The Bible from 6000 Feet, part 7

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 The Gospel of Luke

Luke was a doctor and a historian. He frequently accompanied the apostle Paul on his travels, possibly to help him with the infirmities that he often mentions in his letters. As a historian, Luke states (Luke 1:1-4) that his purpose was to create an orderly and meticulously accurate history and rendering of the events and teachings of Jesus’ life and ministry. As a doctor, Luke is concerned with the humanity of Jesus. There are more details in the book of Luke having to do with human emotions and characteristics than the other gospels. An easy way to remember Luke is to picture a MAN, because Luke is portraying Jesus as the Son of Man, the only human being who was tempted in every way just like us, and yet fulfilled the law of Moses perfectly so that he could die in our place as a sacrifice. There are also more medical terms used by Luke than Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine.

 

Another thing unique to Luke is that his gospel does not stand alone. The gospel of Luke is part 1 of a 2 part set which includes Luke and Acts. Some believe that these may have been written as Paul’s trial documents that would have preceded him as a necessary requirement before his appeal to Caesar.

 

The most unique thing about Luke is that it is the only book of the Bible written by a Gentile, or non-Jew. Luke was most likely converted during one of Paul’s missionary journeys. Since Luke accompanied Paul on his journeys, Luke is deemed to be apostolic because his main source was probably the apostle Paul himself. He may have had access to the teachings and gospels written by the other apostles as well in his research.

 

The Gospel of John

 

The gospel of John is a favorite of many Christians because it unashamedly presents Jesus as the Son of God, fully equal and fully eternal with the Father and the Spirit. An easy way to remember John is to picture an EAGLE, because it is so majestic and because in those days, eagles were a symbol of divinity in the Roman Empire. John’s gospel is based on seven signs that Jesus performed, which give rise to seven discourses, resulting in seven “I AM” statements by Jesus. These signs are included so that the reader might believe, or continue to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. (John 20:30-31)

 

John’s gospel was the last written, and therefore it is the most unlike the other three. John was writing to the church that was already well established, and so John is filling in some of the blanks left by the other gospels as well as amplifying on the theological implications of who Jesus really was. John identifies himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” He is known as the “apostle of love.” He also wrote four other books of the New Testament: 1-3 John and Revelation.

The Church Age

 

The Book of Acts

 

As we saw during our discussion of the gospels, Luke is really volume one in a two volume set of Luke and Acts. We are told this by Luke right from the beginning of the book of Acts (1:1-2) where Luke speaks of his gospel as what Jesus “began” to do and teach. The implication is that the book of Acts is a recording of Jesus’ ministry continuing.

 

However, as soon as Luke finishes saying that, we find the account of Jesus’ ascension, when He was taken physically up into heaven. (1:9) How can Jesus’ ministry continue if He isn’t here on earth?

 

The answer comes in between these two things in Acts 1:8. Before Jesus left the earth, He told His disciples that they would be “His” witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. This is actually an outline of the book, as we will see the church spread from Jerusalem, through Judea and Samaria, and then begin to spread to the uttermost parts of the earth. The book of Acts is about the UNSTOPPABLE progress of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The early church father Tertullian once said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” In spite of the constant persecution that the church would encounter from both the Jewish religious leaders and later the Romans, the church continued to grow and churches were formed all over the then known world to such an extent that it was said of the early church “These men have turned the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6) The book ends with Paul in prison, and yet the last verse states: “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ- with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:30-31)  Some have said that the book of Acts is unfinished because God is not through using His church to reach the world. Will Acts 29 be written concerning you?

 

The Day of Pentecost

 

Few passages in the Bible have sparked as much controversy within the church as Acts 2, and the events that occurred on the Day of Pentecost, specifically the issue of those who were gathered speaking in tongues.

 

So first of all, we must understand what is going on here. The Feast of Pentecost was one of seven feasts that were established by the Lord in the law to assist the children of Israel in remembering momentous events in their history. There were three of these seven feasts in which it was mandatory for every able-bodied Jew to make their way to Jerusalem to celebrate. Pentecost was one of them. This feast celebrates God giving the law to Israel through Moses. That explains why all the people from different areas are in Jerusalem at this time.

Second, you must understand that Jesus had told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until God sent the Holy Spirit. (1:4-5) Jesus had promised the disciples that when He left the earth, the Father would send the Holy Spirit to “indwell them” and to empower them to be His witnesses on the earth.

 

As the disciples are gathered in the upper room praying, God sends the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and this began a completely new and unique work of God, which we call the church. The church is something completely different from the nation of Israel. In the Old Testament, when God empowered or used an individual for His service, the Holy Spirit would come “upon” them for a period of time, and then it would be taken back from them when that work was accomplished. Now, from the Day of Pentecost until the church is removed from the earth, the Holy Spirit dwells “within” every believer and is never taken away. We, as the church, are the NEW temple of God.

 

On this particular occasion, as a way of making what was happening obvious to the disciples, this new indwelling of the Spirit took the form of fire shaped liked tongues resting on each believer, and they started speaking in other languages, which are referred to as tongues. (2:3-4)

 

Equipped with this gift, Peter addresses the crowds gathered who are witnessing and hearing these tongues, and hearing these Galileans speaking in each language of the people present. Peter preaches the gospel to them, namely that Jesus died for their sins and was raised from the dead after three days in the tomb, and shows how Jesus is a fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. He also shows how the events that were just witnessed were also a fulfillment of prophecy. (2:14-36)

 

As a result of Peter’s sermon, 3000 people accepted Jesus as their Savior, were baptized, and became a part of the church. (2:41)

 

Many of those who were saved stayed in Jerusalem to be discipled, and the result was that many sold their homes to donate to the cause of feeding and sheltering these that were now part of the church. We are told that their regular practices were to break bread (communion) from house to house daily, to devote themselves to the teaching of the apostles (Bible), to pray, and to have fellowship with one another. (2:42-47)

 

The Stoning of Stephen

 

Despite the fact that the Jerusalem church was growing in size daily, the church was still not being fully obedient to the command of Jesus to be His witnesses to all the world. They still had a hard time getting past the differences between true Jews and Samaritans and Gentiles.

It took persecution to get the disciples, and particularly the apostles, on the road witnessing. We are told in Acts 7 of a disciple named Stephen who was full of God’s grace, power and wisdom (6:8-10) who was preaching to the people that Jesus had fulfilled the law of Moses and there was no longer any need to sacrifice at the temple. This got him in big trouble with the Jewish leadership, and the put him on trial, found him guilty, and stoned him to death. Stephen was the first martyr of the church.

 

This launched a full blown persecution of the church which was carried out by a young man by the name of Saul, who was fast becoming one of the most knowledgeable of the Jewish religious leaders, and certainly the most zealous for the traditions of the Jewish people. (8:1-3)

 

As a result of this persecution, the Jerusalem church was scattered in an attempt to save their lives. Wherever the disciples went, they preached the word to those they encountered. The church was now, as a result of persecution becoming obedient in preaching to the Samaritans and Jews of surrounding areas, but they still were not preaching to the Gentiles.

 

The Persecuting Saul becomes Paul

 

The same Jewish leader Saul who was leading the persecution against the church became a follower of Jesus. As Saul was heading out to Damascus to persecute the Christians there, a bright light came from heaven, knocking Saul to the ground. A voice came from heaven, and Saul asked whom it was. The voice answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” As Saul believed, Jesus told him to go into town where another believer would heal him of his temporary blindness and told of his mission. Saul from this day forward would be known by his Roman name Paul.

 

We are told in Acts 26:18 that Paul was called as the apostle to the Gentiles. God had called Paul to be the leader of the mission to the Gentiles. Peter would be the main apostle to the Jews. (Galatians 2:6-10)

 

Peter Saves Cornelius and his Household

 

Acts 10 tells us the story of how the church finally came to realize that God wanted the Gentiles to be saved as well as the Jews. Peter was praying on a rooftop when he was given a vision of all sorts of unclean foods and commanded to eat. This vision occurred three times, and though Peter was reluctant to eat, he was commanded to not call anything unclean that God has made clean. This vision was to teach Peter that Gentiles were no longer to be considered unclean, but God wanted to save them too.

Peter was told that some men would be coming from a Roman centurion (military commander) named Cornelius, and was instructed to go with them. Peter was brought to the house of Cornelius where he discovered a whole crowd gathered ready for Peter to preach the gospel to them. As Peter told the crowd about Jesus and how they can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, the Holy Spirit came down on the believing crowd and there were many who spoke in other languages (tongues). This showed Peter once and for all that God was now saving the Gentiles and giving them the indwelling of the Holy Spirit just as He was giving the Holy Spirit to the Jewish believers.

Peter returned to Jerusalem and reported what had happened. He was met with some skepticism, but others rejoiced in what God was doing.