for their faith during the time of Noah. Paul, joined by Peter, also believed that Jesus, in the Spirit, preached to the dead:

“(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly region? He who descended is also the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe)” (Ephesians 4:9-10).

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring them to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him (I Peter 3:18-22).

Also, before Jesus died, He promised that His Spirit would take His place and direct the disciple’s future and their lives. However, for the Holy Spirit to feel comfortable being with the disciples, they had to obey His Commandments. Christ, Himself, fulfilled the Law and the Prophets:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20).

If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have sad to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave (John 14:15-31).

The Risen Lord Jesus repeated His Promise! And Jesus the Risen Lord, instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would enable the disciples to be Christ’s witnesses. Jesus did not answer additional questions the disciples had:

In my former book (The Gospel of Luke), Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared the them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight (Acts 1:1-9).

The First Acts of the Holy Spirit were to fit Jesus int God’s Promise and into the Covenant to Israel

The Holy Spirit did fill the minds of Peter and Stephen, the first to die for Christ, with Jesus’ historical link to Abraham, Moses, David, and the Prophets. In their speeches, both men (who were not regarded to being knowledgeable in religious affairs), identified Jesus as the intended Messiah and the Christ. For the Jews, this was of paramount importance.

Now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off  from among his people.’

Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through you offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways (Acts 3:17-26).

Stephen’s Witness for Christ

Stephen presented Jesus as God’s answer to Israel’s failures! And God’s answer, to Israel’s failures, cost Stephen his life:

This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the congregation in the desert, with our fathers and with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai; and he received living words to pass on to us.

But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:

‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?

You have lifted up the shrine of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship.

Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.

Our forefathers had the tabernacle of Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built the house for him.

However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says:

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?” says the Lord.

Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?”

“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it” (Acts 7:37-53).

Jesus’ Second Command was that He be Remembered in a Memorial Meal

Jesus, before He performed His Redemptive functions as the “Sacrificial Lamb,” instituted a “Memorial Meal” to remind his disciples of the promises He had made. We know it as the “Eucharist, the Holy Communion, and the Lord’s Supper.” The meal consists of sauer bread and wine. The Lord’s Supper represents Christ’s Covenant and Christ’s Promise of “Eternal Life” to those who obey and who faithfully serve God. The first believers observed “Communion” as often as they gathered. In our time, different Christian denominations and different persuasions set their own dates and apply different meanings to the bread and wine. The Roman Catholic world believes that the bread and wine turns into the body and blood of Christ. Martin Luther led his followers to believe that the bread and wine coexist side by side with the body and blood of Christ. It is, in a way, a replica of the real thing. To the rest of us, “Communion” is a time when we remember what Christ has done for us and what Christ expects from us. According to Paul, it is a “Feast of Remembrance.” Paul wrote to his son Timothy in the faith:

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself (II Timothy 2:8-13).

Regarding the “Communion,” Paul claimed that he received direct instructions from the Lord. It was a somber “Remembrance” with sadness in the believer’s hearts of what Christ had to sacrifice in order to free all humanity from eternal expulsion, so that they could spend eternity with God. “Communion” was a reverend and a sad occasion to be recalling Christ’s journey to the cross. It was a dark and joyless day for the world.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: That the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of ou have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.  

So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions (I Corinthians 11:23-34).

There is more to Communion than Memory and Sadness — There is a Ratified Promise

In addition to remembering Christ’s Death and Christ’s Resurrection, there is a personal faith in the promise God made to Abraham, in an oath, and in a Covenant that Jesus the Christ had to ratify with His Life. To Paul, the Covenant to the elect (Israel) was irrevocable. Israel’s temporary rejection, incurred by Israel’s disobedience, would lead, as it was with the Gentiles, to repentance and redemption of all Israel. It is a strange way of bringing Israel back to God. To Paul, all humanity have to experience a fall before they can be rescued. Man must taste his own hopelessness before he can become aware of his need for the Savior. God is good! Why would God resort to punishments when man excels in his own demeaning and degrading?

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experience a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Romans 11:25-32).