The Surprising Result
From Discover Your Destiny
Behold the Word of life!
In the brief days following His resurrection Christ met with His disciples on many occasions. He bore now the credentials of Calvary and of the empty tomb. His every word was carefully noted for He became the object of a new and total confidence on the part of His disciples. There were now no questions, no alternate opinions; for Jesus Christ had demonstrated Himself to be the Lord of Life, the conqueror of death.
The men who now listened to His words were no longer simply fishermen and tax collectors. They were new persons, for they had left themselves behind. Beyond all question, they knew that Jesus was the Son of God. For all of life they would never again doubt that the God of history had stepped into their lives to become their personal Friend and Savior. In the mist of their ecstacy, there arose the implied but unspoken question, “Where do we go from here?”
As if in answer to that question, Jesus spoke to His disciples, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With wonder the disciples now received the announcement that they were to be the personal representatives of the Lord of Glory to all the world. They were to preach to ever-widening circles of listeners the marvelous story of the death and burial and resurrection of Christ.
After presenting them with this commission, Christ bade a fond goodbye to these who had shared so much of His life for the preceding three years.
For some moments they gazed wistfully into heaven. They wondered at the commission that they had received of Christ, humbly questioning their capability to represent the dearest Person and greatest power they had ever known.
As if to answer the implied question, Will we ever see Him again? there stood two angelic beings nearby who told them,
Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).
That settled it. His absence was temporary. His presence would be permanent. His departure from this world was incidental but His presence in their lives was absolute.
They turned now to the task before them. How might it be possible to reach the millions on earth with the message of the gospel of Christ? They knew by experience the limitations of their abilities and the littleness of their powers. There was therefore, one remaining concern that had to be settled. What did Christ mean when He said, “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you”? Was there an ability available to them greater than their weakness? Would it be possible for them to have might beyond their known impotence and a voice greater than their voice?
Fifty days later they received the answer to that question.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:3-4a).
From that moment on, the old reluctance and fear were gone forever. Peter, the coward of the temple courtyard, became the voice of authority in the early church. The other of the eleven disciples became commanding personalities for God in their world. One could hardly recognize these stalwart champions of the cross as the craven men who once forsook the Lord Jesus and fled away into the darkness.
The first day they presented the marvelous story of the gospel, there were three thousand who “gladly received his word” and stepped out of the darkness of sin into the light and life of salvation.
The impact of the message of Jesus Christ produced a larger and larger number of the citizens of Jerusalem who gathered around and became a part of the early church. Those who came and were touched by the life of Jesus Christ became witnesses of the message of the cross to others.
Over back fences, in market places, and at wells about the city, the message of salvation in Jesus Christ was whispered from heart to heart. Within weeks the story of redeeming love had penetrated the city of Jerusalem. Thousands came and believed in Jesus as their personal Saviour.
Soon the church encountered a new and unforeseen problem—persecution. The rulers of the Jews who had sown the wind in putting Christ to death were now reaping the whirlwind; for His message could not be contained, and His followers could not be numbered. Frantically they threatened and imprisoned the Christians, but in vain did they attempt to intimidate them.
On one occasion they took Peter and John, two of the leaders of the early Church, into custody; and the account of this incident is a telling illustration of the frustration that was faced by the rulers of the Jews.
Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done (Acts 4:16-21).
The cowering disciples had become bold exponents of Jesus Christ, fearless in their identification with His name and resolute in their determination to live and, if need be, die for Him.
Finally the rulers of the Jews summoned their ultimate weapon, death by stoning, for preaching the Word of life. They chose as their victim one of the early Christian laymen, Stephen. The Bible says he was “full of faith and power.” Stephen, after a magnificent address on the truth of Christianity, was condemned to death.
Standing in the center of ring of hard-faced men outside the wall of the city of Jerusalem, Stephen, the captive Christian, faced his moment of martyrdom. But here the old story was repeated, and the captive became the captor. Standing off to the side was a young man whose name was Saul, who was approving of the death of Stephen. A moment before his death, Stephen cried out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:59-60). Stephen reached out and captured the soul of Saul, this arrogant young leader of the Jews. Little did he know at that moment that this enemy of the cross was to become its greatest champion.
For the present, however, “as for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3).
Soon Saul, on the road to Damascus, “was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” and determined to do them to death because of their faith in Christ. God had a different idea, however, as God always has a different idea when arrogant men set out to thwart the ongoing of the gospel. Saul saw a light from heaven and heard a voice. It was the voice of Jesus Christ saying, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:5). In that moment occurred one of the most important conversions of Christian history.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go unto the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do (Acts 9:6).
Here was born Christianity’s missionary to the Gentiles, it’s greatest theologian and its most worthy exponent.
This was the beginning. Sweeping out from the city of Jerusalem and the bounds of Judaism the message of Jesus Christ soon began to electrify the Gentile world. The apostle Paul, “one born out of due time,” was used of God to bring the story of the cross to a people that might never have been touched through the work of the early apostles.
The other apostles were wonderfully used of God to witness concerning Jesus Christ and particularly represented the account of the facts of the life and the death and the resurrection and the words of Christ. Concerning any question about Christ, they were able to answer, “This is what happened.”
Paul, however, was used of God in an expanded fashion for, beyond the physical events of Christ, he was able to answer, “This is the meaning of what happened.” This enemy of the church, converted on the Damascus road, was allowed of God to see clearly a mysterious and wonderful result of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul saw more clearly than any that because of the death of Jesus Christ God offers salvation to all men by means of His grace.
The law of Moses had now been set aside as a possible means of salvation; and man comes to Jesus Christ apart from his works, depending alone on the finished work of Christ on the cross. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the great apostle presented clearly the message of the gospel and the basis of salvation.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Romans 4:4-5).
The apostle Paul also saw that, when one believes in Jesus Christ, he becomes the member not of an organization but of an organism. Paul saw that God is forming a body, literally the body of Christ in this world, consisting of individual believers who accept Christ as their personal Savior. So it was that God enabled Paul to say,
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Paul literally says that a Christian is “a member of a new creation.”
Think of it!
We can now see something that came only with great difficulty for the early Jewish Christians.
That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel (Ephesians 3:6).
By believing in Christ we step into a mysterious and largely unforseen relationship with God, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We discover that by believing in Christ we receive more than just the refurbishment of the image of God that is in us. We receive as a living possession the very God of the image. The shadow of God that Adam knew is exchanged for the substance of God, which becomes our personal possession as Christians. As a result we have a hope that reaches far beyond the grave, “for ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4). It is fantastic but true that, when we believe in Jesus Christ, we share the very life of God—a new kind of life of which the world knows nothing.
Jesus Christ did not come to save the human race but to start a new race of men in the world. We, in Christ, are literally translated out from under the power of darkness—our position as a part of Adam’s race—and have been put into the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13). The old principle of sin and death is now past, and life and immortality has been brought to life in our lives through the gospel. Jesus Christ brings a new law (Romans 8:4), a new kingdom (Colossians 1:13), a new hope (I Peter 1:3), a new life, and a new reason for living.
God has given up this world (Romans 1:24, 26, 28), and the coming and death of Jesus Christ shows God’s lack of confidence in the ability of man to save himself. Christ, therefore, has done the entire work and offers salvation from the old principle of sin and death and translation into the new kingdom of righteousness and life. All of this is by the simple act of faith, the reception of Christ as personal Saviour.
The cross of Christ shows clearly the depths to which “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Then it reveals the astonishing message that we who believe in Christ are
Justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (Romans 3:24-25).
By this we know that a man, when he believes in Jesus Christ, is not simply restored to the innocence of Adam; but he is made literally a son of God, enjoying a state that Adam never knew.
This is the part of Christianity that, tragically, many earnest people have never discovered. To many unfortunate seekers, Christianity is just a vague religion like many others in the world; and it has never become to them the life of God in the lives of men. This stupendous fact takes Christianity out of the class of being “one of the world’s greatest religions.” The religions of the world are simply a frustrating record of man’s foolish and vain—even corrupt—attempts to find and appease a god or the gods. In the process they reach into the heights of exotic abstraction and the depths of unthinkable immorality.
The gospel of Jesus Christ allows for no such foolishness. This message is rooted in a thousand historical facts, places, and events that have been verified beyond question. It is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which are two of the best authenticated facts in human history. On the authority of the empty tomb, the New Testament promises that the life of Jesus Christ literally can become your life. By faith in Him, you receive the gift of God which is everlasting life (Romans 6:23); and you are made a member of the family of God, an heir with Jesus Christ. The God who made you has also redeemed you, producing a system of faith that satisfied the intellectual demands of the most intelligent mind as well as the needs of the most desperate soul.
When Jesus Christ died, we died with Him. When He rose again, even so did we. So we have the remarkable promise,
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).
There was more to it than was understood by those who stood at Calvary or even at the empty tomb. There was even more to it than was understood by the twelve apostles. From that revelation given to Saul of Tarsus who became the apostle Paul, we learned that Christ had been forming “the church which is His body.” That church is seated already in the heavenlies with Christ, already delivered from sin, already saved to the uttermost, and already victorious. Its enemies have been decisively and publicly defeated by the Head of the body, the Lord of that church, Jesus Christ.
So it is that God, by His Holy Spirit, has created literally a living organism in the world Christianity, then, turns out to be not a row of buildings, an organization, a code of rules but the living spiritual body of Jesus Christ in the world.
God has done a new thing in the world. He has opened the doors of heaven. He invites all to come, by grace, without price. In coming we join with Him in the spacious and eternal plan for men.
Discover Your Destiny